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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Slippery slope confirmed, but no one cares.

Redflex, the spy camera company that installed speed cameras on the 101 Freeway that goes through Scottsdale (and whose national HQ is at 15020 N 74th St in Scottsdale) may begin switching some of its cameras over from red light versions to surveillance cameras as one California town hopes to start using them for policing and prosecution beyond red light running. Here's your ammunition for you slippery slope argument. Still, fighting against them in the realm of public opinion is an uphill fight as recent poll numbers suggest.

Check out these two stories:

Surveillance Cameras Win Broad Support

There's some interesting polling here, but it boils down to the fact that most everyone seems to be down with the cameras, which pretty much means the only possible check on them - the actions and opinions of regular folks - is not doing the trick because the elites are winning the idealogical battle. That basically means that the government wants them, the business class wants them, and the people want them. Guess what? We're going to get a lot of them under those conditions.

Nonetheless, majority support for surveillance cameras crosses political, ideological and population groups, albeit with differences in degree.

Seniors are most apt to support the increased use of these cameras, with under-30s, least so; Republicans more than Democrats; women more than men; higher educated people more than the less educated; and whites more than African-Americans.
California City to Transform Red Light Cameras Into Spy Cameras

Looks like the slippery slope argument is true.
Privacy advocates have long viewed red light cameras with the suspicion that the devices were the first step down a path of increased surveillance. Those fears may come true as the city of Oakland, California has revealed that it is working with the state legislature to secure a change in the law that will allow red light cameras to become full-scale surveillance cameras. In a memo from the Oakland Police Department dated June 26, Police Chief Wayne G. Tucker recommended that the city's lobbyist be ordered to advocate a new law in Sacramento.

"The legislation would also allow the use of those (red light camera) images for evidentiary purposes other than the enforcement of red light violations, such as reckless driving, assaults, public nuisance activity, drug dealing, etc."

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Angry Brigade: A Documentary

The Angry Brigade was an armed clandestine anarchist organization that was highly influenced by the Situationists in Paris. Rooted in the squatter movement in Britain in the early 70's, the Angry Brigade engaged in largely symbolic bombings throughout the country, targeting government officials, offices and private symbols of capitalist exploitation.

There are a few books on the group. One I picked up in San Francisco at the anarchist bookfair in March, The Angry Brigade: The Cause and the Case. A history of Britain's first urban guerilla group, was released by Christie Books and contains a pretty good amount of information, including newspaper clippings and analysis from a libertarian perspective.

My interest in them has gone back some years, so I was happy to get a tip from a friend of mine today about a British documentary focusing on the group that was posted on the internet last year. Just having watched it and found it quite interesting, I now provide it here for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

News of Interest 7/18/07

Report: Deportation Devastating Families
Families split up and returned to the South in the name of defending white supremacy. Where have I heard this before in American history?
An estimated 1.6 million children and spouses have been separated from family members forced to leave the country under toughened 1996 immigration laws, a human rights group said Wednesday.

The separations have taken a toll on families who have sold homes, lost jobs, lost businesses or been thrown into financial turmoil, Human Rights Watch said in a new report.
Will security firms detect police spyware?
Does your spyware detection software protect your from government snooping?
A CNET News.com survey of 13 leading antispyware vendors found that not one company acknowledged cooperating unofficially with government agencies. Some, however, indicated that they would not alert customers to the presence of fedware if they were ordered by a court to remain quiet.
Mega-rich paying top price for luxury submarines
Q. How do you sink a billionaire's submarine?
A. Overthrow capitalism.

The ocean floor is the final spending frontier for the world's richest people. Journeying to see what's on the bottom aboard a personal submersible is a wretched excess guaranteed to trump the average mogul's stable of vintage Bugattis or a $38 million round-trip ticket to the international space station aboard a Russian rocket.

Luxury-sub makers and salesmen from the Pacific Ocean to the Persian Gulf say fantasy and secrecy are the foundations of this nautical niche industry built on madcap multibillionaires.

"Everyone down there is a wealthy eccentric," says Jean-Claude Carme, vice president of marketing for U.S. Submarines, a Portland company that custom builds submarines. "They're all intensely secretive."

Who owns the estimated 100 luxury subs carousing the Seven Seas mostly remains a mystery.
Poll: Rooting for Bonds Divided by Race
I'd like to see the numbers for Lance Armstrong...
When it comes to rooting for Barry Bonds to become the home run champion, one factor stands out: race. An AP-Ipsos poll released Monday showed 55 percent of minority baseball fans want Bonds to set the record, while only 34 percent of non-Hispanic white baseball fans hope he passes Hank Aaron's record.
Dust, waste and dirty water: the deadly price of China's miracle
There is a word for this: externalization. The Chinese people pay the environmental and health costs for the profits and cheap products demanded by American consumers and capitalists alike. Those who claim that national wealth leads necessarily to environmental protections ought first to consider China, and then the fact that the state of the Chinese environment is also a function of American's desire to externalize the costs of their consumerism and production.
The OECD study, prepared at China's request, spells out the scale of the ecological crisis now engulfing the country, poisoning its people and holding it back economically.

It says up to 300 million people are drinking contaminated water every day, and 190 million are suffering from water related illnesses each year. If air pollution is not controlled, it says, there will be 600,000 premature deaths in urban areas and 20 million cases of respiratory illness a year within 15 years.

China's water quality gives the researchers greatest concern. One third of the length of all China's rivers is now "highly polluted" as are 75% of its major lakes and 25% of all its coastal waters. Nearly 30,000 children die from diarrhoea due to polluted water each year.

Although China is the world's fourth largest economy, and is closing rapidly on the US, Japan and Germany, its environmental standards are often closer to those in some of the poorest countries, says the report. More than 17,000 towns have no sewage works and the human waste from nearly 1 billion people is barely collected or treated. "A majority of the water flowing through China's urban areas is unsuitable for drinking or fishing," says the report.
Unruly students' Facebook search
The social network functions increasingly as a social surveillance apparatus.
Students at Oxford University are being warned that university authorities are using the Facebook website to gain evidence about unruly post-exam pranks.

The student union has urged students to tighten their security settings on the social networking website, to stop dons viewing their details.
Fight for control of Iraq's reserves
The class struggle continues four years into the war despite the presence of both Islamic jihadists and American liberators.
Hassan Jumaa Awad al Assadi, the head of the Iraqi oil workers' union, was in London last week campaigning against a new law which, he says, will give the oil giants unprecedented rights to his country's vast reserves.

"We will lose control over Iraqi oil. The social progress in Iraq will be curtailed substantially, because the oil companies want huge profits; they are not concerned about the environment, wages, or living conditions," he warned. "We will wait to see the reaction of the Iraqi people."

Baghdad has reacted angrily to the union's campaign, issuing arrest warrants for al Assadi and his fellow leaders, and refusing to recognise the 26,000-strong confederation of workers.
Police to use helmet cams to record public order incidents
Does it come with a delete button?
The mini digital cameras, strapped to the helmet headbands of patrolling police officers, are to be used to film rowdy late-night scenes, underage drinkers, controversial stop and search confrontations and domestic violence incidents.

The cameras can store up to 400 hours of footage with soundtrack on their hard drive, with a battery life of eight to 12 hours. The footage can be played back on a four-inch (10cm) screen attached to the officer's belt. Future versions may use a memory card or even live streaming technology to transmit the pictures to a nearby vehicle or communications centre.
Are these the last days of the Oil Age?
Even if it could do so, the deadline for replacing oil with alternative energy is getting tight. The defenders of the "green energy" wing of capitalism must answer the obvious question: is there even enough time for that?
Peter Warburton’s excellent weekly risk analysis has pointed out that 27 of the 51 oil-producing nations listed in BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy reported output declines in 2006. One projection of world crude oil production actually forecasts a 10 per cent reduction in total world output between 2005 and 2015. That would be a revolution.

The oil peak debate can be left to the oil analysts. It is a complex issue, and there are some grounds for questioning the most pessimistic forecasts, including the likely development of the Canadian tar sands, and the success of American enhanced oil recovery techniques. Past forecasts of oil depletion have often proved wrong, and the present forecasts are uncertain. Nuclear power could increase energy supply, but a big nuclear programme has been left far too late in most countries.

The five-year view taken by the IEA is itself a central forecast. Some analysts think that the peak oil moment has already been reached; some still think that it will not come until 2020 – which is itself only 12 years away. Market trends and the statistics both support the IEA’s view that consumption is accelerating and supplies falling faster than expected. Of course, if the “crunch” point is only five years’ away for oil, and closer for natural gas, it has, for practical purposes, already arrived.


Since you been gone

"To see how the world would look if humans were gone, I began going to abandoned places, places that people had left for different reasons," says Alan Weisman, journalist, in a recent interview in Scientific American. After covering the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, Weisman became intrigued with the idea of just what would happen to the planet if humanity just up and disappeared. How long would it take for Nature to recover from humankind's many thousand-year attack, especially the last hundred years? And what would that look like? He attempts to answer these questions in his new book, The World without Us.

Visiting no-man's lands like the Korean DMZ, Chernobyl and ancient preserves provided some answers, as did voyages into the murky depths beneath New York City. Says Weisman:
I also went to the Korean DMZ, the demilitarized zone. Here you have this little stretch of land—it’s about 150 miles long and 2.5 miles wide—that has two of the world’s biggest armies facing off against each other. And in between the armies is an inadvertent wildlife preserve. You see species that might be extinct if it weren’t for this one little piece of land. Sometimes you’ll hear the soldiers screaming at one another through loudspeakers or flashing their propaganda back and forth, and in the middle of all this tension you’ll see the flocks of cranes that winter there.
Lacking the everyday maintenance that keeps them going, our cities would crumble and soon become overgrown with plants. Writing in the Daily Mail, Michael Hanlon summarizes Mother Nature's counterattack:
The big cities would crumble with remarkable ease. London or New York, like all large towns near the sea, would start to rot from their foundations up, as underground tunnels and conduits that carried trains and cables, roadways and sewage, started to fill up with water within days. The pumps that keep them dry would have simply ceased to operate.

Indeed, the recent floods in northern England showed just how much damage can be caused when human defences fail. Without people to patch them up, and the rumble of traffic continually to keep them at bay, weeds would win their long battle with the asphalt.

Within a few weeks, grass shoots would begin to shatter every road surface in the world. Within 15 years, the M1 would look like one of those roads built in Africa in the 1960s and never since maintained.

Within a decade, the combined onslaught of weeds, waterlogging from blocked drains and the freeze-thaw action of water seeping into cracks would combine to turn the foundations of the urban world to rubble.

Many buildings would start to fall apart within 20 years. Walls would groan and creak, roof tiles lift, joints between walls and roofs separate. Without central heating, with gutters permanently clogged and no maintenance, most of Britain's homes would be in ruins by 2040.

America's cities, with their generally harsher climates, would fall apart even sooner.

Some of the first buildings that would decay are, paradoxically, some of the newest. The shoddily built box-homes that have sprung up across Britain in the post-war era, the badly-made tower blocks and the cheap conversions, would collapse like houses of cards.

Large, well-designed modern buildings with steel-framed constructions might survive for centuries, however, as would some of the thick-walled buildings of the Georgian era and before.

Of course, some constructions would last a very long time. Massively over-engineered, the Forth Rail Bridge could stand for hundreds of years. And one structure which, interestingly, would survive far longer than you might think would be the Channel Tunnel.

Dr Weisman points out that it wouldn't flood because it is built deep under the seabed, in a single geological layer. That is why it might prove to be a vital conduit for the recolonisation of Britain by dozens of animal species long banished by man.

Meanwhile, as the buildings crumbled and decayed, what about the other works of man?

Our world is still very much the Iron Age, but iron - and its modern incarnation, steel - is the most transient of materials: strong but powerless against corrosion.

"Don't be fooled," says David Olsen, an American materials scientist, "by massive steel buildings, steamrollers, tanks, railway tracks... sculptures made of bronze (an extraordinarily resilient alloy) will outlast the lot".

Again, we are faced with the paradox that some of the oldest artefacts on Earth might outlast the newest. Within a century or two, nearly all automobiles would have rusted away. Within a millennium - without maintenance and painting - the steel fabric of our civilisation would have crumbled.

But bronze sculptures from the ancient world - as well as more modern bronze artworks - might last millions of years.

Indeed, by AD10,000,000, the world would still be littered with hundreds of semi-oxidised bronze artefacts - sculptures and statues, reliefs and delicate instruments. Add to that billions of copper-alloy coins, which might survive just as long. Humans might vanish at the height of the steel age, but it is to the Bronze Age that the Earth would return.

We live in the steel age, but we might also be said to live in the plastic age. Depressingly, it may be the plastic bag that proves to be one of mankind's most persistent legacies.

The billions of bags blowing across the Earth like tumbleweed would continue to blow. Come back in ten thousand years, and most of them will still be there.
Some scary stuff, for sure, but also sort of encouraging as well. Considering the tremendous impact humanity has had on the Earth is the point of Weisman's book.

And he offers a solution, of sorts. Environmental collapse looms ever nearer, at least from a human perspective, but is there anything short of self-extinction that we could do to stave off the worst of the effects of our own industrial lifestyle? Weisman suggests:
What if we tried one child per family for everyone? I don't want to deprive people of siblings, but I don't want to deprive people of species that are wonderful and part of our life. We can't live without them. If we could bring our numbers down, that would buy us some time to clean up our act.
Sticking to one kid per family, by the end of the century we could reduce the planet's population down to around one and a half billion people - about what it was in 1900. Perhaps that might buy us enough time if we also take the vital step of beginning a project of rapid de-industrialization that is the only solution that could both save humanity and the planet while at the same time preserving human freedom.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Can you hear me now?

Cell phones are sold as a convenience or even as a necessity for safety, but we ought not to forget the power they have for tracking and regulating our lives in ways that were never possible before. You are now reachable at all times and in all places, as your boss probably knows. Some bosses are now using cell phones to track their employees at work and, in fact, you're now traceable all day long. Increasingly, the police are subpoenaing cell phone records in criminal cases - there goes your alibi! Consider the case of John Wesley Womack, arrested the other day for theft:
A prosecutor says 34-year-old John Wesley Womack's downfall came when he stole an upscale maroon purse from his last robbery at a Papa John's pizzeria. Womack didn't know the purse contained a cell phone that was equipped with Global Positioning Satellite technology.

Police used the phone to pinpoint the location of Womack's residence.
We are supposed to be relieved to know that the reign of terror of the "Papa John's bandit" has come to an end thanks to his unwitting participation in the system via a stolen cell phone. And didn't that woman get her cell phone back, thus reinserting her safely back in the soft bosom of the surveillance society?

Meanwhile, in part thanks for grants from Homeland Security, 911 centers across the country are developing the capability to track down calls coming from cell phones.
Jeff Walker, director of Homeland Security, emergency management and 911 services in Licking County, said the county has spent almost $50,000 for emergency system upgrades that included a separate screen for a map to show where the caller is and a router that has a database of local towers.

By the end of the year, the center will be adding two additional emergency lines, bringing the total to eight, McNamara said. If all six lines are busy, they roll over to Heath police to be answered.
Further, cell phone records can be called up, ironically, even in the case of the many accidents caused by failed attempts to drive and talk cell phones at the same time, as this recent Indystar article demonstrates:
An accident eyewitness told The Noblesville Ledger that she approached the truck and found Cooper pinned against the dashboard of the Insight Communications van, clutching a cell phone.

"We'll pull his (Cooper's) cell-phone records to see if he was on the phone before the crash," Noblesville Police Lt. Bruce Barnes said Friday, adding that due to the condition of the van it's unlikely Cooper was conscious after the impact with the Republic Services of Indiana truck.

Sandy Colony, spokeswoman for Insight Communications, said the company has received no confirmation from police that Cooper, a technician for the company since December in the Anderson/Noblesville district, was talking on a cell phone at the time of the crash.
Cell phones have effectively reduced the space in which we have to operate free from surveillance and, as a result, have increased the control that authorities of various kinds have over our lives.

As with most tech, the relatively small benefits that cell phones actually do provide (most of which could be provided in other, less-intrusive ways) are hyped while the giant downsides for our freedom, autonomy and possibly our health are rarely discussed. In a truly Orwellian move, cell phone companies frequently sell themselves as enhancers of personal freedom, despite the reality.

When it comes to selling the supposed benefits of tech, up is down and down is up. For instance, as we saw above, cell phones are widely known to contribute to many quite injurious car accidents every year. Nevertheless, as we see in this quite typical editorial from Anderson, South Carolina's Independent Mail, the technology is sold not as the threat to health that it actually is, but rather as a saver of lives, and our fear is primed with an exceptional situation in order to justify a bigger intrusion on our freedom.
To date, the sheriff’s office has given out about 30 phones. And while that may not seem a large number, according to Marlene McClain, director of the department’s victims’ services since 2005, at least two people were able to use the phones to call for help.

That’s two lives that might have been lost.

These days, we expect that everyone has a cell phone. According to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in 10 years, the number of cell phones in active use in the United States has grown from 34 million to more than 203 million. Worldwide, there are more than 2 billion people who carry cell phones. But twice that number, more than 4.5 billion people, don’t have a cell phone or access to one in case of any emergency.

By definition, an emergency is an “urgent situation.” That could also be a good description of what a victim of domestic violence or an older person who is ill and alone might experience on a regular basis.

If you have old cell phones and chargers just gathering dust and taking up space in the kitchen junk drawer, pull them out, dust them off and take them to either the city police department or the county sheriff’s office.
In essence, we are being asked to conclude that it's actually dangerous for those 4.5 billion people that lack cell phones to remain outside the system of total safety that is modern life with a cell phone? After all, what if there is an emergency? Their independent life is dangerous, it is alleged, so we are urged to bring them into the system as soon as possible through acts of goodwill and charity. We are urged, in essence, to forget the ironic telecommunications worker cell phone accident we read about earlier and support the further expansion of this dangerous technology so that, ironically, people don't get hurt in unforeseen emergencies - like car accidents, presumably. The only danger the system and its apologists want us to recognize is the danger of being outside the system. The dangers the system causes are to remain invisible and largely uncommented on, safely hidden in plain sight thanks to their ubiquity.

Further, because the development and application of these technologies is overwhelmingly in the hands of those at the upper end of the hierarchy, their supposed benefits, such as saving time and effort, rarely pan out for those of us down here. Despite the clear hand of the elites in controlling these technologies, most radicals continue to maintain that technological developments are merely neutral "advances" or "discoveries" rather than recognizing them for what they really are: interventions by the ruling class into the lives and organization of the working class, not for our benefit or safety, but for theirs.

We live in an age now where technologies that are in fact very new in our lives have actually begun to be viewed and presented as essential to basic human existence - despite the fact that most of us have quite clear memories of a time when most of them were either non-existent or nowhere near as prevalent. This is a hell of a revisionist bit of doublethink, when you really think about it, and tremendous victory for the ruling class. They have not only erased our memory of our independence, but they have successfully made us view that independence as dangerous and scary. Thus, a cell phone is sold as a tool for finding your way around the city, replacing the basic human necessity of knowing your way around your environment and at the same time transforming an exceptional situation (being lost) into the rule. Being lost is scary. Thanks to tech, we can avoid that rare yet terrifying situation forever.

So, it was with some satisfaction that I greeted the news that John Patterson, an ex-employee of Australian telecommunication giant, Telstra, had gassed up a British APC that he had been restoring and then attacked seven cell phone towers, downing six of them before stalling out and being arrested. Patterson claimed that radiation from the cell phone towers owned by his former employer had caused him health problems, against whom he had filed a claim.

On a related note, as you drive north out of Phoenix on the I-17, somewhere around Black Canyon City, there's a church on a hill that has rented out land for a cell phone tower. You can see it from the highway. Not wanting to waste an opportunity, apparently, the church has affixed to the tower a gigantic cross. New god meets old god.

Below is a link to an article about it and a clip from Australian news:
Vengeful worker's heavy-armour rampage silences mobile phones


Friday, July 13, 2007

News of Interest 7/13/07

Human greed takes lion's share of solar energy
More cold water to splash on those who hope we can use so-called "green energy" to maintain our imperialist First World lifestyle.
HUMANS are just one of the millions of species on Earth, but we use up almost a quarter of the sun's energy captured by plants - the most of any species. The human dominance of this natural resource is affecting other species, reducing the amount of energy available to them by almost 10 per cent, scientists report. Researchers said the findings showed humans were using "a remarkable share" of the earth's plant productivity "to meet the needs and wants of one species". They also warned that the increased use of biofuels - such as ethanol and canola - should be viewed cautiously, given the potential for further pressure on ecosystems.
Teacher pleads for CCTV in classrooms
The pressure to make the surveillance society ubiquitous comes from all sides. With a dialectic like this, does freedom need enemies?
A TEACHER who was unfairly dismissed wants to see CCTV in classrooms - to protect teachers...

...Now the father-of-two says he would like to see cameras installed in all classrooms to protect the rights of teachers wrongly accused of misconduct.

He said: "If CCTV was installed in classrooms it would solve a lot of problems."

He knows his plea will raise concerns over costs and loss of

civil liberties. But he said: "Coventry City Council has spent well over £100,000 on my case. And what about my civil liberties? My career and my health have been taken away from me.

"Bankers and shop assistants work with CCTV around them all the time without any problems, so why shouldn't teachers?"
Farms Fund Robots to Replace Migrant Fruit Pickers
More evidence that the white middle and working classes are not foreseeing the many-sided assault on their privileged position in relation to immigrant labor. When the immigrants are gone, the capitalists will just use machines to undermine the power of what remains of the working class. The only solution is unity against the machines and the bosses.

Vision Robotics, a San Diego company, is working on a pair of robots that would trundle through orchards plucking oranges, apples or other fruit from the trees. In a few years, troops of these machines could perform the tedious and labor-intensive task of fruit picking that currently employs thousands of migrant workers each season.

The robotic work has been funded entirely by agricultural associations, and pushed forward by the uncertainty surrounding the migrant labor force. Farmers are "very, very nervous about the availability and cost of labor in the near future," says Vision Robotics CEO Derek Morikawa...

...But it wasn't just technological challenges that held back previous attempts at building a mechanical harvester –- politics got involved, too. Cesar Chavez, the legendary leader of the United Farm Workers, began a campaign against mechanization back in 1978.

Chavez was outraged that the federal government was funding research and development on agricultural machines, but not spending any money to aid the farm workers who would be displaced. In the '80s, that simmering anger merged with a growing realization that the technology was nowhere near ready, and government funding dried up.

Scientists find drug to banish bad memories
Did I ask for that raise last week or not? Did I get my ass kicked by the police? Have I been exposed to harmful chemicals in my neighborhood? Has Oceania ALWAYS been at war with East Asia? What's that weird taste in the tap water? Oh well, I don't remember...
Researchers have found they can use drugs to wipe away single, specific memories while leaving other memories intact. By injecting an amnesia drug at the right time, when a subject was recalling a particular thought, neuro-scientists discovered they could disrupt the way the memory is stored and even make it disappear.

The research has, however, sparked concern among parliamentary advisers who insist that new regulations are now needed to control the use of the drugs to prevent them becoming used by healthy people as a "quick fix".

But the US scientists behind the research insist that amnesia drugs could be invaluable in treating patients with psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress...

...Scientists at New York University have published another new study where they claim to have erased a single memory from the brains of rats while leaving the rest of the animals' memories still intact.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Will the real Al Qaeda please step forward?

Strange brewings and strange bedfellows in Iraq and Iran these days. If it was ever clear what the hell Al Qaeda really is and whether they actually have an independent existence apart from the CIA,MI6 and the ISI, it sure gets murkier every day with regard to Iran.

From ABC News (Australia): Al Qaeda threatens to 'annihilate' Iran
The self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq has given Iran a two-month ultimatum to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs or face all-out war, according to an audio tape posted on the Internet.

"We give... the leaders of Iran a period of two months to stop all forms of support to the rejectionists of Iraq, and stop direct and indirect interference in the affairs of the Islamic state," a voice attributed to the group's leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, said.

The term 'rejectionists' is used by Sunni militant groups to refer to Shiites, who dominate the Iraqi Government and are in a majority in both Iraq and neighbouring Iran.

"Otherwise, expect a fierce war that will annihilate you, which we have been preparing for over the past four years and just waiting to issue the orders to wage the campaign," the voice said.
Aside from this timeline syncing up quite nicely with reported US and Israeli plans to attack Iran before the end of the summer, what makes this even more interesting is that the CIA is now supporting, amongst others, a Sunni radical group against Iran called Jundallah ('God's Brigade'). This group is based in the border area of Baluchistan, Iran and southwestern Pakistan. According to the Christian Science Monitor:
The group, known as Jundallah... is made up of members of the predominantly Sunni Muslim Baluchi tribe which inhabits Pakistan's gas-rich province of Baluchestan, as well as neighboring regions in Iran and Afghanistan. In their exclusive report, which aired on Tuesday evening and was posted online on Wednesday morning, ABC News reporters Brian Ross and Christopher Isham said that while the US provides no direct funding, the group has been "secretly encouraged and advised" by the American government since 2005.
Jundallah had at least one particularly important member: Khalid Sheikh Mohammad's nephew, Abu Musab. Readers may remember that KSM, whose parents also hail from Baluchistan, was not long ago trotted out by American intelligence after having confessed in custody to a long laundry list of terrorist plots, including the murder of Daniel Pearl, the planning of the 9/11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, the latter of which he is alleged to have carried out with his other nephew, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef.

ABC News (US) reports that the Americans claim they are not providing direct funding to Jundallah (although they admit its leadership has met regularly with US officials), but that they find the alliance convenient for various reasons:
A senior U.S. government official said groups such as Jundullah have been helpful in tracking al Qaeda figures and that it was appropriate for the U.S. to deal with such groups in that context.

Some former CIA officers say the arrangement is reminiscent of how the U.S. government used proxy armies, funded by other countries including Saudi Arabia, to destabilize the government of Nicaragua in the 1980s.
In the world of international intelligence, it's often difficult to know where co-operation or infiltration leaves off and manipulation or a front group begins. Consider that NBC News reported in March that KSM was betrayed by a CIA asset that had infiltrated his group. So, when the media report, as the Times of India did, that British police have been infiltrated by radical Muslims, we have to ask ourselves which way that relationship really goes: who is really infiltrating who?

Answering it would seem to be a simple matter if we didn't already know the history of MI6 and MI5 manipulations and participation in terrorist plots in Britain, such as the Omagh bombing that killed 29 people, and the regularity with which British police reveal their infiltration or surveillance of local bomb plots, such as the liquid bombers of last year or the fertilizer bombers of 2004. In that last case, police admitted that the provider of the fertilizer was known to them and in the Guardian praised the convenient timing of the bust and the "close working relationships between the Metropolitan police's anti-terrorist branch, MI5 and local police forces. Sources said MI6, which operates abroad, was also involved."

While there are certainly both real (independent) and manipulated terror attacks - and not every bust is a secret plot of the police services - the Daily Mail's report that the second carbomb in London's recent set of 'failed' attacks was placed at an official evacuation point further raises questions about just what and how the alleged bombers knew and the true relationship between the two sides of the supposed war on terror.

And, knowing that the elite have placed their bets on terrorism as the defining excuse for their exploitation and violence at home and abroad, we can be forgiven for being both skeptical and concerned when the MI5 chief admits to knowlege of 30 ongoing plots and surveillance of 1600 suspects in Britain not long before America's own head of Homeland Security claims his 'gut feeling' is that we are headed into a summer of terrorism here in the US.

And, as if perfectly timed, Al Qaeda has issued new threats against Britain and American intelligence sources report AQ has sent or is in the process of sending new cells to threaten the US, just like it is against Iran. So, it's no surprise when we hear from Lt.-Col. Doug Delaney, chair of the Royal Military College in Kingston's war studies program, say in the Toronto Star that
It may well be that the key to bolstering Western resolve is another terrorist attack like 9/11 or the London transit bombings of two years ago, he says.

"If nothing happens, it will be harder still to say this is necessary."
No conspiracy, that comment. Merely a reflection of reality. When the ruling class needs terrorism, you can bet, one way or another, it will get it. If Al Qaeda or an affiliate doesn't deliver it independently, the security services have the resources and connections to make it happen. And, most of all, they have a self-interest in doing it.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

News of Interest 7/11/07

Data on Americans mined for terror risk
The elite use tech to increase their ability to wage war at home on potential threats. Note the liberal critique which only seeks to make the system more efficient, not to question its overall objective. Would such a system have caught John Brown before Harpers' Ferry? This is the question radicals must answer.
"'Each of these initiatives is extremely valuable for investigators, allowing them to analyze and process lawfully acquired information more effectively in order to detect potential criminal activity and focus resources appropriately,' Boyd said in a statement.

All but one of the databases — the one to track terrorists — have been up and running for several years, the report showed.

The lone exception is the System to Assess Risk, or STAR, program to rate the threat posed by people already identified as suspected terrorists or named on terror watch lists. The system, still under construction, is designed to help counterterror investigators save time by narrowing the field of people who pose the greatest potential threat and will not label anyone a terrorist, Boyd said."
Officials worry of summer terror attack
One set of officials warns of an impending attack while another says that it might be the only thing that could save the War on Terror from sinking poll numbers. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail warns that AQ militants may have infiltrated British police forces. Or is it the other way around? Is there any way to tell for sure? Given the repeated links between UK intelligence and supposed terror groups, there is certainly grounds for skepticism if AQ is held up as the supposed perpetrator of the any future terrorist attack. Either way, if both the ruling class and the loyal opposition in Al Qaeda want a terrorist attack, you can almost bet one will happen, one way or another.
U.S. counterterror officials are warning of an increased risk of an attack this summer, given al-Qaida's apparent interest in summertime strikes and increased al-Qaida training in the Afghan-Pakistani border region. On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the editorial board of The Chicago Tribune that he had a "gut feeling" about a new period of increased risk. He based his assessment on earlier patterns of terrorists in Europe and intelligence he would not disclose.
Finding secrets of bats' flight could change military aircraft
Holy bat-bomber! One group of conscience-less scientists is busily at work augmenting the capability of the ruling class to project military power abroad in its unending quest for total domination of the planet's resources and humans.
"The Air Force has taken notice of Brown's work. It will invest $6 million in the project over the next 5 years, in the hope of using the research to design future military aircraft.

Research so far has found that bats can carry up to 50 percent of their weight and execute airborne maneuvers that would make a bird or plane fall out of the sky. Moreover, scientists believe the hundreds of tiny sensors covering bat wings could be the key to their most impressive airborne maneuvers, a discovery that engineers could replicate with networks of sensors and computers on military aircraft.

If researchers can unlock the secrets of bat flight, it could have wide-reaching implications, according to Air Force and Brown officials. They say the project has the potential to revolutionize aircraft design and could lead to the creation of smaller, more efficient military air vehicles that can maneuver in tight spaces as well as gather intelligence and airlift supplies through forbidding terrain.

'The Air Force envisions a future in which they have lots of autonomous air vehicles that can take on different kinds of missions and that don't have pilots," said Sharon Swartz , an evolutionary biologist at Brown who is helping run the project. "We know a lot about the aerodynamics of large things moving very fast. There is almost nothing known yet about the basic physics of bat flight.'"
Teacher pleads for CCTV in classrooms
A teacher in Britain contributes to the dialectic of surveillance technology by advocating it as a protective measure in the workplace. With friends like these...
Now the father-of-two says he would like to see cameras installed in all classrooms to protect the rights of teachers wrongly accused of misconduct.

He said: "If CCTV was installed in classrooms it would solve a lot of problems."

He knows his plea will raise concerns over costs and loss of

civil liberties. But he said: "Coventry City Council has spent well over £100,000 on my case. And what about my civil liberties? My career and my health have been taken away from me.

"Bankers and shop assistants work with CCTV around them all the time without any problems, so why shouldn't teachers?"
85 rounds, one body
Philadelphia cops shoot at a man 85 times, leaving more than 20 wounds and endangering bystanders.
Investigators found 85 shell casings on the street and 34 additional pieces of "projectile-related evidence," said Capt. Daniel Castro, of the crime-scene unit.

Some neighbors were upset by the police actions, complaining that excessive force had been used and that no effort had been made to negotiate with an obviously deranged man.

"This is an abuse of power," said neighbor Maurice Calhoun. "The cops could have killed a bystander."

Although police said the street was empty when the confrontation began shortly after 6 p.m., neighbors disputed their account. They said it was crowded with people, including children playing in the street.

Police contend the shootings were justified because Miller refused to drop his gun when repeatedly ordered to do so, and pointed it at a cop. He never fired the weapon.


I'm back (hiatus over)

After a short summer break, I have returned to regularly updating the site. Thanks to everyone who kept emailing while I was away from the website - I have tried to reply to everyone. If I missed you, hit me again, I may have overlooked it. Look for some new content in the near future, along with the usual regular news links. I may try a few different styles of posts, we'll see. As usual all feedback and conversation (and debate) is welcomed either in the comments or via email.

In the meantime, check out these two recent comments to posts I made last month:
Brad Spangler comments on
Anti-war right fights to succeed where the anti-war left has failed

Anonymous comments on
Peter Gelderloos: Arms and the Movement
Keep the comments coming and don't forget to check the comments sidebar, which I will again start updating regularly beginning after work today if all goes well. I'm coding it myself, so it's not instantaneous, but I hope it will help facilitate debate and discussion. Give me a little time after your comment and I'll post it up there.

Also, I wanted to say I appreciate all the interest in this site coming from radical market anarchists. Although I am an anarchist-communist myself, I hope that we can find some common ground for struggle and discussion. I would be particularly interested in hearing a market anarchist analysis of the class war applications of technology, especially as they flow from the bosses/managers/bureaucrats down to the rest of us.

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