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Thursday, August 30, 2007

The 'bin Laden trades' has Wall Street scratching their heads

I've been following this for about five days on some option traders discussion forums and I thought some of you all might be interested in it. I admit that I've been sitting on this in part because of the wild speculation surrounding it and in part because I wanted to see if some clear explanation would emerge. None has been forthcoming - and believe me, I've been looking - so I opted to post about it here when the story broke out of the margins and started showing up on more mainstream market websites. It's a bit technical, but if I can figure it out, so can you.

Essentially, what it boils down to is that there are some very strange trades being placed on several international markets right now, including the American S&P. It's all pretty complicated, but essentially someone or some institution (no one knows who it is) has placed big bets, through options purchases over the last couple months, that the markets are going to collapse to half their value by September 21st (when the options come due). That alone is very unusual, but even more strange is their size. Together, they amount to multi-billion dollar bets that will pay off big if the market collapses. Traders are calling them "bin Laden trades."

Of course only a few events can really cause that - use your imagination. But it doesn't mean that there's going to be a terrorist attack (although it could - after all, you remember the very strange puts placed on United and American airlines right before 9/11, don't you?). There are some market explanations, but all the maneuvers that the traders seem to come up with to explain it are quite contrived - especially when one considers the amount of money involved. Generally, all the analysts that I have seen try to explain it immediately follow up their proposed solutions to the mystery with a bit of a shrug. It could be it, but it would still be really weird, is what they are saying, essentially.

On the other hand, there are some unusual market forces at work now, like the credit crunch and the sinking dollar, so someone could be betting, for instance, that when the Fed meets on the 18th of September, it won't lower interest rates like traders want (because if it does the dollar will sink), and that could trigger a sell-off. China threatened a couple weeks ago to dump its dollars if the US doesn't back off on on demands that China revalue the Yuan. Or it could be a play for some short money in a tight credit market, but considering the money involved, it would have to be a big player, which would still be a very bad economic sign. After all, if a big company needs to go to the market to raise money this way, not to mention anonymously, they're obviously in trouble. Nevermind what happens if they can't pay it back when the options come due on the 21st.

Either way, the US economy is not looking good. Major economic movers and shakers have said recently that the risk of recession this year is the highest in years, which would jibe with the fact that some of the economic benefits of the last few years are finally starting to trickle their way down to the bottom (i.e., the poverty rate dropped for the first time since the recovery began in 2001). Generally, this is about the time when the elites decide to engineer a recession in order to keep those of us at the bottom from getting too comfortable. Still, with the credit crunch tightening and spreading every day, and with foreclosures mounting amongst the working and middle class, what would the repercussions be of an increase in the interest rate? Thursday Freddie Mac reported a 45 per cent drop in second-quarter profits, further spooking Wall Street. And with the shadowy "Plunge Protection Team" already working overtime along with the Fed to keep the market afloat, what is left to do if things get bad? The problem is, Wall Street needs interest rates to drop so as to aleviate the credit crunch, but a drop in interest rates will put downward pressure on the dollar... what to do?

Further, there is a school of analysis that says that American adventures abroad in the last few years are all about the collapsing dollar and a desperate attempt to maintain US hegemony. In other words, the elites are scared and that's why they're acting so aggressively to shore up the dollar and to encircle Russia and China. Keeping oil off the market keeps the price high, and that buoys the value of the dollar, the international currency of oil exchanges.

This might explain the steady move towards an attack on Iran, which one think tank recently reported could involve the use of nuclear weapons and would be 'designed to either instigate an overthrow of the government or reduce Iran to the status of "a weak or failed state."' Either way, from the perspective of the elite, the oil must be kept out of the hands of China and Russia, both of whom are steadily building their individual and collective power. Together, they are the main powers in the emerging Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which seeks to balance American-Anglo power around the world, but in particular in Central Asia. The organization, which Iran hopes to join, just held its biggest joint military maneuvers in August.

This desperation, resulting from a faction of the elites' recognition of the dubious future of American power both at home and abroad, would explain why this year the Congress has passed so many domestic measures giving the President extreme powers of martial law, including detention camps, increased surveillance powers, the power to deploy troops domestically and to declare states of emergency under which basic rights we take for granted are stripped away. Among the threats that can legally trigger these powers is economic chaos. This makes a fair amount of sense to me because, after all, there is absolutely no chance that Al Qaeda is going to run riot through American streets.

But there is some reason to consider the possibility that some cadre in the government or private organizations, probably the various intelligence agencies, is planning a false flag terror attack on the US. A false flag attack is when the government or a pro-government group stages an attack and blames it on someone else. Intelligence agencies, including the CIA and other US organizations, do this kind of thing all the time abroad. The Church Commission, the Congressional committee that investigated the COINTELPRO attacks on activists and militants in the US during the 60's and 70's, concluded that the National Security Council was only aware of or approved of at most 14 percent of the covert operations that the American intelligence agencies engaged in. With the black budget reaching into the tens of billions, we certainly can’t imagine that we know everything the government – or various factions within it – have their hands in.

Further, various intelligence agency heads have been hyping the threat of an attack this summer, particularly September, pointing out the rising and ominous level of 'chatter'. Likewise, some in the neo-con camp have been actively calling for a terrorist attack to restore American unity and to propel us further into war.

I don't have any hard answers, and I wouldn't want to make a prediction, but it's something to think about. Who knows? You could go in circles forever trying to figure this out.

So, if you're interested in this kind of thing, here's a link to a trader discussion thread that can lead you to all the possible information - which is really quite fascinating. Below that is a video link for a short explanation from a news segment on a trader show called "The Street." Check it out. The third link is to a more radical take on what might cause this, and it's what got a lot of people's attention in the first place. The next link is to an explanation that errs on the moderate side, although you'll see that even that author is skeptical about his answers. Finally, the last link is to a guy who's trying to dispel the fears, although, again, you'll see that he has some doubts himself about his benign explanations.

Anyhow, September 21st is just around the corner. Here's the links. Check it out for yourself. I really recommend reading as much of the traders thread as possible, daunting as that might be. Whatever it is, you may be watching market history in the making.

(1) URGENT!!! LOOK AT AUG SPY CALL ACTION FROM $65 - $90 (discussion thread at tickerforum)
(2) 'bin Laden trades (video)
(3) "**$4.5 BILLION 'Bin Laden Trade' STOCK MARKET TO CRASH
(4) This $900 Million Bet Has Global Traders Talking…
(5) Dispelling the 'Bin Laden' Options Trades

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Protest the Murderous Mesa PD Tomorrow!

Mesa: Remember Mario Madrigal Jr., Executed by Mesa Police Officers! Demand Justice this Saturday!

Four years have passed since one of the most notorious police killings in the valley’s history, Mario Madrigal Jr. was coldly executed by three Mesa cops in August of 2003 at his own home, in front of his family. He was fifteen, unarmed, and passive in the police presence, but these Mesa cops still saw it fit to shoot the teenager eleven times.

"He was already on the floor [when an officer] emptied his gun," said Marta Madrigal, his mother. "We called the police for help, and they shot him."

The Madrigals had called the Mesa cops for help with Mario Jr. because he was having emotional problems. They expected the officers to help him get to a crisis center and had no idea the officers would kill him. The officers (Orlando Dean, Mark Beckett, and Richard Henry) claimed Mario lunged at them with a knife, and that’s why they shot him eleven times. The Madrigals couldn’t believe that their son, who was not threatening or attacking any of the officers, was tasered and then shot to death for no reason.

"We want justice for Mario," said Marta Madrigal. "Justice means I want those killers behind bars". "They killed him in front of my eyes," said Mario Madrigal Sr. "If I didn't move my [son Bryant], they'd have killed him, too."

Church groups, community organizations from across the valley, as well as families and individuals who have been brutalized or had a relative or friend killed by police, came to the defense of the Madrigals after a vicious media assault on the family led by law enforcement. Over the years the Madrigal family and community organizations such as Phoenix Copwatch, Women in Black against Violence, and the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition have held demonstrations, candle light vigils, and know your rights forums in response to the police violence in Mesa, specifically in regards to the murder of Mario Madrigal Jr. The struggle for justice continues.

In the spirit of justice and freedom for all, and to remember Mario Madrigal Jr., a demonstration has been called to mark the fourth anniversary of his death. The killer cops, not yet held accountable for their aggression, still roam the streets of Mesa after four years have passed, protected by police unions, the Mesa police department, and their own shameful lies about his execution.

Join us to say: “NO MORE!” The Madrigal family, and their allies, will be holding a demonstration Saturday, August 25 at the main Mesa Police station in downtown Mesa to call for justice, and demand the officers be held accountable for their crimes. Come out to stand up against police violence

WHEN: Saturday, August 25 at 4 PM

WHERE: Mesa police department station at 130 North Robson in downtown Mesa. Located between University Dr. and Main St., and just east of Country Club.

People United Against Police Abuse
August 2007


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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

School's in forever: tracking schoolkids through their uniforms

Reading the news that one of the largest manufacturers of school uniforms in Britain is considering sewing GPS tracking devices into the clothes schoolkids are compelled to wear, just so parents can follow their kids to and from school, I can't help but notice a few things.

Of course, this isn't the first time that GPS has been sold to scared parents as a panacea to their poorly-justified fears. In this newest case, fearful parents can log into a secure website and watch their precious little ones skip about from home to school. But in Japan, for instance, GPS tagged school jackets with "panic buttons" that summon security services have been around for a couple years. In ads for car and cell phone services, GPS is routinely sold to us as protecting us from the alleged dangers of unregulated space - the places where the State and Capital have yet to institute their dream of total surveillance. Going off the map is dangerous, we are told, a sin against the new religion of techno-surveillance. After all, the system wants to track you and everything you produce - including your kids.

Still, I am struck by the way the polling numbers reveal how disproportionately terrified parents are of their children getting kidnapped, even though the odds of that actually happening are quite negligible. Polling cited in most the articles I read about the GPS-tegged uniforms "found 44 per cent of the adults were worried about the safety of their children and 59 per cent would be interested in uniforms with satellite tracking systems." And all this in Britain, the most spied-on country in the world! Clearly technology hasn't alleviated parents' anxieties. Of course, technology's promise is always for tomorrow.

This terrified attitude, propelled as it is by the police and the media's obsession with hyping kidnappings and other crimes against children - especially when they happen to white middle and upper class families - certainly reminds me of the goal of the secret NATO Gladio program in Europe, which I have been researching the last year or so. While it's highly unlikely that government or paramilitary organizations are at all involved in what the media reports as a rash of child abductions, the similarities in the result cannot be overlooked, and the benefits that accrue to the security services and the elite by the continuation of such crimes are obvious.

Considering one terrible episode from the past, under NATO's Gladio program government secret services employed criminal gangs and right-wing organizations to commit random public murders in Belgian supermarkets under the theory that a terrified population would demand for the State to be empowered to protect them by expanding police powers. Of course, this was also the objective behind the security services' interventions into the European armed ultra-left, such as the Red Brigades, as well as their employment of false flag terrorism in Italy (which included the bombing of trains and other public places).

Of course, the system also generates its own independent thugs, criminals and pranksters, which it is quite happy to publicize. But playing both sides, as we see with the arrest today of former Red Brigades member, Marina Petrella, also suits the State quite well. Stoking fear sends people running to the State for help, and that's certainly what we have seen result from the current climate of fear, regardless of its source.

Returning to GPS, I notice that in addition to being boosted as "a safety net for parents" supporters of the technology also point out that "there could be real benefits for schools who could keep a closer track on the whereabouts of their pupils, potentially reducing truancy levels." In other words, the technology can be utilized to attack the autonomy of children at school, who often use ditching and other schemes to get out of the prison that is modern, industrialized schooling and carve out space for their own lives and interests against the wishes of the school autocrats, bureaucrats and babysitters.

It's never explained this way in the mainstream despite the painful obviousness of the point, but forcing kids into public school is a way to dumb them down, to bore them, to regulate them and to make them compliant, unthinking drones. And, of course, getting kids used to being tracked young makes sense if you're an elite class that wants to track everyone. After all, indoctrinating children into the various systems of control is what schooling has always been about.

This is a tragedy for anyone, but while we tend to think of the less-academically inclined children when we think of "dumb" stoners, dropouts and ditchers, it's important to realize that plenty of so-called "smart" kids are forced into this system, too, and they are just as beaten down by it. Their options are limited, too, since the system is just as interested in controlling their choices as it is the kids it puts on the track to a trade or prison. So, using technology to herd kids of all skill levels, aptitudes and interests into the one-track, cookie-cutter school system hurts all the kids who resist and could do better - or who might become independent thinkers - outside the fences. And it turns out that that's a lot of them.

Finally, I can't help but notice the discrepancy between the desire of parents, capitalists and bureaucrats to tag the kids and the willingness of the kids themselves to be tagged. As the Telegraph reports:
[C]hildren rejected the idea of any tracking technology.

The firm interviewed 450 children aged nine to 16 and found that just a third of those under 12 were keen on the move.

It was even more unpopular among older schoolchildren.
No surprise there. Sadly, as was the case with some other former prisoners, namely the 210 paroled burglars that Connecticut plans to track via GPS (remember when it was just going to be murderers and child molesters the government wanted to track?), the system is not terribly interested in what the kids think of the plan to track them, nor is there a formalized mechanism for them to express their opposition. In fact, techno-boosters cite the statistics as proof for their business model. Trutex marketing director, Clare Rix, expressed her disdain for the opinions of students this way: "As a direct result of this survey, we are now seriously considering incorporating a device into future ranges."

But the data does show that the kids, aside from exhibiting a natural tendency towards anti-authoritarianism, surely also understand the importance of maintaining their autonomy from a system that most recognize as operating, to put it most generously, without their best interests at heart. But there's hope. In a sense this lack of a formalized structure for taking students opinions into account is a good thing, because it will leave students to come up with their own forms of creative resistance, probably centering around sabotage and refusal. Any struggle against these technologies of control that results will necessarily have to be centered on modes of organization that the youth themselves will control. Nevertheless, the extension of this technology to students would be another defeat for autonomy.

Still, one article I read, surprisingly coming from an English-language publication in Dubai, expresses the best analysis I have yet seen on the GPS controversy (and perhaps we should be thankful that for now it indeed remains controversial). Citing the alienating effects of technology, the need for youth to have freedom - even freedom to rebel - as well as casting a doubtful eye on the ability of technology to fix the problems it has created, the piece expresses a sound critique of the fate to befall students and the rest of society should they fail to resist.
The internet, and global communications nowadays, has made it easier than ever for parents to be extra-anxious about the safety of their kids. News reports of kidnappings and the continuous coverage of the recent abduction of Madeline McCann has left many parents eagerly embracing the idea of tagging their kids with technology. However, many children, especially those in their teens, are less than enthusiastic about the idea, fearing it would mean that their parents could spy on them.

One 13-year old Dubai school-goer told 7DAYS, “I reckon my parents would have some peace of mind with this device, but I wouldn't really like it 'cause I'd feel like I'd be under surveillance. I don't need a baby-sitter, so why would I need this.”

Rajeshree Singhania, a child psychologist at the Singhania Children's Clinic at Healthcare City is in two minds about tagging a child's movements by satellite. She says that parents today have a heightened sense of anxiety when it comes to their kids, but she doesn't know if tracking them is the answer for all kids.

“I understand the worry parents have about their kids. Perhaps this idea would be suitable for younger children, but for teens it is simply an invasion of privacy. I know that my kids would rebel if I asked them to wear a tracking device,” says Singhania. “I can see certain situations where it might be suitable, like for a single parent. If a single parent had to work, they might be more relaxed if they could check and see if their child got home safely from school etc.”

Growing up, all children are prone to slight rebellion and adventure, which doesn't involve their parents’ permission. If this freedom to be 'free' is taken away from them, because they have to wear a tracking device, how will it affect their personality and development?

“Knowing that you are being constantly observed and that your every movement can be checked on is bound to affect a child's personal development, because their ability to take risks is going to reduce. A child will develop anxiety to the world they live in and see it as a big-bad-world and this is not healthy,” says Singhania.

Perhaps rather than equipping children with state-of-the-art technology, we should be encouraging the idea of community, says Singhania. “In this high-tech world we tend to forget about the human factor. What we need these days is more community-type living, where people look out for other people. Here, community is nearly non-existent. How many people say 'hello' to each other? How many of your neighbours do you know?” she adds.
It concludes on a stark note indeed, issuing a clear warning: "How long before satellite tracking comes here then - it’s time to be afraid Dubai kids..."

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

News of Interest 8/21/07

The increasing high-tech-ization of warfare not only increases the power of the American elite to project its will on the rest of the world, but it also reduces the exposure of Firth Worlders to the resistance of those being imposed upon.
Robot Air Attack Squadron Bound for Iraq
The Reaper is loaded, but there's no one on board. Its pilot, as it bombs targets in Iraq, will sit at a video console 7,000 miles away in Nevada.

The arrival of these outsized U.S. "hunter-killer" drones, in aviation history's first robot attack squadron, will be a watershed moment even in an Iraq that has seen too many innovative ways to hunt and kill.

That moment, one the Air Force will likely low-key, is expected "soon," says the regional U.S. air commander. How soon? "We're still working that," Lt. Gen. Gary North said in an interview.

The Reaper's first combat deployment is expected in Afghanistan, and senior Air Force officers estimate it will land in Iraq sometime between this fall and next spring. They look forward to it.

"With more Reapers, I could send manned airplanes home," North said.
Some walls hold people in. Some walls keep people out. Both kill.
East German Shoot-to-Kill Order Is Found
Seventeen years after German reunification, archivists have found the first written proof that East German border guards had been ordered to shoot to kill anyone trying to escape to West Germany, including women and children.

The seven-page order, dated Oct. 1, 1973, was discovered last week in the regional archive office in the eastern German city of Magdeburg. Though unsigned, it shows that the Ministry for State Security, known as the Stasi, had told guards that they must “stop or liquidate” anyone trying to cross the border.

“Do not hesitate to use your firearm, not even when the border is breached in the company of women and children, which is a tactic the traitors have often used,” the document said.
No everyone feels the pinch as the economy tanks.
Wealthy still not asking the price
The stock market is swinging like a pendulum and the credit market is getting tighter than a drum but there are no signs the rich are buckling their Pradas to hold onto their bucks.

"Luxury goods still have quite a lot of momentum," said Kamalesh Rao, director of industry research at SpendingPulse, the retail data service of MasterCard Advisors.

Rao said luxury goods sales rose 10.7 percent in July from a year ago and added, "I'd be surprised if that changed radically in August."
One reason there are so many AQ sympathizers in Bosnia is because the US intelligence apparatus facilitated their movement to the region and access to weaponry and training.
Al-Qaeda helpers present in Bosnia, US diplomat warns
Al-Qaeda uses Bosnia as a transit point, receiving help from Islamic veterans of Bosnia's 1992-95 war, US diplomat Raffi Gregorian said in an interview with a Sarajevo daily published Saturday.

"Certain intelligence agencies consider Bosnia-Hercegovina as one of the Al-Qaeda's transit points," Gregorian told the Dnevni Avaz newspaper.

"There are sympathisers in the country who are ready to help Al-Qaeda with hiding agents, providing financial support or providing false documents," he added.
The numbers parallel racial privilege as you would expect them to.
Poll: White youths happier than others
From their relationships to their jobs to their money — even from they time they first roll out of bed — young white Americans are happier with life than their minority counterparts.

According to an extensive survey of 1,280 people ages 13-24 by The Associated Press and MTV, 72 percent of whites say they are happy with life in general, compared with 51 percent of Hispanics and 56 percent of blacks.

"It doesn't surprise me," said Martin Carpenter, 21, a black New Jersey resident. "There's a lot of issues out there for African-American young adults. You can still go to certain places and feel uncomfortable, like you don't belong there."

Martin's feeling about racism, real or perceived, was echoed in the survey: 28 percent of minorities believe race will hurt them in the quest for a better life. Among whites, 20 percent feel their race will help in getting ahead.
Destiny Brown, 17, a black Virginia high school student, said she has friends who were already passed over for work simply because their names sounded different: "I know sometimes your name — people will give you a hard time when you try to get a job."

The difference in levels of happiness is not always stark, but it's consistent. Among whites, 67 percent usually wake up happy in the morning; for minorities, the figure is 61 percent.
Neither communism nor capitalism has abolished slavery in China, it seems.
Chinese still see themselves as slaves
But a list of new slang expressions compiled by its Ministry of Education suggests the country's economic reforms have simply multiplied the ways its people can fall into serfdom.

Among the most popular phrases used by the country's growing middle class are an expanding variety of equivalents to the English "wage slave".

The most common is "house slave", meaning someone who struggles to pay off the mortgage. But there are also "car slaves" who, unlike lucky government cadres, have to pay all their own petrol, servicing, and road toll fees.

More specialised versions are "grave slaves" who have bought expensive funeral plots in advance, and "feast slaves" whose jobs mean their lives are an endless round of banquets, weddings, funerals, and other social events requiring the cash gifts, or "red envelopes" expected on such occasions.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A choice: high technology or freedom.

A case in point: China, where the government is going to blanket the city of Shenzhen (with more than 12 million residents) with a network of linked up surveillance cameras and force almost every resident to carry a computer-chipped id card that carries their work, health, residency status and criminal record, as well as a whole host of other information that might still be considered nominally "private" here in the US. Further, they have issued all the cops GPS systems so that the authorities can better use them to keep everyone in check, whether they are a criminal or a political activist.

The technology will allow for a more specific and accurate application of force by the ruling class through their armed protectors, the police, thus increasing the ability of the Chinese elite to force their will onto that of the people, many of whom have moved to the cities from rural areas and have engaged in increasingly violent and class conscious protests and insurrections against their communist and capitalist bosses (there were nearly a hundred thousand riots and other uprisings last year in China).

The interesting thing is, as even the developers of this tech (American companies, of course) admit, they're not giving the Chinese government anything special. That means that the tyrannical capabilities of the technologies are built into them - you can't separate them. Said another way, there's nothing neutral about this technology. It's a tool of the ruling class and, as they do now, they will use it to exploit and dominate us for their own selfish profit.

And this is why we have a choice: high technology or freedom. Sadly, unless we do something about it soon, we'll have no choice at all. After all, the authorities plan on using the same technology here, and they've already deployed aspects of it in many cities.

(By the way - thanks to both Andrew and my comrade Collin for each independently pointing me towards to the article below.)

Consider the future:
China Enacting a High-Tech Plan to Track People

At least 20,000 police surveillance cameras are being installed along streets here in southern China and will soon be guided by sophisticated computer software from an American-financed company to recognize automatically the faces of police suspects and detect unusual activity.

Starting this month in a port neighborhood and then spreading across Shenzhen, a city of 12.4 million people, residency cards fitted with powerful computer chips programmed by the same company will be issued to most citizens.

Data on the chip will include not just the citizen’s name and address but also work history, educational background, religion, ethnicity, police record, medical insurance status and landlord’s phone number. Even personal reproductive history will be included, for enforcement of China’s controversial “one child” policy. Plans are being studied to add credit histories, subway travel payments and small purchases charged to the card.

Security experts describe China’s plans as the world’s largest effort to meld cutting-edge computer technology with police work to track the activities of a population and fight crime. But they say the technology can be used to violate civil rights.

The Chinese government has ordered all large cities to apply technology to police work and to issue high-tech residency cards to 150 million people who have moved to a city but not yet acquired permanent residency.

Both steps are officially aimed at fighting crime and developing better controls on an increasingly mobile population, including the nearly 10 million peasants who move to big cities each year. But they could also help the Communist Party retain power by maintaining tight controls on an increasingly prosperous population at a time when street protests are becoming more common.

“If they do not get the permanent card, they cannot live here, they cannot get government benefits, and that is a way for the government to control the population in the future,” said Michael Lin, the vice president for investor relations at China Public Security Technology, the company providing the technology.

Incorporated in Florida, China Public Security has raised much of the money to develop its technology from two investment funds in Plano, Tex., Pinnacle Fund and Pinnacle China Fund. Three investment banks — Roth Capital Partners in Newport Beach, Calif.; Oppenheimer & Company in New York; and First Asia Finance Group of Hong Kong — helped raise the money.

Shenzhen, a computer manufacturing center next to Hong Kong, is the first Chinese city to introduce the new residency cards. It is also taking the lead in China in the large-scale use of law enforcement surveillance cameras — a tactic that would have drawn international criticism in the years after the Tiananmen Square killings in 1989.

But rising fears of terrorism have lessened public hostility to surveillance cameras in the West. This has been particularly true in Britain, where the police already install the cameras widely on lamp poles and in subway stations and are developing face recognition software as well.

New York police announced last month that they would install more than 100 security cameras to monitor license plates in Lower Manhattan by the end of the year. Police officials also said they hoped to obtain financing to establish links to 3,000 public and private cameras in the area by the end of next year; no decision has been made on whether face recognition technology has become reliable enough to use without the risk of false arrests.

Shenzhen already has 180,000 indoor and outdoor closed-circuit television cameras owned by businesses and government agencies, and the police will have the right to link them on request into the same system as the 20,000 police cameras, according to China Public Security.

Continued at the New York Times...

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

News of Interest 8/14/07

More evidence that the solution to the ongoing collapse of the environment has to be a massive step back from industrialism - in this case from the production of carbon dioxide. Acting after the fact is not good enough.
Trees Won't Fix Global Warming
The plan to use trees as a way to suck up and store the extra carbon dioxide emitted into Earth's atmosphere to combat global warming isn't such a hot idea, new research indicates.

Scientists at Duke University bathed plots of North Carolina pine trees in extra carbon dioxide every day for 10 years and found that while the trees grew more tissue, only the trees that received the most water and nutrients stored enough carbon dioxide to offset the effects of global warming.

The Department of Energy-funded project, called the Free Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) experiment, compared four pine forest plots that received daily doses of carbon dioxide 1.5 times current levels of the greenhouse gas in Earth's atmosphere to four matched plots that didn't receive any extra gas.
When can we call this genocide? The death toll now likely surpasses the Rwandan catastrophe.
Over 1 million Iraqi deaths since 2003
Nearly one million and a thousand Iraqi civilians have lost their lives since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The figure is at least 10 times greater than most estimates cited in the US media, yet it is based on the only scientifically valid study of violent Iraqi deaths caused by the US-led invasion of March 2003, according to JustForeignPolicy.org.
The security state uses terrorism as an excuse to extend its system of control and surveillance into even the smallest American cities. More evidence of the increasingly desperate and paranoid state of the ruling class. What do they know that we don't know about what the future holds?
US doles out millions for street cameras
The Department of Homeland Security is funneling millions of dollars to local governments nationwide for purchasing high-tech video camera networks, accelerating the rise of a "surveillance society" in which the sense of freedom that stems from being anonymous in public will be lost, privacy rights advocates warn.

Since 2003, the department has handed out some $23 billion in federal grants to local governments for equipment and training to help combat terrorism. Most of the money paid for emergency drills and upgrades to basic items, from radios to fences. But the department also has doled out millions on surveillance cameras, transforming city streets and parks into places under constant observation.

The department will not say how much of its taxpayer-funded grants have gone to cameras. But a Globe search of local newspapers and congressional press releases shows that a large number of new surveillance systems, costing at least tens and probably hundreds of millions of dollars, are being simultaneously installed around the country as part of homeland security grants.
NYPD has been told to reward "aggressive" cops with overtime money.
The NYPD's new patrol chief has ordered that special overtime money earmarked for cops in violence-prone precincts be given to "aggressive" officers rather than "do-nothings," The Post has learned.

Another source said Giannelli wants the OT to go to "intelligently aggressive" cops, such as ones who manage to avert civilian complaints by adequately explaining to people why they are being stopped and frisked.

In response to the new policy, some precincts already have compiled lists of their top-performing officers - when it comes to arrests - and forwarded the lists to the borough commanders.

Sources also said bosses have been told not to worry in the future about their officers' names appearing on lists of cops who have received large amounts of overtime.
Of course, for it to stop the next terrorist attack, MI5 and MI6 would have to stop planning them first, right? Still, more encouraging developments from the tech sector. When you click on the link, make sure to watch the video. Notice all the 'oohs' and 'aahs' from a scientific sector that has lost - if it ever had it - it's ability to think critically about the applications of its research. Remember, scientists worked for the Hitler and for Stalin. Don't count on something in the scientific process or scientists themselves to stop this march towards a surveillance society. In fact, these are the folks who are going to bring it to you, questioning only the date of their next grant disbursement along the way.
Britain's Police Drone: Could It Stop Next Terror Plot?
As if there weren't enough cameras trained on Britain's population, police in Merseyside County are field-testing a flying drone equipped with closed-circuit TV cameras. The 3-ft.-wide, German-built MD4-200 chopper has four whisper-quiet rotors and can fly autonomously at up to 15 mph using GPS way points. It can also be piloted from nearly 550 yards away with a handheld controller.

The drone sends footage to the pilot, via a pair of video eyeglasses, and to a police support vehicle or a control room. Since its battery allows for just 20 minutes of flight, the MD4-200 will be deployed for specific missions, as opposed to ongoing patrols. As part of a task force charged with fighting "antisocial behavior," its potential duties range from mundane (monitoring traffic jams) to ominous (recording evidence to be used in court).


Monday, August 13, 2007

A brutal history acknowleged - if only briefly

There was a fuck up at the China Daily online and they accidentally included the following sentence in an article about how Beijing is getting ready for the Olympics (leaving out the more than one million poor people that have been displaced unceremoniously to make way for tourists, stadiums and trains, of course):

The offending sentence:
"Security was tight around Tiananmen Square, where troops crushed pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989 with huge loss of life, as crowds gathered for the celebrations."
Read more about it here and see a cached version of the page - ironically saved via Google, which has itself cooperated with the Chinese government in censoring news in China..

Read more about how the Olympics affects poor people here:
Rights group: Olympics displace 2 million people over last 20 years, 1.25 million in Beijing

And here:
How the Olympics Destroy Cities


Saturday, August 11, 2007

The end of the era of hubris and the rising sense of panic.

The US is making preparations for war with Iran right now. Cheney is pushing hard for airstrikes and with Congress leaving town for its summer recess the likelihood of an attack is significantly raised. Cheney appears to want some kind of a provocation, either in terms of clear evidence of Iran caught in the act of arming or supporting Shiites in Iraq or a large attack on the US or US interests that can be tied back to them. Administration heavies and their allies in the military leadership have been highlighting Iranian involvement in Iran recently and Bush has been pushing outright lies about Iran's nuclear intentions specifically to prepare us for war. Amongst the administrations allies in the media and think tanks the determination to push for war with Iran has grown quite strong.

Right now US forces have peaked in Iraq and are higher than they have ever been, including during the invasion. Also, many Neo-Con thinkers have been actively either calling for a new terrorist attack at home or hoping one happens. Some have warned that there is a high probability of an attack being engineered by American forces to be blamed on Iranians or perhaps Al Qaeda (interestingly, in Iran we are again allying with the terrorist group just like we did in the Balkans in the mid and late 90's). Matching the enthusiastic calls from their allies in the American elite, Al Qaeda has likewise stepped up its threats this month against US targets in the 'homeland'.

Further, with the looming collapse of the dollar and China's recent - though not yet serious - threat to dump $900 billion in dollars on the market, thus eliminating the status of the dollar as the world's reserve (oil) currency, we are reminded of one of the main motivations for America's recent wars: maintaining the dollar's special global status. Iran has threatened to switch it's oil sales from dollars to Euros. Meanwhile, the Shanghia Cooperation Organization - made up of China, Russia and other Central Asian states - is conducting its largest military maneuvers ever this month. The focus? Anti-terrorism, of course. Iran hopes to join this emerging strategic counter-weight to the US-Anglo empire.

Another interesting note, when you look at a map of recent US interventions, instead of Al Qaeda influence, consider comparing it to the sphere of influence of the SCO and its member states. Al Qaeda is a convenient tool, as it has been in the past, to justify and wage attacks on these countries' steadily increasing power. With the increasing co-ordination with Al Qaeda, it's quite convenient indeed, then, that CIA headman, General Michael V. Hayden, has past experience aiding Al Qaeda operatives in Bosnia.

Many Neo-Cons are becoming convinced of the need for action on Iran, revealing the true nature of their political position. Many on the left and even the right have misconstrued the actions of the elite as stemming from supreme confidence - even hubris. The truth is, the elite knows the end of the American era looms near unless some drastic action is taken, and therefore they are quite desperate indeed. America's actions on the global stage are a reflection of a state of panic amongst the ruling class.

That's a recipe for disaster.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Strange bedfellow or bugs in a rug?

The Wall Street Journal - sometimes lampooned as the War Street Journal for it's never-ending love affair with war of all kinds - has run a curious article on non-violence and social change. Anyone who reads this blog or my other writings knows that I adhere to the notion that we should use whatever means work to achieve our goals. It's my opinion that non-violence doesn't really exist in reality. There are only degrees and relationships to violence.

But, if what's it's boosters call 'non-violence' will work, then by all means let's use it. However, here in the First World non-violence, riddled with inconsistencies and tainted by the high-browed moralism of a wealthy elite, is most often used not as a means of effecting change but rather as a club for dictating social outcomes by limiting the forms that social struggle will take to the symbolic and ineffective.

Further, the ideological construction of non-violent thinking itself limits analysis in critical ways. Take for instance the Bush Administration's allocation of funds to Freedom House for non-violent change in Iran. Just how can an organization that advocates so-called non-violence accept money from the homicidal Bush White House and still maintain a shred of self-respect? Setting aside the violent methods with which the State and Capital employs to collect such funds (because, after all, the charities of the rich, fat on surplus value, are not morally pure either), the American government today is actively engaged in the battle to overthrow the Iranian regime through all available means, including alliances with Al-Qaeda and other violent organizations. For an ideology that pretends to put so much stock in the aligning of ends and means, you have to wonder what kind of ideological gymnastics allow them to jump through those kinds of hoops for the benefit of Washington thugs and criminals.

Of course, once we abandon the useless ideology of non-violence, such contradictions fade away. It becomes clear that, if the paragon of violence that is the State sees no inconsistency in utilizing both allegedly non-violent and violent organizations to achieve its murderous ends, then perhaps there really is no antagonism at all between them. What we are left with is the stark fact that there are ends and there are means and while we may want to achieve our ends in the way most consistent with our values, we still want to achieve them. Considering which tools are appropriate to the task at hand is a much more useful ethic to apply, it turns out.

Nevertheless, you have to give the WSJ credit for consistency. Rather than lecture those low on the economic ladder to constrain our tactics to those that the hypocritical global elite approve of as morally pure (that's a job for the Left, primarily), the paper has admitted that non-violence doesn't always work. That's an understatement, for sure, and obviously disprovable by the sheer fact that the state and other organizations routinely use violence of various kinds to achieve their ends - including overturning various regimes. However, in the end, the paper is unable to draw a connection between it's advocacy of war for social change in Iraq (after all, isn't that what all war is?) and it's position on non-violence in popular movements.

Nevertheless, they get close, and we can connect the dots for them.

Read the article at the link below:

They shall overcome—but perhaps not always
But at its purest, the doctrine of non-violence insists that the method is nearly as important as the message. It also claims that there is no regime or foe, however brutal, that cannot be weakened by non-violent means. Is that claim justified?

No tyrant lasts for ever, and the statement that any brute can be defied can't be disproved. But the experience of ex-Soviet republics suggests that mass protest by a courageous crowd won't always work. In two republics—Belarus and Azerbaijan—rallies have been dispersed and opposition neutralised. Brave souls like Alyaksandr Kazulin, a critic of the regime in Belarus, and Eynulla Fatullaev, an Azeri editor, languish in jail on phoney charges. And in both places, numbers, money and geopolitics have made a difference. The Azeri elite is riding high on surging oil prices; that makes it easier to buy off groups or individuals. In Belarus, there were protests over election fraud in March 2006 which resembled the mass protests that had prevailed in Ukraine 14 months earlier. But in Belarus (despite the solidarity offered by colour-revolution veterans from Georgia and Ukraine), the rallies attracted little over 10,000 at most. Those in Kiev had involved hundreds of thousands.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

More of the same in '08

Just another warmonger... he claims he would withdraw from Iraq (yeah, right), but only so he could intensify the imperialist war in Afghanistan and free up troops for more invasions, like in Pakistan. Whatever he does, it's clear that he doesn't intend to diverge from the bogus and manipulative anti-terrorist narrative that the Bush Administration and the rest of the elite have set up and pray to every day since 9/11. Look at Obama appeal to that 9/11 jingoism like an old pro: "There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans." More of the same. No one for president in '08, please.

Obama might send troops into Pakistan
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Wednesday that he would send troops into Pakistan to hunt down terrorists even without local permission if warranted — an attempt to show strength when his chief rival has described his foreign policy skills as naive.

The Illinois senator warned Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that he must do more to shut down terrorist operations in his country and evict foreign fighters under an Obama presidency, or Pakistan will risk a U.S. troop invasion and losing hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid.

"Let me make this clear," Obama said in a speech prepared for delivery at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. "There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaida leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."


Obama said that as commander in chief he would remove troops from Iraq and putting them "on the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan." He said he would send at least two more brigades to Afghanistan and increase nonmilitary aid to the country by $1 billion.

He also said he would create a three-year, $5 billion program to share intelligence with allies worldwide to take out terrorist networks from Indonesia to Africa.


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