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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Police news roundup

This is a special edition of the news roundup dedicated to police. As the city gets set to have another public beatification ceremony for another dead cop, let's take a second to remember what cops really do in a day's work. And this is just what they've been up to recently!

Officials fire Alton police chief accused of sex assault

Alton's chief of police has been fired weeks after the South Texas lawman was accused of sexually assaulting two male employees.

Jose Luis Vela was suspended after his August 29 arrest on two charges of sexual assault. Since then, three current and former police department employees have accused Vela of sexual harassment.

Vela was officially fired yesterday for poor record keeping and possible theft of confiscated items. City Manager Jorge Arcaute said allegations surfaced accusing Vela of stealing alcohol confiscated by his department.
E. Bruns. cop claims DWI bias
He has made more than 100 drunken-driving arrests a year and has won convictions in 99 percent of his cases.

But Patrolman Joseph Marcantonio, 17-year veteran of the East Brunswick Police Department, alleges in a lawsuit that drunken off-duty police officers skated from DWI arrests in East Brunswick, and his complaints to supervisors brought retaliation against him.

Marcantonio, in a complaint filed in Superior Court, New Brunswick, in July also claims that East Brunswick police officers engaged in racial profiling, failed to deal appropriately with DWI arrestees — some of whom later died. And the department destroyed video evidence, misused breath-testing devices and misspent funds used to combat drunken driving, he alleges.
Officer referred to murder-suicide during fight with wife, police say
An area police officer was arrested Thursday night at his Bethlehem home after his wife told police he was acting erratically and made reference to a murder-suicide this week involving another police officer and his wife.

John Fiore, 44, of 1041 N. New St. was charged with making terroristic threats and harassment. He was arraigned before District Judge James Stocklas of Bethlehem and released on $10,000 unsecured bail. According to court documents, Fiore is being treated at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg.

Police said Fiore was acting ''erratic and explosive'' and made statements about having nothing to lose after mentioning the murder-suicide, according to court documents.
Cop who shot, killed a man had been involved in 2 previous shootings
But King's parents, Gary and Catherine King, decried what they believed was excessive force. Their son had just left a liquor store with a bag of chips and soda, they said.

"My son didn't deserve to be brutally murdered this way," Gary King, 52, said. "Gary is a good boy, and he didn't hurt anybody and he was well-loved."

Catherine King, 50, acknowledged that her son could have been armed. "If he had a gun, I don't know," she said. "It's possible, and that wouldn't necessarily be the kind of thing he would share with his mom and dad."

Still, she said she didn't believe the sergeant had to shoot to kill.

Their son wasn't involved in any homicide, she said, adding her son probably fit the description of "thousands of 20-year-olds - or thereabouts - men who are light-skinned and have braids around here."

Friends of the slain man set up a makeshift memorial Friday in the median of Martin Luther King Jr. Way that featured pictures of King and messages that read, "RIP G-Money" and "The police did this."
Santa Cruz councilman accuses Santa Cruz police of racial profiling
City Councilman Tony Madrigal, upset with a city plan to step up law enforcement on Halloween, accused police of "racial profiling," which city police immediately responded to as "wildly irresponsible."

Madrigal's allegations came Tuesday as the council was considering a plan to increase public safety on a night that draws up to 30,000 people, many outlandishly dressed, to Pacific Avenue.

Madrigal told the council he visited downtown during last year's Halloween celebration and witnessed officers "patting down" a group of young Latinos. But police didn't question a group of young white people nearby, he said.

"I asked [the Latinos], and they said they weren't doing anything," Madrigal said. "There was racial profiling going on. Those issues concern me."
Castroville Residents, Police Square Off Over Racial Profiling
A public forum was held in Castroville Monday night after civic leaders said racial profiling by the Monterey County Sheriff's Department was putting residents on edge.

Nearly 150 residents, elected officials and civic leaders, were on hand to hear what the League of United Latin American Citizens said is the improper targeting of Hispanic men.

Victor Mejia said he was disappointed in what he always thought was a sheriff's department going after the bad guys. But instead, Mejia said he discovered that he should fear authorities more.

Mejia, the executive director of the nonprofit agency said he was unfairly targeted in December due to his ethnicity and was consequently arrested by a sheriff's deputy.

Mejia's complaint was one of a number of recent alleged incidents that brought community members to the Castroville Community Center.

Martha Padilla Chavarria, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the evidence is overwhelming -- especially after she said her son, a Fresno State student, was pulled over and questioned as to his gang affiliation.

Among the long list of racial profiling examples community members cited were: intimidation; mocking residents; and excessive force.
Police complaints abound at initial open forum
Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick got an earful of complaints from citizens at her first ever open forum Wednesday night.

Not sure how many people to expect, Kirkpatrick was met by a mostly crowded room, with many in attendance voicing their concerns about racial profiling, bullying, police brutality and a handful of other related issues.

Spokane’s top cop set up the meeting after receiving a petition of more than 100 signatures calling for the Spokane Police Department to be held accountable for their actions.

“I think you’ve seen already in my one year being here,” Kirkpatrick said, “that we have been pretty upfront.”

However, there were a number of people in the audience who didn’t feel that her sentiment properly addressed the extent of the problem. They feel that there should be more oversight on the Police Chief’s part.
Police brutality victim says he was targeted because he's black
A Twin Cities man who won more than $700,000 in a police brutality case says he is still haunted by that day two years ago when he was arrested by Golden Valley police. He believes the arrest was motivated in part by race.

Two Golden Valley officers pepper sprayed and arrested Al Hixon in April 2005 as he was filling his car at a gas station. They believed he was involved in a robbery at a nearby US Bank.

Hixon says police knew the suspect was white, but assumed he was involved because he's black.

He says he hopes winning the trial last week sends a message.

"Justice is a very big word in reference to the situation," Hixon said. "Going to trial so the nation and the world could hear the story meant a lot to me."

Hixon says he suffers from depression, stress and physical injuries because of the incident, but says the trial was even tougher for him than the arrest itself.

"To sit on the stand to testify, and to sit and listen to people lie about you is the most difficult thing I've ever gone through," Hixon said.
Group Alleges Racial Harassment by Police
About 100 Flora residents gathered outside City Hall Tuesday protesting what they call unfair treatment at the hands of the city's police officers.

"Concerned Citizens of Flora" called for the resignations of former Police Chief Ernie Scarber, Sgt. Mike Alderman, and Mayor Scott Greaves.

The group of African-American residents says police target them for tickets, set up roadblocks in their neighborhood and place them under curfew.

"It's a whole lot of things that are going on in this town that's being swept up. It's time for them to come out. What are some of those things? Those things are we have a chief of police here. He's still chief. He's still getting the same pay. That was told to us by a alderman. He still getting the same pay and everything. Nothing has changed," said group spokesperson Rosetta Harris.
Hispanic Heritage Month event banned by UW police
A national fraternity says a decision by University of Wisconsin Police to cancel an event that was to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month is "very close to racial profiling, if not racial profiling."

The Madison branch of Lambda Theta Phi, a Latino fraternity, had arranged for the celebration to be held Saturday in Memorial Union's Tripp Commons, but was told last week that the event would be canceled due to concerns the University Police had about security.

Agustin Garcia, national chairman of the Lamda Theta Phi Foundation, said in a telephone interview from Florida this morning that the police would not give the fraternity specific reasons why they thought the event was unsafe.

"They kept coming back to the music and the nature of the event," said Garcia. "They said the event was unsafe but we don't have a reputation for problems, so that's where we got concerned with racial profiling."

According to Garcia, the fraternity felt there was no reason behind the decision to cancel an event planned only to be a dance with "a melody of Latin music."

Garcia said when the fraternity learned of the cancelation Sept. 11 they did everything to try and prevent it, even offering to pay for additional security.
Wife says man killed by Sunnyvale police was unarmed
The wife of a man killed Wednesday by Sunnyvale police said that her husband was unarmed and was shot in his car while leaving for work.

Erika Cañas, 22, said she was standing in the front yard of her apartment complex with her 18-month-old twin sons when police confronted her husband, Jose Cañas, 32.

"They shot my husband in the head," Erika Cañas said.

The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety is investigating the death and has placed two officers on paid administrative leave, keeping with departmental policy on officer-involved shootings, Capt. Doug Moretto said. Police, with a warrant, were seeking to arrest Cañas and two others for investigation of an Aug. 17 killing in the neighborhood.

About the claim that Cañas was unarmed, Moretto would only say that an unspecified weapon was involved.

The other two men, whom police would not name Thursday, were arrested without incident.

At 11:35 a.m. Wednesday, Jose Cañas was pulling out of his parking place on the street when a car rammed his, his wife said. She said an officer drew a gun and shouted "Stop." She said her husband turned to look at the officer and was shot twice.

"I said, 'Don't shoot him, leave him alone,' " she said.

Then, she said, another officer threatened to shoot her, as she was standing in front of her apartment at 1144 Ayala Dr., and also threatened to handcuff her if she didn't go inside.

"I said no, you guys are shooting my husband."

A neighbor then took her keys and her crying sons, Jesus Angel and Jose Emmanuel, inside, she said.
Parents of man fatally shot by Hayward police sue city
The parents of a 20-year-old man killed by Hayward police while he fought with his brother have filed two $10 million lawsuits against the city alleging the man had surrendered before he was fatally shot.

Naser Solis of Hayward was unarmed and pinned to the ground by Officer Jason Corsolini moments before Corsolini shot him, according to separate lawsuits filed by Saleh Ali and Maria Joya last week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

"Witnesses also confirm that although there was a struggle between Mr. Solis and the officer, Mr. Solis gave up and surrendered, and that's very clear," said Ben Nisenbaum, a lawyer for Joya. "For whatever reason, the officer didn't take it that way."
City Settles On Police Brutality Suit
One of Chattanooga's most high profile brutality cases does not go to trial...but reaches a settlement. And taxpayers will be footing the bill. But the two men who sued the department got nowhere close to what they were seeking.

Jason McCollum and Matthew Jones combined will receive 114 thousand dollars, well short of the 20 million they were seeking together. Both men agreed to not release the terms, but because this is public money we were able to find out the details.

This is what each young man looked like after their arrests in September three years ago.
The city agreed to pay McCollum 42 thousand dollars and Jones, the more seriously injured man, 72 thousand dollars. The two young men raced out of north Georgia. Both had been drinking. And when they stopped at Kanku's convenience store, the video surveillance shows officers hitting Jones.

Instead of going to trial, the city agreed to pay both men damages. McCollum told me it was not about the money, but the principle. His attorney spoke for him. Robin Flores said, "He felt wronged and rightly so. If it was up to him and he had the inclination to do it, he may have gone to trial just for the principle of it."

The lawsuit also used testimony from former officer Ray Brantis, who got the maximum 28 day suspension. Brantis testified that before this happened, then deputy chiefs Freeman Cooper and Skip Vaughn both told officers they were authorized to use whatever means at your disposal to clean up this city.
Force was excessive, ex-police chief testifies in brutality case
Former Minneapolis Police Chief Tony Bouza was unequivocal on Monday in U.S. District Court. "The force used in this case was excessive, unnecessary and constituted police brutality," he said.

Bouza testified as an expert witness on behalf of Al Hixon, who is suing the city of Golden Valley and two of its police officers over an incident on April 2, 2005.

Hixon is seeking damages in excess of $75,000, alleging that his civil rights were violated by excessive force, battery and assault.

Everyone agrees that Hixon was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had just taken his Jaguar out of winter storage and pulled into a Sinclair gas station near his home to fill it up and get some fresh oil.

Unbeknownst to him, a U.S. Bank branch inside a nearby Byerly's grocery store had been robbed. Officers swarmed the gas station on the heels of possible suspects. They saw Hixon allegedly trying to run and captured him.

The next thing Hixon knew, he was on the ground, handcuffed and had been sprayed in the eyes and nose with a chemical irritant. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is a changed man as a result of the ordeal, he said in testimony Friday.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

The bloody circus never ends: the media post-humously knights another dead cop.

Another Phoenix cop has been killed while executing a racial profiling stop (jaywalking!?). The media has been so busy focusing on the fact that his killer was undocumented that it has completely missed the racist motivation behind the initial police contact. As police in Arizona have increasingly become enforcers of immigration laws, they have surged to the front lines of the battle over the border, which of course leads inevitably to racial profiling.

But, as anarchists, it's times like these that offer us the opportunity to examine the relationship between the ruling class and the police. Just why is it that the elite, who care nothing about the deaths of thousands of other workers in more dangerous professions, cry such crocodile tears over the death of a police officer? Typically they pay no notice at all to the deaths of common workers - who they generally despise. Our friends and family die every day for the convenience (!) and profit of a tiny elite and yet where is the public outcry at our graves? For instance, construction workers die much more frequently on the job than cops do, and yet they are not treated as heroes when they are killed on the job. This despite the importance of the housing industry to Phoenix's economy. Indeed, my own line of work - and most of ours - is more dangerous than policing but still the rich do not look upon my comrades as saints to be venerated whenever our blood stains the city's streets. Of course, there's a reason for that.

In 2005 a police officer named David Uribe was killed when he made a traffic stop. While the whole of elite society automatically offered him up for sainthood (without ever looking into his record on the job to see if he deserved it), I took the opportunity to consider the reason why. What is it about policing that the elite value so much and what are the myths that reinforce our perceptions of law enforcement? What are the origins of the policing in the US and what can that tell us about the relationship between the police and their homies in the elite class, who weep so disingenuously at their gravesides whenever we are lucky enough to be rid of one?

But in the outrage spewing forth from the vultures now feeding on Officer Nick Erfle's still warm body, and as they demand increased immigration powers for the ever-expanding police force, we don't hear an immigration problem. We hear a police problem. We hear the echoes of the slave patrols and the Fugitive Slave Act of old. Everything old is new again. And couldn't those patty rollers claim they were protecting the community as well?

Now recognizing our history in the present, we're not fooled anymore by their grand pronouncements or false emotions. When they say this is a loss for the whole community, we can now reply with a question of our own: "Which community are you talking about?" In their broad statements we see not a description of reality, but rather a sermon from their civic religion of the state, capitalism and white supremacy. Likewise, their oh-so-sincere genuflecting before the monument of the dead cop, transforming him into a fallen, righteous defender of all things civilized now appears a mere empty, self-serving public ritual to us. When they say that the police put themselves on the line for us every day, we can now ask, "Put themselves on the line for who?" And therein lies the crux of the matter.

So, while the media opportunistically gushes over the fresh corpse of Officer Nick Erfle, I'll delve into the archives and consider the deeper implications of the institution of policing and the role of police in society. Below is the original article, as relevant now as ever.
Officer Down: The media and cop-killings

Phoenix Insurgent
Summer 2005

The recent shooting death of Officer David Uribe, shot in the head and neck while making a traffic stop, offers several opportunities for radical analysis. Typical of its easy-going treatment of local police departments, the media fell lock step behind the idea of the police officer as defender of public order and all things good. In fact, where any dissented from the gushing media monotone, they demanded an even more gratuitous lavishing of praise on Uribe and police in general.

Such was the case with John McDonald’s melodramatic column in the Arizona Republic. In his sensationally titled article, “The day a cop died, this city lost its soul,” McDonald expressed his exasperation at the TV when “two anchors and a weatherman laughed and giggled about the delightful mild temperatures just minutes after detailing the brutal execution of a local veteran cop.” One wonders if McDonald even watches local television news, which in fact was dominated by endless coverage of the murder, manhunt and reaction for several days as local talking heads beatified Uribe with all due haste.


The media uniformly treated the Uribe killing as a loss for whole community. Even the killing of an unarmed man by Phoenix PD the very next day could not damper the media’s enthusiasm for the story. Remarking on the second shooting, Patty Kirkpatrick, a Channel 3 anchor, expressed relief that the conflict had ended in the death of the suspect, rather than a cop. In her mind it was preferable that an unarmed man die than a cop get hurt trying to carry out murder.

On May 12th, Benson’s cartoon in the Republic featured a simple sketch of a police badge bearing Uribe’s number. Written across a black band of mourning were the words, “thank you.” But for what? "When we lose someone like that, we lose part of ourselves," answers the Phoenix Fire Department's chaplain, Rev. Father Carl G. Carlozzi in the Arizona Republic. In a letter to the editor, Patricia Fay of Phoenix explained it this way, “They are my protectors. Someone killed one of my protectors.”


But there is a real tension between the public image of policing, defended so single-mindedly by the media, and the reality. Introducing channel 12’s coverage of the Uribe funeral the following Tuesday, Lin Sue Cooney described the event as “a whole community” saying thank you. Effusive in their coverage of a car-wash fundraiser for the Uribe’s family, local media outlets actively campaigned for valley residents to participate. Can the same police force that regularly kills unarmed people of color be the protectors of the community? Can the same police force that uses Tasers to kill, just as the Phoenix Police did on May 4th, 2005, killing a 24 year-old man, be protectors? Are the same police forces that disproportionately target, arrest and incarcerate the poor, and especially people of color, really defenders of the “community?”

But, everyone knows that police don’t protect everyone equally and that they specifically target some segments of the community over others. For years the Scottsdale PD enforced what they called a “no-n****r zone,” pulling over and harassing black people driving through the city. Incarceration rates for poor people versus rich people are so obvious that they hardly require mentioning. But many whites still continue to deny the just as obvious disparities in white and non-white incarceration rates. To believe that these disparities exist apart or in exception to the overall system of policing makes no sense. They exist because this is the way the system was meant to function.


The police system is designed primarily to defend the rich and toward that end to police poor people and poor people of color in particular. Made up of reporters primarily drawn from middle and upper classes, and owned by very rich people, the media serves that goal as propagandist for the police and defender of its own class interest, and they reflect the racism that all white people learn in their upbringing.

Let’s look at the numbers. According the Princeton Review, the average television reporter, after five years on the job, earned $65,000 dollars a year. In the top 25 television markets the median salary as reported by the Missouri School of Journalism stood at $78,000 in 2000. According to the US Census, that rate stood at nearly twice the same figure for male workers in general, a rate which, it should be pointed out, itself remains higher than the median for non-whites and women. That disparity appears even sharper when we consider the Bureau of Labor Statistics count, which put the average annual wage in the U.S. as $36,764 for 2002. Even print reporters, generally paid less than their television comrades, fair better than average Americans. Clearly there is a class divide between many of us consuming the news and the people reporting, not to mention the editors and owners, and the media coverage shows it.

For example, the bulk of the media ignored a story that ran in the Arizona Republic the 11th, the very day Uribe was killed. Jahna Berry reported that a federal jury had awarded Gerardo Ramirez-Diaz $1 million dollars after a Phoenix police officer shot him in the gut without just cause. And just four days before the shooting of Uribe, in a rare display of public criticism, the Arizona Republic came out against the reinstatement of Chandler police officer Dan Lovelace. Lovelace was fired for using excessive force after he shot and killed unarmed Dawn Rae Nelson in her car, from behind, with her 14 month-old son sitting in the seat behind her. That murder occurred on October 11th, 2001, making the Republic’s opposition to Lovelace’s reinstatement a little late in coming, to say the least, though it does show just how extreme a case it takes for the local media to take a critical position towards local police.


Much of the coverage of Uribe’s killing focused on the supposed danger cops face in the carrying out of their duties. Multiple newscasters and residents interviewed regarded the police as “putting themselves on the line” for other people, risking their lives regularly or standing as soldiers on the front lines of American society. But reflecting a rate that has remained pretty consistent, police officers don’t even rank in the top ten most dangerous jobs as most recently listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, just a little over a week before Uribe’s killing, a farm worker was killed in Arizona when a bale of hay fell on him. Another worker, a roofer, was killed when he fell and drowned in a pool. The first didn’t even merit mentioning his name in the brief Arizona Republic article that ran. Both farm worker and roofer do rank within the top ten most dangerous occupations. Interestingly, Latinos represent a large proportion of workers in these fields. Another recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found a rate of five fatalities per 100,000 Hispanic workers in 2002 that was 25 percent higher than for all workers. This wouldn’t happen if white workers would stand up with Latino workers against these kinds of abuses. But apparently local media finds the deaths of workers, especially workers of color, as too commonplace to merit coverage, even though that contradicts their attitude towards the job of police officer, who they misreport as in constant jeopardy.

So, in order to understand why the media, the rich and so many white people have fallen all over themselves to praise Uribe and to condemn his murder – while rarely admitting police excesses - we have to delve a little into the history of American police forces. The alleged danger of the job doesn’t stand up as a sufficient explanation. Policing in America has two main origins, both of which serve to accomplish the same mission: to protect the wealth of the rich and powerful.


The first origin lies in the violent class struggles of the 19th century. During those times, workers were forced into the emerging factory system that the capitalist class was creating in the cities of the Northeast. In these factories workers had little power and were subjected to long hours and brutal conditions. When armed class struggle broke out, the capitalists, outnumbered and not generally wishing to risk their own necks in the fighting, created police forces to wage war on the working class in defense of their factories and wealth. The first real police force in the US was founded in 1845 in New York City, center of the country’s emerging industrial economy. As industrialism and modern capitalism spread, other cities followed New York’s example.

Private property lies at the heart of capitalist exploitation. The authority of the boss derives precisely because s/he owns the means of production – the workplace, the computers, the machines and thus the profits. Because workers’ interests depend on a redistribution of wealth and equality in the workplace, this brings us in inevitable conflict with the boss and his lackeys, the police. It’s the same thing with the landlord. The landlord’s ability to evict or demand rent couldn’t exist without the system of private property and the police to back it up with violence.

The second main origin of American policing centers on the slave patrol system of the South. Charged with protecting white plantation owners, the slave patrols, or “patty rollers” as they were often called, brutally oppressed blacks, both slave and free. It is from the slave patrollers that American policing gets many of its traditions and powers. Patty rollers worked specific “beats” and could demand identification from any black person they encountered. The slave patrols incarcerated and returned, frequently with violence, any black person who could not prove their free status or provide written permission for their travel. Even in the North the police were charged with capturing and returning escaped slaves.

The influence of this racist tradition reverberates today in a variety of ways. An Arizona Daily Star review of Department of Public Safety records revealed that during traffic stops police searched Latinos more than twice as frequently as whites. And police searched blacks almost three times as frequently as whites – despite the fact that searches of whites turned up contraband much more regularly. Beyond racial profiling, which brings them into police contact more frequently in the first place, non-whites also face racist judges, unequal access to competent defense and sentencing guidelines that send them to prison at rates many times that of whites and for longer duration.

In fact, the history of Arizona police forces combines both origins. Back in the day, as now, Arizona was a mining state and Latinos composed a large percentage of the miners. In response to militant organizing by mine workers, the state created the Arizona Rangers. Ostensibly formed to combat cattle rustling, in actuality the government used the force primarily against miners and people of color. This tradition continues to contemporary times, and many of us remember the UMW strike of 1983 when then-Governor Bruce Babbitt, a Democrat, called out police and national guardsmen against workers in defense of the Phelps-Dodge Corporation. Police guarded scabs brought in by the company, effectively breaking the strike.

It is critical for working class white people to understand the true origins and purposes of American policing and to be critical of both the aims and causes of media defense of police and police departments. In the end, supporting police power means supporting the rich people that exploit the entire working class, white or not. The American system has given white workers privileges that non-white workers don’t get, and many of them directly involve reduced exposure to police violence and policing in general. American history has shown, though, that when even white workers organize against the bosses and politicians, the police are brought in against us as well. It’s time for white workers to stand in support of communities of color when they organize against the police of all kinds, including La Migra. We need to recognize that the police are a racist institution that cannot be justified if what we want is a world of equality and justice, and media defense of policing amounts to defense of racism and the rich.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

The RAF and Stasi: false flags over Germany

In a week where bin Laden has yet again shown up, conveniently-timed, curiously-bearded and denouncing capitalism, today's Wall Street Journal article on the Red Army Faction in Germany couldn't be better timed to shed some light on the murky world where terrorism and intelligence services come together. Spurred by the mysterious murder of Deutsche Bank Chairman Alfred Herrhausen, the article delves into the interesting relationship between the East German intelligence agency, the Stasi, and the communist terrorist organization, famous for a long string of bombings, murders and kidnappings.

It's perhaps no surprise that there would be connections between these two organizations, but what probably is most interesting is the allegation that not only did the Stasi manipulate and cooperate with the RAF, but they also studied their methodologies so that they could engage in terrorism in West Germany under the cover of it being organized by the RAF. Thus, when the RAF proved too uncontrollable for their purposes, Stasi still had a cover for their actions in the West.
Based on these documents, German investigators increasingly believe that the Stasi played a more active role than previously believed in Red Army Faction terrorism. After years of not being able to draw parallels between the Stasi unit in Wartin and the Red Army Faction killings, police are now focusing closely on such a link. Joachim Lampe, who assisted the successful prosecution of the first wave of Red Army Faction terrorists up until 1982 and was then assigned to prosecute Stasi-related crimes in West Germany, says it's time to compare the activities of Wartin with the activities of the Red Army Faction to see where they overlap. "It is an important line of investigation," he said.

A year after the Red Army Faction's first generation collapsed in 1972, an internal Wartin report said cooperation with terrorists is possible if the individuals could be trusted to maintain secrecy and obey orders. Initial contacts, however, may not have taken place until later in the decade. Disillusionment gripped many of the terrorists living on the lam, according to court records citing witness statements by accused terrorists. Beginning about 1980, the Stasi granted refuge to 10 members of the Red Army Faction in East Germany and gave them assumed identities.

The Stasi sympathized with the anti-capitalist ideals of the Red Army Faction, but Stasi leaders were concerned about placing their trust in a group of uncontrollable leftist militants, a review of Stasi records shows. Stasi officials did not want to tarnish East Germany's international reputation, so they toyed with different concepts for cooperation with terrorist groups, according to a prosecutor who has investigated Stasi involvement with terrorism.

One suggestion, contained in a document prepared for new officers assigned to the unit, was to emulate Romanian intelligence, which successfully worked with the terrorist "Carlos" to bomb the Radio Free Europe office in Munich, Germany, in 1981. To assist in such operations, the Wartin unit developed highly specialized explosives, poisons and miniature firearms.

About 1980 the Stasi also proposed a second strategy: instead of using a terrorist group directly -- such cooperation always contained risk of discovery -- they could simply execute attacks so similar to those of known terrorists that police would never look for a second set of suspects, according to Wartin records. The Wartin leadership called this strategy the "perpetrator principle," according to Stasi records. The unit's progress in implementing the steps to imitate terrorist attacks is described in a series of progress reports by Wartin officials between 1980 and 1987.

In September 1981, Red Army Faction terrorists attempted to kill U.S. Gen. James Kroesen in Heidelberg, Germany, shooting a bazooka at his car. About the same time, members of the same Red Army Faction team visited East Germany, where they were asked by the Stasi to shoot a bazooka at a car containing a dog. The dog died, according to court records.

In Wartin, officials wrote up a detailed description of the Red Army Faction members' re-enactment of the Kroesen attack. "It is important to collect all accessible information about the terrorist scene in imperialist countries, to study and analyze their equipment, methods and tactics, so we can do it ourselves," a senior Wartin official wrote in February 1982, according to the report.
Curious indeed, but not surprising to students of the machinations of the various intelligence services. The flipside to the Stasi's intervention with the RAF is the Italian right wing and NATO's false flag terrorism during the Strategy of Tension. As "anti-terrorism" increasingly becomes the dominant theory (i.e., justification) of the elite political class, we can expect to see intelligence services operating with more and more of a free hand. Their interventions will become more numerous and more bold and their power will almost certainly grow to previously unseen levels.

Intelligence services offer the elite, under a paradigm of anti-terrorism and the cover of secrecy, both the means to achieve their goals and to create the excuses for their interventions at the same time. Capable of playing all sides in the global struggle for power, wealth and, importantly, control over domestic populations, intelligence services have and will continue to be a vital - and often unseen - tool of the elite. Where no threat exists, the intelligence services can create it. Where it exists, it can be manipulated. When it is manipulated, it can be exploited to create terrorist attacks or to sweep participants up in anti-terror operations, all of which justify the overall myth of terrorism.

Will the 21st Century be the century of the intelligence service?

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The subtly sanitized language of warfare

A lesson in the way bias for the invader's point of view can subtly be transmitted through the language and perspective of a piece of journalism. Consider this excerpt courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor: 'Sheikh's death threatens US success in Anbar Province'
Sheikh Abu Risha's death, which was the result of a roadside bomb explosion near his home in the provincial capital Ramadi, comes at a crucial time. The Sunni tribal forces he led were moving closer to creating a formidable block with sufficient weight to provide representation for the embittered community in the government and counter those Sunnis who still believe in using violence to achieve their aims.

"This is a tragic loss," said Gen. David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, in a statement released in Washington by his spokesman. "It's a terrible loss for Anbar Province and all of Iraq. ... He was an organizing force who did help organize alliances and did help keep the various tribes together."

His death came 10 days after meeting President Bush during his visit to Anbar.
Notice how the sheikh's opposition (the shadowy Al Qaeda, which we are to assume killed him) gets tagged in the piece as violent, and justifiably so. Al Qaeda, to the extent it exists as an actor separate from US policy in Iraq, is a despicably reactionary organization. In this particular article, as evidence, we are reminded that they "still believe in using violence to achieve their aims".

But in comparison to whom? The US army? Leaving this question unanswered, readers can only assume that Al Qaeda's violent strategy differs significantly from the kisses and flowers strategy adopted by the likes of the Sheik and the US Army. Note also that this disconnect occurs despite mentioning the Sheik's pistol packing, highway robbing background later in the article. In this sense, US violence - and state violence in general (despite the dubious legitimacy of the Iraqi state) - is normalized and stripped of violent content. Meanwhile, a US ally's own violent banditry is minimized.

In fact, consider how the sheik's political objectives - partially achieved, we are assured by a compliant media - are referred to in a contrived passive voice. "The tribal rejection of Al Qaeda that started in Anbar Province and helped produce such significant change," the author informs us through the words of General Pataeus, commander of all US invaders in Iraq, "helped produce such significant change there has now spread to a number of other locations as well."

It "helped produce," we are advised by a dutifully stenographic media class, leaving the reader to conclude that the sheik and US forces had somehow managed to confront Al Qaeda non-violently. A ridiculous claim, of course - even in the most radical of the liberals withdrawal schemes a US force remains in country to attack Al Qaeda in Iraq. Clearly the US isn't planning to blast rock music at them until they give up.

Nevertheless, the agent of pro-American violence is obscured through the use of the passive voice. Plus, the Sheik's own declared aim of joining the ridiculously bloody American puppet government in Iraq is not similarly denounced as violent, although an association with Al Qaeda certainly would be. Nor does the reporter seem to consider violent the sheik's alliance with the mass-murderous US Army. Likewise, note that both General Patraeus and George Bush, collectively responsible for the deaths of around a million Iraqis, are not labeled as violent. No problem, the media's reporting insures that violence committed by America and its allies is not the same as violence committed by its opponents.

Meanwhile, in the broader media the elite's goals in Iraq have been similarly stripped of political content. They are spoken of merely in terms of "success" or "national interests". This is significant, because when the media use this kind of language, they reveal their alliance with the ruling class. When they talk about 'success in Iraq' and other related euphemisms for the application of state violence, we ought to remember that what they really mean is the successful conquering of that country for the benefit of the American elite. Putting Iraq under the thumb of US imperialism is considered "success" in Iraq.

Thus, pushing for success in Iraq, or denouncing the Administration for failing to achieve it as many liberals have done is an exercise in legitimizing the sanitized policy goals of the elite. It represents nothing more than one wing of the elite offering a better strategy for dominating Iraq. But neither wing of the elite class is interested in the interests of anyone not of their own class. Therefore, a genuinely radical position in Iraq must at least endorse one of these options. Either, the total destruction of the US military machine in Iraq or the immediate and full withdrawal of all American troops, followed by a complete dismantlement of the military machine at home. Redeployment must not be an option.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

News of Interest 9/13/07

(1) "The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history."
-Buenaventura Durruti
Global Warming Impact Like 'Nuclear War'
Climate change could have global security implications on a par with nuclear war unless urgent action is taken, a report said on Wednesday.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) security think-tank said global warming would hit crop yields and water availability everywhere, causing great human suffering and leading to regional strife.
(2) They call it a singularity because it's the point from which humanity can never return.
Techies ponder computers smarter than us
At the center of a black hole there lies a point called a singularity where the laws of physics no longer make sense. In a similar way, according to futurists gathered Saturday for a weekend conference, information technology is hurtling toward a point where machines will become smarter than their makers. If that happens, it will alter what it means to be human in ways almost impossible to conceive, they say.

"The Singularity Summit: AI and the Future of Humanity" brought together hundreds of Silicon Valley techies and scientists to imagine a future of self-programming computers and brain implants that would allow humans to think at speeds nearing today's microprocessors.
Artificial intelligence researchers at the summit warned that now is the time to develop ethical guidelines for ensuring these advances help rather than harm.

"We and our world won't be us anymore," Rodney Brooks, a robotics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the audience. When it comes to computers, he said, "who is us and who is them is going to become a different sort of question."

Eliezer Yudkowsky, co-founder of the Palo Alto-based Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which organized the summit, researches on the development of so-called "friendly artificial intelligence." His greatest fear, he said, is that a brilliant inventor creates a self-improving but amoral artificial intelligence that turns hostile.
(3) The extinction crisis continues to spread...
Threatened species Red List shows escalating 'global extinction crisis'
Corals and seaweed have joined the ranks of threatened species, and more apes and reptiles are now facing extinction according to the World Conservation Union, which warns of a "global extinction crisis".

The conservation group's annual Red List of threatened species, published today, found that the extinction crisis had escalated in the last year with 16,306 species now at the highest levels of extinction threat, equivalent to almost 40% of all species in the survey.

A quarter of all mammals, a third of all amphibians and one in eight birds on the 2007 IUCN Red List are in jeopardy.
(4) The elite continue their death-spiral with Iran. With the economy tanking, the dollar sinking and the population finally turning against their desperate adventures, what choice do the elite have but to expand their wars?
U.S. Officials Begin Crafting Iran Bombing Plan

Political and military officers, as well as weapons of mass destruction specialists at the State Department, are now advising Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the diplomatic approach favored by Burns has failed and the administration must actively prepare for military intervention of some kind.

Among those advising Rice along these lines are John Rood, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation; and a number of Mideast experts, including Ambassador James Jeffrey, deputy White House national security adviser under Stephen Hadley and formerly the principal deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs.

Consequently, according to a well-placed Bush administration source, "everyone in town" is now participating in a broad discussion about the costs and benefits of military action against Iran, with the likely timeframe for any such course of action being over the next eight to 10 months, after the presidential primaries have probably been decided, but well before the November 2008 elections.

The discussions are now focused on two basic options: less invasive scenarios under which the U.S. might blockade Iranian imports of gasoline or exports of oil, actions generally thought to exact too high a cost on the Iranian people but not enough on the regime in Tehran; and full-scale aerial bombardment.
(5) The capitalists and their apologists may try turn global warming lemons into lemonade, but they'll never share that lemonade with us anyhow.
Warming May Trigger Agricultural Collapse
ndia could lose up to 40 percent of its agricultural output because of global warming even as it becomes the world's most populous country, warns a new study.

Global farm productivity faces "serious damage" this century, and poor countries will bear the worst of it, unless emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change are held in check, says veteran climate economist William Cline.

He further contradicts analysts who have said that global warming could boost yields.

"My work shows that while productivity may increase in a minority of mostly northern countries, the global impact of climate change on agriculture will be negative by the second half of this century," said Cline, who has studied the economic aspects of climate change since the early 1990s.

"There might be some initial overall benefit to warming for a decade or two but, because future warming depends on greenhouse gas emissions today, if we delay action it would put global agriculture on an inexorable trajectory to serious damage," he added.
(6) The guy this article is about made a presentation earlier in the year at a black hat hacker conference in which he declared that the private security firm that has been releasing al-Qaeda videos (they claim they intercept them) has been doctoring them. An article ran about it in CNET but, even though he saw the article and affirmed everything in it, he issued a retraction of that statement later, perhaps after being pressured (one assumes). Now he says it is AQ that is changing them. Six of one, half dozen the other...

Researcher: Bin Laden's beard is real, video is not
More important though are the edits. At roughly a minute and a half into the video there is a splice; bin Laden shifts from looking at the camera to looking down in less than 1/25th of a second. At 13:13 there is a second, less obvious splice. In all, Krawetz says there are at least six splices in the video. Of these, there are only two live bin Laden segments, the rest of the video composed of still images. The first live section opens the video and ends at 1:56. The second section begins at 12:29 and continues until 14:01. The two live sections appear to be from different recordings "because the desk is closer to the camera in the second section."

Then there are the audio edits. Krawetz says "the new audio has no accompanying 'live' video and consists of multiple audio recordings." References to current events are made only during the still frame sections and after splices within the audio track." And there are so many splices that I cannot help but wonder if someone spliced words and phrases together. I also cannot rule out a vocal imitator during the frozen-frame audio. The only way to prove that the audio is really bin Laden is to see him talking in the video," Krawetz says.
(7) Lest we get too depressed, a newly assertive Russia has deployed a new, gigantic conventional bomb.
Russia tests superstrength bomb, military says
The report said the new bomb was much stronger than the U.S.-built Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb -- MOAB, also known under its name "Mother of All Bombs." "So, Russian designers called the new weapon 'Father of All Bombs'," it said.

Showing the orange-painted U.S. prototype, the report said the Russian bomb was four times more powerful -- 44 metric tons of TNT equivalent -- and the temperature at the epicenter of its blast was two times higher.

In 1999 Russian generals threatened to use vacuum bombs to wipe out rebels from the mountains during the "anti-terrorist operation" in its restive Chechnya province.

New York-based Human Rights Watch then appealed to Putin to refrain from using fuel-air explosives. It remains unclear if weapons of this type were used during the Chechen war.

U.S. forces have used a "thermobaric" bomb, which works on similar principles, in their campaign against al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

"It (the bomb) will allow us to safeguard our state's security and fight international terrorism in any circumstances and in any part of the world," Rukshin said.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Elite's Religion of Terrorism, an Agnostic Perspective

9/11 is the myth that the elite of all political parties have selfishly used to coerce and convince us into supporting wars of aggression, handing over our already too limited freedoms and looking the other way while a massive security state is built and then unleashed on the world and us. They've reinforced it at every cynical turn. Whether you believe the government's story of the events of that day or not, 9/11 has become a lie. One in a very long list that politicians and the media have told us.

Contrary to the language generally used to describe the deaths that day, the people who were killed at work in the twin towers or going to work on those planes were not making a 'sacrifice'. Though their deaths were tragic, for sure. But, for the most part, they had no agency in their own deaths. They didn't wake up knowing there would be a terrorist attack and they did not decide to go to work anyhow. And they certainly didn't punch their time card that day so they could be used as a political excuse to justify the invasion of multiple countries, the massacring of more than a million innocent people and the extension of US imperial power all over the world. They were victims, not martyrs. But their deaths ought not to be revenged on faraway countries and peoples. In a truly just world, their graves, rightfully dug, ought to crowd out the fountains and security signs of the carefully manicured lawns of America's politicians, bureaucrats and capitalists. After all, it was the policies and actions of this elite class that offered then and continues now to offer us up as cannon fodder for their adventures abroad. Whoever was behind 9/11, it was still the American elite that made us all targets.

And make no mistake about it, all the crocodile tears and fire and brimstone emanating from the eyes and mouths of elites at ceremonies and vigils across the country today are meant not to pay tribute but rather to camouflage their callously calculating political manipulations and exploitations. They don't care about us. They never cared about us. In a real way, the 9/11 dead are the only workers killed on the job in this country that the elite pay any attention to. Think about that. Theirs are the only worker-corpses that will merit the tears of the elite - and only because their deaths can be massaged to the benefit of the rich and powerful. Since September 11th, thousands more workers have died on the job because of unsafe working conditions, stress, traveling to or from work (including crossing the deserts of the Southwest in search of jobs). Do the elite venerate these dead? No, because their deaths do not serve their political purposes.

I recommend that everyone take a long hard look at what happened on 9/11 and the context in which it occurred. Despite the grand and self-assured pronouncements of the elite that run this country (and haven't they always lied to you before with equal confidence?), the government's story of what happened that day is far from complete, correct or even plausible. It has very little to say about the historical or political background of terrorism and even less about the American role in creating, nurturing, exploiting and unleashing it. And why would it be otherwise? The 9/11 Commission was an exercise in political ass-covering and profiteering. Because of that, reflexive flag-waving and candle-holding are naive exercises that reinforce the 9/11 myth and, worse, signal to the elites your willingness to be manipulated still more for their narrow and selfish interests. And that can only mean more deaths.

This is particularly dangerous as the powers that be, having lunched on Iraq and Afghanistan, now cast their hungry eyes towards places like Iran and Syria. Those regimes are not governments to be defended - like ours they are deeply flawed and not representative of the interests of their people to very large degrees. As are all governments. Nevertheless, any US military action there will kill thousands who don't deserve it and won't be taken with either their or your interests at heart. Knowing how they have used this myth to manipulate you or your friends or your family into two wars already, can we expect that they won't try it again? Accepting the myth of 9/11 leaves you open to further influence by their machinations.

Remember how little you trusted government, politicians and businessmen before 9/11 came along? The fundamental facts that made you feel that way then haven't changed now. The rich still own almost all of the wealth. Politicians are still corrupt. Wars still kill way more innocents than they do combatants. Your job still sucks. You still have to pay rent and taxes - probably more now. Your credit cards are still maxxed out. The collections agents still call you. You still have bad, expensive health care - or none at all. If we're going to remember anything on this day, let's remember that.

If you must pay tribute this day, do it by learning how terrorism really operates in the world. Take a couple hours and read something by Nafeez Ahmed or watch one of these videos on terrorist operations in Europe. If terrorism is the defining issue of our time, we would all do well to get a clear understanding of what it really is and how it really functions. Terrorism in the First World is very much a tool of the elite. They use it to instill fear so they can control us. And they are not above organizing it themselves if it doesn't appear on its own. The elites worship terrorism and we would do well to remain at least agnostic in the face of their religion.

Ties With Terror: The Continuity of Western-Al-Qaeda Relations in the Post-Cold War Period by Nafeez Ahmed

Operation Gladio: False Flag Terrorism in Europe

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Technology in the active voice.

I recently became aware of a very good anarchist journal out of Britain called Voices of Resistance from Occupied London. In it they cover a wide range of topics and their first issue has a lot of interesting stuff in it. In this issue, there's a great interview with the always interesting Mike Davis about surveillance and security in the modern city. To the question, "Why aren't cameras being vandalised in London?" he responds:
That would be one of my questions too. I think that we need to propagandise and fight for the idea of a universal insurrection against surveillance state, against the erosion of civil liberties. We need to encourage people and find every way possible in which to resist, subvert and destroy the apparatus of surveillance and control. Of course, millions of teenagers do that anyway. Kevin Lynch wrote a book on vandalism; he was very interested in vandalism as an urban process, in spontaneous vandalism of all sorts. He studied it in the seventies, partially to understand how architects could combat it and partially because he was interested in its logic. He thought that anything that involved people and the built environment, including destroying it, was a good thing. If you wanted to generate a theory of participatory architecture or urbanism, vandalism seemed to be the most common and popular form of participating in the built environment by revolting against its dehumanisation, in working class council estates in American inner cities and so on.

I think we need a strategy to support each other; we should vandalise and subvert the surveillance state and the middle class that supports it. Tearing down the armed response signs from peoples' lawns freaks them out... Not that the armed response is real or reliable, but people get immense reassurance from having the sign there. If you remove it they think that all forces might mobilise against them and that they might get killed the next day. I started off vandalising lawn jockeys - these are a phenomenon of American segregation and racism. They are black jockey figures put in the lawn like the pink flamingos they put there. They are popular amongst people who are nostalgic of the old racial order, when all blacks were servants or slaves. When I went back to L.A. in the late eighties I discovered that there were quite a few of these around houses in Beverly Hills. It is something to which all the creative energy of youth needs to be applied: to find ways in which to fight back and subvert the surveillance society.
Surveillance is on the way to ubiquity as the system - and as Davis smartly points out, it's citizens - strive for the total abolition of all unregulated space. All space must be watched, goes the new ethic. Further, spaces that are not watched are considered dangerous and threatening, and not only by the State. Just look at an ad for cell phone GPS! We are all encouraged and encourage each other to voluntarily participate in these systems of surveillance, forgetting the power they have to control and regulate our behavior. Properly viewed, these technologies are not conveniences, they are interventions by the rich and powerful into our lives.

Take the case of John Halpin, now threatened with termination from his job because his employers offered him a work cell phone with the hidden objective of tracking his movements. Having used the GPS system inside to establish John's tendency to skip out of work early, an administrative trial judge recommended firing the 21-year veteran.

But here's the problem. Halpin wanted the phone. Not every worker who was offered one took them - although the secret purpose of the new phones was not revealed to anyone. So, why did he take the phone?
Some workers refused the free-phone offer, saying they preferred to use their own cells.

Richard said the unsuspecting Halpin "admitted he took the phone because he liked the walkie-talkie and other functions it has."

She dismissed concerns about whether the city had to warn Halpin in advance of the cellphone's tracking abilities.

"The department [of Education] is not expected to notify its employees of all the methods it may possibly use to uncover their misconduct," Richard decided.

"The undisputed intent of issuing the cellphone with GPS was for the department to be able to determine the whereabouts of its supervisors in the field."
In this case, Halpin had the choice whether to participate and he opted to take the phone without considering its potential for subverting his attempt to reclaim from his bosses some time from work. That's probably because, as hinted at above, he never considered that the tech would be used that way.

And why would he, after all? This society has adopted a technology that has huge implications for how we organize our lives - and how the boss and other authorities will try to organize them for us - without considering the implications. There never was a discussion about these technologies and whether we would use them. Again, we can ask why, and the answer is that we have been sold a political line that technology is neutral when in fact it is a weapon in the hand of a ruling class that seeks to control, manage and remake us so that they can maintain and expand their wealth. Because we believe the lie, we don't question when technology changes our lives. And, cleverly obscuring their power behind technology, the elite escape any blame for the dislocations technology causes to our lives. Technology's affect on our lives is discussed only in the passive voice: it's "change". What a tremendous coup for the elite!

But such technologies are not always imposed voluntarily, of course. If we don't voluntarily take them, the ruling class has no objection to forcing them on us. Take the case of Falluja which, in order that the imperialists could impose their will on the rebellious city (what is generally euphemistically referred to in the media as "succeeding in Iraq"), has been turned into the poster-child for biometric security.
The Marines have walled off Fallujah, and closed the city’s roads to traffic. The only way in is to have a badge. And the only way to get a badge is to have Marines snap your picture, scan your irises, and take all ten of your fingerprints. Only then can you get into the city.

The idea: deny insurgents “freedom of movement,” says Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Smitherman, who heads the biometric badging program for Multi-National Forces-West, here in Al-Anbar province. “Like Mao said, insurgents are like fish swimming in the sea of the people.” These are the high-tech nets, “to keep ‘em from swimming freely.”

There are still plenty of holes in the nets. The biometric systems don’t all talk to one another. Nor do they interface, really, with the other fingerprint- and iris-tracking systems used in other parts of Iraq. Getting the machines to work far, far out in the field can give a Marine migraines. (And, for today, let's not even get into the privacy and human-rights implications.) But, in combination with other measures, the badges do seem to be having an effect. After years of bombs and machine gun fire, the city of Fallujah has suddenly gone quiet.
Let's read that last part again so we don't miss it: "After years of bombs and machine gun fire, the city of Fallujah has suddenly gone quiet." This is the true objective of the ruling class with regards to the rest of the planet's people. Pacification. And their project now more than ever depends on the application and spread of technology, sold to us as neutral or even progressive, but with the sinister intent of controlling us and rendering us unable to resist them or to organize our own lives as we see fit.

And of course they sell it as a boon to human society. That's how they sell wars, strike breaking, police and prisons, too. Increasingly, technology is the ideology of the ruling class. And, as anarchists do with wars, strike breaking, police and prisons, we would be well-served to approach technology, too, with a deeply critical eye.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

A laugh riot at APEC

Comedians from the Australian TV show "Chasers War On Everything" were arrested yesterday for accomplishing what so far the actual protesters of the APEC summit have been unable to do: puncture the high security surrounding the event. Riding in an official-looking caravan, flagged as Canadian (because "they thought Canada would be a country that might not be too closely scrutinised and might realistically have only three cars in a motorcade.") and surrounded by fake security, the entourage managed to get past a couple levels of the police and to within a dozen meters of the hotel housing Bush and other leaders. The two stars of the show, one of whom was dressed as Osama bin Laden (who himself made a dubious appearance in the media), and several members of the crew were arrested for the stunt.

The show has made a point of targeting the summit in several hilarious skits that focus on the police state that has descended on Sydney along with the various Pacific leaders. I have posted below one of those segments along with some news coverage of their most recent APEC hi-jinks.

As for the rest of the protest, while police have been eager to deploy their new goodies (a water cannon, for instance) and to kick some ass, the mood has been tame. The Sydney Morning Herald, however, reports that the brothels have been doing a booming business.
"It's been going gangbusters," Adult Business Association NSW spokesman Chris Seage said yesterday.

"Businesses that were banking on a 200 per cent increase in business have done better than that with it up by 300 per cent.

"There have been secret service agents, trade envoys, but no Putins yet."
Several specials were trotted out for the event, including the "the Condi Combo, the UN Duo and the Presidential Platter."

Enjoy the videos:

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Taxi drivers strike against techno-tracking!

Congratulations to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) today for going out on strike against the installation of GPS in their vehicles, despite opposition from the city and even rival taxi organizations, some of whom have been actively intervening against the NYTWA with leafletting and other tactics, including deploying "dozens of volunteers to taxi stands at the city's airports and the main rail terminal asking drivers not to join the stoppage.". Workers cite several reasons for their strike today, which is taking place in the middle of fashion week and the US Open:
The Taxi Workers Alliance opposes the installation of high-tech touch-screen video systems that will allow passengers to watch television, make credit-card payments and — using a global-positioning device that tracks the cab — follow their ride on an electronic map.

Some drivers have said that the global-positioning devices and the automated trip recording system are an invasion of privacy, and that the use of credit cards would diminish drivers’ incomes, given the card transaction fees.

They also say they will take in less money because the system requires drivers to log on before each fare, and they object to the television noise and the heat from the monitors.
"If they're going to tell us that our voices should be silent, well then, we're going to make our engines silent," said NYTWA President, Bhairavi Desai, a history and women's studies graduate from Rutgers University who has worked hard to unite Pakistani and Indian drivers, culminating until now most notably in the one day strike of 1998.

Her declaration reminds me of a similar action by Somali taxi drivers here in Phoenix a few years ago, where drivers blocked the street in front of city hall and abandoned their cabs, keys locked safely inside. I'll never forget how great it felt to be there. What a wonderful sight to behold. Desai has declared the work stoppage "a resounding success". In an insightful comparison, she has called the GPS system "electronic anklets," a clear reference to the tracking systems increasingly used on felons and other criminals.

But, in the age of the unending War on Terror, there was a racial and religious element to the city's plan to track drivers, who are predominantly foreign and very often Muslim. Citing one flier being distributed, the Times reported:
“This is where deep racial, ethnic and religious prejudices and biases come into play,” it read. “DNA samples are obtained, scrutinised and archived. Personal and family histories are scoured for evidence of ethnic and religious fervor. Clearly, surveillance technology can be a death sentence once you are in its crosshairs.” Syed Hossain, a Bangladeshi driver, said the main problem was that cabbies feared losing money. “Number one problem is, many drivers do not report their earnings to the Internal Revenue Service,” he said. “Number two is that [the authorities] are going to be behind you all the time.”
And, of course, the drivers will have to pay for the privilege. The NYTWA estimates that the new technology will cost its members, predominantly contract drivers and thus the most precarious of the taxi fleet, an additional $1000 dollars a year and could cause them to lose fares.

He said that drivers were worried that satellite tracking technology would lead to automatic tickets if they were speeding and fines if they exceeded the 12-hour maximum shift.

The city and officials from the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers (NYSFTD), both of which oppose the strike, cite convenience and even higher tips as reasons that drivers ought to accept this technological assault on their autonomy and power. Speaking for the NYSFTD, it's president, Fernando Mateo, denounced what he called the "radicals" of the NYTWA and took the side of the city and garage owners (the latter hopes to charge higher fees to contractor drivers and reign in its workforce).
But Mr. Mateo said that credit card capability would enable yellow-cab drivers “to keep cash customers but add on the corporate business that they lost” to livery cars that handle corporate accounts. He added that the larger credit-card fares and bigger tips “will more than compensate for the cost of the card transaction fee.”
To which, one striking driver who already has the system installed replied, "If the credit card system does not work, then we don't get paid. I have lost whole fares." At the same time, Mateo revealed his own difficult position by hoping that the city didn't call on these higher end drivers to compete with his scabs.

The city has placed police at taxi stops so as to protect workers advocating against the strike (i.e., to support the strike breakers), as well as beefing up public transportation. It will be a tough fight, as the subway strike showed a couple years ago. One article summed it up this way:
Professor Hodges said he believed that a large number of drivers would join the walkout. “I think what you’re going to see tomorrow is that the owner-drivers will turn out to work: the Lomto people and the people who own their own medallions,” he said, referring to the League of Mutual Taxi Owners, an association of individual owner-drivers. He spoke admiringly of Bhairavi Desai, the longtime activist who runs the Taxi Workers Alliance, saying: “I think she’s going to be able to put a substantial dent in turnout. She has real credibility.”

Professor Hodges, saying that he believed many drivers had a legitimate grievance, added: “This is a conditions issue: Under what conditions do I want to work? Do I want to have the thing behind me which is tracking me and which can cause me a lot of grief if it breaks down?”

But Professor Hodges also said that public attitudes toward cabdrivers may have hardened since the years of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s administration, when City Hall took a particularly tough stance toward drivers. Most of the drivers are immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East; South Asians make up the most sizable area of origin.

“One thing I’m worried about is how sympathetic New Yorkers will be,” Professor Hodges said. “There is a more conservative population within Manhattan now. Class boundaries have widened. And New York is not quite the union town it was in the past.”
Certainly, the workers are facing an uphill battle, not least of which with their fellow workers, who are fractured along ethnic and other lines. As the professor points out, the industry in New York has changed a lot over the last 20 years. Precarity has been imposed on drivers, with the explosion of contract driving and the concomitant reduction in wages and benefits. The contract drivers increasingly suffer the bosses' externalization of the costs of driving like gas, insurance, leases and various garage fees.

From a technology perspective, this battle has several facets to it. Strategically, defending the workers' freedom from being tracked is vital both now and for the future. Right now, refusing the new technology maintains the worker's autonomy on the job. But, when the next strike comes, it also makes it harder for the boss to defend against a strike. You can be certain that, just like the automated checkout lanes that grocery bosses have embraced so enthusiastically following the strikes in California a few years back, the new GPS systems will certainly be used against striking workers to more efficiently utilize scab labor to undermine any future labor actions. That alone makes this fight vitally important. On a side note, refusing the GPS technology (and the credit card) also protects to some extent the privacy of riders, which is vital to a free society.

Beyond that, the credit card technology is without doubt an attack on the worker's control of her wage. While the billionaire mayor of New York may assure workers that their tips will go up with the new tech, what we can surely expect is that their fares will be more regulated. And that will limit the power of workers to determine their own pay when it comes time to reckon with the garage bosses. There's nothing wrong with a little dishonesty when it comes time to pay the boss his pound of flesh. As with the computerized cashout systems that more and more servers have to contend with in restaurants these days, this new system will limit a driver's ability to pocket cash and hand out freebies. And as the flier above pointed out, it will also increase the power of the government to regulate and tax drivers' incomes. You can see why the boss and the government want it so much.

Also, as several workers have pointed out in articles, the technology is unreliable. Unfortunately, this is a bad argument to make, because it only propels the capitalists' engineers to make the technology more efficient. And, as mentioned above, the credit card tech undermines the freedom of riders as well.

In support of the taxi drivers strike, I have linked below three previous articles I wrote on GPS and workers struggles, the last of which references another workers struggle in New York that recently resisted the imposition of the boss' will as imposed through technology. I sympathize greatly with the taxi drivers' struggle, being in essentially the same industry myself. The fight against technology is the class war!

(1) GPS and the attack on worker autonomy and unregulated space

(2) The anatomy of a typical article on GPS

(3) One union wakes up to the threat of technology at work

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

George Carlin takes on public education

If you like the hilarious clip below, consider reading John Taylor Gatto's awesome, "An Underground History of Public Education". The whole thing is online for free and I highly recommend it. Also, if you have an mp3 player, a great radio show called Unwelcome Guests has been airing readings of chapters from the book, so you can effectively 'read' it as an audio book if you want.

In modern society, the fundamental institutions of our society must at once seem both absolutely necessary and also shrouded in mystery. For instance, we must all believe that without cops we'd all be killing each other and ripping each other off, but how many of us know the history of policing and why we really have cops? Where did cops come from? How long have cops been around as an institution? How can you be sure we need them if you don't know the answers to these questions? Just admitting that we haven't always had them suggests they might not be necessary. This, in fact, turns out to be the case.

So, it's the same thing with public education. Where did public education come from, and why do we have it? Do you know? Did they teach you that in school? Nope, not once in the twelve years they held you hostage did they share with you the history of your prison. Hell, they don't even teach that to teachers. Nevertheless, you're supposed take on faith that it's totally natural and necessary for parents to give their kids up seven hours a day to state bureaucrats - at the same time you're not supposed to know why that is. And you're supposed to take for granted that you're supposed to sit your ass in a hard wood chair 35 hours a week at the same time you're not supposed to know just why the hell they're keeping you there. Or why you still can't get a job that pays more than ten bucks an hour after you finish.

If you're in school now, try asking your teacher where public education came from. Odds are they won't be able to tell you. That's because you are meant to ignore every instinct you have against it and trust in authorities who will never justify themselves to you. And that's what school is for.

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News of Interest 9/4/07

Yet again, we have the ugly face of imperialism hidden behind a facade of human rights. The heat ray will be more humane, we are told. A more humane way for the elite to impose their will on the world? I'm not buying it and every day the new weapon is kept out of the hands of soldiers, the better. Note that some officers have "asked for the system as part of a broader weapons package on wheels, one that could shoot bullets as well as the non-lethal beam."
Pentagon Nixes Ray Gun Weapon in Iraq
In October 2004, the commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force "enthusiastically" endorsed Natonski's request. Lt. Gen. James Amos said it was "critical" for Marines in Iraq to have the system.

Senior officers in Iraq have continued to make the case. One December 2006 request noted that as U.S. forces are drawn down, the non-lethal weapon "will provide excellent means for economy of force."

The main reason the tool has been missing in action is public perception. With memories of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal still fresh, the Pentagon is reluctant to give troops a space-age device that could be misconstrued as a torture machine.
More "non-lethal" tech deployed, this time against kids in the seat of the empire.
Now police are told they can use Taser guns on children
Police have been given the go-ahead to use Taser stun guns against children. The relaxing of restrictions on the use of the weapons comes despite warnings that they could trigger a heart attack in youngsters. Until now, Tasers - which emit a 50,000-volt electric shock - have been used only by specialist officers as a "non lethal" alternative to firearms.
When First World fuel tanks compete with Third World stomaches, we know who's going to lose.
The looming food crisis
But the surge in demand for agrofuels such as ethanol is hitting the poor and the environment the hardest. The UN World Food Programme, which feeds about 90m people mostly with US maize, reckons that 850m people around the world are already undernourished. There will soon be more because the price of food aid has increased 20% in just a year. Meanwhile, Indian food prices have risen 11% in a year, the price of the staple tortilla quadrupled in Mexico in February and crowds of 75,000 people came on to the streets in protest. South Africa has seen food-price rises of nearly 17%, and China was forced to halt all new planting of corn for ethanol after staple foods such as pork soared by 42% last year.

In the US, where nearly 40 million people are below the official poverty line, the Department of Agriculture recently predicted a 10% rise in the price of chicken. The prices of bread, beef, eggs and milk rose 7.5 % in July, the highest monthly rise in 25 years.

"The competition for grain between the world's 800 million motorists, who want to maintain their mobility, and its two billion poorest people, who are simply trying to survive, is emerging as an epic issue," says Lester Brown, president of the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute thinktank, and author of the book Who Will Feed China?

It is not going to get any better, says Brown. The UN's World Food Organisation predicts that demand for biofuels will grow by 170% in the next three years. A separate report from the OECD, the club of the world's 30 richest countries, suggested food-price rises of between 20% and 50% over the next decade, and the head of Nestlé, the world's largest food processor, said prices would remain high as far as anyone could see ahead.

A "perfect storm" of ecological and social factors appears to be gathering force, threatening vast numbers of people with food shortages and price rises. Even as the world's big farmers are pulling out of producing food for people and animals, the global population is rising by 87 million people a year; developing countries such as China and India are switching to meat-based diets that need more land; and climate change is starting to hit food producers hard. Recent reports in the journals Science and Nature suggest that one-third of ocean fisheries are in collapse, two-thirds will be in collapse by 2025, and all major ocean fisheries may be virtually gone by 2048. "Global grain supplies will drop to their lowest levels on record this year. Outside of wartime, they have not been this low in a century, perhaps longer," says the US Department of Agriculture.

In seven of the past eight years the world has actually grown less grain than it consumed, says Brown. World stocks of grain - that is, the food held in reserve for times of emergency - are now sufficient for just over 50 days. According to experts, we are in "the post- food-surplus era".
Note that the threat is not just limited to the frozen northern reaches...
Global Warming Might Spur Earthquakes and Volcanoes
Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and landslides are some of the additional catastrophes that climate change and its rising sea levels and melting glaciers could bring, a geologist says.

The impact of human-induced global warming on Earth's ice and oceans is already noticeable: Greenland's glaciers are melting at an increasing rate, and sea level rose by a little more than half a foot (0.17 meters) globally in the 20th century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

With these trends in ice cover and sea level only expected to continue and likely worsen if atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, they could alter the stresses and forces fighting for balance in the ground under our feet—changes that are well-documented in studies of past climate change, but which are just beginning to be studied as possible consequences of the current state of global warming.
As the US steadily marches towards war - potentially nuclear war - with Iran, it's worth considering the fates of others that have fallen under the shadow of the mushroom cloud.
Inside the nuclear underworld: Deformity and fear
Decades of Soviet nuclear testing unleashed a plague of birth defects. When the Soviet Union tested its nuclear devices, it chose eastern Kazakhstan, one of its remotest, most desolate areas. But no one bothered to evacuate the people living there.

The testing began in 1949 at a site known as Polygon and continued until 1989. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, there were 456 tests, including 116 nuclear bombs tested above ground. The Polygon site officially closed on August 29, 1991 -- 16 years ago this week.
Here's something to keep you up at night: What if the accidental launch of a nuclear missile triggered an automatic nuclear holocaust in retaliation?
The Return of the Doomsday Machine?
And even back then, the "doomsday machine" was regarded as a scary conjectural fiction. Not impossible to create—the physics and mechanics of it were first spelled out by U.S. nuclear scientist Leo Szilard—but never actually created, having a real existence only in such apocalyptic nightmares as Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove.

In Strangelove, the doomsday machine was a Soviet system that automatically detonated some 50 cobalt-jacketed hydrogen bombs pre-positioned around the planet if the doomsday system's sensors detected a nuclear attack on Russian soil. Thus, even an accidental or (as in Strangelove) an unauthorized U.S. nuclear bomb could set off the doomsday machine bombs, releasing enough deadly cobalt fallout to make the Earth uninhabitable for the human species for 93 years. No human hand could stop the fully automated apocalypse.

An extreme fantasy, yes. But according to a new book called Doomsday Men and several papers on the subject by U.S. analysts, it may not have been merely a fantasy. According to these accounts, the Soviets built and activated a variation of a doomsday machine in the mid-'80s. And there is no evidence Putin's Russia has deactivated the system.


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