Monthly Archives: August 2013

When Anti-Terrorist Laws Are Wielded By Terrorists

The Oxford English Dictionary defines terrorism as:

The unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims; (originally) such practices used by a government or ruling group (freq. through paramilitary or informal armed groups) in order to maintain its control over a population; (now usually) such practices used by a clandestine or expatriate organization as a means of furthering its aims.

When FOX News and the US State Department use the word terrorism it is understood that you, oh loyal citizen, are picturing “cells” of evildoers with rocket launchers, Qur’ans, and brown skin. Never you worry your pretty little head, citizen, that the overwhelming majority of, “violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims,” or the calling-out of armed groups, “to maintain […] control over a population,” happens in our own governments. The terrorists are over there, and we’re not them!

The British government has, once again, revealed their true stripes as a terrorist organization in unlawfully detaining David Miranda, husband of Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald. (It is believed that they are a satellite terrorist cell, acting under a larger international terrorist organization called The United States Government, but that has yet to be confirmed.)

Glenn Greenwald broke the story of Edward Snowden’s NSA leak. He showed the world that its largest and most militarized government was watching every person’s communications. Needless to say, the largest and most militarized government in the world was unhappy about this. They sent missions across the world to attempt an arrest of Edward Snowden, and now they are using their ally governments to target and harass journalists who try to further this investigation into the US National Security Agency. The British government, acting in protection of the United States government, arrested the husband of a reporter who was returning from an interview with Edward Snowden and stole his laptop, mobile phone, and USB storage drives. They did this under a law entitled Terrorism Act 2000. Read the above definition of terrorism again. Who in this scenario is using violence and intimidation? Who is detaining civilians with armed force? Who is using force to attempt to control what a population is allowed to know? Who are the terrorists here? The whistleblower, the journalist, and his husband, or the United States and British governments? The OED definition of terrorism certainly suggests it’s the latter.

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, has been forced to destroy information related the the Snowden revelations, although copies of that data exists abroad. The Guardian insists that the section Miranda was detained under applies to transit lounges and ports, not parking structures at airports, and that, “they would have had to use a different law, with checks and balances.” They continue, “The law is conflating terrorism and journalism. Once you start doing that, you are in trouble.”

The US and British governments do not care what the actual definition of terrorism is. They have their own definition of terrorism that fits conveniently into their philosophies of law enforcement: “That which threatens our power.”

Whistleblowers, investigative journalists, and public transparency activists are the recognized “terrorists” in nations run by terrorists in denial. People who want the governed to know just how they are governed are “terrorists” in countries where secrecy is King.

David Miranda and the Guardian are poised to sue the British government, but don’t expect much from the courts. The courts are sworn to protect the same government due to be prosecuted in their courtrooms.

I eagerly await copies of the data the governments of US and Britain demanded destroyed.

Latest developments by The Guardian can be found here.

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In Which Christ Goldman (almost) Becomes a Luddite

This is undeniably the Era of Information, and I predict the Age of Social Media within the Era of Information is now in its death throes. No longer does the convenience of connection outweigh the cost of publicity. We live in a time where the refusal to volunteer your personal information to the entire web-connected world labels one anti-social or computer-illiterate. We also live in a time where that same freely-volunteered information is sold to advertisers or handed over to federal agents for ill-defined reasons. In the words of the brilliant comedian Stewart Lee, “[Twitter is] like a state surveillance agency run by gullible volunteers. It’s a Stasi for the Angry Birds generation.”

And if preservation of your own privacy isn’t cause enough to abandon the sinking ship of social media, consider the distraction. Keep a log for one week of how much time you spend looking at Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and the like on your computer, tablet, and phone. I did. I’m not going to tell you the embarrassing result, except that it can be measured in days rather than hours if you also factor in Reddit. When you check Facebook on your phone in public, why are you doing it? Are you expecting an important status from a friend or family member that you would not otherwise receive as an email, text message, or phone call? Probably not. I would wager that it’s usually because you’re bored. When I check social media on my phone, it’s because I’m bored. That’s okay. It’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s just something you should stop doing.

What’s so bad about being bored? And how often does scrolling past pictures of acquaintances’ meals or re-re-re-posted memes truly alleviate your boredom? While dividing up your attention into 120 30-second increments to browse several pages deep into your Facebook Timeline or your Reddit Frontpage can quickly kill an hour, that’s all it does: It kills an hour. In the hour you spend mindlessly staring at cats on your phone, you could also open up your e-reader app (or, you know, an actual book) and immerse yourself in another world for a chapter or two. You could compose a lengthy email to your mother telling her about what you’ve done since you last wrote to her. (She would love it. I promise.) Or, if you’re feeling particularly jaunty, you could pull out some stationery and write an actual letter to your grandmother. (Call your mother. She has her address.) Grab your journal and write a poem. Grab your guitar and turn your poem into a song. Or just simply shut up, sit down, close your eyes, and exist.

I’m cancelling my cable service. I just deleted my Tumblr and Twitter accounts, and I’ll be deleting my Facebook as soon as I finish downloading my old photos. (Facebook has a service that does this for you, and I’m just waiting on the email. I’m sure they know this usually precedes account deletion, so this process might artificially take anywhere up to a couple days.)

Note: Unlike deleting your Twitter and Tumblr accounts, deleting your Facebook account can be tricky. The link is hidden in light blue at the bottom of the Security Settings page under Account Settings on the gear icon at top-right. Once you click it, Facebook will guilt you by saying, “Your 183 friends will no longer be able to keep in touch with you,” although no one on Earth has 183 acquaintances they can honestly call friends. Below this, five random “friends'” pictures are blown up and labeled; “Ed will miss you,” “Allison will miss you,” “Jill will miss you,” “Drew will miss you,” “Voldemort will miss you.” After the obligatory guilting, you are required! to give Facebook a reason for your departure. (I checked “Other” and wrote, “I don’t need a reason. You are not entitled to one.” I doubt anyone will read that anyway.) Only after being begged for further explanation can you move forward to the confirmation screen, enter your password, and wash your hands of the whole thing. Some of your information, such as your name and your messaging history, will remain public on Facebook’s servers and you may never request their deletion. Your pictures, videos, check-ins, statuses, chat logs, and everything else will still also be stored permanently, albeit not viewable publicly, in case you ever decide to re-join the cult. You can’t delete these either. (I assume, since this data remains at Facebook, it is still sellable, subpoenable, and other sinister “-ables.”)

Free yourself from the unending cycle of social prying, directed marketing, and public judgement. Stop pretending to be involved with social causes and pretending to assuage your boredom while actually doing nothing at all. Delete your social media accounts. Become anti-e-social. Read a book. Write a song. Do something real.

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The Militarization Of Barney Fife

Last week, John Wrana, a 95-year-old WWII veteran was shot to death with a beanbag round from a shotgun after being tased by by Park Forest, Illinois police decked out in full SWAT regalia for refusing medical care from his hospice.

Why the fuck does Park Forest, Illinois need a SWAT team? Obviously, fighting “Crime” in Park Forest is dull. The real crime—the rapes, murders, robberies, etc.—is North of Park Forest in Chicago. Why do Park Forest police need a SWAT team? Why does the Roanoke, Virginia police department need a SWAT team? Why does the Jonesboro, Arkansas police department need a SWAT team? Where are all these SWAT teams coming from?

The greatest money-maker in modern America is war. The military-industrial complex that Franklin D. Roosevelt warned us about is a meeting of three powers that make money from the destruction of other peoples: The government that declares the war and reaps the spoils, the military that fights the war and commits the war crimes, and the industry that manufactures and sells the tools of war. These three powers work with each other to maximize the earnings of everyone involved. This is why we now live in an era of undeclared, perpetual war: Because perpetual war means perpetual wealth for those who fund war. The industrial vertex of this triangle, however, is growing faster than the others. They now produce the same tools they produce for the military (submachine guns, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, tasers, rubber/beanbag bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, areal drone surveillance, Long Range Acoustic Devices, and SEAL-grade armor) with a slightly different paint job for any police station in America that can afford them. The smallest, quaintest, most peaceful small towns in America can lobby to fund a SWAT team and train their “normal” police to handle Baghdad-level combat. And just like any massively expensive and unnecessary toy you might buy and stick in the closet, eventually you’ll find any reason to pull that toy out of the closet and play with it. Are there terrorists in Provo, Utah? Probably not, but let’s put on our riot shields, head down to the ghetto or the nearest student rally, and find out!

When you give someone unrelenting authority over everybody else, that authority will be abused. Whether it’s cops molesting women in traffic stops, turning tourists into terrorists to fulfill quotas, or throwing children into an uncaring and broken foster care system because the rightful parents use marijuana for personal reasons, the power of the police force will be used to harass, subdue, and abuse normal, peaceful civilians; to tear apart families; and to serve the established government by keeping the governed in a state of submission and fear.

And that brings me to my first major point:

There Are No Good Cops.

Not all cops are brutal pigs desperate to crush some skulls with their batons for a little action. Many of them are, and if you have any friends who are cops you should ask them who those cops are in their department. The less-bad cops will usually tell you who the bad-bad cops are. But all cops are bad, simply because they’re cops. They might be great people, but they’re cops and cops are bad.

A cop is a person (usually a heterosexual male) who has been given the authority to enforce any laws on the books at their own discretion. I hate cops, not because I hate the abuses of power by a large minority of cops or because I hate the apathy toward due process and assumed innocence held by the overwhelming majority of cops. I hate cops because I hate the laws they choose to enforce. I hate cops because they make kick-backs from keeping private prisons full of nonviolent civilians and then spend those kick-backs on escalation of facilities and weaponry. I hate cops because the system they are sworn to protect is corrupted all the way down to its core.

So what about the “Good” cops? What about the Boston cops who tracked down the Tsarnaev kid and brought him to justice? Well, first, I don’t think locking one million people in their homes to find one teenager is a wise or effective use of anyone’s time. I don’t think kicking down the doors of anyone refusing a search, simply because there’s a terrorist somewhere in the city is ethical or legal. I don’t think declaring a military emergency spanning an entire metropolis over the actions of two teenagers is ethical, efficient, or fair.

When you say, “Fuck cops,” people usually pose the smug question: Well, what are you going to do when someone robs your house? Me, personally, I’d ask the robber what he wants. Just because one of the humans in an interaction is desperate doesn’t mean that neither of them can speak to each other. If what he wants is something reasonable, I’ll offer it to him in exchange for leaving peacefully. If that doesn’t work, I’ll shoot him in the head with a .45 caliber round. If I called the police, I would be told to do nothing; to hide and let the robber sort through my belongings and leave. I would wait in a closet for five to fifteen minutes (depending on how many drug busts there are on campus that night) for the cops to arrive and the robber to be gone. I would then be told, “we’re working on it,” and never hear from them again. (Unless they noticed my bong collection… then they’d be at my door daily.) Even the stuff that “good cops” are supposed to do, they can’t do it well. They can interrupt protests, attack political enemies, and invade private homes with speed and precision to catch peaceful people unaware that they are being targeted, but how many stolen cars do they recover before the cars are found stripped and ruined on the side of the road? How many missing people do they ever find, even when the neighbors constantly report seeing women on leashes in the front yard? How many robberies do they stop before the robber gets away? (Trick question: Robbers who rob businesses almost always get caught. Robbers who rob homes almost always get away. And they say they work for us…)

And, so, with cops simply being an incompetent but over-militarized branch of individually-applied government force answering to a government that is undeniably corrupt and enforcing laws that are outdated and geared toward preserving the property rights of the “haves” over the liberties of the “have-nots”, even the smiling, helpful, happy cops, in principle, are bad. They’re bad people doing bad things for a bad job that they do badly. And they shouldn’t have the same tools the military uses against “insurgents” (i.e. people) to use against the public. Cops are people hunters given reign over the public. It’s like putting a hunter in charge of wildlife conservation or putting a pedophile in charge of a preschool.

There Have Never Been Good Cops.

The labor movement of the 30s, the anti-war movement of the 60s and 70s, the Stonewall riots, the L.A. race riots, the anti-war movement of the 2000s: The cops were there for all of this, and they have always stood on the wrong side of history. When the people stand up against their government, the people they are literally standing against are the cops. The cops protect the government from the people, they do not protect the people and they most certainly do not protect the people from the government.

In the 1930s, industrialization of the cities led to workers being treated worse than the pigs they were slaughtering. Unsafe working conditions killed poor workers and immigrants on a daily basis. People who grew tired of working seven days a week for fourteen hours a day, only to go home and find they can’t feed their families, got fed up and rioted and marched and protested their way to labor reform. In every act of defiance that won them their right to be treated fairly, their opposition was the police.

1934 Minneapolis Teamsters Strike
”Police took direct aim at the pickets and fired to kill. Physical safety of the police was at no time endangered. No weapons were in possession of the pickets.”

During the Civil Rights Movement, the Birmingham, Alabama police department attacked school children for attempting to forcibly integrate Birmingham public buildings. The cops attacked these kids with water canons, police dogs, and taunted them while the hoses sent them flying over cars and the dogs ripped at their flesh. The Birmingham cops were acting to protect the status quo of segregation and white supremacy.

1963 Birmingham Campaign
Police set vicious dogs on a high school student, Walter Gadsden. Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor said, “Why didn’t you bring a meaner dog; this one is not the vicious one.”

In the 1960s and 70s the youth of America, fuelled by relaxed social standards surrounding sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, turned their ire at the growing military-industrial complex and America’s war in Vietnam. Their protests were often quickly shut down by police receiving military help from the National Guard.

1970 Kent State Shootings
The Ohio National Guard fires tear gas into a crowd of unarmed students protesting the Vietnam War. Four students were shot to death.

Following decades of their establishments being raided or shut down for the “crime” of homosexuality, the people of Greenwich Village in New York City fought back. After police raided the Stonewall Inn, a reputable gay bar in the Village, and lined the patrons against the wall for “processing” a crowd began to form around the bar and pelted the police with rocks and anything else heavy they could find. This act of active resistance began the gay rights movement we know today, and without it we would be nowhere near where we are today.

1969 The Stonewall Riot
Four cops restrain a young queer person while another cop prepares to punch him in the stomach. (Note: In spite of the moustaches, the cops in this picture were not patrons of the gay bar.)

In modern times, the protestors in social reform movements are no more armed or organized than they have been in the past, but the police now have access to military armor and weaponry that puts the 1970 Ohio National Guard to shame. (It would be illegal for the protesters to match the firepower of the cops.) This has led to countless protest-busting with violent and often lethal intent. At the Pittsburg G20 Summit in 2009, cops sprayed tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets into crowds of University of Pittsburgh students who refused to stop protesting. The Occupy protests of 2011 were met with violence, destruction of protester property, incarceration, and FBI/DHS “joint terrorism task force” intimidation and harassment.

Every time mass amounts of police show up in history, they’re on the wrong side. And I’m supposed to assume they were just “maintaining the peace”? They’re the ones who keep showing up with guns.

There Will Never Be Good Cops.

The entire notion of a police force—a force-applying arm of the government to keep the people secured under the policies and will of the government that was originally supposed to answer to those same people—is bad. It assumes that the people of this country are untrustworthy and unable to make their own life choices. It assumes that morality comes from above and without and that the government is what determines if an action is moral or not, instead of acknowledging that morality comes from within ourselves. It assumes that our communities are unable to secure their own safety without help from a centralized authority. But, worse, it seeks to homogenize the entire nation under the same moral code, the same type of living, the same financial system, and the same American ideology. People with alternate philosophies on life and governance are labeled as threats and targeted for use of militarized police force. Cops are nothing more than the tools our government uses to ensure no one disagrees with them too loudly or suggests alternatives to their existence. Sure, they run into collapsing buildings and pull kittens out of storm drains when the cameras are on and the sun is out, but the true purposes of the police are those most exercised: To increase revenue to their own department; to enforce submission to the local, state, and federal governments; and to protect the property “rights” of businesses and corporations.

Let the communities protect themselves. The money we spend on militarized police forces would be better spent on quality education, public libraries, public welfare, and drug rehabilitation. And those, rather than militarizing the problem, might actually help decrease crime.

Fuck the police.

Other people’s experiences and other insights:

The Amazing Atheist:

Redditor vaguelyhuman on “Why, ‘Fuck the Police’”:

Because marginalized people can’t afford to trust them.

To use an example, I’m autistic. Pretty much every day autistic people are killed by the police for not reacting in neurotypical ways when the cops pursue them. If you don’t look them in the eye (which many autistic people simply don’t have the instinct to to do), that’s seen as disrespecting an officer. If you have an anxiety attack (an involuntary response), you’re resisting arrest. In any case, if you act “defiant”, you can get beaten down or shot – all for involuntary psychological reflexes. No one talks about this issue. No one who supports the cops has proposed a solution.

In other words, fuck the police.

Austin White on

Imagine if a normal citizen started going around acting like a typical cop.  Imagine a normal-looking guy in regular clothes handcuffing people, throwing them in the back of his vehicle, and then locking them up in his dungeon because he doesn’t approve of them consuming marijuana, carrying a handgun on their person for self-defense without government permission, or even fishing without a license.  Imagine if this guy was demanding that people who don’t wear their seatbelts give him money.  Imagine if this person was claiming the right to use violent force against anyone who didn’t comply and the right to kill anyone who physically fought back.

Regardless of whether or not he believed he was doing a good deed, such an individual would rightly be seen as crazed and criminal.  But this is exactly what typical police do on a daily basis.

Angela Davis:

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Why “Unenforceable” Sodomy Laws Really Aren’t

East Baton Rouge Sheriff GautreauxLast week a Baton Rouge, Louisiana sheriff’s office caught controversy over arresting over a dozen gay men for seeing free, consensual sex with other men.

When you scroll through the related headlines the same qualifier appears: Invalid—this invalid sodomy law, invalidated by the courts… but surely what gives a law its validity or its enforceability is its ability to achieve a desired action. For example, laws that put meth labbers in jail succeed in taking meth labbers out of meth labs. Laws that seek to tax average consumers over high income earners succeed in raising the price of rent, insurance, food, and all the other things the rich never worry about. And if the desired action of the Baton Rouge sheriff’s department is to create a hostile and unwelcoming environment for homosexuals, they’ve achieved that with gusto. Calling the law invalid serves only to invalidate the experiences of those whose lives are now ruined by this antiquated law. The Baton Rouge police don’t want to jail homosexuals and fill up the prisons with gay men. They want to run the gays out of town. Without retribution, and with no legal recourse for their victims, that’s exactly what they’ve done.

These men were outed by this “Bag-A-Fag” entrapment program to their families, their friends, and their communities. Their names are now attached to the word sodomy in background checks and crime blotters. While they are not facing conviction, they have still been charged with sex crimes and now carry the stigma included in those charges. In many jurisdictions where charges like this have been filed (although I’m not sure about Baton Rouge), those charged have had to file as sex offenders on a public online registry or face up to 15 years in state prison for “crimes against nature”.

Even more than that is the message this terrible law enforcement sends. It sends the message to young gay men that Louisiana is not the place for them; that they should leave or live in paranoia that their next hook-up will be a sting. The law says to those charged that they are unwelcome in their own communities and that the police—the public servants whose job it is to “serve and protect”—will never be on their side. Those charged can never be convicted, but they are all stigmatized, ostracized, and publicly outed. The message here is that gay men are lesser than other Americans, that their sexual expression is criminal, and that they should kill themselves or move away.

States with sodomy laws still on the books include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

Current Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken “Transvaginal Ultrasound” Cuccinelli wants to bring Virginia’s sodomy law back into enforcement, obviously nostalgic for the days of institutionalized bigotry and community lynchings. His campaign for this law is being run under the guise of keeping children safe from sexual abuse, although the sodomy laws Ken is arguing for have nothing to do with children.

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