Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New political blog

I have a new political blog here. Why? Read this.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Today's protest regarding the killing of Charles Hill by Bart police


The following recounts my limited experience with today's Bart Protest. I knew something unusual was going on when I headed into the Montgomery BART Station upon leaving work, but I had no idea what was specifically happening. On the platform there were huge crowds in both directions waiting for the trains. When my train (inward-bound) came after a few minutes, the announcer said that there would be no stopping at Civic Center station because of a "civil disturbance." We went to Powell station, the station before CC, and a bunch of activists were screaming and yelling (see above) and getting in the way of the doors so the trains wouldn't leave. Some people were handing out fliers. The people on the train generally seemed to disapprove of the action: "This is the wrong way to get your point across" ... "Why do you have to make me late?" ... Etc. Anyways, sure enough we sped though CC station but we could see dozens of riot police through the windows as we went past. Apparently the protest moved from place to place as protesters rode the trains and walked from station to station. I read a flyer that I borrowed from another rider on the way home, so it was only then that I found out what the protest was about.


I have to say, I'm quite disappointed in some people's reaction to this event. The vapid and shallow posts on Twitter made by Bart commuters express outrage at being delayed for a matter of minutes by the action, and some even wish violence on the protesters (how quickly the liberal Bay Area residents turn on social justice when the struggle comes to their subway!). As someone who tries to get people to care about others needlessly, unjustly and inhumanely suffering and dying, I know how difficult it is to bring these issues to public attention in an effective manner. It is when these demonstrations happen that those who would denigrate the tactics should ask themselves: which is more important -- five minutes of my time stuck on Bart, or taking a step towards ending the systematic brutalization of members of our community by the Bart police?

(Update: I can not but help at this point think of the famous and false slogan of apologia for Mussolini: he "made the trains run on time." But suppose the mantra to be true; might the present-day Bay Area commuter be facing a similar -- though surely different in scale in the extreme -- trade off between individual rights and unperturbed operation of the status quo?)

In my eyes, the protest was an absolute success -- I had not even heard of the alleged murder of Charles Hill before today, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Shutting down the city's transportation, even for a brief moment, definitely got the message across.


When reading mainstream press coverage of this event, keep in mind that:
  • Certain positions (such as the claim of Bart police that Hill was attacking with a knife) are taken by reporters as unquestioned fact, despite eyewitness reports that contradict their claims
  • The protesters' position gets very little, if any, mention (despite it being the entire reason for the event happening) compared to statements of the government and police
  • Various multicultural buttons of the liberal readership are pushed to cast the protesters in a bad light
  • There have been several similar shootings by Bart police in the past
  • Bart has been known to try and cover up misconduct by its employees... and the footage that they have of this incident has still not been released

What follows is the statement and demands from the activists, from the protest Facebook page, which I entirely agree with:
Last Sunday night, BART Police attacked and essentially executed a 45 year old man named Charles Hill. Someone called the BART Police, and reported that Charles was drunk and 'wobbling' around the platform with an open container of alcohol. 2 Officers responded and within 60 seconds of getting out of the train and onto the platform, these cops managed to shoot him 3 times in the chest.

The BART police chief is claiming he is 'comfortable' with this behavior. There is video that they are refusing to release. There are witnesses that contradict the police story (the lies they are using to try to cover this up). History does repeat itself, until we get angry enough to do something about it.

Join us to THIS MONDAY. ON THE CIVIC CENTER PLATFORM (yes, in the BART!). We will participate in a collective act of civil disobedience to demand:

1. The BART police department should be closed down, and the responsibilities of the BART police transferred elsewhere

2. Release the video of the shooting: The witnesses who have come forward all dispute the BART police version of events. BART and SFPD have a video which shows the interaction. We want this released NOW.

3. We demand an independent, PUBLIC investigation of this killing. If eye-witness accounts of the shooting are found to be true, both officers should be fired and charged to the fullest extent of the law.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Obama doesn't actually favor net neutrality

Yet another broken promise and giveaway to business lobbies.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Wikileaks Diplomatic Cables

Good resources
Interesting points
  • All of the documents that have been published on Wikileaks so far have also been published by the NYT, etc. with the same redactions. There are around 250,000 cables total but less than 1% has been released.
  • The documents were offered to the WSJ and CNN, but both refused them. The NYT got them from the Guardian, not Wikileaks.
  • Julian Assange's personal philosophy is very pro-capitalist.
  • Allegedly, a fake Lady Gaga recording was involved in the disclosure.
  • The NYT, as expected, took the most jingoistic angle possible
  • Other Wikileaks-like sites are planned for launch
  • Assange's old blog is here
  • The smear campaign directed at Assange is farcical
  • A previous, similar leak in 1982 from the Tehran embassy has been all but forgotten
  • Good discussion here on the legality of Wikileaks (synopsis: there is no clear illegality on the part of Wikileaks)
  • Casualties: sacking of German minister's aide, former Croatian PM flees the country
  • Companies refusing to do business with Wikileaks: Amazon, Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Bank of America, PostFinance, Apple
  • The government of Tunisia was overthrown partially because of Wikileaks
Significant revelations
  • Obama and GOP worked together to kill torture probe
  • US is using U2 spy planes flying from Cyprus to spy on Hezbollah
  • The CIA directed a biometric-information gathering program conducted by US diplomats
  • Pharmaceutical firm Pfizer conducted fatal experimental drug tests on children in Nigera without parental consent, and then tried to dig up dirt on the Nigerian attorney general in order to pressure him to drop a lawsuit against Pfizer
  • Private security contractor DynCorp "Helped Pimp Little Boys to Stoned Afghan Cops"
  • The ICRC told US diplomats of widespread torture by the Indian police in Kashmir
They're getting nervous

"WikiLeaks could be transformed from a handful of volunteers to a global movement of politicised geeks clamouring for revenge. Today’s WikiLeaks talks the language of transparency, but it could quickly develop a new code of explicit anti-Americanism, anti-imperialism and anti-globalisation.[...] An aggressive attempt to go after WikiLeaks – by blocking its web access, for instance, or by harassing its members – could install Mr Assange (or whoever succeeds him) at the helm of a powerful new global movement able to paralyse the work of governments and corporations around the world."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

BP oil spill -- links and info

BP's oil spill is the largest oil spill in US history. A disaster was bound to happen given the exemptions the government gave BP from an environmental review and the fact that the MMS allowed BP to fill out its own inspection forms. About a year ago, internal documents show that BP was concerned about the safety of the rig. And so on.

BP's response has been (as expected) to put profits ahead of all other considerations. BP has prevented conscripted cleanup crews from wearing respirators since that would open the company to liability suits; some workers have summarily been hospitalized. BP attempted to have Louisiana fishermen sign promises not to sue the company immediately after the disaster. BP has been rather successful in suppressing information about the spill and they have underreported the amount of oil that is likely leaking. Additionally, the Coast Guard appears to have been tapped in service of the company. But nothing can beat the sheer novelty of BP busing in workers for Obama's visit to make the cleanup effort appear more substantial (and then busing the workers out after Obama and the press left).

As far as personal stories go, this is just heartbreaking. Rolling Stone also has a comprehensive article about the government's reaction to the spill. Apparently there is a Twitter feed mocking BP that some find funny.

Greenwald has some more coverage here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Obama doesn't mind engorging the military industrial complex

The next way that the US defense industry is going to pillage public funds is via a Israeli missile-defense shield. I wonder how far the proposed $205 million would actually go in the region if it were used for actually helpful items like schools, hospitals, food (for the Palestinians, that is, who need them)...