War is Peace - Freedom is Slavery - Ignorance is Strength

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


“to abdicate one’s own moral understanding… is the only irresponsibility”


My sister has a new(ish) blog -- holla!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Illegal Immigrants Take to the Streets

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS screams the headline of the evening Oregonian. The extra-large bold typeface menaces the reader. “Be afraid,” it tells them. “They’ve taken to the streets.”

“The anti-war movement’s got nothing on this man. They had like a million fucking people marching in L.A.”

I’m sitting in the south park blocks next to two bombed out aging street hippies.

“Fuck man, this could be the start of the real revolution,” the one on the bicycle replies.

A hundred feet in front of me the remains of the JWJ labor rally is beginning to peter out. Most of those remaining are stragglers from the much larger immigrant justice rally earlier in the day. None of my fellow Teamsters are to be found, and I don’t see any of that familiar SEIU purple either. So much for solidarity.

About four hours earlier I had been walking vigorously through downtown looking for the march. I knew it was supposed to start at noon in the south park blocks, but I didn’t know the route, and I was already twenty minutes late – and a bit drunk.

I had walked in a large arc up around the Koin center, and then started back in the other direction, walking toward Burnside, zig-zagging along streets, scanning up and down each block looking for action. This quest is proving more and more futile as I finally make my way all the way back to Pioneer Place, so I decide that I need some elevation, and jog to the top of one of the Smart Parks along fourth.

On the top level I still can’t see any surging mass of marchers, but I do see the two circling news helicopters that have been echoing in the periphery of my hearing for the past half hour. Giving up on my high ground, I decide to return to the street, and after a short wait, I board an elevator headed down. On the fourth floor the car stops, and takes on a suburban couple.

“I don’t know what they are doing,” the wife says to the husband – referring to the helicopters – “maybe they are practicing circling for the Rose Parade.”

I exit the lift shaking my head and immediately begin walking briskly back up the street in the general direction of the circling choppers. I figure that this is my best bet for finding the action.

My instinct doesn’t fail me, and within five minutes I have come up to an intersection blocked off by police and forded by a thick throng of marchers, a majority of them are suited up in a natural uniform of jeans and white t-shirts.

I turn up to my right, and walk up the street in the opposite direction of the marchers, taking pictures as I dodge bicycle police weaving down along the sidewalk. I continue walking, block after block. I’m looking for the end of the march.

This isn’t my march. This isn’t my cause. I’m an anglo. A gringo. More important than my ethnicity, I am a citizen.

I am here to show support. Solidarity. I will respectfully bring up the rear, while those who have earned the honor to do so, take the lead.

Bringing up the rear is harder than I expected. Block on block I wonder how far back this mass of people extends. All the way up to 8th, and then left, and then a few more blocks, I finally make it to where the contiguous mass of participants thins into a milling crowd of spectators. I turn and step into the mille, empty my paper cup and throw it into a garbage can, and then start slowly back down the path from whence I came.

I’ve walked about a mile, down and twisting around the streets of downtown Portland. The only thing of note to strike me came as I walked under the glass bridge that spans the two building of the World Trade Center. There, a business man in a suit stood leaning up against the glass, staring down onto the mass of people in the street. It struck me that this could very well be the one single thing that this man feared the most – the masses joined as one, rising up like a great wave, high enough to wash him out of his glass tower.

But in the end, he had nothing to fear. We were a peaceful bunch, demanding only justice and not vengeance. Even if that weren’t the case, there was still an army of police - on horses, motorcycles, and bicycles, carrying pepper spray, tazers, shotguns, and glocks, constantly on alert, ready to give us an unforgettable reminder of the origins of our non-violent ideals.

The headline on the sign read “Work is Bullshit.” I hadn’t noticed it ‘till I hear two women behind me discussing it.

“Yo man, you’re in the wrong march,” one of them had said.

“Yeah,” the other replied, “it’s like that sign that said ‘legalize now,’ they got the legalize part right, but drugs ‘got nothing to do with it.”

The two of them joked back and forth about this, while I began to contemplate heavily on the meaning of the relationship between the few Caucasians who showed out, and the overwhelming Hispanic mass that embodied the march.

“What is it that separates us?” I asked myself.

It may seem like an intractable question, but for those of us who are keen to the answer, it is really only a matter of denial that prevents us from replying to it.

The fact is, that in the U.S. the only unions we have are built around dying industries – autos, steel, airlines. And while their industries collapse, and their membership shrinks, the fates of their corrupt leadership become increasingly tied together with those of their corporate employers.

This pernicious influence aside, the simple lust for power is enough to separate most union leaders from the will to carry on the fight for labor as a whole. Faced with a declining membership in their core shops, the old time bosses know that new recruits will inevitably bring new leaders and new centers of power that dilute their own control, and so anachronistic local presidents cling to their old ways, like the captains of fatally smitten ships, sullenly awaiting the cold embrace of the deep.

This is why the Teamsters didn’t represent today, this is why the SEIU was barely felt (despite their departure from the AFL-CIO and their supposed commitment to organizing). This is why organized labor IS the Democratic party – they WOULD NOT exist without us – but we get nothing from it, besides our corrupt leadership using their congressional ties, bought with our money, to maintain their seats of power in our union.

This is the state of organized labor in these United States, and reflective of it, this is the state of the political discourse in these United States, and this is why HR 4437 is on the table, being seriously contemplated, by law makers whose election campaigns were paid for by Jack Abramoff. This is the sickening state of our body politic.

All of this being what it is, we still enjoy a quality of life envied by people around the world. In spite of all our complaints, ours is still a country that offers opportunity unsurpassed anywhere else in the world. There are still a hundred others of every nationality willing to take the place of even the lowliest citizen in this society of ours.

This duality is ever present, and it was unmistakable today, as thousands marched, not in the name of peace, not in the name of reform, not in the name of some right, or claim to a right, but simply to remain on this soil, to be given a chance to stand up and prove their worth through hard work and sacrifice, to be judged equally against us native inhabitants, and to be given equal consideration before our laws.

Whether this is a small thing, or large, varies dramatically from one person’s perspective to the next, but I would argue, and defend, that this is the essence of justice, and the essence of our American ideal, that all men are create equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights, among these, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And that is why I was in the street today.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Another Wiretapping Scandal Unfolds

Suicide adds to phone-tap mystery (The Guardian)
Kostas Tsalikides, 39, who took his own life last March, a day after the discovery of sophisticated spy software at the mobile telephone operator Vodafone, has deepened the mystery of how 100 portable phones, belonging to senior officials, were tapped in the run-up to the Athens Olympic Games.
'We found no suicide note,' said Tsalikides's brother, Panayiotis. 'He had no health problems, was about to marry and was doing very well at work.'
hi-tech software enabled phone conversations to be diverted to a set of 14 'shadow' mobile phones which then relayed them to a recording system. Officials say the calls were intercepted on mobile phones picked up by antennae in an area close to the US embassy.

Vodafone owns a 50% stake in Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. wireless provider.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Russian Posturing on Iran a Win-Win

The Washington Post is reporting that Russia has agreed not to block a referral of Iran to the U.N. Security Council by the IAEA.

Russia Won't Block U.S. on Iran

Additionally, Reuters reports that EU powers to set stage for U.N. sanctions on Iran. The article states that in response to the Iranian uncertainty oil prices shot up more than a dollar per barrel.

With respect to the larger dispute on Iran I certainly can't figure out what the play is, and I'm not sure who can, but in regards to Russia's sudden supplication to the western will, their motivation is starkly obvious self interest.

Let's see:

Russia and Iran are both major suppliers and major prospective suppliers of oil to China.

Many people believe that China will veto any security council resolution against Iran in order to protect their investments there. This would allow Russia to keep selling their nuclear hardware and expertise to Iran, while letting China take the heat for vetoing a major U.S. proposal.

What if China didn't veto? Russia would still win, because they would gain an even more important position as a supplier of oil to China.

In the end Russia gets what they want, no matter how it plays out in the security council. In the meantime, Russia exports 7 million barrels of oil a day, so let's hope the prices stay up and that the wheels of bureaucracy grind slow indeed.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Crunkmas

Since I hadn't posted in a while I thought I would take some time out this holiday season to crank everybody’s paranoia levels up into the red. Please, don't thank me.

This surveillance issue is serious business and while it is definitely bad for our civil liberties it is also becoming increasingly likely that it will be just as bad for the Bush administration. Perhaps they would do well to read Nixon's resignation speech:
"In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the Nation. [...] As I recall the high hopes for America with which we began this second term, I feel a great sadness that I will not be here in this office working on your behalf to achieve those hopes in the next 21/2 years." --Some Asshole
Bush resigning... That would be like Christmas every day for a year. My only concern is that I might have to start believing in God again.

Bush on the shame plane isn't likely, but I know the Times is eager join the big game club so exclusive that it counts the Post as its only member, so my hope remains alive, and I'm sure the stories will keep coming.

Smile - You're on Carlyle Camera

The New York Times is reporting today that the NSA is "tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries" in order to collect and analyze a "vast trove" of information about the communications of individuals both inside the United States and around the world. What hasn't been disclosed is the possible involvement of everyone's favorite boogey-man multi-national: The Carlyle Group.

--Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report (N.Y. Times)

Along with its numerous defense holdings The Carlyle Group holds a diverse portfolio of other investments that includes a large Real Estate holding arm. Of Carlyle's 400 odd properties, there are three very special ones that are managed by a subsidiary, CRG West.

--CRG West

The three properties managed by CRG West are what as known as "carrier hotels." These are data centers where internet and telecom providers meet up and their networks interconnect. One Wilshire, in Los Angeles, is a major transit point for international communications and a hub for data traffic all over the west coast. One Wilshire's website boasts that the building is "home to virtually all of the market leaders in the telecommunications industry." Along with One Wilshire, the Carlyle Group owns and CRG West manages similar facilities in San Jose and Washington D.C.

Given that these locations would be ideal for doing exactly the type of data interception that the Times article describes, and that their owner has extensive defense interests and intelligence community connections, it is pertinent to ask if the Carlyle Group is one of the unnamed corporations that is cooperating with the NSA on this project.

Smile - You're on Cingular Camera

Recently there has been a dribble of information coming out via the New York Times about secret and illegal NSA surveillance programs. What hasn't been mentioned, but is technologically quite feasible, is the exploitation of cell phone usage data to track individuals. This could be used either to locate specific individuals or similar to the analysis the NSA is doing of calling patterns, they could do a broad analysis of usage data to determine who is traveling where and with whom. For instance: a cell-phone used to call Saudi Arabia that has also been carried on site-seeing tours of national monuments could be flagged for investigation of possible terrorist activity.

You don't think this is possible? Think again. Even now, without E911 (the requirement that all cell-phone companies provide location data for emergency services), it is possible to track an individual’s movements via their cell-phone, even if you can't pinpoint their exact location.

Tracking is possible because even when your handset is not in use it is communicating with the network in order to maintain signal and enable the routing of calls. When you travel a few miles or more, your handset will communicate with different cell sites as you go, continuously looking for the best signal. With a record of those communications all one must do is analyze the timing of the connection to each cell site and they will have a map of where you have traveled. If the records available for analysis included signal strength information and your model took into account terrain related signal impairments, the tracking could be extremely accurate. This accuracy would be at its peak in urban areas where there are many cell sites and your handset is handing-off between them quite frequently.

We don't know exactly what information cell-phone companies collect and store, and if that information is being used for surveillance that fact would certainly be classified, but it is a possibility that this is taking place, and that deserves recognition and further investigation.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Bum Wine

I work continually now, and go to school, so I have no time to post. Luckily, I do still have time to get drunk, and Bum Wine has got some great tips on getting wasted cheap and fast.

This review of Cisco is representative of their high quality editorial content:
Known as "liquid crack," for its reputation for wreaking more mental havoc than the cheapest tequila. Something in this syrupy hooch seems to have a synapse-blasting effect not unlike low-grade cocaine. The label insists that the ingredients are merely "citrus wine & grape wine with artificial flavor & artificial color," but anyone who has tried it knows better. Tales of Cisco-induced semi-psychotic fits are common. Often, people on a Cisco binge end up curled into a fetal ball, shuddering and muttering paranoid rants. Nudity and violence may well be involved too.
Sounds like a winner to me.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Everything Changed, Yet Everything is Still the Same

Like everyone on September 11, I watched the endless replays of the second plane hitting the tower in dumfounded shock. Even after I had long lost count of the number of times that clip was repeated, I still couldn't believe it, and the empty, numb sensation of bewildered horror that had enveloped when I first saw the attack refused to abate.

Later that evening I went to pick up my sister from work. While I was waiting for her to get off, I chatted with a girl who was smoking in the parking lot. She told me that her father had called her first thing that morning to make sure she was safe. For him, in rural Oregon, his daughter living in the metropolis of Portland put her at the epicenter of danger, and he was so concerned that he had begged her to come home.

Trying to turn to lighter subject matter, our conversation devolved into mundane chit chat. The girl mentioned that she was going to PSU, so I asked her what she was majoring in.

"Islamic terrorism," she told me. Neither of us laughed.

Later that day I gathered around a TV with my sister and a mutual friend. As we watched coverage of the aftermath, my friend, a die-hard Democrat, said that he was kind of glad that Bush was President, because he wasn't sure if Gore would have been able to respond to the attacks with the same kind of force and purpose that Bush was displaying. He has denied speaking those words ever since.

A few weeks after the attacks, I was driving in Tigard when I saw a homemade sign in the back of a pickup that threw me into a vicious rage.

I don't remember what it said anymore, but I do remember that it had the word "towel head" on it.

"Fuck you, you racist mother fucker!" I screamed, leaning out the window and bellowing as hard as I could. The driver of the pickup looked about 55 and he seemed from his expression to be genuinely perplexed by my outburst. His equally aged wife glanced back hesitantly, then turned quickly back forward as the light switched green and they pulled away from me.

That incident tore at me for a long time. I felt guilty for viciously assaulting a kindly elderly couple, but on the other hand I was consumed with genuine hatred and disgust for people who could be so callous, so ignorant, so indifferent to their fellow human beings.

I think it was at that traffic light that I lost faith and gave up on the whole national unity story line. It was then that I started realizing that our respons to the attacks was nothing but a continuation of the attitudes, policies, and actions that had instigated them in the first place.

Retrospectively, my main observation of the affect of the September 11 attacks on our country was that they served primarily as a distraction. For a time, their enormity and evil unified the national focus, fixing it onto those who we blamed for the attacks, and turning it away from any kind of thoughtful introspection or self criticsm.

As time has passed, those images, as putrid and viscous as they are, have faded and been assimilated into our everyday lives. Now, in perspective, they fail to stir the emotions they once did. Side-by-side with pictures of Iraqi streets, strewn with the limbs of civilians scattered by both American and Arab bombs, the images from September 11 still convey the epitome of absolute evil, but no longer can they inflame our sense of moral superiority. Along side the brutal reality of our own careless destruction of human life, the images of September 11 leave us clinging only to our regret, disappointment, and sorrow.

Four years on now, the flags have come down, the FDNY t-shirts lay in the bottoms of drawers or charity bins, and we have come so far that we aren't even concerned that Osama Bin Laden is still at large.

This summer I went camping at Detroit Lake, and as will happen, I was forced to make a run into Detroit, OR, to stock up on beer and mixers. We went to the first grocery we saw on the main road that runs through town, and as I walked to the door I notice an improvised poster in the window.

Crudely printed in B&W, and with an inked in red cross-hair across his face, was a picture of Osama Bin Laden. Inside, browsing through the store's sunglass selection, and listening to the country music that played from the PA, I reflected on that sign. It was very plain, very simple, but it conveyed a succinct and powerful message. It was a plea for justice. Or at least a plea for vengeance. While everyone else has gone on with their lives, in rural Oregon there is still a hunger for closure, at least in one person, who took the time to make that 8.5x11 poster and tape up in the window, declaring publicly their demand for satisfaction.

But surely there must be a distinction - between justice and vengeance. Condemnation and hate. Acceptance and denial. War and peace.

There is, and those who believe, those who don't, and those who count Jesus as their favorite philosopher, can all appreciate this summation of it equally.
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'

But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.

If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.

Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.

Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.

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