Saturday, August 25, 2007

Where there's a will, there's a way

Student cracks Government's $84m porn filter

Of course there are those who would use that information to argue for more extreme forms of censorship - including requiring ISPs to automatically filter out material deemed unsuitable. Of course it's easy to imagine those self-appointed guardians of our morals (in this case Australia) abusing any power they might manage to get - we've been down that road before in pre-internet times.

Imagine: Pictures of torture victims in Abu Ghraib? Just label it porn and coerce ISPs to filter it out. What a neato little tool for eliminating from public consumption anything that just might happen to be politically incorrect at the time.

Elvira Arellano Continues to Speak Out From Across the Border

Mi amigo Nezua sez:
ELVIRA WON'T REST, and though she was prevented by men with guns from showing up in D.C. to step to what she felt was unjust persecution and law, she now speaks her peace to the government of Mexico. I have a feeling this mujer is determined to confront the injustice she has lived, one way or another. And isn't it fantastic how la lucha--su lucha, nuestra lucha--knows no border, either? Just like sun, wind, water, time and human dreams?
De regreso en Michoacán, después de 10 años de haber salido a trabajar a Estados Unidos sin documentos, Elvira Arellano exigió al gobierno de México tomar una posición firme de protesta contra el odio y el racismo que existe en ese país hacia más de 12 millones de mexicanos indocumentados, quienes todos los días enfrentan redadas, deportaciones y separación de sus familias.
Having returned to Michoacán after ten years of having worked in the USA without documentation, Elvira Arellano demanded that the government of Mexico take a firm position and protest against the hate and racism that exists in the USA toward all 12 million or more of its undocumented workers from Mexico, who every single day face raids, deportation, and the separation of their famllies. [my translation]
--De regreso en Michoacán, Elvira Arellano exige posición firme contra el racismo en EU, , La Jornada
More corazón like this. More hope like this. More fight like this. Hoy. Mañana. Todos los dias.
¡Venceremos!
As I noted a few days ago, the suggestion that Elvira Arellano is this generation's Rosa Parks is right on target, brothers and sisters.

Vale. As I said last night while signing off my radio show, remember to "make your own revolution now".

Notes in the margin: Image nicked from Nezua's blog. The phrase "make your own revolution now" comes from a song title from 1970s jazz combo Juju's first album A Message from Mozambique (a great album that is well worth seeking out!).

Spreading Freedom

Iraq is becoming every much the gulag nation that the US has already been for quite some time. Add to that a liberal (or should I say, neoliberal) dose of ethnic cleansing, and we can ask our True Believers in the doctrine of American Exceptionalism if that shining light on the hill isn't merely the eerie glow of toxic waste.

See also my previous discussion of urbicide, and of the several million displaced Iraqi refugees (including indigenous cultures such as the Mandeans who are being essentially wiped off the map after 2000 plus years of existence).

Friday, August 24, 2007

Activism opportunities in La Frontera

Thanks to my friends Manny and XP, we've got news of a few opportunities for activists who happen to be in the requisite vicinities over the next few days. First XP sez:

This Saturday, BorderAmbassadors.com will kick off “Hands Across el Rio,” at two points along the border — El Paso and Mission, Texas — groups from both sides of el Rio Grande/Bravo will be forming a human chains across the bridges to form a united front in making the strongest statement to Washington that construction of a border fence is not wanted by residents of the region, on either side of the border. Hands Across El Rio is a 16-day border protest against the border wall.

While the Hands Across El Rio protest is taking place, another protest will be taking place in Mission, Tejas from the No Border Wall group. After the rally, participants will join in a formal ecumenical procession to the river carrying the banners of every group represented.

The rally will begin at 5 pm on the grounds of the historic La Lomita Chapel on the banks of the Rio Grande in Mission and features speakers who represent diverse views, but who are all united in their opposition to a wall.

The boundary between Mexico and the United States has always been zealously insisted upon by both countries. But initially Mexicans moved north at will. The US patrols of the border that began in 1904 were mainly to keep out illegal Asian immigrants. Almost 900,000 Mexicans legally entered the US to flee the violence of the revolution. Low population in both nations and the need for labor in the American Southwest made this migration a non-event for decades. The flow of illegal immigrants exploded after the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the early 1990s, a pact that was supposed to end the immigration crisis but wound up dislocating millions of Mexican peasant farmers and many small-industrial workers.

The idea of building a border fence began in 1990, when Congressman Ducan Hunter (R-CA) presented his plan, Four Achievable Victories, to President Bush I. And later that year, the US began working on the supply roads and the construction of the fence. Recently, two weeks before the 2006 midterm elections, President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act into law, which states that “the Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide for at least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors,” along up to 850 miles of the United States’ southern border.

We must send a clear message to Congress and the people of America that the construction of a wall along the Mexican-American border would be disastrous for the ideology on which this nation was founded.

Manny highlights a National Day of Action in this Tuesday:
Courtesy of the tireless human rights advocates at Derechos Humanos
National Day of Action to Stop Anti-Immigrant Repression and Migrant Deaths at the U.S. - Mexico Border
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
4:30 - 7:00 pm

Federal Building
300 W. Congress Street, Tucson, Arizona

Urgent call for:

* Socially just legalization
* Justice for Elvira & Saul Arrellano
* Stop the deaths at the border
* An end to all raids
* A moratorium on all immigration detentions and deportations
* Restore and expand the due process rights of all immigrants
* Protect and expand the labor, human and civil rights of all immigrants and refugees

Cosponsored by:
Derechos Humanos, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, May 1st Coalition, Borderland Theater, Fundación México, Tucson Samaritans, Salt of the Earth Labor College, Humane Borders

For more information, contact Derechos Humanos at: 520.770.1373
If you're in the 'hood, here's a chance to represent for a good cause.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

File under "Stupid White (Aryan) Men"

Found this over at Nezua's place:

Click the pic to read the article. Some more from another article:
Strom—a well-known white supremacist and leader of the National Vanguard—was arrested in January of this year and initially charged with two counts of possession of child porn and witness tampering. In April, the prosecution brought forward more charges, including a count of child solicitation.

At the May 30 hearing, prosecutors revealed that they will soon be adding more charges as the result of new evidence gained from a computer hard-drive. In a motion to sever the new evidence from the current case, Strom’s attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Andrea Harris, disputed whether the images seized from the computer are of children under the age of 18. “There is no evidence that the images referenced in the superseding indictment from the 40 GB depict minors, and other evidence indicates that those images in fact depict adults,” reads the motion filed by Harris.

The motion also took issue with the government’s contention that Strom solicited a minor identified only as “A.A.” Strom sent gifts to A.A. and pictures of A.A. were found on one of Strom’s computers. Harris explained that A.A. was a friend of one of his children. Strom also allegedly sent A.A. a sonnet. “There is not a shred of evidence that such ‘sonnet’ was ever conveyed in any way, shape or form to anyone, much less to A.A.,” the motion states.

As the trial was originally scheduled for late June, Harris requested a delay to view some of the new evidence, which includes videotape interviews of two minors. Deferring a decision on the motion to sever, Judge Moon indicated he is likely to grant the delay. The new trial date would likely be set no sooner than the fall.
And:
Until he got busted this month for possession of child pornography and witness tampering, few knew Kevin Alfred Strom was more than just our friendly neighborhood white supremacist. A resident of Earlysville, Strom would collaborate on racist, anti-Semitic “American Dissident Voices” radio broadcasts, post nationalist messages on www.cvillenews.com and was involved in a 2005 incident in which copies of “The Aryan Alternative” were distributed all over Charlottesville.

But apparently he is much bigger than that. An intelligence report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) (www.splcenter.org), which tracks hate groups, describes Strom as “a major American neo-Nazi leader for almost 20 years.” Strom’s organization, National Vanguard, is an offshoot of National Alliance (www.natall.com) and maintains a “news” website and chapters in at least a dozen states (www.nationalvanguard.com).

On January 4, Strom was arrested at his home in Earlysville by federal agents for possessing child pornography on his computer, and for witness tampering. Strom allegedly physically assaulted and threatened “Witness A” about the kiddie porn and other criminal activities not listed in the indictment.

Up until Strom’s second marriage, to Elisha Strom, his personal website, www.kevin-strom.com, had “a gallery of alluring photos of young girls, many of them scantily dressed, and running to shots of a teenage Brooke Shields atop a horse,” according to the SPLC. “The beauty of the women and girls of our race has inspired our greatest poets, artists, and writers throughout history,” Strom wrote. “…[I]f anything is sacred, our girls and women are, and they must be protected from the degradation and degeneracy that is inherent in multiracialism.”

Now there's a real winner for ya.

Another set of ICE raids

Including Tar Heel, NC. Coincidentally, it appears there's been some union organizing over at the Smithfield facility. Gotta love that timing, eh? Can't have those workers getting all uppity and demanding their rights, demanding better working conditions, pay, etc.

When vigilantes get a stiff dose of their own medicine

Apparently some community businesses near the AZ border with Mexico aren't taking too kindly to the presence of armed MinuteKlansmen, and are doing something about it: namely, chasing the MinuteKlansmen away with shotguns. Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A case of PKB

U.S. military officials suspect the bombings of Yazidi villages in Iraq last week are a sign that al Qaeda is shifting tactics in an effort to create civil unrest among the three prevalent groups in the region.

"This is an act of ethnic cleansing, if you will — almost genocide," said Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq.

This from the nation whose military has been notorious for committing urbicide in Iraq. Way past time to take a look in the mirror.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

One in four Americans haven't read a book in the last year

One in four adults read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday. Of those who did read, women and older people were most avid, and religious works and popular fiction were the top choices.
Nerdified link.

The sun never sets on the US

Pic found here. A Chalmers Johnson article from earlier this year along similar lines here. A friendly reminder from Notes From Underground.

Monday, August 20, 2007

This generation's Rosa Parks

Elvira Arellano. She and her son, Saul, were arrested yesterday. A write-up by mi amigo Nezua:
Of course. The government knew it was dangerous to let her become a Cause for Human Rights or anything like that. Better to chop her down before she got too far. It's not as if they weren't hearing all this "Rosa Parks" talk. And as a friend said on the phone just now "they learned from the Civil Rights era."
LOS ANGELES - An illegal Mexican immigrant who sought refuge inside a Chicago church for a year was arrested in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon after taking her campaign on the road.

Elvira Arellano was arrested about 4:15 p.m. Chicago time by law enforcement officials after leaving Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in downtown Los Angeles, said Emma Lozano, an adviser who was there during the arrest.

--Immigration activist Arellano arrested, Antonio Olivo, Chicago Tribune

Elvira knew that she could not be free and remain in hiding. She had to walk proudly and stand up for her beliefs. Her example remains a beautiful one. And she represents the pains and the plight and the hopes of millions like her and her son. Right here, with you and me, in the land of the free.

Agents came out of all the cars screaming at the top of their lungs for her to get out, Lozano said. Her 8-year-old son, Saul, started to cry, and Arellano said to everyone in the car, 'Calm down. Don't have any fear. They can't hurt me.'

--Immigration activist Arellano arrested, Antonio Olivo, Chicago Tribune

We're with you, Elvira and you too, Saul. Hang in there mijo.

For those wondering how the Rosa Parks comparison is valid consider the following:

But there was MORE to her story than is generally told.

Now, as the fairy tale version goes, Rosa Parks was just a seamstress, tired from a long day at work, simply wanting to ride the bus home in peace. I’m sure that’s all true as far as it goes.

Paul Loeb in an article originally written for Znet, looks first at the myth:

In the prevailing myth, Parks decides to act almost on a whim, in isolation. She’s a virgin to politics, a holy innocent. The lesson seems to be that if any of us suddenly got the urge to do something equally heroic, that would be great. Of course most of us don’t, so we wait our entire lives to find the ideal moment.

In the immortal words of Ron Popeil, “But wait, there’s more!” Left out of the myth are some critical facts. Rosa Parks was secretary of the Montgomery NAACP, having been first elected to that position in 1943. (I notice that the first incident with the bus driver would also have been in 1943. Coincidence? You decide.) She was active in the Montgomery Voters League, an attempt to prepare black residents to take the voting “tests” which were one of the barriers erected to maintain Jim Crow. I have no doubt she was tired after work that December day, but she was well aware of the rising sentiment in the black community in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education, and also that leaders of the black community in Montgomery had already been discussing a bus boycott. Rosa Parks was herself part of that rising tide of sentiment.

Loeb:

Before refusing to give up her bus seat, Parks had spent twelve years helping lead the local NAACP chapter, along with union activist E.D. Nixon, from the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, teachers from the local Negro college, and a variety of ordinary members of Montgomery’s African American community. The summer before, Parks had attended a ten - day training session at Tennessee’s labor and civil rights organizing school, the Highlander Center, where she’d met an older generation of civil rights activists and discussed the recent Supreme Court decision banning “separate - but - equal” schools. During this period of involvement and education, Parks had become familiar with previous challenges to segregation: Another Montgomery bus boycott, fifty years earlier, successfully eased some restrictions; a bus boycott in Baton Rouge won limited gains two years before Parks was arrested; and the previous spring, a young Montgomery woman had also refused to move to the back of the bus, causing the NAACP to consider a legal challenge until it turned out that she was unmarried and pregnant, and therefore a poor symbol for a campaign. In short, Parks didn’t make a spur - of - the - moment decision ... This in no way diminishes the power and historical importance of her refusal to give up her seat. But it does remind us that this tremendously consequential act might never have taken place without all the humble and frustrating work that she and others did earlier on. And that her initial step of getting involved was just as courageous and critical as her choice on the bus that all of us have heard about.

Rosa Parks was a prepared and experienced activist and leader. She had received the state-of-the-art organizer training of the time through Highlander, long since a place that had made its mark on American history. She was probably well aware that, unlike the young woman the previous spring, the black leadership of Montgomery would find her a very good symbol for a campaign.

Loeb concludes:

Parks’s real story conveys a far more empowering moral. She begins with seemingly modest steps. She goes to a meeting, and then another. Hesitant at first, she gains confidence as she speaks out. She keeps on despite a profoundly uncertain context, as she and others act as best they can to challenge deeply entrenched injustices, with little certainty of results. Had she and others given up after her tenth or eleventh year of commitment, we might never have heard of Montgomery.

Parks’s journey suggests that change is the product of deliberate, incremental action, whereby we join together to try to shape a better world. Sometimes our struggles will fail, as did many earlier efforts of Parks, her peers, and her predecessors. Other times they may bear modest fruits. And at times they will trigger a miraculous outpouring of courage and heart—as happened with her arrest and all that followed. For only when we act despite all our uncertainties and doubts do we have the chance to shape history.

MadmanintheMarketplace asked last week (to oversimplify) how do we make the little big, how do we connect our local activism to the large issues of the day. That’s always the toughest question advocates of the community organizing movement must confront. The story of Rosa Parks tells of how the involvement and perseverance of one ordinary citizen in organizing within her local community set her on a track to play a key role in changing our nation.

I'm sure the government's hope is that ICE does a sufficient job of making sure she and her son are disappeared. On that front ICE has one hell of a track record. Ms. Arellano has herself been taking those seemingly modest steps, in the process galvanizing her community (and really more broadly the community of those dedicated to promoting human rights) in a way that she might not have even dreamed of - in the process providing a name and a face to this phase of the civil rights movement. ­­¡Ya Basta! is resonating north of the border as well as in Chiapas.

Obviously my prayers are with her and her son, that they are able to find and to agitate for some measure of justice that has been denied them and others who've been compelled to journey to El Norte in order to subsist.

Tropical Storm Erin Postmortem

From Dr. Jeff Masters' blog this morning:
Tropical Storm Erin finally died this morning over Missouri. Erin dramatically re-intensified Saturday night over Oklahoma, forming a tropical storm like-vortex that brought up to 11 inches of rain to Oklahoma, and helped feed disastrous rains of up to a foot over southeastern Minnesota. At least 13 deaths are being blamed on the resulting flooding, six of them in Oklahoma. The radar presentation of Erin's remains (Figure 3) looks remarkable tropical storm-like, and such re-intensifying tropical cyclones over land, complete with calm eye and spiral bands, have been observed in Australia, where they have been dubbed "landphoons". Hurricane David of 1979 performed a similar feat, generating severe weather over Washington D.C. 27 hours after it had made landfall in Georgia. What seems to be happening in these cases is that the circulation at upper levels of the atmosphere can remain intact if there is not a lot of wind shear to tear it apart. This circulation can then reach down to the surface again during its passage far inland. I've saved a long animation of this "landphoon", and Dr. Kevin Kloesel of the University of Oklahoma provided me a plot showing that the winds in Fort Cobb, Oklahoma were sustained at tropical storm force for over 10 minutes Sunday morning, with a peak wind gust of 75 mph.
See my post yesterday for an image of the storm. I gathered that if one were trying to travel to Kingfisher that the roads would have been pretty treacherous, and from my peeps in the OKC metro area the gist of their email was that there was plenty of urban flooding.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Iran War Talk Continues

The War Party just can't seem to get enough carnage. The war chatter has been going on for quite some time, and began to escalate again a few months ago - including the usual propaganda regarding Iran getting its own nuclear bomb (reality check: highly improbable any time too soon if ever), and Iran arming the Taliban. Recently, the Democrat-led Congress began giving Junior Caligula the blank check needed to target Iran Militarily. Over the last week there has been scuttlebutt that the Lush/Zany gang would declare Iran's military as a terrorist group. In an article Arthur Silber highlights, it appears that the timing for such a declaration is crucial if the US government is going to have any hope in hell of getting its war on prior to the start of the 2008 election cycle. Bernhard over at Moon of Alabama is drawing some similar conclusions from a somewhat different set of sources.

Like Arthur and Bernhard, I also feel a sort of weariness when it comes to the situation between the US and Iran. It's seeming more and more like it's all but a done deal at this point with disastrous consequences for all caught in the middle. As I've noted before (as have plenty of others) - this march toward yet another war is very bipartisan in nature (as were the previous two wars that the US is still waging in Afghanistan and Iraq). That includes just about every Democrat and Republican presidential candidate currently sitting in the House or Senate (Kucinich and Paul are the exceptions within their respective parties). I seriously doubt there will be any objection from Speaker Pelosi or Senate Majority Leader Reid. I can imagine our so-called "leftist" bloggers of record who could at points a few years ago make impassioned pronouncements against the Iraq War finding that wars aren't so bad as long as there's a Democrat Party majority blessing involved. Those voting for Democrats last November hoping that the war madness would come to an end are probably very disappointed if not downright steamed over what's happening, and I cannot blame them. There are a few souls (mostly Democrats but occasionally Republican as well) who have tried to take a stand against the latest madness; regrettably, they have far too little clout and the Rubicon was crossed long ago.

I wish I could be less pessimistic, but I'd be lying if I tried speak of silver linings that I simply cannot see.

Tropical Storm Erin Refuses to Die

I found this image over at Dr. Jeff Masters' blog, which is a highly recommended read (at bare minimum) during the hurricane season (of course I'm something of a weather and climate buff to begin with, so my idea of must-reading and anyone else's may diverge just a bit). Here's what Jeff had to say:
The remains of Tropical Storm Erin re-intensified this morning into a major storm that slammed central Oklahoma with rains up to seven inches and wind gusts of tropical storm strength. The radar presentation of Erin's remains (Figure 2) looks remarkable tropical storm-like. I've saved a long animation of this "landcane". Numerous flood watches, flood warnings, and severe thunderstorm warnings have been posted for Oklahoma today.
This is certainly something we don't see every day. In fact, you really should see the animated graphic of the central OK "landcane" for yourselves (so make sure to click the link above to view it).

I get the feeling that after having either lived in or visited extensively various parts of Oklahoma over the past 12 years, the climate has shown signs of becoming more "subtropical." Yeah, I know, the winters still get cold and all that, and if you live up in the higher elevations found in the panhandle, I would never rule out an early April snowstorm. That said, I recall commenting that the ice storms that plagued the high plains region in late December last year seemed eerily like spring-time storms in terms of the amount of precipitation, lightning, and even hail we received even before the precip turned to freezing rain. Usually if you do get rain in December in the panhandle for instance, it isn't much, and certainly not enough to cause "urban" flooding like those storms did. Actually, I'd suggest that the spring and summer storms they've received this year are reminiscent of some of the weather we'd get during my childhood in San Antonio in the 1970s. I'll leave it to the climate experts to sort it all out, but yeah, something seems different.

The City the US Forgot

Although the blog post itself is a couple months old, it gives a flavor for what post-Katrina New Orleans is like:
Something like 200,000 of the displaced people are still unable to go home. Beyond the damage to the culture, the ongoing human suffering overwhelmed me: people paying mortgages and taxes on their destroyed homes while they are stuck in shelters in other states - two years after the disaster - trying to clean up and rebuild their lives, but being prevented from doing so.

In the days I spent there last week, I could almost believe there was a conspiracy to keep residents from coming home. Things preventing people from rebuilding their homes include:

- Promised government funding that hasn't come through.
- Inadequate compensation by government (I saw a house that was purchased for $200,000 just before Katrina; the house was destroyed by a nearby faulty levee, so the government must compensate the owners, except the government will only pay $70,000 for the house and land, which is less than the mortgage).
- Government incompetence. (FEMA paid contractors $44/ton to remove debris. The contractors subcontracted for $34/ton. The subcontractors hired locals at $9/ton to do the work.)
- Insurance companies refusing to compensate people (most people had flood insurance, as well as regular home insurance).
- Water, sanitation, electricity and other infrastructure that are still unavailable in some areas.
- Confusion around new building regulations.
- Levees that are still not safe.
- No progress in getting rid of the MR GO (Mississippi River Gulf Outlet), a useless canal that was the cause of much of the flooding.
- Problems with pumps and with flood prevention procedures.

Out in the affected neighborhoods I saw thousands of empty, wrecked houses, some still furnished but made toxic by mold; a boat stuck in a house roof; a car floating in the lake; ruined roads; piles of debris; block after deserted block.
Well, there has been some development, but not in a way that benefits those displaced:
The Disneyfication of New Orleans seems to be well under way, with more tourist glitz on top of less authentic culture, but the seedy side is also greatly on the rise. Bourbon Street is worse than ever, a place for drunk college boys looking for the sleaziest of strip clubs. The murder rate has skyrocketed, making New Orleans the murder capital of the US. Until two weeks ago there wasn't even a forensic lab in the city after Katrina. It gives a whole new meaning to the term "wide open city."
If you read the rest, you'll find that there are folks still trying to rebuild, but it seems largely a DIY endeavor - and it may well be varying DIY approaches that will be necessary for survival in any community visited by natural or human-made disaster. Of course the assertion remains that NOLA's situation was less the result of Mother Nature (the worst of Katrina bypassed the city) and more the result of decades of US government neglect of the levees, waterways, and marshlands in and around NOLA. Two years later, there is still a diaspora, and little sign that the Lower Ninth Ward will receive any substantial assistance from a government that never really gave a damn to begin with.