Monday, April 25, 2011

False-positive arrests (true or exaggerated), Chicago, 1905

"Thousands of innocent men are imprisoned every month by the Chicago police without evidence or excuse except 'suspicion.'"

I am woefully ignorant of the history, true, exaggerated, sensationalized, of false-positive arrests, basically of any time period prior to 9/11's raising my heartbeat a little. (And largely ignorant of the past ten years too.) I'm ignorant of the Cold War, I'm ignorant of McCarthy, I'm ignorant of the Palmer Raids .. I would like to be able to use the past as a key to what might happen over the next few decades. But there is way too much, and for any particular incident I find or read about (like this newspaper page from 1905) I don't have a control group, or any sense of proportion, or any other way of knowing if it's an aberration or a trend. Anyway, this page is published on the Barnacle Press website.

It's because of the recent death of the great comics historian Bill Blackbeard that I was on their site looking at scanned newspaper strips and found the 1905 article.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Peter King's hearings on U.S. muslims

Signpost for something to look into more, and write a post or at least keep an eye on it. Was there any lasting impact? Has he got a bill? What does he purport to try to do? Has there been an outcry or backlash other than Rep. Ellison speaking at the hearing?

Drones and Collateral Damage

In the context of making a point, here, that drones are "a recurring element of our seemingly endless, unwinnable military conflicts," Adam Serwer also says that "In terms of killing fewer civilians, it’s probably better for the U.S. to be using drones at this point, because they are better at distinguishing a military target from a civilian one than an F-15."

"Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright told reporters during the briefing yesterday that the drones were being deployed in part to avoid 'collateral damage,' the dry military euphemism for dead civilians."

If you're concerned about the mindset that you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, the drones might (happen to) be a good thing. No particular kudos to the military, who are probably happy to have more inhumane or less inhumane technology according to their own ends. But if there happens to be a weapon available now with a little more precision, fine. If fewer civilians are killed rather than more, all other things being equal, it's a good thing. An even better thing would be not to have an 'endless war' footing in the first place, providing the pretext for lots of little civilian-killing chapters overseas and whatever the hell you want to do at home, outlasting many swings to the left, swings to the right, and sparkly new politicians.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I have some speculative ideas about a time in a few years or a few decades when Wisconsin-style outrage could start to be recontextualized as domestic terror. As austerity measures are passed and a certain type of capitalist starts to do things they would have liked to do for a long time, but have now got their 'main chance', the people on the receiving end are going to get angry. I don't see how it can not lead to additional unrest and protests, if you roll back collective bargaining, if you erode U.S. worker protections, there will be an expression of the fury. And in response to the fury, what will happen? A convenient way to demonize people who are fighting just to *keep* the 40-hour week or the U.S. minimum wage would be to take advantage of 00's terror powers that, in the words of Bruce Fein, lie around like a loaded gun. Just recast protestors and union advocats as enemy combatants and the gloves can come off. May not happen, but it seems to me that the ingredients are there. I don't know, how is it usually done in the case of 'economic hitman' work and a typical IMF restructuring story? How do the people respond when the safety net is eroded in return for bailouts, and how does the state treat it? I'd like to make additional posts with some real precedents so that the focus of the blog stays 'reality based,' with an emphasis on documenting.

Public Business

I'm excited about the new nonprofit, Public Business. Some of what they may do intersects with the false-positive focus of this blog. My own preoccupations are around technology companies, EFF/ACLU issues, overreach in anti-terrorism, and the intersection thereof. Sometimes this interrelates with the business world - in the case of defense contractors, for instance. But there is money and economics in everything, and the unemployment rate and the financial crisis also affects everything, and sets a tone or a context of emergency (or shock doctrine, if I'm using that accurately), during which extraordinary measures could have an easier time getting passed. So I am fascinated to see what Public Business will work on, and I suspect the notion of accidental and deliberate false positives will come up over and over.

Eric Schmidt

This is from the bottom of a new Guardian article about the iphone location tracking, written by Charles Arthur.

"In a speech, Google's then-chief executive Eric Schmidt suggested that: 'If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines – including Google – do retain this information for some time and it's important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.'

His words provoked an outcry from privacy rights campaigners, who pointed out that privacy is a right, and that it protects every citizen from abuses by those in power."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

No charges were filed and they were all released

A phenomenon I'm interested in documenting is in situations where (a) a broad law-enforcement sweep is permitted, presumably because of some "emergency" or "atypical" pretext, real or not (b) A lot of people are swept up and detained (c) During the interim that it takes for law enforcement to get its act together, the people can be denigrated, humiliated, because the only people on the scene other than themselves are the cops/soldiers/officials. (d) Some are found to have been detained wrongly. No charges are filed, and these suspects are released. The point of this scenario is that there is a sleight of hand involved in putting the focus on no charges filed. By that time, the psychological damage is done. Those few days of denigration and humiliation are the main event, not a side event. Who am I talking about in particular? Bystanders in the "special area" at the G20 meeting in Toronto, to take one example squarely post 1/09. To take another example, the subset of people who were rounded up for a bounty and sent to Guantanamo despite being innocent. To take a third example, it happens in _Madam Secretary_ by George Martin, when Hoover's DOL surrounds apartments in a poor neighborhood and arrests people en masse for the purpose of immigration enforcement, only to let all but a couple of them go later. I will elaborate on the _Madam Secretary_ piece in a later post.