Long, long, long entry!

First the really good news: I just got back from Artik (our screening place), and saw the samples for the new shirts. They look AWESOME. Best shirts in some time! The “HARD” text shirt especially is really nice, with wonderful color gradiations… I'll have them up in BMEshop later today so you can put yourself on the waiting list if you want.

I figure I should talk about my feelings about yesterday's OCAP/OCF protest as well.

While I believe that the problems addressed by OCAP and the Ontario Common Front are 100% legitimate and real problems that must be fixed, overall I do not entirely agree with their proposed solutions (I hold far more radical notions). However, that is beside the point. I was there in an attempt to document the event and to see it with my own eyes to try and understand how different groups subsequently present it in the media. I also wanted to see how the Indymedia interacts with its reporters — as I suspected, the IMC/Ontario didn't screen any stories posted, and would be very easy to manipulate and use to disseminate false information.

When we got there at about 5 AM, there were already rows of riot cops and mounted police. We'd dumped our gas masks and gear because they were arresting people for them — they claimed that a bandana soaked in cider vinegar (to combat tear gas) was actually a component of a bomb (yeah, a vinegar based molotov cocktail), and that even goggles were a weapon. There was a relatively small group of protestors in front of the police, so we regrouped to assess our plans… at this point we weren't sure if the police might have effectively stopped the protest already. We returned to the police line (where we bumped into Mark) to find a few hundred protesters starting to mobilize. They'd had cellphone contact with other groups around the city, including a large group inside the blockaded area. At this point around 35 people had been arrested.

The morning basically consisted of a snake march around the city, with the police doing their best to herd the groups, and the groups doing their best to evade the police. Eventually the different crowds seemed to find each other and it grew to a couple thousand people. Overall it was peaceful and responsible on both sides. I saw some incidents of vandalism, and there were a relatively small number of incidents of police brutality. I don't believe either was representative of the whole — just as there were a few “bad” protesters, there were a few “bad” cops.

What shocked me is watching the news later that day. Toronto's police chief called the protest “the worst kind of organized crime” and went on to claim that the protesters were well armed, including with bombs and tear gas. Obviously this is a pure fabrication as the protesters had nothing like that… And calling a peaceful protest “organized crime” are, in my opinion, grounds for calling for his immediate resignation. Mayor Mel Lastman took the lies a big step farther, calling the protesters “animals” and claiming they'd been throwing molotov cocktails at Sick Kids Hospital. Of course all the mainstream media picked up these soundbites, and, not having been there, the average person probably believes these lies. That was the most disappointing part about all of this.

One thing I should mention though — a lot of protesters objected to the vandalism, saying that “it's not what this was about”, or that “it gives us all a bad name”… I'm not sure if I agree with that. If you really do believe that “the only war is the class war”, then perhaps vandalism is very valid. I wouldn't personally do it, but when I try and put myself in their shoes, it makes sense.

Actually, I do have one more thing to mention. Some people who watched the protest complained about people covering their faces with bandanas. This was done for three reasons that I can think of:

  • The police often tear gas and pepperspray crowds, no matter how peaceful they may be. It is a logical safety precaution. Getting gassed isn't fun.
  • The police review videos of the event and target and catalog any protesters that they can identify.
  • Many of these people were arrested at previous protests (often for no reason other than being there). As a condition of their bail they were not allowed to go to Queen's Park, associate with other political protesters, or attend rallys.

The third one is the scariest… “Free speech: you're free to say what we tell you to say.” Taking away a political dissident's right to free speech is terrifying to me. Sure, charge them with vandalism, charge them with rioting, or any other charge that can be made to stick under the law, but in a free society, there is no excuse for ever taking away someone's right to speech, especially under these conditions. I guess that is just points out the sad truth that it's just an illusion that we're living in a free society. Maybe I've just seen Easy Rider too many times…

And now, the news that I in my totally impartial way feel should be mentioned and commented on. I'll start with some good news — Sen. Judd Gregg is backing off on his kooky encryption laws. Mike Godwin of the Center for Democracy and Technology said “There will be some point in the future where a criminal or terrorist uses encryption to pull off a horrific crime. What we have to ultimately recognize is that we're safer from those criminals if we have those encryption tools than we would be if we didn't have them.”

That way of looking at all of these issues with this reasoning is important. Sure, guns can be used by criminals to commit crimes, but where would we be if guns were made illegal — “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” I'm not saying the world wouldn't be better without guns, but do realize that no matter what is banned, criminals and governments will always continue to have access.

I've seen comments both here on IAM and in the media in general saying that the anthrax media attention is just a scare, and that it's silly to get worried about it. Even if you ignore the fact that the senders now clearly have weapons grade anthrax that's getting more and more effective, I'm not sure I agree with the “no big deal” theory, even if the actual deaths are dramatically lower. A bomb or hijaacking affects a very small area geographically. Anthrax “mail bombs” on the other hand, can strike anywhere, any time, and no amount of increased security can stop this type of attack. It is literally unstoppable, and can hit anyone. Except me of course, because Ryan and Corrie open my mail.

If you have a moment, you should read this editorial by Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies. He makes some important points, including addressing the futility of the food drops (except as a media ploy), the ineffectiveness of the bombings, the further killing of innocent civilians, and, most importantly, the fact that the US is once again moving forward on military actions while being condemned by the United Nations is causing a serious anti-US backlash internationally. He quotes a Debka headline as saying “First Week of U.S. Offensive in Afghanistan is Inconclusive Militarily, Earthshaking Geo-Politically.” While Debka is a somewhat questionable newssource, the headline is deadly accurate.

I'm sure all of you have been seeing the proudly displayed — and carefully obscured — before and after photos of the bombing. Since day one experts outside of the military have been saying that the photos show the attacks to have been dramatically ineffective, and at best destroying a few decoys (remember D-Day?). In the past, when the military had complete control over spy satellites, they had complete control over this type of imaging. The problem for them now is that there are private spy satellites like Ikonos up… Now, they are able to institute a “shutter order” for national security and ban Ikonos from taking pictures of Afghanistan, but if they did that, news agencies would launch lawsuits. So, instead, they're censoring via capitalism — by simply paying Ikonos not to share the pictures with the media.

Quick link #1: I know it's old news that the US sent $500 million per year in weaponry to Bin Laden and other anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan during the 80s, but Barrett has said that they shipped weaponry (via the US government) to Bin Laden directly.

Quick link #2: Remember how the US was considering adopting Israel's assassination policy? (That is, using elite strike forces to assassinate political leaders.) It's just begging for trouble.

Quick link #3: I'm a big fan of Hawking. Big fan. He agrees that the coming human-robot apocalypse is inevitable, and he also believes that for humans to survive, we must colonize space. If humans could unite on space travel, I'd give up on living in the country. I'd do just about anything to be a Mars homesteader.

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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