Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Black Bloc in Action!

Look! There's a guy in a black shirt and black hat shouting! OMG! He's asking angry questions about a large corporation! And who  knows what he has in that plastic bag or in that shoulder bag -- probably bombs! Quick, get the riot cops to the Eaton Center and start clubbing bystanders!

A concern...

It looks and smells a lot like the ISU and anyone else invovled engineered the situation in Toronto to maximise the chance of mass arrests. They built enough detention cages and such to house a 1000 arrestees, finagled a secret law, lied to the public from the get go, and I'd be really surprised if there weren't agent provocateurs and riot facilitating restraint in order to maximise police justification for their later actions.

It's probably safe to say that public trust in the police is compromised in the worst way.The Miami method police provocation is less likely to work next time, but I'm sure the cops will try it again. They don't seem capable of much else in recent years.

However, video footage from Montebello to Toronto is educating the public on how to spot so called Black Bloc police agents in the crowds. Fit builds, crewcuts, issue footwear and a general out of place look are in severe contrast to the skinny kids with bad hair in hoodies they're aiming to mimic.

The chances of one these police agents (or perhaps worse, an innocent individual fitting the description) being lynched increases with each new event. It's not hard to guess what a line of armed riot police would do to a protest surrounding one of their officers.

My Northern Ireland friend from an earlier post also informed me the most terrified he'd ever been as when he found himself caught in front of his own riot line, exposed to the protestors. He said he lept so high over his own lines he saw helmets beneath his boots. The crowd would have ripped him apart. This is how these things work. It's the darker part of the new rules.

While I catagorically do not condone mob the lynching of anyone, it must be kept in mind that the police can control their actions much more so than crowds. And politicians can control the police. And sometimes, we can control the politicians.

There must, in the interest of preserving the integrity of our system of laws and rights and general public safety, be a good faith public inquiry into the events of this past weekend. And concrete action taken to prevent a repeat.

When something looks out of place...

Via just might be. Lemme see, crewcut, fit build, nice to get a closer look at those highspeed black boots he's wearing. Doesn't seem to be associated with or interacting with anyone around him, let alone dressed like them in his slick Gortex shell and new jeans. And I wonder what he seems to oh so directly go for when he opened the back door when everyone is milling about or curiously toying with the car... And to me ol' biased eyes, there's a look on his mug like he knows something the crowd doesn't. If I saw him on a flight, I'd be surprised if he didn't collect a duffle bag or barrack box off the baggage return. It's enough raise an eyebrow at least.

Click the linked text above to Pale's post, and watch the video below. Do you know this man?


What what?

Statistics Canada has quietly made major changes to the country's census in time for the forthcoming round of national sampling in 2011. The long census questionnaire that provided information on a broad range of topics such as ethnicity, education, employment, income, housing and disability has been eliminated. Instead, those questions will be asked on a new, voluntary National Household Survey (NHS) and the results will never be released, in contrast with the treasure trove of census data that become public after 92 years.
First, some clarification on the 92 year figure. The Vancouver Sun article implies that the data collected in previous Census isn't released for nearly a century. Not true, or this wouldn't exist. The 92 year rule is about identification of respondents. This means that in 92 years, your name, birthday etc with your answers is made publicly available, but ONLY if you check the consent box when you complete your Census form. The other data, from which you cannot be personally identified, is made available in the present.

I use Census data a lot. I've also worked on the Census in the past. And while I have some serious questions about the ethics around methods of data collection and enumerator training for certain populations, I am left in no doubt as to the necessity of collecting the sort of detailed data one enters on the long form. In fact, it would be very hard for me, and many others, to do research without it.

It would make it difficult for public interest groups, citizens, business, and the government itself to collect the sort of information that enables them to track things like changes in employment, marriages, housing, ethnicity, and migration. Governments of all levels rely on this stuff for figuring out funding and service delivery. Businesses use it find profitable locations. Researchers use it to track social trends and generate the sort of papers and reports that further society and reveal problems. Smaller population centres and rural areas, where for sampling significance, the long form is used much more frequently would become black holes of statistical data.

BCL is right when he says,
So expect to see the response rate to StatsCan's new voluntary survey fall towards nil, which in effect means that the nation has taken a scalpel to its own brain and removed that part devoted to memory.
If the changes are as advertised, the result would be a hodgepodge of returned surveys that might show interesting trends regarding the sorts people who actually return the form, but little else. The data would be useless. It would be akin to trading in your GPS for a Mappa Mundi.

As to why the government would intentionally lobotomise the nation, I can only speculate. Is it just brainless cost cutting (Census is expensive and these are reality challeged Conservatives were dealing with)? Or some misguided notion of libertarianism (again, the reality challenged)?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hurricane Alex .... Updated

Update: 30/1445Z
Hurricane Alex has intensified slightly and is now well defined. Central pressure was measured at 961 millibars with an initial intensity of 70 knot (148 kmh/92 mph) winds at the surface.

This thing is a behemoth. As you can see from the satellite shot taken less than an hour ago, Alex occupies a huge portion of the Gulf of Mexico.

Alex has been upgraded to a Hurricane by the NHC. That makes it the first hurricane of the 2010 Atlantic season and the first June hurricane in that basin for 15 years. (Hurricane Allison)

Alex will probably intensify before it makes landfall sometime Wednesday. The wind shear is below 10 knots, the sea surface temperature is extremely high and there is not enough dry continental air to stifle growth.

The central pressure has dropped rapidly to 973 millibars and surface winds have reached a sustained 65 knots (120 kmh/75 mph). The system has altered more to the west and is now tracking about 280 at 8 knots (15 kmh/9 mph). Intensification estimates vary but the official forecast is that Alex will remain a Category 1 Hurricane until landfall with sustained wind speeds of up to 80 knots (148 kmh/92 mph).

Landfall is a question. The track guidance provided by the models is quite wide so exact landfall predictions are difficult and of low confidence. The other thing is that this cyclone is huge. The radius of maximum winds is about 15 miles from centre, but the Tropical Storm Force winds have a radius of almost 3 degrees of latitude or 180 miles. That means that Alex will cut a wide swath into Mexico and Texas no matter where it makes landfall.The storm surge is now expected to be around 5 feet in the areas of landfall and 2 feet or greater as far away as Louisiana. That will have a negative effect on the oil blowout area by driving the surface slick towards shore. Along with the surge of seawater and the high winds, Alex will probably drop huge amounts of torrential rain as it crosses the coast. Flooding is almost inevitable. These webcams right on the beach at South Padre Island should give us an interesting look.

Alex is expected to make landfall in less than 24 hours.

Alex gives the Gulf oil spill response a whack

Here we go.
Gulf coast residents had feared a tropical storm. Monday's weather wasn't that bad, but it was bad enough to bring relief efforts on the water to a halt. Seven miles out to sea there were rolling seven-foot seas. It makes the skimming operations to recover oil much more difficult. Monday's foul weather also forced BP to delay plans of adding a third capturing system which would help the "Q-4000" and "Discover Enterprise" recover some of the 60,000 barrels of oil that continues to spew into the Gulf daily. For the armada of boats dealing with the spill, tropical storm Alex is serving as a dress rehearsal of sorts for what is expected to be an intense hurricane season here on the gulf.
Alex is now passing north east of the ocean buoy in the Bay of Campeche. Pressure is dropping although the winds seem to be reasonably steady at around 30 knots. The storm itself has developed an eyewall. You can see the spiral rain bands forming. It looked briefly as though Alex was picking up some dry continental air, although the latest photo below indicates that it may be filling in. NHC reported that there was some entrainment* of dry air from the west. That may have the effect of limiting Alex's growth.

The webcams at Padre Island are starting to show the effects of Alex as it approaches.

Toronto Police Chief making his own laws

Not a police state? (Emphasis mine)
Toronto's police chief is admitting there never was a five-metre rule that had people fearing arrest if they strayed too close to the G20 security perimeter.

Civil libertarians were fuming after hearing Friday that the Ontario cabinet gave police the power to stop and search anyone coming within five metres of the G20 fences in Toronto for a one week period.

However, the Ministry of Community Safety says all the cabinet did was update the law that governs entry to such things as court houses to include specific areas inside the G20 fences — not outside.

A ministry spokeswoman says the change was about property, not police powers, and did not include any mention of a zone five metres outside the G20 security perimeter.

When asked Tuesday if there actually was a five-metre rule given the ministry's clarification, Chief Bill Blair smiled and said, “No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out.”

Chet is being generous when he suggests this is the result of incompetence. I tend towards intentional malfeasance on the part of the Chief of the Toronto police department who clearly disregarded the law and made his own set of rules without the consent of his superiors.

So we do have new rules. It was convenient for him to trample on the rights of citizens. Oh well.

Cause for immediate dismissal. With disgrace.

Dear Police

Is there anything about your conduct around the G8/G20 that doesn't amount to a fucking lie?


I had another thought in the wake of this post.

Could police statements about not giving a damn about our rights, and the secret law passed to "limit" those rights, and lies from the Hogtown police chief on down be grounds for some sort of legal challenge or legitimate resistance to arrest?

I am no lawyer, but it seems reasonable to me that in era of secret laws, police lies and abitrary detention and search, a private person might reasonably conclude that there could either be secret laws of which they are unaware but subject to, that the police may have little or no intention of respecting their legal rights, and what the police tell them is actually a falsehood.

There are now literally thousands of witnesses to this in practice, and the public realm is full of enough of their statements for a person to conclude such a thing. Thoughts?

Alex spinning up, speeding up and heading for Texas

The US National Hurricane Center has now issued Hurricane Warnings on Tropical Storm Alex for the south coast of Texas and northeast coast of Mexico. Alex is gaining strength and will probably develop into a Hurricane by no later than tomorrow and make landfall on Wednesday night.

The wind shear is a little high but its forecast track takes it through decreasing shear in the next few hours. Sea surface temps are very high and the central pressure has dropped to 982 mb. It is moving North Northwest at 10 knots (12 mph/19 kmh).

As it stands now, Alex will have very little direct impact on the oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. However, given its track, intensity and radius, it will likely produce strong southerly winds and generate surface currents which will drive the surface oil slick onto the coast.

The big question now is how much damage this storm will cause. The expected storm surge could bring a rush of sea water inland of up to 3 meters above tide as Alex approaches and about a meter above tide over a wider area of the Texas/Mexico coast. There is some concern that the surge will reach the area of the oil slick, although it should be under a meter.

Coupled with all that is the fact that Alex, once it makes landfall is forecast to contain 80 knot (148 kmh/92 mph) winds gusting to 100 knots (185 kmh/115 mph) and will release huge amounts of moisture as it moves inland.

An interesting note. The ocean buoy centered in the Bay of Campeche is showing rapid and significant drop in atmospheric pressure and a rapid rise in wind. That particular buoy is almost directly in Alex's path. I'll be watching that buoy and I'll be checking out the webcams on South Padre Island.

G20 : Who was that masked man?

A photojournalist followed and filmed 75 to 100 Black Bloc for 90 minutes and 24 blocks as they rampaged through the streets of Toronto smashing windows and torching police cars while police looked calmly on from several different locations. Why was this rampage allowed?

Police say they had already infiltrated a Black Bloc group and knew what to expect, but tonight the head of G20 security operations told an incredulous Susan Ormiston on CBC that the police had better things to do than attend to the Black Bloc.

So much for "serve and protect" then if you don't happen to be a G20 fence.

The photojournalist is interviewed here by Paul Manly, who shot the footage of the three rock-toting police provocateurs at the SPP protests in Montebello back in Aug 2007 and wonders if this isn't a variation on the same theme as it was only after the rioters dumped their black gear and dispersed into the crowd that the police attacked the peaceful protesters.

Well, perhaps not all of them dumped their black gear. Below some 20 plainclothes, including a couple of blackclad guys in hoodies, are seen making a run for safety behind a police line. An crazyangry woman attacks the photographer and then scampers off with them.

So who were those masked men?

New Rules

The Game has new rules.

When the police and their government backers decide that our rights do not exist, no law in the land is worth its salt, because when our rights go, so too does the very foundation of our system of laws and justice. The Charter, under the Queen's signature, ceases to be worth the parchment it's written on.

But this works both ways. When our rights go, so too does the social contract that morally binds us to our system of laws and our deference toward the upholders and enforcers of those laws.

Left and right, across the spectrum, the police in Toronto have fucked themselves across a line.

Of course, we might have to take a Tasering or two or worse along the way - this is a very serious business - but on a moral level we've never been freer.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Some things are just pure irresistable

I know what causes the Northern Lights and I am still mesmerized by them. But that's not what this is about. I will provide you with a series of quotes and a link.
I was sitting down on University Avenue, when a group of police officers approached me and said they wanted to talk to me. Stunned, I opened my mouth getting ready to reply to the request, when one of the officers at the top of his lungs yelled: "I DON'T GIVE A FUCK WHAT YOU THINK!"
Well... that's pretty fucking rude. I would have grabbed him by the epaulet and driven his nose into my upward rising hand. But that's just me. I'm actually trained to do that.
Another officer said they didn't want to hear about my rights.
Non sequitur. The other officer is a follower, easily dispatched, and your rights, won through successive governments and decades are no longer the issue. They're gone. Why didn't you just grab the "followers" wrist? That's a moment of shock and you can do a ton of amazing things to him in that moment.
They then proceeded to demand I remove the earphones from my ears, forcing me to get off the phone with my colleague. I told them I was on the phone to which another officer responded, "we don't care."
Well, no. I understand that. Everything now is about their life - not yours. You are nothing.
Then they said they wanted to search my bag, because I was "wearing a black shirt". To which I replied, that I did not consent to any searches. I told them that I would not resist them, and that any search they conducted was under protest. They simply said, "we don't care. We want to make sure you don't have any bombs to kill us with."
Oooooh. Search. So did you say, "I have nothing lethal or offensive in my pack and in order for you to search my PRIVATE belongings I require you to secure a search warrant because, constable, I have an implicit expectation that the contents of my pack are private."?

Did you do that? (Even though it probably wouldn't have made a difference).

They demanded I present identification, once again I complied under protest. To which they told me they didn't care again.
Not required. Check out that Charter thing. I never carry identification unless it is lawfully required - like driving a car or a 46,000 ton ship. You could have said, "I don't have any," which would have put them in a momentary dilemma.
Then one of the officers told me that, and I quote, that I (me) "don't care about the security of the city." To which I protested. They then called me "ignorant".
I hate it when that happens. It's almost as though they care more than I do. But then, they have their Master Agreement to make them look better. Calling you ignorant? I don't know. Does that demand future single combat? I think it does. But that's just me.
I asked them why they were using such vulgar language with me, and they simply denied that any such language had been used. Despite having literally sworn at me multiple times, seconds prior.
Ever been to a police bar? The language would curl your hair. I take some pride in that I can be so vulgar as to make them puke. It's a learned art. It's funny how cops so try to pretend that they are as tough as those of us who really do the tough stuff. Oh well. That's them.
There was one police officer, who was mostly quiet, who seemed to be looking at me somewhat sympathetically. I sensed that he was not comfortable with what his fellow officers were doing.
A liberal. Don't trust him/her.
But I was just subjected to an warrentless, suspicionless search, contrary to my Charter Rights. And when I protested my treatment, I was repeatedly told that they "don't care". They accused me of not caring about the security of Toronto, and they called me ignorant twice. I should note that I was never given any chance to really say much to them at all, so I can only assume that they had some prior knowledge of who I was.
Well, I don't know. The fact that they didn't care is relevant. No warrant, no prior suspicion, no probable cause. Goddamn, you gotta love this new lawnorder society. Fuck the Charter, at least until it fails to serve you, but let's face it, the damned thing only makes it harder for cops to catch the real criminals.

If you're not doing anything wrong then you have nothing to fear.

And if you want you can read Terrence Watson's uninterrupted posting on The Shotgun Blog, the home of Ezra Levant and KKKate McMillan.

Terrence's rights, no less than any other Canadian's entrenched rights, were grossly violated, and he has every right to complain. He is a Canadian and expects full protection from the possibility of an overbearing police state.

Let's back him to the hilt and make sure this never happens again. He just experienced the embryonic stages of a Hitlerian Canada.

If you're not doing anything wrong, the police can do whatever they want to whomever they want.

Hat tip Stage Left.

Do you have a complaint against the Toronto Police?

Were you harassed? Were you beaten? Were you treated as less than a citizen? Were you arrested for doing nothing more than trying to see through some overpaid goon's sunglasses? (That's right you fucking morons. If you allowed yourselves to be suborned by a questionable law which had yet to be published to give you comfort then you are an overpaid fucking goon.)

Did you have an ugly encounter with the cheapest members of law enforcement?

Too bad.

A police state is a tough thing to break down.

Vacant of thought; absence of innovation

This editorial in the Globe and Mail could have been so much more. The opener was tantalizing enough but then it wanders off into a minefield.
Despite the best efforts of radical protesters aptly called thugs, G20 security accomplished its most critical task. Summit work was conducted without disruption for the participants. But the same can hardly be said of its impact on the rest of us. The major disruption caused to the economic life of Canada’s largest city, and the staggering cost of the summit to Canadians generally, raise serious questions about the future of such meetings, and invites serious reflection about how to host a G20 summit.
And that's about where the navel-gazing started and the lint-picking commenced.

There is no doubt that the "thugs" commanded too much attention - both on the streets of Toronto and inside the G20 meeting venue. The truth is, they attract each other. While both groups purport to be out to save the world, neither is capable of doing so.

The Black Bloc are neither right nor left politically and I don't believe for a second that they are true anarchists. Under brighter lights they are little more than behaviour challenged children throwing a violent tantrum without a shred of legitimate cause. They're attention junkies, which makes them little different from the horde of overblown egos meeting at the G20 summit.
The sheer scale of the G20 – so many leaders accompanied by so many large entourages – makes it virtually impossible to host at a resort in the way that the G8 has often been in the past. [...] The problem is there are very few places in the world outside of a major metropolis that can accommodate 10,000 delegates, 4,000 media, together with the security and ancillary hangers-on associated with a G20 summit.
And that's where the G&M went straight off the rails.

The G20 leaders and the thousands who accompany them, will tell you that they are out to save the world. Except that, in order to do that, they have to meet in palatial surroundings, couched in comfort and savour levels of luxury, all the better to make the meeting go smoothly.

Never mind that the meeting was hardly necessary in the first place. Most of what was done at the G20 had been agreed upon well ahead of the arrival of the first delegates. The final results were as shallow as the fake-lake and nothing was binding. Further, the decisions by this group may well send the world reeling. These are not the sharpest knives in the drawer.
That means the G20 will by necessity end up in large cities, a fertile environment for radicals, with plenty of support, places to hide and easy targets.
No... that means the authors didn't even think about how to do it differently. They also didn't acknowledge that holding a summit like G20 in a Northern Hemisphere city in June, after universities have ended their exam sessions, when the weather is good and the daylight hours are long, is just about as intelligent as taking a Guineau Pig for a walk through a pit of Boa Constrictors.

Unless the violence and heavy-handed security is something Harper intentionally manufactured. That's possible, but then Harper is another dull knife. He may be a master political manipulator but most of that is focused inward and serves to feed his over-sized ego. He only plays a long game if someone explains it to him first and Harper isn't much of a listener. He is, however, prone to impulsive, poorly thought-out behaviour and ideas as evidenced from things like the Alberta Firewall Letter, his addresses to American conservatives and his enraged response to the Chretien government's refusal to join the Bush/Cheney expedition to Iraq.
The police deserve praise for securing the summit site. Farther from the site, though, their success was less obvious. True there were no serious known injuries. True also the police showed too much restraint in dealing with the so-called Black Bloc, which ran amok.
The police showed too much restraint?! From any angle it is viewed, the police failed to protect people and property. And the coincidence of strategically placed, unattended police vehicles will continue to raise suspicion. It is not a stretch, at all, to suggest that the Toronto police, under orders from the ISU were running a strategy. They wanted that first rampage to happen. It gave them permission to behave through the remainder of the summit security exercise like Stalinist goons.
It’s important not to overstate what happened: too many windows were broken and cars destroyed, but the damage to property was neither massive nor widespread. Despite the mass police presence, Toronto did not become a “police state.”
Did the weekend at the lake without a radio or TV, did we? Police charged crowds who were doing nothing. They sent organized assaulters into peaceful gatherings of people. They threatened people who took photographs and videos. What's not "police state" about that? Not to mention the egregious secret law they felt happy to operate under.
But the lesson is clear. World leaders need to meet in sufficiently large but flexible groups to tackle big collective challenges – Skype is no substitute for face-to-face contact. And they must be able to undertake their deliberations securely.
Well, we finally agree, albeit only on one point. If they have to meet, and I still don't see the need to have to gather and thump chests like a bunch of old frat brothers out for a weekend at a high-priced sweat lodge, then doing so in a secure venue is required. A large city will never be a secure venue. At least not without trampling on the rights of its citizens and making a tacit declaration that the high and mighty, elected though they may be, will look down their noses at the revolting peasants. It is big brother wrote large.
This is the major conundrum: only major cities can host such gatherings, but future G20 meetings should not produce another Toronto, with its great security costs, massive disruption, and temporarily curtailed freedoms.
It is not a conundrum at all. It only remains so if things like the G20 continue in their present form.

This pack of bananas keep telling us they are out to save the world from... itself. They attach huge amounts of urgency and importance to the need for such summits. Only they and their huge "entourages" can do it.

Fine. Lose the luxury.

Let's see how often G20 summits occur when the meeting is held in the hinterland; when the accommodations are a mixture of portable structures and tents; when the fine dining is replaced by camp food; when a large number of the toilets for the "entourage" are porta-potties and the communications is provided by military satellite links.

Let's see if these people are so intent on saving the world that they are willing to give up the opulence of their privileged existences to do so. We might find out exactly how many of these clowns were actually necessary for such a summit and how many were only here to waste their own and the host country's taxpayer dollars to attend a weekend summer party.

Mr. Harper

"I don't like you Mr. Harper. I don’t like what you’ve done to my democracy, my country, and my city."

- Posterchild, via Torontoist and Thor

Where's it all leading?

Some reflections on this weekend's events in Toronto:

There's an equation of sorts that emerges from these organise protests.

1. There will always be masked window smashers and rock chuckers. If they are absent, Montebello has shown the police are quite willing to provide their own.

2. The presence of a reactionary few will be used as justification for police actions against the many.

3. The police don't play fair and will create the circumstances that justify their use of force. See number one and this.

4. It's getting worse. Government and police have demonstrated they are willing to pass secret laws to further their capacity for violence against the public. In Canada.

There's something about all this that doesn't make sense.

One would logically think that security planning for mass protests would have sought to minimise the use of active measures of crowd control because doing so inflames tempers and raises tension. Trapping a group of passive marchers between two lines of riot police, yet demanding they disperse, is like caging an animal and raises the chances of damaged property and physical harm to protestors and police, especially when the police charge the crowd. On the surface, this appears pretty reckless and looks like incompetent command and control by the police.

One would therefore think that a security planner would want to do their utmost to keep tempers under control and let the marchers have their day. The security comes into play not with baton charges and mass arrests, but in deploying the riot police in such a way as to control the route and deny access to critical infrastructure and locations where the massing of protestors would be extremely difficult to manage should things get out of hand. Broken windows and such are what insurance companies are for and do not, when smashed by a few, constitute a riot. Indeed, I remember a conversation years ago with a British soldier who described the fascinating and very clever thinking behind protest management in Northern Ireland; how they army and RUC would control march routes and prevent consolidation of the crowd by blocking access certain streets and places, aka controlling the ground. The idea being that you really didn't want to make the job harder than you had to, and especially in a place like NI, add fuel to the fire. Or India. Or any number of other places where the authorities went in heavy and succeeded in making more enemies than friends.

Restraint, where at all possible, is the name of the game.

The actions of a few window-smashers and bait car-burners to justify tear gas and mass arrest seems counterproductive. What might have happened if they were simply ignored? The disruption caused by window smashing isn't nearly as disruptive as arresting 700 people, launching CS gas, and baton charges.

So, I ask again, what was the thinking behind what is clearly police escalation of the events in Toronto? What possessed them to think mass arrests were a good idea? Secret laws? If I've made the practical case for minimising the use of force against protestors, why did we see what saw in Toronto?

Three possible answers come to my mind, two of them suggest intent.

First, there's a new fad in cop-think around protest control and crowd behaviour theory that says actions like Toronto are sound ways of dealing with public dissent. Maybe there's a consultant running around the police conferences giving lectures on this and selling them sound cannon and riot helmets.

Second, maybe this is a result of having a government intolerant of dissent with a hand in security planning. Sympathetic and stupid police brass might help them too.

Third, utter incompetence on the part of the security planners. Not unheard of. And not necessarily exclusive of the first two.

Implicit behind the first two scenarios is the notion of the public as the enemy. Not simply citizens acting out as is their right, but an enemy to be fought. Well at least certain members of it: namely those with argument against the government of the day. Lock them up, push them down, make them fearful to publicly challenge the forces of order and authority.

Except it almost never works. And when it does, it never lasts forever.

The right to public dissent is not just an abstract democratic notion about free speech or democracy, it serves a very practical purpose as a release valve for the stress pressures that accumulate in any society. Free and democratic societies, more so. Attempt to close these valves with force, and the pressure will escape elsewhere. The day to day job of police just got a bit harder because they come across [perhaps more so] as untrustworthy thugs: That was somebody's granddaughter being hauled away in riot cuffs, somebody's nephew that caught a truncheon the face. The long term electoral prospects of the Harper Regime just got a little slimmer and its fascistic and authoritarian soul revealed a bit more. Protesters will take more protections, some will become more violent. Tactics will change. All will raise the ante and cost and erode the foundational trust of our society. Governments that try to crush dissent ultimately fail.

Charlie ain't happy . . .

THE NY TIMES MAGAZINE has an article, "Tuna's End", by Paul Greenburg. Doesn't look good for bluefin. 

What was in the water that day was a congregation of Atlantic bluefin tuna, a fish that when prepared as sushi is one of the most valuable forms of seafood in the world. It’s also a fish that regularly journeys between America and Europe and whose two populations, or “stocks,” have both been catastrophically overexploited. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, one of only two known Atlantic bluefin spawning grounds, has only intensified the crisis. By some estimates, there may be only 9,000 of the most ecologically vital megabreeders left in the fish’s North American stock, enough for the entire population of New York to have a final bite (or two) of high-grade otoro sushi. The Mediterranean stock of bluefin, historically a larger population than the North American one, has declined drastically as well. Indeed, most Mediterranean bluefin fishing consists of netting or “seining” young wild fish for “outgrowing” on tuna “ranches.” Which was why the Greenpeace craft had just deployed off Malta: a French fishing boat was about to legally catch an entire school of tuna, many of them undoubtedly juveniles.

Worth the read.

Alex back in warm water... and growing.

Alex emerged from the Yucatan intact and with enough organization to quickly regenerate. While it had been downgraded to a Tropical Depression over the Yucatan, it is now back to Tropical Storm and the expectation from both guidance models and forecasters is that Alex will spin up to a Hurricane sometime before it makes its next landfall.

The question still remains, where will Alex make landfall and how much effect will it have on the oil blowout off Louisiana. (And should the containment effort be interrupted because of a possible hurricane?)

Based on models and forecasts, the probability of Alex plowing through the oil spill is very low. That doesn't mean there won't be some effects felt in that area. Significant winds, seas and swells will have the effect of blowing the surface oil towards the coast.

The area of low wind shear, high sea surface temperatures (29.5 C) and high mid-level moisture all suggest Alex has the necessary conditions to fuel it further. Models present a wide range of possible landfalls from north of Corpus Christi, Texas to Tampico, Mexico. For the next 48 hours Alex is expected to continue a slow North West movement as it intensifies.

I'm keeping an eye on the ocean buoy (42055) in the Bay of Campeche over the next day or so.

I'm also watching the weakening ridge over the central US. If two of the models are correct, further weakening will have the effect of steering Alex poleward.

Rights? Don't be cute

Lesson One from the G8/G20 protests: The police and the political support behind them, don't give a good goddamn about such quaint things as rights or whether your protest is peaceful. Even Five Feet of Fascist was shocked to learn that police ignorance and condescension also applies to rightwingers.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chet's Back!

And he's pissed....Bloody hell, all it took was spending billion dollars on a couple dozen international political leaders and several thousand riot cops in his fair city.

At the going down of the sun ...

With condolences and respect to the families and friends of Master Corporal Kristal Giesebrecht, 1 Canadian Field Hospital, and Private Andrew Miller, 2 Field Ambulance. Both medics were serving with Task Force Kandahar Health Services Unit.

Killed due to enemy action.

Militi Succurrimus

"BP bets on Kevin Costner's oil cleaning machine"

Jesus. A headline a like that must be a sign of the End Times. I need a drink.

Alex. Landfall in Belize.

Tropical Storm Alex made landfall at just after 2300 GMT yesterday. The movement slowed slightly and, as expected the storm lost intensity. It has been downgraded to a Tropical Depression for the time being. It dropped large quantities of moisture on Belize and the surrounding environs.

A good description of the passing of Alex through coastal Belize is provided by the Cay Caulker website where the writer describes the rapidly changing weather.

Alex will soon leave the Yucatan behind and enter the Gulf of Mexico. What happens after that is currently a guess. The high sea surface temperatures and low wind shear will give Alex renewed energy and reintensification to Tropical Storm status and possibly into a hurricane. Everything now depends on how much the storm slows once over water and how long it stays there.

Right now there is a ridge of high pressure north of Alex which would have the effect of causing the storm to alter to the west and make an eventual landfall on Mexico's east coast. A good number of computer models are providing that forecast guidance, however, there are some models and model ensembles which have the ridge weakening enough to cause Alex to recurve poleward and toward the northern reaches of the Gulf of Mexico.

At this point a high confidence forecast is going to require a later-in-the-day model run with more atmospheric data. That underscores another point of contention.

On at least two U.S. television stations the personalities reading and pointing at the weather conditions made statements to the effect that Alex had made landfall well to the south of the Gulf of Mexico and that all danger of the storm becoming involved with the oil blowout in the Gulf had now passed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A majority of tropical storms which make landfall on the Yucatan survive and continue to present a threat with a large percentage of them strengthening to hurricanes. As the US National Hurricane Center states in its forecast discussion:
I suspect the forecaster at NHC added that statement to the discussion because of the unsubstantiated conclusions being reached by US media broadcast personalities.

Alex remains a danger and at present we have no conclusive idea as to where it will end up.

G20 : The first rule of Fight Club is ...

"For the past few weeks, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said, it has been in talks with police to clarify the rules in and around the security zone: What are the rights of citizens, what search powers are police entitled to, and what should protestors be told before they go out to protest. They were told of a number of requirements, rules and laws that could be invoked.

But the Public Works Protection Act never came up, they said. Not once. Not even when the CCLA sent the police a version of the “Know Your Rights” brochure to review before handing it out to protestors as they geared up for the summit.
“They replied to us, but nowhere was this legislation even mentioned,” said Abby Deshman, a project manager with the CCLA "

~Toronto Star

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ignorance of the law is no excuse...

But if it has not been Gazetted yet, I cannot "reasonably" be expected to know it exists.

Over the top? Yeah. Somebody is over the top.

The connection between Stephen Harper's department and the Hitlerian security being rammed down the throats of citizens supposedly protected by a Charter of Rights for a "summit" for which the final communique has already been written is becoming very apparent.

That this whole thing has been planned for a long time, including the crushing of rights no government has the final authority to remove is finally starting to occur to people - especially those outside Toronto who are wondering why it had to be this way.

Perhaps this explains it. Harper doesn't give a red rat's ass about your rights. Everything is about him and if you rain on his tinker-toy parade, he'll punish you. He, who should be defending everything constitutional about this federation has proven, once again, that such things are mere trifles to be cast aside for his own personal aggrandizement.

This is the second Canadian city to have endured extreme and unnecessary measures in less than a year to provide empowered right-wingers, and especially Harper, with a sanitized environment in which to hold an expensive party which purposely excluded most of the population.

So ... we all called this "over the top" and the moment at which the Paul Martin campaign had jumped the shark. If it had been written by Nostradamus the superstitious would be calling it "dead on accurate". At the time, I thought it was appalling.

I no longer view it that way.

Stevie strikes again . . .

Five metres of fascism

A couple of law blogs have discussed the apparently legality of the move to embed a modification in the Public Works Protection Act 1939 to allow warrantless search and arrest within five metres of designated security perimeter.

Law professor James Morton minimises the impact of the law and suggests that the it might actually fall within Constitutional wiggle room and apparently isn't as bad as it looks.
It's probably constitutional as a small infringement on rights for legitimate goal -- the Supreme Court has ruled protection of foreign officials is a valid public goal. (It may be questionable in terms of federalism -- it's probably better as a federal law). Regardless, I suspect any charges will be withdrawn before trial (and after the Summit) so a challenge to the regulation would be moot.

My only concern would be an expansion of the use of the PWPA to allow warrantless searches more widely. In theory if it works once it'll work again ... . (But I don't see it being used widely and if it was it would be struck as unconstitutional -- it only works because it's brief and for a special event).
Well, fair enough I suppose regarding the legality. But I think he Morton misses the large problem, which Law is Cool blogger Lawrence Griden seems to get:

...the Ontario cabinet quietly designated a 5-meter radius around the G20 security area as a “public work” without really telling anyone.

The regulation authorizing these powers in relation to the G20 zone was filed on June 14, 2010 and went into force a week later. But to my knowledge, the government made no announcement of the regulation. Worse yet, it has not been published in the Ontario Gazette (it will only be published in July, after it is no longer in force). Since the regulation is not yet part of Ontario’s consolidated law, the only way to access the regulation is to look it up in the “source law” section of the e-Laws website here.

For all practical purposes, this is a “secret law,” because of the failure of the government to publicize it.

This law authorizes extraordinary police powers, and it significantly derogates from our ordinary civil rights. There is a real risk of people being arrested and charged when exercising the same rights to refuse to answer questions and submit to searches that apply everywhere else. In my opinion, the government should have been more forthcoming about the law to minimize that risk.

However, I think there's more to be said. As I read it, a provincial cabinet has found a means - through Order-in-Council - of temporarily modifying that law to give police expanded powers akin to those that might provided under the federal Emergencies Act, but in complete secrecy, and time limited in such a way as to neuter any sort of organised legal challenge. All done at the request of a police chief. Without public debate.

It doesnt matter if it's technically legal, it appears to demonstrate a legal loophole you could push a Mussolini through. That seems to me to big something of a big deal.

So I have some questions for the legally inclined readers:

What's to stop government and police from using the same process again in other contexts, should the police whinge that existing law like Charter Rights makes their job too damn hard and could politicians please help them out there, or politicians get it in their heads to do something that some pesky members of the public might object to?

At the tactical level, what's to stop a designated authority from declaring any bit of infrastructure a "public work" critical to security in order to provide legal cover for any old arrest or search?

Taser tales . . .

THE DAILY MAIL ONLINE has a report, well, ya gotta wonder — 'Don't taze my granny!' American police accused of using a Taser on an 86-year-old, bed-ridden grandmother. Really. And this was after asphyxiating the poor old woman.

Lonnie Tinsley called the emergency services to his home in El Reno, Oklahoma, when he became concerned that his grandma Lona Vernon had failed to take her medication.

But instead of a medical technician, he claims at least a dozen armed police officers answered his call.

In order to ensure 'officer safety', one of his men 'stepped on her oxygen hose until she began to suffer oxygen deprivation'.

Another of the officers then shot her with a taser, but the connection wasn’t solid.

A second fired his taser, 'striking her to the left of the midline of her upper chest, and applied high voltage, causing burns to her chest, extreme pain', and unconsciousness.

Tropical Storm Alex

The tropical wave we have been watching in the Caribbean has evolved and gained enough energy to become the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season - Tropical Storm Alex.

The direction this cyclone will take is still only a best guess at this time. There is considerable variance in the forecast guidance models although for the next 24 to 48 hours the estimate is that Alex will move in a general direction of West Northwest at about 9 knots (16.6 kmh/10.4 mph).

The wind shear over Alex remains low and the sea surface temperatures are very high. There is plenty of moisture and the storm is producing heavy rainfall which does not bode well for the estimated landfall areas of Honduras, Belize and the Yucatan peninsula.

What happens after Alex crosses the Yucatan is a big question. This storm is intensifying quickly and stands a good chance of emerging from the Yucatan landmass with enough energy to become a hurricane within the next 96 hours. Most forecasts are taking guidance which suggests that once Alex is in the Gulf of Mexico it will be influenced further westward making landfall somewhere around Tampico, Mexico.

Friday, June 25, 2010

How to match a headline with a photo...

Over at Laila Yuile's.

Tropical Depression ONE ...

... is forecast to become a Tropical Storm by Saturday morning. If that happens the first named tropical cyclone in that area will become Tropical Storm Alex.

We'll have to wait to see what happens over the next few hours. Jeff Masters has a great history of past systems which developed in a similar fashion.

Most forecast models have this system crossing the Yucatan, increasing in strength but passing west of the oil blow-out area. Right now the concern is the amount of moisture this system will drop (and has already started to drop) on the coastal areas of the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize and Nicaragua.

On rats

Earlier today I found the Privy Council Office link describing the combined Olympic-G8/G20 security planning structure.

Now, as more unfolds about the unprecedented legal end-run around the Constitution over police powers, I think we're alse seeing a big more of Rev's rat.

Consider the party membership of the PCO (note this particularly angry old man), their party's recent tradition of Constitutional malfeasance in other contexts (including the intentional disregard of the Constitutional rights of other Canadians), and the outline of a particular sort of rat emerges.

Harper : $1.1 billion for maternal healthcare

$1.3 billion to deliver it . (h/t Antonia Z)

Liveblogging the demos : Torontoist and The Star

Spinning up Invest 93L. UPDATED

UPDATE 252300Z: Apparently I had no sooner posted the information below and the NHC upgraded Invest 93L to a Tropical Depression (labelled TD1). Further, they are now projecting this system surviving a transit of the Yucatan and reaching into the Gulf of Mexico with Tropical Storm strength. The projected cone if influence provided by NHC through to Wednesday.

A little update from this past Monday. Remember Invest 93L, that disorganized bunch of clouds in the Caribbean that had all the right conditions to become a cyclone?

Well, here it is now.

Some pertinent conditions:
1. Wind shear - Low.

2. Sea surface temperature - extremely high.

3. Surrounding air - lots of moisture.

4. Landmass to interfere with development - too far away.

The US National Hurricane Center is now saying this one has an 80 percent chance of developing into a Tropical Depression and becoming a cyclone. I think may already be there. The latest readings of ocean buoys all through the Caribbean say this system is already at the depression stage.

What now?

Well, if it keeps tracking WNW it will make landfall over the Yucatan peninsula and likely weaken. I doubt if there is enough energy in it to pop out into the Pacific with any force. However, on the way through it will carry huge amounts of moisture and it puts Central America in peril of flooding.

The likelihood of this system finding its way to the Gulf of Mexico and over the mess created by the BP well blow-out, is very slim. Although, it depends on how quickly and with what force it spins up.

Once this one finishes its performance, there's always Invest 94L well to the East to watch closely, although there is currently only a low probability of development.

More questions...

Drawing on POGGE and Greg, there's another set of questions around the G8/20 security Frankenstein that haven't been addressed and probably won't.

How did the powers that be come up with the $1.2 billion, Constitution trumping gong show that we're watching unfold?

It didn't come out of thin air, people had to do a security analysis and figure out what resources they would need, and how they ought to deploy them. Who does this? And how? Oh.

The Office of the Coordinator for the 2010 Olympics and G8 Security coordinates the Government's response to the security tasks of hosting three major international events:

  • The 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver-Whistler
  • The 2010 G8 Summit in Huntsville, Ontario
  • The G20 Summit in Toronto

The Office of the Coordinator works closely with the various federal departments and agencies involved in these security efforts. It also serves as a central point of contact between provincial and federal agencies, as well as international partners.
In this role, the Office:

  • Coordinates security planning with relevant federal, provincial and municipal players
  • Ensures testing of operational readiness and interoperability of security plans
  • Establishes a coordinated approach to communications
  • Identifies and coordinates funding requirements among federal departments and agencies
  • Provides advice and recommendations to the Prime Minister, Cabinet and other ministers
  • Coordinates bilateral discussions between Canadian departments and agencies, and with international partners (notably the U.S)

I'm probably not alone in wondering just how their planning meetings went. Whose views won the day and under what rationale? Because turning downtown Toronto into 1970s Belfast without a serious threat does not happen in a vacuum.

How [not] to make friends and influence people

We're by now all familiar with how the strategically well-placed violent act of a few individuals can cause the state over-react and commit itself to extortionate security exercises in the name of protecting itself. Some of us even understand that was the name of the game for the instigators from the start, playing the state against itself to rally support for their cause.

It is amazing to watch how the the ungoing security festival is unfolding, in part due to the past actions of a few window-breaking kids (well, at least in the cases where it wasn't the police themselves breaking the windows).

Oh, sorry, some of you may have thought I was referring to 11/9/2001 in New York City. Well I am, but indirectly.

Nearly 9 years ago a small band of terrorists hijacked some commercial jets and destroyed the World Trade Centre in New York, and damaged the Pentagon.

I do not under any circumstances condone that action.

However, there were reasons why it happened. Chief among them was the rage inducing insult felt by many to interventionist bullying by the United States in Middle-East and South Asia. Since then, 10s or 100s of thousands of lives have been lost and trillions spent by the US and West on invasions and occupations of two countries. The original instigators of the attack have broad regional and even global support, and have now managed to disrupt the internal security of a nuclear armed state. They've attracted allies in Europe who have since attacked trains and airports. In many places they've prompted fearful and stupid governments to enact laws trumping the long struggled for rights of their citizens, creating at least the institutional architecture for oppression normally found in despotic regimes in far off places.

The security measures in Toronto are clearly off the charts. We're watching lives and livelihoods disrupted for a few days, thousands of police given Constitution trumping powers of arrest and search. Fortified city blocks, lines of fencing, and probably enough firepower both lethal and non to outfit a small army. Why? Well, the only precedent is a few people damaging property because they were pissed at the oppressive and cruel actions of the state around any number of issues from neoliberalism to the wellbeing of minorities and the poor. The miles of fencing, sound cannon and tear gas are not for a few terrorists, they are for the public rallying around the same issues as the window breakers. Oh, and those who simply find it offensive to be searched in their own city.

Not quite the same as Afghanistan or Iraq in terms of the actual particpants and the tools used. But the same principle is at work. People don't like being bullied. Especially on their own turf.

We do not like seeing lines of riot police, security fencing, checkpoints, and barriers deployed against us in the absence of a national emergency and actual riots. We do not like seeing our tax dollars spent on these things. It's frankly fucking insulting. We feel like we are being bullied in our own homes. And we start to sympathise with the protestors. Perhaps even the violent ones. Not because we necessarily share ideologies or sympathies with the assortment of causes that turn up at these things, but because you built a fence across our road and lined it with armed men and women who search our bags and threaten us with arrest for refusing to show ID.

No, it's not quite the same as bombing or invading another country, but it is an invasion of our spaces and places and the use of our own money and police against us without active justification. You don't have to understand politics to get how repugnant and fundamentally disprectful that is. The same principle is at work in other places. Put soldiers in my village, kicking down doors and shooting people, I'd be mighty pissed and... Because to hell with you for coming here and telling me what's good for at gun point.

Fence and checkpoint my neighbourhood, you'll feel in the ballot box. Keep it up, and we'll bankrupt you in security costs, because we'll march and you'll shit yourselves. Violate our rights, we'll have you in court. Manage to kill some of us because a few of your goons lose bladder control, well, all bets are off on how that might play out.

Underpinning all of this is one key thing. That is a fundamental ignorant disrespect of people and the person on the part of of the security planners and politicians behind them. We've presently got the unholy mix of a government which by paradox manages to trump high lines about individualism, yet also guts programs and legislation protecting the individual, and a policing system that has lost all sense of bearing when it comes to dealing with actual people. The former is all lawnorder all the time and anywhere, and the latter now pretty much has a weapon for mediating every type of social interaction. Give them a G8/20 and of course they'll drive themselves off a cliff.

They just can't help themselves. At their own peril of course.

Getting to the end of the Monopoly Game . . .

WASHINGTON MONTHLY has a disturbing article by Barry C. Lynn and Phillip Longman, "Who Broke America’s Jobs Machine?". Scary stuff:

If any single number captures the state of the American economy over the last decade, it is zero. That was the net gain in jobs between 1999 and 2009—nada, nil, zip. By painful contrast, from the 1940s through the 1990s, recessions came and went, but no decade ended without at least a 20 percent increase in the number of jobs.
. . .

But while the mystery of what killed the great American jobs machine has yielded no shortage of debatable answers, one of the more compelling potential explanations has been conspicuously absent from the national conversation: monopolization. The word itself feels anachronistic, a relic from the age of the Rockefellers and Carnegies. But the fact that the term has faded from our daily discourse doesn’t mean the thing itself has vanished—in fact, the opposite is true. In nearly every sector of our economy, far fewer firms control far greater shares of their markets than they did a generation ago. 

Indeed, in the years after officials in the Reagan administration radically altered how our government enforces our antimonopoly laws, the American economy underwent a truly revolutionary restructuring. Four great waves of mergers and acquisitions—in the mid-1980s, early ’90s, late ’90s, and between 2003 and 2007—transformed America’s industrial landscape at least as much as globalization. Over the same two decades, meanwhile, the spread of mega-retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot and agricultural behemoths like Smithfield and Tyson’s resulted in a more piecemeal approach to consolidation, through the destruction or displacement of countless independent family-owned businesses.

And when the Monopoly game is over, you just dump the pieces back in the box . . .

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I smell a stainless steel rat

That $1.1 billion had to be going somewhere and now we know where a chunk of it is going -- to a security firm that isn't even licenced in Ontario and is offering about double the going rate for its glorified bouncers. I'm sure the firm in question - Contemporary Security Canada - has absolutely no ties to the Conservative Party of Canada and that everything was strictly on the up and up in granting them the massive contract for providing about 1,000 security screeners, many of whom were hired last month so I'm sure they will be trained to a razor's edge.

“We’ve had some intense discussions about this at APSA in the last few days,” says Ross McLeod, president of the Association of Professional Security Agencies based in Toronto. “I’ve been doing RFPs and tenders for 30 years in this business, and it doesn’t pass the smell test.”
On May 31, Contemporary Security set up a hiring office at Humber College in Toronto and was taking applications up until today.

Contemporary held the $97-million security contract for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. On its website Contemporary says they will be "Supervised by the RCMP and Integrated Security Unit" and will be responsible for providing "airport-type pedestrian security screening, including inspection of persons and items at  the G8 and G20 sites."

According to its own website, CSC has received its licence to operate in Ontario and since I can't determine the exact publication date of the article quoted above except to narrow it down to sometime this month, I suppose it is possible CSC has been licenced in Ontario for as long a two whole weeks.

(With apologies to Slippery Jim DiGriz for this post's title) Crossposted from the Woodshed.

McChrystal meth

Or in lieu of my last post (via LeDaro):

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