Saturday, June 28, 2014

Seen on Facebok

This was on a Facebook site called Cop Block, which also maintains a regular web site. It's a good example of citizen journalism. The local media kept Jason Peck's identity secret, but anyone who is familiar with the internet, and who looked at the many online postings of video of the march in question, can easily identify him.

Cop Block is one of a number of web sites that publicize abuses of power by law enforcement and have as their guiding principle Benjamin Franklin's warning that "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

The Albuquerque media have done stories on Albuquerque Police Department's surveillance of marchers at last weekend's march protesting APD violence, but I haven't seen any articles or segments that have gone into the constitutional and legal issues that make it dangerous to allow this kind of surveillance, in which information about law abiding citizens who are not committing any crimes is being gathered and filed away by APD, and which is exactly what the NSA is doing with its almost unbelievably massive surveillance of American citizens.

Some of the marchers interviewed by local media seemed to be aware of the implications but didn't express them very well, which is entirely understandable given their inexperience with the issues and with dealing with media questions. They're just people who got fed up with the Albuquerque police killing people for no good reason and are trying to do something about it.

But of course we, by granting our government permission to spy on us, are creating the conditions for the abuse of power that the whole American system of "checks and balances" is designed to curtail.

The "founders" had experience with hereditary rulers who had known no limits to their power, and they had seen played out the saying that "absolute power corrupts absolutely." You might trust our current political class under the current circumstances, but you have no idea who will be in power 20 or 50 years from now or how much the potential for abuse will have grown in during that time, with more of these newfound capabilities for spying coming into use, with the authorities becoming better able to exploit them, with more dislocations of populations caused by global warming, more fear mongering, more xenophobia, more economic insecurity, more everything.

And the implications go deeper than the United States and its form of government. They have to do with human psychology. When you know that you have no privacy, that everything you do is known to the powers over you, it changes your behavior in ways you're not even aware of.  You become self censoring, first in your behavior, then, as any behavioral psychologist will tell you, in your thinking.

Corporations, which are also spying on us in the same ways as government and collecting the same kind of information, don't spend billions of dollars a year on advertising for nothing. They know for a fact that they can influence human behavior with advertising, and they plan to use the information they're collecting about us to influence our behavior as much as they possibly can, and they have better experts than the government does.

And government will never be far behind, and since we know that power has the ability to corrupt, and will corrupt, we can predict with pinpoint accuracy the future we'll have if the kind of surveillance that corporations and the NSA and the APD are doing is left unchecked.

So it's not just the possibility that dissidents will be herded into internment camps by a government drunk on its own power and paranoid about losing it. What's also at stake is maintaining our ability to think and act freely, in our own interests and not in the interests of a corporate board or big stockholders and not in the interests of some future incarnation of a political class made up of corruptible human beings.

Every freedom we have is at stake, and with the court system compromised by years of conservative court packing, citizen journalists are now leading the way in protecting them.

So Check In Once In Awhile

It's critical that the authorities know we're watching them. Just as their surveillance modifies our behavior and thought, their knowing that we're watching them modifies theirs and in a generally positive direction. Many blog writers and readers know this already, which one reason they blog and read. In this regard people like Jim Baca and Joe Monahan provide an invaluable service to New Mexico.

Here are some more web sites that are keeping an eye on law enforcement:

Police Complaints (Albuquerque) Facebook and web

Albuquerque Copwatch Facebook

Albuquerque Cop Block Facebook

National Cop Block Facebook and web

APD Forward (Albuquerque) Facebook and web

October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality (Albuquerque) Facebook  (Family members of victims of APD violence were involved with starting this.)

Eye on Albuquerque Facebook and web

Photography Is Not A Crime Facebook and web (Tracks the nationwide trend by governments to try to make it illegal to photograph the police while performing their duties. Publicizes cases of police (illegally) arresting people for photographing them and (illegally) confiscating their cameras and cell phones. Many instances of police misconduct are only known because a private citizen had a camera or cell phone and used it. Think Rodney King. Law enforcement generally resists being recorded, which is why it has to be done.)

Carlsbad Cop Watch Facebook

Police the Police (national) Facebook

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Guns Kill People

Where there are guns...

The US has 88.1 guns for every hundred people (men, women, and children) double the next highest, Yemen

There is death.

These charts were compiled from data collected by two Harvard researchers, as explained in an article by Matt Connoly in Policy Mic.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reset The Net: A Privacy Suite

Edward Snowden has issued a statement supporting a campaign by Fight For The Future, one of the primary Internet Freedom groups, to help people protect their internet and cell phone communication from government surveillance.

Free downloads are available for discreet web surfing, password protection, text message protection, private chat, etc., and are available for Windows, Mac, Android and iPhone.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Am I Leaving Not Today

The past is never dead. It's not even past.
William Faulkner

At Jim Baca's Only In New Mexico blog I just read a comment about on online poll at the Albuquerque Business Journal that asks: "Given what you know about conditions in your field, and the economy, do you think you'll be in New Mexico 10 years from now? Why or why not?"

The reference to the poll is meant to highlight Baca's take that day on the uncertain future of the Intel plant in Rio Rancho, a major, important Albuquerque area employer. Baca often writes about the state of New Mexico's and Albuquerque's economies and the failure of our current political and business leaders to do anything about their dismal and deteriorating condition.

The poll is running about 50-50 -- half say they plan to stay and half say they'll probably be leaving -- which results may or not be surprising. Much has to do with which readers decided to take the poll and it would be considered an unscientific poll in any event.

But what interested me more were the comments left by people who took the poll. They were mostly from the people who think they'll be leaving, and a sentiment they express repeatedly is that there's a hostile, even brutal environment here. The police here, who are notorious for their brutality, are mentioned once or twice, but most see the overall culture here as being that way. They say there's not a strong sense of community here or that people are more apt to try to take from you than to help you or be cooperative.

"I can appreciate the scenery and nice weather for only so long," one person remarked.

The comments interest me because New Mexico often seems to me, too, to be a hostile environment. I meet some very kind individuals here. I also meet many who act as if they can take me or leave me, and many who, no matter how well I treat them never return the favor. I seem to be met with mistrust and suspicion, from people I don't know, every time I leave my apartment. I see a different set of manners on display here, an abbreviated set, it seems to me, but at least a set that I'm not used to and that don't make practical sense to me.

But I hesitate to characterize New Mexico according to my impressions, for a couple reasons. One is that with the overall deterioration of the "middle class" in America, the slowly eroding living standards, the economic insecurity, the foreclosures, the shifting of jobs from industrial to service, I don't know that it's not becoming more hostile and brutal everywhere else in the country, too. I think it is. It's bound to.

Another is that the idea that it's a hostile environment here is primarily, I believe, an outsider's view. I don't hear natives speak of this place in that way. The things that characterize New Mexico for outsiders don't seem to be noticed by natives. This, to my way of thinking, could be because natives accept the hostility as a matter of course -- it's always been that way and that's just the way it is. Or it could be that to them, it's not hostile, that is, for a native, either it's not hostile or doesn't seem that way.

Boll Weavil Blues

I've experienced a kind of culture shock once before, when I moved from the Midwest where I grew up to take a reporting job in the South. There I found different manners, customs and practices, and for a long time, years, I felt like an alien. Those different ways had to do, I eventually concluded, with the unique history of the South. In short, the post Civil War area was very difficult. The economy was devastated, on its knees. People survived not so much by cooperation but because the large landowners let people sharecrop on their land, and in return, were allowed by the sharecropping working people to run things as they saw fit. This is why, to this day, there's so much deference to "the boss man" by Southern working people and why they have adopted the boss man's anti union, anti government-in-Washington (which ruined the economy) attitudes and why it's a red state, i.e. a conservative, area. It's a much more caveat emptor environment than where I grew up.

Racial division, the Southern variety, as a means of social control of the white sharecropper working class, was layered over this, and the federal government's involvement in enforcing civil rights only cemented their political attitudes even more.

I was more comfortable in William Faulkner's South when I had comprehended the implications of all this, and also when I'd adopted some of their Southern manners and customs myself, even in small ways, for example when I figured out the different ways in which they greeted each other in different places and began doing that myself. I wasn't treated with as much mistrust, and hostility, and was more comfortable.

La Historia

New Mexico has its own unique history, which also has a lot to do with the way things are here. For one, it was colonized by people from a different part of Europe than colonized the parts of America I'm accustomed to, who had a somewhat different concept of community, which was more centered around a patron type of economy, and who then after 1848 had people come out here and try to take their land. There's an interesting and rich history about the struggle over the land that took place, that's beyond the scope of this blog entry, mainly because it defies my easy summing up. I don't fully comprehend it yet, but it necessarily has had lingering effects on the culture here.

NM 371 with the old road to the right

A kind of truce in the struggle was eventually called, but it was mainly between people in the upper layers of society and not among the working class, which in many ways is still very segregated by ethnicity, ever moreso as you descend in socioeconomic level. You don't see very much intermingling and intermarriage down here on the street, at all, and there's a continual low level tension, a mistrust, that sometimes is expressed in a low level of hostility or even more.

New Mexico, it seems to me, developed in relative isolation -- just look at the physical distances to other population centers and then look at the old roads, which were just pathways through the desert, that in many places are still out there alongside the paved ones -- and I think of New Mexico, which became a state relatively recently, as a remnant of the old west, not the Hollywood west but the place where cowboys wore sombreros, a place where, also, it was difficult to make a living. The background is rural, farming. In rural areas back east also, people in those kinds of communities are not the genteel country folk of myth and song. They tend to go for every advantage in every interaction, business and social, because they see every interaction as part of a struggle for survival, that only they have any control over. The population is centered in New Mexico's cities now, but the cultural norms were established earlier. There are people living today who were raised by people who were struggling to get by here as farmers and herders before New Mexico was a state. You hear people say "family is important here." I think family is community, for many people. New Mexico was once a series of land grants, and the patron economy must have had similarities to plantations in terms of the way society and community developed and were conceived of.

NM 371, right. An older road, left, took a shorter route down the hill

I've been moving around my entire adult life, always looking for someplace better, i.e., someplace that suited me better, someplace that was better for me. For a long time before I stopped here I lived nowhere. I've decided to stay here, to make my stand here, as it were. I wish it was friendlier. I wish I didn't have street punks, working class people of all ages and ethnicities, blowing by me in their cars and pickups if I drive a mile or two an hour slower than they want me to, often crossing double yellow lines to do so and making me think they're idiots for wasting all that gasoline and wearing out their vehicles that much faster just so they can do a little end zone victory dance in their head. I wish I felt like businesses appreciated my patronage by thanking me for patronizing them when I could have just as soon gone someplace down the street. Etc.

But if I don't like certain things about it here I can try to make things better. I can try to demonstrate why it's better to cooperate than compete. I can try to spread goodwill when I can. I can try to have the attitude that this, that life, isn't all about me, and that I don't know everything.

We are very self absorbed, we people. We buy self help books by the millions or if not we notice and read and listen to all kinds of things about how to improve our situation, our own life, in all its aspects; our financial status, our health and sense of well being, our peace of mind, our position relative to other peoples' on whatever concocted hierarchy we are imagining at the moment.

I spend most of my time in the same mind set, but at those times when I do find myself in a less self absorbed state of mind and reflecting on the whys and wherefores of the overall picture, I try to think of my responsibility as a member of the human race and not only about how I personally am doing relative to everyone else. People here deserve a good life, too, and I've resolved to stay here, to understand why I'm sometimes met with hostility here, to figure out their ways here, to do what I can to make things better here. I can do that anywhere. I might as well do it where there's nice scenery and good weather, in New Mexico.