Archive for July, 2012

July 29, 1968: About That Typewriter…

By • on July 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm

In the heavy political weather of the summer of 1968, a war between the Seattle Police Department and the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party was almost inevitable. Tensions between the SPD and the Seattle BPP–barely six months old and already making an openly activist mark on a profoundly passive-aggressive city–were already stark enough without the typewriter business. On the date in focus here, the SPD raided the BPP office in the Central Area and arrested Panther captain Aaron Dixon and defense minister Curtis Harris. While Harris was released the next day, Dixon was charged with alleged possession of–no, not drugs; no, not weapons; get this–a stolen typewriter.

It was a laughable pretext with terrible consequences. Occurring in the midst of tension between Seattle’s black youth and the city government over the latter’s failure to provide adequate social services for minorities–and a summer that had already seen riots break out in the Central Area–the raid and arrests sparked yet another such riot in the neighborhood. This time it was serious: the July 29 riot lasted three days and resulted in further arrests–at least 69, according to one account–along with the wounding of seven policemen and two civilians hit by gunfire and rocks, in addition to property damage throughout the Central Area. The aftermath was political as well as physical: while the riot itself died down, a resulting war between the SPD and the Panthers would last another two years. The raid was, and still is, believed by many surviving Seattle BPP members and associates to have been part of a nationwide effort by the FBI to destroy the nationwide BPP, one of a number of FBI terror operations against citizen movements in effect at that time.

One last intriguing detail about the events described above deserves mention here. About that typewriter: it may or may not have found its way into the BPP office by means other than theft, judging from the later acquittal of Dixon and Harris in the matter of its possession. Funny how such things happen–especially when law and order are involved.

–Jeff Stevens. Sources: “4 Wounded In Outburst Of Gunfire,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 30, 1968, p. 1; Don Hannula, “Negroes Criticize Amount of Force in Police Search,” The Seattle Times, July 30, 1968, p. 2; “Panther Leader Charged in Theft,” The Seattle Times, July 30, 1968, p. 2; Mike Wyne, “9 Injured in Gunfire-Marked Outbreak in Central Area,” The Seattle Times, July 30, 1968, p. 3; “Ramon Blames Disturbances on Arrests,” The Seattle Times, July 30, 1968, p. 3; “30 Police-Action Protesters Crowd Into Chief’s Office,” The Seattle Times, July 30, 1968, p. 3; “Leader of Panthers Free on $3,000 Bail,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 31, 1968, p. 4; “Violence Must Be Curbed” (editorial), The Seattle Times, July 31, 1968, p. 10; “Aaron’s Trial,” Helix, August 1, 1968, p. 4; Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project (www.civilrights.washington.edu); Walt Crowley, “Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle” (University of Washington Press, 1995).

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L.A. ANSWER office ramsacked, robbed

By • on July 25, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Well, this has been an interesting day for people who don’t much like the government.

ANSWER is linking the break-in to its local support of protests against cop violence in Anaheim. But remember also that Los Angeles is where socialist activist Carlos Montes is hurtling toward trial after his arrest last year on transparently bogus federal charges.

Along with the FBI actions in the Northwest today, and previous harassment by both local and federal law enforcement agencies against Occupy activists in a number of cities, it does seem like the amount of legal (and extralegal) harassment against left or anarchist activists around the country is trending up. Not a reason to lie low or be paranoid, but activists should use common sense. Don’t share information unnecessarily which would create a problem in the wrong hands, and whatever you do, never, ever say anything to cops of any stripe.

The national ACLU office has some excellent resources on your rights if you come into contact with law enforcement personnel. Study up.

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FBI raids Occupy homes in Seattle, Oly, Portland

By • on July 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm

From the invaluable web site Green is the New Red:

[Wednesday morning] there have been multiple homes raided and grand jury subpoenas issued in Portland, Olympia, and Seattle.

Three homes were raided in Portland, by approximately 60-80 police including FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force. Individuals at the homes say police used flash grenades during the raid.

Grand jury subpoenas have been served to individuals in all three cities: 2 in Olympia, 1 in Seattle, and 2 in Portland. The grand jury is scheduled to convene on August 2nd at the federal courthouse in Seattle.

No arrests have been made. Electronics were confiscated along with additional personal items.

All legal documents related to the searches and grand jury are sealed, and the FBI will only say it is related to an “ongoing violent crime” investigation. But based on interviews with residents, and what police told them at the scene, this is clearly related to the ongoing demonization of anarchists and the Occupy movement.

Occupy activists, including black bloc anarchists, have frequently worked together throughout the West Coast, particularly Oakland, SF, and the three northwest cities targeted today. It was probably only a matter of time before law enforcement harassment began to exploit those links. More information continues to come out; follow the link above for regular updates.

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Primary Election 2012: Yes, There’s An Election Afoot

By • on July 22, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Most of us will hardly notice, but Washington state voters have a ballot to fill out. The suspense is, uh, not riveting. There’s not a whole lot going on this summer. The action is this fall, when hotly contested races for president and governor will dominate the news and the commercials. Now, not so much. [...]

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R.I.P. Alexander Cockburn

By • on July 22, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Very sad news: Iconoclastic author and columnist – and longtime ETS! contributor – Alexander Cockburn passed away yesterday at age 71 from cancer.

We didn’t always agree with Cockburn, and his penchant for picking fights with other pundits could get tiresome. But unlike many radical/left commentators, he never followed the herd and always thought things through for himself. And behind the scenes he was always remarkably kind, generous, and supportive of people working for a better world. We’ll miss him tremendously.

Cockburn’s web site, CounterPunch, is a living tribute to his work. Go take a look.

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Reclaim Our History: July 16-31

By • on July 17, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Special “Occupy!” Edition July 16, 1877: A wildcat strike of 30 railroad firemen in Martinsburg, West Virginia, protesting wage cutbacks, escalates into two weeks of national worker rebellion against the railroad industry and federal government. Riots killed dozens in the Midwest and East Coast, and strikers briefly seized the city governments of Pittsburgh and St. [...]

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The New Waterfront: Guess Who’s Paying the Bill?

By • on July 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Last week, the Central Waterfront Committee (CWC) released a funding plan for upcoming changes to the waterfront as part of the mega-project to dismantle the Alaskan Way Viaduct and build a replacement traffic tunnel under downtown.

Through a series of public meetings, the city has already compiled a list of projects to beautify Seattle’s waterfront and “reconnect” it to downtown.  Of course, in keeping with the privileged status of property owners in Seattle, the final wish-list doesn’t include demolishing waterfront condos and hotels in Belltown, which are proving to be a more long-lasting barrier to the waterfront than the Alaskan Way viaduct.

Nor is the funding plan a complete or comprehensive budget for the waterfront improvements.  To quote the CWC’s Strategic Plan:  “Certain promising elements of the long-term vision, identified in the City’s Framework Plan, are not funded in this funding plan.”  Okay, so it’s really a partial funding plan.

Nevertheless, the total cost of this first phase of the developers’ wish-list is a staggering $1.2 billion.  Unfortunately, The Seattle Times, our local Pravda, misreported the figure:  “…$240 million, about half of which would come from a local improvement district funded by downtown property owners, with the rest from city taxpayers and private donors.”

Untrue.  The CWC’s report provides a handy—albeit misleading—pie graph entitled “Funding Sources” which shows the costs as approximately $1.2 billion.  The graph, reproduced on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s website, shows that 60% of the funding is “Secured/Pending.”  No honest person would group “secured” funds with “pending” funds unless they wanted to create the impression that more money has been set aside than has actually been allocated.  When we look at the breakdown of that 60%, we see that nearly half of it is the 30-year Seawall Bond that will be on the ballot in November.  Voters may still reject it; hence that money is not “secured.”

Of the remaining “Secured/Pending” funds ($360 million), only a tiny sliver of that ($70 million) has been officially set aside by the City of Seattle to be spent specifically on the waterfront.  The rest is $290 million budgeted by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for the fiscal years 2012 through 2017.  As anyone who follows state politics knows, state transportation funds are regularly reallocated by the State Legislature.  If Republican Rob McKenna beats Democrat Jay Inslee for governor in November, you can bet there’s going to be a huge fight over transportation funding in 2013, and the Seattle waterfront project could lose big-time.

That’s just one scenario.  Another, more certain outcome would be a decrease in gas tax revenue, which is the main funding source for the state transportation budget.  The glacial pace of the economic recovery, along with the increasing price of gas, has already lowered the state’s gas tax revenue, as more people are driving fewer miles every year to save money.  The WSDOT funds can’t be considered “Secured.”

The other 40% of the CWC’s pie graph is labeled “Future Funding” and it consists of a vague range of between $350 million and $570 million.  For simplicity’s sake, let’s use the higher number, since the CWC has admitted that not all projects are funded in this proposal, and because it’s the rare exception for development projects to cost less than their initial estimates.

Of this “Future Funding,” only $300 million (or 23% of the overall financing package) will come from the local improvement district—property owners in a still-to-be-defined area who will pay higher taxes to support the new waterfront.  This is far lower than the 50% cited by Pravda.  And since this will not be up for a vote, ever, it’s unclear why this wasn’t grouped in the “Pending” category, along with the Seawall Bond, or the “Secured” category, along with the WSDOT funds.  Maybe because the boundaries of the local improvement district have yet to be defined.  Residents of Belltown, Lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union, First Hill, and the International District should be trembling in their shoes, especially if they belong to the vanishing breed of renters clinging to older apartments in these neighborhoods.  Landlords will make them pay the tax.

Of the remaining “Future Funding,” about $120 million will come from “Philanthropy” (private donations).  Let’s ask the Seattle Aquarium, Seattle Public Library, the Woodland Park Zoo, and thousands of other nonprofits in Seattle who’ve been scrambling desperately for money over the past four years how they feel about the entry of another big nonprofit into the scrum.  Most of these organizations have had to cut staff, services, and programming just to survive.  This chunk is the single biggest question mark in the entire waterfront funding plan, and why it’s not marked “Fantasy Funding,” is anyone’s guess.

The remaining two chunks are miscellaneous funds that will come out city taxpayers’ pockets in sneaky, roundabout ways.  About $65 million is designated “9-year LID Lift or other City source” and this will either come from increased taxes on the local improvement district (another increase in rent) or, more likely, from a second city-wide ballot initiative in 2014, 2015, or 2016 (essentially a second rental or property tax increase for the entire city).

The other chunk is $85 million designated as “General Fund/Debt.”  This is money that will come entirely out of the City of Seattle’s General Fund or its borrowing capacity (city bonds).  Either way, it’s money that won’t be spent on any other city services or development projects.  And it’s on top of the $70 million the city has already set aside for the project.  So the total hit to the city’s General Fund is really $155 million, not $70 million.

And since the City Council and the Mayor have no willpower when developers ask them for money, these funds could easily have been grouped into the “Secured Funding” category.

So a more realistic pie chart would have shown $155 million in city funds grouped with $300 million in funds from a local improvement district as “Secured Funding,” which is about 37% of the total.  “Pending Funding” would be $580 million (the Seawall Bond vote and the WSDOT funds), or about 48% of the total.

Okay, so far we’ve accounted for 85% of the total. The remainder would be split between 5% “Future Funding” (the $65 million tax increase that will probably go up for a vote sometime in 2014-2016) and a sizable 10% chunk of “Fantasy Funding” (the “Philanthropy” piece).

So, overall, only 37% of the funding can be counted on, and all of that involves money out of city taxpayers’ pockets to finance a project that will overwhelmingly benefit local developers and downtown businesses.  No transit money—indeed, no transit projects, as far as I can see (the transportation projects are all road improvements)—are part of this deal, which means that the park-like aspects of the project will be enjoyed mostly by cruise-ship patrons, tourists, and rich people who can afford to live downtown.

And the 48% of pending funds from the Seawall Bond and WSDOT are also taxpayer money.  Only the fantasy funding, the 10% from Philanthropy, can really be considered private funds.  In spite of the propaganda from Pravda, politicians, and the TV news paparazzi, the money from the local improvement district can’t be termed “private” funding.  To call it “private” is to assume naively that local landlords will bear the cost of the tax increase and not pass it on to their tenants.  They won’t, and we all know it.

And this is just phase one, folks.  And it’s a prime example of developers raiding your pockets for their benefit.

 

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Surprise! Maoists don’t have “anarchist materials”

By • on July 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm

This morning, SPD came in with stun grenades and guns waving in a 6 AM raid of a Central District house whose residents are Occupy Seattle activists.

Much of the news coverage so far has focused on the inherent absurdity of the ostensible reason for the raid. SPD officials said later – after they released the four people they found inside because, um, they hadn’t done anything wrong – that they were looking for evidence connected to last May 1′s demonstrations (aka “riots” in the local media – though where I come from, riots have body counts), and the heinous crimes of a few broken windows and graffiti. The search warrant specified that Seattle’s finest were in search of “anarchist materials.”

Now, last I checked “anarchist materials” – assuming anyone can provide a coherent legal definition of what the hell those are supposed to be (Bakunin’s autobiography?), are completely legal. But it’s even more absurd than that. The home SPD raised is that of a local collective affiliated with the Kasama Project. Get far enough past the revolutionary boilerplate on the home page, and you’ll discover that (Greece! Nepal! The Beloved Chairman!) it’s yet another Maoist splinter group. Good for them, but…does SPD understand that anarchists and Maoists are ideological opposites? What the hell would a bunch of Maoists be doing with “anarchist materials,” other than maybe burning them?

The answer, quite simply, is that even if SPD (or law enforcement officials in general) were bright enough to make the distinction, they don’t care. Right now (as opposed to 30 years ago), “anarchist” scares people more than “Maoist,” so that’s what they went to a judge with and that’s what they’ve told the public. It’s all the same to them – they’re happy any time they can break down doors and wave guns around at someone who has problems with (their) authority, no matter what their professed ideology.

That’s why, ten weeks later, a series of misdemeanor acts of vandalism is being used to justify the SWAT team treatment. One of the ways in which property destruction is always counterproductive, whether committed by agent provocateurs or unpaid, unwitting volunteers, is that it’s a perfect excuse for police violence and abuse – at the time, or at any time in the future within the plausible life cycle of the public’s memory. Hence, this morning.

I don’t care for a lot of their politics, but I have no problem publicizing and defending sectarian leftists when they’re targeted like this. They’re targeted not because of what they believe, but because they’re powerless and because they have beliefs in the first place rather than simply Getting With The Program. That could be any of us.

Also, too: Thanks so much, Mayor McGinn, for your outstanding reform of SPD policies and how well political demonstrators are now treated. I can’t tell you how much safer I feel around your men in blue.

No. Really. I can’t.

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Health care glossary updated

By • on July 8, 2012 at 2:46 am

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Diminished expectactions

By • on July 8, 2012 at 2:12 am

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