Sunday, November 30, 2003


Dreadful memories of public strife in the 1960s, during the Vietnam War , are the closest parallel to what happened in Miami, during the FTAA demonstration in late November, 2003. There was a police riot and somewhere near 200 were arrested and many others were brutalized during the days of protest.

The programed aspect of the melee and its paramilitary organization is the most disturbing part of the story. As authorized by Mayor Diaz and carried out by Police Chief John Timony, this violent interdiction has the fingerprints of Homeland Security all over it. It's bad enough when an offense against public order is committed by the police themselves; but worst of all, is the implication that this is sanctioned by higher authority and constitutes a schematic for repression, now dubbed the Miami Model.

The US Constitution may guarantee the right to assembly and protest; but the ominous threat to citizens who disagree with policy is being framed in such a way, as to confuse the boundary between acts of terrorism and legitimate civil disobedience. The ground rules are being altered to allow the use of paramilitary violence to crush dissent in the streets.

In an open letter to Miami's Mayor Diaz, dated November 20th, Michael Avery, President of The National Lawyers Guild writes:

"The actions of the Miami Police Department this week have violated the fundamental due process and First Amendment rights of thousands of peaceful protesters gathering to voice their opposition to the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit."

"The National Lawyers Guild is on site observing numerous illegal practices that Miami City leadership has referred to as a "blueprint for Homeland Security," including:

indiscriminate, excessive force against hundreds of nonviolent protesters with weapons including pepper spray, tear gas and concussion grenades, and rubber bullets;

Singling out of [National Lawyers Guild] Legal Observers wearing highly visible neon green caps. We have confirmed reports that five Legal Observers were arrested, and four of those assaulted by police officers;

Police stopping and snatching protesters, seemingly at random, into unmarked vehicles;

Police shooting protesters with rubber bullets and trapping them by police lines, resulting in major injuries. Police repeatedly refused to allow Medics into these areas to treat the injured."

"Such paramilitary tactics are ill-conceived and self-defeating and have no place in a democratic society. Such tactics are not only in direct violation of the constitutional rights of protesters, but also make young and inexperienced police officers more nervous, increasing the likelihood of serious bodily injury to many."

Writing for the Guardian, Naomi Klein observes that this working Miami Model is setting a new standard: ..."Police violence outside trade summits is not new; what is striking about Miami was how divorced the security response was from anything resembling an actual threat. From an activist perspective, the protests were small and obedient, an understandable response to weeks of police intimidation" Klein goes on to say that in order for this kind of model to work, "the police had to establish a connection between legitimate activists and dangerous terrorists"..."and Police Chief, John Timony, an avowed enemy of activist "punks",..."classified FTAA opponents as "outsiders coming in to terrorize and vandalize our city....Miami [thereby] became eligible for the open tap of public money irrigating the "war on terror". In fact, $8.5 [million] spent on security during the FTAA meeting came out of the $87 [billion] Bush extracted from Congress for Iraq last month."

Klein focuses her criticism on local media:

"Miami police...invited reporters to "embed" with them in armoured vehicles and helicopters. As in Iraq, most reporters embraced their role as pseudo soldiers with zeal, suiting up in combat helmets and flak jackets."

"The resulting media coverage was the familiar wartime combination of dramatic images and non-information"..."Local TV stations didn't cover the protests so much as hover over them. Their helicopters showed images of confrontations, but instead of hearing voices in the street--voices pleading with police to stop shooting and clearly following orders to disperse--we heard only from police officials and perky news anchors commiserating with the boys on the front line."

Democracy Now! reports other significant developments: "The United Steel Workers of America is calling for the firing of John Timony following last week's protest against [FTAA] and the dropping of all charges against peaceful protesters."...And the president of the steelworkers union [Leo Gerard] called for a congressional investigation into why $8.5 million from the Iraq reconstruction bill was used to pay for security at the protests. He said the money went towards "homeland repression"...

"The Alliance for Retired Americans also held a rally Tuesday in Miami to protest how the police handled senior citizens who attended the FTAA demonstrations. One 71-year-old man, Bentley Killmon, told the Associated Press he was arrested while he was looking for his organization's bus. But then he encountered police dressed in riot gear. They pushed him to the ground, arrested him, handcuffed him for 12 hours and denied him water or a chance to make a phone call. Killmon said, "The way I was treated, you would expect in a third world country, not in this country."

Global Exchange's Medea Benjamin offers this testimony: "I was on my way home one evening"..."in a van and got stopped by 12 police with guns put to our heads, forced out of the car, frisked, held, every piece of paper in the van gone through, and no markings on the police. They wouldn't tell us their names. They wouldn't tell us who they were with. They wouldn't tell us who was in charge. As we kept complaining, and yelling, and they kept threatening us. Finally one of them took me over to show me the booty they had collected from other cars. And they said, "Look, the reason we have to search everybody is because we came up with this"--and this was two hockey sticks and a baseball bat and one slingshot."

The largest contingent of protesters came from the ranks of the unions, and although the police actually prevented the timely arrival of a number of buses carrying union members, these marches went peacefully since they had permits. But as Jeremy Scahill reports:

..."as soon as the unions and their permits began to disperse, the police seized the moment to escalate the violence"...Fresh from their break during the union rally, Timony's forces ordered the protesters to clear the area in front of the Inter-Continental. Some of the demonstrators shouted back that they had the right to peacefully protest the FTAA.

Boom. The concussion grenades started flying.

Hiss. The tear gas was sprayed.

Rat-a-tat-tat. The rubber bullets were fired.

Bam, bam. The batons were swinging."

Monday, November 24, 2003


New FBI scrutiny of anti-war activities in the US is the subject of a New York Times article by Eric Lichtblau. And Juan Cole, a University of Michigan History Professor, raises concerns on his weblog about government intrusion and potential limits to civil rights in the US and UK. Professor Cole's article also deals with recent comments by US General Tommy Franks, where the career soldier describes a scenario in which the US Constitution might be suspended, placing America under military rule.

Lichtblau quotes Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, "The FBI is dangerously targeting Americans who are engaged in nothing more than lawful protest and dissent"..."The line between terrorism and legitimate civil disobedience is blurred, and I have serious concern about whether we're going back to the days of Hoover."

Lichtblau later adds that "Critics of the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, for instance, have sued the government to learn how their names ended up on a "no fly" list used to stop suspected terrorists from boarding planes. Civil rights advocates have accused federal and local authorities in Denver and Fresno, [California], of spying on antiwar demonstrators or infiltrating planning meetings."

The reporter reminds us of the J. Edgar Hoover controversies of the 60s and 70s, "which included efforts by the FBI to harass and discredit Hoover's political enemies under a program known as Cointelpro"...These abuses..."led to tight restrictions on FBI investigations of political activities."

"These restrictions were relaxed significantly last year, when Attorney General John Ashcroft issued guidelines giving agents authority to attend public rallies, mosques and any event open to the public"..."What the FBI regards as potential terrorism," Mr Romero of the ACLU said, "strikes me as civil disobedience."

"The Republic and the Constitution are what America is about," writes Professor Cole. And he holds that General Tommy Frank's recent comments are scandalous. "Franks has speculated that in the wake of a major WMD attack, the US will scrap its constitution and adopt a military government." Professor Cole says that he "can't imagine a more fascist, irresponsible thing for [Franks] to say. George Washington, who faced ...proportionally much more devastating attacks and loss of life after 1776 (the population was 4 million then) never threw in the towel on democracy like that."

Journalist David Neiwert is in basic agreement with Cole and quotes the General,... "Franks says...that if terrorists obtain and use weapons of mass destruction..."the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we've seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment we call democracy."

The General elaborates:

"It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world--it may be in the United States of America--that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution. Two steps, very, very important."

Professor Cole is horrified by the implication of General Frank's comment, and goes on to express concern for an analogous threat posed by legislation pending in the UK. "What is really alarming is that the British, who lack a Bill of Rights and have all along suffered from Government withdrawal of civil liberties at will (Thatcher sent SWAT teams to the offices of the Guardian once) are already moving in a fascist direction. The only hope of the British public for retention of what civil liberties it has is that the human rights laws of the European Union might impede the nation toward donning jackboots."

Political Editor, Andy McSmith, of the UK's Independent uses the Franks scenario to illustrate the heightening of fears around these civil rights issues. His article examines the Civil Contingencies Bill and its "sweeping measures"..."giving the Government power to over-ride civil liberties in times of crisis, and evacuate threatened areas, retrict people's movements and confiscate property."

"Some of the proposals in the draft version of the Bill, drawn up last summer, have alarmed civil rights activists, notably a clause that gives the Government the power to suspend parts or all of the Human Rights Act without a vote by MPs. Once an emergency has been proclaimed by the Queen, the Government can order the destruction of property, order people to evacuate an area or ban them from travelling, and "prohibit assemblies of specified kinds" and "other specified activities"...

"Civil liberties groups have been alarmed by the Cabinet Offices' sweeping definition of an "emergency" and the powers it confers."

image via indymedia uk

Friday, November 07, 2003


"Some losses cut as dearly as this, a son,
Two siblings that sheltered in the same womb;
But mourning, weeping, there comes an end of tears.
The Fates gave the human heart a means to endure."

--Homer, THE ILIAD, Book 24, [54-57]

From the safety of shelter the victors watch the storm; but stripped by fear and shame, they do not find peace at the end of the conflict. They are surprised at first, and then no longer surprised, by the persistence of conscience. And as the conflict ends without a sense of peace, the same pretenders find that they inhabit a cruel universe, where even their own gods have turned against them.

NOTE: These children were killed by American bombs in Afghanistan. Their father attends to their bodies. Photograph via freepressed


Note: “Dear Mr. Mowgli. . . .” From Jack’s Diary (see below entry.) Jack refers to his Diary as “Mr. Mowgli.” I recall that Mowgli was the boy raised by wolves in the forests of India, in Kipling’s Jungle Book (1894).

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Diary Of A Rag And Bone Man

No. 3. Goodbye To Summer

by Jack Rafter

Am I reduced to poverty?
Am I reduced to penury?
Then let me sift through the leavings
And see what I can see.

October 30. Dear Mr. Mowgli. Vincent and I spent our last night in the hedgerow of the art museum. We bedded down there most of the summer. People strolling along the sidewalks or driving by in their Hummers have no idea what’s just out of sight in those nicely manicured hedges. There were at least a dozen homeless folk tucked away in there that I know of.

Now, the weather is starting to get chilly, and everybody’s looking for a warmer place. I hate the thought of going to the shelters. A bum I know, who goes by the name of Brownie, says he's got a tent. He says there’s a nice big wooded area over by the freight yards and he's going to stake out a place down there. He said there was plenty of room for me and Vincent, if we wanted to join him. I don’t know where he got the tent or how good it is. I asked him if he thought it would keep the rain out. He shrugged and said, “Guess we’ll find out, eh Jack?” Well, that doesn’t sound too good, somehow. I don’t like the idea of sharing a place with some stranger. What if he has a lot of bad habits? They almost always do. Maybe something better will turn up.

I read in the paper that a lot of city councils are passing more laws against homeless folks. They’re starting to arrest more panhandlers. Easier, I guess, than pursuing real criminals, like Ken Lay or Dick Cheney. They haven’t started in my town, yet, but it’s coming, I imagine. Everybody follows the herd, like sheep.

Yes, we’re all just a bunch of bums, too lazy to go out and get a job. That’s the answer to everything—jobs, even when those who actually have gotten decent ones are being laid off by the thousands, while their CEO’s go on enriching themselves. Those same CEO’s drive down the street in their Mercedes and complain about the panhandlers, and put pressure on their city councils to do something about this blight. They’re the same ones who back the politicians who are cutting back or eliminating any assistance or health care for the poor. Let them get jobs, they say. I’m sure Burger King and McDonalds are just dying for the chance to hire someone who is filthy, dressed in ragged clothes, has no car to get to work in, who is schizophrenic or had a mental breakdown, or is diseased or has no work history for months or years, or some combination of these things. Yes, I run across people like this holding down good jobs every day.

And now they want to start putting the bums in jail. Well, I hope it teaches them a lesson.

Vincent and I have been doing a lot of walking around, lately. I found a Sunbeam toaster the other day in a trash bin behind this huge house. The house was in one of those newer developments, full of big houses that all look alike. McMansions. The driveways are pebbly concrete and the mailboxes are built out of solid brick, lined up along the curb like soldiers. I've seen people whose houses were less substantial than these little mail mansions.

So, I took this toaster over to the downtown YMCA to check it out. They have an outside plug at the back of the building. I discovered it one day on my rounds and remembered it, just in case. I doubt if the Y people know it’s there. Up until now, I haven’t had a reason to use it, myself.

So, I plugged in the toaster, and by golly, it worked! I couldn’t believe it. I thought sure I’d have to tinker with it some. Figured it for a broke spring or a faulty cord or something. But I put in two slices of cast off Roman Meal that I snagged out back of Luby’s, and a minute later, up they popped, a perfect golden brown—on both sides!

And I didn’t have to eat dry toast, either! I had some of those little packets of butter and gourmet strawberry preserves in my pocket, found them in the trash behind Clarke’s Deli. Restaurants and diners throw them away by the ton, you know. And the little catsup packets, too. I don’t know a bum living that doesn’t have catsup on his person. Ask any of them. Hundreds of years from now when the archeologists are digging us out of the rubble, they’ll discover—along with all the other stuff we’ve thrown away—thousands and thousands of those little plastic packets. I wonder what they’ll think about that. Maybe they’ll sit down in the rubble and have some toast.

So, I made out all right, there behind the Y. Needless to say, I’ll be returning to the neighborhood where I found that toaster. I may even go back to the same McMansion. No telling what those people are throwing away over there.

Poor Vincent has fleas. Must get him some medicine, somehow. They’ve cut health care for humans. I guess the next thing to go will be the Humane Society. By golly, these lazy, no account stray dogs will just have to do better. Maybe they’ll start putting them in jail.

I’ve been studying people lately. Been watching them on the streets, as they scurry here and there, looking very serious in their nice clothes, with their brief cases made out of genu-wine cowhide, always talking on their cell phones, telling someone or other where they are and where they’re going. As if it actually mattered. I see them sitting in the Starbucks coffee shops with their lattes and computers and little cell phones. I see them running in the park in their slick running costumes, with wires plugged in their ears, and cell phones on their waste bands. Sometimes they stop right in the middle of running and have a conversation on their phones. I look through the windows of fancy restaurants and see them eating big piles of food that costs fifteen or twenty or thirty dollars a plate. Sometimes they’re talking on their little phones and eating at the same time. I see them in the bookstores, wandering in the aisles, talking and laughing on their cell phones while people try to look quietly for something to read. I see them driving around in their SUV’s, their big bright Hummers. I see them jabbering on their little phones, an incessant buzzing, like swarms of mosquitoes.

And everything is so dreamlike and unreal. And people are just going around looking like contented cows.

Monday, November 03, 2003


Uncle would be killed by coincidence, Uncle Sam.
The Via Dolorosa passes his house.
The workmanlike uncle starts by reading a plaque
Inscribed by Albert Einstein, "Problems cannot
Be solved by the level of thinking that created them."
But after a couple of whiskies uncle laughs
Because he doesn't get it.
Dear Uncle doctors the book; he puts the U
In Unilateral. He farts, he signs Executive Orders.
He lies face down on the floor of the Oval Office
And people say he is praying.
A woman is in the Rotunda, a body of perfume;
The resumption of hostility is sensual to him.
Uncle Sam uses polystyrene instead of paraffin
To make the napalm worse. Uncle Sam
Sometimes smiles like a small, wicked boy, looking
Out the window. Uncle Sam has fragged his allies
And all the enemy tribes. The whole nursery, the walls
Surrounding it have been blown into confetti.
Heavens. No one can find a drop of blood.

copeland morris ENTWINED SONNET

Her shaded eyes, her necklace black velvet, onyx. Anguish she spoke; and he carried on, obsessed As only a young man could. An odd harm...