Decisions, Decisions

This past week was not a good week.  The US Supreme Court rendered several decisions that will affect large segments of the American population, and one of the “Swing Justices” announced his impending retirement; thus clearing the way for Trump to nominate a justice who will be able to undo decades of progress and impede future progress.

I can’t help but wonder if the “Bernie or Bust” and “DemExit” folks thought of any of this.  I can also see why they couldn’t.  Most of them will not see the effects of the decisions that should have them asking “How would Garland have ruled?”

Very few Sanders supporters will be unable to have their families visit them, or visit their families for fear of being unable to return; they may know someone who is in this situation, but that doesn’t directly affect them.  Their daughter, or son’s girlfriend, will likely to still get an abortion or some way to provide for the baby can be found.  They, or their immediate descendants are unlikely to be serfs to the Koch’s or Amazon.  Many Sanders supporters, because they are from positions of privilege.

But that privilege can be useful as well.  They could contribute to various groups that are working with and for those who are affected.  The travel ban may mean one would have to find local groups working with, and for, the Muslim community.  The decision on abortion clinics might lead someone to donate to Planned Parenthood, NARAL or The National Network of Abortion Funds.

The Janus Decision leads to several possibilities.  AFSCME and SEIU will need funds to protect their members from what is likely to be an aggressive and well-funded campaign to get them to give up their memberships.  As public-sector unions were an key source of resources for the AFL-CIO, who will also likely need to build capacity, that group could use support. There is another option, though, perhaps it is time to look at changing the system as a whole.

Could the problem be capitalism itself.  Could the Democratic Socialists of America, of which I am a member, or the Industrial Workers of the World, which I am involved in the formation of, have the right idea?

Or maybe it’s too late.  Perhaps we should be ready for America to become either a corporate state like Bangladesh, or “The Republic of Gilead” portrayed in the novel and TV series The Handmaid’s Tale.  Perhaps folks should start building the networks of mutual aid now.

Of course, building that network might require actually going into the streets and working with affected communities.  That is something a lot of Sanders supporters seem reluctant to do.

 

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Capturing “The Moment”?

As a few of you know, I am a self-taught photographer.  I’ve kind of become one of several unofficial photographers for the Harrisburg activist community, as well as the occasional concert.

“Why take pictures,” one may ask.  As I have stated before, at least I think, I see two reasons.  One is to act as a chronicle, the story of the resistance to Trump, the Alt-Right and other reactionary elements needs to be recorded.  The other is that pictures can be used to rally folks “on the fence” to our side.  This happened with the images from Selma and Montgomery during the Civil Rights Movement, with the image of the villagers fleeing their burning village during the Vietnam War, and the images of torture from Abu Gharib and Gitmo.

My question has always been, when will this resistance have its image?  It looked like the images of children being separated from the parents at the border and being held in cages may have been it.  There seemed to be enough of an outcry that Trump had to sign an executive order ending the separation of families.

But that may have been little more than a way to silence the centrists and make the #BernieOrBust and #DemExit folks think their tweets, shares and likes had done something.  The “Zero Tolerance” policy remains intact and there is talk that once this dies down, the policy may silently resume.

The only real solution to this may be what is coming from the “boots on the ground” of “The Resistance”.  The abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Bad Activist?

Last week, June 4-8, had me seeing two items in my web traffic that made me think I was being a “bad activist”.

The first was my response to the decision in the “Masterpiece Cakes” case.  This was the case where a bakery claimed a religious-based right to refuse to decorate a cake for a same-sex wedding.  The Supreme Court’s decision made no ruling on that part of the claim, instead ruling that the bakery had not been given a fair hearing.  It got to the point that I posted a tweet that basically said “The sky in not falling”.

The second was a message I received from an activist in regards to Nazi artifacts being sold at a World War II aviation gathering.  My take on this was it would depend on the origin, if the items are being manufactured that is one thing.  If they are items that have been collected, perhaps from the brave folks who stood up to Fascists decades ago, then they are merely artifacts.  A mention that some Nazi re-enactors were harassing Mexicans at the event did make we wonder if they were stuck in character or if this community may have some true believers or folks that may not be merely playing Nazi.

Now the other question is what makes these artifacts different from Confederate Monuments.  Mainly time; I have seen several articles that mention that many monuments to the Confederacy were erected as a response to the Civil Rights movement.  The intent of the monuments may not be to commemorate as to intimidate.


Owning Your Decision

Alas, this looks like it will the first of several posts intended to help the #BernieOrBust and/or  #DemExit folks take some ownership of the legal ramifications of their decision.

On Monday, June 11, the Supreme Court ruled that Ohio could continue to purge its voter rolls.  This is a clear attempt in the minds of many to suppress the votes of younger people and people of color who look to be coming out in larger numbers to vote in 2018.

So what could these folks do to alleviate and mitigate the damage they did?  How about a good, old-fashioned, voter registration drive.

To do one, all you would need is a public place, like a ‘Y’, a church, a community center, etc.  The site should either have WiFi, or someone should have a phone that can act as a “hotspot”. A few computers and some folks to help people check to make sure they are registered and re-register if needed should be all that is needed.

Now this would put many of Bernie’s supporters in the situation of having to deal with people face to face, perhaps even people from the communities of color that bear much of the brunt of Trump’s agenda.  But that may go a long way in building his revolution beyond the privileged that make up a good part of Bernie’s base.

 

Illegal Dissent?

At the end of last week, the National Football League made an attempt to “split the baby” on players protesting the National Anthem.  This has been an ongoing issue for more than a year and led to me boycotting the most recent season.

It looks like I will continuing that for this season, as in my opinion the league basically sided with the rural reactionaries that make up a large part of the NFL fan base.  Players on the field must stand for the anthem, or face fines or penalties.  Players can apparently stay in the locker room or tunnel until the anthem is over, and then join their teammates.

I can see the NFL’s quandary, the league is attracting more and more African-American players.  I have seen figures that put the league at somewhere between %60-%75 African-American.  The age of social media puts issues such as police abuse and racism in immediate focus, and sometimes even as it happens.

But the NFL fan base is still heavily Caucasian, and the NFL’s following in the rural areas may be exceeded only by the popularity of stock car racing.  The NFL was more afraid of the way rural reactionaries would react than of what the players were protesting.

I honestly hope the players come up with an alternative means of dissenting.  Raising fists, bowing their heads and not looking at the flag, etc.  The rule change allowing for coordinated,  team celebrations after touchdowns may provide another avenue for dissent.  The whole offense could kneel at once after the team scores their first touchdown.

As for me, it looks like I’ll be needing to find other ways to keep busy on Sundays in the Fall.  I guess I can always canvass or phone bank for the first few weeks of the season, but come the middle of November, I may need to come up with other ways to occupy myself.

 

Same Route?

Yesterday, March 24, hundreds of thousands of activists participated in “March For Our Lives” events across the United States.    The march was more follow-up from the Parkland students.

I, alas, was unable to attend Harrisburg’s march.   The snowstorms in the middle of the week created a small backlog of product that we needed to move along.   I made an attempt to be there in spirit though.   My profile pic was a re-mixed picture from a response to a prior shooting:

 

My cover picture was a quote from Martin Luther King:

I also posted a video, of somewhat recent vintage:

What I realized was how much of this was old content.  Seems like a great analogy for a march that seems to have been going on for decades.  Each mass shooting seems to bring the hope that people in Congress will say, “enough”.  Alas the gun manufacturers lobby and their rural reactionaries are louder, and little or nothing changes.  The shooting drops off the media radar, until the next one.

But maybe this is different, the Parkland students are playing in a new landscape, and maybe by the rules of social media.  I’d like to think that maybe this march ends here, that Congress will finally pass reasonable reforms, or perhaps a change in Congress may be in order.

Investing In Resistance

By now, we’re seeing a little more in the paycheck courtesy of Trump.  What to do with that extra money is a question we’re asking.  I hope to use some of mine to get started in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency and perhaps start saving for a trip to Latin America; right now Costa Rica is the leading candidate.

But perhaps some of the money Trump is giving us should go towards the resistance.

The January 15-22 issue of The Nation, included the annual list of groups that could use a hand.   As is typical of this list, there is a strong focus on women’s issues, especially reproductive issues.

I’m not going to second guess those suggestions, but I have a few groups I think are worth a few dollars of support.

Two groups that I see on the front lines of the resistance to Trump and his authoritarian supporters are always in need of support; the One People’s Project and It’s Going Down.

My trip to DC to oppose the ACA repeal put me in contact with three groups that could all use support to continue to organize actions.  Housing Works is a New York City based group working to end the issues of homelessness and HIV/AIDS.  The Center for Popular Democracy is a multi-issue group whose partners in Pennsylvania include CASA and Make the Road PA.

If there is one lasting image of the resistance to Trump and his agenda, it may be of protesters in wheelchairs being carried out of the Senate.  Many of those protesters were allied with the national group ADAPT.  This group has been compared to the HIV/AIDS activist group ACT-UP, and I was impressed by the spirit and courage these individuals who have overcome so much brought to the halls of Congress.

One other group that may need a hand is your local hacker community or maker space; with Net Neutrality repealed, communities may need to look to alternatives to stay connected.   According to Vice.com, over 750 have.

 

 

 

 

Philly With a Side of B-Sides

Over the weekend, I got my second taste of B-Sides.  This time Drexel University in Philadelphia played host to the 2nd annual B-Sides Philly.

Much like the event in April, I got a good cross-section of technical and non-technical information to ponder.  The event began with the keynote, given by a speaker I had heard in Rochester.  Ernest Wong, from the US Military Academy, gave a talk on “Innovating for 21st Century Warfare”.  Though the examples he used for innovation were the original “Mission Impossible” and the movie “Top Gun”.   The speech that bored me in Rochester, was downright interesting.

The next talk was on Russian Information Operations and how much of it is social engineering.  I couldn’t help see a lot of similarities between the tactics Russia is using and the tactics Trump, Fox News, etc are using on the minions in the mobile estates, etc.   This was interesting enough that I actually streamed it for a fellow activist:

Now it was time to get logged into the system a bit, with a talk on the Unix, etc command line called “Out With The Old–In With the GNU.”  A look at how people often use commands that they have learned or are familiar with, without looking for alternatives.  This can lead to ‘fingerprints’ that can be used to track and trace a user, and the talk was on how to avoid leaving such a trail.

The next topic I explored is something I could see my fellow activists being interested in, “Disinformation and Hiding Personal Information”.  Trump will eventually tighten the grip on “The Resistance”, and being able to go incognito may be something that needs to be explored.  Oddly enough the “Dark Web” was not brought up either in the talk or the questions.

I broke for lunch and then explored the vendors room, where I got some business cards that I plan to follow up on once I get my Security+ Certification.

The afternoon session brought a talk on ransomware that was interrupted by a fire alarm and a very quick introduction to a web security dojo.

I managed to save the best for last, with a talk on how there’s common ground between improv comedy and social engineering that  has me looking at reaching out to a local improv theater troupe and finally a talk on the mind of a hacker that was a bit chilling.

The closing remarks brought a surprise for me.  I am now the proud owner of a Bitcoin wallet; it’s really more like a personal vault, and there’s the matter of me learning how to get some cryptocurrency into it.

I hope to return for 2018, but may leave the driving to Amtrak.