Security Specialist, Abolitionist, Anabaptist
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Cabin on river Drina, border of Serbia and...

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Cabin on river Drina, border of Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina

Submitted by Branislav Jovancevic

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toddgrotenhuis
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FBI Panicking After Learning Encrypted National Security Communications May Have Been Intercepted By Trump Administration

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WASHINGTON—Fearing the information had already fallen into the wrong hands, the FBI was panicking Tuesday after learning encrypted national security communications may have been intercepted by the Trump administration. “We are incredibly troubled to have learned that transmissions vital to homeland security could have been captured and decrypted by President Trump’s staff,” said FBI director James Comey, who said agency servers were rapidly being destroyed as a precaution while an urgent investigation was conducted. “If it turns out that Trump officials have indeed acquired these correspondences, it could mean the entire United States security architecture is compromised. We want to assure the American people, however, that we are doing absolutely everything in our power to determine what, if anything, has been obtained by these volatile and dangerous individuals.” At press time, the FBI’s worst fears had not yet been realized, as the Trump administration did not appear ...

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Philosophy Jeopardy

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Things Schopenhauer hates:
Hegel
Noise
Life itself
Hegel
Everything else
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popular
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toddgrotenhuis
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tante
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Philosophy Jeopardy
Oldenburg/Germany
jepler
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Even just for the first three frames this one is a winner. But... Do you even get to participate in final jeopardy if your score is negative?
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm

A Nation of Immigrants, A Nation of Criminals

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“They broke the law.” This preceding statement is how we excuse a grand amount of injustice in this country. Recently, it’s been widely used as a mantra for people who support deportation of undocumented immigrants and need a good excuse for dragging people from their homes and splitting up families. “If you enter this country as a criminal” so goes the logic, “what right do you have to be here? America doesn’t need anymore criminals!” Those who argue this way often present themselves as being patriots and defenders of American values and tradition. I say their patriotism is a false patriotism, an ignorant patriotism, an unearned patriotism.

For better and worse, America has always been a nation of criminals. The story of America begins with an act of mass criminality, as the burdens of British rule drove many colonists into treasonous insurrection, a crime still punishable by death. America’s colonial criminality is far from exhausted by acts of political rebellion though. Before Australia became Britain’s prime penal colony they sent thousands of their convicts to American shores. Then there are the criminals who showed up to America’s ports voluntarily, in pirate ships. Colonial cities were seen as a safe haven for the libertine proclivities of the 19th century’s most notorious, seafaring criminal class.

Criminal culture would continue to be tied to America’s national identity long after the revolution. American iconography is filled with the reverence we have for all manner of crooks and scofflaws. The Western movie genre, who can think of anything more quintessentially American, romanticized the lawless conditions and antiheroes of the frontier in the 19th century. When alcohol prohibition became constitutional law in the 20s Americans of all classes and ethnicities refused to obey, and either became or gave business to gangsters and moonshiners. Italian Americans were generalized by law and order propagandists as inextricably tied to the Mafia culture. While untrue, there’s no doubt Italians and other immigrant minorities relied a great deal on organized and unorganized crime to enrich themselves. Yet this fact has not led the national zeitgeist to be revolted by such criminal behavior. They have been enshrined in our art and national imagination as well for their heedless and rebellious pursuits, even when they’re clearly ignoble.

I’d be remiss if I did not mention just how mutually important America’s past and the practice of civil disobedience. Henry David Thoreau, that rustic American literary icon, coined the term and advanced it to the fore of radical political thought. American abolitionists and those who struggled throughout our history for freedom and civil rights advanced this philosophy into the streets and on to underground railroads. Again and again those Americans we most revere for their moral vision and courage wound up in handcuffs and jail cells.

What good is a history lesson though? Some will certainly say of these preceding examples that they can be looked at with less severity because, after all, the past is the past. Should we tolerate crime simply because our ancestors were proficient criminals? It’s at this point I’d like to direct you to America’s contemporary crime wave. No, I am not referring to this presidential administration’s false claims that violent crime is skyrocketing, or that police are being targeted more and more. What I am referring to is our legal system, which has continually become more of a producer of criminal activity than an adjudicator of it. We live in a country where the list of illegal activities one could possibly engage in is literally innumerable. Seriously, the federal government cannot come close to accounting for all of the legal restrictions it imposes on us. The truth is, no presumably innocent person in this country knows whether or not they are themselves a criminal, but they probably are. Rather than ask yourselves “Have I committed a crime?” you should ask “What crimes have I committed?”. Once you’ve discovered or failed to discover the answer to this question, ask yourself if you should be taken away from your family and community because of your criminal behavior.

Even our own politicians can’t help but commit crimes. While there are many serious and heinous examples throughout our history I could point to, let’s take the recent adventures of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. While speaking with a Russian ambassador about America’s sanctioning of Russia Mike Flynn violated a law established in 1799 known as the Logan Act. He’s not expected to be prosecuted for it, because no one ever is. Public officials generally remain unaccountable for far more grave violations of the law, including trampling on the Constitution, without consequence. Flynn committed a crime he may not even have known about at the time though, as is clearly becoming an American tradition.

America’s taken the lead on crime in world statistics with its highly publicized and record breaking prison population. Over 2 million people live under the authority of the American penal system. More Americans are beginning to see this for the unacceptably punitive and inefficient system of justice that it is. Yet immigrants, whether documented or not, are under represented in national crime statistics. Those born and raised here are more likely to have engaged in criminal activity than those who migrated according to decades-worth of research. We’re quickly learning the valuable lesson that simply displacing criminals from their home and putting them in prison cells or in an ICE van will not solve the serious concerns of those who are victims to violent crimes we all condemn.

Let’s get to the core of the issue in light of all this. It’s true that undocumented immigrants either entered this country illegally or have overstayed their legally permitted welcome. This is criminal behavior. That much we know. What we don’t know yet from this is how to respond. It’s true that deporting undocumented immigrants is legal. What those who rely on this fact to justify deportation do not acknowledge is that not pursuing those methods is also legal, as is granting them amnesty. What good comes from the first tactic? Assuming it does rid our population of some dangerous individuals, should that really be our standard of justice? Purging criminals from society does not have a good track record of succeeding in freeing us from violent individuals. Rather, it enables them. Also, as stated before, the vast majority of those who criminally enter our country do not go on  to commit crimes.

To understand my above point you need look no further than an egregious ICE sting this week that targeted a woman seeking domestic abuse charges against her partner. Was this justice served, or is it yet another cruel act committed against a vulnerable member of an American community? We are enabling abuse and turning away victims, empowering federal agents to do things to people we would never accept be done to us, or to anyone, all because they’re wearing the right badge and holding the right guns. Every day people like this woman are unable to protect themselves without being subject to legal harassment. If these people are criminals, then damn the law.

Do away now with this inquisition of foreigners who haven’t traveled to our country with a permission slip. You are not standing against violence in the streets. You are cheering it on as it breaks down the doors and destroys the families of your neighbors. You are not preserving the sanctity of the law, because in a country where there is no perceptible bounds to the legal code there is no way you can act to preserve it. To the law we are all its violators. You are not defending your beloved nation’s values. Those who come here to better their lives are struggling taking part in an American tradition you will never have to endure. Your patriotism is only a love for the callous past of your country, a past that gave way to the fact that this is and will always be a nation of immigrants. The only difference between you and a border crosser is that you have the privilege to live without knowledge of the crimes you commit. They knew what they were up against, the danger and stigma they were exposing themselves too. Their defiance is American defiance. Their struggle is American struggle. Their criminality is American criminality, and a criminal America is the only one worth wanting.

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toddgrotenhuis
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“Full Employment” Useful Idiots

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The modern economy is stuck in a major rut. Productivity gains have not matched wage inflation, and productivity itself is relatively stagnant, particularly in the UK. Job provision is being increasingly concentrated in low-pay sectors, with temporary work and part-time contracts creating a modern precariat of working class individuals, students and other members of a general lumpenproletariat. Mechanisation and technology gains are captured by capitalist interests through IP rights and state-funding of corporate research, meaning that increasingly people are not just being made precarious, but are simply losing their jobs as well as any state-support. Such an existence is both undesirable and extremely distressing. Rather than markets freeing entrepreneurial spirits and creating a class of Konkinite contractors, free from the vagaries of state-capitalism, they have been wrought by the demands of that system and have created what I’ve described.

Thus obviously there need to be alternatives which can combat this system as well as develop an alternative methodology and praxis which supersedes it. There are innumerable such ideas floating on the internet and in policy and journal papers. One, however, seems to have really stuck its head above the parapet: a jobs guarantee which creates the conditions for full employment. This idea has been around for years, and had been inculcated in elements of the Bretton Woods system by giving national governments significant room for manoeuvre when it came to economic decision-making. Nowadays, in a financialised world where speculation provides more economic growth than manufacturing in most Western countries, this idea has gained significant traction. What better to unlock the productive potentials of the unemployed and underemployed. What better to provide a workforce for “necessary” infrastructure projects and home-building programs.

Unfortunately the proponents of such ideas generally tend to act as useful idiots for the generalities of capitalism and its systemic creation through the state. Capitalism has relied on these myriad infrastructure projects to increase their levels of capital valorisation and expand the means through which it is realised. Artificial economies of scale are effectively subsidised by state projects, whether that be the railway land grants of the 19th century, the mass enclosures of common land in Britain, or the interstate programs of the 50s and 60s. All have served the purpose of capital centralisation, land speculation and the glorification of profit. Further, with the myriad crises of capitalism, there is nothing more useful than a state that can soak up both excess labour and excess product. From this, we see the military-industrial complex (which provides outlets for information technology and research funding) and the prison-industrial complex (which provides one method for the distribution of surplus labour).

More systemically such job guarantees ingrain the main method of capital accumulation, that of the wage labour relation and the alienation of the labourer from the means of production. Simply giving such means over to the state does not limit this fundamental social relation. Rather, it gives it legitimacy and furthers the means of centralisation of capital as labour can be used for multiple productive outlets rather than those of individual capitals. You simply end up with a stratified Marxian nightmare. Meanwhile, the things that actually provide economic prosperity (good capital access, the freeing of entrepreneurial capacities, autonomy in the workplace, the limitation of monopolisation through free market competition) are crushed under the corporate-state nexus. Job guarantees are not an alternative to the current means of capitalism. If anything, they may provide a stop-gap to the internal dynamics of capitalism, which necessitate crises. State action simply gives stabilisation. The real problems are the wage labour relation and the monopolisation of the means of production, not that there aren’t enough piecemeal jobs to pass around.

Real, radical change will only come from the ground-up, in civil society and communities. It will not come from any action created by the state or any of its parasitic organisations and interests. It will be developed out the destruction of the major capitalist monopolies, those of land, money, intellectual property, tariffs and transport subsidies. No state will ever achieve such as it has historically acted as the benefactor of these monopolies. Only concerted action through agorist and syndicalist lenses will provide radical alternatives to the current system. Struggles through the prism of the state, as seen in the fights for trade unionism and a welfare state, have now failed. The antagonistic relation of state and civil society is not reparable, and nor has it ever been. Alternatives need to be created, as they have been and continue to be all the over the world. Whether those be the time banks and alternative currencies that exist in Greece, the alternative production systems in hackerspaces and small production outlets (which show the uselessness of mass production) or the cooperative economic systems that exist in Spain or South America, it does not matter. Only when such alternatives can be constructed continually and successfully will we see the plethora of systemic action which can combat capitalism. This will never come from “full employment” ideologies and the useful idiots whom infect radical discourse.

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toddgrotenhuis
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Loose Classification Rules Give ICE Broad Authority to Classify Immigrants as Gang Members

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Of the more than 680 people swept up during last week’s nationwide raids by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, none has attracted more attention than 23-year-old Daniel Ramirez Medina. Although he crossed into the United States illegally when he was a child, Ramirez Medina twice applied successfully for permission to stay in the country under the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program.

The former California resident, who recently moved north to Des Moines, Washington, was detained on Friday when ICE went to his family’s home looking for his father, who is also undocumented and in removal proceedings.

ICE claims Ramirez Medina’s DACA status is null and void due to evidence of gang involvement outlined by government attorneys in a brief filed earlier this week. The sum of the evidence is a tattoo on his arm that immigration officials believe is gang related, and statements that he allegedly made in custody that “he used to hang out with the Sureno[s] in California,” that he “fled California to escape the gangs,” and that he “still hangs out with the Paizas in Washington State.”

While his defense attorneys and government lawyers contested claims about unconstitutional detention and doctored evidence in court this morning, Ramirez Medina’s case sheds light on ICE’s broad criteria for identifying gang members, which dates from George W. Bush’s presidency and has been used to deport thousands of individuals — including DACA recipients — over the past decade.

The Intercept obtained the guidelines on gang classification and documentation through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for records related to the agency’s ICEGangs database. The policy, which is titled “ICEGangs Database: Data Entry and Use,” was issued on August 4, 2006, and establishes guidelines for how to use and share information from gang databases in states like California and Washington.

Most importantly, the guidelines codify the criteria for documenting individuals as gang-affiliated, which makes them a higher priority for deportation, even if like Ramirez Medina they have not been convicted of a crime.

According to the directive, gang affiliation is determined by a federal gang crime conviction, or a civil ruling (such as a gang injunctions) at state or federal level that deals with gang activity or association. Individuals can also be classified as gang members if they admit to gang ties during “any questioning by law enforcement,” whether during a street stop or during a jail classification interview.

Also included is a list of ten additional criteria, of which only two are required for entering an individual into the ICEGangs database:

  • “Subject has tattoos identifying a specific gang.”
  • “Subject frequents an area notorious for gangs and/or associates with known gang members.”
  • “Subject been seen displaying gang signs/symbols.”
  • “Subject has been identified as a gang member through a reliable source.”
  • “Subject has been identified as a gang member through an untested informant.”
  • “Subject has been arrested in the company of other gang members on two or more occasions.”
  • “Subject has been identified as a gang member by a jail or prison.”
  • “Subject has been identified as a gang member through seized or otherwise obtained written or electronic correspondence.”
  • “Subject has been seen wearing distinctive gang style clothing or has been found in possession of other gang indicia.”
  • “Subject has been identified as a gang member through documented reasonable suspicion.”

Gang documentation is a unilateral designation by law enforcement and is extremely difficult to challenge in criminal court, where defendants are entitled to a court-appointed attorney. Challenging gang classification by law enforcement is more difficult during deportation proceedings because defendants cannot compel the government to disclose the evidence against them as they can in criminal court. Many people in immigration court also cannot afford to hire private attorneys, and face the evidence laid out against them by the government without a lawyer.

Furthermore, the use of potentially dubious sources of information, such as “untested informants,” “reliable sources,” or “reasonable suspicion,” (the lowest legal standard for law enforcement to stop and question someone), highlight the critiques of gang documentation that have been made for years on a state level. The most prominent example is in California, where state lawmakers required more transparency and due process for people accused of gang ties.

A report on gang documentation issued last year by the Immigrant Rights Clinic at University of California–Irvine’s School of Law highlighted how difficult it is to legally challenge questionable evidence of gang involvement, and the immigration consequences of gang classification.

“Allegations of gang membership are particularly problematic for undocumented immigrants who would otherwise have a strong case for prosecutorial discretion,” the report reads, pointing to the possible denial of immigration relief under DACA, crime victim visas, or unaccompanied minor petitions.

Sean Garcia-Leys, an attorney with the Advancement Project in Los Angeles who helped research and write the UC-Irvine study, said the situation of Ramirez Medina was a classic case of why gang documentation procedures must be reformed.

“Gang allegations should never be used to determine government action unless there has been an adversarial process in front of a neutral decision-maker who decides that person is a gang member,” Garcia-Leys told The Intercept. “Gang affiliation should never be a one sided determination, there’s too high a risk of error.”

In court this morning, Rosenbaum claimed the defense team had not seen “a single piece of evidence” proving gang affiliation, adding that ICE had not provided any information from its gang database on Ramirez Medina.

However, ICE’s own policy for gang documentation explicitly instructs ICE to keep all mention of gang databases or gang intelligence collection out of court documents.

“All information accessed through ICEGangs (ICE or third agency) is to be treated as law enforcement intelligence and not to be disclosed or used as evidence in any criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding, nor is it to be used independently as probable cause to support arrests, searches, seizures, or other law enforcement actions,” the policy directive reads.

“What began, I thought, as a mistake in bringing Daniel in has turned into a bogus operation that is attempting to railroad him and violate the sacred program that the DACA represents,” attorney Mark Rosenbaum said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday evening. “It is one of the most serious examples of governmental misconduct that I have come across in my 40 years of practice.”

The post Loose Classification Rules Give ICE Broad Authority to Classify Immigrants as Gang Members appeared first on The Intercept.

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