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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

When the Law is wrong It turns the Police into Thugs

Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl has brought into Venice, CA a special squad of 21 LAPD officers for the expressed purpose of vigorously enforcing LA MC 85.02 which forbids "living" or sleeping in a vehicle parked on the street. He is doing this at a time when America is enduring it's worst economic crisis since the '30's. He is doing this in a year in which as many as 2 million families nationwide will lose their homes in foreclosure. He is doing this at a time when an increasing number of the less fortunate among us find that their safest option is to sleep in their vehicles.

Chief of Staff Mike Bonin wrote in the Dec. 2010 Venice Neighborhood Council Newsletter:
At the councilmember's request, Police Chief Charlie Beck assigned 21 additional officers to the area. LAPD formed a Venice Homelessness Task Force, ... City prosecutors are training cops to build evidence against people violating laws that prohibit living in vehicles.
You are not allowed to sleep in your car here. You are, however, allowed to sleep on the sidewalk between the hours of 9pm and 6am.

I have occasionally slept in my car, although never in Venice. In Venice, my car is parked in it's spot and I sleep in my bed under my roof. But I have been on the road and found myself perhaps too far from a motel or maybe I didn't have the money for one, or perhaps I just needed to catch a few hours of sleep so that I could safely resume driving. But whatever the reason, I never thought it a good idea to get out of my car and sleep on the pavement as the LAPD demands. I always knew that I would be safer, more comfortable and better protected from the extremes of weather if I slept in my locked car than if I slept on the sidewalk. I'm sure you will agreed, just don't try that in Venice.

In Venice, with this Venice Homelessness Task Force in the lead, the LAPD has been very busy and successful in finding 1st time they tried to tow Eric's truck. Late Nov. 2010people caught napping in their vehicles and arresting them for violation of 85.02. While these "criminals" are getting out of jail, their RV, van, truck or car is ticketed and towed. Often to a city lot in Sylmar 38 miles from Venice. Any pets are taken to a pound somewhere else. By the time these now twice troubled families get bailed out of jail, the towing charge and daily storage charges grow the cost of retrieving what is probably their last major possession beyond their reach and that relatively safe place to sleep is gone forever. So impoverished, they need to look for a shopping cart for their few remaining possessions and are forced to start sleeping on the street.

And that is what the Councilman intends. He is using the law to run poor people out of Venice. That is why he is putting addition LAPD resources into the vigorous enforcement of 85.02. He has the support of wealthy and influential developers who see poor people in Venice as a factor in lowering property values. 504 Pacific after being hit by SUV 15-04-2011 Last night (14/04/11) a speeding SUV ran into an apartment building at 504 Pacific Ave and instantly turned two families out into the street. The lucky part was that no one was killed. By contrast you will find no vigorous enforcement of the speed limit along Pacific Ave in spite of longstanding community demands, because slowing down traffic on Pacific will make living in South Venice and Marina Del Rey less fun and thus with lower property values.

The police don't always arrest the sleeper and tow the vehicle. Maybe a big tow truck wasn't available. Sometimes they let people off with a warning. Like if they are even caught driving through Venice, they will be arrested and towed. And they can do it. Any time. Any place. I heard they took the keys out of one woman's hand while she has standing outside, went into her bus, took pictures to prove she had been living in it, the criminal, and by now you know the drill, had her vehicle towed, her pets sent to the pound and she to jail.Petr on bass 2011-03-27 I've heard enough stories about threats and beatings [ I saw the bruises on my friend Petr's back - 13/04/11 ] to know that the LAPD is resorting to the tactics of thugs in their effort to run poor and homeless people out of Venice.

There is a problem with 85.02. Equal justice is not a phrase that can be applied to all laws. Sometimes the law is wrong and the people are right. Sometimes a law has no moral right to exist. When that happens, the people opposing the law become the righteous ones and the law enforcement agencies become thugs.

This is not the first time an reconcilable contradiction has existed between what is law and what is justice. For the first 80 plus years of this nation's history slavery was the law of the land. In that case the contradiction between law and justice was so sharp that a bloody and protracted civil war had to be fought to set matters right. But before that, before that law had been overthrown, slaves that 'ran away' and those that helped them were branded as "criminals" and everywhere in the United States, law enforcement was expected to add capturing "runaway slaves" to their long "todo list."

I'm sure the Venice Klan, in it's day, rallied behind the demand for vigorous enforcement of the slave codes with the simple demand "It's the law! Enforce the law!" To do otherwise would have lowered "property" values.

But I think that "law" had no moral foundation and as a result the police that caught runaway slaves turned into thugs, we know from the historical record that they acted like thugs, and the runaway slaves and those who supported them were the righteous ones.

Similarly, I think those that fight and have fought to see that women have safe abortions on demand, even when it was illegal, have been the righteous ones, and those that attempted and still attempt to jail people for exercising that right are thugs.

Another example of the contraction between the law and justice can be found closer to home and nearer to the present in PC 286, California's law against anal penis contact ("however slight!") which was not overthrown until 1976. I wonder if Bill Rosendahl was a "criminal" in those days or was he more consistent, calling for special squads of LAPD to bust into Venice bedrooms and vigorously enforce PC 286 because "it's the law."

Ivonne Guzman and VNC Meeting 12-04-2011He may have thought like that back then, I know some people did. But I think they were wrong. I think that law had no moral foundation. I think the people that said the law had no business telling consenting adults how to have sex or who with were the righteous ones and the enforcers of that law were the thugs.

Under the concrete conditions of today, in which 1.) Many people are being made homeless as a result of circumstances over which they have no control and 2.) Neither they nor the city can provide them with a safer or healthier place to sleep than their vehicle, a law which demands that these people sleep "legally" unprotected on the sidewalk lest they be jailed and have their vehicles towed is without moral foundation. There are no proclamations of judges or councilmen that can give it one. Under these circumstance those that enforce the unjust law become thugs and those that fight it, like recently arrested Venice Neighborhood Council rep and feeder of the homeless, Ivonne Guzman, and my friend Petr, who was with her at the time, are the righteous ones. It is simple as that.

Overthrow 85.02!




After the meeting I got this Hateful Phone Message.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Doha summit supports Libyan rebels

They are starting to celebrate in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi as the news of the decisions taken at the meeting of the Libya International Contact Group earlier today in Doha, Qatar began to filter in. They see most of the decisions taken are supportive of their struggle to overthrow the 42 year old regime of Mummar Gaddafi and they expect that soon many more nations will join France and Qatar in recognizing the Transitional National Council as the sole legitimate government of Libya.

At the end of the one day summit, the group issued a statement calling for Gaddafi to step down. "Gaddafi and his regime has lost all legitimacy and he must leave power allowing the Libyan people to determine their own future," it said. The meeting which was hosted by Qatar and chaired by British Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Qatari prime minister, Hamed bin Jassem included representatives of NATO countries, Middle East and African countries and a number of international organizations. Ban ki Moon represented the United Nations. At this meeting were representatives of the Transitional National Council that has emerged as the leadership of the Libyan rebels. For many in the contact group it was their first opportunity to meet with the rebel leadership. Also in Qatar, ahead of the talks was Moussa Koussa, Libya's former foreign minister who became the most prominent member of Gaddafi's regime to deflect when he fled to London last month. Just how he got to Doha and what he was doing there remains something of a mystery. He had no formal role in the summit and the opposition Transitional Nation Council said they had no connection to him but he was reported to be having some meetings outside the summit.

The international contact group agreed to establish a "trust fund" to channel financial assistance to the rebels. Some of this funding is expected to come from Gaddafi's seized assets. The group warned that as many a 3.6 million people have been displaced by the fighting in Libya and that in places like Benhgazi conditions were becoming dire and a great amount of humanitarian aid was needed. There was a great deal of unity on providing this and also on the question of pressuring Gaddafi to step down. There was considerably less unity on the question of arming the rebels. Al Jazeera correspondent James Bays said "Statements from the UK and Qatar have agreed that the situation in Benghazi is urgent. And most is due to a lack of cash - it's not all about heavy weapons for frontline fighters; it's also about being able to pay public servants and getting schools back open."

While some, like German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expressed "deep concerns" that money provided to the rebels might be used to buy weapons. William Hague took a differing view that arming the rebels in Benghazi would not be contrary to international law. Before the conference he told reporters "the arms embargo applies to all of Libya, but it is appropriate to equip people with what is needed to protect themselves".

The Qatar prime minister also seemed to agree, saying "Qatar starts by providing humanitarian supplies, including heating gas and other supplies. We have also taken 6,000 refugees. For all other needs, Qatar ... will make things available for the Libyan people to defend themselves." The Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, went further.

"Gaddafi's tactics are to put tanks in the streets - and we cannot have air strikes against people in the city streets, in the squares, in the highly populated areas," he said.

"Either we make it possible for these people to defend themselves, or we withdraw our claims of support."
The Belgian foreign minister Steven Vanackere sided with Germany in this apparent split among NATO allies.

"The UN resolution speaks about protecting civilians, not arming them," he said.
And that is the dilemma that those that seek to protect Libya civilians from Gaddafi's murderous assaults without taking sides in the struggle to overthrow Gaddafi face. The protesters that took up arms against Gaddafi when their peaceful protests against the regime were met by massive violence in February were not soldiers. They were farmers and salesmen and teachers and oil field workers, in a word, civilians. That is the principal reasons they have fought so poorly. They have much courage but they badly need better weapons, and most of all, training. They are civilians in need of protection by the international community except when they exercise their fundamental right to self-defense, they cease to be civilians. Catch 22.

This was the view expressed at the conference by Qatar's Sheik Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani when he said "And what are the rebels except civilians who have taken up arms to defend themselves in a difficult situation and an uneven battle?"

Gaddafi's government in Tripoli was unimpressed by the array of international forces in Qatar, which they called "more of an oil corporation than a true nation." The spokesman for Gaddafi's government had to say seemed to indicate they see Qatar as playing more of a leading role in opposing Gaddafi than the United States "We are very hopeful that the American people and the American government will not buy into the Qatari lies and Qatari schemes."

Indeed, the United States downplayed it's role in this conference. While Britain, France and other EU nations sent their foreign ministers, US President Obama sent Under Secretary William J Burns, who missed the press conference after the meeting.

Earlier this week an African Union delegation of five, led by South Africa's president Jacob Zuma, attempted to broker a ceasefire and a peace deal. Their 'road map' received Gaddafi's blessing because it allowed him to stay in power however it was nixed by the rebels for the same reason. Most in the opposition now see Gaddafi as a bad faith actor who can only be trusted to bring down a reign of terror on any opposition if he is allowed to remain in power and gain the upper hand. Even while he said that he was accepting the African Union peace plan, he continued his artillery and rocket attacks against Misrata on Monday, a city he has had under siege for six weeks "where conditions for civilians are said to be desperate."

Meanwhile in the west, where the anti-Gaddafi forces have been overwhelmed by his superior firepower, they have begun going over to guerrilla warfare. In the past week there have been attacks on army checkpoints and police stations even in Tripoli.

While the motivations and intentions of Qatar or the African Union in intervening in the Libyan situation may be unclear, it should be clear that the American government and other NATO countries have lies and schemes of their own and certainly Gaddafi does.

What makes the Libyan situation so complex is that now it is two wars in one. First there were the protests against the Libya regime starting in mid January, much like those taking place in Tunisia and Egypt at the time. Gaddafi met those protests with a level of gunfire and violence not seen in the other struggles going on in North Africa or the Middle East. Eventually the protesters went over to armed struggle themselves. With the most primitive of weapons and with great lost of life they stormed a fort in Benghazi and got their first real weapons. Then a part of the army in the east came over to the uprising as General Abdel Fattah Younes joined the opposition with 8,000 soldiers including 3,000 special forces. Already we had the makings of a civil war in Libya as a growing number of Libyans joined what had now become an armed struggle.

For six weeks this struggle has raged back and forward along the Mediterranean coast between Tripoli and Benghazi. The rebels at one point thought themselves to be marching on Tripoli, but with few heavy weapons, little training or experience and well overextended in their supply lines, Gaddafi's forces were able to roll them back easily. Gaddafi found his own supply lines overextended as he attempted to pound Adjanbya into the dust with his bombs and his shells and as he prepared his final assault on Benghazi.

Gaddafi has enjoyed a singular advantage that his brother dictators in Tunisia and Egypt did not have - billions in oil money. His effective control of Libya's oil, and the wealth generated by it has enabled him to support a regime uniquely independent of the people of his country. With Libya's small population and billions of petrodollars he has been able to afford some Libyans a fairly high standard of living. He has also been able to get the best weapons money can buy from the NATO countries that are now destroying them. Once he agreed to get rid of the weapons they felt threatened by, they were only too happy to sell him weapons useful for suppressing the Libyan people. He has also been able to buy the loyalty of a great many Libyans especially in Tripoli and Sirt, his home town and when that didn't prove enough to put down the rebellion, he had money to pay mercenaries to come into Libya to fight Libyans.

Paying Gaddafi for the Libyan oil, trading weapons for it, and then looking the other way as he ran a police state and abused his own people was a priori the role that the US, UK and EU played in this civil war that was decades in the making. At first NATO did nothing to interfere as Gaddafi moved to crush the uprising with massive violence, but even with mercenaries and aircraft and gunboats off shore he couldn't whip the rebels into staying down. It appeared that an ugly stalemate was developing in Libya with nasty implications for stability in the region and for the price of oil while world capitalism is still trying to climb out of the worst economic crisis since the '30's.

After Gaddafi's forces shelled and bombed the city of Ajdabiya killing hundreds and as he approached Benghazi with the stated intention to doing the same to this city of over a million, NATO was faced with the potential embarrassment of another massacre not of it's making on it's watch. It was also becoming increasingly clear that there could be no going back to business as usual with Gaddafi but they had little influence or knowledge about the rebels seeking to inherit Libya's oil.

So they began their own war against the Gaddafi regime in the name of stopping a massacre but with the same imperial intentions that have motivated their intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan among other places. This has led to a rather complex three sided war in which both the rebels and NATO are united in the goal of ousting Gaddafi but have difference over what will replace him.

The rebels want NATO's help in building a free and independent Libya whereas NATO wants another North African regime that is in their pocket. Most likely this explains why they have been slow to respond to Gaddafi's merciless shelling of Misrata. They have been attacks on rebel forces or the shooting down by NATO of one of the few ancient MIGs the rebels have managed to make airworthy.

Difference on just how to play the rebels was no doubt also behind the differences among NATO allies that came out at today's Doha conference.

Here are the links to my articles at WL Central:
2011-02-24 Arming Gaddfi
2011-02-14 Senior Egyptian army officers ordered massacre
2011-02-13 Tales of Tyrants: Ben Ali, Mubarak & Suleiman
2011-02-12 Algeria Protesters Defy Ban, Demand Change
The Mubarak Screw Up & the Suleiman Danger
2011-02-10 Mubarak is Defiant
2011-02-10 Mubarak Expected to Step Down!
2011-02-09 The Google Search for Wael Ghonim
2011-02-08 The New Egyptian Normal: Thousands Demonstrate in Cairo, Alexandria
2011-02-06 Tunisia's Revolution Continues
2011-02-04 Tunisian Anonymous activists take on Egyptian cause
2011-02-04 Protesters roar back with "Day of Departure" for Mubarak
2011-02-03 Algerians plan Feb 12 protest against 19- year-long state of emergency
2011-02-01 Jordan's King Sacks Government as Protests Grow
2011-02-01 Tunisian Islamic Leader Returns as EU Freezes Ousted President's Assets
2011-02-01 Army Vows Not to Shoot as Protesters make Million Man Marches in Cairo, Alexandria Today [UPDATE: 2]
2011-01-30 Million Egyptian Protest Planned as Resistance Continues
2011-01-29 No Internet? No Problem! Anonymous Faxes Egypt
2011-01-28 In Jordan Thousands Demand New Government
2011-01-28 Mubarak Refuses to Step Down!
2011-01-28 Egypt is on Fire!
2011-01-27 Libya is in Revolt as Gaddafi Worries
2011-01-27 Algerians Plan Big Protest Rally for February 9th
2011-01-27 Tunisia Protests Continues as a Warrant is Issued for Ben Ali
2011-01-27 Tens of Thousands Rally in Yemen, Demand Change
2011-01-27 Mubarak Blinks as Egyptian Protests Continue for 3rd Day

North African Hacker Humor

Here is a recap of my other DKos diaries on the Internet, North Africa and Anonymous:
Who's running Egypt?
Amonpour Plays Softball with Gaddafi
Californians Support North African Revolts
Google Supports Revolts | Anonymous does too!
Secret U.S. Intelligence Source on Middle East Revealed !
Arming Gaddfi

Algeria's 19 year long State of Emergency to end soon, President says
Senior Egyptian Army Officers Ordered Massacre!
Tales of Tyrants: Ben Ali, Mubarak & Suleiman
UPDATE: Egypt's Mubarak Has Resigned! - The Mubarak Screw Up & the Suleiman Danger
BREAKING: Mubarak is Defiant
The Google Search for Wael Ghonim
Tunisia's Revolution Continues
Google Goes Rebel, Supports Egyptian Protest
Tunisian Anonymous activists take on Egyptian cause

Act Now to Stop Mubarak's Thugs From Killing More! w Petition
Act Now to Stop Mubarak's Thugs From Killing More!
They Should Have Helped That Street Vendor
Million Egyptian Protest Planned as Resistance Continues
Huffington Post Disses the Jasmine Revolution Redux
No Internet? No Problem! Anonymous Faxes Egypt
Egypt is on Fire!
North African Revolution Continues
Egypt Protests Continue, Tunisia Wants Ben Ali Back
BREAKING: Protesters Plan Massive "Day of Wrath" in Egypt Today
Tunisians Thank Anonymous as North Africa Explodes
Huffington Post Disses the Jasmine Revolution
Tunisia: A Single Tweet Can Start A Prairie Fire!
Anonymous plans Op Swift Assist in Tunisia
Arrested Pirate Party Member Becomes Tunisian Minister
Is Libya Next? Anonymous Debates New Operation
Tunis: This Photo was Taken 66 Minutes Ago
The WikiLeaks Revolution: Anonymous Strikes Tunisia
EMERGENCY: DKos Must Act Now to Protect Tunisian Bloggers!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Current Events in Libya

At this point NATO is just using Gaddafi to discipline the rebels.

For a month UN/NATO gave Gaddafi absolute freedom to apply maximum violence to suppress the rebels. Meanwhile they kept buying his oil and if he had been successful all would have been forgiven and they would have kept buying the oil from him.

They made overtures to the rebels and those overtures were rejected. They landed British SAS forces in a rebel area and the rebels arrested them. That probably delayed NATO air strikes by more than a week.

Most of all NATO wants oil from Libya and they can get that from Gaddafi or the rebels but they can't get that without stability. NATO did not act until they had determined Gaddafi would not prevail quickly. His promise to do to Benhgazi what he had just done to Ajdabiya, saying "Libya will clean house to house if the protesters do not surrender", meant that as many as a hundred thousand civilians could have been slaughtered and that whole oil producing area would be in great turmoil for a long time. So they finally acted.

Once NATO started bombing they had already determined that Gaddafi must go and they have every intention of removing him. But they still have not received the concessions they want from the rebels. That's why they have backed off. That is why they have been slow to resumed air strikes to stop Gaddafi's murderous bombardment of Misratah. They are using Gaddafi to discipline the rebels in an attempt to force them to beg for NATO's support on NATO's terms.