All posts by Jesse D. Palmer

Don’t believe the nuclear hype: business as usual is the real catastrophe

As scary as the current Japanese nuclear disaster is with radiation displacing thousands of people and poisoning the ocean around the plant, the environmental damage caused silently by the business-as-usual use of coal, natural gas, oil, and hydroelectric power is arguably greater than the current nuclear crisis. The mainstream media doesn’t send out camera crews to film coal-fired power plants operating as designed, or natural gas fracking wells, or mountaintop removal mining, but that doesn’t mean that each isn’t an ongoing ecological catastrophe.

To understand what Fukushima really means, it is helpful to step back and avoid seeing the disaster in isolation. Does the catastrophe mean there is merely a problem with this plant design, or nuclear power as a whole, or the entire highly complex technologically dependent way of life we’re a part of? Is the problem the way electricity is produced, or that the system needs so damn much of it in the first place? What can we do to move in a different direction?

The nuclear disaster in Japan is a warning against nuclear power — perhaps just in time to slow down a global rush towards construction of more nuclear power plants to supply exploding demand for electricity. Many reasonable people have recently begun supporting nuclear power as a “clean” — or at least non-greenhouse gas emitting — supply of power; a way of continuing business as usual and fueling rapid economic expansion while avoiding devastating climate change.

For nuclear power, the infrequent nuclear accidents that release radiation are by no means the most worrisome risks. The greatest risk from nuclear power has always been the waste. In the US and around the world, there is no realistic plan for permanently and safely disposing of the waste, some of which can be dangerous for 100,000 years.

While most of the attention at Fukushima has been on the partial meltdown of the reactor cores and release of radiation from the containment structures, it is now apparent that a significant amount of radiation released has been from spent nuclear fuel stored in cooling ponds. In the US, with no permanent nuclear waste disposal site, it is instead stored in identical large cooling ponds at each nuclear plant, sometimes for many years. After waste cools for 5 years, it can be moved to dry storage casks, which then pile up around the plant waiting for some place to go. But many plant operators aren’t putting waste in casks because to do so would cost billions of dollars. This is a dangerous legacy to leave future generations.

Nuclear also fails the “clean” test because the uranium used in reactors has to be mined, creating more radioactive waste and contaminated water around mining sites that is rarely discussed. Perhaps this is because many mines are on indigenous land. And while Obama and leaders around the world have signaled their desire to build more nuclear power plants as an alternative to fossil fuels, private industry is holding back because in addition to the dangers, building nuclear power plants is extremely expensive — possibly cost prohibitive when compared to cheap fossil fuels. Most US nuclear power plant construction stopped in the late 1970s not because of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, but because building nuclear plants was not cost competitive.

And yet nuclear is potentially less dangerous than burning fossil fuels, because with nuclear power at least someone has a rough idea of where the waste products are. When people burn fossil fuels, the waste goes up into the atmosphere and drifts at will, changing the chemistry of the oceans and warming the climate.

One hundred years from now, it is highly likely that the disastrous environmental changes caused by fossil fuel combustion — which will effect every part of the globe, not just areas near industrialized population centers — will dwarf the more confined dead zones that are nuclear power’s legacy. Climate change threatens to collapse agricultural production by creating climate chaos where farmers need predictability — freak storms, untimely freezes in normally warm regions, heat waves, droughts in some areas and unusually heavy rain and flooding in others. Ocean acidification could wipe out fish as we know them by dissolving the calcium that makes up bones and shells. Biologists already believe we’re in the sixth global species extinction, on par with the climatic changes that caused dinosaurs to go extinct.

Coal-fired electricity emits the most carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of power generated, although a recent study by Cornell professor Robert Howarth found that natural gas may contribute more to global warming than previously thought because of significant emissions of unburned gas during drilling and transport, which is 20 times as potent a green house gas as CO2. Gas drilling is expanding and gas prices falling as new fracking techniques open up gas fields around the US, often threatening local water supplies.

The US alone burns about 1,000 million tons of coal per year according to the US Energy Information Agency, mostly to generate electricity. Coal emits about 5,000 pounds of CO2 per ton burned. Mining it causes localized devastation. Despite this, coal plants with 50-year service lives are still being constructed in the US and around the world. India and China are completing approximately one new coal-fired power plant per week.

If the US closed all of its 104 nuclear power plants tomorrow, which produce about 20 percent of US electricity, coal and gas are the cheapest and most likely alternatives.

The US is gearing up to increase coal exports, mostly to China and India. Washington state is currently considering two proposals to construct coal export terminals — one in Longview at the mouth of the Columbia river that could export 60 million tons per year and the other in Bellingham north of Seattle that would handle 24 million tons per year. Each would load coal onto ships moved by train from the Power River Basin in Montana and Wyoming.

The common threads that join nuclear, coal, natural gas and oil is centralized corporate control, short-term means-to-an-end thinking, and a blind reliance on technology without attention to consequences. It is easy to see the way power is constantly and automatically consumed in our world as inevitable, invisible or even natural.

Is anyone asking whether all this electricity is really meeting our most important human needs — for freedom, for meaning, for pleasure, for expression, for community? Unlimited electricity is most important to the hyper complex systems all around us that steal our time, manage our desires, and try to distract us from what is going on with cheap thrills, empty-calorie treats, facebook status updates, and media extravaganzas.

Its likely that a world with less electricity would be a world in which each of us could be more fully alive, human, and free. How often during an average hectic workday do any of us get a chance to stop and take a moment to notice the enormity and wonder of our existence? Standing on our feet, feeling gravity, feeling the wind flow around us and the sun warming our skin. Our wired society has stolen these moments from us just as it has stolen the stars from a dark night sky.

Disasters like Fukushima can focus our minds and help us build resistance, community, and alternatives. Or, they can be used by the system to distract us from the ongoing, daily disaster of business as usual. Resistance is possible beginning in each of our own heads and spreading to those around us. The nuclear and coal worldview depends on massive centralization and scale, and therein lie its vulnerability because it has lost touch with what is important and human, just as they have become disconnected from what is healthy, sustainable and safe.

Looking for dignity, finding revolution: how North Africa & the Middle East inspire us

Can the revolts in North Africa and the Middle East of the past few months inspire similarly energetic uprisings in the US against the self-destructing industrial/financial system and the handful of people who profit from it? The revolts in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, etc. have demonstrated how quickly a society can move from resigned acceptance of an oppressive status quo to open defiance. It is inspiring to see how fragile seemingly intractable power structures can be.

The US, too, is ripe for revolt despite the superficial appearance of stability indicated by the millions of people who dutifully head off to work everyday focused on consumerism and corporate media. Social pressure is building over increased inequality and injustice that is barely discussed in mainstream dialog, much less addressed. The last 40 years of tax cuts for the rich, corporate globalization and union busting have created the largest wealth inequalities since before the Great Depression. All of the fruits of US economic growth in the last 30 years have gone to the richest 20 percent of the population, with just 1 percent getting the lion’s share. Ever year, millions of Americans have fallen out of the middle class and into marginalized economic hopelessness. Meanwhile, it becomes more clear every year that the environmental consequences of the ever-expanding industrial machine are not sustainable. The oceans are dying, the air increasingly filled with CO2, forest and mineral resources depleted, and farmland exhausted.

As exciting and inspirational as it has been to follow the revolts in the Middle East, it is easy to feel despair, alone and small when you compare their successes to our situation in the US.

Perhaps that’s how Mohamed Bouazizi felt in Tunisia. In December, Bouazizi, a 26 year old street vender, touched off the current wave of revolts when, in total frustration with police abuse, corruption and his struggle to survive, he set himself on fire. In fact, he was not alone. Everyone around him was thinking roughly the same thing he was thinking. They couldn’t take the rotten system anymore. But until Bouazizi’s act, most people did nothing – they kept their dissatisfaction bottled up and hidden. Maybe out of fear. Or maybe because it is natural for people to be resigned to unacceptable circumstances when they feel isolated. We get used to tolerating our circumstances and feel powerless to change them.

Once a spark was lit in Tunisia, it turned out thousands of isolated and resigned people were ready to join with others and risk everything against a seemingly all-powerful system. And not just in Tunisia – the spark started fires that spread country to country. People even turned out for protests in China, although those protests were instantly crushed by the massive police state.

Watching the revolts from the US, the bravery and determination exhibited by so many thousands comes through powerfully. What is it they have, and we lack? Or are we all psychologically equipped to rise up? And if so, when and how?

The feeling of dissatisfaction and yet resignation is familiar in the US and to people everywhere and throughout history. The emotional basis for inaction in Tunisia or Egypt or Syria before the current uprisings – and the way people can break free of their inhibitions and take huge risks to demand a new world – are the same no matter where you are. In North Africa and the Middle East, anyone getting out of line faces torture chambers and murder, and yet they are rising up anyway.

The power structure in the US (usually) uses more subtle forms of control to establish cultural hegemony and political stability. There are a million cheap thrills to constantly distract attention from the oppressive operation of the system. Most people conclude that the current structure of society is inevitable and that there are no realistic alternatives – even people deeply unhappy with the status quo.

No one knows what might spark mass resistance to the system in the US – there are no easy answers or magic formulas. At the very least, it is crucial to continually discuss alternatives and articulate the values and stories that underpin them. Whereas the system emphasizes competition and imagines each individual as a mini-entrepreneur, rising or falling against everyone else based on his or her individual talent and initiative, it is important to discuss and expose the role of social class and centralized power.

The alternative to a corporate industrial world that concentrates all wealth in a few hands at the expense of workers, communities and the environment is a system of decentralized, voluntary associations based on cooperation and production for use, not profit. The alternative is organizing society around meeting human needs, sustaining the earth, and promoting freedom, pleasure and beauty. The alternative is to make decisions consciously and collectively, rather than letting economic and technological systems unreflectively exercise most of the real power over our lives.

The huge protests in Madison, Wisconsin against attacks on public-sector unions and the recent riots and protests against police killings in Seattle and Portland have demonstrated how people can push back, even though these protests are reactive and defensive. It’s time to take the initiative and go on the offensive. This means talking to people we don’t already know, taking risks, building new communities where none exist, and pushing each of our boundaries.

The stories that people use to help them understand their lives are a critically important piece of the puzzle. There is a constant and continuing battle over values and stories. Purely activist efforts are too simplistic and too focused on facts and rationality – they assume that everyone is operating with the same stories and that particular facts will be interpreted the same by everyone. In fact, depending on the stories you start out with, two people can see the same facts and come to startling different conclusions.

Mainstream culture and the pro-business interests that control its organized side have developed compelling stories about what is important in life and the nature of human beings that make it very difficult to notice particular facts or take effective action. If you assume that the most important characteristics of human beings is their selfishness, competitiveness and individualism, then the fact that the world is organized around profit, private property and centralization of wealth and power appear to be natural results of human qualities, rather than particular power structures created to benefit a minority of the population.

The assumption that people are basically selfish is not supported by the most important relationships people have with each other, which are cooperative and generous. On a day-to-day level, we spend far more time sharing and cooperating with our families, our friends, and those close to us than we do competing with them or acting selfishly. The relationships that are most meaningful to us are cooperative, generous, sharing relationships. By contrast, our competitive and individualist interactions exhaust us, stress us out, and don’t give us a sense of meaning, satisfaction or happiness. Instead, they make us feel alone, small, scared and constantly inadequate. You never feel a sense of wonder at merely existing with no need to justify your value during your daily interactions with the market economy and the technological industrial machine.

We need to articulate and live stories of sharing, community and cooperation to oppose the mainstream’s one-sided story of selfishness and isolated individualism.

It is in the interest of those in power to view people as primarily selfish economic actors – concerned with rational decision making aimed at accumulating material goods. Cooperation and sharing are invisible to the market economy because they don’t concentrate wealth. For the capitalist system to continue expansion, it must constantly invent new needs and develop new markets, which in a developed economy means figuring out ways the market economy can meet needs previously met informally through the family or the community.

So cooking at home gets replaced by instant dinners and fast food supplied by corporations. The market supplies video games, television and a gym membership to displace free recreation like playing in the woods or hanging out with friends in the streets. Kids who formerly walked or biked to school get rides from their parents. Granny doesn’t come around to do childcare and some mending – she goes on a cruise or to a casino, or a nursing home, while the kids go to daycare and the clothes get thrown away and replaced with new ones from China.

When people do things for themselves and those around them, it builds feelings of solidarity and group identity that allows people to stand up to centralized power structures. By contrast, the more of our lives we spend working meaningless jobs and enjoying superficial corporate treats, the less sure of ourselves we become and the more alone, isolated and powerless we feel. Increasing participation in the system weakens the ability to resist the system.

The sense of working class culture in the US – that people who work for a living have different interests than their bosses – may be at all time low because people’s lives have become so focused on individualized pursuits and so stripped of shared, cooperative activities. Driving alone, living alone, enjoying personally directed media entertainment alone, eating alone – all of this has psychological effects that accumulate over time. Without opportunities to practice cooperation, it is easy to buy mainstream stories about which of our impulses – individual or collective – are most natural and human.

I still don’t know how people in the US can finally move to action from our deep resignation, but I feel encouraged in the knowledge that I can do something by staying present and trying. Standing in a crowd can make a difference, at least for those of us there. Any society can move quickly from resignation and acceptance to revolt – the difference is a small psychological shift, building on feelings already present in all of us all the time. Being together – a community in the streets visible to others – can help build that change as it always has across the globe and throughout time.

All aboard!! Except bikes?

Bicycles and trains are natural allies in providing alternatives to private automobiles for transportation, or they can be. When rail operators permit bicyclists to easily and quickly take bikes on trains, the combination of bikes and trains each extend the other’s reach. You bike to a train station, ride the train, and then bike from the train station to your destination. In the Bay Area, you can carry a bike onto the BART subway trains as well as commuter trains like the Capitol Corridor to Sacramento or Cal-Train between San Francisco and San Jose. Thousands of people with bikes ride on these trains every day.

By contrast, it is fairly difficult to take your bicycle on Amtrak’s long-distance trains that travel across the US. You usually have to partially disassemble your bike and put it into a special $10 box to carry as checked baggage, which limits you to getting on and off the train at the relatively few stations that permit checked baggage. Boxing the bike requires removing peddles and loosening the handle bar stem, all requiring special tools. These rules discourage people from taking their bicycles on long-distance trains.

It doesn’t have to be like this. On some Amtrak routes – like the Cascades between Vancouver, BC and Eugene, Oregon and others (see chart) – you can bring your bike on the train quickly and without boxing it up. The routes that accept bikes without boxes either have bike racks in the baggage cars or bike racks in the entrance area of coach cars.

Luckily, Amtrak ordered 55 new baggage cars in 2010 to replace the fleet of used baggage cars it inherited from private passenger railroads when it was created in 1971. The old baggage cars (the youngest is 49 years old!) don’t have bike racks, but the new ones will. They’ll be delivered in 2012.

The new baggage cars raise the possibility that all long-distance trains could easily accept un-boxed bikes, but Amtrak isn’t promising anything. According to Amtrak spokesperson Vernae Graham, “The plan is that the new baggage cars that Amtrak acquires will be equipped with some form of bicycle racks or storage capabilities. It is unclear if all, some, or any of the train services will allow ‘roll-on/roll-off’ bicycle capabilities. This will depend on route characteristics, schedule time, and other factors.”

Why should anyone care? Over the past few years I’ve become as passionate about riding the train as I am about biking. On a superficial level, these lifestylist transportation choices sometimes begin as an attempt at reducing one’s carbon footprint out of concern about global climate change. Bikes only use the fossil fuels necessary to build a bike, and train travel generates only about half as many greenhouse emissions as plane or auto travel.

But the real reason I love taking the train and riding my bike is how these experiences change my own consciousness and how they change my relationships with others. Car travel reinforces an individualized, unreflective, hurried world view that fits nicely with the type of consciousness the industrial system needs in its workers and consumers. We’re social creatures who are always deeply dependent on other people, but the car promotes the myth that each of us is an island competing, rather than cooperating, with everyone else. Car consciousness is all about selfishness. When you drive a car, it’s easy to feel hostility to the other drivers – out of my way! Cars zip around – all the speed, ease and instant gratification hiding the huge social costs of the industrialized world required to build road networks and create fuel to keep cars moving.

By contrast, train travel is often a cooperative, shared, social experience that humanizes fellow travelers. Especially on long distance trains, strangers talk to each other. Riding the train, you notice the landscapes you’re passing, not just the road ahead and your destination. The train can be a break from doing and a step into being – a time to notice things and just exist.

Bicycling engages one’s entire being in an almost meditative way, the present moment thrust forward, breaking down the split between your body and your mind as both cooperate to keep moving forward. Biking can be individualizing but often isn’t – you’re much more likely to talk to another bicyclist you pass than if you were both in cars. Biking takes time and slows down your consciousness to a more natural, human speed.

It is interesting to note that the right-wing Tea Party movement has specifically targeted funding for rail travel but has never met a freeway project it doesn’t want to throw money into. Highways eat up far more government funding than rail, so if the Tea Party was really primarily interested in smaller government, wouldn’t they go after roads? Perhaps the cooperative nature of train travel threatens their free-market, individualist ideology?

To stay in power, the tiny number of people who control the corporate system need everyone’s psychological acceptance of a deeply unjust system that centralize all power and resources created by all of us in their hands.

Within each of us, there are individual impulses like selfishness and competitiveness, as well as social impulses like cooperation and sharing. The market system only sees half of us, assuming all our decisions are “rational” i.e. made out of individual self-interest. The market ignores our cooperative actions and self-directed activity – sharing with our family, volunteering in our community, helping out friends, and taking free time – because these are not market transactions. This side of our lives doesn’t contribute to the Gross National Product or make money for corporations, is not managed by anyone, and has no marketing budget.

But for most people, the community side of our lives and our self-direct activities are far more important and satisfying. We live to share with our loved ones and experience the world. Working a job and going to the store are necessary but don’t give us a deep sense of meaning or belonging. Market-based experiences are frequently fleeting and superficial, while self-defined and community-based experiences are memorable and essential.

Those in power want to emphasize our individual, market-oriented impulses because these strengthen their power. Social institutions that psychologically individualize us and make us dependent on the system – cars, suburban housing, corporate media – make individual people see the private enterprise system with its emphasis on selfishness and competition as natural, inevitable and just. Even individuals who come out on the bottom of the economic heap can come to believe that they deserve to be there – that their poverty is a social Darwinist result of their own failures – rather than the functioning of an inherently unjust economic system which concentrates resources in one social class at the expense of everyone else.

By contrast, interactions that are outside the market system or that emphasize cooperation, collective identity and other people build our ability to think outside of the corporate system. Travel by train and bike are tiny examples of experiences that provide alternatives to dominant normalizing systems. Promoting these and many other alternative day-to-day experiences may help build a subtle psychological foundation that can help us awake from our political slumber and openly attack the unjust, inhuman and ecologically suicidal system that rules the world.

If you want to ask Amtrak to accept more bikes, call 800-USA-RAIL or use the website form at amtrak.com.

AMTRAK TRAINS THAT ACCEPT BICYCLES WITHOUT BOXES (4/2011)

Train name Location Served

Capitol Corridor SF Bay Area / Sacramento

Cascades Vancouver BC / Eugene

Downeaster Boston / Portland, ME

Downstate Illinois Service Chicago / Quincy, St. Louis or Carbondale

Missouri River Runner Kansas City / St. Louis, MO

Pacific Surfliner San Diego / San Luis Obispo, CA

Piedmont NYC / Charlotte, NC

San Joaquin SF Bay Area / Bakersfield

Critical Mass vs. Bike Party: leaderless doesn’t mean disorganized

Berkeley’s Critical Mass bide ride – the leaderless bike parade that joins the evening commute on the second Friday of each month – turned 18 years old this spring and it is amazing how much conditions for cyclists have improved over those years. You see more and more people of all kinds, ages and purposes riding all kinds of bikes on East Bay streets. Berkeley and other cities have created networks of bicycle boulevards with improved crossings and safety features. There is more bike parking, although never enough to keep up with heavy demand from more cyclists.

And yet the Berkeley mass rides, which gather at 6 pm at Berkeley BART, are much smaller these days. The decline is in stark contrast to the rapid rise in popularity of the East Bay Bike Party – another group ride that starts two hours later on the same night as Critical Mass. While both rides appear similar from the outside, they are organized differently and their relative popularity points to the challenges facing non-hierarchical organizing.

Both rides seek to fill the streets with bikes to build community between cyclists and just for fun. But whereas Critical Mass is leaderless and provides a rare and dangerous opportunity to participate in on-the-fly group decision making which puts responsibility for the outcome of each event onto all of the participants, the Bike Party is a hierarchical exercise. Mirroring mainstream society’s division of people into managers or consumers, the Bike Party follows a pre-determined route published in advance on the internet. A team of organizers with bullhorns tell participants when to turn and enforce a “how we ride” list of rules: “stop at red lights” and “stay in the right lane” so auto traffic can pass.

The Bike Party stops at two or three pre-determined spots along the ride to dance and socialize while Critical Mass stops less, mostly if there is a problem. Both rides have bike trailers with sound systems blaring music and some level of bike decoration. The Bike Party has a theme each month. March was “The Big Lebowski.”

At the moment, people are voting with their peddles for the Bike Party organizing style. The Bike Party rides have been wildly successful and a lot of fun. The Bike Party has solved some of the key problems that have plagued Critical Mass for years: unnecessary and ugly confrontations with motorists that can make the ride feel more like a battle than a celebration, poor route decisions made on the fly by whoever ends up at the front of the ride, and the ride splitting apart because the people in front go too fast. Perhaps because the Bike Party is consistently fun and mellow, it seems more diverse to me in terms of age, race, and the type of cyclists who attend. You see cycle commuters, spandex weekend warriors, and most of all lots of hipsters.

Despite the things I like about the Bike Party, something is missing. The last ride I was on felt cold and anonymous – I noticed people weren’t talking to each other as much as on a Critical Mass ride, but instead were mostly in groups talking to the other people in the group they had come with. Because the ride is organized over the internet, it feels less organic, less like a real community, and more superficial. The vibe was familiar to many social situations – sort of passive and disengaged because someone else had taken responsibility for making the decisions in advance and all you had to do was go along.

Several times a big group rode along mostly in silence, not knowing what to say except when someone would yell, “bike party.” People kept yelling that – what does it really mean? It almost underlines the stubborn refusal of the Bike Party to mean anything, even though any big group of bikes riding in the street cannot avoid challenging auto domination, no matter how much the organizers want it to be non-disruptive to cars and “just fun.”

In contrast, riding in Critical Mass is always electrifying, participatory, spontaneous and social. Because no one is in charge and anyone can lead just by being at the front, debate between strangers to figure out what to do next breaks out at almost every intersection as well as back in the body of the ride. Having these discussions with strangers builds a sense of solidarity and shared responsibility for the ride. It feels like a community. Sometimes having responsibility and yet no actual control can be frustrating and exhausting – you don’t always get your way and you often feel like other people are making unfortunate decisions. Yet the process is engaging, raw and real. You never know what is going to happen next, which is a rare feeling for most of us. Not only does it feel out of the ordinary to fill the streets with bikes, it feels out of the ordinary to be in a large group making collective decisions.

The difference between the Bike Party and Critical Mass is like the difference between being in a boring, scripted peace march organized by ANSWER and running with the black bloc.

What does it mean for anti-authoritarians that one of the longest running regular leaderless public gatherings is declining, to be replaced by a managed, programmed, obedient bike parade?

Many people – including anti-authoritarians – are so used to being directed by leaders and bosses that when there is no boss, they act as if having no boss means “I should act the fool” rather than figuring out a way to act responsibly and cooperatively with others. The main problem with the Critical Mass rides – which has been successfully addressed by the Bike Party – is the tendency of a few hyper-macho hotheads to use the ride to work out their own anger issues. People don’t want to go on a bike ride that yells obscenities at every car, engages in dangerous moving violations and gets into fists fights.

Despite the flaws inherent in Critical Mass, it is worth going, working to revive it, and taking responsibility for making the ride more functional while you’re there. To build a world without bosses where we organize things on our own, we need more opportunities to practice. Many people are putting their energy into collective businesses, communal houses, and DIY projects which each give us chances to create our own realities with others. Group process while sitting in a meeting is a lot different and less intense than group process in a group of hundreds of people you don’t know while you’re moving over the pavement.

The psychological level of social transformation is key. The system hopes to keep us passive – in public schools, as employees, as passive viewers of concerts and sporting events, and as customers at malls and restaurants. And the system seeks to train some of us as managers. Are the Bike Party organizers falling into the trap? The counter-culture gives us too few chances to transcend our normal roles and practice something different.

Join San Francisco Critical Mass (which is still huge) the last Friday of each month at 6 pm at Justin Herman plaza (Embarcadero BART). Berkeley CM is the second Friday at Berkeley BART at 6. The East Bay Bike Party (fun and worth it) is the second Friday at 8 – check the website for location. There is also a San Francisco Bike Party (first Friday) and a San Jose Bike Party (third Friday) – I haven’t been to either yet. For info, sfcriticalmass.org or eastbaybikeparty.wordpress.com.

Creating Conscious Communities – our modest efforst are really the only hope

Each day there are opportunities for resistance, liberation, freedom, creativity, engagement, and meaning. It is easy to miss these opportunities and get distracted and bogged down by day-to-day hassles — stuck in traffic, staring at the internet, emotionally numb, confused, and feeling disconnected from anything important. There are no easy answers about how to live our lives but we all make choices about where we put our time, our energy, and our passion. While you can never guarantee the outcome, if you aren’t even putting time and energy on a daily basis into some kind of alternative to the mainstream economic / cultural / political / technological system, your tomorrow is going to end up similar to your today. By contrast, as tough, frustrating and scary as it can be, putting some of your life every day into the counter-culture and alternatives to the system makes a difference — at least in the way you experience your own life.

You can look at the discouraging state of the world with its wars, oil spills, sweatshops, global warming, and Velveeta culture, and feel lost and powerless. Very powerful corporate and government structures have devised many ways to maintain the status quo. But something has to give. We live on a finite planet — if our lives are reduced to ever-increasing mass industrial consumption while population continues its increase, our species will push ecological systems beyond their limits and we’ll suffer collapse. It may be we’ve already gone too far and this process is already beginning.

The powers that be are betting on a technological fix to the problem of a finite planet that won’t threaten the existing power structure with its unequal distribution of power and centralized decision-making — a way to keep living as we’re living. Even if this was possible, a technological breakthrough would not address the dehumanizing way the system subordinates human needs for freedom, meaning and engagement to the needs of the system.

What we need is a cultural and political breakthrough — a total shift in values and social structures in which human satisfaction, expression and connection with the moment, other people and the earth become more important than acquiring and consuming things and services.

Whereas a government / corporate technological fix requires funding for research in universities and corporate labs, a values breakthrough requires reviving community and creating more vibrant dialog, independent organizing outside of the system’s imperatives, and an explosion of creative and visionary experimentation. Even people with a critique of the current system and a yearning for change don’t yet know what a new world will look like or how we can create one. Our values and understanding is limited by the world we inhabit. Our ability to cooperate and communicate with others — our self-knowledge and capacity for universal love –are always inadequate to the task at hand and in the process of evolving, growing and developing.

In figuring out what to do day-to-day, it can be helpful to keep in mind our most visionary goals and values and then work backwards to figure out how we can live them. People should be able to live decent lives without hurting other people and without hurting the earth. We must have freedom, meaning, excitement, opportunities to fulfill our individual potential, chances to be close to other people, and space to enjoy beauty, the natural world, and pleasure. This means we have to be safe from violence, have self-determination and have sufficient material resources to meet our needs.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the need to keep my greater goals in mind and reverse engineer them to figure out how to negotiate a complex series of bummers at the Long Haul infoshop collective in Berkeley. Actual involvement in any human project is not like a visionary Slingshot article. Instead, it is messy, compromised, potentially discouraging and complex. Things can be ambiguous and sometimes you can’t solve a problem, you can only pick the least bad option. When you get frustrated like that, you need to step back. Instead of getting stuck in each specific problem — which could easily trap you in an endless and depressing cycle of reaction and negativity — maybe you can figure out a way to change the level of discourse. Maybe a positive new initiative can do more good than struggling to fix an impossible knot.

At the end of the day, I would rather be engaged in a meaningful, exciting, deeply human, creative, and yet marginal, dysfunctional and struggling counter-culture than clinging to the status quo that chases absurd goals and is crumbling.

Resistance to Austerity: It’s not just for Europeans

The continued economic recession offers stark choices. You can buy the mainstream ideological line that we’re in a time of economic scarcity and end up spinning your wheels fighting other struggling people over who will get this scrap of welfare at the expense of that crumb of education funding. Or, you can seize the opportunity presented by the recession to expose the rotten system in which the richest people continue to get richer at the same moment they ask ordinary people to do without.

Don’t be fooled by the TV talking heads: the economic stress we are living through is not about a lack of resources, it is about how those resources are distributed and how the process is controlled. There is a lot of talk about tightening belts at the same time that Wall Street had a great year during 2010 — the stock market was up 11 percent for the year and bankers received billions in bonuses. It is curious to hear frantic calls to cut government budgets at the same time as tax cuts are passed for the richest 1 percent — you wouldn’t want them to have to cut their yacht budget.

While recessions impose real pain, they are built into the fabric of the free market system — rather than being a failure of the system, they are a normal part of its operation. It is easy to get confused and distracted by complex discussions of the housing bubble and Wall Street gimmicks like mortgage derivatives and credit default swaps. These details obscure the easy lesson of the recent crash, which is that the economic system is operating on its own internal logic always concentrating wealth and power at the top and disconnected from the welfare of the vast majority of people and the earth.

How can we see through the distractions and false choices that supporters of the economic status quo have been pushing to grasp that the recession offers opportunities for people to organize for a better future. We don’t have to be depressed by the depression — we can resist austerity and struggle for a world organized to meet human needs, not serve corporate greed. Austerity was Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2010 — it means a government policy of spending cuts and reduction of public services.

In Europe in particular, 2010 saw an eruption of popular protest against economic austerity with massive strikes, riots and protests in Greece, England, France, Spain, Italy, etc.

In the US, by contrast, the recession hasn’t (so far) trigged much popular revolt against the economic system and its injustices during recession times — a rejection of continued corporate control and domination by unaccountable Wall Street tycoons.

In the absence of organized opposition to the recession and economic injustice, many people stung by the recession have been attracted by the Tea Party movement — an exercise in confusion and distraction focused on government abstractions like “the founding fathers” and details about “the Constitution,” rather than economic issues. The Tea Party actually demands more economic hardship for the poorest people while it distracts attention from the failures of the capitalist economic system, and subtlely implies that immigrants and minorities are the real problem with its demands to “take American back.” From whom? Certainly not the Fortune 500 or the richest 1 percent who make their income from stock dividends, not working a job — the Tea Party never mentions them. The Tea Party demands small government, but ignores Big Business.

How can we make 2011 a year of resistance to austerity — not just in Europe, but in the US and around the globe? How about a general strike in Pittsburgh or a bread riot in Atlanta? When banks try to throw a family out in the street, an organized neighborhood can barricade the block. If folks in London can throw shit at Prince Charles’ limo like they did at a recent demonstration in London, maybe someone can TP Donald Trump’s mansion or something. Who the fuck in the USA is parallel to Prince Charles, anyway?

And how can we widen resistance from begging for government / economic crumbs to attacking the absurdity of an economic system which requires inequality and injustice as well as unlimited economic growth on a finite planet, which is threatening us all with ecological collapse?

Demanding “no cuts” to a particular government program or “no fee increases” for higher education misses the point by implying that if the capitalism system would just start working better again — growing and creating wealth to feed government bureaucracies — everything would be fine. Capitalism is cyclical — good times follow bad times just like bad times follow good times — but no matter which side of the business cycle you’re on, the system maintains economic inequality and concentrates power. Excessively modest / reformist goals piss away the opportunities presented by this moment. As some people try to defend aspects of the welfare state, don’t forget that the reason it was created in the first place was to avoid riots, strikes and social disruption so as to preserve the basic injustices of the system by making them a little less unpleasant.

The most dangerous aspects of capitalism are the ways it sucks meaning and self-determination from our day-to-day lives and the way its value-free efficiency carves up the planet. Environmental destruction — deforestation, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, etc. — actually fall during recessions when production falls. That tells you that moments when the capitalist system is “healthy” and profits are surging are precisely the most unhealthy moments for human beings and the natural world. A particularly cynical right-wing talking point is that the recession requires environmental rules to be rolled back because they are killing jobs.

When business is booming, our time for unpaid but meaningful activities like family, community, pleasure, expression, etc. gets gobbled up by the machine to be transformed into stuff and services. The economy wants to displace every parent and sell us childcare and a housecleaner, abolish every gardener and sell us produce and a garden service, ignore every artist and sell us entertainment on a computer chip.

We can demand a different way. A system that keeps you busy doing meaningless jobs you hate to more quickly undermine the planet’s ability to support life and make a tiny number of people rich and powerful so they are unaccountable to everyone else is a crazy system. It isn’t the type of system you want to see recover — it is the type of system you want to go out into the streets to overturn. Many millions of people who see through the confusion will be out on the streets in 2011. Will any of them be in the US? Will you be there? What can we do to be part of the future, and not the past?

Everybody Sing!

Singing in groups has been a part of culture as well as resistance movements since people learned to sing — it brings folks together, it’s participatory, moves your attention to the present, and brings emotion to the surface. And yet if you’re like most modern people, when was the last time you sang at a protest or political meeting, other than happy birthday? Have we become so cool, so dominated by ipods and instant individual electronic music gratification that we’ve forgotten how to sing?

In the 1930s, you could sing “Which Side are you on” on the picket line and everyone knew “The International” in one or more of 57 languages. The civil rights movement had “We Shall Overcome.” When I was a teenage activist in the anti-nuclear movement, we sang “Study War No More.” The Industrial Workers of the World still publish their Little Red Songbook, but a lot of the songs feel dated. Earth First! has lots of campfire songs.

And yet I don’t remember singing anything at the WTO protest in Seattle in 1999.

Slingshot collective has discussed singing before or after meetings as a way of shifting the mood and bringing the group together, but then we realized we didn’t all know any songs that would be appropriate for that sort of thing.

So I’m hoping folks will write in with suggestions that we can publish in the next issue. What songs do we all know (or could we all learn) that we can sing together at the next free skool meeting, bike coop repair class, or street occupation against global warming? It isn’t bad to recycle old songs but it would be extra exciting to figure out some modern songs that could become popular and acquire the ageless quality of a really amazing song that everyone knows and that we feel powerful singing together. Please send your ideas to Slingshot, 3124 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705 / slingshot@tao.ca.

Long Haul through the court system

The legal process has begun its slow grind since the Long Haul infoshop in Berkeley filed a lawsuit in federal court on January 14 over the August 27 police raid on the Long Haul by a joint terrorism task force composed of University of California police, sheriffs and the FBI. Since the lawsuit was filed, the defendants have filed a motion to dismiss on sovereign immunity grounds. A hearing is currently scheduled on May 29, 2009, although that date is subject to change. An initial case management conference is set for June 12.

The police seized all computers at Long Haul after breaking in with guns drawn to execute a search warrant as part of an investigation of allegedly threatening emails allegedly sent to UC Berkeley animal researchers from a public-access computer connected to the internet at Long Haul. The police would never have gotten such a broad search warrant to seize every computer at the Berkeley Public Library if the email in question had come from the public library, rather than from a radical Infoshop.

The raid on Long Haul may have been part of the investigation into local animal rights activities that lead to the arrests of Joseph Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope, and Adriana Stumpo under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act on February 20 — the “AETA4″. (See related article, pg. 1). The statement of probable cause used to obtain the Long Haul search warrant discusses a January 27, 2008 demonstration, which is one of the “overt acts” listed in the indictment against the AETA4 and one of the AETA4 is specifically discussed in the Long Haul statement of probable cause. However, the indictment filed against the AETA4 doesn’t mention the Long Haul.

While the AETA4 indictment and the raid against Long Haul were both designed to intimidate local activists, these scare tactics haven’t worked.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of Northern California are jointly representing Long Haul in the litigation. For more details about the police raid, see Slingshot #98. For information about the lawsuit, see Slingshot #99. If you want to attend court hearings to support Long Haul, check www.thelonghaul.org for updates.

Pushing Back vs. cop raid – the Long Haul may have trouble doing its dishes but it sure can SUE the FBI

By Jesse D. Palmer

In response to an August 27 police raid on the Long Haul community center in Berkeley by a joint terrorism task force composed of University of California police, sheriffs and the FBI, Long Haul filed a lawsuit in federal court on January 14 against all law enforcement involved in the raid. The police seized all computers at Long Haul after breaking in with guns drawn to execute a search warrant as part of an investigation of allegedly threatening emails allegedly sent to UC Berkeley animal researchers from a public-access computer connected to the internet at Long Haul.

Long Haul is a non-profit that publishes Slingshot and operates an infoshop and library at 3124 Shattuck in Berkeley. It is clear that the police never would have gotten such a broad search warrant to seize every computer at the Berkeley Public Library if the email in question had come from the public library, rather than from a radical Infoshop. While the police perhaps intended their raid to intimidate local activists, Long Haul was able to reopen the night of the raid. The public-access computer room reopened a month later with new (used) donated computers. The Long Haul community has ultimately not been distracted from the real struggle for freedom and ecological sustainability, and by filing suit, Long Haul is pushing back against police repression.

The lawsuit, filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of Northern California on behalf of Long Haul and East Bay Prisoner Support Group, which had an office at Long Haul and had their computer seized in the raid, seeks an injunction against law enforcement using the data from the seized computers for improper purposes. The lawsuit also seeks “to prevent any retaliation, monitoring, or surveillance enabled by the seizure of” the computer data.

The suit contends that the search warrant was improper because it “authorized searches and seizures of areas and effects for which the affidavit failed to provide probable cause” and because it “did not specifically describe the place to be searched or the things to be seized.” The lawsuit alleges that the statement of probable cause supporting the search warrant “established no reason to suspect Plaintiffs of any wrongdoing and presented no evidence to the issuing magistrate alleging Plaintiffs were involved in any illegal acts. Rather, the Statement of Probable Cause only alleged improper use by an unknown member of the public of a public-access computer located at Long Haul. Despite this, Defendant Kasiske requested and obtained a warrant applying to all the rooms at Long Haul, even those inaccessible to the general public, and all electronic processing and storage devices, even those not used by or accessible to the general public.”

The suit charges that the police violated the first and fourth amendment (freedom of assembly/speech and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures) as well as the federal Privacy Protection Act, which protects publishers from search and seizure except in the most narrow circumstances. The lawsuit claims that the Slingshot and East Bay Prisoner Support computers should have been protected from police search under the PPA because each were used “with a purpose to disseminate to the public a newspaper, book, broadcast, or other similar form of public communication.”

Despite skepticism about the mainstream, bourgeois legal system and the whole concept of “rights” granted by government entities, Long Haul folks decided that it was essential to take a stand in court so the police won’t conclude that they can raid infoshops and take computers used to publish the alternative press with impunity.

Since the last issue of Slingshot, police returned all of the computers seized in the raid, presumably after copying all information contained on the computers. As a result, law enforcement have had unrestricted access to private data relating to the Infoshop, Slingshot and East Bay Prisoner Support as well as anyone who might have used the public access computers prior to the police raid. Luckily, it does not appear any address records of Slingshot’s volunteer distributors were on the computers seized.

So far, as Slingshot goes to press, no one has been arrested related to the police raid or regarding threats to UC Berkeley animal researchers. At least to our knowledge, the police have not attempted to contact or question anyone associated with Long Haul regarding the raid. The initial fear and stress surrounding the Long Haul scene right after the raid have been replaced by a sense of increased energy and unity at Long Haul. There’s nothing like a police raid to shake a project out of its sense of complacency and stagnation and to reduce infighting. The Long Haul raid was quickly followed by numerous house raids in Minneapolis designed to squash resistance to the Republication National Convention. Let’s hope all of us who have suffered police raids can figure out ways to push back, both in the court room, and in the streets. Long live the Long Haul!

Attack of the Blue Meanies

When the police and FBI raided the Long Haul Infoshop in Berkeley August 27 with guns drawn, seizing every computer in the building, looking through files, and breaking locks, they were probably hoping they would scare us, disrupt our operations, and distract us from radical work and into a defensive-mode.

While the raid against our volunteer-run library and radical community center was an outrageous attack on a peaceful community of free-thinkers and activists, we are bruised but not defeated. In the weeks since the raid, the Long Haul scene and our supporters around the world have rallied. Long Haul remains open the same as before the raid — full of life, events and energy. Many concerned individuals have donated computers to replace the ones stolen by the police, some of which are still being held hostage in an FBI forensics lab somewhere as of press date. Our resolve to struggle for people over profits, local control, and environmental sustainability is stronger than ever.

Anatomy of a police raid

No one was at Long Haul at the time of the raid and as of press date, no one has been arrested for any crime related to the raid. University of California police — even though Long Haul is 2 miles from campus — obtained an extremely broad search warrant after they traced a number of threatening emails that were sent to UC Berkeley animal researchers to the dsl internet connection at Long Haul. The cops never would have gotten such a broad search warrant if the computers had been at a public library, rather than at a radical Infoshop.

The raid by 7 officers — UCPD plus a county sheriff and one federal agent — started at 10:15 a.m. and lasted for an hour and a half. UCPD police spokesperson Mitch Celaya claimed the raid included members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, according to the Berkeley Daily Planet. City of Berkeley police were not involved in the raid nor were they provided advance warning of the raid, as is the usual procedure according to City Council member Kriss Worthington.

When Long Haul volunteers arrived shortly after the raid began and asked police to see a search warrant, the police said they would only provide a copy of the warrant after the raid. The cops refused to allow volunteers inside the building during the raid. Police seized 14 computers including computers from a free public access computer room and two computers used by Slingshot collective to publish this newspaper and our organizer. They looked at lending library records and other files. They also took most of our music CDs perhaps thinking they might have computer data on them. Luckily, they didn’t take the dumpster-dived vinyl record collection, which is the real backbone of Long Haul’s music reality.

Long Haul is a non-profit corporation that operates a community center, library and historical archive at 3124 Shattuck Avenue. It hosts the Long Haul Infoshop as well as the Slingshot collective and East Bay Food Not Bombs and provides space for various community activities ranging from a needle exchange to Pilates to the People to East Bay Prisoner Support. Long Haul features a free, public access computer room so folks can use the internet — before the raid it featured 8 computers that were used by hundreds of people.

The police raid’s official goal was to seize those public computers and records of who might have been using them. Although the search warrant implies the cops were interested in public access computers, police ended up seizing all computers in the building including Slingshot and East Bay Prisoner Support computers that were not available to the public, but that shared a common dsl line.

Search warrant or blank check?

Police got a court order sealing the application for the search warrant from public view. Luckily, Long Haul got a copy of it anyway after a confused court clerk in-training released it to an ABC tv reporter. The statement of probable cause submitted by UCPD officer Kasiske to obtain the warrant shows that he thought the threatening emails were sent from a public computer at Long Haul. The police obtained records from Long Haul’s ISP as well as Google tracing emails sent from gmail accounts accessed through the Long Haul dsl line. The warrant application discusses recent home demonstrations at UC Berkeley and implies that they may be linked with two firebombings against animal researchers in Santa Cruz on August 2. The application also mentions the Animal Liberation Front.

Kasiske wrote that: “I learned that at the time the harassing email messages were sent . . . the subscribers address was 3124 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. I recognized this address as belonging to the Long Haul Infoshop. I know that the Long Haul is a resource and meeting center for radical activists. I know that animal rights activists have held meetings at the Long Haul. The Long Haul’s website advertises that they offer a computer room with four computers for ‘activist oriented access.’”

Kasiske’s search warrant application lists six allegedly threatening email messages sent from the Long Haul dsl line in June. Given that the purportedly illegal threatening emails were sent from a public computer in June and that the raid was in August — with hundreds of people visiting Long Haul during that time — one might think that trying to find a particular person who sent six emails would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Was the police’s real purpose to find a suspect, or to disrupt a known radical community center and conduct a fishing expedition of computer information from hundreds of people who used Long Haul computers unrelated to any threatening emails?

Kasiske’s search warrant application went on to state: “I know establishments that offer public computer access often have some type of system for patrons to sign in or register to use the computers. A search of the Long Haul’s premises could reveal logs or sign-in sheets indicating which patrons used the computers on particular dates. This information would aid in identifying the suspect who sent the threatening email messages using the Long Haul’s computers. It is likely that the suspect who sent the threatening email messages used the computers for other purposes as well. A search of the computers at the Long Haul could reveal information the suspect stores on the computers, websites the suspect accessed, or other email accounts the suspect used. This information would aid in identifying the suspect. Due to the complexity of searching computer systems and the need to properly maintain evidence stored on computer systems, a detailed search would need to be conducted off-site by a computer forensics specialist.”

The police uncertainty about whether Long Haul might have maintained records of who used its computers is interesting. Long Haul — like the public library — does not maintain such records precisely to protect computer users from government snooping. (Also, in Long Haul’s case, it is due to disorganization and lack of resources.) The search warrant application makes clear that police are familiar with Long Haul’s role in the community and its operations as a radical space. It is unclear what surveillance they may have carried out prior to the raid. If they had sent even a single undercover officer to ask to use a computer prior to the raid, it would have been clear to the police that no records are kept and that volunteers staffing Long Haul cannot see the door of the computer room to know who goes in and out. If it eventually turns out police knew this full well, their real reason for seeking a search warrant against Long Haul will be transparent: harassment not law enforcement.

The judge issued a warrant permitting a search for: “Any written, typed, or electronically stored documents, papers, notebooks, or logs containing names or other identifying information of patrons who used the computers at the Long Haul Infoshop.” The warrant also covered “All electronic data processing and storage devices, computers and computer systems including, but not limited to, central processing units, external hard drives, CDs, DVDs, diskettes, memory cards, PDAs, and USB flash drives.”

The search warrant application continued: “Search of all of the above items is for files, data, images, software, operating systems, deleted files, altered files, system configurations, drive and disk configurations, date and time, and unallocated and slack space, for evidence. With respect to computer systems and any items listed above, the Peace Officers are authorized to transfer the booked evidence to a secondary location prior to commencing the search of the items. Furthermore, said search may continue beyond the ten-day period beginning upon issuance of this Search Warrant, to the extent necessary to complete the search on the computer systems and any items listed above.”

The raid at Long Haul was followed only days later by raids in Minneapolis/St. Paul against activists involved in Republican National Conventions there. The search warrant application in that case makes it clear that RNC Welcoming Committee activists were under constant surveillance and infiltration for a year. It is worth noting that Unconventional Action Bay Area held a spokes council meeting about the RNC at Long Haul only days before the raid. Moreover, Long Haul has served as a base for various radical activists in the East Bay for decades. Long Haul was founded in 1979 and the Infoshop project celebrated its 15th birthday in August. It all raises the question of whether the raid was just about threatening emails, or whether it was part of a larger intelligence gathering operation against radicals.

Long Haul has a posse

In the wake of the raid, Long Haul has been flooded with messages of support and donations from as far away as Tasmania. In particular, numerous individuals donated computers to replace the ones seized in the raid. A benefit concert the night after the raid was mobbed by supporters and raised hundreds of dollars. Activists around the country have stepped up to organize benefits and protests for Long Haul. The outpouring of support has been humbling — it is no joke to say that there is a radical community that has your back when you need it.

Several dozen lawyers volunteered to help Long Haul respond to the raid, including excellent activist lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild and heavy hitters from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union. As anarchist-oriented folks who are skeptical of bourgeois, mainstream legal solutions to problems, the Long Haul crew had a great discussion of the merits of using the court system to defend Long Haul against the police raid. The real anarchist, direct action response to a police raid is to keep Long Haul open and not let the police distract us from our mission of changing society, building community, fighting capitalism, struggling for people over profit, and defending the earth. Having said that, bourgeois legal action — along with protests and media action — is a tool open to Long Haul. Generally, Long Haulers want to do what we can so this kind of raid doesn’t happen to any other infoshops in the future. That means we want to expose the flimsy grounds for the raid and make the raid as expensive, embarrassing and inconvenient for the police as possible.

Big Brother is Watching

By seizing the public access computers, the FBI got access to hundreds of individual people’s personal information that may have been left on the public computers. No one knows what people left on those computers or what the FBI forensics experts might be able to recover. Even when you hit the “delete” button on a computer, your work is left on hard disk drives. Long Haul had no security measures on its public access computers (or Slingshot computers) prior to the raid. However, in the aftermath, Long Haul computer experts are figuring out ways to make the computers more secure, even though total security is impossible. One idea has been hard disk encryption. Another idea is to remove hard drives entirely from the public access computers and load an open-source operating system each time they are turned on. That way, all information would disappear each time they are turned off.

In general, it appears that the police did not get crucial Long Haul or Slingshot information during the raid. Some Slingshot articles written for this issue were seized and since they were not backed up, had to be rewritten. It was sheer luck that we weren’t right in the middle of making the Organizer or this issue — if that had been the case, the raid could have set Slingshot collective back weeks. Some un-backed up internal Slingshot collective files were also lost. It does not appear that the police got a copy of the Slingshot mailing list (for sending out papers) or other sensitive Long Haul data. Most of that information was kept at another location on different computers. This arrangement was partly for ease of access — the Slingshot mailing operation does not run out of Long Haul — and partly out of security concerns at Long Haul. Prior to the police raid, Long Haul has been subject to half a dozen burglaries of uncertain origin.

We now know how easily the police can track an email to a physical location. It seems reasonable to assume that if that location is an infoshop or other radical space, the chance of having computers seized is higher than if an email is traced to a public library.

The real danger may still be on the horizon. In the search warrant application, it is clear that the police are investigating recent animal rights protests and are looking for links between legal, public protests and recent firebombings against animal researchers in Santa Cruz and Los Angeles. The weekend after the raid, the National Lawyers Guild conducted a Know Your Rights workshop at Long Haul to review how folks can react if the police make further raids, seek to interview Long Haul users, make arrests, or seek to subpoena anyone before a Grand Jury. Under these circumstances, folks need to avoid paranoia and being paralyzed from taking any action, while being extra sensitive and careful.

It is hard to measure the overall sense of tension, anxiety and trauma coming out of the police raid. Having your home base invaded by police is ugly, scary and brutal. It is hard to prepare for such a violation and it is hard to pick up the pieces afterwards. Long Haul volunteers are slowly sharing their emotions and I can say for myself that I feel a keen need to be around my comrades and share support with them in this time of stress. It has been great to make this issue of the paper during this time since it gives us endless opportunities to share community. That helps break the isolation and fear.

The raid and its aftermath have been stressful yet in the end, Long Haul is in it for the long haul and the struggle continues. The police sought to disrupt us and scare us off, but we’re coming out stronger and more determined than ever.