Turk’s News-in-Brief: Die Hipster Scum?

2010 September 28
by Turk Studzel

Spotted on a t-shirt in Greenpoint the other day, the slogan Die Hipster Scum brought tears of joy to my eyes and an upwelling of tenderness to my heaving bosom! This timely retooling of the ‘80s adage Die Yuppie Scum said to me that, Yes, there is hope for New Yorkers! We’re not all useless, over-privileged, pretentiously ironic poseurs! Some of us can still think, can still feel, can still get angry! But then, a spate of ominous news reports put the kibosh on my expansive mood, and I was confronted afresh with the raw facts of human depravity: the mounting fascist nastiness afflicting this nation…Some of the most chilling recent examples follow; I’ll start with those closest to home:

1. Drill, Baby, Drill!—Big Gas and the Dept. of Homeland Security Ready to Frack New Yorkers Up the Ass

Does anyone think it’s a good idea to pump billions of gallons of water containing such substances as benzene, toluene, boric acid, xylene, formaldehyde, and hydrochloric acid into the same ground that supplies our drinking water? Well, the natural gas industry does, and it’s getting ready to do just that in upstate New York—source of NYC’s water—drilling thousands of wells using a process called hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” to release deposits trapped in rock formations. Fracking has already made major inroads in Pennsylvania, where residents, enraged by poisoned wells, exploding plumbing, and poisoned bodies have started organizing against the gas industry; in return, the industry has sought protection from the Department of Homeland Security which, as the public interest group ProPublica reported in early September, has obliged by labeling anti-fracking activists as potential terrorists and keeping tabs on their activities. Click here for the DHS’s Pennsylvania Intelligence Bulletin No. 131 (Aug. 30, 2010) to see.

Yes, opposition to having your family’s drinking water poisoned may now place you on a terrorist watch-list—yet more evidence of the intimate links between corporate power and the State’s coercive legal apparatus. In fact, the Associated Press reported in June that former Homeland Security director Tom Ridge has been hired as “strategic advisor” to an industry group led by companies drilling for natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation—the vast slab of gas-bearing rock that stretches from West Virginia through Pennsylvania to New York’s Adirondack region. Ridge will be paid $75,000 a month, according to the AP, “for help in such areas as public outreach, education and coalition building”—and, no doubt, his abundant influence with local and federal law enforcement. As in the Middle East and Central Asia, the U.S. front in the Global War on Terror is largely about extracting energy resources—and crushing those who would resist.

Last August, public alarm over the rush to begin massive fracking operations in the Adirondacks pushed the N.Y. State Senate to pass a bill instituting a nine-month moratorium on such drilling, and a similar bill presently awaits passage in the Assembly. Growing public awareness and opposition to fracking has even led the U.S. Congress to take note, and consider repealing the so-called “Halliburton Loophole” to the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which exempted the energy industry from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Nevertheless, as the heavy artillery poised against anti-fracking activists shows, Big-E energy may stop at nothing to get its way. Get ready for benzene in your tap water…

2. Obama Department of Justice Sez Antiwar Protest = Terrorism

If last week’s FBI raids in Chicago, Minneapolis, and North Carolina are any indication, antiwar protest may soon be routinely prosecuted as aiding and abetting terrorism. According to FBI spokesmen, the search warrants executed on Friday, September 24 at the homes of antiwar activists were seeking evidence of what the 2001 Patriot Act labels as offering “material support” to organizations designated by the State Department to be terrorists. Civil liberties groups have long argued that the wording of this “material support” clause—which includes “training,” “expert advice or assistance,” “personnel,” and “service” among its definitions—is so broad as to include anything deemed objectionable to the government. In the same way that “conspiracy” laws have long been used to harass and silence government critics, the Patriot Act’s prohibition against “material support” is clearly a magic wand that prosecutors can wave to effectively cancel the Bill of Rights.

An appalling example of how this “material support” provision can be used is the case of Fahad Hashmi, a U.S. citizen and 2002 Brooklyn College graduate who, in April 2010, after three years of solitary confinement in downtown Manhattan, accepted a plea-bargain and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Hashmi’s crime? Aside from being a notorious critic of U.S. foreign policy, profiled by Time and CNN, federal prosecutors charged that in 2004, when he was a grad student in London, Hashmi allowed a Queens acquaintance, Junaid Babar, to spend two weeks at his apartment with luggage containing raincoats, ponchos, and waterproof socks, and that later Babar delivered these materials to a low-level member of al-Qaeda in Pakistan. Hashmi is also accused of lending his cellphone to Babar, who allegedly used it to make calls to terrorist co-conspirators. Even if the government’s charges are true—unfortunately for Hashmi, the evidence used against him was “secret,” which handicapped his defense somewhat—this still means 15 years for “facilitating the delivery of socks and ponchos” to al-Qaeda! See here for more on this travesty.

3. It’s Official—U.S. Now a Police State: Obama Claims Extra-Judicial Killing a “State Secret”

In a bid for absolute power going far beyond anything Bush and Cheney attempted, the Obama administration is arguing in court that it has the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind. Furthermore, the president’s lawyers are claiming that his decisions as to who will be killed and why are “state secrets,” and thus no court may adjudicate their legality. See Salon’s constitutional law expert Glenn Greenwald for the grisly legal details.

Of course, Afghans, Iraqis, and many other people around the globe have long known the terror of being in the U.S.’s imperial crosshairs. What’s new here is that Mafia-style “whacking” is now coming home in a big way, embraced by the “liberal” Democratic administration of Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama. Moreover, if the administration gets its wish, which seems likely, opponents can be whacked in secret. Indeed, a recent decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled that, in effect, people who are tortured by the U.S. have no legal recourse, because all all information about their torture can be labeled a “state secret.” Again, Greenwald’s analysis of this latter case is worth reading.

Torture, secret assassination, harassment of antiwar protesters, surveillance of anti-fracking activists (and soon, what?—torture because I don’t want my well poisoned?)—this is the American Empire at its climax, teetering toward its inevitable decline. The big question is: How ugly will this decline be?

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