Cameras, Corporatism, & Chuck Berry


There are several variations of this quote, incorrectly attributed to the hated fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini:

“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”

While it is unknown who first made this statement, one thing is certain: almost everyone in the US (if not the world) can point to an example of a violation of a perceived boundary between business and government that rubs them the wrong way. Most people also feel that “corporate persons” have too much influence.

The latest harebrained corporatist scheme proposed by the Mayor is even sillier than the hiring of a California based ad agency to identify and market regional assets that are in need of some corporate sponsorship, in the form of naming rights and being branded the “official ___ of Pittsburgh”. Hopefully this goes better than the sale of our water has. First they sold it to the Brits (shame on you, Tom Murphy, with your Hibernian posturing), who then merged with the Germans, who constantly raise rates and ignore the crumbling infrastructure. This kind of nonsense doesn’t go over so well, in other places.

Given the cutthroat world of corporate mergers, takeovers, and bankruptcies, is there any way to be sure that your public park is named after a company that even still exists? Enron Field and Erickson Stadium come to mind.

Despite the aesthetic and linguistic nastiness that municipal branding creates, the outward signs of corporate ownership is a kind of honesty. It looks like shit and if the corporate sponsored college football bowl games are any indicator, these names don’t exactly roll off the tongue, but a comedian once suggested that politicians could wear race car-style jackets covered in corporate logos, so we know exactly who owns them.

This is even worse than the diversion of already depleted public funds to promote tourism. Maybe this is just sour grapes on my part, since no one will take me up on my idea to showcase our 19th century patronage machine-style local government, ala Colonial Williamsburg.

The City is proposing a merger of public and private surveillance systems. While not as absurd as the Lake Erie Homeland Security Radar System, if this was a video store, I wouldn’t know whether to file this under “comedy” or “horror”, but the possibilities for both (and combinations of the two) are endless. This also includes a ‘gunshot detction system’ for Point State Park, an are where a firearm hasn’t been discharged since the French and Indian War. I’m not sure where the $826,000 for the initial phase, is coming from, but I could have sworn the City was broke, and just installed cameras last year. If there are any doubts about the ineffectiveness of heavy surveillance, there’s this place called London, and if their cameras and microphones are helping, someone forgot to tell the people who regularly attack civilians there.

The Mayor was inspired by the work of another fortunate son, who like most of their kind, also rose to a position of power through the difficult process of being born:

“The mayor of Chicago, Mayor [Richard M.] Daley, has a goal to have a camera on every street corner in the city Chicago, and he’s well on his way to achieving that,” Mr. Ravenstahl said. “If you would sit in the 911 center in the city of Chicago, [you would] see your ability to, with the touch of a button, look at different buildings, different intersections.”

Daley (I’m not making this up) wanted to meet to meet with him

After seeing Mayor Ravenstahl on the Late Show with David Letterman

City Council’s ardent champion of symbolic, non-binding civil liberties, Bill Peduto, was not afraid issue his tough demands for a “transparent set of rules on who views , who’s authorized to view it, and that it’s not being specifically targeted”.

It’s no mystery why the starstruck Ravenstahl would be in favor of centralizing public and private camera systems. This could help him keep track of actors, Broadway stars, golfers, and whatever Sienna Miller does, if he could view hotel lobby cameras to make sure he’s not missing out on a photo-op or autograph.

Would “barely legal tanning bed cams” be linked up to the Wal-Mart shoplifting cameras? Will the Chuck Berry-style toilet cameras be integrated into the system? Nanny cams? The live polar bear and tiger feeds at the zoo?

Will your employer be granted access to footage that shows you didn’t really have the flu or interviewed for another job? Will your pastor view the ATM camera footage at a strip bar and question how you spend your time and money? Will your HMO drop you, because they’ve seen footage of you smoking outside of work? Government, business, and religion all share a common interest: monitoring and controlling our lives, so it’s not unreasonable to expect the worst when they team up to do it.

What can you do? It’s your life, and complex, high-tech toys are fussy. They don’t like dust, static, water, fire, and other basic common things. Reclaiming privacy and dignity demands the use of imagination and whatever other tools we have laying around. For further reading, check out “The Pig’s Eye in the Sky”, from Modesto Anarcho!, The New York Surveillance Camera Players, and Anarchism in Action’s “Guide to CCTV Destruction”


Shadyside Solidarity Appreciated by G8 Protestors in Europe

This is an excerpt from a series of report backs from infoshop news written by an anarchist from the US who participated in the resistance against the G8 summit in Rostock, Germany:

“Every solidarity action I read about was related to those around me. Every solidarity action brought nothing but pleasure, comfort and happiness. Thank you Pittsburg, Portland, Tacoma, San Francisco and everyone else in the US who helped us. Everyone here thanks you and encourages you. There are Shadysides and Starbucks all over the world and every one of them that is attacked or gets a brick through its window is more than just that; it signifies, to those on the other side of the oceans, that we are in fact all in this together, that we are united in thought and tactics and goals, that we do not need centralized authority to have our movement be a worldwide one. A torn up Shadyside (place in Pittsburg) might seem small if it is compared to something. How about we don’t compare anything we do to anything else, huh? How about we just DO? Does that sound good?”

“Progressive” Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry (part 3.)

 Part 1.                  Part 2.                Part 3.

It’s still technically Spring, and it’s not an ozone action day, so that must be love in the air. Could Bill Peduto’s amateur counterinsurgency hobby lead him down the aisle? Apparently one Pittsburgh Craiglsist user is hoping so:

City Councilman at a press confrence – Don’t blame me for loving you

Reply to:
Date: 2007-06-12, 4:15PM EDTI was at a press conference last week called by a local “progressive” Democrat. He was tall, with dark hair (that I think was real even though it looked like a rug) and dark eyes deeper than the city’s money problems. He was taking about vandalism on Walnut Street against the G8 summit Germany. As he blamed the “Pittsburgh Organizing Committee”, his voice electrified me like a double-shot of campesiños’ blood from Starbucks. Please Bill, don’t blame me for loving you like you blamed POG for those windows! Don’t slander my heart, Billy, don’t slander my heart!!

Peduto’s accusations are right out of the Beltway democrat playbook. It would seem he was trying to position himself a “rule of law” kind of guy, who was willing to come down hard on the “uncontrollable” (and non-voting) rabble that pundits incorrectly identify as the fringes of the democratic party. I don’t blame him for trying, since it seemed to be working for the DLC, but like the US arming of of Sunni fundamentalists is Afghanistan in the 1980’s ( a mistake that they seem to be eager to repeat) there are sometimes unintended consequences.By focusing on the deep-pocketed, dried-up husks and the parents of fertility-drug triplets (I guess rich people sex doesn’t work in any way?) who frequent Walnut Street, and calling for a press conference only after their stuff was broke, but not the damages at the Food “Co-op” or the Quiet Storm, he alienated all but the most glassy-eyed of his young, liberal base. Calls to his office from POG members and supporters were ignored, and then the “progressive” cried that he “was being threatened”. This was also a mistake, since it would not be easy to pretend that in 2007, that it is possible to threaten a politician, your superior in the eyes of the law, repeatedly, over the telephone.Eventually, Peduto’s supporters in the so-called “creative class”, called him on his bullshit, and began calling his office, and sending email, the way you’re supposed to in a bourgeois democracy. They apparently had no luck either, but at some point Peduto had what an alcoholic would call “a moment of clarity” and contacted someone from POG and I would hope some of his supporters, but given the length and breadth of his freakout, it’s hard to say.

POG issued what they hope to be their last word on the matter yesterday.

And hopefully after a look at the media and its role in this debacle, I can issue my last word on this matter.

“Progressive” Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry (part 2.)

Part 1.                    Part 2.                    Part 3. 

This will have to tide you over until I can quit spitting coffee out of my nose from Peduto’s silliness in the city paper.

I’m not sure what contemporary US politicians are attempting to say when they declare themselves to be “progressive”. The center has moved so far to the right, that today, Barack Obama would be bashing that pinko, Richard Nixon, as being “unpatriotic”.

What then is the basis for declaring oneself “progressive” and still function as a cog in Pittsburgh’s , old timey, 19th century, Democrat patronage machine? I’ve eliminated every other possibility, except that self-described “liberal” Bill Peduto is “progressive” because he is willing to accept kickbacks from outfits not controlled by his relatives. What else could it possibly mean?

Would Mr. Peduto “support the arts” if the economically disadvantaged areas of his district were not colonized by artists flush with subsidies, to make the neighborhoods more appealing to developers?

Is it “progressive” to support IMF and World Bank-style, neoliberalism, by invoking Act 47 and surrendering the City to a cadre of suburban lawyers?

There are also internet rumors of Peduto, alleged “antiwar credentials”, I’m not sure what that’s supposed to entail at theBill Peduto gets his ‘antiwar credentials’ City Council level, but he is a “Patriot Award” recipient.

But the realm of privacy and civil liberties is where Peduto proves he is qualified to play with the big boys. A hallmark of self-described “liberal” political activity is the exhibiting the courage to draft, and even vote for, the crucial “symbolic, non-binding resolutions” when the pressure is on. In 2004, Peduto bravely stood with other City Council members across the US, as well as junior high student governments, and passed a symbolic, non-binding resolution against the USA PATRIOT Act, essentially a legislative bumper sticker. In the real world, however, Peduto, was all too happy to lend his vote to install a federally-funded, citywide surveillance system. I’m sure that the “good old boys” wanted to use a local contractor to spy on us, but Rhode Island based Live Wave Inc. was probably the “progressive” choice. Fair trade, organic, carbon neutral, robotic spy cameras perhaps?

“Progressive”Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry (part 1.)

Part 1. Part 2.  Part 3.

Pittsburgh City Council parking pass holder and self-described “liberal”, Bill Peduto, has gotten a little nutty in his attempt to reassure the people who shop on Walnut Street, that the unwashed masses have not taken Lucy Parson’s admonition to heart:

Let every dirty, lousy tramp arm himself with a revolver or knife on the steps of the palace of the rich and stab or shoot their owners as they come out. Let us kill them without mercy, and let it be a war of extermination and without pity

This year’s G8 summit in Germany prompted solidarity actions in the form of minor economic sabotage in a wealthy shopping district, a counter recruitment picket called for by local activists/anarchists, the Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG), as well as minor damages to a locally owned coffee shop integral to the gentrification of the East End, and a food co-op which took it’s seat with Starbucks and the rest by doing what it had to do to thwart an IWW organizing drive, although in the case of the co-op and coffee shop, apparently no mention was made of the local issues, only the G8.

For once, the picket was not the problem, but a message board frequented by local hipsters and a parody by an anonymous poster (another anonymous parody quipped at the reaction) on the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center jumped to the same illogical conclusion favored by allegedly less thoughtful souls such as marine recruiters and right-wing, yuppie bloggers: that a non-violent, above-ground, group with ties to many other progressive organizations would put themselves and their supporters at risk with these kinds of actions. It is unlikely that POG would also seek to further polarize segments of the local social justice community. What was predictable was the outrage from the leisure classes, especially the ones who feel they can abate the ill effects of capitalism through responsible buying and selling, which is similar to their faith in the electoral process. Granted there is always a more appropriate window to break, but that’s not my decision.

This was all idiotic enough, but it didn’t go “through the looking glass” until District 8’s own self-described “progressive” Bill Peduto, staged a press conference to comfort his wealthy constituents, and possibly to impress some of the young ladies who frequent Shadyside’s public houses.

To be continued…