An Garda Síochána profiling Traveller family babies on Pulse system

John Wilson - former Garda, turned whistleblower.

John Wilson – former Garda, turned whistleblower.

This morning on RTE radio one, John Mc Guiness  made reference to the profiling of children and babies within the Traveller community by the police force. He spoke of one case of a 16 day old baby being entered into the Pulse system, the national police intelligence and crime database.  This is one case in at least 40 families being targeted in this way.  One wonders what kind of training cops get if they enter the details of a baby on a crime database.  It seems that in the eyes of the police force, or certain officers at least, merely being alive makes you a criminal suspect.

This has been in the public domain following actions by Garda whistleblower John Wilson (pictured above.)  Once on the PULSE system you cant be taken off.  Whilst most of mainstream media seek to push this under the carpet as part of moving on, the statement made on RTE today are likely to provoke anger and action from anti racist, traveller advocacy and human rights organisations over the next few days.   Here’s a letter Wilson wrote over 2 years ago about the practice of recording underage children by the police force on the PULSE system.

WilsonLetter

Broadsheet reported at the time.

“Mr Wilson alleges that hundreds of Traveller babies – one as young as 16 days old – have had their names put on the PULSE system, with each child getting a criminal intelligence PULSE number.

How this would happen, he claims, is that if a Garda stopped a car driven by a Traveller, and if there were children present in the car, those children’s names would be placed on PULSE.

Mr Wilson says that gardaí were encouraged to do this by senior gardaí.

Mr Wilson says  that gardaí are in the practice of stopping and searching young people in certain, “working-class areas”, under the Misuse of Drugs Act and that gardaí would put these youths’ names on PULSE and record them as having been searched for drugs.”

Its unlikely that this will blow over anytime soon.

Joan Burton and the Political Policing of Labour

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Joan Burton

 Its hard to know were to begin. A Labour minister announced yesterday that sections of the police force are to be drafted in to set up road blocks and stop workers in cars outside industrial estates.

When I first heard this mentioned on my Facebook and Twitter feeds I assumed it was some kind of left knee jerk interpretation. (I’m prone to them myself) Then I thought it might be FG spin from either within Burton’s department or the Dept of Finance to politically damage Burton. This was before I realised she said this herself on air, though ‘clarifying’ later in the day that she was referring to industrial estates rather than housing estates. Should we be eternally grateful that a Labour minister in only sending cops to harrass the labouring classes at our places of work, rather than at our homes? This is a deeply authoritarian step for any government to take, and as such it is a risk for Labour in further antagonizing ordinary working class people . Though given that Labour is hemorrhaging support, it seems that the party will face a similar fate to other  centrist minor coalition partners right across Europe over the last ten years.

This political policing begs some serious questions too. How exactly is a cop stopping cars of people coming out or heading into a days work going to be able to tell if people are signing on the dole while working. Under what legislation can a police force be entitled to demand your personal information on the presumptive basis that all workers coming out of a workplace might be doing the double. On what information are they using to pick those to stop. Are they going to stop every car, thereby creating long tail backs for workers in and out of work? I cant help thinking of how the RUC used to stop people coming and going to local GAA matches, creating massive tailbacks, often delaying kick off times. Simple harassment of a population to suits the states aim. What’s the difference here? Are people who work in industrial estates going to have to do what people in the north used to? Head off half an hour early to build in time being held in a traffic queue by the cops? How long does the Labour/FG government think people will put up with this shit?

Text from Burton's summer newsletter, basking in the light of right wing Daily Mail commentary supporting her right wing populism

Text from Burton’s summer newsletter, basking in the light of right wing Daily Mail commentary supporting her right wing populism (Thks @electionlit for flagging

Some other question arise around the particulars of this policing. Even the police commissioner has had his traffic penalty point wiped of the system by police under his command yet the only punitive measure around this has been the Independent newspaper sacking the journalist who had the temerity to ask the obvious questions. The Independents Group Editor in Chief also got his point wiped off, so you can see why the journalist in question was sacked.

But the widespread collusion and cover up of misuse and abuse of centralised data on people living in Ireland by the police force puts us in a position that demands critical attention. Is the state actually going to allow cops to be hardwired into the social welfare databases? At workplace check-points are people going to be asked to give names and addresses that are then typed into the welfare database? Or will they radio in to an already overstreached frontline social welfare workers? Given that the police force has demonstrated its untrustworthiness around centralised penalty point databases , how can they be trusted with information on people benefits, claims history etc. Its seems entirely foolish, whilst the traffic penalty point affair has been swept under the carpet, that the population as a whole, and million odd of us with personal information stored on the state welfare system should have any confidence that this information can any longer be considered secure.

We know the governments #Budget2014 buzz word wasincentivise” but given the regular leaking from police sources to journalists in Ireland, surely this opens up new incentives for bent cops to get information they can sell? If the Data Commissioner isn’t thinking about this right now, they should be. This also demands a response from the Trade Union movement. The Trade Union movement as a whole should be asking question of the GRA too.

On another level though, this is about much more than not trusting the police force with access to the largest dataset of personal information on people living in Ireland. The decision to set up workplace check points need to be contrasted with the states approach the actual largest welfare fraudsters in this country. Noonan announced yesterday that companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo, as well as the entire banking and financial sector will have another full year to siphon off hundreds if not thousands of millions of euros in legal tax dodging schemes. This year’s grace will no doubt allow the Irish legal firms that rubber stamp their cooked books. They along with with the banking cartels, (the main block within the Clearing House Group,) will have ample time to devise with their partnered civil servants in the Dept of Finance, other specific legal tax dodging strategies that will fulfill Noonan’s limited demand of resident corporations not being stateless. And you can rest assure not one hi viz cop will be involved.

If this government can find the resources to pay lots of police to stand like pricks outside industrial estates across the country, where people are actually doing real worth, whyhas the state only had one forensic accountant working on the investigation into the money/credit creation scams at Anglo? I got a question asked in the Dail around the levels of policing in the ongoing Anglo investigations in early 2012. This was Noonan’s answer back then

..as of 14 February (2012), the current strength of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation is seventy one, comprising one Superintendent, five Inspectors, fifteen Sergeants and fifty Gardaí.  Twenty-six Garda personnel are engaged in the investigations into Anglo Irish Bank, comprising sixteen personnel at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, including fifteen Garda investigators and a forensic accountant as well as ten members of An Garda Síochána currently seconded to ODCE.”

The investigation into Anglo has to include tens of thousand of emails, correspondence as well as lots and lots of cooked books. yet the state investigation has 26 cops looking at it. And one, yes one, person qualified to check those cooked books.

Anglo alone will cost us €52,000,000,000 (€52 Billion). Welfare fraud has been shown by Michael Taft of Unite to be in the region of €26,000,000. So Anglo costs us about two thousand times the level of welfare fraud. That’s not even mentioning the other ongoing payments the state continues to make week in and week out to unsecured bondholders. Clearly we can understand now that the myth of wealth creation of the Celtic Tiger was actually processes of debt creation and by extension welfare fraud.

The dissonance is striking and sickening. Not only has the institutions (both local and transnational) of financial capitalism captured the legislative dimensions of the state, but in effect they have the power to direct policing resources away from their own activities. Whilst we have the ideological drive and practical manifestations of deregulation of the financial sector as it churns out debt, we are now told by the government that we should willing accept the imposition of physical policing of the places of actual wealth creation, our workplaces.

What this shows that despite the language of consensus politics emanating from the political classes (“We have all sacrificed” “we are all in this together”), is the government is increasingly adopting approaches to and within the Great Recession that foreground the politics of contention and antagonism which form the actual basis of the captured state. In terms of how economies function these days, it makes little sense to think there is an actual divide between the financial economy (which creates debt ) and the real economy (where we create real wealth through our work). But from a social and political and radical democratic perspective the conceptual divide is useful in helping us understand how power really works in this state. The only suitable response to both the government and to the individuals in uniform doing their political policing. A polite but firm “fuck off.”

Social Media and the Virtual Reality of the Irish Political Class: No 1

FearTo learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise” Voltaire.

We don’t see the people who are doing real things getting enough props. We often see politicians who are everywhere but nowhere at the same goddamn time. You know the kind of person: You see them everywhere on television but nowhere in front of your face. ” Chuck D

“Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits, in the classic formulation. Now, it has long been understood, very well, that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist, with whatever suffering and injustice that it entails, as long as it is possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage can. At this stage of history either one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests, guided by values of solidarity, sympathy and concern for others, or alternatively there will be no destiny for anyone to control. As long as some specialized class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole, and by now that means the global community. The question is whether privileged elite should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must — namely to impose necessary illusions, to manipulate and deceive the stupid majority and remove them from the public arena. The question in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured; they may well be essential to survival.” Noam Chomsky

It has been apparent to many people in this state, across Europe and much further afield that the professional political class are living in a sort of virtual reality. We have political system that has been described as corrupt in all areas of public life in the Mahon report. We have elected government ministers who come onto the state broadcaster stating clearly that lying is an electoral strategy, and we have political organisations that opportunistically use the massive rise in suicides in the state to try deflect the role their decisions play in the rising tide of material and emotion misery of our society. We have successive government ministers beholden to finance capital, and we live within a neoliberal politcal system where the power of capital continues to squash the possibility of genuinely democratic equality. We live is a state where tax laws are written by the same Irish legal firms that benefit from Ireland position in the global tax dodging network. The main political organisation in government, Fine Gael was explicit in saying any tax rises on the rich and on private corporations cannot be countenanced unless the most impoverished in our society got kicked a lot more so as not to upset universal kamra, the ever vague but omnipotent entity know as the “confidence of the market”.  Few professional political commentators ever seems to point out that if ‘confidence’ is the only thing holding this system up, perhaps the system itself is a fundamentally flawed concept and we need something completely different.  I dunno this might be a bit out there, but something founded upon care, compassion, social need might be a start. But I would say that being a left wing anarchist extremist. Maybe Im a dreamer. But Im not the only one.

Meanwhile back in the real world we have a government minister Kathleen Lynch, with responsibility for mental health saying she will consider setting up a support system funded by us to help TDs and Senators ‘deal’ with increasing levels of public anger, whilst at the same time slashing public resources funded by us on our public mental health. Then we have FG TD Mary Mitchell O Connor releasing a press release saying “It is impossible to quantify how many deaths have been caused or contributed to in this country by the negative elements of social media. The unconstrained venom being directed at individuals on Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube is undoubtedly doing untold damage.” The contradicitions may not be immediately obvious, but if suicides due to social media are “impossible to quantify” how can they be “undoubtedly doing untold damage”

No one can condemn serious attempts to look at how peer abuses amongst school kids affects them and to try to reduce harm, however people like Pat Rabbitte etc have specifically conflated bullying within younger kids with people being completely pissed off at the structural failings of our political and economic system.

There are no government press releases on suicides relating to the indignity, social stigma and powerless that often comes from being forced into poverty or unemployment, or from the multiple and complex fears causes by threatening letters sent by private money lending banks and organisations. Using the framework and logic of the public pronouncements made on social media as factors in death, perhaps we should ourselves should be creating our own counter narratives. Would the possibility of change and equality in our society be better served by properly describing many of the deaths as “assisted suicide” since banks and government decisions have help facilitate peoples decisions to take there own lives. Or should we follow the lead of people in Spain who now reframe suicide caused by the macro political-economic system as murder.

Its hard to know whether the attitudes and statements from government are founded on intellectual incoherency or collective psychological dishonesty, but it is as if the present political class feel that they have some intrinsic right to live behind a firewall of their own victimhood, sealed off from the social consequences of their actions on our lives. However their attitude to peoples ability to use social media tools and comment public spaces afforded us via Twitter, blogs, comments sections etc is telling. Nor is it restricted to Ireland. Its a global issue with very real consequences. This week Rashid Saleh al-Anzi was sentenced to jail in the ‘friendly’ dictatorship in Kuwait for sending a tweet calling for political reform and an end to corruption. This got reported in the Irish Times. Last week noted right wing ‘economist” Jim Power called for ‘less democracy and more benign dictatorship’ on Newstalk. His interviewer let this without exploring any of the implications for such proto-facist free marketeerism. Once again it was ordinary folks using social media technology that took up that baton.

We are basically being told to shut the fuck about our own existences, about our material poverty and our individual and social fears for the future. Even as we are being pissed upon, we are being spoken too ask the rabble, the mob, the motley children, to be scolded and put in our place by our more learned others. The instinctive response to that is a simple and clear “No. Fuck Them.”

Is it ‘polite’? Is its ‘nice’? No its not. Of course its not. There is nothing polite about introducing charges for people needed chemotreatment, there is nothing polite about hiding 25 years worth of meeting minutes of the Clearing House Group, there is  nothing polite about poverty or house eviction. Theres nothing polite or nice getting legal letters from money lender taking you to court whilst the coked up fuckers in global high finance and the Irish professional legal firms who screwed us over indemnify themselves with law and corporate structures they designed precisely for that purpose. So excuse us if we lose our decorum a little. There’s a war going on outside and its a war on our lives. Its a war of inequality and a war against democracy and justice.

Fuck’em for evening daring to demand I/you/we ‘be nice’ as I/you/we watch people around hurting and fearful. Fuck’em for trying to encourage us to internalise their bullshit worldviews and values and lack of social imagination. Fuck’em for being so stupid as to think we are not aware of what goes on around us. But saying Fuck’em is merely an emotional indicator, and on it own it is just a temporary release. The refusal to be bound by the logic of market democracy is an orientation. If we aim only to be able to criticise, rather than to change, if the limits of our desire are only to be able to tweet or make comment, rather than to act together to assert full authority over the decisions that affect our lives we will remain in an echo chamber of our collective dispairs. What we have now is the ability to be visible to each other in ways previously impossible. It will take more than 140 characters to really challenge unjust power but making a new meanings, new social imaginations from our own narratives, about our actual existences as they are now, is central to making what previously seem impossible possible.

Fuel Poverty in the UK : An Infographic

Online privacy and security across our communities.

This 392 page, Creative Commons licensed handbook is designed to help those with no prior experience to protect their basic human rights to privacy in networked, digital domains. By covering a broad array of topics and use contexts it is written to help anyone wishing to understand and then quickly mitigate many kinds of vulnerability using free, open-source tools. Read it, act on it and share. Follow @cryptoparty for updates etc.

Homes Not Jails. 3 months prison sentence for squatting.

21 year old Alex Haigh has been the first person to be jailed under “Section 144”, the recent UK anti homelessness/squatting laws. Alex is an apprentice bricklayer from Plymouth who moved to London to look for work. He  shared a long term empty housing association flat in Cumberland Street, Islington with two other people, Anthony Ismond and Michelle Blake. Antony was fined 100 quid whilst Michelle has yet to be sentenced. All pleaded guilty, for which Alex then got 12 weeks in jail time.

Squatting in the UK had long been regarded as a civil matter, and the London housing association that owned the house had begun a process legal eviction through the civil courts.  The London Met, that bastion of anti poverty thuggery and racism decided, with the support of the Con/Dem coalition policy, decided to take matters into their own hands.

And so continues the long historical trait of framing the question of structural inequality by criminalising those of us on the “wrong” side of the equation. The justice system functions as a process of  normalisation of the idea that houses are an private assets, rather than things we make to fulfill basic human social needs. Our individual circumstances of poverty is used as against us to as a tool of individual and collective social control. Find yourself homeless and surrounded by potential unused homes? Well the logic of assets and markets has no room for you in the inn. Their jails however has endless rotation room for us poor.

From the good folks at Schnews

Since the government passed the bill, ministers have been urging the Met to come down hard on squatters to act as a ‘deterrent’. The government says it expects around 4,200 squatters to be prosecuted each year. What’s a few ruined lives when there are vacant buildings at risk of being occupied eh?

Danny Beltane of SNOB(aha) the Brighton squatters association. “This is a far harsher sentence than anyone expected – this smacks of the kind of punitive sentencing handed out after the riots. This is the real class war. How can they justify taking someone from a situatuation where they were provoding for themselves and forcing them into state incarceration at the cost of thousands a week?”

STREET’S AHEAD

Alex and his friends were arrested around 24 hours before the first raid in Brighton that SchNEWS reported on, though overall the earliest eviction we know about (so far) was of a crew based in Street, Somerset. Despite living there for a couple of months and not causing any problems, bored local cops decided to kick in the door and arrest everyone inside at 9am on Saturday 1st September. If anyone can prove they were nicked under section 144 earlier, we’ll send them a free graphics book.

With the wild variations in enforcement – stretching from a friendly bobby asking if you’d mind leaving, to three months inside (for a guilty plea!) – many squatters are looking towards the thousands of vacant commercial and industrial properties. Unsurprisingly the lobbyists behind criminalisation are already pushing for the law to be extended and backbench Tories are lining up to lend the latest bandwagon their support. Chatham MP Tracey Crouch snarled “it’s important that we look into [non-residential squatting] and try and outlaw it as soon as possible” – no doubt before retreating to one of her taxpayer funded homes.

For advice and support to help hold on to your home and keep you out of prison you could do worse than the Squatters’ Legal Network.

I’ve no idea if people have been charged/sentenced etc for squatting in Ireland, but maybe readers might be able to through some light on that

“AerAbortabroad” Pics & video: Pro Choice at Bus Aras

Updated 13.48 28th Sept.  Ive added a video from Paula Geharty of Trade Union TV which has interviews with the participants.

Its been a while since Ive posted. Heres some stuff from earlier today. Video and images all copyleft blah blah…

_

Today saw a group of women gather outside Bus Aras in Dublin, with wheelie cases and dressed in red, highlighting the multi faceted burden placed upon the 150,000 women who have traveled seeking abortion services in the UK since 1980.

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The colour red was chosen as this was the colour of garments worn by clinic escorts, mostly women who volunteered to meet  Irish women coming of the boats, planes and train on a journey which, if the state was doing its job, they should never have needed to make.

It was part of a series of event leading up to the March for Choice this Saturday. More info below the the video


Some interviews by TradeUnionTV

That info

Irish Debt activists at ECB as Draghi rejects debt writedown in return for Yes vote

Activists from Ireland at the ECB

A group of Irish based debt activists flew into Frankfurt, Germany yesterday and are currently protesting outside the European Central Bank ECB. The trip was organised by people from Ballyhea and Charleville  in Cork who have been holding weekly protest and demos against the socialisation of private debt and the impacts payments of such illegitimate and unjust debts are having within our communities.  Its seems they had company on the plane too

The reason for the trip was described on the Bondwatch website, run by debt campaigners from Ballyhea and Charleville

Last night they attached a written declaration on the doors of the ECB at midnight. The ECB the central bank for the eurozone. And it is run by 23 men, not one of who is elected or has any mandate from 540 million people whose lives are affected by the decisions that these men make.

Nothing odd about this picture right? Looks exactly like what a self-selecting-unelected-unaccountable-bunch-of-bankers-who-make-decisions-that-affect-540+million-people should look like.

The Governing Council is the main decision-making body of the ECB. It consists of

  • the six members of the Executive Board, plus
  • the governors of the national central banks of the 17 euro area countries.

So why are people in Ireland going directly to the ECB. Quick simply because the present Irish government has continued in exactly the same way as the previous one. In atc there is a good case to argue that the present government is actually far worse than the previous one.  Whilst the bank guarantee of September 2008 is undoubtedly one of the greatest single acts of social injustice since the inception of the state, to think of the process of government simply as a series of singular acts is to misunderstand the importance of drift and fear. Cowen and the now deceased Lenihan made decisions that are less baffling when it is now clear that everyone around they was lying and cooking the books. Anglo was just the worse and obvious case, but this goes right across the spectrum.  But its seems clear that they acted out of both fear and stupidity on September 30th 2008. In retrospect we understand that Fianna Fial essentailly acted in the same way rating agencies in the US did during the years in the run up to the 2007.

Fainna Fail acted not as leaders, not even as baron robbers, but merely as  bureaucratic rubber stampers of the ‘common sense’ that was held and promoted by their smarter richer and more powerful male friends in the property, financial and financial services sectors.  Fianna Fail as a party had/has no real ideological slant it seems to me. Cash mulla and the trappings of power on a small island off the coast of Europe.  So when the shit hit the fan, the rubber-stampers simply did what they were told by their betters

Debt Justice Action network released a statement in support of those travelling to Frankfurt earlier today

The Anglo: Not Our Debt campaign has lent its support to a protest taking place today at the European Central Bank (ECB) by Irish groups and individuals demanding debt justice.

Campaign spokesperson Andy Storey said that the protest was especially timely as the German government has just told the Irish government there will be no deal on the Anglo debt after the ‘yes’ vote in the fiscal treaty referendum.

“Once again, the government has been told that being ‘Mister Nice Guy’ gets you nowhere – unless the Irish government stands up for itself and suspends the repayment of the promissory notes arising from the debts of Anglo Irish Bank
they will make no progress on this issue”, he said.

Representatives from a number of Irish organisations, including the Ballyhea/Charleville bondholder bailout protest group, travelled to Frankfurt to take their demands directly to Mario Draghi, President of the ECB, during that body’s governing council meeting. These demands include the immediate destruction of all remaining promissory notes and the refunding of the two promissory notes already paid, which have cost Ireland over €6 billion.

Nessa Ni Chasaide, also of the Anglo: Not Our Debt campaign, said that “civil society has to take its message directly to Europe because it seems the Irish government will not – the time for begging for favours is long passed, this is the time to demand justice, including the writing down of illegitimate debt”.

This is the ECB dismissing claims from Kenny that a Yes vote will no be rewarded with a debt writedown

For a more substantive take on the nature of the crisis and why economists and bankers are not the people to be relying to sort if out you should read this inteview from Paul Mason as he speaks to Steve Keen.
Paul Mason Interviews Steve Keen Critic of Economicshttp://www.scribd.com/embeds/96161468/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list&access_key=key-1wvjrzdomx1sronx9x0q