In Episode 67 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues the Spring ritual from his old WBAI program, the Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade (which he lost due to his political dissent exactly 10 years ago), of reading the George Orwell essay “Some Thoughts on the Common Toad,” which brilliantly predicted ecological politics way back in 1946. Among other reasons for hope this season, Bill notes passage of New York state’s extremely progressive cannabis legalization act. Shout-out to Bill’s old co-host Ann-Marie Hendrickson, who is still carrying on the Common Toad tradition on her own WBAI program, Mansion for a Rat. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: National Wildlife Federation)
The New York City Council passed five bills and three resolutions aiming to increase the transparency and accountability of the New York Police Department (NYPD). One bill ended qualified immunity for police officers, meaning that individual officers may be sued for rights violations. The move makes New York the first US city to ban the use of qualified immunity for police officers. The legislation creates a new “local civil right,” protecting residents from unreasonable searches and seizures as well as from the use of excessive force. Another measure requires the NYPD to issue quarterly reports on vehicle stops, including information on the demographics of targeted drivers, whether vehicles were searched with or without consent, and other information. (Photo: CounterVortex)
New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed suit in federal court against the New York City Police Department over its handling of peaceful protests and use of excessive force. In her complaint, James charged that the NYPD unjustifiably used pepper-spray and batons against Black Lives Matter protesters in violation of official department policies, asserting that such action caused protesters to suffer both physical and psychological harm. Additionally, James charged that officers corralled protesters without an opportunity to disperse, resulting in mass arrests without probable cause. James stated that this use of excessive force violated protesters’ First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Photo: The Village Sun)
The Innu Nation of Labrador announced that it is seeking $4 billion in damages from Hydro-Quebec over its mega-dam on the Upper Churchill River. The suit, filed in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland & Labrador, seeks compensation for the theft of ancestral Innu land to build the Churchill Falls hydro-electric project, leading to devastation of their community’s culture and way of life. “The impact of Churchill Falls has been felt across generations of Innu,” said Grand Chief Etienne Rich. He charged that Hydro-Quebec and the provincial utility in Newfoundland, now called Nalcor Energy, “stole our land and flooded it in order to take advantage of the enormous hydro potential of the Churchill Falls. This project was undertaken without consulting us and without our consent.” New York City is pinning many of its hopes to cut carbon emissions on imported Canadian hydropower, but environmentalist opponents point to the impact of planned hydro projects on indigenous lands. (Image: Innu Nation)
The NYPD’s violent mass arrest of peaceful protesters in the South Bronx violated international human rights law and will likely cost New York City taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuits, according to a new investigation by Human Rights Watch. The in-depth report examines the June incident in the Mott Haven district, where hundreds of demonstrators were “kettled” behind barricades before being arrested. As riot police blocked protesters’ path minutes before Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 8 PM curfew, a second line of officers charged them from behind, “unprovoked and without warning, wielding batons, beating people from car tops, shoving them to the ground, and firing pepper spray into their faces before rounding up more than 250 people for arrest.” The report documents at least 61 cases of protesters, legal observers and bystanders who sustained injuries in the operation. HRW counts the incident as “among the most aggressive police responses to protests across the United States following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.” (Image: Human Rights Watch)
An NYPD officer and Army reservist was arrested by federal authorities on charges that he has been acting as an agent of China’s government and surveilling Tibetans living in the New York City area. Baimadajie Angwang of Nassau County worked as a community liaison officer at the 111th Precinct in Queens and held a “secret” security clearance as a member of the Army Reserves at Fort Dix, according to court documents. Prosectuors say Angwang, a native Tibetan and naturalized US citizen who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, sent information to officials at the Chinese consulate in Manhattan about the activities of local ethnic Tibetans. Angwang was allegedly working with officials at the consulate since 2014, including one who was part of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, responsible for “neutralizing sources of potential opposition” to the government of China, court documents state. (Photo: Central Tibetan Administration)
In Episode 55 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg exposes the hidden agenda behind Verizon’s abandonment of landline service. Far from being driven by public demand, the ubiquity of wireless has been instrumented by Verizon and imposed on the populace as a design to finally extinguish the public entitlement of telephone service. Verizon is the most recent inheritor of this public trust responsibility that goes back to the establishment of the New York Telephone Company as a state utility in 1896. But the trust responsibilities go with the old copper wires—once they are gone, Verizon no longer has legal obligations as a “carrier of last resort.” Weinberg calls for a public expropriation of Verizon, and making internet access as well as phone service a public entitlement. Those who are refusing to give up their landlines are, consciously or not, on the frontline of resistance to corporate rule—and the attendant digitization of all reality. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: IBEW)
Portland-based musician and vlogger David Rovics interviews CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg for Fifth Estate Live. The two discuss Weinberg’s upcoming story for the anarchist journal Fifth Estate on the “two faces of fascism” the US confronts at this moment—a Trumpian dictatorship or a post-pandemic “new normality” of complete surveillance and social control. But the moment is also pregnant with possibility, witnessing the mainstreaming of anarchist ideas such as abolishing the police. Initiatives such as cannabis legalization as a first step toward this aim are gaining ground nationally. Looking back, they draw lessons for the current revolutionary moment from the Tompkins Square Park uprising on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1980s, and the rebellion of the Zapatistas in Mexico in the 1990s—who continue to hold liberated territory in the southern state of Chiapas even today. Watch the video archive on YouTube or listen to the audio version on SoundCloud.
In Episode 50 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes frightening advances toward a fascist world order amid the COVID-19 crisis. With police-state measures being imposed worldwide, Donald Trump is claiming “total” executive power and threatening to “adjourn” Congress. That he is doing so in the name of lifting rather than enforcing the lockdown is certainly an irony, but either way it represents exploitation of the crisis for a power-grab. Even under a best-case scenario of a post-pandemic return to “normality,” it will be in the context of an unprecedented totalizing surveillance state. Yet at this grim moment for humanity, there are utopian as well as apocalyptic potentialities. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Peruvian Ministry of Defense via Flickr)
It’s an irony that with police-state measures mounting worldwide to enforce lockdowns and contain COVID-19, Trump is now claiming sweeping executive power to lift lockdowns in the US in spite of the pandemic. Asserting his prerogative to override state governors and order economies open again, Trump stated: “When someone is president of the United States, the authority is total.” The media response has been to call this out as blatantly unconstitutional. While it is necessary to point out the illegitimacy of Trump’s pretended power-grab, it is also side-stepping the real threat here: of the pandemic being exploited to declare an actual “state of exception” in which constitutional restraints are suspended altogether—perhaps permanently. (Photo of protest outside “morgue truck” in New York City: Donna Aceto/Rise and Resist)
At least 10 detainees at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, NJ, began a hunger strike and dozens more have agreed to join in, according to detainees, jailhouse advocates and attorneys. They are demanding to be released on bond, possibly with ankle bracelets to track their movements, and some even said they’re ready to be deported. Inside the jail, they have been following news reports on the COVID-19 pandemic, and say they’d rather die on the outside with family than locked in cells. They also say that if loved ones die, they want to be with them rather than hearing the bad news later. Essex County has a multi-million dollar contract with ICE to house detainees awaiting immigration proceedings. (Photo: Gothamist)
In Episode 48 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg speaks with Ernie Harburg, co-author of Who Put the Rainbow in The Wizard of Oz? Yip Harburg, Lyricist, and Deena Rosenberg, author of Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin. Ernie and Deena are, respectively, son and daughter-in-law of the legendary Yip Harburg, who penned the lyrics to the beloved songs of The Wizard of Oz movie. Born to poverty on the Lower East Side, Yip’s breakthrough song was the Depression-era populist anthem “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” Known as the social conscience of Broadway and Hollywood, he would be “blacklisted” in the McCarthy era—despite his antipathy to all forms of totalitarianism, fascist or communist. Ernie and Deena and their family are keeping his legacy alive today through the Yip Harburg Foundation and Yip Harburg Lyrics Foundation. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.