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Raytheon’s recent patent application for a new choking sound-cannon has gotten a bit of attention since Gizmodo picked up the story from New Scientist.

http://gizmodo.com/5867984/future-riot-shields-will-suffocate-protestors-with…

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228425.300-riot-shields-could-scatter…

My soon-to-be-patent-attorney friend has chided me not to worry, because this is “just a patent application.” And here’s an example of how a little bit of legal education, which strictly de-emphasizes context and the analysis of power dynamics, can be a dangerous thing. There is a substantive difference between a patent application by a random would-be inventor working out of her garage and a patent application by Raytheon.

Raytheon is one of the largest arms dealers in the world. Raytheon has billions of dollars of US government contracts. Raytheon has current contracts to develop crowd control weapons, and is testing them on American prisoners. Raytheon has already developed crowd-control weapons from battlefield technology and sold them to domestic prisons for use here in the States.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129630188

Raytheon is girding itself for shifts in US government defense spending, partly by selling more war-weapons to other countries…

http://www.defenseprocurementnews.com/2011/12/01/saudi-patriot-deal-receives-…

…but also by increasingly marketing to ‘non-military customers.’ Such as the Department of Homeland Security and prisons, public and private. These ‘non-military’ customers buy a lot of crowd-control weapons.

http://technorati.com/business/finance/article/raytheon-illustrates-diversifi…

Another sonic weapon, developed by LRAD, has already been deployed against first amendment-exercisers here in the States.

http://gizmodo.com/5860592/what-is-the-lrad-sound-cannon

It’s really not a giant leap of logic to imagine that this particular patent application might be something nasty, deployed for nasty purposes.

Oh, BTW? Raytheon has been repeatedly sanctioned for illegal and unethical practice – it’s the 5th-worst government contractor, according to the Project on Open Government’s misconduct database. Competing, of course, with the OTHER four major defense contractors.

http://www.contractormisconduct.org/index.cfm/1,73,221,html?ContractorID=46&r…

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http://www.cityofart.net/garlic_gulch.html

 

I hear a lot of my transplanted white colleagues and acquaintances discussing how my city’s culture is ‘too white.’ This conversation is often coded in other terminology, through ascribing WASPy characteristics to the entirety of the city’s population. Seattle, some claim, is ‘passive aggressive’ or ‘cold’ or ‘politically correct.’ It’s ‘hard to meet people’ and the culture lacks ‘color’ or ‘authenticity.’ After a few months or a few years living in the whitest available neighborhoods, new Seattleites are already inadvertently reproducing and reinforcing the historical methods of segregation in our Town.

 

As a white native of Seattle, let me just tell it to you plain: If you do not see people of color on your block, at your job, or in your schools, it is decidedly NOT because Seattle’s population is too white. It’s because your block, your job, and your school are actively maintaining racial segregation. 

 

The continued maintenance of segregation allows whites who move into the city’s whitest neighborhoods to see only a naturalized version of ‘separate but equal.’ That is, when segregation policies are successful, they themselves become invisible – as do people of color – to whites who stay within their ‘comfort zone.’ And thus it’s possible for someone a few miles away from the country’s most diverse zip code to bemoan the homogeneity of the city.

 

The policies of racially restrictive property sales contracts/covenants which were legal (all over the country, as per the Supreme Court) between 1926 and 1948 go a long way toward explaining the historical foundations of Seattle’s ‘white neighborhoods.’ You’ll notice that the most legally restricted neighborhoods REMAIN those in which one might get the impression that the city is very white. These boundaries were drawn by racist law, and are enforced by income inequity, imprisonment and disenfranchisement, the property-tax based education system, the drug war, repressive police strategies – and by white peoples’ continued willful blindness to the very existence of people of color in the city. 

 

Good news! There are things you can do to counteract this phenomenon instead of complying with it. You don’t have to integrate a neighborhood all by yourself by moving there- in fact, please don’t. When you bring your non-local money and white privilege into a community of color, you throw off the balance by driving up property values and reducing the self-sufficiency of  neighborhood. When locals are forced to cater to the tastes and habits of white people, they stop being relevant to their base and it becomes more difficult to maintain community strength. As we work towards the destruction of racist institutions, we need to recognize that people of color are doing for themselves, as they should. Their communities could use our support and allegiance, NOT our disruptive property-purchasing power or our paternalistic advice or our feelings of guilt or our self-serving demands for attention and recognition. 

 

So go explore some of Seattle’s amazing neighborhoods, appreciate the struggles of their residents, and go back to your own community to work on transforming the institutions that enforce delusions of white supremacy. Go home to your white block and start asking your neighbors why they allow racial restrictive covenants to stay in their deeds. Go back to your white job and start asking why you aren’t hiring people of color or accepting their leadership. Go into your white schools and ask why your children are getting deficient educations because they are segregated from people of color. Look for ways in which you can reduce your own use of white privilege and your own complicity with racism. Trust – this is more constructive, much more difficult, and immeasurably more important than talking with your white friends about how much you wish you lived in a ‘diverse’ city.

 

————- 

 

Homework:

Checking out the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project is a great way to introduce yourself to the complexities and nuances of your new home. 

 

http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/ 

 

They have a small sample of racial restrictions in deeds around the city:


http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/covenants.htm

 

If you live on Capitol Hill, take a little field trip: Walk just a few blocks south on 12th, or cut over the hill to 23rd and head south from there, or down the hill under the freeway overpass on Jackson. If you live downtown, walk through Pike Place Market early on a weekday, and ask the growers and vendors what neighborhoods they live in. If you live in Ballard, get yourself on a bus headed south and go to the end of the line. If you live in the University District, head up Lake City Way. If you drive, go to Aurora (Highway 99) and go either north or south. When you’re taking the light rail heading north from the airport, get off anywhere before Pioneer Square and wander around a bit. Go to Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Columbia City, South Park, the Central District, the International District – for starters. Take walks, buy stuff from local businesses, eat food, be friendly. 

 

________

 

Big thanks to Larry Neilson for the use of his photograph of the Liberation mural at Seattle Central’s wood shop.

 

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http://www.theonion.com/content/news/u_s_economy_grinds_to_halt_as

Figgin’ hi-larious (and poignant) bit in the Onion. Go read it. Then let’s talk about the concluding sentiment. After Capitalism crumbles because everyone simultaneously realizes that money is worthless, a man-on-the-street is quoted:

“‘It’s back to basics for me,’ Bernard Polk of Waverly, OH said. ‘I’m going to till the soil for my own sustenance and get anything else I need by bartering. If I want milk, I’ll pay for it in tomatoes. If need a new hoe, I’ll pay for it in lettuce.’ When asked, hypothetically, how he would pay for complicated life-saving surgery for a loved one, Polk seemed uncertain.
‘That’s a lot of vegetables, isn’t it?’ he said.”

I have two immediate responses to that. One is rather utopian: Why exactly would a complicated surgery have to be expensive in a non-currency-based economy? The surgeon wouldn’t get an enormous fee; there would be no insurance company to leech resources out of the procedure; the hospital and the equipment manufacturers would be collectively operated for the benefit of the populace…so what would make surgery so out-of-reach for vegetable farmer?

The other response, perhaps a more reasonable one, goes something like this: Guess what? Many, many people ALREADY go without ‘complicated, lifesaving’ surgery, because we don’t value human lives equally, nor is it our priority to maintain them. Poor and working folk forgo such things regularly, or they purchase them with the sum total of their resources, leaving them and the future generations of their families in treacherous financial waters and subject to disastrous currents. It’s called CAPITALISM, right? So if the radical transformation of our exchange system were to magically occur during a moment of blinding-light revelation, those in need of surgery wouldn’t necessarily be any worse off.

And these are the issues everyone born after 1965 is going to have to wrestle with in a very concrete way, very soon. 30% of Medicare dollars are spent on people who die within two months. ‘End of life care,’ especially those “complicated, life-saving” surgeries, will be an enormous burden on the small generations who will be required to pay for millions of retired Baby Boomers. Life-saving surgery never really saves anyone’s life – it should properly be referred to as ‘life-extending’ surgery. Often, the extension of life is bought at enormous expense to an individual’s family. More importantly, the ‘saved’ time may be filled with pain and suffering. And it’s very often brief.

If we are ethical creatures, we should be carefully probing our attachment to this form of healthcare. I have told my closest friends and family that I don’t wish my life to be extended past my ability to enjoy it, or to contribute meaningfully to my relations with others. I hope to die suddenly. If my death becomes a prolonged affair that is causing suffering for those I love, I want the process to be hastened. I hope that, by the time I’m dying, there are legal and humane methods to do that.

I don’t want $100,000 worth of surgery or tube-feeding or ‘life-support machines’ to tack on an extra month or year at the end of a long life. I would rather that money fund someone’s education, or the staging of a play, or the publication of a book, or a series of grand and intricate feasts. And that is what my living will expresses. I know it’s not anyone’s right to make that decision for another person (well, unless ‘anyone’ works for an insurance company!) but I do urge you to consider your own dying days, and carefully decide how much you want to take from your family and your society on your way out.

 

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