On the Seattle Metropolitan Project and its Consequences

Yesterday, I spent 20 minutes watching a crew tear down a brick wall, and I thought of the workers, long since dead, who first built that wall. As much as I love the new, I remain haunted by the old. Just like you. Just like this neighborhood.

 -Sherman Alexie, South Lake Union, 2012

 Energy

This story starts, simply enough, with some power lines.  Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has begun advertising its new plan: Energize Eastside.  They propose to build 18 miles of additional electrical transmission lines between Renton and Redmond.  The new lines will be able to handle 230 kilovolts as opposed to the current 115 kilovolt lines.  In the process of building this new infrastructure, PSE will seize land from private owners, tear down more trees, and in certain cases bulldoze entire houses.

PSE is promoting Energize Eastside as a necessary expansion that will decrease the chance of blackouts during future storms.  However, it is no secret that the Microsoft campus is in Redmond where the proposed power lines begin and that a Boeing factory is in Renton where the proposed power lines end.  Scattered around these new lines are the Costco headquarters in Issaquah, T-Mobile US headquarters in Bellevue, and Google’s expanding Kirkland campus.  Energize Eastside is built for these companies and the project reflects their needs.

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For example, Microsoft has a nearly secret data center in Tukwila that barely shows up in any search algorithm.  Located at 3333 S. 120th Place, just down the hill from the Seattle Department of Homeland Security headquarters, the T5 data center houses an unknown amount of Microsoft servers.  This data center uses a massive amount of electricity and represents only a fraction of Microsoft’s local energy needs.

On March 19th, PSE will host their first neighborhood meetings on the proposed route of the Energize Eastside power lines.  Redmond, Bellevue, and Renton will each host several of these meetings until May.  It will most prudent to attend these events and make them difficult for the architects of this new corporate project. Continue reading

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Cause or Effect?

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March 10, 2014 · 4:08 pm

The Hood Ain’t The Same

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A Short Film on Capitol Hill

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Train blockaded at Amazon HQ

(submitted via email)

 

On Tuesday, February 11th, 2014, a group of people blocked the train line that leads into the Amazon HQ in South Lake Union.  They blocked the tracks with a banner that read CIAmazon, a reference to the corporation’s recent decision to provide cloud services for the CIA.  Two smoke signal flares were lit in order to attract the attention of the workers inside the Day 1 South building of the campus.  The contents of a flier were read over a megaphone and hundreds of fliers were distributed  The action lasted around half an hour and group dispersed before the police arrived.

The following is an explanation for the action:

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Death Squads, Fascism, and More!

In case you didn’t know, Amazon Web Services is building the digital brain of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), those famous proponents of death squads, fascism, and armed drones.  This new data cloud will help the CIA coordinate their massacres, assassinations, and terrorism across the planet.  Since 1949, the CIA has had a free hand to install fascist dictatorships in Chile, train death squads in Uruguay, oversee the massacre of students in Greece, and incinerate wedding parties with its Predator drones in Yemen.  This horrific history, often obscured by duplicitous journalists and federal propagandists, should never be forgotten.

Amazon Web Services and the CIA are growing to resemble each other in many troubling ways.  But before we can explain any further, we must tell a simple story, long buried but extremely pertinent.  It takes place in the nation of Bolivia in 1964.  A fascist general named René Barrientos, long-time solider and aspiring politician, staged a bloody coup against the established government and seized power.  This coup was organized and facilitated by the CIA, who retained Barrientos as an asset.

With their puppet in power, the CIA hoped to create a Bolivian bulwark against anti-capitalism.  However, their plans were eventually threatened by a miners strike at the Siglo XX tin mine in San Juan.  Barrientos had reduced the miner’s pay to starvation wages, forbade unionizing, and ordered the assassination and imprisonment of any outspoken labor leaders.  When a strike broke out at the Siglo XX mine and the workers demanded better pay and conditions, the CIA ordered Barrientos to crush them immediately.

On the morning of June 24th, 1967, the Bolivian military, trained by CIA advisors, surrounded the Siglo XX mine and proceeded to fire indiscriminately into the miner’s camp.  Twenty were killed and seventy wounded in the initial massacre.  An untold and unknown number of people were disappeared, executed, and imprisoned in the days that followed.  All of this was done to prevent the poorly paid workers from organizing a better life for themselves and their families.  To this day, the CIA has never been held accountable for this particular crime, let alone all of the others it has committed over the past 60 years.  The fact that Amazon can openly build a data cloud for the CIA without any meaningful domestic opposition is proof of this simple fact.

One Click Union Busting!

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Every attempt at unionization within Amazon has usually met with failure.  The company absolutely forbids employees from organizing and will immediately fire anyone even suspected of communicating with unions.  However, there have been notable exceptions and some unions have succeeded in organizing different groups of workers.

Outside of the US, Germany is Amazon’s largest consumer market.  The company has nine fulfillment centers (where orders are packaged and shipped) in the country that employ nearly 9,000 workers.  By classifying them as logistics workers rather than retail workers, Amazon can legally pay them €4 less for their labor.  To combat this loophole, the Ver.di trade union has helped organize almost 2,000 workers, demanding better pay from Amazon.

In December, 2013, the union staged a strike against the company, hoping to disrupt the holiday shipping season.  Five fulfillment centers were picketed and the strike lasted five days at some workplaces.  A delegation of Ver.di unionists flew to Seattle in the middle of the strike, holding a press conference near the site of today’s protest.  The press conference received scant attention and little outside support.  Back in Germany, Amazon hired 14,000 temporary employees in the days leading up to Christmas and the shipping schedules were unaffected.  These temps were let go once the holiday season ended and Amazon declared the Ver.di strike to be a failure.

In the days that followed, union members learned that Amazon had managed to organize a scab union to combat the growing influence of Ver.di.  This “loyalty union,” about 1,000 strong, does not want higher wages and maintains that everything is fine within Amazon’s facilities.  Combined with their insistence on the strike’s failure, this scab union represents a desperate move on the part Amazon.  They are clearly frightened and doing everything in their power to stop the unionization from spreading.

 

The Ver.di union is part of the larger Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB).  The DGB was formed in the 1890’s and existed until the Nazis dissolved it in 1933.  Once the Nazis were destroyed, the DGB was allowed to reform itself in the newly partitioned West Germany.  Fearing communist infiltration, the DGB suffered heavy repression from the supposedly democratic government throughout the 1950’s.  Numerous ex-Nazis were given positions in the new West German government and continued their practices of union busting against the DGB.

Many of the children who grew up in this time period understood the new German democracy to be a sham and proceeded to attack it over the following decades. Unfortunately, the rebellions in Germany that lasted from the 1960’s to the 1970’s prompted the government to create a repressive surveillance apparatus that plagues Germany to this day.  Critics have argued that this computerized surveillance apparatus, initially designed to fight the German rebels, has now engulfed the entire planet.

The Future at Your Doorstep!

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On May 1st, 2012, Amazon purchased Kiva Systems, a robotics company specializing in the automation of warehouses.  Amazon has no desire to retain its tens of thousands of human fulfillment center employees.  Quite the opposite.  It hopes to make them redundant.  Robots cannot unionize, nor can they complain, nor can they walk out.  Robots are the perfect workers and will replace humans as soon as the capitalists have the ability to do so.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, recently showed off his new robotics scheme.  After cheating the United States Postal Service out of money that was due them, Bezos now wishes to introduce autonomous drones into the skies that will deliver packages to consumers doorsteps.  His new octocopters are a statement to his entire workforce that they have no future in his robotic utopia.

Along with Google, Amazon is one of the main forces pushing for the total automation of capitalism.  We see only one outcome if these corporations are successful: the complete redundancy of the traditional working class, the creation of a massive service class, and ever greater levels of resource extraction across the planet.  The upper class of programmers and engineers will be served by the impoverished lower classes while the slave class extracts the gold, platinum, and other precious metals that allow this new technology to exist.  Commercial drones will deliver commodities to consumers while military drones incinerate rebels in the periphery.  Both commodities and death can be delivered with the click of a button.  Something like this is often referred to as a dystopia, as mere science fiction, but to people like Bezos it is simply called The Future.

This action is taken in solidarity with everyone fighting the reign of Amazon and its policies of exploitation, greed, and domination.  The only way to stop their obvious and undeniable plans is to gather our forces together internationally and begin formulating an exit strategy from the global dictatorship of capitalism.  The struggle must be expanded and hopefully this text will serve to ignite the imaginations of antagonists worldwide.

Down with Amazon!

Down with the CIA!

 

Up with Freedom!

Up with the Spring!

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Capitol Hill: Microsoft Connector Bus Blocked For 45 Minutes

(submitted via internent)

On Monday, February 10th, a small group of people blocked a Microsoft Connector shuttle in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.

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One bus was initially blocked as people unfurled two banners and began handing out fliers.

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In the shadow of a new luxury apartment building, Microsoft employees stood in the rain waiting for another bus.  However, when another bus arrived, the group blocked it in.

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With fifteen minutes, another three buses had arrived, completely throwing off the Microsoft commute schedule.

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In total, five buses were blocked for 45 minutes before the authorities arrived, at which point the group dispersed.

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What follows below is an explanation of the action.

The Dark Lords of Microsoft

A long time ago, Microsoft was the evil empire, the dark colossus that every free-thinking engineer and programmer gravitated away from.  Their hierarchical and competitive corporate culture was a nightmare to be avoided at all costs.  Apple and Google frantically developed in directions that would take them away from the monopolized markets controlled by the Redmond based corporation.  These competitors succeeded in breaking Microsoft’s grip on the marketplace, only to become precisely what they had been rebelling against.  Google now circles Redmond like a vulture, with offices in Bothell, Kirkland, and Seattle, waiting to devour Microsoft’s corpse should it collapse.

As it stands, Microsoft is alive and well within the city of Seattle.  For decades, Microsoft has spread its wealth throughout the metropolis, often under the guise of philanthropy and benevolence, but always with the aim of making itself essential for the functioning of the local economy.  Youth centers, grants, interest-free loans, scholarships, and other civic projects constitute the philanthropic arsenal of Microsoft.  Beyond this, the Gates family is embedded within the structure of the University of Washington (UW), with Bill Senior serving on the Board of Regents and Microsoft products on every campus computer.

Through this graciousness, the corporation hopes to insulate itself from potential attacks and prove to the world that Microsoft cares about the region it calls home.  However, it has been quite clear for some time that Microsoft will do whatever is necessary to protect its image and trick the public into thinking it is something other than what it is: a greedy corporation with growth and profit as its ultimate objectives.  Like every corporation, Microsoft will use its power and influence to maintain this illusion through manipulation, deceit, and trickery.

Get Off The Bus!

At the time of this writing, there is currently a job opening at Microsoft for an individual who is able to begin “managing facilities operations and space allocation utilization for Microsoft Research.”  This person will organize existing office space and help acquire more as it becomes necessary.  Microsoft Research is the branch of the corporation developing the new technology that is meant to give it a lead over Google and Apple.  Whoever ends up with this job will have the privilege of taking the free Connector Shuttle from the Redmond campus to wherever they choose to live.

With their $100,000-plus salary, this employee will find it easy to afford any of the new apartments available on Capitol Hill.  Unfortunately for them, certain housing developments on the Hill have no vacancy.  The Brix Condominiums, developed by Schnitzer West, has been entirely purchased and filled with residents.  Condo construction has stopped, with developers now erecting giant apartment buildings across the neighborhood in the hopes of making higher profits.

Condos, unlike apartments, have a single purchase price.  Apartment rents, on the other hand, fluctuate with the market, allowing speculators and developers to make more money over time when demand is high.  Most of the condos on the Hill were built during the recession when developers wanted a sure bet for their investment.  But now that the money is flowing again, the condos have been forgotten and new apartment buildings are rising across the Hill.  Thus, for $1500 per month, a new Microsoft employee can now select from an ever-expanding array of bland one-bedroom apartments.

Whereas a Microsoft employee would have been turned off by the prospect of working in Redmond and living in sprawling suburban Issaquah, that employee now has a free ride to and from work to any Seattle neighborhood they choose.  Starting in 2007, when the glut of condos had begun to appear in Capitol Hill and Ballard, Microsoft launched the Connector Shuttle.  These shuttles are equipped with WiFi, turning the once torturous commute into productive work hours for the company.  Over the past seven years, the Connector has helped fill the vacancies within these new buildings, built largely for high-paid tech workers and their peers.

Without the Connector Shuttle bringing these employees to Capitol Hill, Ballard, South Seattle, and the North End, the hyper-gentrification we now see would not have happened.  Microsoft currently employs more people in the Seattle area than Amazon, Google, and Adobe combined.  So it is not unreasonable to place the blame for the drastic restructuring of our neighborhoods largely on Microsoft and the developers who built according to their needs.

Whenever a tech worker pays the inflated rents the developer charges, they embolden those same developers and encourage them to build more exorbitantly priced apartment buildings.  This cycle only leads upwards, and the baseline of $1,500 a month will only increase as more buildings are added to the landscape. The city considers paying $1,000 a month for a one bedroom to be “affordable.”  Those of us who cannot afford to rent some of these “affordable” units must leave the neighborhoods where our friends and family live. The Connector Shuttle only facilitates this process and for this reason deserves to be disrupted and dismantled.

Join the rebellion!

The only way to effectively counter their plans is to first become fluent in their development schemes, technological aspirations, and guiding philosophies.  From this pool of information, we can constitute a counterforce against them.  Their plans have long been materializing all around us, restructuring our interior and exterior worlds.  Just as our neighborhoods are becoming alien, so too is the territory of social relationships.  Everywhere you look: more and more boxes.

Since its inception, the corporation started by Bill Gates and Paul Allen has pushed for the privatization of education, helped recruit young men and women into the military through the X-Box, collaborated with Monsanto in creating GMO crops, and helped the FBI and NSA monitor the internet for any signs of subversion.  These simple facts, carrying the full weight of their own particular horror, cannot be denied by either Microsoft or its defenders.  Any curious party can easily determine the validity of our claims.

The situation in Capitol Hill and Ballard, two neighborhoods selected by the city government for high-density housing, is a situation that can inspire depression and dread.  However, we are tired of falling prey to these emotions and instead make the first steps to address this very specific aspect of the Microsoft leviathan.  The Connector Shuttle has directly impacted our lives and the lives of those around us.  It is simultaneously a symbol of and a concrete component in the process of hyper-gentrification.

We have been inspired by actions against Google in the Bay Area and choose to propagate the Counterforce.  We view it as a concept borrowed from Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravity’s Rainbow.  The title itself refers to the shape a rocket traces when shot into the air.  There is the initial thrust of the rocket that delivers the technological evil into the sky, followed by the fuel cut-off, followed by the descent.  The counterforce kicks in once the rocket has reached the apex of its ascent.  It is the force that brings evil crashing back down to Earth.  The counterforce is as natural as gravity.

We will fight every evil empire wherever it emerges.  Feel free to organize your own actions.  We are taking the simplest actions for now, but imagination and initiative are all that is necessary to expand the rebellion.  Feel free to bring the struggle wherever you see fit and communicate your intentions clearly.  Fight their future!  Join the Counterforce!

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An Antagonist’s Guide To Destroying The Surveillance State

A bore, a paranoiac, a madman, a watcher with no one to watch him in turn, someone it’s going to be hard to get rid of.

-Roberto Bolaño, “The Secret of Evil.”

Head bone connected to the neck bone, neck bone connected to the arm bone, arm bone connected to the hand bone, hand bone connected to the internet, connected to the Google, connected to the government.

-M.I.A., “The Message.”

I: The Twitter Employee and the Airport

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My flight is delayed for two hours. The people around me text on their phones, update their Facebook status, use the Google search browser for their homework, and listen to music through tiny headphones. While I wait with them, all of us sitting in identical rows, I read over a hundred pages of Assata Shakur’s autobiography.

After the Boston Marathon bombing, the FBI had once again added her to their Most Wanted list, hoping to capitalize on the public hysteria and to remind the public that Assata is a “dangerous terrorist.” I brought her book into the airport in defiance of their media campaign, hoping to get into an argument with some official or other and learn exactly what they were up to behind the curtain.

For the past several months, my boarding passes have been labeled with “SSSS” in the lower right corner. In the Sea-Tac airport, I first learned that I had been flagged as a threat of some sort and was to be thoroughly searched. Thinking it was because my hair was curly and my skin was dark, I started antagonizing the TSA employees, asking them if all brown people were terrorists and if my beard scared them. Hitting a nerve, one of the employees pointed at the “SSSS” and told me they were only responding to my classification, that it wasn’t their personal decision. I asked them who had deemed me a Secondary Security Screening Selection, and he said that he had no idea.

After they swabbed my bag to test for explosives, an alarm went off. Magically, my bag had acquired trace amounts of explosive residue. After a second swab triggered another alarm, the airport bomb expert inspected my bag and found no secret explosive devices. I repacked my bag and they let me walk to my gate, no longer a potential threat, safe to board my plane.

At the Oakland airport months later I received the same treatment, but this time there were no explosives detected on my bag. A few months after that, again at Sea-Tac, explosives were detected once, twice, and then the bomb expert was summoned for another thorough inspection of my dangerous bag. Sea-Tac is evidently where I suddenly acquire explosive powder on my belongings. Every time I fly through its terminals, I have the sense that someone is behind a screen in an office pressing a button to trigger the alarm.

Back at the Oakland airport, reading Assata’s autobiography, waiting for my delayed flight to Seattle, I notice that I am one of a few people not using a computer or smart phone. When the staff finally starts the boarding process, I sit down near the line next to a young woman who is deeply mesmerized by the soft blue glow of her phone screen. As we wait for our turn to line up and board our plane, she sighs and anxiously looks at the long lines of upper class passengers boarding before us.

“Why is it taking so long?” she asks me.

“Don’t know. It just does.”

We sit silently for a moment and watch the other passengers.

“Do you live in Seattle?” I ask.

“No, I’m from there, but I live in San Francisco now.”

“It’s getting really expensive to live in San Francisco.”

“Yeah,” she nods.

“I know people who grew up there who can’t afford to stay. It’s Google that’s doing it, all their employees making the rent spike.”

“No, for sure, it is. I have rent control, though, so it doesn’t really affect me. But I’m all for it because I work for Twitter.”

The line of passengers sways back and forth. I have no idea how to respond to her statement and suddenly I realize that in the center of her black shirt is the little blue bird of Twitter. This was the moment when I began to discover the secret of evil. Continue reading

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