Thursday, January 31, 2008


Millions of hard working and low income Americans are victims of their landlords. Virtually anyone who has ever been a renter has a horror story or two to tell. Legal remedies are usually too time consuming or expensive to be useful. Landlords have all the power.

It's a drag.

Some folks find a way to get organized and those folks are usually the ones most successful in dealing with slumlords be they in huge cities or small college towns.

One such organization is the Shalom Tenants Alliance. The Alliance came together in earnest in July 2003 with the launch of a website which has helped put numerous tenants in touch with the Alliance and helped Shalom tenants realize they were not alone.

The alliance is a coalition of residents of more than 90 different New York City apartment buildings owned and/or managed by the Shalom family, a.k.a. Ohebshalom, which includes Jon Shalom, Ben Shalom, Fred Ohebshalom, David Ohebshalom, Nader Ohebshalom and others. Operating under various corporate names, including Sky Management, Empire Management, Gatsby and Keystone, the Shaloms buy rent-stabilized buildings and then systematically dismantle required building services (Warranty of Habitability) and attempt to force out legal residents through harassment, intimidation, negligence and deception.

Today Shalom tenants took to the street in support of one of their own. A tenant of 244 West 72 Street came home one day recently and found his possessions tossed out by management and his four cats missing a week before the expiration of his lease.

You ask yourself how can this happen?

It happens because it is allowed to happen.

It happens because in our land private property is more important than human beings.

Slumlords don't give in easily. They fight often harder than we do.

We turn again to the family Shalom.
Jon and Ben Shalom of Sky Management (so many companies, so many names) decided to get revenge on their tenants who had just won lawsuit against them. Eight Saint Mark’s Place Tenants Association tells the story:

On Saturday, November 3, 2007, the New York Fire Department (FDNY) answered a 9-1-1 emergency call from 8 Saint Mark’s Place in the East Village.

The caller alleged that boiler exhaust fumes were entering the apartment. First fumes were noticed on Friday, November 2, 2007. On Saturday the condition worsened and one tenant who began suffering from headaches and nausea called the management company and the building super who were both unresponsive. The tenant then proceeded to call 9-1-1.

It was discovered that on Wednesday, October 31, 2007, the owners Jon and Ben Shalom of Sky Management had hired a roofing company to cap all eight chimneys in the building, including one active chimney functioning as the boiler’s ventilation system.

People could have died here. What did the fire department do? After removing the cap, they let them off the hook with just another violation order.

Tough stuff.

Now the talk in ye olde Democratic debate about Obama and a Chicago slumlord is all fine and dandy. But what the talk needs to be about is doing something to protect tenants and whole neighborhoods from them. Slumlords are vile criminals whose only aim is greed. They should be treated as such.

I ran across a petition out in California put together by a guy who had had enough. I liked some of his proposals which included:
"...instead of extremely low fines such as a $49.00 dollar fine for not complying with the law for a year that a fine of $50,000.00 and five years in prison for allowing health and safety conditions to lapse what so ever! To hold the Slum Lord fully accountable for all and any sicknesses or illnesses related from asbestos problems to unsanitary conditions inside their buildings besides the fines and jail sentences..."

...take away fully a Slum Lord's right to buy and sell or manage property under any and all conditions after they prove that case after case or call after call they will not abide by the rules. Their DRE or (Department of Real Estate Licenses) be revoked, their business licenses revoked under any hidden LLC or business name..."

...a fine is based on each apartment unit complaining that is each person has a right to withhold rent, sue, and collect for emotional distress, illness related to apartment negligence, and a right to press criminal charges against the owner/Slum Lord or manager responsible for the property based on uninhabitable conditions and breach of leasing agreements or violating Fire Dept., Housing Authority laws, and Health Dept. rules..." the case of death or illness connected with Slum Lord abuses, negligence, terror and scare tacticts that the Slum Lord is charged with murder, mayhem, assault, and manslaughter of their victims with the full jail sentence, fines..."

Maybe the guy who put this petition together can slip into tonight’s debate and bring all this up.

Let the candidates deal with some real everyday issues and give real specific solutions.

Never gonna happen.

Good Day!

The following is from (New York City).

Protest Against 'Abusive' Landlord
Shalom Organization Accused of Illegal Evictions

Tenants of the Shalom Organization on Thursday protested their landlord's allegedly abusive and vicious behavior.

During a rally on the Upper West Side, the tenants called on the Manhattan District Attorney's office to prosecute.

The protest was in front of 244 West 72nd Street. One of that building's tenants said management threw away all his possessions and planned to euthanized his four cats. This, he said, happened one week before he was set to move out.

The tenant also said he paid his rent.

The Shalom Organization owns 130 buildings across New York City.


A black human rights organization in Nashville has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a criminal investigation and initiate civil litigation against a Middle Tennessee juvenile prison where two teens have been choked to death since 2005. One of the two, Omega Leach III, is pictured here.

Clarksville On Line reports the organization, Power to the People, in a complaint to the special litigation section of the DOJ, charges that children detained at the Chad Youth Enhancement Center are subjected to “horrid” conditions and “cruel mistreatment.”

Located in Ashland City, the juvenile prison houses about 90 troubled youth between the ages of 7 and 17, a large number of whom are black.

Universal Health Care of King-of-Prussia, PA, owns and operates the Chad facility and Hermitage Hall in Nashville for 100 mentally disabled youth. Both facilities are licensed by the state of Tennessee, but youth from the state have not been sent to either of the juvenile prisons since the deaths at Chad.

The Chad Youth Enhancement Center and Hermitage Hall have been the subjects of recent exposes written by Nashville Scene reporter Elizabeth Ulrich. The articles published Nov. 8 and Dec.13 of last year highlight instances of abuse at the facility going back a number of years. The articles also shine a light on regulatory bodies such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations which have somehow not found the wherewithal to shut the place down.

The Chad Youth Enhancement Center is a privately owned residential treatment facility nestled in the rolling hills off of a winding, two-lane road just southeast of Clarksville, Tennessee.

Chad is a place where kids—some criminals or drug addicts, or with serious emotional and behavioral disorders—go to get help. All are between the ages of 7 and 17.

In a November 2005 visit to the center, Department of Children’s Services (DCS) licensing consultant Linda McLeskey noted that more Chad residents felt unsafe at the facility than at other programs DCS had encountered.

Chad Youth Enhancement Center in Tennessee continues operating, offering services to children from other states even though the state of Tennessee will not send its own kids there due to suspicions of abuse.
The situation at the Chad Youth Enhancement Center is not unique. What is happening there is happening across the country.
It's time for it to stop.

The following is from Black World Today.

Possible Cover Up of Teens’ Death
By JoNina M. Abron

Nashville, Tenn.-– Charging a criminal conspiracy to cover up homicide in the 2005 and 2007 deaths of two teens at a Middle Tennessee juvenile detention center, a non-profit black social justice organization here has requested inquests into their deaths.

Power to the People, in an affidavit to Tennessee Medical Examiner Bruce Levy, alleges that Linda Harris, 14, and Omega Leach III, 16, died at the Chad Youth Enhancement Center in Ashland City as the result of the deadly chokehold. “Further forensic analysis or referral for criminal prosecution” is necessary, according to the group’s affidavit.

The affidavit seeks inquests in Davidson County.

Power to the People has also asked Levy to refer Leach’s death to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the state attorney general for criminal investigation and review for prosecution.

Harris, of Amityville, NY, died at Chad on Sept. 15, 2005, less than a week after arriving. According to a September 2005 article in Newsday, a New York publication, staff members at Chad said Harris collapsed while being escorted to a “timeout room” following an emotional outburst. Paramedics found the girl with blood in her mouth, scraped elbows, and in physical restraints when they tried to resuscitate her.

Harris died of cardiac arrest exacerbated by morbid obesity, according to an autopsy conducted by Levy, the medical examiner. He made no mention in the autopsy that physical restraints may have been contributing factors to Harris’ death.

Leach, of Philadelphia, died at the Chad facility on June 2, 2007, after a clash with two staff members, according to a November 2007 investigative article in the Nashville Scene, Levy issued a homicide ruling in Leach’s death, citing blunt force injuries to the boy’s neck that were consistent with strangulation. Although one Chad staff member involved in the clash with Leach was later fired, no one was prosecuted for his homicide.

Staff members at Chad use a restraint training program called “Handle With Care.” According to a 2001 HWC publication, HWC staff is trained to use front and rear chokes and an arm bar choke from behind. HWC “allows poorly trained staff to administer dangerous and deadly chokeholds… which clearly violate the constitutional rights of these juvenile offenders…,” according to Power to the People’s affidavit asking for inquests into the deaths of Harris and Leach,.

Prior to Harris’ death, state regulators noted that staff members at Chad unnecessarily used physical restraint techniques resulting in numerous injuries to the children detained there, including broken ribs and collarbones.

Universal Health Care of King-of-Prussia, Penn., owns and operates the Chad facility, which houses about 90 troubled youth between the ages of 7 and 17, a large number of whom are black. Chad was designed to serve as a juvenile treatment center. However, Power to the People maintains that Chad and other juvenile detention centers across the country are actually holding prisons for their predominantly poor and low-income youth of color detainees until they are old enough to be sent to adult prisons.

Earlier this month, Power to the People asked the Department of Justice to conduct a criminal investigation of Chad. The facility is licensed by the state of Tennessee, but youth from the state have not been sent there since Harris and Leach died.


Emmanuel Jal was a conscripted soldier in a rebel army in Sudan. These days, the 28-year-old is a hip-hop artist who gave up his machine gun for a microphone, but keeps his aim on the Sudanese government.

He and other Darfur citizen-activists brought their case to the Ethiopian capital Tuesday to "tell the African leaders, 'You've failed us,'" he said. More than 40 heads of state are gathering today in the capital for the African Union's annual summit, which starts Thursday.

The Sudanese campaigners — who included Darfuri women — urged the speedy full deployment of an AU-United Nations force to the war-ravaged western Sudanese region. They also demanded a stronger mandate for the troops that would allow the soldiers to better protect civilians.

Their call is being echoed today by the human rights group Africa Action which is calling on the UN to get off its derierre and do something besides passing resolutions.

Since 2003, the United Nations has passed nineteen Resolutions on Darfur, including Security Council Resolution 1706, the only instance in history of a UN peacekeeping mission that was authorized and failed to deploy. On July 31, 2007, Security Council Resolution 1769 again authorized a multinational UN-led peacekeeping force for Darfur – the “hybrid” African Union/United Nations operation termed UNAMID. UNAMID officially assumed control of peacekeeping operations in Darfur on December 31, 2007, however, its deployment is well behind the timetable laid out by the Security Council.

Meanwhile, the genocide continues.

The following is from
Africa Activism.

Africa Action Releases New Report on International Failure to Protect Darfur

Today, half a year after the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1769 on July 31, 2007, Africa Action releases new analysis detailing the failure of the international community to deploy the peacekeeping force for Darfur authorized by this resolution. Africa Action calls on the Bush administration to put its words into action and move from rhetorical opposition to genocide to proactive engagement with the United Nations to achieve the fully resourced deployment of the complete “hybrid” UN-African Union force (UNAMID) that the Security Council called for six months ago.

Over the past months, UN officials and humanitarian groups operating in Sudan have warned that UNAMID is on the brink of collapse, and recent estimates caution that it may take most of 2008 to deploy the complete mission. For a chronology assessing the missed deadlines and analysis of the current status of this operation, please see the latest Africa Action report.

“What the people of Darfur need now is less rhetoric and more sincerity from the international community including the United States,” said Gerald LeMelle, Executive Director of Africa Action. “History will remember this administration not for its statements of ‘opposition to genocide in Sudan’ but for the concrete steps it took to put an effective peacekeeping mission in place and the vigor of its diplomatic efforts. The U.S. must provide international leadership to combine the expedited deployment of this protective force with an inclusive political peace process for Darfur as well as progress in implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between North and South Sudan.”

Less than 1,500 of UNAMID’s allocated 6,000 police officers and 7,000 out of 20,000 troops are currently in Darfur. No country has yet to offer to provide the two-dozen tactical and transport helicopters the mission requires. The government of Sudan has yet to accept a UN Status of Forces Agreement that would allow UNAMID personnel the operational freedoms, such as freedom of movement and communications and the ability to conduct flights after dark, that they need to fulfill their mandate.

“300,000 people were newly displaced by the violence in Darfur in 2007,” said Marie Clarke Brill, Deputy Director of Africa Action. “The UN and aid agencies report that the situation on the ground is the worst since widespread hostilities broke out in 2004. Yet the new US special envoy for Sudan announced earlier this week that he would indefinitely postpone his visit to the country for unspecified reasons. After the premeditated January 7 attacks on a clearly marked UN convoy by Sudanese military forces, the U.S. and the international community can no longer hide from the fact that Khartoum bears the primary responsibility for the suffering of Darfur’s civilians. It is unacceptable for the U.S. to prioritize ‘War on Terror’ intelligence interests in Khartoum over the lives of Sudan’s people.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


A US court has sentenced Ricardo Palmera, who goes by the nom de guerre Simon Trinidad, a chief negotiator of Colombia's Farc rebel group, to 60 years in prison for aiding the kidnapping of three US military contractors. The three men were seized after their aircraft crashed during a surveillance mission in Farc-controlled territory.

Contractor is, of course, the new word for mercenary.

Ecuadorian police, with CIA help, seized Palmera in January 2004. He was returned to Colombia and on Dec. 31, 2004, was extradited to the United States.

On July 10 of this year the second trial of Palmera concluded in Washington with his conviction on one charge of conspiracy to take hostages and a hung jury on four remaining charges. Back in November 2006, his first jury trial ended in a mistrial on all points.

Palmera maintains he went to Ecuador to negotiate a prisoner exchange between the FARC and the Colombian government with the help of a UN official. Palmera had previously served as a peace negotiator.

Palmera said after his sentencing he hoped the hostages would be released but that Farc's actions were justified as part of a legitimate military revolution.

"My conscience absolves me and I join the ranks of so many other who history can and will absolve," Palmera said.

During his trial Palmera acknowledged serving as a Farc negotiator, but said he never saw the Americans or kept them captive himself.

The blog World War Four reports:

"The 60 year penalty, the maximum allowable under Colombian law, is a relatively new invention. In 2004, under a program funded and administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Colombia reformed its penal code (Law 890, which modified Article 31) to increase the maximum allowable penalty from 40 to 60 years. As one of the first beneficiaries of the legal reform, it seems fitting that the punishment would be calculated in Washington. Even more so because this penalty didn't even exist in Colombia back in 2003 when the crime was committed."

Between Palmera’s first and second trials, People's Weekly World (PWW) reports the judge was caught trying to aid government prosecutors by allowing the prosecutors to interview jury members to find out why they did not convict Palmera. While the judge was forced to leave the case, neither he or prosecutors were ever punished, and it was not revealed if the information they obtained was used to get the conviction in the second trial.

As written in PWW:

"The circumstances of Palmera’s trial were unusual: An insurgent leader engaged in another country’s civil war is nabbed, brought to the United States and tried. According to lawyer Paul Wolf, an observer at both trials, the U.S. government was trying out a legal cover for holding overseas resistance figures inside the United States for the sake of intimidation."

Regardless of venue, U.S. courts have long adjudicated serious crimes against U.S. citizens unrelated to wars; hostage taking is one example. And once the notion of conspiracy is introduced, all sorts of prosecutorial possibilities open up. In the case of Palmera, U.S. legal innovators were floating the idea that membership in a “hostage-taking organization” signifies conspiracy."

The following is from Fight Back.

60 Years in Prison for Colombian Revolutionary Ricardo Palmera
By Kati Ketz and Angela Denio

Washington D.C. - Professor Palmera appeared calm and confident as he entered the courtroom in an orange prison jumpsuit, Jan. 28 He listened with interest as U.S. prosecutor Ken Kohl repeatedly called him a ‘terrorist’ as he argued that Palmera should receive a life sentence.

Ricardo Palmera, who served as a peace negotiator for Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and is now a political prisoner held the U.S., had faced Prosecutor Kohl at past trials. In two previous trials, prosecutor Kohl failed to prove terrorism charges against Professor Palmera.

In the last case, Kohl was caught colluding with the judge and the judge had to step down. Kohl’s cheating set the stage for Judge Lamberth to take over. In the retrial, Judge Lamberth approved dozens of prosecution witnesses, while not allowing Palmera even one. U.S. prosecutor Kohl’s sentencing arguments were outrageous distortions.

In response, public defender Bob Tucker argued for a lesser sentence. Tucker’s arguments emphasized the political background of the trial and the U.S. government’s intervention in Colombia’s civil war. Tucker spoke of how Judge Royce Lamberth influenced the jury by instructing them to use wide definitions in finding Ricardo Palmera guilty of belonging to a conspiracy - the FARC. Tucker also pleaded to the judge to show some leniency due to Palmera’s honesty in his testimony, contrasted with the coached testimony and lies of many prosecution witnesses.

For the next hour, Ricardo Palmera spoke with honor and pride. These are excerpts:

“I speak as a member of the FARC, an insurgent organization that takes up arms against the Colombian government. I have been a member since 1987. The Colombian oligarchy has used arms to oppress the people; this gave rise to the FARC, which uses arms to free them. The FARC are part of the Colombian people. They use arms and protests and various other ways to express opposition to the violent and elitist regime.”

Professor Palmera spoke about various FARC leaders, like Marulanda, and their backgrounds including farmers, workers, indigenous, women and student leaders and their struggle for a “pluralistic, democratic and peaceful Colombia with social justice.” Later he added “The ruling regime uses a policy of violence - employing murder, assassination, threats and death squads to keep themselves in power.”

Palmera went on to speak about economic inequality. “Latin America represents the greatest economic disparity. Colombia is third in Latin America in economic and social disparity. 24 million Colombians live below the poverty line and subsist on one or two dollars per day.”

Referring to the trial, Palmera said, “What takes place here is a political trial from beginning to end, no matter what the U.S. government may try to claim. The political nature of this trial is pleasing to me because it allows me to present the ideas of the FARC and the Secretariat to the judge and the jury, and to explain the ideas and goals of the FARC to the American people. I am also quite satisfied because despite the great lengths the U.S. government went to, the jury did not find me, Ricardo Palmera, guilty of being a terrorist, which I believe the U.S. government has mistakenly classified the FARC as. I take the opportunity here, on behalf of the FARC and myself, to make a condemnation of all terrorism no matter its origin. I will never forget that it is the terrorist actions of the Colombian state that brought me to become a member of the FARC and I will never allow it to become our practice.”

“The FARC - and I as a member of the FARC in particular - reject extradition. It is a neo-colonial policy that violates the sovereignty of the Colombian people. It is used as a weapon by the U.S. to blackmail men and women who fight for a just cause, including Sonia and myself. On the charge of conspiracy itself, I bear no guilt. The charge pertains to problems in my country and not beyond. It reflects real problems of the conflict and ways to exchange prisoners on both sides. I sent a letter to FARC leader Marulanda asking that my freedom not become a barrier for the freedom of others in Colombia. I think that the Prisoner Accords will become an important factor to achieve peace and justice in Colombia. A political solution has always been a part of any conflict and it has always been part of the FARC platform to find a political solution. As I have already had a meeting with the U.S. Department of State, I am willing for further meetings to take place to increase dialogue. When I joined the FARC, I was aware I might lose my life or liberty to obtain peace and justice for the Colombian people.”

Palmera’s arguments were coherent and clear. He was unrepentant and defended all of his actions on behalf of the Colombian people. He described and spoke with pride about the FARC and its leadership. Palmera thanked the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera for their support. He thanked Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba for meeting with him prior to the sentencing. Then Palmera ended his speech with slogans and a quote from Bolivar: “Viva La FARC! Viva Marulanda! Viva Bolivar!”

Following Ricardo Palmera’s speech, Judge Royce Lambert praised Ricardo Palmera’s intelligence, his belief in principles, and while emphasizing his own ‘judicial independence’ sentenced Palmera to 60 years in prison, calling him a terrorist and saying his activity in Colombia broke U.S. law. A few months earlier, Judge Lamberth would not allow criminal proceedings against the executives of Chiquita Banana who armed and paid right-wing paramilitaries to kill union workers and leaders.

Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera said, “This verdict is the equivalent of a life sentence for Ricardo Palmera. It is a slap in the face to the Colombian people and anybody who believes in the sovereignty of their own country. Professor Palmera can be proud that despite solitary confinement, cheating prosecutors and biased judges, he has beaten nine other charges during three trials. Like their wars in Iraq and Colombia, the Bush administration “made an underestimation” in deciding to put Ricardo Palmera on trial. Palmera’s speech was brilliant.”

It remains to be seen whether Ricardo Palmera or Colombian revolutionary Sonia, held in a Fort Worth, Texas prison, will be included in any prisoner exchanges. The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera plans to protest an upcoming re-trial of Ricardo Palmera in late March.


Last night I had some trouble with my cable television service. I called, got put on hold, waited a while, got some poor customer service representative. We worked on it for a while and got the thing fixed. Two hours later I had the same problem only worse (no picture, only sound). So I followed the instructions from the earlier called, but this time it didn't work. So I called Time Warner Cablevision back. This time I was on hold for at least one hour. This time the customer service representative asked me a number of questions which were totally irrelevant. She then tried the same thing the first person did and it didn't work. She came back on and asked me to hold for a few minutes which I did. She came back and told me she was going to switch me to someone in a different department who could help. Before I could say a word I was back on hold. Well, over one hour later (no, I didn't just sit there with the phone to my ear. I put the thing on speaker and read a book) someone new appeared on the line. This guy was not from any other area, just another customer service rep who is no doubt paid next to nothing and given no actual training. He told me all that could be done was to schedule a service visit. Since by now it was late at night he said that visit couldn't happen for two days. I asked to speak to a supervisor. As if! There were none in the building. I'd guess by that time the only people in the building were the two customer service reps I spoke with.

I know this sounds familiar to you. It happens a million times a day across this great land of ours. Unlike many, I refuse to take out my frustration on these poor customer service reps. It isn't there fault. Why can't Time Warner hire enough people to take care of their problems? Why can't Time Warner pay them a decent salary and train them better? Why oh why?

Oh, I know, that would cut into their profits. Anyway, why bother. After all where is the customer going to go. Even if another company is available, the service is no different.

Last week I had a similar fiasco with Best Buy. A few weeks before that it was AT&T.

Keep in mind that as one customer service rep commented in response to an article about the lack of it said, "...managers at his company were often 'too busy concentrating on getting more sales,' to deal quickly enough with customer service issues. 'New sales look good,' he wrote. Money spent on existing customers is just overhead.'”

That's us...existing customers also known as "overhead."

And that's why what the guy in the article below has to say is sooooo true (read it).

So I say hats off to Montgomery County, Maryland which in an ongoing effort to hold Comcast (which by the way is the other cable company here) accountable for its services to more than 180,000 subscribers assessed the cable television provider more than $12,000 in liquidated damages for violating customer service standards required in the franchise agreement. The County has assessed Comcast more than $74,000 in liquidated damages since last January.

“We take customer service very seriously here in Montgomery County,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett. “Our residents expect and deserve good quality cable television service from our franchisees, and we will continue to hold those companies accountable for being responsive to customer needs.”

Oh by the way, lest I forget, the city council of Moorpark, California last year fined Time Warner Cable up to $25,000 for poor service in answering customer service calls, among other complaints.

The thing is it seems unlikely to me that a few thousand here and there will get the corporate suits attention.

But some citizens have taken the matter into their own hands.

Who amongst us would not stand behind Mona Shaw (pictured above) of Bristow, Virginia? MSNBC reports Shaw, 75, and her husband, Don, say they had an appointment in August for a Comcast technician to come to their Bristow home to install the company's heavily advertised Triple Play phone, Internet and cable service.

The Shaws say no one came all day, and the technician who showed up two days later left without finishing the setup. Two days after that, Comcast cut off all their service.

At the Comcast office in Manassas later that day, they waited for a manager for two hours before being told the manager had left for the day, the Shaws said.

Shaw, a churchgoing secretary of the local AARP branch, returned the next Monday - with a hammer.

"I smashed a keyboard, knocked over a monitor ... and I went to hit the telephone," Shaw said. "I figured, 'Hey, my telephone is screwed up, so is yours.'"

Police arrested Shaw for disorderly conduct. She received a three-month suspended sentence, was fined $345 and is barred from going near the Comcast offices for a year.

The Shaws did eventually get phone and television service _ with Verizon and DirecTV.

She said many people have called her a hero. "But no, I'm just an old lady who got mad. I had a hissy fit," she said.

Comcast spokeswoman Beth Bacha said, "Nothing justifies this sort of dangerous behavior."

Pardon me, but my response to Beth is "Bullshit! Nothing justifies the sort of treatment the big corporations are selling us."

By the way, what do you suppose the CEO of Time Warner or ComCast made last year?

The following is from the blog "Captain Chipmunk Takes on the World."

I Love You, Time Warner Cable
I'm dripping in sarcasm right now

Note to anyone calling Time Warner Cable (and this may be true of other subscription services) - if the endless voicemail prompts say "Press 1 for billing questions, press 2 to add services or upgrade, or press 3 to move or cancel a service," always press #2!

I had a billing question so I naturally pressed 1 and was put on hold for 5 minutes. I had a simple question - "Why did my cable bill go up $30.00 this month?" This seemed like a easy, read-from-the-script answer for the customer service agent. When I got a live person, she told me to hold momentarily to review my account. Apparently, she went to lunch because I sat on silent hold for 30 minutes without a response.

In my rage, I called back to cancel my service and switch to satellite (which I had been pondering for a while anyway). This time, I took option 3. I sat on hold for 15 minutes (this time not silent), with no sign of picking up. They didn't even have the "Your call is important to us/We are experience unusually high volume" messages every 2 minutes. I surmised that I was funneled into a virtual holding room with other pissed off customers by Time Warner where I would sit endlessly until I a) cool down a bit and succumb to the persuasive techniques of their CSRs, b) give up and wait to cancel on another day, thus earning them a few extra bucks and a few more days that I may reconsider, or c) demonstrate to them that I am so upset that I will sit on hold till the end of time and making me wait at the end of the cue makes little difference anyway.

I went for option (b) - I'll cancel another day.

Fast forward a few days. I called again, and in my brilliance I decided to press 2. I didn't get through 3 measures of whatever smooth jazz tune was playing before someone picked up....coincidence, I think not.

I'm going to try that from now on. Whenever I have to call a large company for customer service, I'm going to always tell the automated voicemail that I'm adding a service or what to give their company more money; I don't need to be manipulated by evil corporations!

If you're curious, I never got a straight answer as to why my bill went up...only something about grandfathering in old Adelphia codes and receiving a letter that looked like a flyer that warned of this many months ago that I probably didn't read. Part of me wanted to really get into it at this point, then I felt bad for my poor CSR Miranda who would be on the receiving end and decided it wasn't worth my time or her awkwardness.

I didn't cancel my service (their evil plan worked!) mainly because I didn't want to jeopardize my viewing of the Trinidad v. Jones Jr. fight this Saturday. However, I did lose most of the channels that I rarely if ever watch.


An unusual protest took place in Mexico City yesterday. Hundreds gathered to vent against the closing of the oldest cantina in all of Mexico. El Nivel is a place where back in the day the likes of Fidel and Che stopped by for a few drinks.

El Nivel, a dim watering hole, opened in 1855 after being handed the first cantina license a few years after the U.S.-Mexican war. It was named The Level because authorities used to measure the height of the city's flood waters in the building.

El Nivel was the haunt of writers, artists, activists, journalists and other bohemian Mexicans. It also became a favourite for tourists, too. One special house drink was a mixture of vodka, anis and orange flavoured liquor.

I just couldn't pass on this.

The following is in from Reuters.

Hundreds protest closure of oldest cantina
By Anahi Rama

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - With beers in hand, hundreds of former patrons Tuesday protested the closing of Mexico's oldest cantina, where Cuban President Fidel Castro, revolutionary Che Guevara and Mexican leaders all once drank.

Supporters called El Nivel (The Level) a national cultural treasure. The drinking dive, which was handed the first cantina license in 1855, closed on January 2 after losing a long legal battle against the owners of the building, the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Demonstrators, many drinking from beer cans, protested outside the padlocked door of the bar, nestled in a side street near where the Aztecs' main temple once stood.

"Today we declare El Nivel a Mexican cultural and drinking heritage site," read a sign they placed on the cantina's door.

"We consider it a place of learning at the university of life," said protester Marco Rascon, reading from a manifesto in defense of the cantina signed by dozens of demonstrators .

Mexico is dotted with cantinas, mostly no-frills bars where tequila and beer dominate the drinks list and hearty traditional food is served.

The protesters say they want the university to agree a deal with the owner, Ruben Aguirre, to allow El Nivel to reopen.

Failing that, they will ask Mexico City's government to expropriate the cantina and grant it a permit to continue.

The government and the university have yet to respond.

The cantina was named The Level because authorities used to measure the height of the city's flood waters in the building.

Aguirre told Reuters several years ago the original first cantina license was kept in a safe at the central bank because it is a valuable historical document.

A framed copy of the license hung on one wall of the cantina when it was open, alongside eclectic art, old maps, drawings and faded photos of the cathedral, Mexico City's main Zocalo square and the bar itself.


Many Mexican presidents from Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada in the 19th century to Ernesto Zedillo who ruled from 1994 to 2000 all called in for a drink while in office. The presidents used to work out of the nearby National Palace.

When Cuban President Fidel Castro lived in Mexico in the 1950s he too frequented the bar with guerrilla icon Ernesto 'Che' Guevara. Castro set out on his Cuban revolution from Mexico.

Aguirre said the legal case to stop the university taking over the premises became impossible to sustain because all the documents were in the name of his dead father, Jesus Aguirre, who bought the cantina more than 40 years ago.

Many supporters of keeping El Nivel open say its closure is just another sign that Mexico City, one of the world's biggest urban areas, is bulldozing its history to make room for new apartment blocks, hotels and office buildings.

"I am 80 years old and I used to come here when I was 18," said local artist Ricardo Ruiz. "What has happened here is what is happening to the whole city. They are destroying it, taking away the historic buildings," he added.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I remember all the hullabaloo when Nixon and his cronies were caught spying illegally on the American people. Hell, it helped lead to impeachment proceedings against that crook.

Today as the Bush Administration's admitted spying operations not led to anything of the sort, the Bushies actually have to gall to press for retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies who spied on us.

There is a bill to do just that being debated right now in Congress to do just that.

The debate over federal surveillance powers reached a new milestone today when a Republican cloture motion failed to pass after receiving only 48 of the required 60 votes. If the cloture motion had passed, it would have blocked all further attempts to remove controversial telecom immunity provisions from a Senate intelligence committee surveillance bill by forcing an immediate vote on the bill itself. As it stands, the issue of retroactive immunity for telecoms who helped the NSA spy on Americans can now come to the floor for a full debate. A second cloture motion—filed by Congressional Democrats in an effort to force immediate vote on a 30 day extension to the Protect America Act—also failed to pass.

Why is all this happening now?

As reported by Ryan Paul and noted on the blog Ars Technica it is because in a few days the Protect America Act is scheduled to expire. The Protect America Act, a temporary surveillance bill that was enacted six months ago in response to a secret ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that reportedly imposed limitations on warrantless intelligence gathering operations. The Protect America Act enables the executive branch and some of its direct subordinates to authorize warrantless surveillance and interception of communications between individuals "reasonably believed" to be outside of the United States.

Critics of the surveillance program have been calling for the mainstream Democrat presidential candidates to stand with Chris Dodd and vigorously attempt to block the telecom immunity provisions (see article below). Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both voted against the Republican cloture motion today.

Clinton issued a statement today which read in part:

"This legislation deserves a thorough debate. Several provisions - including those which would have a profound impact on the civil liberties of Americans - need to be the subject of careful deliberation. For example, the bill under consideration gives telecommunication companies blanket retroactive immunity for their alleged cooperation in the administration's warrantless wiretapping program. I continue to believe that a grant of retroactive immunity is wrong, and I have cosponsored Senator Dodd's amendment to remove that provision from the bill. The Bush Administration has blatantly disregarded Americans' civil liberties over the past seven years, and I simply will not trust them to protect Americans' privacy rights. With the temporary Protect America Act set to expire on February 1st, I strongly believe that we need to pass balanced legislation that protects our civil liberties and the rule of law while giving our law enforcement and intelligence agencies the tools they need to protect our country."

The first part sounds okay. The last part is open to mean just about anything. I mean doesn't the constitution and the regular old laws we have on the books enough? What else is it we need to be "giving our law enforcement and intelligence agencies?"

The sort of thing a politician running for President might do to cover their ass. Oh wait, she is a politician running for President.

Now, Mr. Obama as far as I can tell had no statement today. But last week Obama spokesman Bill Burton released the following:

"Senator Obama has serious concerns about many provisions in this bill, especially the provision on giving retroactive immunity to the telephone companies. He is hopeful that this bill can be improved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But if the bill comes to the Senate floor in its current form, he would support a filibuster of it."

Obama's statement with fewer words says pretty much the same thing as the one by Clinton today.

In other words, "I'm against retroactive immunity for illegal surveillance, but as to the whole issue of domestic surveillance itself, well, you know, ..."

Wishy washy on civil liberties is kinda scary. Why can't they just say, "It’s wrong for your government to spy on you?" It's all part of the theory practiced by big time Democratic Presidential contenders that they will be harmed politically if they don't capitulate to the Big, Strong, Tough Republicans on all matters relating to national security.

Guess what, that other guy running, you know the one with the nice hair, that Edwards fellow, he doesn't seem to care so much about that.

Senator Edwards sent an email to supporters earlier this week. It read in part:
"When it comes to protecting the rule of law, words are not enough. We need action.

It’s wrong for your government to spy on you. That’s why I’m asking you to join me today in calling on Senate Democrats to filibuster revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that would give “retroactive immunity” to the giant telecom companies for their role in aiding George W. Bush’s illegal eavesdropping on American citizens..."

Granting retroactive immunity is wrong. It will let corporate law-breakers off the hook. It will hamstring efforts to learn the truth about Bush’s illegal spying program. And it will flip on its head a core principle that has guided our nation since our founding: the belief that no one, no matter how well connected or what office they hold, is above the law..."

The Constitution should not be for sale at any price."

Now that wasn't so hard was it?

The following is from Sacramento for Democracy. It's a little dated, but whatever.

Don't Let Senators Clinton or Obama off the hook

President Bush wants the Senate to pass retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies who spied on Americans. For the President, this isn't just about letting his friends at AT&T and Verizon off the hook. He knows this is the American people's last chance to hold the Bush administration accountable for their warrantless wiretapping of innocent Americans.

The key vote is scheduled for late Monday afternoon and the count is down to the wire. We need 41 Senators to stand up to President Bush and right now we have only 36.

Senators Clinton and Obama are the missing votes. If Senator Clinton or Obama stands up and leads from the floor of the U.S. Senate and calls upon the 8 senators that have endorsed their campaigns to stand with them, we'll have the votes we need and the American people will win.

Call Hillary, Barack, Harry Reid and our Senators RIGHT NOW!!
NO retroactive immunity for illegal spying on American citizens!

Hillary Clinton: DC office (202) 224-4451

Barack Obama: DC office (202) 224-2854

Harry Reid: DC office 202) 224-3542

Barbara Boxer: DC office (202) 224-3553

Dianne Feinstein: DC office (202) 224-3841


Armenians and Welsh came together on January 27 to pray for victims of all genocides on the United Kingdom's Holocaust Memorial Day and to remember the first anniversary of the assassination of Hrant Dink, the journalist killed for raising the issue of the Armenian Genocide in the Turkish press.

As they gathered they discovered the ornate slate cross on the Armenian genocide monument (pictured here) smashed into pieces with a hammer left at the scene. The Armenian Genocide Monument was desecrated on a symbolic day designated to recall the events, consequences and lessons of the darkest days of human history in a deliberate and premeditated act of vandalism.

Kind of sick, don't you think?

The monument in Cardiff is to remember 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred in 1915. IC Wales reports it caused controversy at the time, with members of the Turkish community denying the killings amounted to genocide.

Caerphilly Councillor Ray Davies, who campaigned for the Armenian monument to be erected, said many people at the service were close to tears when they saw what had happened.

“The desecration of the monument reminds us that we must always be vigilant against racism and hatred which is never far from the surface,” he said.

Director of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs Stephen Thomas said: “It was particularly saddening for the Armenians present that this happened on the day of the Holocaust Memorial Day. This service wasn’t specific to the Armenians. We were trying to be all-inclusive about all those historical events where people have been massacred. It wasn’t very helpful in terms of trying to create a bridge and links between Turkey and Armenia that this was carried out. People were upset when they turned up and saw what had happened.”

Hal Savas, a member of the five-man delegation from the Committee for the Protection of Turkish Rights, was present at the service.

“Whoever has done it should be ashamed of themselves,” he said. “We would condemn any damage done to any religious monument.”

The following is from AZG Armenian Daily.


The tiny Welsh Armenian community of Cardiff were targeted with a despicable racist attack on Holocaust Memorial Day (January 27). The new Armenian Genocide Monument (which was erected by the community under the leadership of John Torosyan in November ) was desecrated in the early hours of the morning before important ceremonies were held today to Commemorate the Holocaust,and to remember Hrant Dink. The ornate Armenian Cross on the monument was smashed to bits by persons unknown using a hammer, which was left at the scene of the crime.

Turkish protesters disrupt Holocaust and Hrant Dink Commemorations

One of the Welsh Armenians said: "This is our holiest shrine. Our grandparents who perished in the Genocide do not have marked graves. This is where we remember them" Eilian Williams of Wales Armenia Solidarity said that he blamed the so-called "Committee for the Protection of Turkish Rights", under the leadership of Hal Savas for the crime. We shall repair the cross again and again no matter how often it is desecrated. We also challenge the UK government and the Turkish Embassy to condemn this racist attack.

The Holocaust commemoration was a gesture of friendship by Welsh Armenians towards the Jewish and Roma communities During the Prayers for the Holocaust victims, the said Turkish Committee used a loud-speaker to disrupt proceedings. Finally Martin Shipton, chief reporter for the "Western Mail" the national newspaper of Wales gave his tribute to Hrant Dink (also representing the National Union of Journalists). The Turkish protesters also disrupted his speech.

Monday, January 28, 2008


A Cincinnati police officer was promoted last Thursday, nearly eight years after he lost his job on the force due to his involvement in an arrest that ended with a suspect’s death.

It can come as little surprise that not everyone is thrilled with the promotion of Patrick Caton (pictured here) to Sargent. The local chapter of the NAACP is calling for a protest....of sorts.

They shouldn't be alone in that call.

And, if you ask me, the protest should be a bit more militant then attending a city council meeting.

Back in November of 2000, Caton and his partner arrested Roger Owensby Jr., who died in the back of a squad car following a struggle with the officers.

A coroner ruled that Owensby died of asphyxiation, either from police piling on top of him during the arrest or from their attempts to restrain him. His death certificate listed the death as a homicide.

Black leaders and community activists took to the streets, angry over the killing of the unarmed Black man. A jury acquitted Caton of assault, but the department fired him anyway, citing excessive use of force during Owensby’s arrest. Caton appealed the firing and won. The Ohio Supreme Court did not overturn a ruling by an arbiter that the officer’s firing was too harsh and ordered a five-day suspension instead.

Not only was Caton reinstated, but he was awarded $200,000 in back pay.

Owensby’s family sued and won $6.5 million from the city.

Officer Caton also is alleged to have used a racial slur while responding to another officer's call for help in 2002. The slur was captured on tape by the cruiser's in-car video camera, police officials said. Caton admitted he used the epithet but blamed it on his frustration with gridlocked traffic. Caton told department officials that he did not usually use the slur.

Just sometimes?

After Caton's racist slur (that he doesn't usually use") was revealed the Rev. Damon Lynch III, president of the Cincinnati Black United Front, said the incident proved what many African-Americans had suspected about Officer Caton all along.

“It just shows the racist that he is,” said the Rev. Mr. Lynch. “Clearly the Cincinnati Police Department needs to root out people like Caton who hold these views toward African-Americans.”

Apparently the Cincinnati police department doesn't really care about racism on their force as they are proving once again with the promotion of this guy.

Did I mention that the now Sargent Caton was previously reprimanded for failing to make a report and for being in possession of a gun while driving under the influence and while off-duty?

Ever wonder why citizens living in African-American and working class neighborhoods are not so enamoured with the police department? If you are an OD reader you probably would answer that question, "no."

But if you did wonder, the case of Officer/Sargent Caton is a darn good reason to think the police are not your friend.

But maybe you say the guy might have changed, learned from his "errors."

Au contraire!

Although they haven’t been partners since shortly after Roger Owensby Jr. was killed in their custody, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported at his promotion ceremony Caton thanked Robert “Blaine” Jorg, for helping Caton be promoted to a Cincinnati police sergeant.

He thanked Jorg – who sat in the audience – for “all of the difficult times we served together."

It's difficult when people get mad at you for killing someone.

“I generally don’t get into trouble until I open my mouth,” Caton told the audience during his remarks at his promotion.

Roger Owensby Sr., father of the dead man, wasn’t amused by Caton’s comments.

“That’s very comical, very comical,” Owensby said from his North Carolina home. He added, “He should not be on the police force. He should be out sweeping the street somewhere. I guess sooner or later he’ll be the police chief, huh?”

Caton’s extra stripe and responsibilities didn’t impress Owensby.

“He’s been arrogant, snobbish as if my son was beneath him. My son is still dead,” Owensby said of Caton.

Most of the officers involved in the incident that resulted in his son’s death, Owensby said, eventually spoke to the Owensby family or lawyers about the death. “All of the officers have apologized but one – Caton,” Owensby said.

But, hey, he must be a fine fellow or why else would he have been let back on the force and promoted.

The local chapter of the NAACP called the promotion of Patrick Caton "completely disrespectful and outrageous" to the African-American community.

It should be an outrage to all of the Cincinnati community.

It certainly is an outrage to me.

The following is from

NAACP To Protest Police Promotion

The president Cincinnati branch of the NAACP, Christopher Smitherman, is rallying supporters to go to City Council on Wednesday to express outrage about the police department's promotion of Patrick Caton to sergeant. Caton, with 17 others, was promoted in a ceremony Jan. 17 - four days before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Caton was charged with assault in the 2000 death of Roger Owensby Jr. , but acquitted. He and another officer, Blaine Jorg, arrested Owensby in the parking lot of a Roselawn convenience store. Minutes later, Owensby was unresponsive in the back seat of a patrol car. Caton was fired, but rehired after union arbitration.

The death prompted a lawsuit by Owensby's family, which ended with the city of Cincinnati agreeing to pay the largest settlement in city history - $6.5 million.

Here's what Smitherman's e-mail this afternoon says:

"Dear Membership and Community,

On Wednesday, January 30, 2008 please show up to City Hall regarding Officer Caton's recent promotion to Sergeant. Please get to City Hall located at 801 Plum Street by 1:00 PM so that you may fill out a speakers card and speak to the mayor, the council and the city manager about our outrage regarding the decision to promote Caton on the Martin Luther King holiday. This is the officer who murdered Roger Owensby Jr. You have 2 minutes to speak and you must turn in your card by 1:15 PM in order to do so. The other role you can play is just be present. It is unfortunate but Caton's promotion has made national news. We continue to embarrass the region and the city with these types of barbaric decisions.

See you on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 1:00 PM at City Hall."

Caton, 41, became an officer in 1997.


The giant dredger Queen of the Netherlands is now in Australia's Port Phillip Bay (pictured here)where work is expected to begin on a controversial channel deepening project by the end of the week. It will involve the removal of 23 million cubic metres of sand, rock and toxic sediment from the bay to enable super container ships to dock.

It is reported protest boats are in the water just south of Melbourne as the dredger steams into the bay. Hundreds of anti-dredging activists have also gathered on piers at Point Lonsdale and Rosebud, and the mouth of the Yarra.

The southern waters of Australia, including Port Phillip Bay, have the highest diversity of marine species anywhere in the world.There are 5,000 species in the bay, 90% occur nowhere else on Earth and many have never been fully studied.

Activists say the threats posed by the dredging operation are huge and include:

* the loss of over 100 species that occur nowhere else on Earth, including unique and beautiful sponges, corals and seagrasses.

* damage to the habitat of penguins, dolphins, seals, sharks, whales and thousands of marine plant and animal species that interactively rely on Port Phillip Bay.

* threaten the many thousands of jobs in tourism, fishing and diving and their support industries by this sustained assault on the health of the bay.

* release industrial contaminants and toxicants, trapped in Yarra silt, into the water which would then be dumped in the bay. Because of this, heavy metals such as Cadmium, Mercury, Zinc, Lead and Arsenic and Ammonia would re-enter the food chain.

* provide less in benefits than the current sustainable Bay related industries. The diving industry alone provides $70 million per year, the same amount as the figure for estimated benefits of channel deepening.

In the world of the bizarre, the anti-channel deepening group the Blue Wedges Coalition which is at the forefront of today's action has joined Somali pirates, Peruvian raiders and Gulf terrorists on the US Office of Naval Intelligence's international threat list.

Blue Wedges joins Greenpeace as the only groups included in the threat list under the section headed: Environmental and Economic Non-State Activist Groups.

Blue Wedges, which has not had a history of violent protest, has also recently been monitored by a Victoria Police division that includes the counter-terrorism unit. The group says police have been monitoring its email communication via the Facebook internet site regarding an Australia Day protest.

“We are very concerned that the U.S. Naval intelligence agency has got it so terribly wrong”, says Blue Wedges President Jenny Warfe. “We are a peaceful group, committed to non-violence. We have never committed acts of violence towards any one or any thing and never have any intention of doing so. In fact at our last protest over West Gate Bridge (October 2007) the police left us to be "self-regulating" because of our impeccable record of peaceful protest."

“The only threat to human life, property or the environment comes from the Queen of Netherlands dredging ship, due to arrive tomorrow” says Jenny Warfe. “This ship is set to cause irreparable damage to the Port Phillip Bay environment. There are also grave public health risks...
Unfortunately much of the toxic risk data never made it into the public arena during the Inquiry process last year. POMC scientists have also predicted penguin deaths, fish stock losses and say the risk of toxic algal blooms ranges from 'possible to highly likely'. Oil spills are also set to increase due to an increased risk of ships running aground at Port Phillip Heads, although the PoMC’s risk analysis specifically excluded assessing the magnitude of that risk”.

“If they have been to our meetings unannounced, what’s the next step? Inserting active radicals to create an embarrassing situation to blame on Blue Wedges? People should be concerned. Not about Blue Wedges, however. Rather about the arrival of the dredging ship due to dock tomorrow” says Ms. Warfe

Close monitoring of Blue Wedges appears to go back several years, with The Age obtaining confidential Victorian Government documents that show the group's activities were watched and evaluated by Port of Melbourne Corporation staff and contractors in 2004.

By the way, the Dutch company that will dredge Port Phillip Bay's shipping channels says it will reap half a billion dollars for its work. After repeated refusals by the Brumby Government to disclose how much it will pay to have the dredging done, the company has blown the whistle by telling a European stock exchange it will receive "approximately 300 million euros" — or $500 million.

The following article is from the Herald Sun (Australia).

Queen of the Netherlands arrival to spark protests

Police face a potential confrontation on Port Phillip Bay today when a giant dredger arrives in Melbourne to begin the controversial channel deepening project.

The Queen of the Netherlands is due through Port Phillip heads about 10am before docking at South Wharf.

Protest boats will be in the water as the dredger steams into the bay, while hundreds of anti-dredging activists will gather on piers at Point Lonsdale and Rosebud, and the mouth of the Yarra.

A 1.4 square kilometre exclusion zone applies to all ships in the bay.

Patrolling of the dredging operations will be carried out by private security guards employed by the Port of Melbourne Corporation.

But water police will be called if anyone breaches the exclusion zone around the Queen of the Netherlands or any of its barges.

Ports Minister Tim Pallas also has the authority to create a 12 square kilometre restricted area at any point on land to thwart any protests.

Anti-dredging group the Blue Wedges Coalition denied protesters would break the law and slammed Australian Federal Police and the US Navy for listing the group as a risk to shipping.

"The only threat to human life, property or the environment comes from the Queen of the Netherlands," Ms Warfe said.

"This ship is set to cause irreparable damage to the Port Phillip Bay environment. There are also grave public health risks.

"The threat of oil spills has also increased due to a greater risk of ships running aground at Port Phillip Heads."

Blue Wedges will launch a last-ditch bid in the Federal Court tomorrow to overturn Commonwealth approval for the dredging.

The $1 billion, two-year project to deepen Melbourne's shipping channels is set to begin on Friday.

It will involve the removal of 23 million cubic metres of sand, rock and toxic sediment from the bay to enable super container ships to dock.

Currently, ships with a draught of less than 12m can enter the bay. That will increase to 14m at all tides.

The Brumby Government says the project will deliver spin-offs worth $2 billion.

But Ms Warfe said the arrival of the Queen of the Netherlands was a dark day for the bay.

"This ship is set to cause irreparable damage to the Port Phillip Bay environment," she said.

"There are also grave public health risks. Port of Melbourne Corporation data reveals that people may develop serious illnesses as a result of swimming in the toxic plume."

She said scientists predicted penguin deaths and fish stock losses, and indicated there was a significant risk of toxic algal blooms.

Port chief executive Stephen Bradford says the project is essential for the state economy and will proceed subject to unprecedented environmental controls.

They include the appointment of an independent monitor and a $1 million environmental bond.

The corporation also says the project will reduce the risk of oil spills by keeping ship hulls further from from the bottom of the bay.

It claims its environmental management plan is the most stringent in the world attached to a dredging project.

Surfrider Foundation's Melbourne beach representative, Bill Pemberton, said that US Navy and federal police interest in Blue Wedges was ridiculous.

"It's just overkill and it's astounding that they feel so afraid," Mr Pemberton said.

"We have no plans to protest any other way than peacefully and legally and I don't know of anyone else who has plans for anything different."