[-empyre-] UCSD Anti-Racism Coalition open letter to Paul Drake

Brett Stalbaum stalbaum at ucsd.edu
Fri Apr 23 09:08:40 EST 2010

I would not have received a response, (I am not the author of the  
letter...) The UCSD Anti-Racism Coalition c/o Professor Yen Espiritu  
produced it, so they would be the first to hear. And if I hear more, I  
will let the list know. If any of our administrators want to address  
my comments or correct me, they certainly should. (I have already  
invited them to participate in this discussion.) Or if I can be a  
conduit in some other way? In the mean time, I'm going to stick to  
facts-based radical transparency.

Most other letters have not yet (to my knowledge) been formally  
acknowledged. This is spite of letters of support from important  
groups, FILE, UCIRA, Scholars for Academic Justice, groups at Duke U  
and MIT, in fact so many orgs that it is hard for me to enumerate, and  
of course many hundreds of individual letters and many thousands of  
signatories to various letters. You should all know, public support  
from the academic community and artists of all types has been muinto  
bracing for Ricardo, and the rest of us too. We feel you, and love you.

So back to Jo's question, there is letter response news to share, but  
to a different letter.

UC president Mark Yudof *has* responded to a letter from the UC MRG in  
International Culture and Performance (who also produced the petition  
here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/stop-the-de-tenuring-of-ricardo-dominguez) 
. This is the only letter that I know of that there has been any kind  
of response to. (Paul Drake has refused to meet with the Faculty  

I only have a hard copy of the letter at this time. I will try to get  
an electronic version out to this list. But what it makes clear is  
that either the President is 1) ignorant of all the facts at this time  
(and it is fair to defer criticism until such time as they claim their  
fact finding is complete) or 2) the letter may prove (depending on the  
fact finding process) to be part of laying the groundwork for willful  
ignorance in furtherance of a disturbing attack on academic freedom.  
Certainly the tone of the letter leaves the possibilities open to  
interpretation. In it, Yudof presumes that the official University  
policy on allowable uses of our network is the primary issue, which  
does not necessarily contradict either of the cases above. The letter  
does recognize for the first time that the protest in question was a  
virtual sit-in, which refutes the original charges that it was a  
botnet/zombie attack (and with it all of the connotations of attempted  
or actual unauthorized access in comparison to a virtual sit-in, the  
latter being based on many *authorized* accesses.) This is good news,  
as at least some facts have penetrated the presidential bubble. But,  
Yudof pointedly leaves the determination as to whether the non-violent  
protest "that degraded service to our user community violated this  
policy and, if so, what the consequences should be" to David Ernst, UC  
Chief Information Officer. David Ernst is among those who filed the  
original complaint, delivered to Ricardo when the Police informed him  
that he was the subject of a criminal investigation. I am among the  
few people who have reviewed this document. In it, Ernst deemed the  
sit-in to be a "Classic DDoS", and seemingly supported conclusions by  
others that it was a botnet. Because of the criminal connotations  
associated with botnets, the initial report was defamatory. It is  
gratifying to see the President try to walk that one back. Also of  
note, these same complaint documents stipulate that the UCOP's servers  
were not made inaccessible by the protest.

It goes without saying that IT security professionals should know the  
difference between a botnet and virtual sit-in. EDT has been written  
about in many prominent computer security books for more than a  
decade; Dorothy Denning, John Arquilla, Winn Schwartau... Yet it  
remains unclear who made the initial diagnosis or what their  
preparation/qualification to make that diagnosis might have been.  
Certainly, the competency of UC information technology "professionals"  
at some level is clearly one of the questions at play in all of this.  
To lend my perspective on this, Carmin Karasic and I wrote the EDT  
Floodnet and Zapatista Tribal Port scan software in the 1990s while  
working with Dominguez and Wray. I have actually not been involved as  
more than a regular participant/protestor (again dear administrators,  
as I was on March 4th) in ECD actions that Ricardo has been holding  
since then, and in fact he has been using a different set of software  
since that time. My reasoning for lower involvement was that security  
professionals no longer took the Virtual Sit-ins very seriously and  
that this reduced the effectiveness of communication of the issues  
being protested. (Many will rightly scold me for this miscalculation!  
No?) But the facts are also that in very recent years the only  
complaints about Ric's organization of protestors under the ECD model  
came from government bureaucrats in France. Is it a coincidence that  
it is government bureaucrats who enthusiastically swallowed the hook  
this time? (The difference in quality between government IT  
professionals and say Fortune 500 IT professionals generally is a  
meme, one that I have never given much credence to.) But maybe there  
was a real panic somewhere in Ernst's domain due to a lack of  
understanding of computer security. I don't know. It may require  
discovery at some point to determine whether this is a real case of  
academic persecution with coordination between Yudof and Ernst, or if  
many layers of (fabled) general incompetence flowing through UCOP and  
UC management created a farcical keystone cops chain of events. I  
really don't know.

But here are some key facts: on March 19th-21st *2008*, Ricardo held a  
virtual sit-in titled "5 years of war! Stop the Nanotech and Biotech  
War Profiteers!", in which exactly the same ECD virtual sit-in action  
was held with the same javascript based platform hosted on the same  
B.A.N.G. Lab server at UCSD, and was pointed at exactly the same UCOP  
server as the virtual sit-in on March 4th. David Ernst was *not* the  
UC Chief Information Officer at the time of the first protest. (David  
was hired under Yudof and they are known to have a close working  
relationship.) A further fact is that AVCAA Drake, who brought the  
actions at UCSD, should have been familiar with the March 2008  
protest. My understanding is that his signature is on the promotion  
file that contains both the March 2008 event as a line item, and  
wherein the file letter explains ECD and Ricardo's practice in detail,  
and where the profile of his academic writings on ECD are discussed.  
The same file that promotes him to tenure based on the exact same body  
of work in which the exact same configuration took place with a  
different topic of protest.

The question of whether the genesis of all of this was an organized  
plan to stifle academic freedom and address Republican political  
pressure regarding the Transborder Immigrant Tool project by latching  
onto the ECD aspects of unrelated March 4th 2010 events as a way to  
fire Professor Dominguez (March 4th events which, btw, included a  
scathing satire of Mark Yudof and a faux resignation letter and  
website by a very substantial artist Ken Erhlich - http://www.kenehrlich.net/ 
  - who is faculty at the UCR campus), or if this really all began as  
a tragic comedy of errors which may have been enflamed by Drake's  
apparent lack of familiarity with the files he is supposed to be  
reading and signing off on as part of UCSD's promotion process;  
neither can really be determined at this time. I don't know the UC  
admin's qualifications to analyze computer security issues is up to  
par, or if Paul Drake actually reads the files he is approving. I  
guess I would add a few complicating factors: a certain timidity on  
the part of the administration including fairly cowardly neutral  
positions that have been taken by some, and weak-kneed commitments to  
academic freedom and racial equality that don't seem to be naturally  
(or comfortably?) borne out in practice. This latter issue was clearly  
at play in the UCSD administration responses to the recent racist  
activities here at UCSD. It was at this time when many began to  
suspect that our administration is more interested in saying the right  
things than doing the right things. (Ironically, Chancellor Fox sent  
her announcement regarding César Chávez day celebrations just as her  
administration was beginning its investigation of Ricardo.) And  
certainly the Black Student Union had to really push Chancellor Mary  
Anne Fox into committing to many pretty obvious concessions that  
initially she was unwilling to commit to. And in fairness, she was  
ready to commit to many of the easier ones immediately. But in any  
case, I feel there are very real questions as to whether anything this  
administration commits to is from the heart, or from the mere  
perspective of managing dissent.

Finally, I think that when the time is right - and I don't know if he  
can now or not - it would be very good to invite Ken Erhlich to  
contribute. His related case is in process at UCR, and is equally  
disturbing. Ken is a part-time lecturer represented by his union, so  
he has legal representation and may not be able to say much publicly  
yet. (In solidarity, I have joined the AFT to show my support for Ken  
and his representatives. Ricardo is in the process of finding  
representation, and a legal action fund is forthcoming because ft  
faculty here don't have the benefit of Union representation... yet.)

Cheers, and again, dearest thanks for the wind at our back,
More letters to come,

On Apr 21, 2010, at 11:40 AM, Green Jo-Anne wrote:

> Hi Brett,
> Did you get a response to this wonderful letter?
> In solidarity,
> Jo

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