Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A

Archive for March, 2011

Clarity Through Microcosm

March 31, 2011 By: Mel Category: Politics, Stratification, Work

I used to work for a hotel in Miami called the SeaView. It was owned by stockholders who had condos in the building. In a crunch, some of the condos were rented out. But generally only the parts of the building that were purely hotel rooms were for the public. The interesting part is who the stockholders were.

The penthouse was owned by Dwayne Andreas. At the time, Andreas was chairman of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). That would be the food, feed, and fuel company that The Informant worked for. It was Dwayne’s kid that was found guilty of price fixing. And it is ADM that that hears that ka-ching every time congress votes for more ethanol subsidies.

ADM got to price fix and collect all those subsidies because Andreas gave huge wads of cash and other nifty gifts (like cheap condos) to politicians (Democrats and Republicans alike). This bipartisanship was evident in the hotel. We had both Republicans and Democrats who were stockholders there. Bob Dole was one. Business and media were well represented among the owners too. David Brinkley had a pad. So did the Hoovers and the Duponts.

Some of the stockholders got occasional shit for being extra cozy with Andreas. New York Magazine wrote about Bob Dole’s Sugar Daddy. And Brinkley got heat for becoming an ADM pitchman. But mostly nobody really knew who Andreas was. Nobody ever called to inquire about the high profile visitors to the hotel. Nobody protested outside. We had no need for anything more than one very sleepy security guard at night. I watched Andreas, Dole, and Brinkley take off unmolested to go eat at The Palm and decide our fates.

And while the rich white dudes of business, government, and media were out schmoozing; the rest of us held down the fort at the hotel. The nicer jobs – management, office staff, front desk, supervisors – tended to be held by Asians, Light Latinos, and Europeans. The housekeepers were Haitian women. As a front desk person, I was allowed to walk in the front door. The Haitian housekeepers had to use a back door.

Dwayne Andreas had a private jet and his own personal pilot. There were cars and drivers, of course. Management and office staff drove to work. The cars ranged from Mercedes to clunkers. I took the bus, but since I lived on the beach it only took me 30 or 45 minutes to get home. The housekeepers I worked with at night also took the bus. But they had three buses and a sometimes two hour commute home. Bad enough on its own, but a lot worse when you consider that they had to have other jobs to barely get by.

What got me thinking about all of this was a post over at Eye of the Storm.  It describes how Chuck Schumer was overheard briefing all the other senators on what they should say when their media conference call started.  It was the commentary about these powerful people being told exactly what talking points they had to parrot out to the media that brought back the SeaView.

I was working there in 2000 when the election fiasco occurred. Gore’s people stayed there for a while. Then Bob Dole swooped in to do media while the Republicans arranged the election for Dubya. The party used to fax Dole’s talking points to our hotel office. I got a kick out of reading them. But I got an even bigger kick out of seeing how much control the party had over someone who was once a skip away from the presidency.

I always thought that hotel would make a great book or documentary. Every strata of society was represented. All the relationships and machinations were blatantly obvious. It is hard to hold the illusion that government, media, and corporations have separate interests when they just went out for steaks and share the same pool boy. You can’t really believe that Democrats and Republicans are much different when none had any qualms living in a place where the people who cleaned their shit couldn’t walk in the front door. And you can’t believe that elections mean much when someone as high up as Dole could basically be replaced by a very talented and congenial talking bird.

Things You Might Have Missed

March 29, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

Sorry for skipping my usual Thursday post last week. My social life seems to be getting in the way of writing and the next couple weeks are busy. Guess I’ll have to skip work or something.

Thanks to @db0 for the heads up on this post about the men’s rights people.

You have probably already seen this, but Pole Dancing for Jesus is hilarious.

How many people even knew we had an Institute of Peace?

Could the Obama that smoked pot and snorted coke please have a few words with the Obama whose administration is going to give El Salvador a couple hundred million more to escalate the drug war? And maybe he could have a chat with Eric Holder about those 28 medical marijuana raids in 24 hours. Or maybe this new and unimproved Obama just likes bleak children’s artwork.

Have you read that Rolling Stone piece about the Kill Team yet?

I despise when people characterize violent, misogynist behavior as “traditional.”  Not that I give a crap about tradition. It just implies this linear progress in human behavior that is so not true.

I’m sorry, but the people trying to ban chica chica cards get a big eye-roll from me. Fifty bucks says all of their kids could find way more scandalous photos right in the comfort of their own homes.

Hey, turns out those rescue industry people were using completely bogus “studies” to create a panic about sex trafficking.  And guess what? Here are more sex workers who say thanks but no thanks to state forced “rehabilitation.” They would rather the state just not criminalize them.

The DOD actually filed a brief in which it compared al Qaeda to Seminoles fighting against Jackson’s army.  Really DOD? Did you think comparing Seminoles to terrorists was going to go down well? Are you really still trying to justify Jackson’s invasion? Maybe this kind of shit has some relation to the epidemic of suicides in Indian Country.

You know those people who talk like U.S. slavery was sooooooooo long ago. There are people still alive whose parents were slaves. That doesn’t seem so friggin long to me.

This open source erotica project is a very cool idea. I’d like to see lots more open source stories on the web.

Things You Might Have Missed

March 22, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

I didn’t make it to the Manning protest at Quantico this weekend, but I did make it to the Iraq war anniversary thingamawhosit. The first (Code Pink) hour was pretty bad. I spent most of it texting snarky comments to the bfriend, who wisely stayed in bed. But it got better. Couple of the speeches were good. Chris Hedges is not fucking around. Mike Malloy, and a few others, managed to nicely call out that the 1967 redux protest is not working and that people need to step up their game. Direct action was mentioned on more than one occasion.

This thread on reddit about dumbass job policies is amazing. Suddenly my job seems pretty damn nice.

Apparently, the guy behind the liberty dollar was convicted in federal court. I thought local currencies were perfectly legal. Any of you know why they went after this guy and not any of the others? Or have they gone after others?

Good interview of the ED from HIPS about violence against prostitutes. (HIPS would be the org at whose Vagina Monologues fundraiser I had those alcohol-infused cunt cakes a few weeks ago. Delicious.)

And in related news, Holly has a piece on rape culture.

S.E. Smith leaves feminism. That post, along with this one about transmisogyny, should be required reading for some people. You know who you are.

Minnesota government wants to get in your pockets and San Francisco government wants to get in your pants (NSFW).

The Post says it is a problem that so few women are in student government (and then government government).  I say they have it ass backwards. When is someone going to write an article about the shortage of men who don’t want to be in charge?

I went to UC Santa Cruz. Hedy Epstein, the holocaust survivor who speaks out against Israeli abuses, came for an event one night. A group of hillel nutters showed up to scream her off the stage. I imagine the woman who instigated this investigation of anti-semitism knows those nightmares.

I haven’t been following the Iranian hikers story as closely as I had intended. I’m sure you heard that they let the girl go. Muhammad Ali just wrote a letter to the Iranian government about the two guys. Hope it works.

Guatemalans are suing the U.S. government for those horrible medical experiments where they gave people syphilis.

Many of those Guatemalans were prisoners, of course. Guess the government thought nobody would ever care. Much like they probably think nobody cares about all the prisoner rapes, the people who never make it to prison because they encounter a NOLA cop, or the guys beaten to death by border patrol. (Don’t worry, we’ll soon be shooting them down with drones. So much more civilized.)

I’m pretty sure this little dutch city that wants marijuana coops is the one my coworker lives in. I want to work in a coop. The bfriend wants to stay baked all day. Win-win!

This post on animals spanking the monkey is old, but the comments just don’t stop.  Kind of awesome.

Don’t Be Like Che

March 17, 2011 By: Mel Category: Conflict, Seeking

Che Guevara is everywhere.  He is on t-shirts, sneakers, bags, bedazzled boots, and even children’s books. The bedazzled boots don’t really bother me so much. Not likely that the person wearing those has actually read any Che and they probably won’t be mistaken for someone who is about to go traipsing through the jungle to start a foco.

It is all the attention from the radical left that really irritates me. At first I thought, maybe they just don’t know what he was about. Maybe they’ve never read his work. Maybe they don’t know what he was doing in Bolivia. But as I watch some of the people who love Che, I am beginning to see that they probably like him for exactly the reasons that I don’t.  Because I keep seeing people in our communities emulate all of Che’s most problematic characteristics.

Guevara was a privileged, white kid from Argentina whose parents were about as close to blue blood as you could get. He eventually became politicized, hooked up with Fidel Castro in Mexico, and joined Castro’s revolutionary movement – a movement that had lots of support, even amongst many of the middle and upper classes who now claim to have always hated Fidel. It was a revolution rooted in community, history, and cultural understanding. And it was the only thing Che was involved with that wasn’t a total failure. (I’m not romanticizing the revolution here, just acknowledging that they achieved their goal.)

After the revolution, Che was in charge of the economic policies in Cuba. And he fucked it up royally. This is not my opinion.  Guevara got on Cuban television and told the people he had designed “an absurd plan, disconnected from realty, with absurd goals and imaginary resources.” (Castañeda 216). He did some other awful things in his post-revolutionary Cuba days. He was instrumental in setting up the labor camp where dissidents and homosexuals were sentenced to hard labor for their “crimes against revolutionary morals.” (178)

Guevara decided to go back to what he thought he did best. He took off for the Congo to participate in the anti-imperialist fighting there. Che should have known better. Even as Castro’s BFF, the fact that he was not Cuban was an issue during the Cuban revolution. Now Che was off in Africa, a place he knew jack shit about, trying to lead troops of Africans.  Many were incredulous at best. Egyptian President Nasser “expressed his astonishment and attempted to dissuade him, explaining that a white, foreign leader commanding blacks in Africa could only come across as an imitation of Tarzan.” (283)

The Congo mission was a failure, as Che himself admitted. But instead of learning from his mistakes, he headed to Bolivia to start a continent-wide South American revolution. Nobody seems to be sure why Bolivia was chosen. The country had a relatively popular elected president. The people had been through a revolution only fourteen years earlier. The 1952 revolution led to some land reform, a lot of food shortages, and the virtual economic takeover of Bolivia by the United States. Nobody in Bolivia wanted a revolution repeat.

The communist party in Bolivia was not supportive. Che claims they backed out. Mario Monje, Secretary of the Communist Party of Bolivia, claims that the Cubans lied about Che’s intentions.  Either way, when Che saw he had virtually no local support, he should have turned around and went home. But he did not. He and his group, virtually no Bolivians amongst them, planted themselves in a country not their own and determined to start a war. So here he was, some white dude from Argentina, wandering around indigenous communities in Bolivia and trying to instigate violence that would force those campesinos to take his side.

The campesinos were having none of it. Let’s try to imagine how many times in the last 500 years those people have seen some conquistador come in and claim they were there to save them. This group of outsiders knew nothing about the community. Che and his crew did not know the people or the language. They were so ignorant that they were trying to teach themselves Quechua. Too bad they were in a place that was Aymara and Guarani. And when the news got out that a bunch of outsiders were starting shit, Guevara just lied and claimed that the majority of the movement were Bolivians.

Every single month, Che’s diary of Bolivia tells how they were having no luck in recruiting locals. It tells how the people were informing on them. It tells how they took locals hostage, took their animals, forced the locals to feed them, and made the locals targets of the military. Again and again, Che describes how terrified the people were.

Not surprisingly, Guevara was turned in. He was murdered. Bolivians went on to have their own revolution, a relatively peaceful one. They elected an indigenous man, leader of the once-scorned coca growers union. And unlike with the post-Obama-election liberals in the United States, Bolivians have continued to raise hell every time they don’t like the policies that their government is supporting. Turns out those campesinos didn’t need some conquistador to come in and do it for them. Imagine that.

Every time I see some privileged person protest touring, I think of Che. Every time I hear about some insurrectionists starting shit in other people’s neighborhoods, I think of Che. Every time some twenty-something white dudes audaciously roll into a room like they have all the answers – summarily dismissing the experience and knowledge of everyone else there – I think of Che. Every time I see some supposed radicals who can’t recognize how inappropriate it is to “lead” or “save” or “help” the poor people or black people or brown people, without bothering to ask their opinion about it, I think of Che.

I do admire Che’s willingness to give up so much of his privilege, to suffer and sacrifice for his beliefs. But a person can never give up all their privileges. And he certainly didn’t lose the false sense of superiority that comes with having been told all your life that you are at the top of the food chain. We don’t need more arrogance, racism, cultural insensitivity, machismo, violence, and sexism. That might get your mug on a t-shirt someday, but it isn’t going to make the world a better place.

Imagine if Guevara had not made a new man the center of his philosophy.* What if he had stuck around to fix his fuck ups in Cuba? What if he took care of his official and unofficial kids? How cool would it have been if he had recognized that he couldn’t impose his beliefs on others? How amazing if he had said that it is time white dudes stopped trying to be in charge all the damn time? Now that would have been fucking revolutionary.


* Guevara’s pep talk to the troops, “This type of struggle gives us the opportunity to become revolutionaries, the highest form of the human species, and it also allows us to emerge fully as men; those who are unable to achieve either of those two states should say so now and abandon the struggle” (Guevara 208). Apparently, I am unable to attain the “highest form of the human species” (not being a man). Guevara seems to have put himself in that category, above all the rest of us riffraff. How nice for him.

Castañeda, J. (1997) Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara. NY, NY, Vintage Books.

Guevara, C (2206). The Bolivian Diary. NY, NY, Ocean Press.

Things You Might Have Missed

March 15, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

This art project is amazing.  At first it seemed kind of weird that they would take these silly pictures of women who had been through so much trauma.  But then when you hear the explanation.  Very cool.

Police in New Orleans used licensing as an excuse to close down an anarchist bookstore/arts center/bike repair center.

And in other licensing news, Reason had a good piece on the absurdities of restaurant and food cart/truck licensing.

Some good news!  The Red & Black in Portland bought their building and are working on setting up low income housing.

This article on slugging is fascinating.  I didn’t even know this existed and it is like a mile from where I live. Interesting discussion on people self organizing vs. the involvement of the state.

I would really like to visit Southwest China.

Can we have more takeovers of dictators’ houses?  And CEOs?  And hedge fund managers?

Also, more shutting down banks please.

If you sell sex, you will be assaulted by police.  Take off a few articles of clothing and you will lose your teaching job (but only if you are a a woman).  Grrr.  Can we please all read the points at the bottom of Hugo’s piece against shame?  Maybe if people started with the pleasure based sex ed they wouldn’t become such nasty, prudish, violent shits when they grow up.

Interesting post on starting a solidarity network.

Shall we take bets on whether or not Israel gets the whole additional $20 billion in “security assistance” that they are asking for?  Don’t feel too bad, maybe they’ll let some U.S. prisoners make the weapons they buy with that “assistance”.  23 cents an hour anyone?

This letter about why the writer is not an anarchist brings up some interesting points.  Would love to hear your take.

Finding My Mouth In Mexico

March 10, 2011 By: Mel Category: Uncategorized

Not a lot of time to write this week, so instead I am going to link to an old piece I put up on Matador.

There are no signs in Mexico, at least none that aren’t out of date or unintentionally funny. My personal favorite was the sign on Chacala beach that said no mascots were allowed. (Mascota is the word for pet in Spanish.)…

Read the rest here.

Things You Might Have Missed

March 08, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

This take-down of hipsters is just gorgeously hateful.

It is mind boggling that there are so many obstacles to growing a few vegetables in your yard and selling them.  But the informal economy is going to win in the end.

Apparently, the Catholic Church is now answering all your sex questions.  We can have a lot of fun with this, I think.

This story about biracial children in Russia is heartbreaking.

A state senator in Missouri wants to end child labor laws.  My first thought was, “Are you fucking kidding me?”  My second thought was, “I wonder if my dad could have gone to jail for having me work in his store when I was a little kid?”

Somebody posted this link to David Graeber’s Are You An Anarchist? The Answer May Suprise You! Such an accessible intro to anarchism.

Read about A Day In The Life Of An Angry Transsexual. I like the term microaggression.

Interesting conversation on What Tami Said about whether it is better to have no inclusion or bad attempts at it.

I’m glad I don’t live in France.

Kevin Carson had a nice post up on the Wisconsin protests.

Everybody is freaking out about people having sex in a classroom at Northwestern.  You can get the whole story here. I think we should all be encouraging this kind of thing, particularly as it turns out that women want casual sex as much as men.  They just have less likelihood of benefit and more likelihood of risk.  So if more people knew what the hell they were doing… Oh, and we also have to deal with this kind of douchebaggery. Entitlement is so not sexy.

And speaking of douchebaggery.  This post in the Guardian and this one in the Times are just infuriating. When are we going to stop separating people out into the ones that are valuable and the ones that it is o.k. to treat like trash?

To All the Marriage Pushers

March 04, 2011 By: Mel Category: Politics, Sex, Stratification

If I have to read one more article on how a group of people must somehow be damaged because they aren’t in a 1950s nuclear family, I am going to spit nails.

Kay S. Hymowitz has a piece in the Wall Street Journal where she complains that men in their twenties “hang out in…a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance.”  Poor Hymowitz and her fellow women can’t find a husband and breed.  All the guys are playing video games, fucking around in bands, smoking pot, or watching porn and comedy central.

Don’t feel too bad, dudes.  Tracy McMillan, has been married three times and so styles herself some sort of expert on what is wrong with those loser women who haven’t even managed to get married once.  According to her, women are shallow, selfish, slutty, lying bitches who don’t spend enough time acting like a doting mama to their men. And if you are a black woman who isn’t married, well then your lack of a mate is headline news and asshats like Steve Harvey make money telling you all the ways you should change yourself in order to attract a charmer such as himself. (I just threw up a little.)

Why is it that people are so fixated on marriage?  Why is it so fucking important to them that they will excoriate anyone who doesn’t hop right onto the marriage bandwagon? (Why the hell is our tax money going to try to make poor people get married?)

Usually, marriage pushers say some crap about marriage being the foundation of society. Horseshit. Marriage as a monogamous death pact has not been the foundation of society. The foundation of society has always been much bigger than the fragile nuclear family.  If marriage has historically been the foundation of anything, it is privilege, hierarchy, sexism, and the accumulation of property.  The kind of marriage we are familiar with is an ownership arrangement.*

If you really want to get to the heart of why people are so marriage obsessed, you must read the conservatives on the subject. Here I actually appreciate them. Most people pretend that they want you to change your entire self for your own good. They tell you it is what you really want. They tell you it is about love. At least some conservatives are honest.

Sam Schulman says that marriage is about controlling sexuality, especially women’s sexuality.  And we can’t possibly let the gays marry, cause gay marriage has nothing to do with controlling who people can fuck. It’s like telling everyone they can go out and fuck willy nilly.  We can’t have that. And my god, didn’t you realize that,

Even in modern romantic marriages, a groom becomes the hunting or business partner of his father-in-law and a member of his clubs; a bride becomes an ally of her mother-in-law in controlling her husband.

How the hell are two gays supposed to navigate those all important elite and gender specific roles? I mean all our parents hunt and belong to a club right? (Seriously, you should read his piece.  You can’t make that shit up.)

These people piss me off so much. They want you to revere an institution that gives them privileges. They want you to modify yourself to serve their needs. They want you to give up looking for something real so that you can be as miserable as they are. They want to stuff you into the same tiny box they have stuffed themselves into.  They want you to have the opposite of love.

Love is not about putting people into boxes, making them into something that suits you. As James Baldwin put so perfectly, “Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” These people are telling you to put on more masks, to be as phony and miserable and deluded as they are. And for what? So rich people can have a system for property inheritance? So selfish people can delineate which tiny group of people they have to care about in life? So men can delude themselves into thinking that there is some virginal housekeeper waiting to take care of him who will never, ever want to fuck anyone else?

To hell with that.

Guess what? Not every girl has that Disneyland princess fantasy that McMillan and the rest claim we do.  As Violet so eloquently put it, some women listen to all that crap and think “Yes, I’d like to put a ring on it. The kind attached to a ball gag.” And here is another crazy fact for you. Men are actually human beings with feelings and not just walking hornbots. No, it is true.  I swear. It is possible to be a man and actually want something more than sex or money from people. I know, I could hardly believe it either.

I have no intention of getting married. I knew that by about the age of fifteen. It doesn’t make me damaged. It makes me someone who actually thinks about things before doing them. I have no idea if my fourteen-plus year relationship will last another four years or fourteen years or forty years. I do know that I love my video game and guitar playing, pot smoking, porn and comedy central watching bfriend. And I have no intention of telling him to “grow up” and fit into some Ozzie and Harriet idea of what a man is supposed to be. And I know that he loves me, not despite the fact that I am angry and raunchy and thoroughly undomesticated, but because of it.

So to all you marriage pushers who want the rest of us to sacrifice our happiness on the alter of your delusion – I know you hate to see people be honest about who they are, despite the harsh social consequences people like you met out for not conforming.  It must remind you of your own phoniness, unhappiness and mediocrity. I kind of feel sorry for you, but mostly I just want to tell you to suck it.


*  If you have never read Stephanie Coontz’s book, Marriage A History: How Love Conquered Marriage, I would highly recommend it.

Things You Might Have Missed

March 01, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

A short post this week, as I just got back from a HIPS benefit production of the Vagina Monologues and I have had a bit too much to drink.  I think it was the booze-infused cunt cake that finally did me in.

Please read this post on government medical experiments on people.  I knew about most of these already, but when you put them all together….I’m speechless.

Some researchers who are not anti-porn chicken littles are doing a study.  You can participate here.

I don’t completely agree with this post about anarchism being a politics for white men.  But we clearly have some issues.

Good news for all you aging former ravers, your brain was not harmed by all that E.

This article asks an important question.  Does the coop movement have a politics?  If not, can it?