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 April, 2011

The Road to Hell

April 29, 2011 By: Mel Category: Core, Criminalization, Seeking

My mother has a platitude for every occasion. One favorite is “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

I thought about that saying as I read this piece on prostitution arrests in Honolulu. I have no doubt that some of the people pressuring the Honolulu PD to make prostitution a priority think they are doing a good thing. And I understand how someone hears about really awful trafficking stories and wants to do something about it. But the end result of their pressure is that a bunch of women are getting arrested, sometimes on multiple occasions. They even published some of their names in the paper. How the hell is that supposed to help the women that they are supposedly so concerned about?

The paper notes that, in nine months, the police have arrested only one pimp.  An associate dean at Northeastern’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, explains why:

A prostitution arrest is very easy. You can do that quickly. You can go out on the street or go on Craigslist and get the individuals involved. But to get the pimp, it is harder to make that case.

Let’s set aside the fact that a whole lot of prostitutes don’t have pimps. It is an absolute truism that the law goes after the easiest pickings. If a six month investigation will result in one arrest of someone with a good attorney (who will probably get them off), but one afternoon on the corner can result in multiple arrests of people who can’t afford an attorney, who do you think most police departments pursue?

Back in 2004, a report was prepared for the Racial Disparity Project in Seattle. Like in the rest of the country, blacks and Latinos in Seattle were being incarcerated at higher rates than whites. The researchers set out to determine why. They found that the Seattle PD focused on downtown areas where crack was sold, ignoring areas where white people were selling heroin. The researchers found no “racially neutral” explanation for the disparities. In other words, the police were targeting the black community. It is always going to be the people with the least status who are targeted by the laws. Always.

I know I have written about this before when I talked about Over Reliance on the Law and Why the Legal System Does Not Work For You, but I just keep coming up on the same mental block. People see something horrible and they feel like they would be a bad person if they did nothing. And the only thing they can think to do is pass a law or call an authority or violate a person’s rights in some way. If to save one person, you hurt ten (or ten thousand), what the hell good does that do?

I was recently contacted by one of my friends, we’ll call her Carrie. Carrie is worried about one of our mutual friends who is going through a really rough time right now. Bad stuff. Deaths and illnesses and breakups and generally more than anyone can really handle. Our friend, we’ll call her Sandy, is not necessarily utilizing the most healthy coping mechanisms. (Neither would I be, but that’s another tale.) Carrie wants to do something to save Sandy from herself. I get it. I love Sandy. She is family to me.

But trying to save people from themselves almost always goes horribly wrong. It is how you get prostitutes being jailed in the name of saving people from sex work. It is how you get minority drug addicts being jailed in the name of saving people from drug addiction. And it is how you get women being institutionalized against their will in the name of “helping” them.

I’m not suggesting that we all just think about ourselves and do nothing about suffering. If someone asks me for help, and I can give it, I will. If someone says that something I do hurts them, and I can stop it, I do. If I see injustice and I have the ability to call it out, I will. If I can be there for a friend, not judging them or telling them how to live their life, I’m there.

I realize that means that I will sometimes have to watch people that I love hurt themselves. And that sucks. But we can’t save anyone but ourselves. We can’t prevent one another from experiencing pain. We can be there to lean on. We can be kind to people. We can make people laugh. We can remind people about the parts of life that don’t suck. We can forgive people their imperfections.

We can respect that the road that they are on may be the one that they need to travel, even if it is long and ugly and dangerous. Because really, in the end, all those roads end in the same place.

Things You Might Have Missed

April 26, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

Apologies in advance for any misspellings or nonsensical statements. Just got back from having a vat of margaritas with the girls.

I have not mentioned the DC Anarchist Meetup in a while. There are now two regularly scheduled dates.  One of them is packing at the local Books to Prisons. If you live around here, come out.

Also in DC, there is a punk rock flea market coming up on May 7th.

I am sure you have all seen the beating of that trans woman in McDonalds.  I really have no words for that. I just don’t understand that kind of hate. In a tiny bit of good news, roller derby has now opened itself up to trans women…Doesn’t really make me feel better either.

Wow! Really Mississippi?!

I am sure that you have all read about the homeless woman who is being prosecuted for sending her kid to school in a district she does not live, but just in case.

In other school news, these pregnant woman and mothers who are trying to save their school are kinda badass.

Hey, remember all that stuff about government transparency?  Fuck it.

I loved this post on If the Holocaust was Black History (HT @womanistmusings)

This new State Department passport policy is just mind boggling.

Human = pleasure seeking.

There is a very good chance I may end up at one of these wet houses some day.

I am not feeling very positive about the situation for Troy Davis.

Two very interesting posts at Foreign Policy on food.  One sums up some of the conflicts (although I don’t agree with them on everything).  The other challenges some ideas about hunger.  Well worth reads.

Have you seen Matt Taibbi’s interview with Spitzer? How can anyone listen to this shit and think government is going to keep corporations in check, especially bankers?

Selling Social (In)Justice

April 21, 2011 By: Mel Category: Politics, Seeking

Last week, I was invited to an awards ceremony at the Kennedy Center. The event was put on by an organization called Vital Voices, an NGO that “trains and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe, enabling them to create a better world for us all.”

Sunitha Krishnan, won the human rights award. Liron Peleg-Hadomi and Noha Khatieb won the Fern Holland award. Even a cynic like me finds it difficult to watch the linked videos without being a little inspired. In Sunitha’s case, that is despite my generally negative view of people in the rescue industry. (Just count how many times Sunitha says “I” and “rescued” in this TED talk).

But it isn’t the messianic complexes of so many in the non-profit world that really made the event horrific. That I could deal with. The real problem was who put on the event and what their agenda is. You see, Vital Voices was started by Hilary Clinton and Madeleine Albright back when Clinton was first lady. The organization still receives government funding. They also receive funding from a smorgasbord of some of the most hideously destructive private corporations.  If you want to get an idea of who this organization is built to serve, take a look at their board list.

So there I was, watching a splashy awards show that cost who knows how much of the organization’s multi million dollar budget. (They pulled in over 12 million dollars in 2009.) There I was watching Hilary Clinton march up on stage to introduce an event that honored women in countries like Afghanistan and Haiti – countries Clinton and her closest pals played a large part in fucking up.

I had to watch as they honored Kay Bailey Hutchinson, a woman who never met a war she didn’t like and who was rated 100% by the Christian Coalition and 0% by the HRC. Her voting record is just anti-human. And what about some of the other presenters/agents of misinformation. Wolf Blitzer? He may as well be paid by the Department of Defense. He does their work for them. Cokie Roberts? She robotically spews conservative talking points on trade and uncritically accepts conflating Iraq with terrorism.

Even worse was the sponsorship.  Much of the time the event felt like an ad for Goldman Sachs. Fatema Akbari, who won the entrepreneurial achievement award, actually thanked Goldman Sachs during her speech. Yes. Thank you Goldman Sachs.  Thanks for helping to blow up the world economy. Thanks for gambling on food and energy futures. Thanks for so generously letting all your employees work in the government. Everything is all better now that you supported a woman’s business in Afghanistan.

I wanted to punch somebody.

Much like my experiences working at that hotel in Miami, the Vital Voices event made abundantly clear how elites in politics, media, and corporations all merge into one amorphous blob of self-congratulatory power. And I have little doubt in my mind that most of them actually believe that their little philanthropic show makes them upstanding people, fighting the good fight. The delusion is infuriating.

So what do we do when social justice is co-opted by power? How do we compete against a money drop by Goldman Sachs when we can barely scrape together money to bring coffee to a meeting? How do we confront the people who use justice for women as a front for wars and crooks? How do we deal with the twenty-something girl who thinks Hilary Clinton is some kind of hero? How do we break the illusion?

Things You Might Have Missed

April 19, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

Sorry for disappearing last week. My schedule has been hectic. I haven’t had too many days or nights off the last few weeks. Not enough time for reading and writing.

I did; however, have time to go to the New York Anarchist Book Fair.  Aside from meeting with people I never get to see (or in some cases, only know through the internets), I attended two sessions.  The session on Food Not Bombs was interesting. The Long Island Food Not Bombs just blew me away. There are like six different sites and thousands of pounds of food being distributed. Check out their very cool site here.

I also attended the Radical Women’s Caucus. The caucuses weren’t led by anyone and it wasn’t really clear that was the case. So people were a bit confused going in. And although it was listed as a closed space, a dude showed up. He was asked to leave. It caused some controversy. Also, of all the women who showed, only like four of us actually identified as anarchists. I will have a bit more to say in the near future about one contributing factor for that lack of anarchism.

How the hell is weed not legal in Jamaica?

Wow. Really? Homeless men being paid $50 to get beat up for fetish videos?

Good piece in the Prospect on sex offender lists.

So I posted this link on twitter to a story about how free porn lowers rape rates. The study actually shows correlation, not causation.  But I thought it was interesting. So did @maymaym who reposted it. @tiaramerchgirl thought we were getting into some sticky territory and put up a post on her Tumblr here. And @maymaym responded to her here. Thoughts?

Audacia Ray answers the question What Can Sex Workers Do to Prevent Violence?

Do cops really have nothing better to do than harass people selling loosies?

I thought this was an interesting post about the black bloc from the perspective of a non-black bloc protester.

Finally, here is a depressing chart of deportations by fiscal year.

The Big Show

April 08, 2011 By: Mel Category: Politics, Seeking

Why do anarchists spend months organizing protests around events like the G20 or the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings?

I’ve heard some reasons over the years, but none of them are very convincing to me. Some people say that we need to publicly protest those institutions of power. Some say it is about not letting them take over our cities and streets. Some see it as an opportunity to build solidarity with like-minded people. Some people just get a rush from confrontation and smashing things up.

But aren’t there better ways to do all those things?

Maybe the question isn’t so much what we are doing there. Maybe the question is, what are they doing there?What are those meetings for anyways? Decisions are made long before those meetings happen, as anyone who has to lobby the key players weeks or months in advance can tell you. Very little of import actually occurs there. It is mostly a media opportunity for glorified PR people/presidents/head hoohas.

Honestly, I am beginning to think that these events are planned just for us. Clearly, a media event is for public consumption. But I mean that these events have the added benefit of keeping activists occupied with shit that won’t make a difference. It makes us predictable.

If we are spending months organizing protests at the G20, we are taking that time away from organizing in our communities. If we are spending our money on international flights, we can’t use it for other things. If we focus all our energies on the World Bank and IMF only twice a year, then we leave them to perform business as usual every other day. It is a game. We are playing by their rules. Why are we letting them set the schedule?

And don’t even get me started on the grand excuse these meetings are to give shit tons of money to the “security” apparatus.

These events attract media. If we think we can get productive media attention, that media attention might do something, then maybe it is worth a little energy. But otherwise, shouldn’t we use our time more wisely? Shouldn’t we at least be surprising?

Things You Might Have Missed

April 05, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

Any of you going to be at the New York City Anarchist Book Fair this weekend?  I’ll be there.

So here is some info from the Government Accountability Office.  In short, the DOD’s 1.68 trillion dollar weapons acquisitions programs are out of control and billions of dollars over budget.  Ahem.  Need to cut some spending?

This paramedic wrote a beautiful piece about the violence against women he witnesses on the job. (HT @PunkJohnnyCash)

Blag Hag has a lovely post about The Most Logical Abortion Laws.

This is disturbing as hell (link in Spanish).  In Colombia, lots of people lost their land to armed groups.  And they have been fighting to get their land back.  Somewhat surprisingly, the new president of Colombia supported land reform that would do just that.  Now the leaders of the land reform movement are being assassinated.  Fifty in the last three years.

If you want to know where all that new “aid” to El Salvador is going… And if you want to know who benefits from the prohibition scheme, check out this amusing video of drug lords celebrating the drug war.

Did you read Taibbi’s piece on the fed bailing out Qaddafi? Unbelievable.

I have never been able to get with the environmental movement. And this is one reason why.

I am really feeling for the porn actors who had their names and personal info released on the internet by some deranged ass.

James Baldwin describes why the school system does not really want to educate us. As true today as it was then.

This interview with Leymah Gbowee is inspirational and depressing.  Watch it. In one part, she describes teenage girls requesting undercover officers in their school. Their teachers are pulling them out of class to rape them. So how do we, as anarchists, respond to those who are victimized by violence day in and day out? If they ask for cops, how do we (who have not been victimized in that way) have the nerve to challenge that? What is our alternative in action?

Chris Hedges speech, from that Iraq war anniversary protest I went to, is now up on the internet. That guy means it.

And if any of you are in DC, the anarchist meetup now has two regularly scheduled events per month. Next date is Wednesday the 13th.  We’ll be packing with Books to Prisons and then maybe grabbing a beverage.  Come out.