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 June, 2011

Things You Might Have Missed

June 28, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

I am having one hell of a time trying to catch up on blog reading and whatnot. I cannot believe how many thousands of posts have accumulated. I may have to consider culling my reader a bit.

I used to work for a non-profit that helped caregivers of brain impairments. So stories, like this one, about all the people coming back from war with brain injuries are depressing and scary, but not surprising. I did not know; however, that

A Mt. Sinai Hospital study of 100 homeless men in New York found that 80 percent of them had suffered brain trauma, much of it from child abuse

Holy Shit. Brain trauma is serious business. It can change your whole personality. There is limited help. Homes will not take you if you have violent outbursts. It really sucks.

Slowly but surely class and race are being pulled apart in American minds. It is a scary proposition in some cases (see the Tea Party and my previous post on White America’s Existential Crisis), but it is necessary.

Despite my feelings about marriage and all the cultural beliefs that underlie the offer, I was still kind of touched by this piece about Syrian men’s vow to marry rape victims. Maybe those belief systems will crack a bit.

Gee. Really? Running farm labor out of your state has negative consequences? Ya don’t say.

Despite the title, A Brief History of the Corporation: 1600 to 2100 is not so brief. Despite some quibbles I have with it, I recommend you read it anyway. It is fascinating.

This is just…. Prosecuting these women for murder? I am speechless.

Did you hear about the brouhaha at the DC Taxi Commission? Some journalists were thrown out and arrested because the head burocrat had taken it upon herself to ban cameras. The resulting stink has resulted in a dismissal of charges and talk of amending our sunshine laws. What an asshat.

How often do you read a Proudhon quote at the top of a sorta mainstream publication? Not often, I say. Interesting piece on property in Quarks.

And on a related note is this piece on how L.A. county is using ordinances to harass people who live in the high desert. Aside from being infuriating, the article made me think about the possibilities for organizing with truckers. 50% independent and in control of supply lines. Hello.

I have such a crush on Sonja Sohn. She was interviewed when she attended the 8th National Harm Reduction Conference in Austin, Texas.

Now everybody dance!

Whose Fault Is It?

June 23, 2011 By: Mel Category: Sex, Stratification

The Dilbert guy is being hateful and thick again. He wrote a post on the recent spate of men caught “tweeting, raping, cheating” and had this to say.

The part that interests me is that society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable. In other words, men are born as round pegs in a society full of square holes. Whose fault is that? Do you blame the baby who didn’t ask to be born male?

According to him, if not for society’s (read women’s) controls on them, men would all be “unrestrained horny animals.” In his world it is women against men. If men get to be their true selves, then women lose.

It is hard to even know how to begin responding to all the wrong that permeates his post. Let’s start with conflating tweeting pics of your dick with rape. Far as I know, the women who received pics of Weiner’s weiner were not complaining about it. I have no idea if he and his wife are monogamous. I don’t know what they consider cheating if they are. It’s really none of my business. What I do know is that Weiner’s behavior and DSK raping a maid are not even slightly comparable.

I seriously doubt that Adams believes that tweeting pics and rape are the same thing. But he does seem to think that both those things fall into a range of “natural” male behavior. Clearly, if it were up to men, you would all be sitting around fires, eating raw meat, and taking the pussy like Pepe.  Right?

I am so tired of the people who make all men out to be rapists. Even if you believe that men want sex more than women, that doesn’t mean that all men would rape if it were not for the minuscule chance that they might go to jail for a couple years. It doesn’t mean that men can’t understand that women are people and that coercing people into doing things they don’t want to do is wrong. It doesn’t mean that men can’t understand that, just because you want to do something, it doesn’t mean you are entitled to do it. Men are human too, you know.

Besides, rape is not about sex, at least not just about sex. People rape because they can get away with it. They rape the weak. They rape to exert their power. They rape to punish. They rape to defile. To colonize. To scar.

Of course, I don’t actually believe that men want sex more than women. At least, I don’t think it is that simple. First of all, gender is not so neat. According to that crazy lefty magazine The Economist, “at least 1.7% of people are born with one of several dozen possible intersexual conditions.” So how are we supposed to make blanket statements about gender? Where do gay people fit into his little male vs. female world? And how are we supposed to separate out what is attributable to innate tendencies and what is attributable to all the head trips put on us and our sexuality?

As Holly so eloquently put it in her post a while back, men should be encouraging sluttiness. Instead we get a lot of bullshit about the kind of girl you marry and the kind of girl you don’t. Instead we get ridiculous calculations about how many dates you have to go on before you can jump the guy you want and not have him disappear because you were too easy. (Really ladies, why the hell would you want a guy who thinks like that anyway?) That doesn’t even begin to look at all the women who are suffering through really bad sex.

And let me just add one more glaring omission. A major source of all our sexual dysfunction and head trips is religion. When was the last time you saw women running a major religion? As I have written about before, the Catholic Church (arguably the most influential religious institution ever) specifically formed in opposition to women. If you are pissed about the sorry lack of good sex in the world, why not take aim at the pope? He is more responsible than any woman.

Let me not go on and on about that. You have heard it all before. I’m bringing this up with you because I got into a twittersation with my friend @jeremy6d about the post. He thought that Adams was getting at the same thing that Marty Klein was getting at in that post I shared with you on Tuesday. I had a hard time seeing that. Where Klein was talking about sexual dysfunction for everyone, Adams was blaming women.

But if i try to set aside Adams obvious dislike of women. If I can manage to set aside his feeling that men have no respect for other human beings. If I can manage to set aside his strict construction of gender. If I can manage to set aside his total lack of power analysis. If I can manage to set aside his “domestication of males” theory (as Jeremy so perfectly worded it).  Is there anything else there?


I believe that Adams feels stifled by social controls. I believe it because I feel that way. I have felt that way since I was a tween. But where Adams can only see his own feelings and has decided to blame women for his unhappiness, I recognize that social control is coming at us from all directions. It comes from parents, schools, churches, government, media…everything.

While those that have more power have to take more responsibility for how fucked up our society is, we all are part of this society. We all create this society together. That means that we all have to take responsibility for our role in perpetuating the systems, institutions, and beliefs that keep us in our little boxes. It means we need to do our part to reformulate society in a way that isn’t so damned oppressive for all of us. It means recognizing that it isn’t a zero sum game, that our liberations are connected.

So Adams, and people like him, need to pull their head out of their ass. I imagine it’s damned hard to see or hear clearly from in there. And it is probably stinky as hell. No wonder he is so cranky.

Things You Might Have Missed

June 21, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

So I’m gone for a week and a half and the only thing I seem to have missed is the ongoing saga of Weinergate. I really need to get me one of those anatomically correct Weiner action figures. If you haven’t read Marty Klein’s piece on the brouhaha, I would highly recommend it. Seriously, would you rather have some sexually repressed zealot in office who spends his time praying the lust away? (Well, first choice is nobody in office, but you know…)

Don’t you love when you come across people that defy stereotypes.  This DC dude defies about a million of them. I’d love to pick his brain over drinks. Course, he probably doesn’t drink, but whatever.

More coverage on the arrests of Orlando Food Not Bombs people. I’m glad to see this getting attention. I hope it grows.

Hunger strike at Pelican Bay.

Holy crap! 18 billion dollars. Can you even conceive of that kind of money? I can’t. What percentage ended up in the coffers of Halliburton, do you think?

Interesting piece on the history of copyright.

This article irritated me. I’m sure there is some truth to the idea that turning over too much urban land to agriculture could decrease density and have negative effects. But surely urban agriculture done right, in a city with great public transportation, would not automatically increase driving times and gasoline use. What about urban roof greenhouses and vertical farm systems? That stuff is cool as hell.

Things I Might Have Missed

June 14, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

I am sitting in the Portland airport waiting for my flight to San Jose and have not been paying any attention to the news. In fact, I didn’t even have internet for a couple days. About the only things I have learned in the last week are:

1. I can actually survive without internet.

2. Oregon is gorgeous.

3. Portland has a mind boggling number of strip clubs.

4. I can drink my weight in prosecco.

So maybe you all could help me out this week.  What has been going on? Any news I should know about? The world still spinning?

Growing Up Jewish – Bat Mitzvah Edition

June 09, 2011 By: Mel Category: Religion

It has been ages since I wrote a Growing Up Jewish post. And since last month was the 25th anniversary of my Bat Mitzvah (Fuck I’m old!), I thought it was time to continue the series.

According to Jewish law, at thirteen you are an adult. And that means a party.* Of course, being Jews, we have to make sure that you have years of suffering before you get to have any fun. That’s where Hebrew school comes in. You would assume, given the name, that you might actually learn Hebrew at Hebrew school. Not so. You learn to read Hebrew, but not to speak it or understand it. What’s the point, you ask?  Shrug.

I suppose it is mostly so that you can read/sing your haftarah at your Bar or Bat Mitzvah.  (That’s Bar for the boys and Bat for the girls. I really feel like “bar” would have been more appropriate for me, but whatevs.) Learning your haftarah also takes extra sessions of torture with the temple cantor. He is the dude in the funny hat who sometimes blows a horn. Thankfully, they don’t make you blow anything for your Bat Mitzvah.

I can tell you that I have not retained one fucking thing from all those years in Hebrew school. I can’t read Hebrew. I certainly can’t understand Hebrew. I’m not even sure what else we did. I have vague recollections of people watching Holocaust films. I remember people collecting money for Israel in little blue and white tins. I also recall skipping class and chewing on cinnamon toothpicks in the temple bathroom. (For some reason, cinnamon toothpicks were verboten.)

If your parents have money, they throw you a huge party for your Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I had a lot of friends with money at that time, so I went to a lot of ridiculously posh parties. People spend as much on those things as they do on weddings. I don’t get spending that kinda cash on weddings either, but tens of thousands of dollars on some teenagers?  Eye roll. You do get lots of loot though. Sadly, girls tend to get jewelry. Guys get cold hard cash. I knew someone who used the cash to buy their first car. Yeah. It’s that much sometimes.

Sadly for me, my parents did not have money. In fact, within a little more than a year, my father’s business would be closed down and the IRS would be trying to take our house. So I did not have a party in some fancy hotel ballroom with a band and tuxedoed waiters and shit. I had a party in my backyard with a DJ and some really tacky Hawaiian decorations.

Oh yeah. I almost forgot to mention that most Bar/Bat Mitzvahs have themes. My theme was a luau. Yes, that’s right, native culture appropriation. Shut up. I didn’t know. And there is really nothing you could do or say that would make me feel worse than I do when having to look at those Bat Mitzvah pics. So you may as well save it. That is one of the special cruelties that Jewish kids have to suffer. The only professional pictures I have ever had taken are of me at my most awkward, pimply, brace-faced, frizziness. And I’m wearing fucking pastels. And sometimes I’m wearing a lei. Horrible.

Anyway, my low-rent, backyard Bat Mitzvah was actually kind of fun. It wasn’t fun enough to make up for eight years of Hebrew school, but it wasn’t horrible. The nice thing about doing things on the cheap was that there was no bartender. It was help yourself. So some of my friends helped themselves. When my mother discovered this fact, she said to my father, “Bob, the kids are drinking!”  My father shrugged and said, “Meh, they ain’t driving.”  Very true, Bob.  Not for a couple more years at least. (Guess we know who gets credit for my love of liquor.)

Anywho, I fought with my mother about the Hebrew school thing for years. She said that once I was officially an adult after my Bat Mitzvah, I could decide for myself if I wanted to go to temple. I am happy to say I haven’t stepped foot in one of those places since.


* Some say twelve is coming of age for girls. And many orthodox Jews only throw a party for the boys. But screw them. That’s not how I learned it.

Things You Might Have Missed

June 07, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

Hello everyone. We’re leaving tomorrow for vacation in Portlandia and Alta California. I have some almost finished posts that I should be able to get up, but I might be a little slow responding to comments and whatnot between now and the 18th.

Please check out this amazing new project from my friend @shoutcacophony. It is an online, radical free school. Anyone want to do some classes with me?

David Combs has a nice piece up about sexism in the punk scene.

Watching this attorney go after Bank of America made me miss working for law firms. Every once in a while it could be fun as hell.

Can we please do this in DC?

It is very cool to see the coverage that Orlando Food Not Bombs has been getting.

That’s all for this week. I have to go pack. What do you wear to a hippie wedding in the forest outside Portland?  And do you get the bride and groom a blender or a bag of mushrooms? A blender filled with mushrooms?


The Bad Actor Objection

June 02, 2011 By: Mel Category: Anarchism, Movie

Have you ever seen the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance?  My friend @JamesTulsaALL recommended it. He thought the movie addressed some important issues. He was right.

For those of you who have not seen it. Jimmy Stewart is an attorney who heads out to the wild west to carve out his future. He is robbed and beaten by some thugs. It turns out that those thugs have been tormenting the town. The town sheriff, a bumbling and fearful fool, will do nothing. Stewart, filled with righteous outrage, is determined to use the law to put a stop to those thugs.

Also central to the story is John Wayne. Wayne is the town tough guy. The thugs don’t fuck with him. But he isn’t too inclined to do anything about the thugs fucking with everybody else, at least not until Jimmy Stewart drags him into it. Even though Wayne doesn’t want to get involved and acts like a hard-ass, we are supposed to know that he is really a good guy.

Stewart and Wayne play the liberal and conservative archetypes in that movie. Stewart is the liberal. He is an educated attorney from back east who hasn’t a clue how to fire a gun. He knows what is right and he is going to make sure it happens. Wayne is the conservative. He is tough. He can shoot guns and kick ass. People respect and fear him. The weak (including liberal Jimmy Stewart) need his protection.

Stewart and Wayne are the movie’s heroes. Stewart’s righteous indignation and lawyerly smarts along with Wayne’s brawn and good aim save the day.

The whole movie rests on the premise that an entire town full of people were completely incapable of dealing with a few thugs. The townspeople were, in fact, so pathetic that the best they could do was elect the most chickenshit amongst them for sheriff. You and I are supposed to believe that nothing can ever be accomplished without a hero. We are supposed to believe that we are helpless in the face of anti-social behavior.

I don’t believe that. I don’t have that low of an opinion of you or of me. And I definitely don’t think that we should design our whole society around what some disturbed people might do. Once you stop believing the myth that only a hero/politician/general can save the day, then the whole justification for the authoritarian state comes crumbling down.

At least in the movie, Stewart and Wayne actually did get the job done. In real life, Stewart and Wayne would be conspiring with the evil ranchers and thugs in order to rob us all blind. In the real world, there are no heroes. There is just us.

I will not guarantee that, if we managed to create an anarchist society tomorrow, it would not some day become authoritarian. Maybe some exceptionally bad outside actors would show up and the society would not be able to defend itself. Maybe internal divisions would weaken the community and make it an easier target. Maybe the society would, eventually, build back the kinds of hierarchies we have today. Maybe we would have to go through the whole process over again in 100 years or 50 years or even 10 years.

So what?

Should we not even try? Should we just concede to the people and systems that cause so much misery? “It won’t last forever” is a terrible reason not to pursue something. Nothing lasts forever. We should be trying for the best we can do, for as long as we can do it.

And we cannot fall for the myth that we are helpless in the face of a few bad actors.