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 July, 2011

Things You Might Have Missed

July 27, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

Work is still kicking my ass and keeping me away from the internets. But I have managed to read enough to be annoyed.

This op-ed from the Council on Foreign Relations says that we need to raise the debt ceiling because, if we do not, then:

1. We will be forced to cut defense spending and bring troops home.

2. It will be harder for Washington to make agreements with other govt assholes around the world.

3. The US won’t have as much power to push people around.

4. Investors will no longer think the US is the best place to invest their money and our foreign policy decisions wouldn’t lead to rich people in the countries we attack sending all their money to Wall Street.

Sooooo. Is that supposed to make me support raising the debt ceiling? Cause all that sounds like a fabulous idea.

The worst part about all this debt ceiling bullshit has been listening to supposed radicals bitch and moan about the republicans not wanting to raise it. Meanwhile, not a peep about cutting the war spending that makes up at least 50% of the federal budget. Neither party is going after that. Wake up people.

Seems like Glenn Greenwald woke up. He won’t say what his political affiliation is. But he says that he has given up on politics and mentioned Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. I won’t say he is an anarchist. But he is certainly anarchisty.

I thought this article about bridging the gap between anarchist and community organizing was really good. We need to talk about that.

I have been meaning to write about the eurocentrism in the anarchist community and then I came across this piece. Worth a read. And worth it to remember that a person can care about justice, anti-authoritarianism, horizontal organizing and all that shit without giving a damn about Goldman, Kropotkin, Proudhon, or anybody else that came from that part of the world.

The best part about this DC flash mob is watching the Walmart manager dude try to look like he is not totally impotent.

Remember when Bill Clinton said that he had to take responsibility for Haiti, that he really screwed things up? That would have been a great time for him to stop fucking around over there. Apparently, he is supplying Haitians with “homes” that fall apart.


Things You Might Have Missed

July 19, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

I suspect it will be another week before I can complete part two to that media post. I want to finish reading A Mixtape Manifesto first. And The Economist put out a whole media’ issue that I haven’t gotten around to yet. I’ll have something for you though.

Related to Thursday’s post on the social safety net vs. taking property is this gem.  HT to Gene. I suspect that there are lots of creative ways we can nab stuff. Tho I’m thinking bigger.

Well done video/interview with Jeremy Scahill by Cultures of Resistance.

Note to self. Clear all porn and diabolical plans off of laptop before travelling.

There has been quite a scandal over at Hugo Schwyzer over his post about a possible biological child he might have. I really appreciated his follow-up post. As an adopted person, I am disgusted by the kind of guys Hugo quotes in that post. Some people have no idea what love is.

This report about the CIA using a vaccination program to try and get Bin Laden’s DNA is just sick. Note the fact that they didn’t even bother to provide the whole vaccination treatment. That’s just evil.

So I am watching The Wire right now. I’m only just starting season three. So don’t tell me anything. Omar is like my idol. Is it true that they will bring back the show if we end the drug war?

Now somebody needs to do a show like The Wire about Miami. Except the cops there won’t be so charming. Murdering bastards.

What are you all thinking about this Occupy Wallstreet campaign? I kinda dig it, especially if the one ask is something good – like dismantling Goldman Sachs.

The prison hunger strike continues.

Good interview with Frans de Waal about cooperation in society. I really need to read his most recent book.

Surprisingly good story in Marie Claire about the sex offender registries.

I was, once upon a time, much less friendly to children. Then I discovered they were people. What do you know? Check out In Defense of Children.

Asher says “‘queer’ means infinite possibilities for love, pleasure, and self-expression.” How could anyone be opposed to that?

This is the funniest thing I have seen all week.  Choot-spa!  Hahahaha.

Deal Breaker

July 14, 2011 By: Mel Category: Anarchism, Change, Politics

I recently read The World That Never Was. I really liked it, despite the fact that it includes a gazillion people and can be hard to follow (even for someone who was familiar with many of the players). The book basically covers the period between Haymarket and WWI.

There is one part of the book where the author describes in the clearest and simplest terms what the liberal bargain was.  The government would “guarantee the property of the rich in return for welfare protection for the poor.” A bad bargain, if you ask me, but I suppose it was understandable. So here is my question.

Is it better for us to fight to continue that bargain, meaning for those social protections, or should we just call the whole deal off and go for the property?



**  Sorry that I am not able to put up part two of my media post this week. Work has been busy and I haven’t been able to wrap my head around much.  So this little mini post will have to do for now.

Things You Might Have Missed

July 12, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

I spent the weekend at the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy. Had a really great time with more than 200 of the least pretentious people doing some of the most cool things. Red Emma’s did their usual bang up job with Friday night dinner at 2640. Great speakers at the dinner, especially the guy with United Workers – who BTW are having a fair development conference in October.  I’ll definitely be there.

During the conference itself, I went to a session on a Canadian media co-op, one by the Ohio Employee Ownership Center on turning private companies into employee co-ops, and a follow up on the Advancing the Development of Worker Co-ops pre-session on Friday (sponsored by GEO). All interesting, especially the media co-op. I’ll write more about that on Thursday. And Ajamu Nangwaya kicked some ass during the plenary.

Raffling babies? What is it with people and their baby mania? I will never be able to comprehend people’s obsession with biological relation. Perhaps it has something to do with that family fetishism. (Normally, I don’t judge other people’s fetishes, but…. ick)

Liked this post on why you shouldn’t vote.

Charming. Another state replaces decently paid workers with prison labor. Not the first time. Where is that sense of fairness that the NYT wrote about?

Really? Really? This is just beyond words. What rock did those skinheads crawl out from under?

Interesting article in the FP about how many Israelis have emigrated and who is left.

This little cube house is kinda cool. Makes my 400 square foot studio seem positively humongous.

HT to @womanistmusings for this piece on letting people speak for themselves.

I know I am probably dating myself, but this is so hilarious to me.

Ciao Newsrooms. I Won’t Miss You.

July 07, 2011 By: Mel Category: Change

Chris Hedges recently wrote one of those sad obituaries for newsrooms. He longs for the old timey orgs like in All the President’s Men. But I’m not buying all the chicken little stuff when it comes to news. I don’t think the death of newsrooms is such a tragedy. And I’m not just saying that because I don’t care for the “fraternity.”*

First of all, as he admits in the article, the mainstream news orgs haven’t exactly been bastions of accurate information or checks on power. And the more professionalized journalists have gotten, the more they have served the interests of other elites. Today’s ivy league, journalism/public relations, grad degree douches are a far cry from George Seldes picking up info at his corner bar.

Speaking of George Seldes. Back in the 1920s, he quit his newspaper job and went freelance because the papers weren’t any better back then than they are now. He had to turn to book writing in order to get the information out there that his editors wouldn’t release. Sound familiar? Maybe those big newsrooms Hedges laments losing never served our interests?

It is true that “newspapers sustained writers.” As someone who writes and who occasionally thinks it would be nice to not have a day job, I sympathize with how difficult it is to earn a living. But I also have very mixed emotions about getting paid for writing. The truth is that I sometimes feel like I should pay you. Seriously, some of your comments are as long as any post I ever wrote. I don’t write this blog because I think I am some kind of author(ity). I write this blog because I want to think out loud. I want to share my experiences and hear about yours. I want to have a conversation.

Should people really be paid for having an opinion? Everyone has an opinion and everyone’s opinion is important. Why should Maureen Dowd or Matthew Yglesias to get paid for their thoughts? What makes them so special? Their analysis is usually downright sad next to most of yours. And if we professionalize opinionating, where does that leave us? Maybe it is not the loss of newsrooms that is responsible for a “decline in public discourse.” Maybe it is that we abdicated our public discussion to talking heads, ivy league brats, politicians, and celebrities.

And yes, Hedges is right that the internet can be an “ideological ghetto.” But it is also very easy to get out of your ghetto. And the internet gives me a chance to challenge the ideas and information that I come across. As far as I’m concerned, the free for all and direct challenges of the internet are a better check on false information than the professional news orgs have been.

What about that “culture and ethic” that Hedges says we are losing? Doesn’t that insinuate that only reporters are capable of thinking critically, verifying facts, or having ethics? Shouldn’t we all be thinking critically? Why are we creating some special class of people who have been trained to evaluate information? Why aren’t we concerning ourselves with how all of us can up our ability to weed out the bullshit?

As to the idea that “newspapers took us into parts of the city or the world we would never otherwise have seen or visited” – Did they? Do they? Should they? We have virtually no local news in DC. I live in the capital of the mother fucking USA. It is a city where a third of adults are functionally illiterate. We have the worst infant mortality rates in the country. We have the highest AIDs rate in the country. Unemployment in some wards is 20%. But you hardly ever read about that.

You know what though. There is not one legitimate reason why a person living in Dupont needs to read about all that in a damn newspaper. I don’t need a journalist to show me what being poor and forgotten is like. I can just hop a metro a few minutes from my house and be surrounded by poverty. I don’t need a reporter and some newsprint to stand between me and what is going on. I can just go out and talk to my damn neighbors. Novel idea, eh?

And the same goes for worldwide issues. Maybe I can’t go all over the world. But I don’t really need a reporter standing between me and news from other places either. When reporters are only going to war zones as embedded journalists, what is that really telling us? Aren’t we better off focusing on getting people access to equipment and distribution mechanisms that will allow them to tell their own stories?

Hedges talks about how newspapers sent photographers out to get shots of what was going on. But do we really need photographers if we have camera phones? A newspaper photographer can’t be everywhere at once, but we can. It isn’t professional photographers that blow shit open anymore. It is amateur cameras like the one that caught the Rodley King beating. It is citizens armed with technology by orgs like Witness. I’ll take a citizen with the balls to hold their SIM card in their mouth and get the video on YouTube over a professional newspaper photographer any day.

I realize that journalism is more than just opinionating or snapping photos. I realize that investigations take a lot of time. But I don’t think the newsroom model is the only way to accomplish that. I don’t think it is the best way to accomplish that. I am not going to miss newsrooms. But I do think that we all need to think seriously about how we gather, analyze, and distribute information. And we have to be thinking about the conflict between the need for information to be free and the need for people who gather information to pay their rent.

So you all ponder that a bit. I’ve got a follow-up post going for next week. We can continue the conversation then.


*A fraternity (Latin frater : “brother”) is a brotherhood, though the term sometimes connotes a distinct or formal organization and a secret society. via Wikipedia.


Things You Might Have Missed

July 05, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

I try to keep my petty problems out of the blog, but I have this issue with my upstairs neighbor. She is whiny, hyper-sensitive, and dateless on weekends. This has led to her complaining about us to management. We, of course, are trying to figure out how to be as loud and obnoxious as possible prior to quiet time each evening. (10pm is our cutoff.) If you have any suggestions for annoying music we can blast up at her, please share.

More generally, if you live in a city you are going to hear noise. I can’t stand these assholes who expect the city to shut down on their behalf. What the Fuck. Move back to small town USA if you don’t like it. Get some fucking earplugs! Something!…Breath…Ok. I am better now.

I’ve been getting much amusement from watching the Ashton fiasco. Laura Agustín has really torn him a new one.

Some waitresses are suing the racist titty bar they worked for. Good for them. There is major discrimination in strip clubs. For instance, I was in Archibald’s here in DC not long ago and every woman in there was white. DC is more than half black. How the hell do you have a place with no black women? I think we can add titty bars to churches and hair salons as the most segregated places in America. Also, how come there aren’t bisexual strip clubs? At least I have never been to one. Anyone else? How come you can’t see naked women and men in the same place? I’m offended.

Guess how much we have spent on border security in the last 10 years? Give up? How about 90 billion.  Yup.

I am very excited about all the action on the prison front. There were the actions down in Georgia. Now there is the Pelican Bay hunger strike that is spreading. And there is a big event coming up for the formerly incarcerated to meet in Los Angeles. This is all very good news.

So this article in FP is completely right that governments are paralyzed and unresponsive to their citizens. But they completely screw the pooch in suggesting that we need yet another supreme ruler to fix things. The people ARE the higher authority. Not more centralized government. No government!

Here is an interesting piece on jury nullification.

So..Yay healthcare reform! It’s always a good sign when the insurance companies are raking in record profits. Right?

I hate to leave you on a downer, but this video about genocide in Namibia is a must watch. I had no idea about the Second Reich concentration camps. This is just so heartbreaking. Please watch it. Hat tip to my friend Serinity.

Unions? NBA? Sigh.

July 01, 2011 By: Mel Category: Change, Work

I’m in the middle of writing a completely different post on media, which is taking me entirely too long and should have been up yesterday. But while on the gerbil machine at the gym, I caught Sports Center’s coverage of the NBA lockout.  Now I can’t get my head back into what I was writing. So I guess I’ll switch gears for a second.

In principle, I’m a fan of unions. In reality, they piss me off about 90% of the time. And while the sports strikes are the most extreme examples of some of the bullshit that makes me so grouchy, you see a lot of the same BS on a smaller scale in other places.

First of all, the ideal is for the workers (or in this case, the players) to be the owners. If any industry had workers with enough money to do it, it is the NBA. Am I right? And don’t tell me about needing stadiums and shit. How many of those stadiums were paid for with taxpayer dollars? They should belong to us. Then all you need is a damn ball.

Somehow the idea of worker ownership always seems to get lost in the shuffle. In fact, massive unions like SEIU operate in exactly the same unjust, hierarchical manner that they criticize in other orgs. They pile millions in worker money into their salaries and to support political candidates. And for what? Imagine if they used that money to support converting businesses into coops.

But let’s get back to the NBA. You want us to back you up? Where the hell were you when people making far less money needed support? Were you showing up on picket lines? If the NBA was filled with people like Etan Thomas, someone who actually risked having an opinion, your plea would be more convincing.

Now, I don’t know what the NBA contracts say. I do know that even the supposedly uber-lefty university that I went to (UC Santa Cruz) made their lecturers sign an agreement that disallowed any kind of sympathy strike. I know that federal regulations have made all the most useful actions illegal. I’m short on time, so I’m going to quote Wikipedia here.

The amendments enacted in Taft-Hartley added a list of prohibited actions, or “unfair labor practices“, on the part of unions to the NLRB, which had previously only prohibited “unfair labor practices” committed by employers. The Taft–Hartley Act prohibited jurisdictional strikes,wildcat strikes, solidarity or political strikes, secondary boycotts, secondary and mass picketingclosed shops, and monetary donations by unions to federal political campaigns. It also required union officers to sign non-communist affidavits with the government. Union shopswere heavily restricted, and states were allowed to pass “right-to-work laws” that outlawed union shops. Furthermore, the executive branch of the Federal government could obtain legal strikebreaking injunctions if an impending or current strike “imperiled the national health or safety,” a test that has been interpreted broadly by the courts.

We were screwed. So legal options are limited. But there are plenty of players who don’t appear to have qualms about breaking other laws. More importantly, if you are calling for solidarity when you are on lockout, yet doing commercials for Nike (that bastion of worker rights) when everything is going well for you…Well then you can just fuck off.

And how about those people selling cokes and pretzels at your games. Are they unionized? Are you standing in front of their bosses trying to get them more than minimum wage? I’m gonna take a big leap and guess probably not.

When I was living in Santa Cruz, the bus drivers went on strike. They were on strike for months. While the relatively well-off bus drivers were negotiating, housekeepers who depended on the bus system to get them to town from Watsonville ended up losing their jobs. It didn’t exactly endear bus drivers to the community.

It doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve heard about other bus strikes where the drivers kept driving, but refused to collect the fares. Now that is a strike that builds support. Instead the system is designed to create animosity between us. And we keep playing that stupid game.

Look at this gallop poll. People have less confidence in unions than they do in banks, newspapers, the (in)justice system, police…pretty much everybody. The only people less liked than unions are HMOs and congress. That’s pathetic.

And don’t give me a sob story about how unions have been attacked and the public is deceived. It is bullshit to blame low union opinion on the anti-union campaigns.  Unions are supposed to be the bulwark helping workers stand up to those pressures. If unions were not able to do that, they failed.

Unions have to take responsibility for that failure. They can’t just bitch and moan that they were unfairly characterized. If unions had managed to save jobs, help people get better wages, get them benefits, and just make their lives better – no amount of propaganda could have turned people against unions. Some unions may have managed to hang on to something. But overall, in the last thirty or forty years, unions failed.

If you want people to start trusting unions again, then I suggest we start being a little more critical about how unions act. Perhaps a good start would be to take up some of the suggestions in this piece about Building the Rank and File.

So, to get back to the NBA. If you want me to support your strike, you are going to have to show some love to the rest of us.

If you want to hock some company’s product for millions of dollars, then that product should be made by people who get a decent wage. If you want to keep playing for millions, then the people who clean the stadium and sell the hotdogs should be earning decent money.

If you want us to back you up, you need to start backing us up. And making a two minute “NBA Cares” video of you reading to children doesn’t count.