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 November, 2011

Things You Might Have Missed

November 15, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

Scully is DispleasedI expect that I am going to be posting quite a bit on drug war issues in the near future, especially since I am at a drug war conference today. There has been some good reporting in the news lately, specifically:

And in related news, this article on how mentally ill inmates are treated in North Carolina is nearly beyond belief.

Also infuriating is Scott Horton’s piece on dry boarding and the Guantanamo deaths. Why isn’t this being talked about more?!

I’m always happy to see how Eleanor Olstrom’s work is becoming common knowledge.

I thought this presentation on incubating cooperatives with time banks was really interesting.

I’m not exactly a fan of testing on animals. Nor am I a fan of our obsession with weight loss. So I find this little experiment just gross.

I worked the door with Positive Force for the Ted Leo show this weekend. It went really well and raised a ton of cash.

Can we at least all agree to stop subsidizing these people with our tax dollars ?

Don’t carry any condoms with you. You don’t want to be accused of being a prostitute.

Quite a few good posts related to the occupy movement this week. I particularly liked:

And for your weekly amusement, this Colbert episode on bullying cracked me up.

Book Review – The President and the Assassin

November 14, 2011 By: Mel Category: Book

The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American CenturyThe President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century by Scott Miller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Miller is a good writer and it is a smooth read. The turn of the last century is a fascinating time in American history. He does a pretty good job of showing how the US empire grew. The idea of juxtaposing President McKinley’s life against that of the man who killed him was a good one. It does give you a certain sense of the time.

It is clear; however, where Miller’s politics lie. Not surprisingly, a man who worked for the Wall Street Journal and graduated from Cambridge does not have a lot of love for anarchists. It would have been better if he just let all his disdain ooze out everywhere. Instead, if you don’t know anything about the time or people he is talking about, you might think he is giving fair portraits of people like Emma Goldman.

He finds plenty of time to paint a loving portrait of a warmongering, imperial president. So there is no excuse for picking out only the most violent or pathetic examples when he is describing anarchists. He describes the violence in Europe without any mention of how much was later found to be the work of provocateurs. In talking about the roots of anarchism, he speaks only about a few out-of-context ideas of William Godwin and mentions nothing about Kropotkin or even someone like Tolstoy.

Miller’s tendency to humanize McKinley and dehumanize the anarchists would be enough to annoy me. But he also quickly descends into the usual historian boy bullshit. That would be history books filled with long descriptions of battle and which contain virtually no mention of women. Where there are mentions of women, they are either the archetypal mother (McKinley’s mother), the sickly or neurotic woman (McKinley’s wife), or the whore (Emma).

The book is still worth a read if you are interested in that time. But you should definitely pair it with a more radical view of empire building (perhaps Harvest of Empire) and some material on anarchists that isn’t so one-sided.

View all my reviews

Occupying the Narrative

November 10, 2011 By: Mel Category: Conflict, Seeking

Kids Protesting on Bank Transfer DayDemonization of the occupy protests is in full swing now. The violence in Oakland was just what some people needed to start the narrative change that we are beginning to see. The Washington Post is running stories about occupy violence. Fox news accused occupy protestors of knocking over an old lady. (Complete bullshit, of course.) There are stories about evil drug users and sexual violence galore. Or you could just read The Heritage Foundation’s little wrap up.

I was going to write about how frustrating it is when things are going well and some buttheads come along and get into unwise confrontations, losing us immeasurable good will.  I was going to ask how we can keep clueless people or sabateurs from doing things that media will use to demonize everyone. Basically, I was going to write about how to deal with bad actors.

But that is a trap. Those things need to be discussed. We need to keep people safe, preferably without involving police. We need to block people who are out to sabatage us. But we are never going to be able to control everyone’s actions or prevent people from doing dumb things near us or in our name. We will never be able to control the national media narrative. It isn’t in their interest. Chris Hedges is right.

It is vital that the occupation movements direct attention away from their encampments and tent cities, beset with the usual problems of hastily formed open societies where no one is turned away. Attention must be directed through street protests, civil disobedience and occupations toward the institutions that are carrying out the assaults against the 99 percent. Banks, insurance companies, courts where families are being foreclosed from their homes, city offices that put these homes up for auction, schools, libraries and firehouses that are being closed, and corporations such as General Electric that funnel taxpayer dollars into useless weapons systems and do not pay taxes, as well as propaganda outlets such as the New York Post and its evil twin, Fox News, which have unleashed a vicious propaganda war against us, all need to be targeted, shut down and occupied. Goldman Sachs is the poster child of all that is wrong with global capitalism, but there are many other companies whose degradation and destruction of human life are no less egregious.

So instead I would like to focus on some of the things we are doing right, the things we need more of.

The picture above comes from what might be the cutest protest ever. A bunch of parents took their kids out for bank transfer day. Adorable children holding handmade signs telling banks to share is total win. And bank transfer day itself was a resounding success.  650,000 people joined credit unions last month, more than all of last year. Even some rich people are dumping BOA.

How many people in this country are paying rent to slumlords for unsafe buildings without heat and water? This Harlem resident marched down to Occupy Wall Street and got a cadre of protesters to help her stand up to her landlord. That is some real shit that people can get behind.

Far too many people don’t have homes at all. Many of them are staying in the same parks with occupy protesters – like this guy who seems to have found a new mission in life. As Barbara Ehrenreich pointed out, living on the street has made homelessness a little more real for many of the participants. But some are taking it to the next level and actually trying to help protect the homeless encampments that are always under attack.

There are whispers of debt strikes beginning. Bloods and Crips are now best friends. Man’s best friend is running things in Denver.

But I think my favorites have the be the direct actions in response to foreclosures. This woman re-entered her foreclosed home, with the help of some activists. Occupy Atlanta moved their encampment to a police officer’s home that is about to be foreclosed upon. And the occupy foreclosures movement looks poised to keep growing.

The media is unlikely to pick up on these things with as much relish as they do violence. So we are going to have to publicize the shit out of them ourselves. But when you have gorgeous visuals like those kids marching, or heartstrings-tugging personal stories about elderly people without heat, it isn’t very hard to get people interested in the story.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have to talk about how to deal with violence and sabatoge. It is especially important for us anarchists, who have to deal with much of the bullshit being done in our names (or at least blamed on us). It wouldn’t hurt for us to post videos of clean-up crews going in and fixing what was broken or shots of us blocking people from doing dumb shit. But we can’t let that become the predominant narrative.

So lets take the focus off of the encampments and the minor skirmishes between protesters and police (by which I do not mean ignore police brutality). Let’s get the focus back on the real conflict – everyday people banning together to fight powerful forces that they can’t stand up to on their own.

General Strike

November 09, 2011 By: Mel Category: Photos

To be honest, I’m a little skeptical that most of the country is ready for a general strike. But I’d love to see us pull this off.


Things You Might Have Missed

November 08, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

Gray cat laying on her back saying, I totally missed thatI don’t know what is better, the title of this post or the photo that accompanies it.

I think this UConn appearance by Jasiri X will result in many new fans. Can you believe they tried to tell him he couldn’t do a political song at a political rally? WTF.

A whole bunch of people who were sentenced to ridiculously long prison terms for crack are now getting out. But, to paraphrase my friend Nu, what the hell are they going to do now? Not a lot of opportunities for ex cons.

I’m kinda surprised how little coverage Julian Assange’s lost appeal got.

Honduras just keeps getting worse. And we hardly hear a peep about it.

Guatemala is clearly trying to keep up with Honduras. I can’t believe that sonofabitch is president.

Expect more secret U.S. commandos in Honduras and Guatemala.

Guess what happened while you weren’t looking? Private property is back in Cuba.

I can’t believe there are still people telling women to learn how to cook in order to find a man. But don’t learn how to cook professionally, that’s for dude’s only.

Can you believe it has been 20 years since Magic Johnson came out as HIV positive? I will always love him for that.

If there is one thing that pisses people off in poor countries, it is how we let their petty dictators steal all their money and deposit it in our banks. This piece makes the argument that it costs us a shit ton of money. It’s also just fucking wrong, but since people aren’t likely to listen to that argument…

This Taibbi piece sums up the foreclosure crisis quite nicely.

It is hard to imagine anything more horrible than selling your kid, but it is also hard to imagine being in this position.

Did you hear that DC had six shootings on Halloween?  Don’t worry though. Law enforcement are busy protecting and serving by raiding head shops and harassing sex workers.

The pic is my cat, Monkey. She thinks my blog is boring. She enjoys kibble and viciously murdering mice.

Book Review – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

November 04, 2011 By: Mel Category: Book

Fear and Loathing in Las VegasFear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this for my inebriation themed book club and I am already forgetting it, which doesn’t say much for it. In case you are one of the five people on earth who hasn’t seen the movie – Thompson goes to Vegas to cover an absurd motorcycle race through the desert while eating half blotters of acid, sniffing ether and making mildly interesting observations.

Now I am trying to figure out what we are actually going to converse about at the book club. We could talk about the absurdities of Vegas, where I was for a birthday party this weekend. But it is just too easy to chew up a place where people drop tens of thousands in one night while, according to the cab driver, 86% of homeowners are underwater on their mortgages.

I suppose we could talk about journalism and the illusion that anybody is “fair and balanced” or impartial, or why we should pretend to be. Or maybe we could talk about all the minor, and not so minor, abuses of women in the book? How about just testosterone fueled writing in general? Or what kind of world you have to grow up in to operate without the slightest consideration to how your behavior effects, or even terrorizes, other people?

Somebody sell me on this book. I don’t want to just have a gripe session. Help me out.

View all my reviews

Halloween Hussies

November 03, 2011 By: Mel Category: Inequality, Sex

Halloween just passed and with it came the usual slew of posts about women and their slutty Halloween costumes.  The consensus seems to be that women feel pressured to dress sexy for Halloween.  Hugo Schwyzer had one of the more intelligent posts,

the problem lies in the compulsory sexualization that is so much a part of today’s Halloween celebrations for teens. A lot of us are more upset by the absence of options than by the absence of fabric; we know that pressuring girls to act sexy is not the same thing as encouraging them to develop a healthy, vibrant sexuality that they themselves own. I don’t have a problem with “sexy bar wench” costumes; I have a problem when those sorts of costumes are the only ones young women are expected or encouraged to wear.

Now I don’t disagree that compulsory sexualization is wrong. Compulsory anything is wrong. But I don’t know that compulsory sexualization is what we are seeing. In fact, I think it might be the opposite.

A while back, one of my friends asked Facebooklandia why women love Halloween so much. One of the women answered, “Most women love Halloween because they can dress all sexy in public and no one thinks they are hookers.” In other words, it isn’t that women feel compelled to dress sexy. It is that Halloween is one of the few days you can dress like that and get away with it.

On Halloween, I can wear those awesome, thigh high, vinyl boots without other women giving me the stink eye. And since everybody else is letting it all hang out, the smarmiest dudes attention will be spread around. I’d wear those boots every day during the winter if I could.  They are warm as shit. But it would make for some very awkward work meetings. (That’s me hanging out in my winter gear. That’s totally what I’m wearing when I write these posts.)

As to the absence of options, it seems people think us poor little girls can only manage to buy pre-made costumes in a plastic bag. It so happens that I am lazy and that is often what I do. But Halloween is creative time. The best costumes are the ones people make. One of my friends taped a bunch of smarties to her pants. And voila! Smarty pants! Instant costume. We aren’t shackled to what some crap store feeds us. Perhaps we should be lamenting a lack of creativity?

To be fair, Schwyzer’s article is about teens. And most of what he says is spot on. I suppose I can understand why people are creeped out by really young girls dressing like prostitutes. I can only imagine how people reacted when my nine year old ass actually did dress like a prostitute. My seven year old friend was my pimp. Her sign said, “Bunny, $100 a trick.”  It was my sister’s idea. I think she was either trying to get rid of me or damage me for life. (I know you read this blog, Sister. I blame you for everything.)

One of my parents probably should have intervened at that point. What can I say. My father would do or accept almost anything for a laugh. (OMG. I think he was a hipster! Did they have hipsters in the 1940s?) Almost thirty years later, I could write a thesis on why that was inappropriate? But I don’t think I felt pressured by society to be sexy. In fact, I’m fairly certain that society was appalled, which is exactly why my father and sister found it so hilarious.

I’m sure a psychiatrist could have a field day with this little tidbit.  But the point is this. Maybe if we didn’t police what women wear every other day of the year, we wouldn’t want to let it all hang out on Halloween. And perhaps if we stopped treating kids like they are brainless automatons and gave them an empowering education about sexuality and a little respect for prostitutes, they would make different choices. Even at nine, I would have understood.

That’s my two cents. Mostly this post gave me an excuse to wear my boots and snazzy Anarcho-Drunkard t-shirt. Like Joe says, “Those molotov bottles don’t just empty themselves.” You all can buy one here. (Sorry it took me so long to snap it, dude. I’ve been busy… and drunk.  Hope you like the pic. I’ll expect a vodka tonic for every five sold. Just don’t buy me any more of those chocolate martinis. They were almost the death of me.)

Day of the Dead

November 02, 2011 By: Mel Category: Photos

Sadly, I was not in Mexico for Day of the Dead. But I did see some amazing calaveras while I was there. You should drink some tequila tonight and honor your dead. Who can argue with that tradition?


Things You Might Have Missed

November 01, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

There is a great piece about Emma Goldman in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. I can’t wait to read the book it is based on.

I’d also like to read this book on the Collapse of American Criminal Justice. I don’t particularly buy that it was ever good enough to “collapse,” but I do agree with what he says about nullification and the need for local democracy (for lack of a better word).

I rather enjoyed this rant about rich people who are obsessed with population.

Marriage is dying. Good riddance.

I knew the Redskins were racist, but I didn’t know just how racist.

Kick ass article about Amber Cole and the sorry state of sex education in our society.

And can we include in that education an understanding of Sexuality as a Spectrum.

I had to go to a friends birthday party this weekend and so I missed the fair development conference in Baltimore.  Any of you go?

Definitely read this article by David Graeber. It gives a lot of background on the lead up to Occupy Wall Street.  Good stuff.

Angela Davis showed up at Occupy Wall Street.

It will be interesting to see if the United Nations focus on cooperatives has any effect this year. It does feel like coops are on a role. When do we start talking about being co-opted?