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 December, 2011

Stuff You Read 2011

December 29, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

It is about that time when us bloggers get out of writing a real post and just link to the stuff that you already read. And thanks for reading, commenting, sharing… I really love talking to you all.

So here are the most popular of 2011.

And if we are looking at the all-time category, we have to add:

Where I Should Be Right Now

December 28, 2011 By: Mel Category: Photos

Dock in Utila Honduras

All the crap I've been reading about Honduras is really depressing me. This pick is from Utila. It is 72 degrees there right now. Sigh.

Things You Might Have Missed

December 27, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

I’m gonna start you off with a funny, cause the rest of these links are mostly gonna make you cry from rage, rather than laughter. Turns out, Africans do know that it’s Christmas. Who’d a thunk it?

Violet Blue, my go-to source for sex news and author of multiple books (including her new one on fetishes), is also a formerly homeless teen and general badass who was on a panel about homelessness. Kills me that they try to send people like her back to their parents.

And as long as we are on the subject of homelessness, here is a charming post titled Homeless girls: A frugal alternative to pricey prostitutes! Sure to make you gag.

I’m not super interested in the Sotomayor angle of this Slate piece, but the case itself is fascinating. How anybody can pay even five minutes attention to the way the federal government acts towards indigenous people and not become an anarchist is beyond me.

Honduras is a big, hot mess. Murders galore, including journalists, and now the army is being deployed on the streets.

Meanwhile, the peace corp is pulling out of Honduras and not going to send any new volunteers to Guatemala or El Salvador. Glad the hemisphere “moved forward” and embraced the coup government just like you asked, Hil.

Why does it cost $10,000 to become a hair stylist but only $265 to become a financial adviser?  More importantly, why didn’t I start reading that blog sooner?

In religious freak news – Orthodox Jews are beating up journalists and spitting on women. And pastors are telling 16 year olds that they should have made their rapist kill them so that they could die a virgin.

I’m happy to see that jury nullification is getting a bunch of press this week. Perhaps if word gets out we won’t have women getting 12 year prison sentences for $31 in weed.

But hey, at least that woman wasn’t forced by a prison guard to drink his semen. That guy got 2 days. That seems fair.

Again with the inmates “working?” Poor Cali is going to lose some of its not-so-volunteer firefighters now that the prison population has to be decreased.

Have you all been following the UK scandal where undercover cops were sleeping with activists? The women are suing now. Note that some of those cops were married in their regular cop life.

Yes, Obama, what Wall Street firms did was illegal.

Sucks to be punk in Indonesia.

In Occupy news:

Targeted, Vilified, Ignored

December 22, 2011 By: Mel Category: Conflict, Politics, Stratification, Work

In a strip mall, right across the border from DC, there is a small event center called Plaza 23. People can rent the space for all sorts of things, from birthday parties to cabarets. Often, they have go-go shows.

Go-go is DC music. This is a city that can be incredibly segregated by both race and class. Go-go is the music of the working class and poor black people that are all too often targeted, vilified, or ignored. The people who listen to go-go are portrayed as violent and dangerous. So is the music they listen to and any place that plays it.

That isn’t to say that there have never been violent incidents at or near go-go shows. But any time there is violence nearby, it is all too easy for the “authorities” to swoop in and scapegoat the artists and venues based on already preconceived ideas about who listens to go-go.

Plaza 23 is located in PG County, Maryland. PG county had a spate of violence in January of 2011. Unfortunately for Plaza 23, and all the other music and dance venues in PG County, the sixteenth homicide of 2011 happened not far outside the Plaza after a TCB show.

In response, the PG county council passed an emergency bill regulating dance halls. Lowlights of the bill include:

  • A $1,000 nonrefundable license fee
  • A background check and denial of a license to anyone who has been “convicted of a felony, violating any Federal or State laws relating to offenses involving moral turpitude, or crimes involving financial misrepresentations”
  • A security plan, including installation of cameras inside and outside
  • Private security officers to patrol the perimeter
  • Suspension or revocation of the license at the whim of the “authorities”
  • No dancing between 2:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
  • A $1,000 fine or up to six months in jail for anyone who “is a licensee, and/or owns, leases, operates, is in charge of or in apparent charge of an adult dance hall or teen dance hall, or promotes a facility or event required to be licensed under this Division without first having obtained a public dance license”. Same penalties for violating any provision of the act.

The emergency bill sailed through the PG County council in July of 2011. Just before the bill was passed, the owner of the Plaza tried to get his license renewed, but the county was not renewing them. Applications in accordance with the new bill were not made available until October. In November, as the Plaza was trying to apply for their license, they were cited and closed down.

According to this Washington Times article from December 18th, “no new dance hall licenses have been granted and the county has ceased to renew old licenses…save for the two venues whose old dance hall permits are still valid, Prince George is a dry county in regard to dancing.”

Isn’t this the plot from Footloose?

Shutting down the Plaza because someone got shot outside is like saying we should shut down the Hilton across from my house. After all, Reagan got shot there. And those shady political types are always gathering there. It’s just too damn dangerous. And perhaps we ought to outlaw homes too. That is where the biggest chunk of violent crimes occur.

That part about hiring security for the outside of venues. They were already required to do that. Every event required inside security and the hiring of off duty cops for the outside. Except that the PD in PG county refused to show up for some shows. That saying about how we should respect cops because they run towards violence while we run away from it – turns out not so much.

What about felons not being allowed to own dance venues? DC has the highest rates of incarceration of any city in the United States, often on bullshit drug charges. Three out of four black men in DC will go to prison. Then they come out and nobody will hire them. On top of that, all kinds of licenses are denied to former felons. Now we can add owning a dance hall to that list. How is a person supposed to make a living?

Ironically, at the very same time this is happening, the DC council is holding press conferences on jobless ex-offenders.

“We need to look at helping ex-offenders get businesses and apply for contracts,” said Charles Thornton, director of the Office of Returning Citizen Affairs in the D.C. Mayor’s Office. “If you own a certified business, with more contracts, you can hire who you want.”

Charles, maybe you could go and have a chat just over the border? In fact, perhaps you could have a chat with a whole bunch of Maryland officials. While incarceration rates across the country are decreasing, Maryland has the dubious distinction of being one place where they are going up. Somehow I don’t think bills like this are going to help.

Plaza 23 is not giving up without a fight. They have hired an attorney. But they are fighting without being able to operate their business. And their funds are sure to dry up soon. They are asking people to spread the word and to sign this petition to let them operate while they contest this.

I said before that this is about a community that is routinely targeted, vilified, or ignored. Let’s not be the people that ignore them.

Vikki Law on Gender Violence and Police

December 21, 2011 By: Mel Category: Conflict, Seeking

The post I was going to put up today is not quite ready yet, but I came across this video of Vikki Law over on the INCITE! blog. (I was lucky enough to meet Vikki and attend one of her talks at the NY anarchist book fair. She rocks.)

When someone asks you how to handle violence without police, send them this.

Things You Might Have Missed

December 20, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

This may be the best post title ever – Mad Muslim Cleric Warns Women to Steer Clear of Phallic Foodstuff

My cat is sooooooo jealous of this cat.

If I see one more post cheerleading the use of free prison labor, I cannot be held responsible for what I do.

I’m pretty cynical, but sometimes I read something and actually marvel at how evil people can be. I hope one of those homeless women goes all Lorena Bobbitt on his ass.

Just what Honduras needs, a bunch of Randroids.

It is tempting to be drawn in by arguments about the need for population control in a world of 7 billion people. But never forget how closely tied those movements are to eugenics and who suffers the hideous consequences.

Adam thinks we should end tax breaks for religious institutions. Jack thinks we should end the charitable deduction period. I think I agree with Jack. What say you?

The Lakota video that Rene posted over at Womanist Musings is amazing.

Swaay is protesting Google’s massive donation to some seriously anti-sex worker orgs. No protest scheduled in DC yet. Wish I had the time to organize one. I would definitely show up if any of you have the time.

As long as we are on the subject of orgs that support sex workers, HIPS is sure to be hit hard by the recent reinstatement of the needle exchange ban. They are a great organization. If you have a few extra bucks this holiday season, I’m sure they can use it.

Very interesting interview with David Graeber.

You may have come across this article about a farmer who is being sued by Maine for having the audacity to sell his extra milk without state sanction. To put that in context, I highly recommend reading this grain report about how the dairy industry uses permitization and “safety” concerns to push small milk producers out of business.

If you have ever been poor, you have almost certainly taken advantage of layaway. Some person had the idea of going in and paying some random person’s layaway. The idea has taken off and spread to different cities all around the country. One person dropped $20,000. Regardless of how you feel about Christmas gifting and consumerism and all that crap, people really like to do things that are tangible. Good to keep in mind for activists planning stuff.

I attended my first Criminal Injustice Committee meeting for Occupy DC this past Sunday. The Wells Fargo boycott campaign, which you can read about here, continues. Lots of other cool stuff too. I’ll keep you posted.

And more on Occupy:

The Friendship Binary

December 15, 2011 By: Mel Category: Core, Sex, Stratification

My friend Graham sent me the below video where a guy goes around asking people if men and women can be just friends. All the guys he asks say they cannot. All the girls he asks say they can, but then admit that they think their guy friends would hook up with them if they had the opportunity. So the dude who produced the video claims that he has proven that men and women cannot be friends.

Dear Graham – my friend who I do not think wants to hook up with me –  my requested response is below the video.

The first problem with the whole premise is the assumption that all people are straight. Lots of my guy friends are gay and most certainly have no interest in having sex with me. Or as my friend Lance gasped when someone told us we were a cute couple, “OMG! That’s my sister!”

So can straight women be friends with gay men? Can lesbians be friends with straight men? Do bisexual people not get to have any friends? And WTF do we even begin to talk about with people who identify as genderqueer. I mean if you don’t pick a gender our whole world may fall apart here.

Secondly, how are we defining “just friends?” Maybe some of the women who said that men and women can be friends are defining friendship differently. Why does sexual attraction, or even having sex, have to move you out of the friend category? As it turns out, there are a whole lot of different kinds of friends with benefits relationships out there.

Perhaps what the women mean is that they can have a relationship with someone, even including sex, that does not include romantic love or thoughts of weddings and white picket fences. Or perhaps those women aren’t sleeping with their friends but would be if they didn’t grow up in a place where people wear purity rings. Maybe they are sleeping with them and just don’t want to admit it because of all the baggage that comes with open acknowledgement of having sex with people you don’t want to marry.

And what about age? The Harold and Maude scenario isn’t exactly an everyday occurrence. Actually, any kind of relationship across generations seems to be kind of unusual. But they do occur. And I can attest to the fact that the dynamic is a lot different when you are friends with someone who is old enough to be your grandfather or young enough to be your kid.

I think most, maybe all, friendships involve attraction. That includes the friendships that mostly straight people have with people of their own gender. That doesn’t mean I want to have sex with all my girlfriends, hot as you all are. Then again, we women are more likely to admit to being gay or bisexual and are apparently turned on by a much wider range of things than you dudes are. As Mary Roach wrote in Bonk,

A series of studies by Meredith Chivers and colleagues at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto showed that men are more discriminating than women when it comes to how they respond to pornographic images. Women, both gay and straight, will show immediate genital arousal…in response to films of sexual activity, regardless of who is engaging in it – male, female, gay, straight, good hair or bad. Men, contrary to stereotype, tend to respond in a limited manner; they are aroused only by footage that fits their sexual orientation and interests…To test the limits of the phenomenon, Chivers gamely ran a follow-up study in which men and women viewed, in addition to the usual gamut of human sexual scenarios, footage of bonobos mating. Here again, the women’s genitals responded – though not as strongly as they did to images of human beings – and the men’s did not.

Uh oh. Guess no friendships for any of us. Possibly no pets either.

Where does this bullshit come from? It comes from a strict gender binary. It comes from thinking sexuality is rigid rather than a spectrum that can change over time. It comes from a very narrow range of relationship options, where women are only supposed to have sex with people they love and all relationships are supposed to end in monogamous marriage.

It comes from too many dudes who don’t see women as human beings, or as one charming commenter on the YouTube video put it,

there’s this girl who wanted to be “just friends with” me, meaning no sex…i told her “hell no” my friendship comes with certain sexual requirements…either that or take the highway girl…point being, a straight male can’t be just friends, even with a semi good-looking chick, so long as she has a hole to dip it into

I think its pretty clear that if you see women as “a hole to dip into,” then you probably can’t be friends with them. Thankfully, not all guys are as douchey as you.

The video focused on presumably single, young people. But the bfriend had a similar conversation to this at his work a while back. Of all the coupled people, only the non-heterosexual and him thought that men and women could be friends. Mostly, there was a lot of “my husband would never let me be friends with a man” blah blah blah.

What is that about? Do people think that love equals possession? Do men think they are conquistadors and their dick is a flag? Do women think their men are just walking hard ons who have to be kept in the house? Is everyone so insecure? If your relationship is so fragile that a friendship can break it, you already had problems.

My bfriend has a lot of women friends. One of the things I love most about him is that he actually likes women. He doesn’t just like to have sex with women. He likes to hang out with us. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I wouldn’t be with him if he couldn’t be friends with women. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been one or two occasions where I might have had a twinge of jealousy. But that was my insecurities, not his behavior.

Let me just end by saying that life is about relationships. It is one thing to make the very reasonable decision that you want to have a monogamous, sexual relationship. But if you cut the person you supposedly love off from having even non-sexual relationships with at least half the population, then you cut them off from life. And if you really think that sexual attraction means you can’t be friends, you are cheating yourself and probably lying to yourself about how attracted you are to the friends you have now – of whatever gender.

What I’m Up To

December 14, 2011 By: Mel Category: Events

Been a while since I have done an event/project update, so here goes:

The Positive Force (PF) Book Club meets this Thursday night. We are reading Washington’s U Street A Biography by Blair A. Ruble. I’m not near finished so I’ll reserve comment.

The Radical Space in DC has an event this Friday. They are bringing over some occupiers to speak. Their goal is “To unite our radical communities and create a space for discussion so that people within and without the Occupy movement can learn from each other and make our whole community a little better.” sounds like a good goal to me. FB event page is here.

David Rovics is playing at Occupy on Friday night at 7:00 p.m.

Santarchy is back on Saturday. The route is to be announced. No there is no message. Pure inebriated foolishness.

Lots of Occupy events all weekend that are worth going to, but I will likely only be there for Sunday. Particularly interested in the talk on private prisons.

PF is having a half day retreat on January 22nd. If any of you have been dying to get involved. This would be an excellent time. More details to come.

The Radical Book and Spoken Word event has been resurrected. It is looking like May 11 and 12. Hold the date. If you are local and want to help plan, get in touch. If you aren’t local, plan a trip. DC is lovely in May. We will keep you busy, intellectually stimulated, and probably drunk (at least if you hang with me).

Email is mel (a)

Things You Might Have Missed

December 06, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

Let me start off with the things that I missed – your comments. Seemed a bit strange that I didn’t get any comments for a month, but I thought maybe I had been gone so long that you forgot about me. But no, it is just that I am technologically incompetent.

So I changed my settings and went through about a thousand spam posts, which was great fun. On the up side, if I ever need a gorgeous Russian bride or a penis enlargement, I know who to contact.

If you wouldn’t mind putting a comment on this post – a smiley face, a fuck you, whatever – that would help me make sure I have actually fixed the problem.

And yes, I am smoking again – hence the cartoon.
I haven’t a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices.
– Mark Twain

As many vices as I have, you should all have the utmost confidence in me.

Nicely done to the port staff who refused a shipment of U.S. tear gas probably to be used on their fellow Egyptians.

I have a major thing about unpaid internships. In fact, I just kinda went off in an email to one of my coworkers. I wish more people would write critical pieces about that system, especially related to NGOs. Way to make sure poor people will never be able to work for you.

DC has been harassing head shops. Apparently, it is not only bongs that they have a problem with. They also hate informational videos. Only a criminal would possibly want to know their rights.

Dru from The Media Co-op in Canada has the inside scoop on Durban.

Good profile of a local DC transgender woman.

Oh unions.  This shit is exactly why you have sunk so low.

Thoughtful essay “on language, race, and poetry.”

I’m not normally inclined to socialize with cops. But if you get fired for thinking the war on drugs is bullshit, I will totally smoke you out.

Have you seen Manu Chao’s performance of Clandestino at tent city in Arizona? Nice.

Hey, guess what. The whole thing about men thinking about sex every second and women like never. Turns out, not so much.

Also turns out that hook-ups are a little more complicated than just picking up strangers in a bar.

Yes. Co-op brothels are a lovely idea. So are worker co-op, anarchist, bisexual strip clubs/reading rooms. I should totally kickstarter that.

In occupy news:

Occupy DC’s Sunday Standoff

December 05, 2011 By: Mel Category: Seeking

You have surely heard about the standoff yesterday (pics below), but just in case you have been trapped under something heavy or in a 48 hour bong hit haze…

Saturday night, DC occupiers built a structure to keep them out of the elements for general assemblies and teach-ins. I can only imagine the shit that the night duty cops got on Sunday morning when someone arrived and noticed that Occupy DC built a house while they were snoozing in their patrol cars. Oh, how I wish I could have been there for that conversation.

I was planning on heading out on Sunday for the 12:00 p.m. talk by Mark Lance, but when I checked my tweets I saw the livestream of an emergency mini-GA to discuss an ultimatum they received from the police. They had one hour to start taking the structure down or the cops were going to do it for them. By the time I got there, at least some of the occupiers had decided to hold the building and a few had already climbed on top of it.

And thus began a standoff that lasted well into the night.

Park police, horses, city police, SWAT. Everybody joined the party. They cordoned off the area around the house and told everyone inside the police tape that they were going to get arrested. There were some scuffles and quite a few take-downs as the police moved the perimeter out.

I saw at least one person almost get knocked over by a park police horse. One guy was pummeled as he tried to pass under the very edge of a taped corner in order to get by.   And Officer Dickhead Dyson (badge number 3148) shoved one of the occupiers down on the sidewalk and then arm checked me as I was walking in the direction they were telling us to go.

One by one, they removed people from inside the building. The ones who climbed on the roof were a little more difficult. They set up a huge air mattress on one side of the house. A couple roof sitters jumped on that. Then the coppers busted out a cherry picker to get the last ones. One or two went voluntarily. The last ones tried to hang on, most especially David who really made them work for it. Once the last occupier was removed, they came with chainsaws and ripped the structure down.

You can read more from Allison Kilkenny here.

There were a lot of things about yesterday that I liked. I’ll start with them. I liked that they were confrontational by building something instead of breaking something. I liked that the structure gave people an opportunity to talk about lack of housing and lack of public spaces. And I really liked when people managed to be funny and confrontational at the same time.  As they rode the horses into the structure, someone mic checked them and said,

I don’t think it is neighborly to bring your horses into somebody else’s barn.

Another mic check was something along the lines of,

I would just like to congratulate us for being such good job creators. We are currently employing several police to guard our house.

Even some of the cops laughed at that one.

But the day was not without its problems (aside from a massive overreaction by “authorities”). Many people I spoke with said that they did not have agreement from the general assembly to put the structure up. One woman vaguely remembered signing onto something that she never thought would happen. And even if it was approved by the GA, as many said, it was clear that widely agreed upon plans about what to do in case of a confrontation were not made.

The police did not just block off the area around the house. They also blocked off a huge section of tents. Locks were broken. It looks like some tents were searched. And there was a threat that they were going to remove that whole section of the encampment. One occupier, who had been out of the area and unaware of the planned barn raising, came back to find his stuff trapped behind police tape. That included the bike that he needed the next morning for his messenger job.

It did not go unnoticed that the majority of the hold-outs were not from DC. I’ve talked about this before in the context of other protests. If you go to another community, then it is probably not a good idea to be the person elevating the conflict levels. I know that DC is a little different than most places, because what happens here effects everyone.

But the community here is always fucked over for national issues and interests. We are a little sensitive about it. The community needs to be centered. That particularly includes the most marginalized parts of the community, like many of the longtime homeless who are living in McPherson now and who were some of the most upset. That’s just not cool.

As it turned out, they did not take down that area of tents. Last I heard, legal was contemplating filing an injunction to stop them. I saw a tweet earlier that said they are now required to give 24 hours notice before acting on any violations in the park. So I am guessing that an injunction was filed and we got a good result. (Yay legal.)

As I am writing this, I am seeing tweets from tonight’s general assembly and it looks like some of these issues are coming up. If all goes well, and I have every reason to believe it will, they will tweak their processes a little bit to make sure that anything seen as potentially risking the space will go through a process that everyone will be happy with – or at least o.k. with.

P.S. How awesome is that lego recreation of the standoff?

P.P.S. If you see any pics that you want and can’t figure out how to download them, just email me at mel (at) and I’ll shoot them over. (If you click on the slideshow, it will open it in a new window and you will be able to see the image number.)

Occupy Standoff – Images by Pinorrow Photography