BroadSnark

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
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Planned Parenthood Is About to Get Slammed

July 16, 2014 By: Mel Category: Sex

Fifty Shades of Grey Party GameYou might know by now that I stay on the Heritage Foundation email list for my daily dose of bullshit induced rage. Today’s rage comes courtesy of secret videos filmed in Planned Parenthood offices. They are very similar to the ones that took down Acorn. This time they are sending young women in to pose as underage girls who ask for advice about BDSM.

You can read the article and watch the video here.

These are some really slimy tactics. And the anti BDSM scaremongering is repugnant. The people who work at PP are clearly trying to be non-judgmental to their patients. But they are also clearly not giving good advice. Nobody in their right mind should tell anyone of any age to read Fifty Shades of Grey for sex ideas. If you want to know why, feel free to check out the serial review of that monstrous book on The Pervocracy or this shorter (and hilarious) Goodreads review by Katrina Passick Lumsden.

As slimy as these tactics are, they are not wrong that these people are giving bad advice. Of course, I have very different ideas about what good sex advice would be.

This is going to go very badly for Planned Parenthood.

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Things You Might Have Missed

July 15, 2014 By: Mel Category: Misc

IMG_1016Not had a lot of time for writing the last couple weeks. Just got back from the beach and before that I was in New York stuffing my face with blintzes at B&H.  So good.

Next month I’ll be stopping in Phili for a quick minute at the anarchist book fair. Anybody else going?

Activists in Detroit are blocking the trucks that are sent out to shut off people’s water for nonpayment.

Cecily McMillan, the OWS activist who went to prison describes what it is like to be at the mercy of prison guards.

Bruce Reilly talks about how people treat you after you get out of prison.

And this ColorLines piece goes into even more detail about how hard it is to get work without connections and with all kinds of prejudices against you.

This guy managed to kick a drug habit, get off the streets, and get a law degree. But he cannot practice law in Florida because of his felony record.

There is a petition you can sign to support the people in prison in Pennsylvania who are asking for the most basic nutrition and rights.

People incarcerated in Georgia were getting sick after maggots were found in their food.

Thousands went on a hunger strike last month in Greek prisons.

A good summary on Balko’s blog of how parents are being targeted by the criminal injustice system.

Too bad that 1920s movement to outlaw flirting didn’t come to pass. Think of how many more we could have in prison.

This is essay about the writer’s rape – the male writer’s rape – is a must read.

You know how I wrote a while back that Cooperation is the Problem? Well, there is now science to prove that “more agreeable,conscientious personalities are more likely to make harmful choices.”

You might want to run your old phones over with a tractor. Or stop taking dick pics.

Buying homes is for rich people, really rich people.

The Department of Defense’s spending includes more than $380 million on erectile dysfunction drugs, $238 million on testosterone therapy drugs, at least $2.7 billion on antidepressants, more than $1.6 billion on opioid painkillers, and  more than $507 million on Ambien and its generic equivalents.

I have to admit that I am someone who complains about bikers a lot. Yesterday, for instance, I lost it when some dumbass on a bike cut off a fire truck with its sirens on. But I must admit that this piece on Why Bikes Make Smart People Say Dumb Things makes some very good points.

And finally. Never, ever give money to the Red Cross.

 

 

Reparations and Aspirations: In Response to Coates and Connolly

June 25, 2014 By: Mel Category: Change

Acoma Pueblo New MexicoThanks to Ta-Nehisi Coates, people are talking about reparations. Which is great. But we appear to be dancing around what facing our history would necessarily mean for our future. And we don’t appear to be able to talk about doing anything outside of lobbying the very same political system that got us here.

One reason reparations seem impossible is that we cannot wrap our heads around a conception of justice that is meant to repair harm. We live in a society focused on retribution, not restoration. We send people to prison for decades for selling weed. We let poor women die in prison because their kid skipped school. We put the mentally ill in solitary confinement. We barely blink when the imprisoned are raped by guards, even juveniles. As a society, we stopped talking about rehabilitation a long time ago. Now we only talk about “paying” for crime and compete with each other to see who can be more cruel “tougher”.

Is it really surprising that people are afraid of what justice would look like?

What if, instead of retributive justice, we had restorative justice? In a society where people can only think in terms of retribution, an honest accounting is impossible. In a restorative justice process, an honest accounting is the first step toward repairing the harm done to individuals and the community. A restorative justice process is meant to transform the participants in a positive way and decrease the chances of future harm. Unlike our current system, the aim of restorative justice – including reparations – is not to make the perpetrator(s) suffer.

To talk about reparations is to acknowledge our need for an entirely new conception of justice, one that applies to all of our society. But we also need a hell of a lot more than that.

I found myself nodding in agreement to part 1 of N. D. B. Connolly’s response to Coates’s article. How did reparations to Israel from West Germany turn out? Not so great for the Palestinians. How often are relatively wealthy black people participants in the subjugation of poorer black people? A lot. What happens when you try to address one injustice without addressing the others? A mess. What became of our government’s attempts to look at the history of its crimes? Nothing much.

Our systems are systems of subjugation. Success within our society is dependent on oppression. It is essential but not sufficient to try and repair the damage done by slavery and white supremacy. We live in a complex hierarchy where your position is determined by your race, hue, ethnicity, gender, class, possessions, sexual preference, physical abilities, mental abilities, certifications… If all reparations try to do is bring more black people into the current definition of success, we will fail miserably. There will still be workers having their paltry wages stolen by McDonalds. There will still be migrant farm workers dying of sun stroke. There will still be poverty and an epidemic of teen suicides on reservations. We will still be drone bombing brown people in countries around the world.

In part 2 of Connolly’s response to Coates he makes some suggestions on what we should do about our toxic system. Unfortunately, despite his recognition of how problematic is the “tendency…to propose modest solutions within established government structures,” that is just what he did. It isn’t that I am against reinstating felons right to vote. It is that we should be talking about prison abolition. It isn’t that I don’t recognize the problems with the castle doctrine and stand your ground. It is that the castle doctrine and stand your ground have little to do with the epidemic of police violence (and police kill many more people than vigilantes do). It isn’t that I cannot see the value of removing the need to show discriminatory intent. It is that suing for discrimination does nothing to transform our injustice system or to put our workplaces in the control of the workers.

No amount of constitutional amendments or court cases are going to transform our government and economic system to one that is not based on hierarchy and subjugation. We need to think bigger. We can have a society based on cooperation and mutual aid. We can have community control and direct democracy. We can abolish prisons, democratize the workplace, and dismantle the military industrial complex.

I know many of you think I am too radical (or maybe delusional). But there is no other way. We cannot repair any part of our damaged society without a radical transformation of its values and institutions. Conversely, for those of us who have been working for radical changes, we cannot be successful unless we face the white supremacist core of everything we are trying to change.

You cannot, for example, talk about the prison industrial complex without acknowledging that it is part of a continuum from slavery to present. The thirteenth amendment said “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime.” And today we have millions of people, disproportionately of color, laboring behind bars for pennies an hour to make some of the richest companies in the world even richer. And if that 37 cents an hour isn’t enough to cover your overpriced commissary tampons for the month – too bad for you.

Perhaps this seems overwhelming. Perhaps you are wondering where would we even start. The good news is that we have already started. You just might not have noticed yet.

There are already restorative justice organizations all over the country. There are already schools taking different approaches to conflict resolution. There is already a movement for change being led by tens of thousands of people who are incarcerated. We already have workers who refuse to just roll over for the owners, workers who are taking control and democratizing their workplaces. We even have communities with truth commissions.

No real radical change has ever come from above. The kind of change we need has always started with communities, churches, communes, and street corners. Processes that are grounded in community are based on and build relationships of trust. They are processes where the people are participants and not just spectators. And if our movements are rooted, they have a chance of withstanding the inevitable onslaught by those who don’t want real justice.

Also, processes that are grounded in community can adjust to local history and circumstances. Because restorative justice in Birmingham is going to look very different from restorative justice in Acoma Pueblo. We need to talk about what happens on reservations and on the Mexican border too. We need to remember that the history of the United States is not only the history of following Europeans as they crossed the continent. It is not just the history of that portion in the East that we call North and South.

There can be no repair without a radical transformation of our society. There can be no radical transformation of our society without an honest accounting of where we have been. And there can be neither repair nor transformation from the top down. In fact, we should be aiming to eliminate the hierarchies that got us into this mess to begin with.

Your Well-Intentioned Regulations Will Not Bring Justice

June 23, 2014 By: Mel Category: Inequality, Politics

Playa Chacala, MexicoYou have heard of “too big to fail.” Well, the World Bank recently posted a piece called Too Small to Regulate. It is an argument for big business. In fact, it is an argument for industries to be run by just a handful of big companies. It is easier, they say, for the government to keep up with a few behemoths than to try and monitor a whole bunch of independents. According to the authors,

The reason regulation is needed is that, as Nicholas Kristof argues in one of his recent columns, a firm’s “business case” does not always coincide with what is socially desirable. Many actions have harmful side-effects on bystanders who are not party to the decisions—“negative externalities” in the language of economics. It is not in the interest of the firm, on its own, to pay heed to the negative externalities it inflicts. Regulation, with carefully calibrated penalties, can help bring a firm’s profit-maximizing motive into alignment with society’s overall interests.  

There are so many people that I wish would read and think about that article. Because there are so many people I know who are both fervent supporters of increased regulation and fervent supporters of small businesses, buying local, co-ops, independents… Like them, I did not always see clearly that those things are very often (maybe mostly) in opposition to one another.

Laws and regulations are not magic. There are costs and consequences. The consequences will always be more severe for the marginalized and discriminated against. The benefits will always be enjoyed disproportionately by the most powerful and privileged. The US is, after all, an oligarchy. How could anyone expect regulations to benefit anyone but the current and aspiring oligarchs who pay for them?

Marijuana is being legalized all over. With legalization and regulation has come a devouring of small-scale growers and retailers. In Canada, growing for your own personal use has been nixed in favor of large-scale capitalist enterprise with prohibitive start-up costs. One Ottawa entrepreneur

underestimated the money they would need by a factor of three, largely because of the government’s regulatory demands. The application ran 300 pages, not including attachments. And before they could even submit applications, Tweed and other growers had to secure sites for their operations and obtain all local permissions. Applicants who passed the initial vetting then had to pass a final, two-day inspection.

California growers are experiencing similar changes as marijuana becomes taxed and regulated. Maybe you think that is a good thing. But one of the reasons for legalizing marijuana was to stop the arrest and incarceration of users and small-time dealers. If the barriers are too high for legal sales, then the same people will  continue to get arrested. If you don’t believe me, then you aren’t paying attention to the people of color who are getting arrested for cutting hair without a license.

A long time ago I read an interview with Michelle Alexander where people asked her about legalization of drugs as a response to The New Jim Crow. She wisely pointed out that the system will find another way to criminalize and caste poor people of color. She was right. And now she is pointing out that white men are now getting rich from selling pot while black men are still behind bars for doing the same thing.

I know what some of you are thinking. You are thinking that we need regulation to prevent discrimination, environmental damage, and other predatory behavior. But does regulation really work?

We had environmental regulation, but that didn’t stop BP from spilling millions of barrels of oil. Our government’s response was not to hold them fully accountable. It was to limit their liability and save the company. Which is what will always happen. Because incorporation is the government giving people permission to do things without personal consequences. Rarely will regulations actually take down a big company. Rarer still will they take down any of the individuals in it, no matter what they did. People died in that BP oil spill. Who at BP is answering for that? Nobody. Because while the feds will happily raid and shut down an Amish farm, you will not be seeing them in the BP executive offices.

I am not saying that no regulation has ever made a difference in anyone’s life. I’ve written before about the ambiguities and moral dilemmas that we face when dealing with the world as it is while still trying to move it towards what it should be. I am saying that we must take into consideration the costs. And we need to think bigger.

We need to be able to imagine a world where we don’t have a government-protected corporation killing people without consequences. We can do better than trying to force the Walmarts of the world to put in wheelchair ramps, hire minorities, and pay a living wage. We can do better than hoping that people get the kind of job that most of us have – one we hate where we can barely muster a fuck to give. We can do better than monstrous organizations run by sociopaths who are o.k. with poisoning people, because they know they will never be challenged professionally, much less held accountable personally.

Those of you who are fighting for regulation really need to think about the consequences of what you are fighting for. Towns all over this country have had their local businesses eaten up by Walmart. Our food system is controlled by a handful of companies. Unless you go live in a tree somewhere, you almost cannot avoid google. And soon even a remote forest probably won’t save you.

Do you want to be a society of wage-slaves for multinationals or a society of independent, democratic, creative, unique organizations where humans have agency? Because if it is the latter, you need to think a little more carefully about regulation as a solution to our problems.

 

Things You Might Have Missed

June 20, 2014 By: Mel Category: Misc

Spiderman with a BonerIf you read nothing else on this list, read The Forgotten Fight Against Fascism. This is the pre-WWII history that people want to skip over so they can retain their hero stories.

More history overlooked because it doesn’t fit in with the preferred narrative is covered in this guy’s book on how guns made the civil rights movement possible.

And before anybody replies to that with stats on US gun violence, please take a look at this Guardian chart on gun ownership and gun homicides around the world. Turns out, the correlation between gun ownership and gun violence is not as clear-cut as you might think.

That said, gun ownership does increase the risk of suicide. And we have a serious problem with suicide deaths, including in prisons. Our society is sick.

Propublica is doing a series on the use of restraints on mostly kids with disabilities 267,000 cases in one school year. Disgusting.

Also on the subject of schools, an Idaho school district is implementing a strict social media policy for their teachers. How much control should your work have over your private life?

If you have any extra cash, they are raising money for a documentary about the California prison hunger strikers.

In happier news, Zingerman’s is about to become a worker co-op. They have always been more democratic than most businesses, but this is cool. The benefits are so obvious.

And just for kicks, Spider-Man Statue Removed From South Korean Playground Because It Has A Gigantic Boner. @PaprikaPink said that “it seems he made that statue expressly to inspire bad puns.” After reading that article, I find it hard to disagree.

Religion Doesn’t Exist

June 19, 2014 By: Mel Category: Religion

Church of the Virgin of Guadalupe Mexico City Years and years ago, I asked one of my Indian coworkers if he was religious. He looked at me like I had just grown an extra limb. He told me that he had no idea what people meant when they asked him that. Then he described a couple rituals that he performed every day and asked if that is what I meant by religious. They were things that we would probably describe as religious, but didn’t seem to be done with much more time or thought than I put into making my morning coffee.

I took my friend to mean that religion and culture were so bound up into one that he couldn’t separate them. But I was wrong. It was more than that. Kwame Anthony Appiah is right. The idea of religion is European. There is no such thing as religion.

Things You Might Have Missed

June 13, 2014 By: Mel Category: Misc

Limelight Club New YorkI work in the anti-poverty wing of the nonprofit industrial complex. So naturally everyone is World Cup crazy. Number of times I have heard someone mention protests? Zero. For those of you who might want to know how a lot of Brazilians are feeling about this, Black Agenda Report has a comprehensive piece on Race, Class, and the World Cup in Brazil.

Enjoy the World Cup while it lasts. Looks like nobody wants to host it in the future.

Maya Angelou was the kind of person who would go to a remote, youth correctional facility “dressed to the nines” and attached to an oxygen tank so that some of society’s throw away kids might walk a little taller.

Baltimore is trying to make sure we throw away as many kids as possible. Kids who violate curfew will go to “connection centers.” Parents will have to pay fines. You know, like that woman who just died in jail because she couldn’t afford to pay the fines related to her kid’s truancy.

Los Angeles joins the dozens of other heartless cities with bans on feeding the homeless. Of course, the homeless are also being pushed out of downtown just as fast as the gentrifiers can manage it.

Chicago is trying to make more people homeless, evictions using police with guns instead of sheriffs with social services.

Rational guest post about gun violence and mass shootings on Balko’s blog.

Is there really anyone who has to ask if feminism has a class problem? You know what else feminism has a problem with? “Radical” men who make a big show in public, but don’t deal with their shit in private.

When you question homogeneity as the baseline, you discover that homogeneity results in artificial consensus, group think, and inaccurate information.

Apparently, the US has some of the worst labor rights in the world. Maybe part of the problem is the state of our unions? By which I mean that the unions are mostly married to party politics and hierarchies. We should send everyone a few copies of Colin Ward on a Self Employed Society.

UnderSea asked about NDAA a couple weeks ago. @icymirss kindly sent me a feed on NDAA and one on indefinite detention. Thanks for that.

And finally, the man who brought us ecstasy has died. That made me nostalgic for early 90s New York, hence the Limelight pic. Maybe he found out that they turned the Limelight into upscale boutiques. Sheesh. New York, you are almost dead to me.

 

Am I The Only One Who Wants to Slap Michael Pollan?

June 04, 2014 By: Mel Category: Inequality

string beansApparently, Michael Pollan has another book out and this time he is preaching about home cooking.

My mother did the vast majority of the cooking when I was growing up. Shopping and cooking seemed to take up the bulk of her week. And she got little pleasure from it. It was an obligation and a chore. So when Michael Pollan says that “we have dropped the amount of time we spend on cooking by about a half an hour since 1965,” I want to know whose hours those were. And who do you need to be for a half hour to seem like nothing?

I used to work with a woman who had a full-time job, full-time school, and two children. The only moments she had to herself were the ones she stole to smoke a cigarette in the bathroom of her apartment, usually with two little boys knocking on the door. But Pollan says “it’s important to look at what you’re doing with that half-hour and whether it’s more valuable to you.” Because clearly anyone who is not cooking for their kids is just flitting away their time on nonsense.

A couple hours after reading that Pollan interview I read a piece in the Post about how people are actually more stressed at home than at work. Sadly, it doesn’t break down the study by single/coupled and parent/childfree. But it does make clear that women are much more stressed at home than men are. Because the expectation is that you come home from work and then need to worry about cleaning, cooking, carpooling, planning…

I know how much time my mother spent shopping and cooking every week. And I know how many weeks have gone by where I have spent zero time shopping and cooking. So I think Pollan’s 30 minutes per day stat is horseshit. But lets say for a moment that I buy into that. Here is a small sample of things I would rather do than cook.

  • eat
  • drink
  • read
  • write
  • sleep
  • have sex
  • paint
  • sail
  • travel
  • volunteer
  • research
  • raise hell

Not necessarily in that order.

Does Pollan know about the people who live on a few hours sleep per night because they cannot squeeze work, laundry, and child rearing into a day? Has he never known a new mother who hasn’t taken a shower in 3 days because there was no opportunity? Does he know the guilt bombs that are lobbed at women who dare to take a moment for themselves?

Pollan is just adding to that little voice that tells people, especially mothers, that they are selfish shits if every moment isn’t dedicated to being a Stepford wife.  He is that person who makes a woman feel bad for hitting the McDonalds drive through and taking a 30 minute bath – the only time she will have to herself that day. But really, what are the chances that the Berkeley-educated, white boy, son of a financial consultant and a writer , who was born in the 50′s would have any clue what life would be like for a Haitian immigrant woman with three housekeeping jobs and a gaggle of kids to take care of?

I know that the food system is fucked up. I know that the majority of the working poor work in food services. I know that the processed foods we eat are deadly. I actually do agree with the general goals of Pollan’s work. But you cannot talk about cooking without any mention of how gendered a task it has been. And you cannot talk about taking time to cook without any understanding of how little extra time some people have.

He deserves to have a dozen poor, overworked mothers take one of his books and smack him over the head with it. Luckily for him, they don’t have the time.

Unincorporate the Worst Company in the World

June 02, 2014 By: Mel Category: Change, Politics

Adbusters has a new thing. They are asking us to vote on the worst company in the world. The idea is to have a campaign to revoke their corporate status. They are calling it the birth of the corporate charter movement.

I think this is a good idea.

People need reminding that corporations are created and sanctioned by the state. They need reminding that incorporation is, by definition, government protection. Why should anyone get limited liability? If there is any time when that is appropriate, when should it be?

I don’t have any hope that we will be able to take down Goldman Sachs. But I think this is a really important public conversation to have.

Things You Might Have Missed

May 30, 2014 By: Mel Category: Misc

Antigua, GuatemalaIf you read anything about Elliot Rodger, please read this. It is the only thing I have seen that gives real thought to the murders, the culprit, and what it says about our society. Simplistic crap about how “misogyny kills” or calls for gun control are just not going to cut it.

Despite having no violence or other problems that could possibly justify it, PG County is putting more cops in schools. Guess they haven’t criminalized enough youth in Maryland. Not to worry. It isn’t like kids are tried in kangaroo courts without attorneys.

In better Maryland news, the Ban the Box bill has passed. That is the legislation that prevents employers from asking about felony records on the employment application. DC is close, but with some problems.

Philadelphia has a major problem with police violence and they are paying for it – in the millions. These cases made me want to vomit.

The US House of Representatives approved some bullshit sanctions against Venezuela that (surprise!) will in no way shape or form affect the decades of lucrative exploitation business Halliburton does there.

Very interesting research on how evangelicals only coalesced politically around abortion later. Originally, it was objections to desegregation of schools that got the evangelical movement going.

Forbes is stoked that the insurance company windfall from Obamacare is finally coming through. Even nonprofit insurers are holding onto mountains of cash. Too bad about those Sodexo workers who are being reclassified as part time and losing their coverage. Meanwhile, medicare is being overbilled by billions – with a b.

A report has found that “U.S. government Fusion Centers, which operate as ill-defined ‘counter-terrorism’ intelligence gathering and sharing centers, conducted spy operations against Occupy protesters involving police, the Pentagon, the FBI, military employees, and business people.” And they say a society based on cooperation is impossible. Pishaw.

In related news. Why do Dominators Hate Direct Democracy?

Keep an eyeball on Guatemala everyone. Shit is heating up again.

You might remember those SOA Watch posters I put up a couple weeks ago. Well, a bunch of SOA people got arrested for putting them up in DC.

I am having a very hard time scrubbing my vocabulary of words like “crazy.” I need to read this a few more times.