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

A Little Help? Anarchist on Grand Jury Duty

February 18, 2014 By: Mel Category: Criminalization, Seeking

Marisa Tomei in My Cousin VinnyI’m on grand jury duty starting Monday and lasting five fucking weeks. This isn’t the first time I’ve been called for grand jury duty. The last time went like this.

My fellow grand jury members and I were put in a room. A jovial prosecutor explained a wee bit about what was going to happen. We would hear witnesses and then we would decide if there was enough evidence to send the accused to trial. Oh wait. Did I say witnesses? Sorry. I meant witness.

You see, I was on a “special” speedy grand jury where each case had only one witness – a cop. Almost all the cases were bullshit drug cases.  For example, a cop comes in and says he found some dude on the street with a crack pipe. My fellow grand jury members would raise their hands to say that they should go to trial. End of case. Next.

Presumably, they needed to institute this speedy process to go through all the black people they are picking up for weed.

In a grand jury, you don’t need to have a unanimous decision. It isn’t like I could vote no and nullify. So I just refused to participate. After a couple of days of me sitting in the hallway reading books and a mild interrogation by the lead prosecutor, they dismissed me.

But here we are again.

I’ve started to do a little grand jury research. But I could use some help. I’m specifically interested in information about how I can fuck up the process. So send it my way. If you don’t want to share it in a comment, email me at mel (at)


Natl Day in Support of Prisoners

February 17, 2012 By: Mel Category: Events

Apologies for falling off the map again. I have just about dug myself out of a hole and should be back on a posting schedule (fingers crossed) next week.

In the meantime, one of the things keeping me busy has been the Criminal Injustice Committee of Occupy. Our Wells Fargo boycott website is up and running. Though not all the content is up yet. Please check it out and share.

This Monday is a national day of action in support of prisoners. We will be gathering at the DC jail to talk about mass incarceration, dehumanization, and how orgs like Wells Fargo and the private prison companies they support are making bank off of it all. If you are in DC, please come out. And please share the info with your friends. You can get more info on the website or through this Facebook event.

See you there!


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.


Bad Cops, Lying Media, and Anarchist Scapegoats

December 20, 2009 By: Mel Category: Anarchism

I’m having a really hard time deciding who are worse – police or media.

As you may have already heard.  There was a giant snowball fight at the corner of U and 14th in Washington, DC.  I was there from about 2:30 to 3:00 and it was fun as hell.  Maybe 100 or 150 people were gathered, split between the east and west sides of 14th.  Whenever the lights would change, everyone would yell “Charge!!” and start pelting the other side with snow.

Not long after I got there, some hilarious anarchists showed up with a sign that said “No War but Snowball War.”  Everyone loved it.  They joined the snowball war on the west side.  Occasionally, the west side would chant “Whose Snow?  Our Snow!”  Here are some pics I took.

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Scary right?

Well, apparently some DC cop thought it was scary because, after I left, he pulled a gun at the snowball fight.  You can read about it on Gawker and in the City Paper.  There is also a good account of what happened over at DCist.

The only thing I will dispute about the DCist account is that I saw lots of snowballs tossed at cars as they rolled through the intersection.  I’m sure some cars found it annoying, but it wasn’t dangerous.  It was a blizzard.  I was walking faster than cars were driving.  What was dangerous was driving on roads not cleared of snow.  Without a snowplow, you really had no damned business being in a car yesterday. (I included some street pics in the images above to give you an idea of how desolate the streets were.)

As incredulous as I am about that cop pulling a gun, the thing that is pissing me off even more is how Channel 7 news decided to cover the story.

A lively snowball fight on D.C. streets took a dark turn Saturday when anti-war protesters dressed in anarchist garb showed up, and a D.C. police officer pulled his weapon out of his holster.

Channel 7 also claims that the anarchists started pelting cars.  That is a lie.  That started before they got there.  And I saw many snowballs coming from the east side of the street (the opposite side from where they were).  More importantly, who cares!  They were f’ing snowballs!

So a vile, power drunk cop uses his gun to stop a snowball fight and the papers blame some good natured anarchists with a sense of humor.  This is so typical.  This is why people aren’t out in the streets about all the BS that happens every day.  News media isn’t in the business of watching police and government any more.  They just serve as their lying, sensationalist, propaganda arm.

Some of the comments I have seen on the reports are just killing me.  I think my favorite was the person who said the cop was protecting his property.  WTF!  From snowballs?!  And why the hell is a cop driving a hummer?