Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Crash & Collapse: This is more than a depression.

[UPDATE: June 1st, 2001 -- I have removed the 2 opening paragraphs (which listed my weak and boastful credentials) and have decided to let the article speak for itself -- other than that it is unchanged. This article is a few months old now but it is still relevant as the economic crisis has worsened. This is a partial account of how I see the crisis unfolding as well as where I see humanity going as a whole. And it may contain some information that you have overlooked or forgotten as the crash was gearing up. The original article with the weak opening remains unchanged at OpEdNews if you'd like to read the 2 paragraphs which I've now deleted here. Anyway, here remains the rest of the otherwise unchanged article...]

Money: derived from the Latin "moneta" which originally meant "warning
" (as Juno Moneta was the goddess of warning).
"When coinage was devised by the Romans, they set their mint in her temple and the goddess became the guardian of finances."


The stock market has lost nearly a third of it's value since it's peak (14093). In the past week the DJIA has had it two worst daily downswings ever. Since Oct.1st, the market has dropped 1383 points (and counting as of 10/07/08) from 10831 to 9447. While the overall crash from the peak has happened more slowly than in 1929, the loss of value has been of a greater percentage than what took place in the initial days of that historic collapse. And, while certain computer automation techniques have been introduced to prevent more sudden single-day crashes, like the one in 1987, the markets are still plummeting and the results are the same.

Just as in 1929, the common citizen had been encouraged to invest more regularly in the stock market, right before it's peak, and now the rug has been pulled out from beneath them. Touted as the soundest, surest, most profitable investment... many average citizens tied their hopes and their retirement funds to the stock market. As before, many have already lost their life savings.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A brief socio-economic point...

Looters in New Orleans, after hurricane Katrina, were shot on sight. Looters on Wall Street were given a bailout.

Is that not the ultimate of double standards and irony? I mean come on, who needed the bailout more and who was really looting?

Anyway... here is a link to a video of a U.S. Congressman, speaking in congress, stating that members of congress were threatened with martial law if they didn't immediately pass the $850billion bailout plan.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dystopia Now! How bad does it have to get?

Humanity is in crisis, bodily and spiritually. Humans are the direct cause of the current mass extinction. The biosphere is being laid to waste, in new ways all the time, at a quicker rate each passing day. The evidence, from prestigious bodies of scientists, is readily available via our toxic computers and the world wide web. We who are fortunate enough to get these facts ignore the information, dismiss it, or don't act upon it nearly to the degree which we ought. Human caused mass extinction will eventually catch up with our own species.

Despite pockets of affluence, more people around the world are starving today than at any point in human history OR pre-history (both in total numbers and per-capita). Agricultural practices have allowed for a global population boom but they also deplete the capabilities of the soil with each harvest. Deforestation and petro-chemicals only temporarily alleviate the problem by creating more farmland and fertilizers. But these tactics are not a long-term solution by any means and, in fact, make the long term consequences much worse. Unfortunately, these are the most common solutions implemented.

The potential for devastation caused by war has not lessened since the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. More devastating technologies have since been developed and more groups have an easier time gaining access to them. Intelligence agencies designed to prevent it are often complicit in proliferating the technology. Archaic religious wars have reached the age of nuclear weapons and hostilities are just as great as ever. It is only a matter of time before a new Hitler or an evil Ayatollah/Pope gets access to this technological power.

I would make the case connecting the progress of industrialized education with the progress of technological weaponry, but the institution is sacrosanct and scientific progress is presented as both unstoppable and desirable. Consequently, whether that's true or not doesn't matter... too few question or resist it. Most luddites are presented as historically irrelevant, currently misguided, or revered only in the realm of science fiction. Let me just say that primitive children living in the wilderness know as much about the world as children repeating their abc's and multiplication tables.

The prison-industrial complex
is a fast-growing business. Already though, in America, more people are imprisoned in total numbers (and per-capita) than in any other nation. Land of the free indeed.

To the extent that other oppressive regimes exist around the world, they work with each and/or the United States of America. The Peoples Republic of China, for example, is the number one trading partner of the U.S. and both benefit by keeping large portions of their population repressed. Oligarchic powers around the world all benefit from (and desire to keep) large segments of the global population repressed and in poverty. They are able to pit these oppressed people against each other by old religious and nationalistic methods as well as modern media propaganda -- and do you think that the U.S. leaders would really want the Chinese to rise up in liberation to throw off their oppressors? No more than the Chinese oligarchs would want domestic upheaval in the USA.

This all amounts to modern humanity, and all life on earth, being in an unprecedented crisis. Our ethics and morality have only kept up with our technological capabilities insomuch as the more that we could do, we did. And make no mistake, supposedly benign mathematics can have surprising implications towards less noble pursuits -- Einstein should have taught us that (if Alfred Nobel didn't). And who are the esteemed intellectuals of science? Why they are rocket scientists, of course. But the point is that the fruits of benign sciences can plant the seeds of further devastation. This is a point that should not be as readily dismissed as it often is.

What we need is a fundamental break from the technological oligarchy, but this is no small chore. Those in power will not accept this because they don't have to face the common realities of the masses and, even if they knew of our crisis, they may be content to let the world die with them. How unprecedented is it that so many care so little about their children and their subsequent descendants? How much more true must this be for a high-tech war-profiteering arms dealer? We are talking about people who don't really care even about their immediate families -- much less you or any of the other billions of people on this planet!

Momentarily, I will get on to a milder response to the present situation but, what we really need is a revolt against the whole techno-industrial oligarchy. Even if they can't be stopped, even if they wholly intend to take the world with them, basic human dignity demands that we resist and rise up against their efforts. It may be wholly futile, but at what point is your entire lineage essentially dead anyway? In the name of non-violence, some people wouldn't punch someone in the nose to prevent them from launching a nuclear holocaust -- I am not one of those persons. As the most domesticated animal, humans have been bred into passivity or blind servitude, but I suggest you break those mental chains and act for the greater good of not only yourself, but also future generations.

In less dramatic terms, we must push the precautionary principle as far and as hard as it will go! The current wikipedia definition will suffice:

The precautionary principle is a moral and political principle which states that if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action. But in some legal systems, as the European Union Law, the precautionary principle is also a general principle of law. This means that it is compulsory. The principle aims to provide guidance for protecting public health and the environment in the face of uncertain risks, stating that the absence of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason to postpone measures where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm to public health or the environment.

There are many definitions of the precautionary principle. Precaution is caution in advance, or ‘caution practised in the context of uncertainty’. All definitions have two key elements.

1. an expression of a need by decision-makers to anticipate harm before it occurs. Within this element lies an implicit reversal of the onus of proof: under the precautionary principle it is the responsibility of an activity proponent to establish that the proposed activity will not (or is very unlikely to) result in significant harm.
2. the establishment of an obligation, if the level of harm may be high, for action to prevent or minimise such harm even when the absence of scientific certainty makes it difficult to predict the likelihood of harm occurring, or the level of harm should it occur. The need for control measures increases with both the level of possible harm and the degree of uncertainty

Full implementation of the Precautionary Principle is just a start of the epic project which humanity must commence with. Not only must we work to prevent the implementation of new potentially devastating technologies, but we must stymie the usage of several ubiquitous technologies which already cause great amounts of destruction. Even simple projects protecting local green spaces are useful endeavors. Horticultural gardening to prevent the need for so much industrial agriculture (and processing) is a simple step which not only works towards these ends, but it is also a pleasant activity which can considerably help preserve financial resources. The list goes on, but moving away from the industrial cycle of consumption is key.

Again, however, we are faced with the problem of power dynamics. As a twist of Margaret Meade's famous statement about activism... I like to point out, "It only takes small group of committed individuals to do a great amount of environmental and social harm." Those who have demonstrated their commitment to environmental destruction and promote policies of war must be stopped. The key is consciousness of our own complicity within the destructive systems and an honest effort to move away from such practices -- without that we are less than human. But you are not on the same scale of a Hitler if you fight back against a rapist and using a tissue is not the same as enthusiastically encouraging the destruction of the rain forests. It is foolish not to consider intent or scale when thinking about such matters. Violence in self-defense (or in defense of others, or in defense of the environment) is not the same as aggressive violence for the purposes of greed and destruction. Do not let people convince you that saying a hurtful word is the same as the President, on national television, encouraging war. Yes, we are all sinners and are flawed, but some of us are just human while others are absolutely diabolic.

Preemptively, in terms of my own personal computer use, I like to say, for example, "The best uses for the tools of destruction are against the other tools of destruction." I hope that makes sense to some people.

Finally, I'd like to take a moment and talk about suppression and repression of radical environmentalists. In the past it was the communists/socialists who were seen as the preeminent threat to big business interests, but now it is the radical environmentalists (who often have a more anarchistic stance). The "red scare" has become the "green scare" and the tactics used previously are being used again. Before 9/11 it was the Earth Liberation Front that was considered by the U.S. government as the #1 domestic terrorist threat. This despite the fact that no one was ever physically harmed in an action claimed by that group. This despite the fact that the KKK still exists and neo-nazi's still flourish. This despite the fact that the police forces in this nation still kill innocent people every day.

So take this as a warning... if you want to struggle against the state's interests, even if you organize in the most peaceful ways, the state will take notice. Resistance is needed, but you must fully consider the consequences of even your most trivial participation in such activities.

With any luck, someday the value system of techno-industrialization civilization will be completely turned on its head. We will have peace and not war. Freedom and not constant surveillance by our so-called leaders. Conservation and sustainability rather than unhindered environmental degradation. But we must work and struggle for these things if we truly want change. It won't come from above, not from god or a politician. We must take it upon ourselves to bring about this the reality or it's not going to manifest. It is our responsibility. It is our duty as human beings.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

An Open Challenge to Chomsky, Zerzan & Zinn

Like many others around the world, I owe a great deal of my political awareness and social consciousness to Noam Chomsky, John Zerzan and Howard Zinn.

From reading Chomsky I was made aware of the ongoing effects of bureaucratic policies sanctioning war and death squads. Zerzan made clear the depths of alienation from sustainable pathways and the need for truly radical change. Zinn not only impressed upon me the honest brutality of American history, but his his promotion of Gandhian non-violence (which I don't wholly agree with) is so much more promising than the useless finger-wagging and petition-passing undertaken by so many in the name of activism.

I have personally spoken with Zerzan and Zinn and have exchanged written correspondence with Zerzan and Chomsky in the form of letters and email. And, as much as I respect and admire these three, I have tried to challenge them rather than simply flatter and defer. Often it may have come across as youthful arrogance or hubris, but great people need intellectual challenges from those who esteem them and regard them as allies. Simple deference and toadyism is best left to crumbling aristocracies.

To Chomsky I once wrote:
"I do believe that violence is an ever-present reality that has brought (and can bring) some degree of liberation. For example, when the British pulled out of Gandhi's India it wasn't just because of Gandhian satyagraha -- it was also because many Indians were starting to get up-in-arms and menacing to the empire. Similarly, here in the US, it wasn't just the freedom riders and the MLK's that brought some degree of justice to African-Americans. The black militants of that era proved that people of color were not going to be pushed around any more. They set an example and the riots may have sealed much of the equal rights deal.

As for peak oil, we'll have to agree to disagree. I believe the science is out there to prove it's reality. Furthermore, alternative energy is just not a realistic substitute for all of the uses for petroleum. Solar power will never move grocery store semi-trailers and wind power isn't capable of diverting the Colorado river to the people of Los Angeles. The subtle role petro-chemicals play in our lives will have a devastating effect when the petroleum they derive from is gone. Processed petro-chemicals (largely for agriculture) are the number one export of the US. I'm sure we both agree on the danger of nuclear power (and besides, it's depletable too)."

To Zinn, whom I've spoken with at two of his speaking engagements, I once asked (in my blunt youth):

"How many people do you think it would have take chained to the gates of Auschwitz to shut that camp down?" Caught off guard, he flippantly replied, "About a million," and then went on to explain that WW2 was not about freeing the Jews. And while he was right about the latter point, I couldn't disagree more with his initial response -- and I think it reveals a literally fatal flaw in Gandhian non-violence when dealing with a truly despotic regime.

To Zerzan, I played the devil's advocate in questioning his denunciation of reformist procedures. I did so, mostly, just to get a rise out of the man whom I regard as the most important anarchist philosopher of our age -- and I succeeded. He once bought me a bus ticket out of Eugene.

I beg them all now to forgive any lack of tact or social grace that I may have exhibited. Those who know me, know that I am a flawed character -- and I am painfully aware of this reality of myself. I have tried to become a milder, less objectionable person... but I probably still have a little bit of work to do in that regard.

Let me get to the point of this open letter by way of some personal history...

I am an activist, a radical activist and, in my younger days, a very radical activist. I burnt my first flag in high school while a member of the debate team and I wore its charred tatters on the back of my jacket. After that, I produced a little zine promoting veganism and Gandhian non-violence. Later, I hitchhiked up and down the the west coast with a suitcase full of Gandhi autobiographies for sale. I've been the guest anarchist on a talk radio program and I've called in countless other times to comment -- even getting through to Larry King Live once. I've protested everything from wars, to the KKK, to McDonald's (and the McDonald's I worked against most directly is now a post office).

At the WTO protest, in Seattle '99, I was not only teargassed and pepper sprayed, but I was also drugged at the Capitol Hill protest when the police ran amuck. I was encouraging people to stay in the streets and pointing out the police thugs in the crowd who were wearing the same yellow jackets as the thugs on nearby rooftops. I was generally encouraging resistance and mocking the city councilman who was trying to get people onto the sidewalks. Then a guy approached me with some funny $3 bills (with Bill Clinton's picture on them) suggesting the symbolic act of burning the money. As soon as I took the money my my fingers immediately got sticky and I noticed the guy who handed it to me was wearing gloves. He disappeared into the crowd and I tried to warn others about what just happened. A while later the councilman walked through the crowd again, looked me square in the face with a smile and asked, "So, how are you feeling?" While fairly inexperienced with most drugs, I never tripped harder in my life -- or in a more unpleasant environment. My friend and I were the last two protesters on Capitol Hill that night and I practically had to drag him away as the police were advancing through the teargas.

But it wasn't until I started publicly advocating the actions of the Earth Liberation Front (NOT engaging in their activities, mind you) that the heat really started coming down on me. (I had been run down on my bicycle by a private snowplow [in 70 degree weather] by a driver who should have seen me, but I'm not certain I can blame the sustained injuries on the state.) When I started advocating the actions of the E.L.F. I was assigned a constant tail. This worm showed up everywhere I went in town (Arcata, CA). He parked in front of my apartment (Judi Bari's old Earth First! office) and late at night, when I went to the grocery store, he would be the only other customer there. (I have good reason to believe that he was involved with the arson of the old Northcoast Environmental Center but I have no definitive proof and I am not naming names as I hope to get this article syndicated.)

Suffice it to say, this was a very psychologically taxing time. My friends, and even housemates, were behaving increasingly suspicious. I would find leaflets on my doorstep promoting self-euthanasia in support of the environment. People close to me began spreading lies about others and so... I decided to go back home to Rockford, IL. My grandmother bought me a Greyhound ticket and I began my journey home on the morning of Sept. 11th, 2001.

When I arrived back home, after a long absence, my life was in shambles. Physically, mentally, spiritually and psychologically I was in shambles. I was 27 years old, defeated, living with my Grandmother and working as a clerk in a gas station/convenience store.

On the morning of November 23rd, 2001 (the day after Thanksgiving) I attempted suicide by means of self-immolation at Cherryvale Mall (in a would-be last act of protest against materialism, consumerism and generally what I felt was wrong with this messed up world). I went to the upper level, failed to handcuff myself to the thick railing, told everyone to "STAND BACK," and I lit myself on fire. Even now, seven years later, it's hard to talk about. Adbusters published an abbreviated letter I wrote on the subject and that's about all I've said about it.

I expected to die, I expected the mall to close for the day, and I expected my protest to be understood for what it was. I was wrong on all accounts. It was the worst mistake of my life -- one that I regret every day -- and I am ashamed and sorry for what I did. I am thankful to the good Samaritan who saved my life and am glad to be alive (despite being in a coma for a month and having scars over a third of my body). Suicide is a poor option and I hope no one makes the choice to do what I did. I spent 6 months in a mental institution after I got out of the burn unit and, all in all, I can't hardly imagine a more hellish experience.

You don't have to feel sorry for me (as it was my mistake and I've since tried to move on with my life in more healthy directions). But most people aren't aware of all the circumstances and, while they don't justify my actions, I do feel that I was somewhat pushed in the direction I regretfully went. Psyops are used by the U.S. government, people are drugged by the state, and healthier people than me have probably cracked; been pushed over the edge.

The three of you (to whom I address this open letter) may not have experienced this kind of thing personally, but I beg you to consider the truly insidious and diabolic nature of the state -- especially when it's agents feel they can act with impunity against someone, someone like me.

I come from very humble origins, have no degree (was expelled from high school), and socially I'm awkward even outside the realm of politics. I come from a place with horrible politics, redneck central, and standoffish eccentrism has probably served me well in that environment. But the point is... I was isolated. It's true that your books helped, but I was self-educated and radicalized on my own -- alone with hardly even any liberals around. My activism was my own and I stood alone, easily targeted.

But I don't feel that I was targeted because I was simply an activist, I think I was good at what I did. More people have probably read my writing and seen my agitprop than is realized. Sometimes as a sticker, sometimes as a leaflet, sometimes as a letter to the editor, I found ways to spread my ideas without always going through the normal channels or receiving any recognition or accolades. Regardless, I feel like the memes I've helped to spread have, in fact, spread. I even suspect that some of my original ideas may have possibly taken root. This is probably because many societal problems are at a crisis level and people feel the need for direct, radical and immediate action. In any case, ironically, the state probably has a more comprehensive summary of my activism than many of my friends (most of whom know little to none of the information I've written here).

So now that I've told you where I've been and where I'm coming from, I'll tell you where I'm at and where I'm going -- and why I've written this open letter...

I am not the agitating young firebrand I was. I'm honestly less concerned than I was with changing the world and I've realized a certain amount of futility in trying. Not that I'm hopeless, merely that I'm not expecting as much positive change or as consumed by the world's problems. These days I spend as much time playing cards, video games and fantasy baseball as I do on anything else. Nevertheless, some of my recent articles have been syndicated and even headlined at OpEdNews. I think this goes show the level-headed populism of my work. Other individuals have seen the articles at that website and reposted them elsewhere -- again demonstrating the relatively mainstream practicality of my writing. But success has come at a price... I fear that I may once again be on the governments radar.

My most recent article, "Tactics and Prognosis for a Successful RNC Protest" was headlined at the prominent anarchist site Infoshop News and that version of the article has now ranked for about a week near the top of Google search results when querying "rnc protest". As of today, it's the third listed item for that search (only after 2 links for http://protestrnc2008.org). And two other versions of the article (which random people have reposted on their own) are regularly ranking in the top 20 search results (so people looking for RNC protest information can't help but to see the article title appearing repeatedly). Consequently, while I was honored that Infoshop News headlined the article (and that others liked it enough to re-present it on their various sites), I worry now that the state may target me again for continuing to be a successfully vocal dissident. If you search for "RNC protest activist" or "RNC protest anarchist" my article is at the very top of the results page (sometimes in all the various versions, sometimes with the older articles) and that has me a bit worried -- if somewhat proud at the same time.

"Tactics and Prognosis" is the third article I've written on the subject in recent months and the other two, Thoughts on the Upcoming RNC Protests & Be Prepared for Police Violence at the RNC Protest, also appear fairly high in various searches on the subject. In none of the articles do I encourage violence or property destruction on behalf of the protest. The rub is that I don't condemn those who are striking back against the corrupt system which is destroying their lives. In fact, I think certain levels of physically aggressive militancy are quite justifiable. But I'll say it again... I am not going to be violent or destructive at the protest (or in the foreseeable future beyond the protest for that matter). I simply don't want to go through the incarceration process again. I'll be present to stand in the streets with the masses -- armed only with cameras. If I get in trouble, despite my relative passivity, I'll be ready to make my case and tell my story.

In addition to justifying (not encouraging) physical resistance, the articles support the proposed blockade tactics (which many groups have signed onto) and also the idea of breakaway protest marches (as a permitted protest isn't much of a protest at all). The articles also present many clickable text links to video examples of police brutality (which frequently occurs at these mass protests directed especially towards non-violent protesters) and I also focus on the ways in which the corporate media outlets whitewash the criminal police misconduct. The point is that the police are supposed to be disciplined and practice restraint (even with surly protesters) but they readily brutalize even the most passive and non-violent of protesters (not to mention uninvolved passers-by). The pigs should be called out on this and potential protesters should be expecting this treatment (even as they commit to show up and express their dissent).

My fear is that I will be targeted again (as I was at the aforementioned WTO protest) for spreading these ideas in light of my previous protest history. It may even be more likely this time around.

So what I'm asking for (from Chomsky, Zerzan & Zinn) is your public support if the state goes after me. This was obviously written preemptively, but I still fear it may happen and I may at least require legal assistance if I'm not violently decapacitated in some way. You may think it grandiose and absurd of me to suggest these things because I've not had books published or gained any notable public recognition. But I've been in the streets, am going back to the streets, and I've been a part of the revolutionary liberation movement (what there is of it) for years. And that's precisely what makes me a target. I am not the idealized notion of a radical/activist, but I don't think I should be forsaken while my work is trivialized. Here is the challenge I issue to the three whom this article is addressed:

1) Publicly support and encourage people to protest the fascistic Republicans as they gather and organize in St. Paul, MN (Sept. 1-4, 2008). They are going to be networking, promoting and celebrating more of the same destruction they've already wrought.

2) Help find legal support for myself and others when we are targeted by the state for protesting, organizing, and/or advocating radical activity.

3) Consider making an effort towards finding a place for people like myself in more established radical circles. Even work as a fairly compensated wage slave could be helpful. We can write/edit/bake/sew and we deserve support from established communities (rather than being forced to work for a pittance under petit tyrants in the system we are struggling against).

I realize that these challenges combine community building with calls to action, but I only know how to make radical requests. Please respond to the best of your ability, however you may, in as timely a manner as you are capable. I am requesting that this open letter be featured at OpEdNews (as they have a good progressive network in place and deserve any traffic your responses may create). I will also be emailing this to your respective accounts and reposting it in various newsgroups (like alt.fan.noam-chomsky & alt.anarchism). I am requesting that your friends and colleagues bring this article to your attention as well. Whether any of you three choose to stoop in response to this letter, I would ask that you each publicly support a growing protest movement as energetically as you are able. Specifically to Mr. Zinn, I request that you, if you choose to disparage other forms of militancy, pointedly encourage Gandhian militancy (because Gandhi and MLK did much more than simply wave signs and march down permitted routes).

Respectfully & Sincerely,
In Revolution,

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tactics and Prognosis for a Successful RNC Protest

This year's Republican National Convention is likely to face the most aggressive, direct action, take-to-the-streets-style protest that the U.S. has seen since the WTO was shut down in 1999. It likely will be even larger than that protest and, maybe, even more effective. Relative to the WTO, more people in this country are more aware of Republican crimes and, also, living conditions (not to mention civil liberties) have deteriorated greatly since the historic protest of the World Trade Organization. The general public is riled up and in need of protest like never before.

The organizing for this protest has been unparalleled. Use of the internet has expanded greatly over the past few years as a tool for revolutionary activists. Not only are we able to be more informed about why we should protest, but we are also more informed about how we can effectively stage a revolt against the Republican fascists. We have unprecedented access to potential lodging opportunities, caravans, and logistical considerations for this protest. Tactically, we have the works of everyone from Gandhi to Sun Tzu at our fingertips (via the world wide web). More specifically, we have access to information about this particular protest readily available. This protest is going to be historic.


People in this country have rolled over and played dead long enough. This country began with a revolt against tyrannical forces and the initial protest involved more than milquetoast finger wagging (specifically, it involved destroying government property in the form of tea). But modern Americans have been tamed and pacified. We hardly even know how to complain properly (due to fear of our fellow citizens putting us on a watch list and Big Brother surveillance having finally become a reality).

But now is the time to break our socially constructed chains of passivity and obedience. Each moment of hesitation is a moment that moves us closer to the abyss of no return. The fascists have already taken over and they have nuclear weapons (along with the mindset to use, improve and spread them). This cannot, must not, be tolerated any longer.

America has become a police state. More people are imprisoned in the U.S. per-capita, and in total numbers, than in any other nation. Surveillance cameras have become common on street corners in every major U.S. city (to say nothing of the cameras which the state can sequester). Our phones and computer networks have bluntly been opened up to eavesdropping by the state. Even the so-called "opposition" party has signed on to these intrusions. The state has the ability, will, and the documented history of attempting to crush dissent in it's infancy. The aforementioned violations and intrusions make these trends of power evermore simple to carry out in the effort to reach their fascistic goals of centralized power.

The fascistic state is carrying out immoral wars of aggression against civilian populations (certainly with large civilian casualties) around the world. If you haven't noticed this reality you've been living under Iraq... I mean, a rock. Anyway... the question is: what are you going to do about it? Blogging about it, even waving banners and signs, has had very little effect in stopping the war crimes. Funny that the state doesn't respond to humanitarian petitions, but it doesn't. It continues to plan, promote, and celebrate the war. That's what the Republicans will been doing in St. Paul (the week of Sept. 1, 2008) and that's why we need to take to the streets and shut their convention down.

Beyond the Iraq War and the growing police state, Republican policies (hand in hand with the Democrats) are causing human suffering and environmental degradation around the globe. People are starving at this very moment and the Republicans will be toasting in St. Paul with $525/shot scotch. The environment is being laid to waste and the Republicans promote more drilling for oil. So where do you really stand on these issues or, do you not take a stand at all?


Already I have mentioned the blogging articles written, like this one, and that's all fine and dandy -- necessary even. But this protest will give us the opportunity to really take a stand and make a statement to the world. We are done rolling over.

Most people who attend the protest will come to take place in the permitted march. They will gather in the ten-of-thousands and march and chant and carry signs. They are to be half-heartedly saluted and congratulated for their courage. These marchers will be good people with good intentions. It's just that a permitted protest isn't really much of a protest. They have been given permission so as to pacify them further (to keep them in line) and their march won't really hinder the Republican party. This type of "protest" is best left for the elderly and the feeble (to whom I would give a whole-hearted salute and sincere congratulations for their courageous participation).

But the march from the State Capitol to the Xcel Energy center is a logistical nightmare. The initially requested route was denied and the route given will, by most estimates, not be large enough to contain the teeming masses in attendance. And then, when it gets to the convention center, it's supposed to double back on itself! It's possible that some will still be leaving the Capitol grounds when others are starting their return. The whole way there (down Cedar to 7th Street) the marchers will be flanked, on both sides, by hundreds of police officers who will effectively be intimidating and demoralizing the marchers. Just be aware that once you get into the main march it will be hard to get out of it.

Fortunately, there will be plenty of alternative actions (requiring various degrees of commitment) in addition to the permitted protest march. With tens of thousands of protesters (and only about 3500 police officers), a breakaway/secondary march is the most likely, and least extreme, alternative protest tactic. If hundreds of people can resist being intimidated (by a few dozen officers at any given intersection), they should be able to go wherever they want in downtown St. Paul. These breakaway/alternative marches will actually make the permitted march useful since it will still be the most heavily policed area. I expect the breakaway marches will head down John Ireland Blvd. to Kellogg and/or another might head southeast (Away from the capitol grounds), but this is pure speculation. The first "alternative" route down John Ireland was the originally requested (and denied) route -- so it seems the most likely path for people who want to go where they choose. If the police decide to try and be present at multiple routes they will spread their forces thin and the marches can flow wherever the crowd takes them regardless of police scare tactics. The thing to remember is that a breakaway/alternative route is going to require a sizable bloc of people to initially be a little pushy in demanding their rights to free movement.

These breakaway marches will effectively serve as a roving blockade to prevent the Republicans from gathering, promoting and celebrating their polices of war and destruction. I honestly don't know where they will go (or how effective they will be) but I guarantee that large groups of freedom-loving people will tend to go where their hearts lead them. Hopefully these roving blockades will go to the west and the south of the Xcel Energy Center (where most of the off-ramps and convention entrances are). They won't have to take the most direct route to get there (bring a small map) and they can take their time getting where they need to go. How effective these breakaway marches will be depends on how likely people are to hold their ground and march right past a relatively small number of police. Hopefully these protesters won't be too intimidated or faint-hearted, but they should consider the real risks that some of the other people at this protest will be taking...

Some people will be engaged in hard-blockade, locked-down civil disobedience. I don't know exactly who or where these people will be doing this civil disobedience, but I know for a fact that it WILL be happening. Just think WTO and you'll get the idea. They expect to be arrested and probably, also, physically abused. These are brave souls intent on stopping the Republican war machine. They effectively will be saying, "the Republicans will not pass."

The next level of risk involves those who, like at the Boston Tea Party, see property destruction as a powerful symbolic act. This is generally a bit more controversial because many people in our pacified conservative society don't get the idea that a window isn't alive and breaking one isn't on the same level as pepper-spraying, beating or executing someone. If breaking the window of a war-profiteering corporation is violent... then tazing someone for it is utter brutality. But it's the former that's more likely to get punished and condemned. I, for one, don't condemn those who will engage in minor property destruction. These corporations that are directly involved with the destruction of the environment and war-profiteering might deserve a brick through their window if no other real justice is going to be meted out and their corporate crimes are going to continue. A smashed window gives them a black eye like a written-off fine cannot (since they budget for their violations and expect trivial lawsuits). I most certainly (and absolutely) won't be engaged in this type of activity myself, because I'm a coward, but I can't condemn those who aren't so spineless.

The next type of protester is the one who has been utterly screwed-over by the system. He lost a brother in Iraq. He lost a sister to the drug war. His father is incarcerated for a non-violent crime. His pension was destroyed in some Enron scandal. He's unemployed and won't take a job at McDonald's for minimum wage. This guy is not happy, and for good reason. What do you expect him to do, write his congressperson? You want him to hold a sign saying, "Out of Iraq," or maybe whistle and dance at some "revolutionary" street party? Well, I got news for you... this guy is going to fight back. I don't blame him and I won't condemn him. I won't join him, because I'm a coward, but I won't try to stop him or get him arrested either.

It is the police who are inevitably brutal at these mass protests and I don't mind a guy kicking back a tear-gas cannister or even throwing a rock at the heavily armoured police with their shields. These kinds of protesters actually keep the rank-and-file police in check because, when people are ready to fight back, and ready to defend themselves, the cops can't just come in and club everybody for merely walking where they want to walk. A few such people like this in your march (and there are more than you might imagine) can keep you from getting totally bludgeoned by the police. I really don't expect there to much actual violence on behalf of the protesters though (since it would be very atypical and since most of the wild ones end up in cages or are culled by the state).

One final suggestion on protest tactics... save some energy for later in the day and/or for later in the week. Be loud when confronted, but quiet when you are not engaged in what might be considered actual protest.


Even if you're not able to physically attend the protest (for whatever good or bad reason) you can still support the protest (it basically just requires the simple effort of plugging in). But first... I should mention that some of the clickable links above will provide you with all the information you need if you just show up in St. Paul (prepared and preferably with at least one friend).

If not able to personally attend... you can lend moral support, legal support, and/or financial support (if you want to help a friend or organization cover the costs of participating in the protest). Some people are working on textmob systems so that protesters will be able to communicate with other protesters, in real time, about developing events in other areas of the city. Others will be editing and distributing footage sent in from the protest so that the corporate media doesn't have the first and last word on what happened at the protest. Some people might simply be staying by a phone to help keep coordinate and touch base with their activist friends.


Finally... I'd like to request that you don't let the corporate media steer public opinion about the protest. The Republicans are oligarchic fascists. They are literally fascists by definition. They perfectly embody Mussolini's ideal mixture of "corporate and state power" (and corporatism by any other name would smell as sweet). They will be networking, organizing, and promoting their destructive policies at the RNC and that is why it has to be shut down.

When they toast with their $525/shot scotch it is a direct provocation. How can they celebrate and cheer as thousands are dying in the wars they promote?! How can they spend so lavishly when hundreds of millions are malnourished and people around the world are rioting over food costs? These are the questions a critical press should really be asking. But you will be required to speak on behalf of the protesters who are on the scene and ask these questions yourself in any forum you are able. You must work to prevent the demonization of the protesters as the police become brutal and the Republican devils get away with murder around the globe.


Also see:

Thoughts on the Upcoming RNC Protests


Some more RNC Links

And please check out the clickable links in this article! Some of them might impress you or give you another angle on the protest activity which you may have not considered before.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An Aging Radical on Race and Politics

I don't write much these days. Formerly I wrote quite a bit about radical politics and social transformation, but I've grown weary of that practice and it never really seemed to amount to much anyway. In my experience it's often thankless work if you're promoting revolutionary changes because there aren't that many who can truly appreciate radical ideas. And, even if some do appreciate the ideas, they usually couldn't help you in many ways even if they were so inclined. Anti-materialistic philosophy often effects the choices people make in their lives (in terms of acquiring and dispersing even the most fundamental necessities). And these days a guaranteed home and food supply, to say nothing of ample leisure, is often considered something of a luxury. The progress of the civilized world has led us to a place of slums and hundreds of millions being severely malnourished. I could, and will, go on highlighting the serious shortcomings of the modern global system -- but that's just a backdrop to the ideas I will be trying to develop in this article.

This is difficult for me because I am loathe to discuss the topics of the title which relentlessly cause so much stress, in so many ways, in so many lives. However, I think these things are important to consider and thoughtful consideration is still something that I have a bit of respect for. So I am going to present some ideas here which will inevitably be received as somewhat controversial by so many backwards regressive types who run roughshod over everyone and everything they can. Controversy is not my goal. Neither is addressing the criticism of small corrupted minds. Once again... it's thoughtful consideration which I hope to engage in, and possibly inspire, to some degree. If I could make these ideas into single soundbite or a pill which you could pop for enlightenment, I would -- but I am not Fox News or Pfizer. These ideas are best presented with a well developed background and so, as wildly as the world is spinning out of control, I'm not going to rush what I have to say. If you don't have the attention span to take a few minutes to consider these subjects (about which some of you might even fancy yourselves as experts), then you are possibly part of the problem. And I don't herein present myself as infallible, but I will try here to be honest and, again, only hope to make some of us think a bit. The tone of this article will be blunt, casual, and frank -- it's the only way I can write it.


Like many Americans, I have very limited knowledge about my racial or ethnic history. I know that I am pale and ate at McDonald's as child. If people feel they can or can't trust me because of these things, I can understand the conditioning that would lead to that narrow-mindedness. But to provide a background of my own experience, here are the specifics that I know about my own personal ethnic/racial makeup... One grandfather claimed his relatives came from a country between France and Germany which no longer exists. Obviously this doesn't tell me much and, frankly, I'm not sure where he's talking about or if he had any real clue himself. He and his family were farmers in Arkansas, perhaps cotton-pickers like my grandmother and her family. For how many decades or centuries they were there doing that, I simply don't know. They were incredibly poor, like so many others, and there is no family crest which contains our family history beneath it. They are pale people with black and blonde hair. My grandmother's family was very pious in the Baptist strain and she still reads the Bible every day. Her husband's family (the family of my aforementioned grandfather) seems to have struggled from an early age since his father died when he was very young and, culturally, about all I can say about him is that he was a worker -- on the railroad, in the navy, building cars, etc. That grandfather was referred to by many of my friends as "the most racist person" they had ever met -- and I need to tell you that this paper may get disturbing in many ways that some of you might have a hard time reading.

My other grandfather (on my Father's side) was 1/2 Blackfoot-Sioux. I met him only on brief occasions when I was very young but I recall that he was a thin man with jet black hair and dark skin. My father had similar (but less prominent) features and I only retain the bone structure of their faces (my skin is pale and my hair is dirty blonde like my mother's). My father's mother I know almost nothing at all about. She was a plump woman and I once had a dream that she was Jewish. They were dirt farmers, she and my grandfather. Once I was attacked by a mother hen when my little cousin and I snuck into their chicken coop with a toy gun.

Culturally my father retained some things, very few things, that I ascribe to his Native American heritage -- and that basically amounts to his being an adamant sportsman. When I was a child he and I would go fishing before school, after school, and again late at night to check the trot lines. He was an avid hunter and I've eaten much venison, and even the occasional creature like a squirrel. That is all I culturally credit to his Native American heritage. Beyond that... he was assimilated into several other less pleasant cultural activities -- like working in the factory and driving a big truck. Yee haw. His childhood was very violent, from what I have gleaned in regard to his brothers and sisters, who were apparently very abusive. These are violent tendencies which he brought to my mother and I, but I won't go much in to the extent or the details about that -- except to say that one time when I was a child I tried to bludgeon him with a bat when he was beating my mother. I ran out of my room and swung it at him but he caught it in his hand and I had given him a weapon. I ran to the Polish neighbor lady across the street who was teaching me to read. But these are issues of westernized culture, which transcend the race and ethnicity of my heritage (which I actually know so little about).

My father ended up being my idea of a "good ol' boy." He was always trying to do whatever was culturally popular with his group of workers. To tie this with race (in way that is only as random and abstract as life usually is)... I remember him being on a softball team one season as the token "white" guy. It's an odd recollection and, as strange as it sounds, I remember him telling me that I was black on several occasions. I think this was some sort of mind-fuck that you'd just have to experience to truly appreciate. He wasn't the most overtly racist guy in the world (certainly not compared to my grandfather on my mother's side) but he wasn't beyond making racist jokes (outside of "mixed" company) which, I guess, in a sense, were a joke about race overall as I look back on it today. It's hard to explain and I don't justify or forgive any bullshit concepts he held or may have expressed. I'm just trying to give my experience in the hopes that it may give others some insight into the issues that surround us so often. I can only speak about what I know, and this is what I've got -- it's not theoretical.

My aforementioned racist grandfather was a real number. Light-hearted sometimes, but not one to deal with people's bullshit. He had a work ethic. Often in his life he held down more than one full-time job (so as to be able to provide for his wife and five kids). He hated the television show "All In The Family" because he practically was Archie Bunker! He made Archie Bunker seem tame, but it must have seemed like everyone was laughing at him when they laughed at Archie. Oh man, he was such a curmudgeon too. I'd get a "Peace & Justice" newsletter in the mail (I lived with him for several years) and he'd begrudgingly give it to me as he berated me for being involved with "this peace bullshit." BUT... he wasn't all bad. I don't say this (as some would try to see it) to prove my credentials, but my best friend in high-school (and a lost love of my life) was a black girl. We talked on the phone constantly and she'd come over often. Grandpa would be all peaches and cream. It was so surreal, but I think he was genuinely fond of her. Like so many others, he couldn't maintain his utterly despicable behaviour in the presence of a truly wonderful individual. He'd say a few things when she had gone but... he couldn't and didn't say much. I'm sure I pre-empted his worst (as I had learned to do), but he also must have truly felt the pain of his hypocrisy. A similar thing happened when I had a relationship with a Jewish girl for about a year. I remember telling her some of the things he had said in the past, not realizing how uncommonly awful they were, and she was upset -- but again, around her, he was peaches and cream, and I truly believe that he appreciated and recognized these lovely young women as just that.

Perhaps some of you can relate to incidents like these I've described, others maybe not so much, but these are some of my basic experiences in regard to race and racism. There are some others I can relate (and perhaps will) but I write this in the hopes that it may inspire some thoughtful consideration. My mother was against racism (one of her few good qualities) and she and others I have known (combined with a healthy dose of the The Cosby Show) are probably why I wasn't indoctrinated in worse ways. But I recognize racism in others, and have from an early age. I remember Katrina, the only black girl in class, crying in the third grade because someone said the "n-word" and then the teacher tried to get the idea across (unsuccessfully) that "nigger" wasn't a bad word. Then, in high-school, during my sophomore year, there was an integration project put into effect that closed West High School and led to kids from the west side being bused across the river to Jefferson High School. Racial tensions were very high. There were some hall monitors who were employed as diplomats, of sorts, but some of them were actually very racist. I remember one of those monitors berating a girl I was talking to in the library because he knew about kids like me "who wear the leather jackets and cry when their friends die (of suicide)," and so he wanted to know why she was talking to me. But the real event was a full blown race riot at the high school. My friends and I were just getting back from lunch and, as we were walking in, several dozen of the long-hair kids (we called them "stoneys" and they liked AC/DC, Metallica, and hot-rod Cameros) all started running out. Then, dozens more of the black kids started pouring out of the school after them exchanging blows with them the whole time. It was pretty serious and the next day was the lowest attendance day in school history. I took pride in finally not cutting class and being a small fraction of the student body attending. I don't know what more to say about that incident but it was 1990 and racial conflict was plain as day. Smaller skirmishes continued in my school till I was finally expelled for lack of attendance and general mischief. Suffice it to say that, like many others, I dealt with overt racism, from all sides, at an early age -- and I recognize its reality in many forms.

Once in my mid-twenties, when I was in Oakland CA, I had a conversation with a guy who was involved with the modern Black Panthers and black power movements. It's fine that, "Free Mumia" et al, but the thing that stuck out in my head was his denigration of my ancestral reality in regard to my Native American grandfather. It was his position that every white boy with a drop of indian blood couldn't claim any of that heritage, in any way, because they still looked pale and could get by in modern Amerikan society easier than a person of color. To a degree I could see his point but on the other hand... I have anti-industrial and pro-primitivism tendencies (and I would revive the old Native ways if it were in my power). Just because I may not look a certain way, or because I am only genetically related to some degree, that should not preclude me from from my tendencies to identify with those people in any way at all. This seems to be the system's method of pigeonholing people and robbing them of any cultural heritage or of any desires to reclaim it. You are black, you are white, you are asian, etc. And there is a tendency to simplify it even beyond that because all the masters really want us to be is subservient consumers. Race is tied with cultural heritage and, if we want reclaim something in life more substantial than what the techno-industrial system provides us, we are potentially a destabilizing factor within that system. The more standardized the basic realities of race and heritage become the easier we are to market to and the easier it is for us all to get along side-by-side at the factory on the assembly line. It's the basic formula of the melting pot -- wipe out, assimilate, or enslave (and if it can be done without the people knowing or caring then it's all the more effective).

There is something of a paradox in strongly identifying with people of similar racial makeup or appearance. Ideally, if it led to preserving sustainable cultural pathways that had been in place for generations, that would be a good thing. But when we add strong racial identity with the techno-industrial system we get something more like the Nazis. And even if we don't end up with the wholesale genocide of other groups (as when races are co-opted, assimilated, and homogenized), when it happens that a people take on the habits of techno-industrial civilization their fundamental values change and, in the name of progress, they become equally destructive in other ways. It can be as pronounced as the devastation caused by Chernobyl & Bhopal or as subtle as a cop of color oppressing the poor people of his own neighborhood -- all in the name of law, order, democracy and progress.

Obviously there is much more to racism than these few experiences described thus far, but personal experience can not help but to make us ponder. It should make us ponder. This is a problem that relates to class and historical identities. It relates to the tendency that some people have to dominate others and maintain power and control. So many other horrible things are happening in the world but still we are forced to confront the reality of racism, blind stupid hate, for the most superficial reasons. This is a subject not conducive to frank talk and open discussion and many are very engrained in their backwards indoctrination. Knowledge of that reactionary indoctrination makes it difficult to overcome because no matter how people identify, there will be some with whom they identify that have these backwards ideas. And there should be no shame in having beautiful black skin or long blonde hair, but there will always be someone around who dislikes you for those very cosmetic reasons. And self-preservation or the desire for upward social mobility can make people prone to use their racial appearance to get ahead and stay ahead of the rat race. I'm not saying it's a good thing, but it's something that happens and there are too many stupid people indoctrinating too many children of every race, creed, and color -- so it's probably not a situation that will go away any time soon. But while your appearance may get you ahead somewhat with some groups... the lack of upward mobility, and the oppression of others, makes for general social unrest around the world.

African Americans are undoubtedly treated unfairly in the USA and around the world. Tiger Woods may go to the the country clubs, Phil Ivey may bluff Doyle Brunson in the biggest poker games, and Barrack Obama may even become president, but if poor general conditions continue to exist for the vast majority of dark-skinned people, even the success of those men may be seen as tenuous. I'm not saying that Tiger, Phil, or Barack should necessarily do anything much different, but we should all be mindful of the bigger scenario and realize that we all suffer -- black, white, rich, and poor -- because of the backwards state of the world and superficial racist politics.

And that brings me to why I got it into my head to write this article. In the past I have been opposed to the oligarchic two-party corporate industrial politics of the USA, particularly in regard to presidential politics, but if there has to be a figurehead for the beast, maybe it doesn't have to be the most bat-shit crazy, spoiled corrupt cracker that we can find. Maybe if we can get into office someone who has undoubtedly experienced oppression and racism from the under-side... maybe we can see some things change for the better. I don't want to sound overly hopeful, nor do I want responsibility for any of the corrupt things he inevitably does in office, but I think Barack Obama (or perhaps another Black politician later) might be able to pull a Putney Swope and effect real change. (For those of you unfamiliar with the film Putney Swope, it's about a brother who backs into the Chairman's seat of a major advertising firm and institutes some black power values. It's hilarious.) And I don't think Obama will be nearly as radical as Putney Swope (in fact I fear the opposite) but I feel like a president of color might effect some change. And even if Obama (or another black politician) were to campaign with the claim that more black Americans would go to jail and get worse health care, I can't help but to believe that persons of color would be holding out hope that, if elected, they wouldn't be as awful as they seemed while campaigning.

But there is the rub. Obama could end up being the Democratic equivalent of Clarence Thomas and not really change all that much in regard to the status quo of any American (much less any African Americans). Are we supposed to take at face value his recent praise of Ronald Reagan?! Even if that was an attempt to woo a few insane Republicans, it's still scary politicking and I'd hate to think he might actually be sincere. We need very fundamental changes in the USA and the ideas he implements need to be bigger than the ideas he's campaigning on. Perhaps he's trying to stay mellow and subdued and conservative during the campaign, but there are a few things I think he could say that would transcend race and improve the conditions of the average American.


First... the war on Iraq. Beyond oil, this is also just another war on dark-skinned people around the world. Millions are dying in Iraq (directly from the bombing, collapsed infrastructure, and now civil war) and American soldiers of every race are dying in this unjust war. The general american public opposes this war and a more aggressive withdrawal plan could be presented with support from the vast majority of the population at home and abroad. The financial cost of this war alone should be enough to finally convince the masses that it must end. It's a simple position, it's a popular position, and withdrawal is a key election issue.

And the cost of the war, while effecting all Americans, disproportionately effects African Americans who already receive much worse health care and other rectifying social services (this is money that could be spent on housing, education, and the arts). End the war and promote health care, preventative health care, and you have another very popular position.

And then you have the issue of the prison-industrial complex and the war on drugs. This is an issue which again effects all Americans but African Americans disproportionately. Perhaps again he's being conservative after his admitted use as a youth, but these are issues which the American population can relate to and it could easily be framed in terms of economics. Rehabilitation is cheaper and the easing of racial conflict brought on by the system would also be a boon. America is becoming a police state. People don't like it (they should like it less) and they can be persuaded to vote against the police state. His mixed support for the Patriot Act and back-peddling on FISA is very troubling. In the future we can only hope that he will take stronger stands against this type of totalitarian legislation. These are issues which effect all Americans and people around the world as well.

Finally... the environment. This again is an issue which effects the poor and persons of color disproportionately. But it is an issue which transcends race, class, gender and even partly lines. It is an issue which could be undertaken by a prominent candidate like Obama without fear of losing votes. The grassroots environmental movement is a very large voting block and, by making quality propositions to regulate industry and to actually reduce consumption (a politically peculiar idea which needs to be promoted), the world could be preserved for future generations and made a better place to live. Wars over resources would decrease and health would improve in every area. This could be made a key election item. (I would like to point out as an aside that bio-fuels are inefficient and that the agricultural run-off is polluting the waterways. We need to consume less, not find different things to consume.)


I honestly don't hold out much hope for the system at all. I'm skeptical that any decent person could ever be elected president. Worse, if a wise and moral person were ever allowed to take office they would be taking responsibility for a system that has already run amuck and which may be beyond redemption or repair. Or, if they were to actually try and force the major reforms necessary, the system and the population would have to endure some hardships which they may not be prepared to handle. For example... to avert further environmental degradation, nay disaster, our per capita consumption would have to decrease. And, because many people's standard of success and happiness are tied up to corrupted ideals of materialism, this change would be seen as a negative. The economic waves created by some of the necessary changes to the techno-industrial system could lead to other perceived hardships like unemployment and the associated problems with that. And this change would not just be isolated to the U.S. (as other nations would have their economic systems thrown into upheaval as the U.S. attempted to become a more sustainable and humane entity). Even if the U.S. were able to transition smoothly, the consequences of other governments collapsing could bring terrible consequences here.

Another ethical problem people create for themselves by voting is the responsibility that they then take on for the problems created by those elected officials. Heaven forbid that anyone should vote successfully and elect a totalitarian warmonger, but simply by participating in the election process you are giving legitimacy to whomever gets elected, whether you've voted for them or not. This seems especially true since the presidential election was so blatantly stolen in 2000 and most probably in 2004 as well. Nevertheless... those that seize power legitimately, or by sleight of hand, can proclaim that the process was carried out and that everyone who participated should respect the outcome. The whole thing is presented and treated like a game in which no one should behave like a sore loser. If only it were a game.

So this article does not amount to an endorsement of anyone or encourage you to vote, but it does hold out hope that someone (or some group of people) might someday be able to somehow make a positive change in the system -- but bringing about that change may be far more complicated than many imagine.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Spoiler Alert! The Dark Knight is an Unmasked Bush Apologist

Let me begin by saying that I am not a Batman fan. I think he is corporate criminal who focuses on street crime while Bruce Wayne's "Wayne Enterprises" acts as an international hi-tech arms dealer. As presented In various forms of the media (comic books, cartoons, and movies), Wayne's conglomerate is involved in many questionable industrial enterprises -- from petroleum extraction and chemical processing to bio-tech and corporate control of the media (through his ownership of the Daily Planet from Superman fame). So while I am in awe of Bruce Wayne/Batman in the same way that I am in awe of Rupert Murdoch or Dick Cheney, I am not a fan of the character and do not see him as a hero.

This current movie goes to new lows for Batman, but before we get to the current movie... first let's look at some of his more well known foes from previous movies. The Poison Ivy character, best known from the 1997 movie Batman & Robin, is an overt environmentalist (albeit a misanthropic one) who overtly and directly accuses Wayne Enterprises of environmental crimes as the motivation for her hostilities. Bruce Wayne quickly produces some greenwashing to his millionaire friends as a response to show her up. In the more recent Batman Begins (2005) the chief protagonist is a militant environmentalist (albeit a misanthropic one) in Ra's al Ghul. Both times, the environmentalist villains are handily dispatched by the billionaire corporatist Bruce Wayne in the form of his technologically enabled alter ego. I could go on with other villains created or motivated by Wayne Industry's indiscretions, but you get the idea.

In this latest film (in theaters now -- you should sneak in like I did) Batman's foe, The Joker (quite adequately portrayed by the late Heath Ledger), speaks the language of anarchy quite overtly (albeit maniacally and with no ethics or morality) and even goes so far as to burn hundreds of millions of dollars as a subtle means to contrast himself with the uber-capitalist Bruce Wayne. Who will emerge victorious is obviously not in doubt -- the billionaire or the crazy anarchist trying to bring down the system of subtle exploitation and control.

Now admittedly, the Batman stories have always readily portrayed the corruption of the police. And while this adds a bit of realism to the fictitious universe, the corrupt cops always end up getting punished and the "honorable" Commissioner Gordon always does what the state would have him do without being bribed by other organizations (that would pay him more for similar activities). He may be getting some kickbacks from Wayne Enterprises, but that's mostly speculation. The point is... the villains are always portrayed in simplistic black & white terms -- and the "good" guys always win.

Even in this latest movie Bruce Wayne engages in most questionable activities, but it's all presented as justified and is always successful. Torture, for example, works for Batman and he readily employs it as a dependable tactic. Anyone who studies the subject should know however that torture rarely works and is often simply used to add injury to incarceration (ala Guantanamo Bay). The main reason it works in this latest movie is because the Joker enjoys being tortured and was planning on giving up the information anyway. Yep... the crazy anarchist enjoys being tortured. That does not bode well in the actual world for political prisoners of would-be interrogators who can't tell the difference between reality and fiction.

In terms of privacy... Batman uses his supercomputer to make every cell-phone in the city an active microphone which can not only listen in on and analyze all conversations, it can also make live visual images of all activities in range of a cell-phone. That's right... the corporate super-"hero" is actually Big Brother -- and it's justified since The Joker just has to be caught after all and this is obviously the only way.

Finally, a hero that the Bush administration can relate to -- Jack Bauer eat your heart out. It's disgusting. Of course, in the movies and comic books, Batman causes a minimal amount of "collateral damage," unlike the real world "heroes" of the USA.

So I ask, do we really need another shallow apologist for the backwards policies of the Bush administration? He may be fictional, but Bruce Wayne/Batman is also quite popular -- especially with the young. I suggest we try to find some real heroes and make sure that this Batman character is revealed for the oligarchic fascist he is.

digg story

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Be Prepared for Police Violence at the RNC Protest

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece entitled "Thoughts on the Upcoming RNC Protests" which (as of writing this) still ranks fairly high in the Google News search results for "RNC Protests". In that article I provided a history of past convention protests, reasons why people will be protesting this convention, and I gave some tips on how to prepare for it if you plan on attending. This current essay is in response to some of the few critiques of that piece which appeared around the web.

The main thrust of the criticism was directed at this paragraph (which was taken largely out of context):

"The anger and the ferocity of the protesters will vary, but I ask you to consider who your real allies are and who the actual enemy is. While some will stay on the parade routes, some will not. Still others might lock-down to block delegates or to draw more attention to the protest. And lastly, still others might even vandalize corporate property. And concerning this last group I ask you to consider this... the bank whose window they smash (or spraypaint) may have foreclosed on their family's home, pulled an Enron on their life savings, or maybe that corporation simply supported the war machine and deforestation. Vandalism is not violence, causing bankruptcy or starvation or war actually is. It is a betrayal of the protest to assist the police in catching petty vandals (who may be morally justified in their actions)."

I stand by this statement. What most of the critics did not seem to grasp was the fact that people ARE angry, and some WILL be surly and aggressive, but that should not give the police carte blanche to engage in their typically heavy handed tactics with the larger protest body. The police should also be restrained in dealing with those who are aggressively standing up for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- even if those people engage in minor property destruction or violence. The point is... the police are supposed to be trained for discipline and fairly restrained but, in actuality, they very rarely are restrained at these protests.

Even when the protesters are of the tamest variety, the police use violence (from tear gas and pepper-spray to clubs and rubber bullets). One critic suggested that the protesters should give the police "no reason to use violence." But the fact of the matter is, throughout history, non-violent civil disobedience has often been met by the state with brute force. Totally uninvolved people (who weren't even protesting) have been brutalized by the police (and not necessarily even during protests). Police forces are trained for violence, carry weaponry every day, and are often comprised of people who have violent and aggressive temperaments. Ignore this reality at your own peril, but please do not blame the victims of police brutality (which is a very real phenomenon).

In preparation for this upcoming protest at the RNC in St. Paul (Sept. 1, 2008), the mainstream media is already skewing the reality of violence at past protests. The protest at the DNC convention in '68 was A POLICE RIOT. The WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle '99 also was classified (by the state itself) as A POLICE RIOT and the Seattle police chief was forced to resign shortly after the events surrounding that event. Similar events took place in Miami at the FTAA protest in 2003. These are just a few examples from recent history, but the list could go on and on.

Now the state and their corporate media tools are preemptively raising the spectre of terrorism and invoking the unprecedented likelihood of a WMD attack or some other horrific event (and equating these things with a riot [as if the police have not been the primary participants of past riots]). The reality is that they are conditioning the public while preparing to use typically excessive force in their efforts to escort wealthy Republican warmongers past the generally non-violent protesters.

But my intention is obviously not to condemn those protesters who have potentially had their lives ruined by the system and who are now prepared to take to the streets as they attempt to hold their ground against the corporate police state. The police are going to abuse them whether they peaceably assemble or not and the system is going to continue raking them over the coals whether they protest or not. It is therefore my belief that some righteous indignation (and justifiable anger) will not only be good for this protest (which is preparing to use a blockade strategy to prevent Republicans from celebrating and promoting their policies of war, imperialism, and the destruction of human rights and liberties) but it's also inevitable -- people will violently resist when their lives are being threatened and their world is being destroyed. When people have their life, liberty, and basic needs stripped from them, true justice requires taking a firm stand in self defense (for the sake of dignity itself and to prevent further abuses). I'm NOT saying that I want these protests to be violent, I'm merely saying that people have not completely had their spirits crushed in this country and they have not yet been genetically engineered with sheep genes.

The debate about violence can continue elsewhere -- (is it ever justified and, if so, when?) -- but I'm merely reminding people that it is the state which institutes violence at every level of it's existence and mild retaliation or self-defense against it should not surprise anyone. Furthermore, supposed non-violent protesters or activists should not try to justify the state's violence or help the state apprehend anyone who is engaging in questionable activity. It's one thing to claim non-violence as a principle, but as soon as you assist the violent police state you give up any legitimate right to that claim. The police at the RNC will be defending veritable war criminals and they should not have free reign to brutally beat down those who oppose such villainy.

Concerning corporate property damage... throwing a brick through the window of some war-profiteering corporation is nothing compared to the violence the state would issue to someone who engages in such an act -- and that is precisely the problem. Violence against property & profit is put on the same level as violence against people -- and the former is arguably not violence AT ALL! Smashing a bottle in the street (even if it belongs to someone else), for instance, is not violent -- neither the bottle nor the asphalt is alive and they no feel pain -- but violently beating or imprisoning someone for making such a mess... that IS violent because people are actually alive and do feel pain. The same holds true if we are talking about a McDonald's sign or bank's window. Even if you agree with their corporate practices, symbolic property destruction IS NOT violence. Turning people in to the police for doing such things however... now we are starting to talk about violence towards actual living people.

So many protesters are planning to show up at the RNC protests prepared to defend themselves with body armor and gas masks, and I can't blame them. The economy is being laid to waste along with the environment. More people are imprisoned in total numbers, and per capita, here in the U$A than in any other country. The war is increasing the chances for terrorism -- by both fundamentalist abroad and from the psychologically scarred soldiers who are returning from the Iraq war. We need to muster some real resistance to this and not condemn those who are ready to fight for life and freedom.

The Republicans who are attending the RNC to celebrate and promote their destructive policies are not your allies -- and neither are the police who will use brute force to clear the path for them. Be prepared for police brutality and be prepared to defend yourselves and others. Taking a stand against these forces could prove to be a turning point in American history.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Thoughts on the Upcoming RNC Protests

With Hillary Clinton's ill-advised utterance about RFK's assassination in 1968, we were reminded of certain disturbing political realities. And, in hearkening back to that particular age of political upheaval and protest, we are reminded of the police riot which occurred at that year's Democratic National Convention in the aftermath of Robert Kennedy's assassination. (clickable video links)

The protesters then were in Chicago to stand up for their rights and to oppose an unjust and disastrous war. They had as good a reason as ever to protest and their actions and memories should be honored by all freedom loving people. And, while the spirit of protest still flickers in the U.S., the police forces in this country have not stopped violently overreacting to even the tamest of protests. Quite arguably, the police are less tolerant of dissent today than they were in 1968.

As anyone who has been to a mass protest in the last few years can tell you, the police show up in large numbers and they are not afraid to overstep their own legal bounds to defend their corporate masters. They infiltrate protest groups and have even been known to take positions of leadership within them (so as to direct the protests and report on any perceived illegality by legitimate protesters). In this post 9/11 technocracy one can also believe that they are using electronic surveillance to keep tabs on protesters of all stripes. And I write this not to stifle passionate dissent, but only to make the realities of modern protest clear to those who will bravely, and by necessity, proceed to express their righteous indignation in the face of power. Those engaged in any protest activity should be mindful of what the agents of the state can, and will, do to stifle legitimate political dissent at any given protest.

The focus of this article is on the upcoming protests at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, September 1-4, 2008. I'm not focusing upon the Democratic National Convention in Denver, CO, August 25-28, 2008 for one main reason...I simply don't think the protests will be as large (although I do feel the Democratic Party could use some protest as well). In large part, the convention protests this year will, understandably, be about the war in Iraq. With the Democrats apparently fielding a somewhat anti-war candidate in Barack Obama, and the Republicans going with a decidedly pro-war candidate in John McCain, the question of who will see the larger protests is answered quite easily. Obama's apparent progressivism will also give anti-McCain protesters a little more enthusiasm than they may have had in years past. Also... Obama's heritage will inspire more people to get involved beyond the stereotypical white, middle-class caricature.

As I've said, this year's protest will largely be about the war, but have no question... those who show up will also be in protest of a myriad of other state sanctioned injustices. Climate change and environmental degradation are issues potentially even more serious than the atrocious war. Others will be angry about the revision of the constitution and the disposal of habeas corpus. Some will be demanding the impeachment of Bush. Still others will be in protest of what's been done to the economy and their livelihoods. All are legitimate reasons to protest and all will be represented.

The RNC protests will likely have a festive air some of the time. Notable philosophers and radical activists will give talks at the counter-convention, literature of all sorts will be distributed, banners will be unfurled, puppets and costumes will undoubtedly be paraded, and there will be excessive singing and dancing in the streets. I say "excessive singing and dancing" because I imagine that Iraqi war protests are far more somber and, it seems to me, that many protesters forget why they are there when the protest "festivities" begin. But the real protest will not be a parade or a festival -- and you can be sure that the authorities will not be treating any of it as such.

While I greatly appreciate the efforts of those preparing for this protest, I would ask that they prepare with both eyes open. They need to know that thousands of law enforcement officials, from all the agencies, will be in town with the Republican delegates. AGAIN, I write this not to discourage but only to prepare. There will be cops in full riot gear, on bikes and horses, in helicopters, and on rooftops. There will undoubtedly be undercover officers amongst the protesters themselves at every stage. I will repeat sage advice here, do not engage or cooperate with the law enforcement officials in any way that can be helped.

The anger and the ferocity of the protesters will vary, but I ask you to consider who your real allies are and who the actual enemy is. While some will stay on the parade routes, some will not. Still others might lock-down to block delegates or to draw more attention to the protest. And lastly, still others might even vandalize corporate property. And concerning this last group I ask you to consider this... the bank whose window they smash (or spraypaint) may have foreclosed on their family's home, pulled an Enron on their life savings, or maybe that corporation simply supported the war machine and deforestation. Vandalism is not violence, causing bankruptcy or starvation or war actually is. It is a betrayal of the protest to assist the police in catching petty vandals (who may be morally justified in their actions).

It will be HOT in early September, even in Minnesota! Dress accordingly and carry enough water for at least yourself. You may also want to carry simple but effective particle filter masks in case the police start indiscriminately using pepper-spray or tear-gas. You do not want the protest to end just because the police start using their typical heavy-handed tactics, but do wear comfortable shoes in case you have to run. Carry cameras to film the POLICE, not to document any misdeeds of your fellow protesters. Consider being a legal observer or a street medic.

I expect this to be one of the biggest and most passionate protests in American history. It is a good and necessary thing, part of our civil duty, but be prepared if you plan on showing up. Know why you are there, how you expect to help, and the message you want to convey (in case you get interviewed by the media [who you may actually not want to talk to]). Be as bold as you can be and maintain strict solidarity with the other protesters who will be showing up from all over the country.