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Sick of paying the increasingly staggering price of firewood, I figured now would be the time to do some selective logging on our little 10 acres of heaven.  For the same price as about half of a year’s worth of wood I could stock-pile about two year’s worth, or more- a no-brainer.  Sure, more work for me splitting it all up, but I could use the physical work and, actually, love the chore (though a chore it is).  I mean, who doesn’t love their time playing with a chainsaw?

So the question, of course, becomes who to get to hike into the woods behind the house, chop down some trees, and haul them 500-1000 yards down the hill to the house.  I soon realized the answer was obvious:

Michael Colby and Boots Wardinski, aka “Horse Loggers for Peace”.  Yeah, these guys will do just fine.  They’re polerizing, divisive, loud, and un-forgiving for it all.  They rub a lot of people- including many friends and aquiantances of mine- the very, very wrong way.  But of all the things we need and don’t need in this world, true iconoclasts will always be necessary.  So while I sit here “working”, Michael, Boots, and Michael’s trusty (and absolutely beatiful) horse are playing hard at work in the woods behind my house.  Thanks guys!

Take this, sweetshop labor:

From the time Russell (Athletic) shut the factory (which fired 1200 workers in Honduras after they formed a union) last January, the anti-sweatshop coalition orchestrated a nationwide campaign against the company.  Most important, the coalition, United Students Against Sweatshops, persuaded the administrations of Boston College, Columbia, Harvard, New York University, Stanford, Michigan, North Carolina and 89 other colleges and universities to sever or suspend their licensing agreements with Russell. The agreements – some yielding more than $1 million in sales – allowed Russell to put university logos on T-shirts, sweatshirts and fleeces.

Going beyond their campuses, student activists picketed the N.B.A. finals in Orlando and Los Angeles this year to protest the league’s licensing agreement with Russell. They distributed fliers inside Sports Authority sporting goods stores and sent Twitter messages to customers of Dick’s Sporting Goods to urge them to boycott Russell products.

The students even sent activists to knock on Warren Buffett’s door in Omaha because his company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns Fruit of the Loom, Russell’s parent company.

And climate change?  pleeeeze.  World-wide, people are mother-fucking ready for it; time to get on board, ruling class.

Speaking of the environment, I don’t frequent Z Magazine often enough:

A green energy expert once tried to convince me that even though rooftop micro wind turbines are useless or worse than useless in most situations, they’re still worth promoting because they encourage people to think about their emissions. It’s a bit like the argument used by anti-drugs campaigners: the soft stuff leads to the hard stuff.

I’ve never been convinced by this argument. In my experience, people use the soft stuff to justify their failure to engage with the hard stuff. Challenge someone about taking holiday flights six times a year and there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll say something along these lines:

I recycle everything and I re-use my plastic bags, so I’m really quite green.

(snip)

Being a cynical old git, I have always been deeply suspicious of the grand claims made for consumer democracy: that we can change the world by changing our buying habits. There are several problems with this approach:

• In a consumer democracy, some people have more votes than others, and those with the most votes are the least inclined to change a system that has served them so well.

• A change in consumption habits is seldom effective unless it is backed up by government action. You can give up your car for a bicycle – and fair play to you – but unless the government is simultaneously reducing the available road space, the place you’ve vacated will just be taken by someone who drives a less efficient car than you would have driven (traffic expands to fill the available road-space). Our power comes from acting as citizens – demanding political change – not acting as consumers.

• We are very good at deceiving ourselves about our impacts. We remember the good things we do and forget the bad ones.

Anyways, there’s always a belligerent Israel to look to for activist failure.

Speaking of activism, wasn’t Obama supposed to be ‘our’ (your) man? WTF?

Anyway, this post is suposed to be about the success of activism, so Put The Fun Between Your Legs:

With behemoth health foods retailer Whole Foods marching ahead with plans for an out of scale (and, with the existence of so many local food co-ops, localy-based retailers, and yes, direct-from-the-farm markets, we could say wholly redundant and un-necessary) South Burlington location, faux-progressive and CEO John Mackey may well be getting a bit concerned.  That’s because Vermonters in Pittsburgh to protest the G20 meetings have chosen to target a Whole Foods retailer there as part of their protest against the corporate elite’s pro-profit and anti-sustainability agenda.

A group of Vermont farmers and students blocked the entrance of a Pittsburgh Whole Foods around 10:00 Friday morning.  They then build a raised-garden bed, complete with growing plants and vegetables, under their banners which read “Whole
Communities Not Whole Foods for ½ the people” and “ A Whole Lot of $$$$ GREEN $$$$$” as well as “Grow Gardens Not Corporations”.

From the activist’s press release:

One person joining them from Pittsburgh said “I’ve have watched Whole Foods
come in and cater to wealthier folks from outside this neighborhood with its
corporate green image while selling products that not only don’t contribute
to a local or sustainable food system but are totally unaffordable to most
folks that live here.”

Jean Marie Pearce left her farm in the Northeast Kingdom to participate in planting the garden.  “We need to realize that Whole Foods is about growing profits not sustainability and the G20 is about growing capitalism not a healthy world.  I want a world where food is grown for everyone, not the GDP for 20 countries!  Examples like the dairy farm crisis right now prove the need for more inclusion around these policies.  We can’t protect or control our economy when it is run by 20 people and their corporate friends.”

Once these Vermont activists return from Pittsburgh, we can only imagine what they have in-store for the developers who hope to build a Whole Foods in South Burlington.  It’s a safe bet that Whole Foods and those developers are working on trying to imagine that very thing right this moment.

Counting requires logic, and given the political right’s distaste for all things rational it’s no real surprise they may have some trouble counting from time to time.  Still, the difference between 1 and 20 should be obvious, as should the difference between 100,000 and 2,000,000.  From politifact.com’s truth-o-meter:

In the competitive world of Washington protests, crowd size is often a matter of dispute. Organizers usually boast of huge crowds, while police and the news media offer much smaller estimates.

So supporters of Saturday’s “tea party” protests against President Barack Obama were quick to highlight their big turnout. To bolster countless claims on blogs and Facebook, many posted a photograph that showed a gargantuan crowd sprawling from Capitol Hill down the National Mall to the Washington Monument.

But it turns out the photo is more than 10 years old, apparently taken during a 1997 Promise Keepers rally.

I’ve witnessed first hand the difference between ‘official’ estimates of crowd size and on the ground reality, to say nothing of the wide swinging estimates that crowd participants can and do claim.  But while the (leftist) marches and rallies I’ve seen and been in usually vary by the thousands- a crowd of 5,000 people called 2-3,000 or a 500+ being ‘officially’ or in the news media called “a few hundred”, or even something close to 500,000 people being called “tens of thousands”, the right- who admittedly are pretty new to this grassroots, populist thing- take it to another level.  All last week the right-blogosphere and news commentators were proclaiming their righteousness vindicated by the “2 million” people they brought to DC.  Of course, the only problem with that number is that it is way the fuck off.  2 million?  Not a likely number for one city for almost any rally, right or left.  I was at the Million Woman March (or whatever it was called) in DC a few years ago; a DC march that organizers, city officials and the press all pegged to be around a million people (crowd estimates are, after all, extremely tricky things).  You knew that was a shitload of people because they (we) were literally everywhere- the entire city was over-run by participants and there wasn’t a store, train, bus, or sidewalk to be on or in where one wasn’t in the midst of other participants.

More from politifact.com:

Pete Piringer, public affairs officer for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Department, said the local government no longer provides official crowd estimates because they can become politicized. But the day of the rally, Piringer unofficially told one reporter that he thought between 60,000 and 75,000 people had shown up.

Even if we were to use the left’s standard for what to expect of crowd estimates from city officials (75,000 would often mean something more like 100,000 even up to 150,000) we get no where close to the political rally organizer’s wet dream number of 1 million; still way shy of the generally absurd 2 million mark.  But here’s the pic the right circulated to show their huge turn out last Saturday:

And this is where politifact.com breaks it down, um, rationally:

We asked Piringer whether there were enough protesters to fill the National Mall, as depicted in the photograph.

“It was an impressive crowd,” he said. But after marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, the crowd “only filled the Capitol grounds, maybe up to Third Street,” he said.

Yet the photograph so widely posted showed the crowd sprawling all the way to the Washington Monument, which is bordered by 15th and and 17th Streets.

There’s another problem with the photograph: It doesn’t include the National Museum of the American Indian, a building located at the corner of Fourth Street and Independence Avenue that opened on Sept. 14, 2004. (Looking at the photograph, the building should be in the upper right hand corner of the National Mall, next to the Air and Space Museum.) That means the picture was taken before the museum opened exactly five years ago. So clearly the photo doesn’t show the “tea party” crowd from the Sept. 12 protest.

Also worth noting are the cranes in front of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. According to Randall Kremer, the museum’s director of public affairs, “The last time cranes were in front was in the 1990s when the IMAX theater was being built.”

There go those stupid, god-dam facts getting in the right’s way again.  Sorry there folks.

At the risk of seriously offending some dear friends, I want to take a comparative look at the relative successes and failings of two similar projects.  Both began around the same time, both began with very similar ideas behind them; one in a big city, Baltimore, was put in motion by a dedicated group of politically-oriented revolutionaries who- despite a diversity of lifestyles, individual interests and opinions, and personal backgrounds- came together in a politically and socially unified manner to start Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse.  The other, Langdon Street Cafe, is located in the much smaller city of Montpelier, VT (a “city” only by rural standards) and was put in motion by a small group of people with varying degrees of social affiliation and little if any political commonalities; as we’ll see, this group’s “politics” is loosely existent at all, beyond individualism and lifestyle choices.  Where Red Emma’s was the product of left radicals from a variety of traditions but unified around some of the most basic socialist principles, the Langdon Street Cafe’s “leftness” was a product as much of the larger community’s political understanding as it was any educated and learnt principles on the part of the founders.

To be clear at the onset: I was one of the five people who started the Langdon Street Cafe back in 2004.  The other four people involved in the project are people I consider friends (some closer than others, but that’s a digression) and are all people I care about and respect deeply.  None of my following critique’s about anyone’s personal politics, social mores, or personal priorities should be understood as contrary to these things.  I can like people, hold respect for and care deeply about people without agreeing (or even liking) aspects of their character or political orientations.  I would find no fault in anyone holding the same towards me.  I’m also a big fan of the Langdon Street Cafe and one of it’s best customers: I get my coffee there nearly every morning and have personally spent untold numbers of paychecks there on breakfast, lunch, and beers during a show.  That I find fault in what it is versus what I had originally hoped it to be (or thought it could be) is not to insinuate that what it is has no value, nor that the people responsible for it over the years aren’t some of the best there are.  Whatever political conclusions I may draw bellow- or in general- are certainly mine and it could be argued- perhaps fairly- that the “failure” lies in my understanding or expectations of the project from the outset.  Though I may disagree with that, it could nonetheless be a fair conclusion to reach.

What I’m setting out to write about here though is a comparison between two political projects, both very similar at their outsets, and both arriving today at very different places.  That Langdon Street ever was a political project (or that it isn’t now) may be questionable to some of my fellow co-founders; perhaps contrary points most telling of my overall thesis here. Read the rest of this entry »

My favorite “green anarchist” site (i.e., the only one worth reading at all) is greenisthenewred.com (though boy, I really don’t like that name).  Will Potter over there has an interesting post up right now, concerning some activists who’ve been working against the proposed I-69 NAFTA super highway (to connect Mexico to Canada through the Midwestern U.S.).  Mr Potter notes that, not only were two activists arrested under racketeering charges (a set of laws intended to reign-in mobsters) (and, who’s kidding who, few “green anarchists” are anywhere near as organized as the mob) but in requesting the oddly high $20,000 bond against people charged with “conspiring” to commit non-violent direct action protests (yes, they didn’t do anything, they just thought and talked about engaging in civil disobedience) the government’s motion for the bond includes this non-logic:

The defendant has been observed advocating literature and materials which advocate anarchy…

I’ll let that sit-in for you.  Regardless of crimes that may or may not have been committed- remember, our supposed justice system works on the assumption that one is innocent until proven otherwise, no matter the allegations against- the process of setting one’s bail amount is a matter of how much of a danger to the community or a flight risk the accused are thought to be.  And in this instance, the government is saying that their bail should be set unusually high (for charges of this nature) because the accused had been observed advocating literature– suggesting that people read!  It is not, in any way, shape, form, or stretch of the imagination, the government’s role (not in a supposed democracy at least) to concern itself at all with what political views people hold or ideas they read about.

Don’t get side-tracked by the specter of things like “they were conspiring to break the law (tree sits); their literature was advocating property destruction (vandalism)…”  I’ll let you in on a secret here folks: my bookshelf is chalk-full of books “which advocate anarchy” and they were all bought legally, on the open market.  In fact, thousands of people across this country could be charged right this moment (if this non-logic is legitimate for arguing that their bail should be higher I can only assume the insinuation is that this is an actual crime, since we wouldn’t say to set their bail higher because they drank decaf this morning) with possessing or advocating literature and materials which advocate “anarchy”.  For that matter, there are a number of publishing company’s which may have to go down on this charge (the anarchist run AK Press, for example) not to mention the makers and the distributors of several films (V for Vendetta for one).

But before I get too lost in the political freedom angle of this story, I want to bring it back to and stay clear about the really big issue here: advocating literature– suggesting people read- is not and can never be a crime or even a point used for character assassination.

You know what folks: call me a rebel, call me a criminal, but here’s what I’m gonna say: go read something.  Hell, go read Chomsky on Anarchism, or Bakunin: A Biography by Leier, or something by Kropotkin or Proudhon or Emma Goldman or Murry Bookchin.  Go read whatever you want, whatever you can, in fact, about a variety of different political, social, and economic ideas.  It’s not illegal (yet), nor is me suggesting that you do so.

I’m wondering if anyone can tell me the difference between this scene:

and this scene:

Give up?  Well, for starters, in the first video the U.S. (the president, the government, and the press) either explicitly or at least tactfully supports the protesters in the street over the “heavy handed” violence of the police.  In the second video, it’s just the opposite: the American State sees the violent actions of those police forces as “restoring law and order” and enforcing “security” in the face of radical, criminal social deviants.  By no surprise, that first video is of protesters in Tehran, Iran these past few days.  Iran, see, refuses to open it’s consumer goods markets to Western business, and more importantly, refuses to open its petroleum resources to Western exploitation for corporate profit.  Perhaps just as importantly, Iran refuses to accept the U.S. military as a legitimate “police force” over their sovereign affairs.  That second video, on the other hand, is from protests in South Korea in 2007, where people took to the streets against the devastating domestic effects (particularly in rural areas among peasants and farmers) of global capitalism.  See, South Korea does “freely” trade consumer goods with the U.S., does offer its natural resources to U.S. corporate exploitation, and freely recognizes the U.S. military as a legitimate “security force” within its own borders.

Engage in a global economic order in which the power elite can line their pockets? beat down dissent when necessary; refuse to allow rich white Americans and Europeans a chance at making money off of your people and land? well, how dare you beat those innocent people in the streets.

See, while admittedly president Obama has taken a very reserved public stance regarding the recent election results in Iran (the guy the U.S. preferred didn’t win) it’s no secret whatsoever that the West (including the U.S.) very much wants Ahmadinejad out of power in Iran and political unrest there is very much a welcome development, as far as the powers that be here are concerned.  Make no mistake, Ahmadinejad is an asshole of the highest order; among other absurdities he’s a holocaust denier, and in his political fits against the Israeli State (not unjustified from a humanitarian perspective) he’s gone that extra step to believe and promote full-blow conspiracy theory’s and even pal around with neo-Nazi’s  and white supremacists who share his hate for all things Jew.

What I’m not buying, however, is that there was likely any “stolen” election or that the protest movement that has sprung-up all of the sudden in Tehran is entirely populist, or entirely organic.  For those who think I’m dipping into conspiracy theory here, let me assure you: I’m not saying any of this with certainty, ’cause I just don’t know for sure.  What I do know- because it’s documented fact- is that the U.S. (along with other Western allies) has a long, long history of interfering in the political and electoral happenings of country’s for it’s own strategic (financial and military) gains.  The fermentation of pro-capitalist, upper class minority revolt in Venezuela, for instance; the “orange revolution” in Ukraine.  As I said in my last post- the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend, and in all three of these examples that’s very true.  In Venezuela, while the U.S. tried to covertly foment dissent in that country against Chavez, it’s also true that Chavez is power hungry and running that country in the same tradition of authoritarian socialist State’s throughout the Twentieth Century.  As well, Chavez loses much if any real sympathy we might extend to him by exaggerating the acts against him to try to prove his own point and draw attention to the interference of pro-capitalist forces within their borders.  Same with Ukraine: while programs like USAID covertly built pro-Western movements among sympathetic elements of the population (hit that link on “orange revolution” above and read down to the section on “involvement of outside forces”), Russia operated the same kind of program to push their favored candidate, just with all the not-very-subtle effectiveness of their authoritarian history (um, poisoning the other candidate? really? your covert political meddling handbook is the James Bond series?).  I find it incredibly likely that relatively progressive student movements have been nudged in Iran with the oversight of USAID or some other similar U.S. program; Ahmadinejad of course doesn’t win us any sympathy’s by claiming to have won in a landslide when it was likely closer than that, and by offering us photo-shopped PR images of his faithful backers.  

In statements about the protests in Iran, president Obama has explicitly spoken about the importance of people’s ability and right to protest without feeling the heavy hand of the State come down on them.  Let’s just agree to keep those comments in mind when we get the to G20 in Pittsburgh in September.

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