Tuesday, December 29, 2009


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alternate title:
Obama eats babies

Monday, December 28, 2009

Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties

It's the second book of Mike Marqusee's i've read, and i think i may have a new fave author...

Marqusee excels at impressionistic cultural histories, and here as elsewhere he focuses on his personal heroes to explain their significance in what was clearly the most important era in his life - "the sixties."

Normally this wouldn't work -- i mean, normally wtf do i care who some guy idolized forty years ago?

But Marqusee has shown me that it can be done without navel gazing. It doesn't have to be embarrassing like a mid-life crisis, or bad poetry. With a class and anticolonial analysis, and a sympathetic eye to understanding the less obvious motivations and perils of choices made by people at the time (kinda similar to Collingwood's view of how history should be written), Marqusee makes the era come alive.

As with his biography of Bob Dylan (Chimes of Freedom), what interests Marqusee is not the tumult and the exuberance of the revolutionary breakthrough we are used to seeing - white hippies, Black Panthers and all - but rather what happened five minutes before, when there was no victory in the air, when everything seemed fucked, but when against the odds some people chose to do what must have seemed crazy at the time. Like when you're not expecting a musical remix, and then a new rhythm breaks through the first tune and you're not sure if it's a mistake before you realize what being done. Marqusee shows us a glimpse of what it was like for those who could listen to the new beat when most people could only hear it, who saw it before it was acknowledged -- certainly before it was what it has since become.

The case in point: a young boxer, chosing to jeopardize (how Marqusee puts it, it must have seemed like torpedoing) his career and his success to do what was right - Muhammad Ali, standing by the Nation of Islam, refusing to fight in Vietnam. Doing what he felt was right even when it breaks our heart, as when on the NOI's say-so he broke off his warm friendship with Malcolm X, literally turning his back on him in one painful encounter when fate would have their paths cross in Ghana -- even as Malcolm was standing there like a jilted lover insisting that that the young boxer was indeed the greatest, that he still loved him.

As in his bio of Dylan, Marqusee argues that the american genocide in Vietnam was the climax of a global conflagration that had entered its newest spectacular phase twenty years earlier with the anticolonial revolutions following World War II. In the united states this means that the Black Revolution was what came first, what set things in motion, the leap forward that in its turn prepared the ground for the antiwar explosion.

Marqusee uses that era -- the sixties, which he himself experienced as a kid coming of age in the u.s. -- as his pivot, but he swings a wide arc, tracing boxing in the Black nation back to the late nineteenth century, situating it in what Paul Gilroy has termed the "Black Atlantic", examining the tensions between laughing-with and laughing-at that Black boxers like other Black entertainers have always had to navigate.

& he looks forwards to our time, too: showing how neocolonialism beat back the Black revolution and what this meant for boxing in general, and Ali in particular. i wish this had been drawn out more, but even with the cursory examination of how Mobutu-the-butcher and Marcos-big-dick teamed up with Don King and used Ali to create their own circuses, the message was clear. The negative comparison of Ali with Michael Jordan was spot on, too -- like: people say Jordan's a model, but what for? being wealthy?

My only caveats about this book are (1) there is some quick name dropping, some quick references to facts, and if you don't know what is being referenced it might be a bit bewildering. This is not a major thing, and Marqusee actually does the opposite -- fully explaining who folks were and their context -- more often than not. So much so that someone who never watched sports and abhors boxing (which i can't tell apart from wrestling, silly me) never felt unsure of what was being described. But i'm less sure that a boxing fan who was not particularly interested in politics would've enjoyed it quite so much.

The second caveat, really nitpicking, is that i found a bit too much of an overlap with his Dylan bio. Like he's had these great insights, and he put them in both books - but having read both books so soon the one after the other i occasionally suffered from deja vu. Even in their structure, when Michael Jordan comes in for his last minute appearance as a shallow materialistic foil for Ali, i was reminded of how Marqusee used Bruce Springsteen as a similar foil for Dylan right at the end of Chimes of Freedom.

But perhaps it makes sense, as what is being traced is how individuals - albeit from different worlds and with different priorities and personalities - navigated the same storm.

Neither of these caveats should discourage comrades from picking up this book - it's a great read, a wonderful blending of cultural and political history, and really inspirational to boot.

Which i never thought i would say about a book about professional sports.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Words to the Misguided

A nice appeal to those who find themselves attracted to the patriot movement, care of Phoenix Class War Council:

As it now stands, much of the patriot movement demands not an end to fascism, but an exemption from the fascism that it demands for others.

To read the whole post, click here.

Life Under the Jolly Roger: Reflections on Golden Age Piracy

Life Under the Jolly Roger: Reflections on Golden Age Piracy

This review by Peter Gelderloos re-posted from infoshop.org - remember to order your copy of  Life Under the Jolly Roger from leftwingbooks.net!

Life Under the Jolly Roger
by Peter Gelderloos

In Life Under the Jolly Roger (PM Press 2009), Gabriel Kuhn takes on the far flung sources regarding golden age piracy (primarily in the Caribbean at the end of the 17th century and beginning of the 18th) not in order to establish a definitive truth about them but to dispel myths, clarify what we can know for sure about the pirates and what realistic questions remain, and to elucidate what the pirate legacy might mean for people today who also see themselves as excluded by or at war with the developing global order.

With a mastery of social theory and a comfortable deployment of the great body of research he has mined, Kuhn examines the pirates ethnographically and sociologically and subjects them to the theories of Clastres, Foucault, Nietzsche, Deleuze and Guattari, and sundry others. None of this is to say that the book is dense or obscure. Quite the contrary. Kuhn certainly writes for the agile reader, but rather than dropping names and assuming one can automatically place the reference within a well developed theoretical framework, Kuhn quotes at length to show how golden age piracy fits into these influential social theories and thus fills in a missing piece in our understanding of the world. In this way, Kuhn's sincerely curious, detailed, and multifaceted investigation of piracy helps us reconfigure our historical understanding of such broad themes as the development of capitalism, colonialism, race, discipline and the human body, physical disability, rebellion and political violence, guerrilla warfare, and more. The book has the potential of becoming something of a milestone achievement in this regard, similar to Silvia Federici's Caliban and the Witch, though Kuhn's subject matter is decidedly more limited.

Sometimes the limitations he sets leaves me feeling like part of the picture is missing, and leaves important questions unanswered, such as: what was the connection between the golden age Caribbean pirates and the earlier Muslim and renegade pirates of North Africa, studied by Peter Lamborn Wilson? But in general Kuhn is just being specific and disciplined, setting himself a subject matter distinct enough that it can be properly analyzed, rather than going after all pirates, anywhere, at any time. And he also maps out at length the direct predecessors of the golden age pirates, the buccaneers, so the sense of history is not left lacking.

I found particularly fascinating the analysis of the transatlantic ship as a space for the creation of new social relationships that laid the ground for factory production; Kuhn makes clear how historically significant a few thousand pirates were in negating and temporarily opposing the development of capitalism, given the antiauthoritarian and undisciplined counter-model of the pirate ships.

The book is definitely written in an academic style, and it seems Kuhn is attempting to intervene and leave his mark in the professional discourse on piracy as much as he is trying to talk to fellow anarchists about pirates. I have long been curious about the attraction the academy exerts on some anarchists, and I think there is as much to gain as there is to lose from this liaison. On the positive side, a more disciplined style of research us shed the incorrect and self-serving histories that have found their way into anarchist folklore, so that, for example, we don't go around like idiots talking about a pirate utopia, Libertalia, that probably never existed and in any case is exemplary of liberal democracy rather than anarchy. (I've fallen for that same lie, sadly in a text that is now going to print. If only I had read Kuhn's book first!)

>But the detraction of academic discourse is its conservatism. Perhaps the most powerful criticism within that milieu is the charge of romanticism, and anywhere one looks one sees academics falling over themselves to run in the opposite direction. And while I daresay Kuhn does not fall or stumble in the course of this book, I do notice a certain conservatism that is surprising coming from a fellow anarchist. For example, there's the occasional usage of words like “cutthroat” as though it has any meaning, terms loaded with a bourgeois weight, like “crooked merchants” to describe traders who took plundered goods from pirates. Kuhn seems to privilege conservative myth-busting to radical romanticism. I appreciate his honesty in exposing the racism of the pirates and their participation in the slave trade; however in his presentation he heavily privileges this information at the expense of information on the connection between piracy and slave rebellions, which was in fact so strong a connection that it motivated the legislation of race and segregation in the new colonies. Kuhn mentions this latter information, but in passing, making it seem that he is more interested in busting the myth of racially liberated and liberating pirates than in exploring the complexity that this contradiction between pirate slavetrading and pirate support for slave rebellions suggests.

After all, a goal of anarchists is to inspire people. To do this, we don't need to tell lies, but we do need to accomplish a certain unbalanced telling of facts and stories, and by unbalanced I do not mean skewed but in motion, infused with a crazy hope that this system is sinking and we can help send it to Davy Jone's locker, as it were. Gabriel Kuhn does not at all hide his politics, but he also engages in a preexisting discourse that doesn't rock the boat too much. He does us a service of disabusing us of certain tall tales, but it seems that whenever he offers information about the pirates that might be inspiring, he does so in a very balanced, grounded way that is more useful to academics than to anarchists.

But even as he discrediting pirate myths that anarchists have long cherished, he offers us something even more helpful: the observation that, in fact, fairy tales do not become any less important than real histories, because of what they represent for an insurgent imagination. As Kuhn suggests, the romanticization of pirates as antiauthoritarian rebels seems to be part of the pirate phenomenon from the beginning, and that imaginary myth may have played the important role of keeping radical dreams alive throughout a century when these dreams could find no solid expression in the reactionary socio-political order that reigned from the mid-seventeenth to mid-eighteenth centuries, between the era of the Ranters and Levellers to the era of democratic revolutions.

In the end, Kuhn does a masterful job of convincingly detailing life under the jolly roger, but he does far more than that, by calling on this phenomenon to deepen our understanding of contemporaneous processes in history at a point when capitalism was first starting to develop, and by hinting at the importance of imagination in the course of history. Thus all the romanticism surrounding pirates is not meaningless: people thirst for rebellion and unfettered freedom, and if they cannot live it themselves, they will create in an imaginary world or see it in the frontier region of this one, until such time as they can seize it for themselves.

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Life Under the Jolly Roger: Reflections on Golden Age PiracyLife Under the Jolly Roger: Reflections on Golden Age Piracy

While providing an extensive catalog of scholarly references for the academic reader, this delightful and engaging study is directed at a wide audience and demands no other requirements than a love for pirates, daring theoretical speculation and passionat
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Woman Dies in 107-Degree Cage in Prison: SWOP Remembers Marcia Powell

Reposting this important piece from Bound not Gagged:

Woman Dies in 107-Degree Cage in Prison: SWOP Remembers Marcia Powell

For Immediate Release
Contacts: SWOP-USA 1-877-7... ext 2
Liz Coplen- SWOP-Tucson Peggy Plews- Arizona Prison Watch
info@swop-tucson.org freemarciapowell@gmail.com

On Friday December 18th sex workers from around the country are gathering to remember Marcia Powell, a woman considered mentally impaired by the court, who was incarcerated for solicitation of oral sex and sentenced to over two years in prison. On May 20, 2009, Marcia Powell died after being left in an uncovered outdoor cage in 107-degree heat at Arizona’s Perryville women’s prison. Sex workers and prisoners’ rights activists rally at the Arizona Department of Corrections as part of a series of events in conjunction with the 7th Annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
Tucson, Arizona December 15, 2009 -December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This event was created by Sex Workers Outreach Project, SWOP-USA (http://www.swopusa.org), a national social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of sex workers, focusing on ending violence and stigma through education and advocacy.
In 2009, sex workers from around the globe met gruesome deaths and endured unspeakable violence. Some died at the hands of a solitary perpetrator; others were victims of serial “prostitute killers.” While some of these horrific stories received international media attention, other cases received little more than a perfunctory investigation. Many cases remain unsolved, sometimes forever.
On Friday December 18th, SWOP-Tucson calls on sex workers and other activists from around the country to gather in remembrance of Marcia Powell, a woman considered mentally impaired by the court, who was incarcerated for solicitation of oral sex and sentenced to over two years in prison. On May 20, 2009, Marcia Powell died after being left in an uncovered outdoor cage in 107-degree heat at Arizona’s Perryville prison for women. Attention to Powell’s death revealed that this type of confinement was routine; women were left in these cages regularly.
“Marcia was the victim of dual forms of injustice, as a sex worker and as a prisoner,” said Liz Coplen of SWOP. “The prohibition of prostitution results in selective prosecution that puts some of the most vulnerable in our society at the mercy of a system that robs them of their basic respect and dignity.” For decades efforts to curb sex work have not only failed to reduce incidences of prostitution, but they have corrupted our justice system resulting in selective enforcement, racial profiling and inhumane treatment of those who don’t have the financial resources to fight back.
Violence against sex workers is epidemic and rarely taken seriously. The criminalization of prostitution legitimizes this abuse so that sex workers are the targets of violent crime with little recourse. Incarceration is not a solution to the issues of poverty and security that some sex workers face. As the death of Marcia Powell in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) shows, prison sentences can include the most extreme form of neglect and abuse. As a result of an internal investigation, 16 people were disciplined. A criminal investigation, ongoing at the Maricopa County Attorney’s office, will determine whether criminal charges should be filed in her death. See “AZ corrections workers disciplined in inmate death,” Associated Press, 9/22/09 (http://www.newsvine.com/_news/2009/09/22/3302271-az-corrections-workers-disciplined-in-inmate-death) ; “Inquiry: Inmates often left in sun-exposed jails,” Arizona Republic, 9/25/09 (http://www.azcentral.com/12news/news/articles/2009/09/25/20090925powell0925-CP.html).
On December 18th, noon, SWOP, Arizona Prison Watch and Friends of Marcia Powell are gathering at the Arizona Department of Corrections in Phoenix for Marcia and other prisoners, and sex workers everywhere, as we call for respect for human rights.
To see full letter submitted to AZ Department of Corrections here: http://www.swopusa.org/files/December18thLetter.pdf
What: Rally-Remembering Marcia Powell and other prisoners and sex workers
When: Friday, December 18th, 2009, 12 Noon
Where: Steps of the AZ Department of Corrections, 1601 West Jefferson St. Phoenix, AZ 85007
On December 17th SWOP-Tucson, is presenting two events in Tucson:
A performance art/art installation called “No Human Involved (NHI),” 5- 6 PM at El Presidio Park,160 West Alameda Street, in Tucson, AZ and a “Memorial Ritual and Vigil” 6:30 – 7:30 PM at El Tiradito Shrine, a national historic site at 354 South Main Avenue in Tucson, AZ.
Visit SWOP USA’s website at http://www.swopusa.org/dec17 to find a December 17th event in your town.

Xfruits, Yahoo Pipes, etc.

Sorry everyone, this is just a test post as i try to figure some stuff out with xfruits and yahoo pipes.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Upping The Anti #9

Upping The Anti #9The latest issue of this volume of theory and action just arrived in my mailbox - which means it's available to all of you via leftwingbooks.net (just click on the image, or right here).

Here's the table of contents, to whet your appetite:

Letters to the Editor

  • Eli Clare: Resisting Easy Answers - Intersectional Politics and Multi-Issue Organizing
  • Sherene Razack: Think Before You Act
  • Ben Saifer Shalom-Salaam?: Campus Israel advocacy and the politics of "dialogue"
  • Kate Milley "Where is John Wayne when you need him?": Anti-Native Organizing and the "Caledonia Crisis"
  • Chris Hurl & Kevin Walby: We are the Student Movement?: The Rise and Fall of the CUS
  • Out of the Shadows: Ten Year Reflections on Seattle
  • Going for Gold on Stolen Land: Anti-Olympic Organizing
Book Reviews
  • Sean Benjamin: Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism
  • Jeff Shantz: The Red Army Faction, A Documentary History, Volume 1: Projectiles for the People
Click here to order or for more information.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Undercovers and "Security Experts" re: 2010

Two reports in regarding police infiltration, surveillance and smears in the lead-up to the 2010 olympics in b.c.

First, the No2010 blog tells us that Victoria Police Chief Jamie Grahamhas been bragging about undercover penetration of the anti-2010 activist scene, joking (?) at a security conference about how the bus driver bringing activists to an anti-2010 protest was in fact a cop.

Secondly, the Socialist Voice's John Riddell tells us that the "Ottawa Citizen Smears Progressive Activists", pointing to a recent article by Ian MacLeod amalgamating the Socialist Voice with all manner of grassroots protests and international players like Hezbollah and Hamas!

Nuthin deep, just a quick observation: folks get a bit too indignant about this shit.

Yeah, the state and private security and media concerns will do what they can to observe, disrupt and discredit our activities.

Yeah, they'll lie about us, and ridicule us.

Yeah, we have to combat this.

But we also have to expect it, and predict it. When it happens our response should be to calmly say, "See, this is what we mean."

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Against Anti-Prostitute Violence

In solidarity
From Stella, Montreal's sex-worker advocacy group:
Stella invites you to support our actions in December to denounce violence against sex workers and to fight for our rights and the recognition of our work. The criminalization of our work robs us of the right to security. Security that is much needed: at Stella, we record more than 60 attacks per year.

The trials of two alleged sex offenders who targeted sex workers starts in December 2009. We invite you to support the victims by demanding no to impunity towards sex worker related violence. We call for decriminalization of the sex industry to give workers more control and safety in our workplaces.Marche des parapluies rougesWe are counting on you, sex workers and allies, who believe in our mission, to join us for our actions. Bring a red umbrella if you have one, and your high heels (optional):

December 7th
Action to support the 5 sex workers who pressed charges against Giovanni D’Amico:
10am: Demonstration in front of the Montréal courthouse (1 rue Notre-Dame Est).

December 9th
Action to support the 3 sex workers who pressed charges against Marco Chevalier:
9am: demonstration in front of the Saint-Hyacinthe courthouse (1550 rue Dessaulles); meet at Stella: we will be headed by bus (please RSVP in advance).

December 17th
International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers:
4pm: The Red Umbrellas March begins at Papineau Metro
6pm: Café Cleopatra and Discussion Panel on violence against sex workers.

Call for Solidarity
Stella calls out for all sex workers to come support and encourage the victims in the process of denunciations of violence that they have undertaken. You are encouraged to support these women by sending them your anonymous letters of courage and support. We invite you to send your letters by email or mail at "Stella - Appel à la solidarité". Your letters will be given to the victims at the time of their appearance by members of the Stella team and will be shown during our actions related to these two lawsuits.