Favorite Photos of 2013

December 26, 2013 at 10:10 am (Projects)

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Clamor Magazine is now available online (and a request)

October 28, 2013 at 3:02 pm (Announcements, Projects) (, , , , , )

clamor38_150Clamor Magazine was a huge and significant part of my life. Not only did a spend seven years working on it, but it shaped my life, friendships, and politics more than I could have imagined.

I’ve been working for the last year to make the content of the magazine available digitally, and I kind of can’t believe that I am able to say CLAMOR IS NOW ONLINE.

Jason and I are also doing a fundraising campaign to make the archive more accessible. I hope you will consider contributing or spreading the word. Here’s a link to the campaign:

Working on this project has been so nostalgic for me, but also just really exciting. As part of the fundraising campaign I’ve been going through each issue and posting some of my favorite pieces on Facebook and Twitter. It’s been like an excavation – the features I totally forgot, along side the things I could never forget. I am pleased and proud about the work we were able to do then, and wish there were a similar vehicle now.

These pieces are available if you go directly to the Internet Archive, but right now we aren’t able to locate them through searching Google or other engines, which is the purpose of the project we’re doing now.

More info on the project (including a link directly to the online archive and to a list of the 800+ contributors) is below.

* * *

The Clamor Magazine archive is now available digitally—Can you help us make it more accessible?

Clamor co-founder Jason Kucsma and I are working on making all of the print content available and searchable through a new web portal. We’ve already digitized the print magazines, and though everything is online now, we still have some work to do to make it an accessible collection for readers, researchers, and enthusiasts.  Can’t wait for the new portal? You can view the magazine collection on the Internet Archive here.

We need your help to see this project through. We hope that you will consider making a small donation to make this possible. Read on for for more about why we’re digitizing the magazine, and why we need your help.
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Accounting for Ourselves – A Review and Interview

June 30, 2013 at 10:38 pm (Interviews, Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

6bAccounting for Ourselves – A Review and Interview

How do restorative and transformative justice processes work in practice?

In April, the anarchist collective CrimethInc published a new pamphlet critiquing accountability processes and suggesting ways forward. “Accounting for Ourselves” is not an introduction to accountability processes, nor to the concepts of restorative or transformative justice, but an attempt to evaluate the current implementation of these concepts in political subcultures.

My interest in this topic has come from participating and supporting friends and comrades in this work over the last ten or so years. Accountability processes attempt to put many of my values into practice—mutual aid, respect, direct action, a DIY ethic, an acknowledgement that “crime,” safety, harm, and support are complex. Accountability processes haven’t been a perfect solution, however, and many of the participants I know have left these processes frustrated. At the same time, a lot of the collective knowledge about what works and what doesn’t work is scattered, unwritten, and lost as ad-hoc groups come and go around particular crises.

I started thinking about doing a writing or research project on accountability processes, motivated by the urgent feeling that we must do this better. After I began talking with friends and comrades about collecting best practices, I discovered that a friend had already done a lot of good thinking in this area, and I read some early drafts of this pamphlet.

“Accounting for Ourselves” is a necessary critique done in an effort to move us toward a better process. Though written as a reflection of the practice of accountability processes in Anarchist circles, the writing offers accessible insights to anyone interested in these issues. I find this type of honest self-reflection both rare and urgently important.

If you are unfamiliar with accountability processes, the following Q & A with Nikita, one of the primary authors of the pamphlet, is an introduction to these ideas and to the pamphlet. The pamphlet itself (available for free) also gives historical context for how these concepts have developed over time and how they have been put into practice. It includes an excellent (and thorough) list of articles, books, ‘zines, and organizations. We recommend starting with these five resources:

“Accounting for Ourselves – Breaking the Impasse Around Assault and Abuse in Anarchist Scenes” and is available for free online here: http://www.crimethinc.com/texts/recentfeatures/accounting.php

This interview was conducted in May 2013.

Q: Could you give us an idea of what an “accountability process” is?

A: “Accountability process” is a broad term for alternative methods for responding to harm on a community level. Instead of focusing on punishment through the criminal legal system, these processes try to actually address the harm that was done, on the terms of the person harmed rather than those of the state. These processes can be as simple as a few friends coming together to support someone and confronting a person who’s hurt them, or can involve more complex mediation between collectives of people who support and intervene.

“Accounting For Ourselves” focuses on these alternative processes as they’re applied in situations of sexual assault and abuse. We chose this focus because these are some of the primary forms of harm that folks have attempted to address through accountability processes, in part because the criminal legal system is notoriously ineffective at providing resolution and preventing harm in these situations.

Q: How do accountability processes fit into your political framework? How did you come to be involved with this work?

A: I first got involved in men’s anti-violence education and rape crisis support work because so many of my friends and loved ones had experienced sexual violence. I was also getting involved in anarchist organizing and prison abolition work, and community accountability brought together these visions on an intimate level.

Accountability processes attempt to put anti-authoritarian ideals into action. If we’re struggling against police violence and the prison industrial complex, but we don’t have tools to address harm in our own circles, we’re unlikely to dismantle this society or successfully create alternatives.

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Resisting Grand Juries

June 6, 2013 at 10:08 am (Actions) (, )

It has only been in the last few years that I have really begun to understand the grand jury system in the United States. I kind of always knew they were out there, and that they impacted my communities, but I didn’t really know how they worked or how terrible they could be.

Several recent grand juries have brought up these issues again, and it’s become more important to get the word out about what they are, and how they can be resisted. Educating ourselves and our comrades is an essential step. I’ve been loosely involved with an ad hoc committee that is slowly working on gathering existing education materials and new materials to help us understand grand juries and other parts of the legal system, as well as work with friendly attorneys to understand the goals and priorities of activists. This will probably take some time, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot and wanted to put out some of the most basic things I have learned and give links to more information.

First, let’s all refresh our knowledge of what to do if we are approached by law enforcement. The National Lawyers Guild pamphlet, You Have the Right to Remain Silent, is an excellent overview. It is available for free download. Not only should we all brush up on how to remain silent, but we should have explicit discussions with our friends, families, coworkers, housemates, and anyone with whom we work politically. It is not enough for you to know that any information you give to law enforcement, even seemingly innocuous information, could be used to harm you or your friends—your mom, brother, coworkers, and housemates need to know that too.

Second, let’s talk about grand juries specifically for a minute.  In theory, the purpose of a grand jury is to gather information about “crimes” so that someone can be “indicted” or held responsible for the crimes. People who are subpoenaed to grand juries are witnesses who the government hopes will provide information about these crimes and the possible perpetrators. In reality, grand juries have been used by the State to find out information about activists and other communities. The links below go into detail about this.

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Supporting Ourselves – Year End Donations 2012

December 23, 2012 at 1:29 pm (Actions, Projects) (, , , , , , )

pyramid_smallI haven’t posted for a while, but I wanted to make my annual “here’s where I’m donating money this year.”  Though I am an anti-capitalist, I have long believed that our lack of understanding of and engagement with money on the Left has and continues to hurt our organizing. Of course it’s complicated, but it comes down to the question: What can we do within the current economic system to best work for systemic change?

This means we need to:

1. Examine our own consumption and participation in capitalism. How much money do I personally need to survive? What does survival mean? Can I act generously with “my” money in a way that directly contradicts the behaviors taught by capitalism? Once my (minimum) needs are met, what should I do with the other money I have? How do we find creative ways to work together so that we need less money to exist?

2. Generously support people and projects who are doing good work, so that they can struggle less and work more. While this support can come in many forms, direct or indirect financial support needs to happen until we all having housing and enough to eat and adequate medical care, because whether we like it or not, right now those things require money. How do we find creative ways to work together so that we can “earn” money when it is needed?

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On Entrapment, and Protecting Ourselves

May 25, 2012 at 10:01 am (People) (, , , , , , )


Early on May Day, the FBI announced it had foiled a terrorist plot to blow up a bridge in Cleveland, Ohio – my hometown. Then days later, another “terrorist plot” was disrupted at the NATO protests in Chicago. (Arun Gupta has done some excellent on-the-ground reporting from both cities).

In the last few weeks, A lot of my emotional space has been taken up by these things. In both cases, an infiltrator or informant basically pushed people into doing (or talking about) something they in all likelihood would never have done, in the service of fear-mongering and justifying increased surveillance and targeting of protesters.

Will Potter, author of Green is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege, has an excellent post on this topic summarizing the situation and reflecting on the overall shift it tactics by the state: “It’s nothing new to see widespread police misconduct and abuse in the days leading up to high-profile demonstrations… In the last several years, though, that decades-old model has been transforming. All the old tactics are still there. But now the message is being sent not just through arrests or police violence, but through the FBI working with local cops to infiltrate and disrupt protest groups, provoke and coordinate illegal activity, and then charge some activists with ‘terrorism.'”

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Why I Said No To Groupon

March 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm (Announcements, Projects) (, , , , , , )

ImageA few weeks ago, a representative from Groupon called me about offering a coupon through their site for Angel Cakes.

We talked for a while and she explained it all to me. I recognize that she is essentially a salesperson and her job is to make it sound like a good deal. She succeeded. You can read all about it on Groupon’s site for selling their service to businesses, Groupon Works.

Despite the sales pitch, I was skeptical. I started talking to a bunch of people about their experiences and thoughts about it and eventually decided not to do it.

Why I said No

Let me be a bit conceptual here for a moment.

Like most small business owners, I consider what I do a craft. Each cupcake order I make is custom made in a small batch, usually by me with the occasional help of an assistant. What I charge for my work is that (sometime elusive) sweet spot between what it actually costs me to produce the order and what people think it’s OK to pay for cupcakes (aka “what the market will bear”). There’s not really a lot of wiggle room there.

Capitalism is really good at instilling in us the desire to pay as little for things as possible, despite what the things cost to produce. This doesn’t make sense. When we look at the “slow food” and artisan food movements, where things like organic vegetables and fancy cheese and nice bread cost a lot, the producers say it’s because that’s what it actually costs to make the food. While I’m sure we can all think of fancy food and artisan things that are over-priced, for the most part, while we live in a system where we pay for food (which is kind of absurd, but that’s another story), I think that charging what it actually costs to make something is right.

Offering a coupon (Groupon says it needs to be at least 50% off) encourages that kind of behavior – of thinking not of what something is worth, but a more self-focused “what kind of deal can I get this for” attitude that I don’t want to encourage. At all. It’s not the way to value things that are produced ethically, by people who care about what they are making and their customers.

Not offering a coupon feels like I’m saying “this is what my product is worth.” Good. Let’s go with that.

Isn’t it worth it for the marketing / getting my name out there?

As someone who works on publicity and marketing, I think about how to get the word out about projects all the time. Unlike other people, I think spending money on marketing and promo efforts is important and can be effective when done right.

When people say “I lost a lot of money using Groupon,” Part of me thinks of that dollar figure not as lost money but as the cost of a marketing effort. Then the discussion is, is that dollar amount something I am willing to pay as an investment in marketing? and did I gain customers as a result? For most people, the answer is no.

For example, when I look at my Groupon/coupon buying behavior and that of my friends, which I can guess is not that different from most of the Groupon-buying public, I pretty much only buy coupons for places I already go or have no intention of going to again after I’ve spent the coupon.

Most people who buy online coupons are coupon shoppers. If they want more cupcakes, they’re not going to buy from me, they’re going to wait for the coupon for the next cupcake place (because we all know that cupcake places are everywhere right now).

Now that I’ve had the opportunity to think about this in an in-depth way, I’m not doing that any more. It basically financially penalizes the small businesses and restaurants that I am patronizing and want to support. They’re not gaining me as a customer since I already go there (or don’t intend to go again), they’re just losing money on the transaction. If I don’t want people to do that to me, why am I going to do that to others?

One of the caveats I can imagine is that if I were offering, say, a yoga class where my costs stayed the same even if the number of participants increased, then it might make sense. But, obviously, cupcakes are different than yoga. And if I offered a class, I would probably just offer an introductory package (like half off your first month or something), bypass Groupon, and spend my time and money on social media.

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12 Songs

February 6, 2012 at 9:10 am (People) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A few weeks ago, my sister Becky asked me to do her a favor. She wanted me to make her a mix CD of 12 songs that I love and tell her why I love them.

It’s been a totally fun project but also really challenging in a lot of ways. To start with, there’s the sheer volume of music that I love and listen to – I don’t think she realized what an absurdly small number 12 is. So, I ended up making two CDs with a total of 24 songs, dividing them into punk/hardcore, and well, everything else.

I did my best to narrow it down by picking bands that have been important to me and then choosing one song from that band – which sometimes given five (or more) albums worth of material to choose from, was daunting. Literally every song I chose comes from an album that is on my list of all time favorite records. There are so many great bands that aren’t included here that pressing “publish” pains me a bit.  Maybe that means there needs to be a part two (and three and four….).

I spent a lot of time thinking about what bands have been truly influential in my life. And though the second CD includes some really important ones (like Billy Bragg, Casey Neill, The Mountain Goats, and the Avett Brothers), it’s the punk/hardcore CD that I spent the most time on.  All the songs I chose have been particularly meaningful because they define a certain formative period of my life, including where I developed many of my most important and lasting friendships and where from a young age I developed my politics and belief systems – that the capitalist system doesn’t work for everyone, that it can change, that we can make that change happen (as opposed to waiting for someone else to make improvements), and that there are better alternatives. Each song has a story (or many stories) associated with it,  so you’ll have to forgive me a bit with the authobiographical stuff. So much of this is truly the story of my growing up.

I have a few more comments at the end, but here are the songs. Keep in mind that much of this commentary was written for someone outside of the punk scene. If you want me to make you a copy of this CD, just email me with your address and I’ll send it right out, or I’ll send you a download link. The CD mostly is album versions, and links here are also mostly to album versions, the video clips are just for fun.

1. Inquisition “Strike Anywhere”
2. Strike Anywhere “Chorus of One”
3. Avail “Virus”

These three bands represent a particular type of melodic hardcore that centers around Richmond, VA. There are loads of examples of the Richmond sound, but these three are the most important to me.  Inquisition and Strike Anywhere in particular (those two bands have the same singer, Thomas), exemplify the kind of politically charged lyrics that I really go for. The Inquisition album is called “Revolution, I think it’s called inspiration” says it all – that we want/need change, that we can make a better life, and that we just need to be inspired to get there. Overwhelmingly I find their lyrics political yet very positive, which I love. I love that the music is really energetic and upbeat and makes me want to move.

It is a great regret for me that I never got to see Inquisition live, though I have seen Strike Anywhere a couple of times. I’ve always been inspired by Thomas’s dedication and humility, qualities I’ve come to recognize as essential in people I most admire.  One of the first issues of Clamor had a quote from this Strike Anywhere song on the back (“I will do everything to kill the sleeping cop in me.”).

I remember being instantly attracted to Avail’s sound when I first heard them, and this is one of their early songs. I first saw them live at a YMCA on the west side (I’m thinking Brecksville but I could be wrong on that) and just fell in love with their sound and their energy, particularly live. One of their first recordings is the “Live At King’s Head Inn” 10″ that I really loved.  I’ve probably seen them live more than another band aside from Hot Water Music.  The singer, Tim Barry, does solo stuff now and one of their roadies I met during that era, AC Thompson, is an amazing investigative journalist now, and another is part of 1984 Printing. I just love it that people I met a long time ago have grown up to do really amazing things (and so many of them have – there’s something to think about there, probably.).

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Defending Occupy Oakland

January 30, 2012 at 5:53 pm (Actions, Events) (, , , , , )

The stated goal of Occupy Oakland’s day of action on Saturday January 28 was to take over an abandoned building and repurpose it for the good of the people. I participated in the action for part of the day and feel like I have spent the last two days defending the action to friends over breakfast, on Facebook, and on the phone. If you aren’t aware of what happened, this blog post does a good job of summarizing what I witnessed in person, and for moments I was not apart of, that I verified with multiple individuals I trust.

I know this post is long, but I can summarize it in one sentence:  Regardless of how you feel about the chosen tactics from Saturday’s demonstrations, OPD is out of control, and the ability to gather, demonstrate, and protest is sacred and needs to be defended.

OK, here it is in much longer than one sentence:

  • Taking over unused buildings and doing something useful with them is a good idea. Although I may disagree with the specific tactical decisions that were made, this is a good step forward for Occupy and the large number of people who turned out to this event (by any estimate, at least 1,000) is evidence that a lot of other people think so too. I have long supported squatter’s movements and will continue to do so. Property and who has access to it or not is a huge issue that cannot be ignored.
  • I did not participate in the meetings leading up to this occupation and all of the people who have been criticizing the action that I have been arguing with didn’t either.  It’s unfair to make judgments and say “they should have done X” when we were unwilling to participate in the (open) decision-making process. We also don’t know all the factors that went into any specific tactical decisions, and I am willing to make a good faith guess that the people who were making decisions were doing the best they could with what they could.
  • The group that organized this action did an excellent job of putting out why they wanted a building and what they wanted to do with it. You can read some here. This was smart.
  • When there is a crowd of 1,000+ people involved, no one can (or should) control everything. OK, some people burned a flag. Fine. Next.
  • This photo of the crowd by Len Tsou gives you an idea of what the march was like.  When we approached the building (the Henry J Kaiser auditorium in Oakland), it was surrounded by riot cops. It was around 3 p.m. I was happily walking along talking with a friend and hanging out next to the Brass Liberation Orchestra. It was a gorgeous day.  There were kids and families and old people and young people and yes, there were “black bloc” people there (how I hate that moniker).
    When the march reached the Lake Merritt side of the building, the police announced a dispersal order (aka leave now or you will be arrested), despite the fact that there was a large ditch and construction fences between the building and the march. This seemed a bit premature. The marchers were not being threatening in any way, other than by our mere presence. Despite this, the police repeated the dispersal order and then began to use smoke/flash canisters to disperse the crowd. Did you look at that photo? Does that look like a crowd that needs to be dispersed by smoke bombs? It can not be overstated that the Oakland Police Department’s actions were heavy handed, escalated the situation, and set the tone for the rest of the day.
    The march moved on and there was a confrontation with the police around the side of the building. Yes, there were protesters there with shields and gas masks. Despite that, I feel strongly that the use of tear gas on a largely unprepared crowd was an excessive use of unnecessary force by the OPD. I was a half a block away from the confrontation and felt the  gas.
  • It was clear from that point on that the OPD was intent on escalation with the ultimate goal of arresting as many individuals as possible. This video shows what happened when a second large march later in the evening was surrounded and “kettled” by OPD. All of my friends who have participated in anti-war or any other kind of demonstration should be f-ing outraged that the OPD thinks that it is OK to surround an entire march and arrest everyone! Instead, many are criticizing the action and all of those of people who were expressing themselves just as we have countless times. Just because you disagree with the goal of the day, does not mean that the OPD’s actions are OK. Kettling IS NEVER OKAY.  Maybe you didn’t notice the part about them using tear gas on people who they had trapped and couldn’t go anywhere? The “vandalism” in this video, of people pushing down a fence, is not vandalism but a (successful) attempt to escape a messed up situation and imminent, unjustified arrest. If I had stayed around a little longer, that would have been me.

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Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is – Who I Am Supporting This Year

December 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm (Actions) (, , , , )

This year, as people are becoming more and more aware of how much collective choices about money can impact people and things (think Occupy Wall Street and the Move Your Money project), it’s important to understand that giving money to awesome organizations is as important as withholding our money from bad corporations.

Every December I give away donations that equal just 1% of my annual income. It sounds like a pittance, but if we all did it… well, it wouldn’t be a pittance then. And it would make a difference.

No time to really get into it all right now, but for more of my thoughts, see my posts from 2010, 2009, and 2008.

Here are my 2011 choices:

  • The National Lawyers Guild – They have been working overtime this year helping out all those thousands of people who got arrested at Occupy protests around the U.S., as well as all of their normal cool stuff. They help us out, and we should help them out too. Here’s a link to their donate page.
  • Riseup – A perpetual choice. This small collective that provides free, secure email, list, and hosting services to the radical community. Just the email accounts alone they provide allow the global justice community to survive, and they are keeping us out of the Google empire. Go directly to their donate page here.
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation - Still the coolest. In addition to awesome posts like this “Know Your Rights” summary from this summer, they work on things like legislation and lawsuits that directly impact us all. Their donate page is here.

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