Category Archives: Summer 2006 (6/8/06)

Eating Snails

“Eat what is locally abundant” is my ecological mantra, which has led me to the delightful treat of Berkeley Escargot. That’s right, those cute snails devouring your garden are edible. In fact, they were brought here by the French for food and have naturalized here as an exotic pest. The biggest pest in my garden — chomping down little seedlings to stubs and generously helping themselves to my brassicas. What to do? Poisons are definitely out. We can’t poison part of the chain of life without affecting the rest of it. (Consider that and don’t use anti-bacterial soap and sanitizers — but that’s another article). Snail bait is dangerous to birds, dogs and children. Diligent hand picking of snails, especially on wet nights can be quite effective. But then what? Toss them in the neighbor’s yard? Step on them? I believe the highest honor and ecological act is to eat them. (Or feed them to your chickens and ducks if you have them.)

Here’s how I do it. When they get to be too many, I collect them up and put them in a large cardboard box. It’s sort of fun, like an Easter egg hunt — kids love it. You will soon learn the secret, preferred hang outs of these “land clams.” I try to set them up nicely for their last days with some of the plants they were eating, a dish of cornmeal (or similar) and a lid of water. Then I seal off the box well and leave it outside in the shade for 2-3 days. (If the box gets wet, the snails can stage a break-out ). When I come back , I see most of their poop has turned from black to yellow, letting me know they have been enjoying their last corn meal. It is thought that this “purging” is important to remove any toxins and to enhance flavor. I have eaten them without this step and survived but I would definitely do it if your neighbors use poisons.

I then put on a big pot of salted water to boil, then gather into a colander the little dears. I honor and thank them as I quickly rinse and dump them to their quick death by boiling. Being mostly vegetarian, it is a bit difficult, this killing, but I am coming to terms with my role as predator, understanding even its benefit to the prey.

I simmer for 15 minutes to a half hour, let cool and then I process them. It is my excuse to watch a video. I set up with 3 bowls, one to rinse my fingers, one for compost and one for the snail meat. Using a cheap dinner steak knife, I stab the tip into their foot and pull them out of their shell. The University of California pamphlet on snail eating says to remove the black tip of the spiral. After that I rinse them in a colander for some long minutes to remove the slime. They can then be frozen for a special occasion.

Frankly, I haven’t quite enjoyed eating them yet . . . they taste like, well, snails and are kinda slimy. But there have been some mostly successful recipes: Lisa’s French Chowder and the snail cakes were the best. Next I’m going for the deep fried snails. The Snail Dip and the Lasagna weren’t too good but try experimenting with any clam recipe. And explore how they are prepared in the many other countries where they are eaten. Bon appétit.

A zero emissions world will become realistic – Day of Action against Climate Change: July 15 again

Activists have called for an International Day of Action Against Climate Change July 15, 2006. On that day, the “Group of 8″ (G8) — leaders of the richest industrialized countries — will gather in St. Petersburg, Russia to plot their continued commodification and domination of the planet, this time under the banner of “Energy Security.” And, perhaps, thousands of people in cities and towns across the globe will rise up to demand alternatives to fossil fuels and zero emissions of greenhouse gases. It’s up to you — now is the time to link up with others in your area and make something happen July 15.

A leaked G8 Communiqué on Energy Security calls for trillions of dollars in new investments in oil, gas and coal production worldwide, plus wide-scale global expansion of nuclear energy. In other words, just as most regular folks are concluding that continued human dependence on fossil fuels risks the earth’s ability to support life as we know it, the leaders are plotting more of the same.

It’s going to be a long, hot summer with ever wilder weather extremes — all the hotter as millions of cars spew millions more tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air. The world leaders should feel the heat, too. Each additional day of business as usual the earth is moving one step closer to what scientists refer to as “the tipping point” — after which human-caused climate change will become irreversible and natural feedback loops such as melting ice sheets may accelerate climate change and cause permanent climate chaos.

A call to action issued by Rising Tide North America and Earth First! notes: “With runaway climate change looming just over the horizon, such neoliberal business-as-usual poses a direct threat to the continuation of life on Earth as we know it. Resistance is self defense. The G8 agenda promotes petroleum-dependent ‘Energy Security’ that pollutes our land and atmosphere, ravages poor and indigenous communities, and scorches the Earth’s climate. Their recipe for disaster must be met with our global opposition! As G8 energy ministers promise trillions in new subsidies to the industries destroying our planet and our future, we will take action to shut them down!”

The call to action continues: “This is a call for autonomous, decentralized actions appropriate for your town, city, or bioregion. Use this international day of action to support local struggles against oil refineries, gas pipelines, strip mines and coal-fired power plants. Disrupt the financial backers of the fossil fuel industry. Host teach-ins to spread sustainable post-petroleum living skills. Find a weak point in the infrastructure of resource exploitation and throw a literal or symbolic wrench in the works. Visit your local polluters and give ‘em hell!”

Zero Emissions

Ultimately, all mainstream discussion of efforts to limit global climate change propose solutions that are far too little and too late. Proposals like the Kyoto Treaty which would cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels for industrialized countries, or initiatives to create markets to trade carbon credits, or efforts to invent machines that are still dependent on fossil fuels but that use less of them all miss the point. The only way to step back from the climate change cliff is to quickly go cold turkey on fossil fuels and reach zero net human emissions of greenhouse gases. Virtually no mainstream politician or media outlet is calling for a zero emissions goal — “unrealistic”, they say. “It would hurt the economy too much.”

But from an ecological standpoint, zero emissions has to become realistic. Shifting to a zero emissions world requires not just lobbying and government reform, but a wholesale paradigm shift.

Many people hope that technological break-throughs will allow society to eliminate fossil fuel use without requiring anyone to change their life style. The current craze for hybrid or biofueled cars is a perfect example– people want to figure out a way to keep living in an instant, motorized, convenient world but not feel bad about the environmental consequences. But it is far from clear that people in the developed world can continue energy intensive life-styles in an environmentally sustainable fashion — even less clear that energy business as usual is possible if modern forms of life are extended world-wide.

And for every alternative energy source that has promise — like wind or solar — capitalism spews out ten times as many fake solutions that pretend to be “green” but really secretly depend on fossil fuels. In the struggle for a zero emissions world, it is crucial that people learn to sort all the confusing “alternatives” and compare them against each other. It doesn’t help to compare a real option against a false option. We need to compare apples to apples rather than apples to oranges.

For example, windmills are a zero emissions technology. All over the country construction of windmills is running into opposition because people are concerned with appearance issues and in some cases, bird fatalities. Opponents make an incorrect comparison of “windmill vs. no windmills” instead of a more correct comparison of “windmill vs. coal fired power plant.” Strip mines and the global warming caused by burning coal have very negative consequences — including on appearance and birds — but they are rarely included in the windmill debate because their effects are elsewhere or diffuse and harder to recognize. The failure to compare the alternatives is a very common problem when thinking about environmental issues.

Anytime a solution promises “less” fossil fuel consumption, be suspicious! Less emissions are still emissions — the real goal is zero emissions.

Bio-fuels like biodiesel and ethanol are perfect examples: both require massive inputs of fossil fuels (for machines and fertilizer) to grow the biofuel crops and then more fossil fuels to transport and process the fuels. They are thus far from zero emissions options — they just shift the fossil fuel dependence from where you can see it (at the gas pump) to somewhere else.

Hybrid cars are even more absurd as a “solution” to climate change. They may reduce emissions by 50%, but that means they still emit 50% of the greenhouse gases of a regular car. They prop-up the fossil fuel addiction and greenwash it.

Hydrogen powered machines are another complex alternative. Hydrogen gas burns without creating any greenhouse gases — water is the only exhaust. However, most hydrogen available at the moment is created from natural gas in a process that releases CO2. Thus, “clean” hydrogen at the moment is no better than burning natural gas, which is none too good.

Of course, it might be possible to produce hydrogen with power from windmills, and it might be possible to produce some bio-diesel using organic agriculture and bio-diesel powered tractors — thus closing the loop. But until that is done, these alternatives are fake. And when you hear the factory farm giant ADM and the Bush administration pushing bio-fuels, you have to figure that closing the loop and creating a real alternative isn’t the main goal — greenwashing and making profit are.

Many people who claim to be concerned with climate change are also pushing an expansion of nuclear power which — although it does not directly produce greenhouse gases — is hardly a sustainable solution. There is still no way to safely dispose of nuclear waste that takes thousands of years to decay. In addition, mining and processing uranium as well as building multi-billion dollar nuclear power plants all emits tons of greenhouse gases.

Of course solar power, hydro-electric, geothermal and wind all have some similar problems. For example, photo-voltaic (PV) solar panels that convert the sun’s energy directly into electricity require massive amounts of fossil fuel energy to produce, as well as mining and toxic chemicals. Some PV panels will take eight years to produce as much energy as they required for their manufacture! Some older wind turbines kill lots of birds, although newer, larger models have reduced bird kills. There are no easy answers — the massive human population on the Earth has an insatiable appetite for all kinds of resources from food to energy. The answer will probably lie in reducing human energy consumption while at the same time figuring out energy sources that — after initial construction — will be zero emissions.

Personal is political

Effectively challenging global climate change — or even figuring out constructive ways to think about it without getting mired in guilt or despair — can be very difficult. Whether we like it or not — with or without our consent — practically everything people do if they live in the developed world depends on fossil fuels. Getting up in the morning, obtaining food, communicating, moving about, even publishing Slingshot contributes to climate change.

As more and more people become aware of the risks of global climate change, some people wish on an isolated, individual level that they could get by without constantly creating greenhouse gases — thus the emotional power of hybrid or biodiesel cars in some circles. But fossil fuels are so integrated into our lives that real change can seem overwhelming or even impossible.

Corporations and government policies maintain dependence on fossil fuels, but the uncomfortable truth is that rejecting fossil fuels requires change on an individual level as well as on a structural level. Nearly everyone who has grown up with modern conveniences like cars, refrigerators, clothes dryers, running hot water, etc. feels on some level entitled to these uses of energy, and almost everyone in the developing world who grew up without these options wants them.

If a popular movement to address climate change has any chance of success, it has to get beyond absurd band aid solutions like nuclear power, hybrid cars and other “alternatives” that continue a resource extraction model without taking a guilt-based approach that blames people for living within a system not of their own creation. At the same time, a movement that always seeks to blame someone else for global climate change — never allowing that on some level, all of us are involved in what is going on — is doomed.

In the 1970s, the women’s movement expanded by convening thousands of consciousness raising groups — support groups that helped the participants understand and attack patriarchy both on a personal and political level. These groups offered personal, psychological and social support for experimentation, struggle and change.

Changing a system that is cultural, political and personal requires more than just global days of action. Its going to require mutual support to help people move beyond the overwhelmingness of global climate change that paralyses people into inaction or causes them to grasp at fake solutions.

Perhaps climate change support groups could help people deal with the complex social, cultural and psychological barriers to change in the way people relate to technology and the environment. These groups could allow people to support each other through these changes. These groups could also provide crucial, decentralized, local research to help sort out all the proposed “solutions” to greenhouse gas emitting technology and expose fake solutions. For example, when considering a particular technology with respect to climate change, such groups could look at all the costs and benefits:

• Does society really need the technology in the first place, and if so, why? For instance, why use a clothes dryer instead of a clothes line on a nice day?

• What are all alternatives to the technology and what are their problems? For example, if a particular development isn’t built as urban infill in Berkeley, will the people who would have lived there be forced to live in an even less ecologically viable suburban developments built on greenfields two hours from jobs?

• Compare the alternatives to each other to figure out the best one. Avoid concluding that any alternative to a current technology which is slightly better is a real “alternative.” An alternative solves a problem rather than slows it down.

It is possible for the world to attain zero emissions, but it will require a global mobilization on a mass scale — something like the way that the life of the whole world changed during World War II. Factories were converted to war production, cultural norms altered and new technologies quickly created — from Rosie the Riveter to the nuclear bomb. Using a war as a model for a conversion to zero emissions is plenty problematic, but the point is that if climate change was recognized as a crisis of global and historical proportions, the solutions could move beyond band aids and fake, green washing ploys and on to real solutions.

Every year hundreds of billions of dollars are invested in new fossil fuel infrastructure — drilling, pipelines, ships, refineries, etc. — to say nothing of millions of new cars built every year. All these investments make the fossil fuel industry and the governments they control even more resistant to alternatives because companies want to reap the profits of their investments.

Meanwhile, alternative energy projects like windmills or solar power feel lucky if they get a few millions in investments. What if all the money invested in fossil fuel infrastructure was channeled into wind and solar energy projects? A lot of alternatives that seem “unrealistic” might seem a bit more realistic if they were taken as seriously as fossil fuels always are.

Contact Info

Rising Tide North America is a new network initiated in the US by the Earth First! Climate Caucus, with inspiration and support from the UK’s Rising Tide direct action movement for climate justice and against climate change (www.risingtide.org.uk.) For info or to register a local action, email efclimatecaucus @wildmail.com or reclaimthecommons.net.

Cultivating community on Telegraph – Cody’s Books is closing – are the poor to blame?

“…Cody’s Books to close its store on Telegraph Avenue…” When this news got out about the iconic Berkeley bookstore, a shit storm went up not only in major television and print news, but in the casual talks around town. An air of apprehension lurks in the backdrop. For the record, the soon to be 50 year old book store suffered from the unsightly condition of poor people “allowed” to congregate on Telegraph Avenue near the store, but the forces of control have been in a prolonged effort to destroy the counter-culture that exists in Berkeley and on Telegraph Avenue.

Cody’s had earned its reputation in the 60′s by building one of the bridges between the growing youth and resistance movement and the intellectual community. After Andy Ross bought the store from the Cody family in 1977, he did his best to test the bridge between the two worlds by backing anti-homeless ordinances in the early 90′s. Then he started to open branches of the store on ultra affluent West Berkeley Fourth Street. and on Market Street in downtown San Francisco. By now abandoning Telegraph Avenue, he leaves the city to fret over the prospect of chain stores growing and erasing the village atmosphere that span a few short blocks on Telegraph.

To blame failing business on the homeless is simpleminded and thin. There is no shortage of growth in Berkeley, especially in students. Berkeley has been heavily redeveloped lately and if one looks at plans of the University and the Merchant’s Association, more is promised to come. Many are concerned that the Cody’s location will be replaced with a chainstore thus further advancing the mall-culture on Telegraph. Slingshot first noticed that Andy Ross was giving up on the village atmosphere on Telegraph when Cody’s stopped allowing this paper and most other free papers to be left for the public to take.

Context

One would think that the ongoing destruction of Iraq, one of the world’s oldest cultures, would be enough to occupy people’s gossip and concern for our collective future. But conditions there are that way in no small part because for most Americans, Iraq is too distant and abstract to connect blood and struggle. And that’s true as well for places like Gonaives, Kabul, Bogota; what do these places mean to most people but a blank stare? The irony is that Cody’s does a lot in the way of helping make the rest of the world more real to people. How we treat each other abroad may be closely related to how we treat each other at home.

The trajectory of the Bush presidency is a more advanced form of policy introduced during Reagan, that is: covert wars abroad, a gutting of the public sector at home, hyper development, a dumping of anxiety on foreigners and outsiders and a distrust and open snarl to intellectual life. Through-out, we’ve seen a deterioration in the commons; schools and libraries and open spaces are struggling while a proliferation of prisons and private corporations ensues. For twenty years now, the most vulnerable people have been stripped of their safety net and vilified for being poor.

Pincushion

One of the most hated of the outsiders are the homeless. Often despised for lowering property values, blamed for endangering safety and ignored when they assert their human rights. Many are on the street in no small part due to pro-business polices put forth during Reagan and since. So it goes that maneuvers to help business by cutting services would only come back and bite them in the ass years later.

Pat Wright moved to Berkeley in 1966 and himself barely skirting homelessness admits, “Having a business on Telegraph is horrible, I wouldn’t want to start one there. The parking is terrible. The people on the street are scary. It’s impossible there.” Though Pat has a firm foot in the counter-culture spending decades doing work at the punk rock club Gilman St., and KALX college radio station he observes, “The significant change of the past 15 years is you used to have a broader range of street people on the avenue. Now the people there are aggro. You don’t get the other types hanging there you used to..” The surly desperate people are seemingly the only one’s who can afford to spend downtime on the Avenue.

Several factors help with this. For one, college tuition at UC Berkeley which borders Telegraph Avenue has been steadily increasing since Reagan was governor of California and implemented fees. The price of attending has been doubling every couple years since then, ensuring students will spend years paying off loans, or that the people the school attracts are coming from rich families. The fight to bring back affirmative action may heat up soon thereby actually allowing low income people to attend UC, but it will do nothing to make living near campus affordable. As rents and the price of living skyrocketed in the Bay Area, it ensured that the people living in Berkeley would spend most of their time at work and not in the community. This undoubtedly affects who uses the street. So the people that remain on the street are either extremely impoverished or wealthy enough to live in this area and often frustrated with the poor. But when the hammer falls blaming Telegraph’s problems on the kooks and crazies, the real target may be dissent itself.

History Repeating Itself

The process to rid Telegraph of non-conformists started with the Long Range Development Plan in the early 60′s that sought to remove the growing radical element in Berkeley’s South Side. At that time, the key issues were civil rights, free speech, and a murmuring resistance to the war in Vietnam. The university’s attempt backfired when demolition of low-income houses helped create People’s Park. By the late part of the 60′s, the flood gates had been opened and with them, the envelope for social change. Since then the Park and any other liberated space in the vicinity has been in the cross hairs. The efforts to push out undesirables continued with the destruction of the Barrington Hall student cooperative in 1990 and then the Chateau coop just 3 years ago. Both places were student run co-ops that not only had a hand in turning ordinary students into activists, but had close ties to the counter-culture. However, every attempt to clean house of the rodents does not ensure that more won’t move in.

The fact that people are expected to shop in every common space disturbs me. Basing the value of a human on what they’re buying or selling is at the root of what’s wrong with the world. Many people who are homeless and/or destitute don’t want a job, they don’t want bills, they don’t want the system. This same sentiment was one of the motivations for People’s Park — to reestablish a place of non-commercial encounter. I get a little bummed out that the focus of so many young traveling kids on the Avenue is in getting money from passerbys.

Cody’s had at one time been a reason for me to go to Telegraph and check out the scene. Shortly after 911, I remember Bill Ayers of The Weather Underground was reading from his new book and I was interested in his take on the rise of Fascism. Bernadine Dohr was there as well and I felt that embarrassing melting most people get around their favorite rock or movie stars. Recently when Jane Fonda read from her autobiography, Cody’s had implemented a strange new policy — you could only watch if you purchased the book she was promoting. This was my further witness to business taking precedent over intellectual pursuits.

When all is said and done there is a lot of fuss over Cody’s closing when there is so much life being destroyed around us. Last year there were close to $98 million in sales for the short four blocks of Telegraph Avenue. That is considerably more than many countries have to run on, for example East Timore. Could it be that capitalism is insatiable and will never find satisfaction? That’s my guess, and would explain why an Andy Ross would expand to new markets rather than help the village atmosphere of Telegraph. But what is essential to save about Telegraph is the relation it has with every settlement worldwide as a central meeting space for exchange. Today, the emphasis is to refer to the space we gather in as the market, but ultimately the exchange that occurs in such a space cannot be so narrowly labeled.

Slingshot info – issue 91

Slingshot is an independent, radical, quarterly newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.

We’re excited about this issue, especially since it was almost canceled at last week’s deadline meeting when only three people and four solid articles showed up. We’re glad we took a leap of faith and decided to go forward. In the end, new people and existing members of the collective came out of the woodwork from all directions to pull the issue together on a hot, sweaty weekend. It’s hotter than the Arctic here in the Slingshot loft and we managed to overheat the printer doing layout because we have so many hands working on the paper. New energy keeps us inspired. We’re grateful for the friends of friends and travelers who come by, and we always welcome new faces.

The writing and editing before and after the deadline were a different matter with very few folks around. It is getting increasingly difficult for us to find writers and good articles. We suspect this is because so many great writers have turned to blogging and other internet publishing. We believe that the random people who pick up Slingshot at the laundromat are important & that by existing in print, we can inspire some of the folks who’ll never google “anarchy”. It’s true that you can reach a lot of people blogging but we think that good old print is still an important tool.

Even harder than getting writers is getting bookstores to pay us for the Slingshot organizers we sent them last October. As you may know, the organizer funds this project. We’ve been getting a lot of stories and a few checks. One place in Brooklyn that owed us $1,500 went out of business — we heard they even owed money to the Zapatistas!

On a totally random note, when we say you can send us checks or “concealed cash” for items, please don’t make the money impossible to find. Some lovely people who owed us $225 for organizers stuffed it into a teddy bear, put a red face mask on the bear and mailed it to us — no return address, no note saying there was money in the bear, just the bear in a box. We thought it was a weird toy and kind of silly. It sat around in the packing room for months and when we had a table at the SF Anarchist Book Fair, we tried to drop it off at the kid’s section. But we were too disorganized, so luckily it came back home. Then we tried to sell the bear at a yard sale, and when it didn’t sell, we put it in a free box. Then when we were calling folks to collect money, that store said “oh, we concealed it in a teddy bear.” We were pretty sure we had given or thrown the bear away, but unbelievably, we found it in a dark corner in the basement — the money still inside.

We’re enjoying the perfect California summer, riding our bikes and meeting everyone who comes to town. When will you be by?

Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors and independent thinkers to help us make this paper. If you send something written, please be open to editorial changes.

Editorial decisions are made by the Slingshot collective, but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collective members. We welcome debate, constructive criticism and discussion.

Thanks to all who worked on this: Adam, Artnoose, B, Dale, Eggplant, Hefty Lefty, Kerry, Maneli, Molly, Moxy, Natalia, PB, Rachel.

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on August 20 at 4 p.m. at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below).

Article Deadline and Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 92 by September 16, 2006 at 3 p.m.

Volume 1, Number 91, Circulation 15,000

Printed June 8, 2006

Slingshot Newspaper

Sponsored by Long Haul

3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705

Phone: (510) 540-0751

slingshot@tao.ca • www.slingshot.tao.ca

Back issue Project

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues for the cost of postage: send us $2 for 2 lbs or $3 for 4 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. Or drop by our office. Send cash or check to Slingshot to: Slingshot 3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705.

Circulation Information

Slingshot is free in the Bay Area and is available at Long Haul and Bound Together Books (SF), plus lots of other places. Contact us or come by if you want to distribute Slingshot for free in the Bay Area.

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income and anyone in the USA who owns a Slingshot organizer, or cost $1 per issue. International is $2.50 per issue. Back issues are also available for the cost of postage. National free distribution program: Outside of the Bay Area, we’ll mail a stack of free copies of Slingshot to distributors, infoshops, bookstores and random friendly individuals for FREE in the US if they give ‘em out for free.

Letters to Slingshot

My dearest Slingshot:

Please use these portraits of dead slave owners/Indian killers to keep up the bulk delivery. Issue 90 is circulating across middle eastern New Jersey like disease in a factory farm.

Also, if it makes anyone happy to know, I am a substitute teacher and I have used several articles in the last issue to make emergency lesson plans when left unprepared and unsupervised. Period 5 Spanish IV learned a lot about biodiesel the other week . . .

– Mike

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Hi there. My name is James Trimble and I am an inmate on death row at Youngstown, Ohio. I am writing to thank you for sending me a copy of the Slingshot. It really made my day. You all are right on with your views and stories. I am from West Virginia and have seen the horrible effects of mountaintop removal firsthand. The first time I saw it, I got sick to my stomach. It’s like a bomb had exploded on top of the mountain that I had hunted on as a child. I hunted not to kill but to help feed our family. Sometimes what I brought home was all we had to eat. The coal companies are destroying some of the most beautiful forests and streams on the East coast just to fuel our ever increasing need for energy. The Bush administration cares about nothing but making the rich richer at the cost of the country. They are selling our heritage for a few dollars. I gave my copy of the Slingshot to my mom. She’s 71 and she thought you folks kicked ass. So you folks have a lot of support from people you might not even think are on your side. Also, the article on biofuels was very eye-opening. People just don’t understand where are they going to get all this new farm land to grow all this corn and soybeans. Cut down what remaining forest we have, I’m sure that’s George Bush’s answer.

Your comrade, James

Dear Slingshot:

Bill “Knights” Templer is a crusader, determined to build a New Jerusalem in, well, the old Jerusalem. Crusading has always appealed to those who are frustrated at home. The anarcho-syndicalist lives in a lonely world on the fringe of the campus. The workers whom he would organize and liberate have never heard of him, and when they do, they laugh. Syndicalists are truly farsighted: workers look better at a distance. In Bolivia, or Nepal, or … in Palestine, where the Chelmer Rebbe and the Old Man of the Mountain are practically comrades already.

From afar, paradoxes dissolve in a blinding vision of peace, freedom, and full employment. “Beyond the dead end of the two-state solution,” Templer describes the open end of the one-state solution, which is actually a no-state solution. In a region devoid of syndicalists, syndicalism is, as always, about to burst from the class struggle, something else the region is devoid of.

Templer credits the HAMAS victory to “the vote by the Palestinian working masses,” then cites statistics showing that most Palestinians don’t work. Most who do, work for the government, so if the working masses elected the HAMAS government, they have elected their own employers, so they have syndicalism already!

Templer crusaders long ago learned word magic in the Holy Land of Kabbalists and Hashishin, and this one returns the favor today. HAMAS as an organization is nationalist, bureaucratic, authoritarian, terrorist and fundamentalist–but that is only the exoteric HAMAS. HAMAS, the acronym, the esoteric HAMAS, decoded, contains the word Resistance! (Also the word “Islamic,” which means, in addition to a certain unsavory religion, “submission,” but that is just literalist quibbling, like saying that “workers” are the people who work, not the people who write about them. Similarly, formulations like “Death to the Jews!” are actually occult references to “a veiled dictatorship of 15 families over the Israeli economy, media and politics.”)

The line is clearly drawn (in the sand, where else?). One the one side, “an entire population,” “ordinary people,” “a people,” and “the working masses.” On the other, “the Israeli plutocracy,” “the Israeli military and political class,” “the Israeli political elite,” and “a veiled dictatorship of 15 families.” Syndicalist class analysis does not get much more sophisticated than this, and I mean that sincerely. There are no elites in Palestine, no masses in Israel, but workers everywhere, except in the IWW.

Do the math:

Nationalism + Syndicalism = Fascism.

None of the above, i.e., Allah them are full of Shi’ite, — Bob Black, 3500 Main St., Suite 130-132, Amherst NY 1426, Abobob51@peoplepc.com

Swept Away – Life is Complex – Do Something! (Vortex Summer Vol #1)

I’ve been thinking that “activist” or “radical” publications like Slingshot lack a sense of heart — of the raw emotion that makes life so amazing, difficult and complex. For all the articles about stopping the war, saving the freebox, defending immigrants, something is missing. The most radical thing in my life is not the articles I write for Slingshot, but the very personal way my life in this community — Berkeley — feels liberated.

I want to figure out a way to express that sense of excitement, liberation and life force and broadcast it out everywhere because I think if people were able to feel and see the way life can be when money, property and power are cast aside as the driving goals and replaced with having adventures, using just what we need, and cooperating with others, that vision would be powerful. It would shake people up on an emotional, heart level the way a dry analysis of neoliberalism can’t. It would be meaningful politically, economically, culturally and psychologically.

One of my best friends is named Artnoose – she publishes a hand-printed zine called Kerbloom and we silkscreen t-shirts in the basement together every Tuesday night after work. We talk about intimate, personal, very important stuff. When Artnoose and I have those talks in the basement, I feel a sense of presence — of actually living instead of just getting by. And not just when I’m talking with her. The confusing, complex, collective, economically marginal, but incredibly experientially rich life here that so many of us share feels very real, very present and radical beyond just life-stylism. Like the “revolution” is not some kind of a day that will be noted in the newspaper, but its a process of personal and social liberation that we’re each responsible for, engaged in, and swept up by each day.

Swept up because sometimes my love for these people and these alternatives we’re trying to create actually hurts and is out of control. In one day I can feel so exhausted and defeated by a project that I want to give up — and then 2 hours later I’ll realize how lucky I am to be involved and that keeping that project going is my destiny in life and that it is why my life has meaning.

I get swept up and I end up loving too many people or the wrong people at the wrong time and love is so ultimately powerful. It isn’t really under my power to control it all — I have to ride the reality and the emotion. It is scary — I was raised to value control and knowing what I would be doing next week, in six months, or in five years. Part of living this kind of life has meant exchanging that knowing for a million complexities and questions and risks. But for each thing that I “give up” — convenience, security, power, certainty — I keep noticing that I get something else that I hadn’t expected to get and that I can’t always even describe. When things get complex and harder, they also seem more meaningful, authentic, beautiful and fun. Like I remember studying feminism and the idea of smashing the patriarchy and feeling so satisfied to realize that this didn’t just mean that women would get power and get to live as more whole people — it also meant that men would get to live as more whole people, too.

It is all a jumble to try to explain what I’m talking about when I talk about life here and now and when I say it isn’t just a lifestyle — just buying different stuff or not buying or living a certain way — but that its something more fundamental, important and radical. A paradigm shift personally, locally, politically, at home, at work and all day long. I’m talking about endless meetings with lots of different collectives, constant parties and new people to meet, travel, romance and sex, playing music sitting around a campfire at the landfill, dressing in drag, going for long walks with crying and hugging and smelling flowers, planting gardens and cursing the snails that eat the basil just after it comes up, and then re-planting it, spreading the ashes of our lovers with compost on an apple tree, writing this article and publishing Slingshot, riding on critical mass bike ride stoned in a tuxedo, blocking a street at a protest, building a solar heater.

My atheist sense is that I really am here because of an amazing, cosmic mistake — our world was a cloud of gas that became a sun and a cloud of debris that became the Earth, my life is part of an evolutionary chain of accidents that created those snails that are eating my basil, and we’ll all be dead and gone for eternity soon enough. So if there’s no point to all this, why do anything and what should be done? I figure the best I can hope is to have as many experiences that could be good stories as I can, and spend as little time on drudgery / earning money, etc. as I can. Life really is way too short and you really do have to do what you want now while you’re here this very moment. And clichés you realize while tripping on acid at the beach are sometimes true. I’m really the same as all life around me — an animal in an ecosystem with other creatures both human and non-human — so I want to cooperate with the survival and pleasure of other living things while I experience that pleasure myself.

On a political and a personal level, this means that it makes more sense to do something than to do nothing. If you are focused on avoiding romantic mistakes, you’ll never take a chance at loving someone because it might not work out and hurt one or both of you or even other people. And if you always act with such caution, you’ll have a lot of lonely Saturday nights.

Politically, we never know before we try whether a particular tactic or campaign or project will succeed or fail. But it is an absolute certainty that if no one tries it, it won’t happen and thus it will fail. Three days ago at the Slingshot meeting, we were trying to decide whether to do this issue this week or not. It didn’t look good — there weren’t a lot of articles, most of the collective had left to travel, and the new volunteers hadn’t shown up to the meeting. But somehow, here is the issue because it seemed like doing something — even if it isn’t our best work — couldn’t possibly be worse than doing nothing at all.

And things always look different from different vantage points in time. If you look at a problem you can’t figure out that is keeping you up at nights from the perspective of a year in the future instead of from where you are, you realize that in a year something will have happened. The worst most painful things that have ever happened to me — as awful as they were at the time — from my perspective now looking back are sometimes good stories. Stops along my way. But if you try to look into the future, you really can’t tell what the hell is going to happen.

Politically, things often look pretty awful. Right now, for instance. The war in Iraq is like a broken marriage that neither of the spouses can figure out how to finally end — it just lingers on. The eco-system is under attack and it somehow seems we’re simultaneously all responsible and all spectators to an out of control machine gone mad.

If you look at things from now, you’ll get paralyzed politically and be incapable of taking any action at all because the problems look insurmountable — those in power too rich and mighty — everyone else too disorganized and distracted. But if you look at history, there is both progress and regression all the time — slavery abolished, women liberated, gays out of the closet, polluted rivers saved — and also lots of terrible oppression unaddressed still.

Things changed because millions of nameless people took risks and fought. They didn’t know if their acts would be successful or pointless. But they knew that if they failed to act, then surely nothing would happen. And many of their acts were failures, just as many of our actions will be failures. But some of them will succeed.

Everyday the fundamental choice we face is whether we can deal with the uncertainty of history and life and do something — throwing a bottle into the ocean with no idea whatsoever if that something is the right thing or whether it will make a difference or get smashed on the rocks. If you get paralyzed worrying if it will make a difference or if you’re doing the right thing and end up not doing anything, you’re going to lose the opportunity offered by that day.

I’ve been working on Slingshot for 18 years now — my life is organized around it — and I still have no idea if it makes any difference or is just a pathetic and embarrassing waste of trees and ink. Sometimes I think both. I do know that doing this project and the many other complex, confusing, struggling, half-failure projects around Berkeley feel like a better option than just minding my own business and doing nothing. And I do know that I feel a hell-of-a-lot more alive doing stuff that is messy and uncertain and possibly even crazy than living the life the teevee says I’m supposed to be living.

This article excerpted from the first volume of Vortex Summer, a new zine about the authors continuing struggle to learn how to be a human being.

No Bars – No Borders

There is no greater criminal label in American society than to be marked a felon. Felons are stigmatized, profiled and discriminated against.

In many states felons cannot vote, are forbidden from certain licensed careers, prohibited from public housing or other assistance and are generally feared. Feared because when many people think of felons the most heinous of criminal acts come to mind: murder, rape and child molestation. However, many people fail to realize, as with California’s Three Strikes law, that a felon can merely be a repeat petty thief, an unrehabilitated drug addict or a man who simply got into a fist fight as a youth. In California there is no statue of limitation for prior convictions, and it is common practice for the state to retract decades old misdemeanors and re-characterize them as felonies.

As such, it is no wonder millions of immigrants, human rights advocates and other humanitarians across the country have mobilized an impressive opposition to a bill that would make felons of undocumented immigrants and anyone caught assisting them.

The bill, H.R. 4437, introduced by Congressman James Sensenbrennerr (R, Wisconsin), would make undocumented immigrants vulnerable to felony sentencing from 1 to 20 years. It would also make those who employ immigrant baby sitters, painters and farm workers, along with good Samaritans who help them, criminals.

Apparently not much forethought went into how such an influx of incarceration would affect the prison population. There are currently some 2.1 million prisoners confined in U.S. prisons. The incarceration rate exceeds every modern nation, and has well surpassed any previous domestic prison population.

If just one-third, or 3 million of the twelve million undocumented immigrants, employers and good Samaritans were to suddenly find themselves behind bars, the current overcrowded prison population would more than double in a blink.

As it stands, the jails and prisons are overflowing. A series of recent brawls in the Los Angeles County jail system, where one prisoner died and several others-including Sheriff’s deputies-were injured, is indicative of the consequences of reckless and dangerous overcrowding.

Scarce and inadequate resources lead to malicious melees over any and everything: from very limited library seats, to rationed food, to strong-armed struggles for decent cells and bedding.

Despite a 1957 United Nation’s prohibition against double bunking, the U.S. has continued to circumvent Resolution 633 for nearly 30 years; claiming “emergency overcrowding”, the loophole permitted as a “temporary” measure for such conditions.

A caldron of chaos has subsequently been created by consistently broadening the scope of felonies from offenses once considered misdemeanors.

In California, the overcrowding has led to a crisis in prison medical care so horrific that an average of one inmate was dying per week. In early April, U.S. Judge Thelton Henderson intervened by appointing a federal monitor to oversee the prison system’s grossly negligent medical department.

California knows first hand the ills of prison overcrowding. Since the enactment of the Three Strikes law — deemed the most repressive in the nation — the overburdened prison system has added 43,000 primarily non-violent prisoners to its vast domain in just under 12 years. To adjust to the influx, Governor Arnold Schwarzeneger proposed constructing two more multi-million dollar prison sites during his State of the State address in January. The two proposed penal institutions would add to the 33 prisons the state currently oversees. Schwarzenegger’s proposal comes in prefect timing for the announcement of H.R.4437.

California’s prison system, the largest in the nation, supervises 173,000 adult and juvenile inmates and wards, and is responsible for another 115,000 parolees at large.

Around the nation, the fast-paced prison expansion has been a windfall for the business community. By 1999 at least 17 states were in contracts with 20 for-profit private prison companies that collected more than a quarter of a billion dollar in revenues from taxpayer dollars. The proliferation, like ante-bellum slavery, is all about the body count. The more bodies, the more profit. Profits are indeed high and very few of the facilities offer work training and education programs that have been shown to reduce recidivism.

Meanwhile, California taxpayers have seen the annual budget for its prisons increase to $8.6 billion, from an already obscene $6 billion the previous years. With close to 300,000 prisoners, the state’s prison budget dwarfs the annual budgets of many small countries, including some of our neighboring island nations in the Caribbean. For instance: Antigua and Barbuda have a population of 66,464 and an annual budget of $141.2 million. The annual budget for Belize is $142 million, for a population of 249,982 and the annual budget for the Bahamas is $845 million for a population that exceeds California’s prison population at 294,982.

A more striking comparison is that of Bahrain, a small state in the Persian Gulf that has more than double the population of California’s prison population with 634,137 people, yet manages to maintain an annual budget of $1.9 billion — just a fraction of what it costs to run California’s wide web of prisons.

Critics attribute the high cost to inflated prison guard salaries, brought about by one of the most rewarding contracts in their history, while their rate of overtime often leads to repeated overruns.

There are many reasons for the enormous cost of prisons, in California and the nation as a whole. The price is already too high to afford H.R. 4437 to label innocent people felons, increase the prisons profit and commit a great moral and humanitarian betrayal by incarcerating millions of people who crossed an imaginary line. People whose presence has been encouraged and incorporated into the economy now face being maliciously turned against and locked up.

The further demonizing of “illegal” immigrants as felons is deplorable and will only succeed in strengthening the prison system.

Write the author: Dortell Williams #H-45771 / A2-103, PO Box 4430, Lancaster, CA 93539.

Free Box Spooks the Rich: Dark forces allegedly within the contraption!

People’s Park in Berkeley has been an emblem of the people’s power to create a world of our own design in it’s tumultuous thirty-seven years, and now once again, the park community is under attack. Over the last nine months, the University of California (UC) has been using its police to prevent re-construction of a free clothing exchange box at the park. For 30 years people have used the free box to share clothing, children’s toys, and a wide range of household items and necessities, that would otherwise go to waste. The idea, seemingly simple enough, is for people to take what they’d like from the free box and to contribute to it what they don’t need, nourishing a system of mutual aid and un-mediated (by money) exchange, although for the past several years it has been anything but simple.

Attempts to rebuild the box, which was mysteriously destroyed by arson in 2005, have been met with police repression and the destruction of a number of volunteer constructed boxes, all destruction being orchestrated by UC under its claims to ownership of the land upon which the park was built by the people in 1969. Park activists are struggling to re-build and defend the free box today in order to preserve its very practical significance.

Park activists are asking the community to bring clothing donations to People’s Park during the times that FNB serves – weekdays, 3 pm- 4:30 pm, as UC police have been threatening tickets to clothing donors at other times. A mobile Free Box has been showing up somewhat sporadically.

The most recent incident in the struggle for the free box was on May 16 when two UC workers demolished a free box that volunteers had built the previous Saturday afternoon, and had been conducting night time Copwatch vigils to defend. A supervisor from the UC Sports and Rec. Department was present (Sports and Rec. is the body that administrates the Park.) There were three UC police officers in attendance, including a lieutenant, who was videotaping the procedure.

On April 25, early in the morning, a free box was removed which had been built on the parking strip near the driveway on Haste St.

On April 28, at 3 pm, a bicycle cart intended for use as a mobile free clothing distribution site was impounded by UC police in front of the Free Speech stage. It was empty at the time.

Copwatch is participating in the vigils, and has been sending teams to the Park to document police abuse and police harassment of FNB, and the weekday afternoon free clothing distribution has stopped when they are around.

In defending their refusal to permit a new box to be re-built at the park, university officials argue that the free box attracts undesirable people to the Park. A press release from 1999, entitled “UC Berkeley’s New Security Campaign” attempts to demonize the free box and push for its removal by alleging that “Individuals gather around the box to conduct drug-dealing transactions…” and …. “some sell the donated clothing – using the proceeds to fund their alcohol habits” as if to say that a box is in some way contributing to the drug trade and in some way responsible for the propagation of chemical dependency.

It is increasingly apparent that the principle of free economic exchange proposed by the free box is a threat to the University and its corporate clients. They have spent thousands of dollars in attempts to shut down the park all together throughout the years.

With all the pressure and scare-tactics being imposed by UC, it is clear that this fight has some serious underlying motives. For thirty-seven years now, the struggle over ownership of the park has been at the forefront — it has been over this question of property rights that so much sweat, tears and blood has been shed. When the park was peacefully created by volunteers in 1969 on vacant, UC-owned land, the university’s massive, military over-reaction delegitimized future UC claims to ownership of the land. During days of rioting after the university’s middle of the night construction of a fence around the park, police shot into crowds with shotguns, killing one, blinding one, and wounding 128. Governor Reagan ordered the National Guard to occupy Berkeley. Although the fence stayed up for a while, the university has never been able to develop the land because of permanent community support for the park.

One can draw a correlation from the very beginning of the park’s history to today’s free box battle, in which throughout this time span, People’s Park has been creating an independent spirit of community cooperation. It is this demonstration of people’s power that so greatly threatens those who would rather see the continuance of the people’s dependency on a hierarchical and capitalist system. Rather than crouch down and give up, people are still struggling for self-determination, sustainability, and change.

Immigration: what questions aren’t being asked?

In the last six months the issue of ‘illegal’ immigration has returned to the news. As law makers and media spin jockeys talk about dealing with the ‘crisis’ and people across the country have conversations, choose sides, and take action in the emerging debate it is important to look at how that debate is being shaped.

The US House of Representatives bill, H.R. 4437, which proposes to make undocumented workers and those who assist them felons and construct a 700 mile fence along the US/Mexico border, has sparked months of protests leading up the massive demonstrations on May 1. As we go to press, the Senate has passed a supposedly more immigrant friendly bill and the media is focusing on whether the hard-line bill passed by the House can be mixed with the Senate bill to produce a compromise that can be signed into law.

The framing of the debate between the supposedly “immigrant-friendly” Senate bill and the hard-line House bill is intended to appease Latinos — the fastest growing block of voters — while maintaining a two-tier structure that pits native workers against immigrants. The real winners in this system, however, are not immigrants or native born workers, but their bosses. The Senate bill caters to business interests who depend on cheap immigrant labor by creating a guest worker program and a road to citizenship for some people who immigrated to the US illegally. It is on this basis that the Senate bill is being hailed as pro-immigrant.

The reality, however, is that the Senate bill also heavily panders to anti-immigrant partisans. It proposes hiring fifteen thousand additional border guards over the next few years, install new surveillance equipment on the border, construct five hundred miles of border fencing, and provide for the deportation of all undocumented workers who have been in the US for less than two years — potentially millions of people. The bill also requires that those immigrants who are eligible to apply for citizenship learn English, pay a fine and back taxes, and, in the words of Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa) “go to the back of the line”. Specter’s condescending tone is the norm on both sides of the ‘debate’ and demonstrates the underlying assumption in the mainstream discourse that undocumented workers must atone for their wrong doing, and are in fact less important human beings than US citizens.

So what is framed by the mainstream media as an immigration debate is actually a debate between business interests looking to continue benefiting from a cheap labor supply, and cultural conservatives seeking to preserve their white, WASPy vision of US culture.

What this means is that folks who could otherwise be united against corporate interests and racist nationalism are divided against each other. Many working-class citizens who have been most harmed by the effects of globalization are encouraged to vent their frustration at immigrant workers, rather than at the larger system that keeps both groups engaged in a struggle to survive. Political progressives are encouraged to choose the Senate bill as the “lesser of two evils” even though it would keep immigrants as second class citizens and only really benefits the business interests that rely on cheap labor. In fact, any law eventually signed will surely be somewhere between the House and Senate bill, i.e. worse than the current Senate bill.

On May Day, thousands of people left their posts to demonstrate the power of their numbers to their employers and the state. In the weeks since, not much has happened. It is always questionable how effective mass popular demonstrations are in a political system that seems to have inoculated itself against them. This is especially true if they are a flash in the pan, and not accompanied by discussions and analysis that question the systems which frame the debate.

Neither side asks why thousands of people risk their lives to come to the US every year. The provincial belief that everyone wants to be an ‘American’ is too strong to ask this question. If anyone did, they might have to acknowledge that people do not go through the physical and psychic pain of being separated from the people and culture they know in order to live a fear filled life in the shadows of US society simply for the honor of waving the US flag and cleaning up after the wealthy. The reason people come to the United States illegally is because the economic policies of the US and other rich nations and the corporations that craft those policies are impoverishing vast regions of the world, striping economies and ecosystems bare, in order to create and concentrate enormous wealth.

In order to maintain the global economic system, states like the US need both large corporate interests that do the work of extracting resources and thus ‘creating’ wealth, and the rabid and arrogant nationalism that protects the idea of the state at all costs. The balance achieved through mainstream politics is often just a balance between the forces necessary to keep the established order in place without any genuine regard for life or freedom.

What this all means is that once again a complex issue that has human suffering at its core is redefined and simplified into a forced choice that is actually no choice at all. What if instead of having the same old conversation, people began to complicate and analyze their understanding of the world, questioning the systems that lead to increased immigration, starting from the assumption that where someone was born and the language that they learned to speak first does not make them any more or less valuable, or their pain any more or less real, than anybody else’s.

Students Strike!

It is a gross day in the history of America when an eighth grader commits suicide after participating in a student walkout protesting anti-immigrant legislation. On March 30th Anthony Soltero, an organizer of his school’s walkout, shot himself in the head after De Anza Middle School threatened Soltero with a three year prison term, forbid his involvement in the graduation ceremonies, and threatened his mother with a fine.

Rallies began in response to House Res. 4437, which would penalize 11 million illegal immigrants as felons and allow the building of a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border. Across southern California alone, tens of thousands of students walked out of school to protest — to later face abuse from police and school officials.

Students walked out in hundreds of middle and high schools across the country, including the following cities: Charlotte, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Carson City, Houston, Washington DC, Denver, Boston, Albuquerque, Chicago (with up to 85% absence rate— yeah!), Providence, New York, and Portland, as well as several schools in Southern California, the Central Valley, and the Bay Area.

School districts and police continue to use collaborative efforts to threaten students protesting during schools hours with citations and possible incarceration.

The abuse of students skipping school needs to stop. Change rarely occurs when youth are behind their desks. From the Popular movement to the Civil Rights movement, youth have been at the leading edge of the struggle against injustice. The months of March and April found the streets crowded with young people from Detroit to Los Angeles.

Students who participate in walkouts should not be subject to any punishment different from the punishment normally used when students miss school. Students who leave school to attend an anti-war protest should receive no harsher punishment than students who leave to go to a Dodger baseball game, for example.

Why is it that a student’s absence is meeting with such a strong reaction from the authorities? Simply put, schools are training grounds for the workplace. In this way, students are essentially like workers, and so when they stage walkouts, they are in fact learning how to strike. This cannot be tolerated by a system that requires obedience from its workers.

Students engaged in walkouts and protests can check out the National Lawyers Guild pamphlet titled, “Your Rights to Demonstrate and Protest” for good information on how to defend themselves from school punishment.

Students engaging in demonstrations attend life’s greatest classroom. Students need more than reassurance when deciding to skip school to protest — they need support from the community if they face punishment. These students are searching for new professors. We must know and trust that they are our teachers.

Check out Natural Learning, a journal of the Olympia Free School and RiseOut, a weblog supportive of a young person’s choice to dropout of school. www.olympiafreeschool.org, riseoutcenter.wordpress.com