Category Archives: Harvest 2006 (9/28/06)

Reawakening My Animal Consciousness

The rainbow gathering — that is where I spent two and a half weeks this summer, eating zuzus in the middle of the night, making music, making love, having sex, trading crystals for tarot cards, and running around like crazy.

I heard someone say that if you get depressed when you leave the gathering and go to the city, remember that one part of the gathering is, instead of escaping, healing, so you can bring some of that woods consciousness with you wherever you go. Today I picked up my pen and journal to write an article about the beauty I saw at the rainbow, and what lessons there are to learn from it. I want people to think about how they relate to the earth and each other, and how those things are the same.

I came back into the cities with a further developed animal consciousness. I look around me and see what is alive — plants, hills, rocks, birds, water, humans naked under their clothes. I saw and understood a lake nestled in the foothills of the mountains on the edge of a desert, without the words I just used to describe that place. That lake transcends the sign some Bisy Bakson (reference: The Tao of Pooh) put up next to it that reads “Topaz” and underneath that word, the elevation in number of feet above sea level. It transcends the word ‘lake’ and even transcends the word ‘water’.

Through my animal eyes, I see some humans as animals who got very carried away in building their colonies — like ants on speed, or something. Now when I do things to help flow peoples’ houses, I see the absurdity of it all. Today as I was helping my aunt in her backyard, I imagined, if there were no houses here, no fences, cars, roads, if I had no clothes on, what would I be? A crazy fucking girl sitting in the middle of the desert sawing a piece of wood to a shorter length. Pointless. Insane. Never trust white man’s tools, I’ve heard.

Here I am in this podunk little town, learning how afraid people are. I came here to see my family, my friends from way-back-when. I am doing that. I am watching my friends live in ways that seem like a game to me: work, school, boyfriend, rent, drama, obedience.

People are scared. My friends tell me they wish they had my life. It is so obvious to me that it is everyone’s life. “You can have the whole world!” I am screaming inside. “You can have today, you can have tomorrow. You can create opportunities with every breath!” But…

…people are scared. Scared to hitchhike, scared to live above the illusory law, scared to make friends, to take risks, to trust that the world will provide. People are scared of instability, scared of Now, scared to share; share a loved one, their bodies, their thoughts. I see it, I hear it. I watched a girl accused of cheating on her jealous boyfriend for participating in a consensual threesome. I listened to a friend say she would never go skinny-dipping, while I’m thinking, “How else do you go swimming?” It was unusual that I walked in front of a window naked, and that I peed while someone else was in the bathroom (at the gathering, you pee next to any random tree that is far enough away from any tents, trails, or kitchens, and there are plenty of people around).

I am learning how important it is to be related to people, to relate to the earth, to be real, and to share what I am learning in the best places possible. I’m learning the more I live in anarchy, the more important it is to develop my spirituality, for I have an amazing, peaceful spirit. I’m learning to be humble, because I know there is still a part of me that wants to go down in history as a revolutionary, or a dreamer, or maybe just a poet. I also know I’d rather go down as compost then go down in history, or herstory. I am part of our story.

Hi, story! That is what this is, more than a newspaper article. It is a story about me, and about you. Here is a story about dancing naked in the rain, and hugging people for three full breaths, and being the animal you really are. This is our story. It is about watching buildings crumble (they are compost too!), and grass growing in the sidewalk cracks until there is only crumbles of sidewalk in the cracks of grass. It is a story about burning textbooks, holy scriptures, and down, dead wood to warm ourselves, as we sit around the fire on a cool, starry night, knowing we are one. Our story is about happiness, and our story is about freedom.

FIGHTING THE FEAR MACHINE Green Scare Arrests Update

The federal green scare trial of Jonathan Paul, Daniel McGowan, Nathan Block and Joyanna Zacher — charged with involvement in a series of arsons claimed by the Earth Liberation Front — has been moved from October 31 to mid-March, 2007 after a summer that saw numerous other defendants in the case take plea deals and agree to cooperate with the government.

The four remaining defendants, plus Briana Waters who currently faces a separate May, 2007 trial date, now face trial with several of their once co-defendants preparing to offer up dubious testimony against them, while the government raises the specter of “terrorism” over alleged property damage allegations in defense of the environment. No one was injured in any of the arsons that form the basis for the case. Block, Zacher and McGowan face charges that carry a 30-year mandatory minimum sentence, and maximums of life plus 300 to 1,015 years. All remaining defendants also face a “terrorism enhancement” under federal sentencing guidelines, which carries a maximum 30 year sentence.

These five non-cooperating defendants are in urgent need of support for their resistance to the federal government’s attempt to railroad them.

Background

Chelsea Gerlach, William Rodgers, Kendall Tankersley, Kevin Tubbs, Daniel McGowan and Stanislas Meyerhoff were arrested and charged with various arsons December 7, 2005 as part of the FBI’s “Operation Backfire.” Within days of the first arrests, it was revealed that informants, including Jacob “Jake” Ferguson of Eugene, were the sole basis relied upon by the feds in making the arrests. Meyerhoff quickly agreed to cooperate with the feds. On December 22, William “Avalon” Rodgers was found dead in his cell in Flagstaff, Arizona, from an apparent suicide.

On January 20, federal prosecutors, the head of the FBI, and US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales held a press conference announcing a sweeping 65-count indictment, including two conspiracy charges, against 11 individuals relating to 17 different incidents in Oregon, Washington and California. In addition to the six people arrested on December 7, the Oregon indictment also named Jonathan Paul, Suzanne Savoie, Joseph “Joe” Dibee, Rebecca Rubin and Josephine Sunshine Overaker.

The Oregon indictment charged certain defendants with arson, attempted arson, and using and carrying a destructive device. The destructive device charge, 18 USC 924(c), carries a 30-year mandatory sentence and a life sentence for a second conviction of the charge.

In the weeks that followed, five individuals were revealed as “confidential sources” for the government’s case. Subsequently, on February 23, Nathan Block and Joyanna Zacher were arrested in Olympia and were charged with involvement in the 2001 Jefferson Poplar and Romania II arsons.

On March 30, Briana Waters was arrested in connection with an alleged arson at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001. Her trial is scheduled for May 7, 2007. She staunchly maintains her innocence to the charges and is free awaiting trial. On May 10, a superseding indictment charged Waters with the destructive device charge and added Solondz, Tubbs and Rodgers to the UW arson case. Named informants in this case include Jennifer “Jen” Kolar and ex-Earth First! Journal editor Lacey Phillabaum, both of whom walk free as uncharged co-conspirators as of this writing.

On April 6, an indictment in connection with a 2001 horse corral fire near Susanville California charged Justin Solondz, Joe Dibee, Rebecca Rubin and Darren Thurston. On May 18, a federal grand jury indicted Chelsea Gerlach, Stanislas Meyerhoff, Josephine Sunshine Overaker and Rebecca Rubin for alleged involvement in the 1998 arson of the Vail ski resort.

Plea Deals Aplenty

Without any notice to the codefendants or the public, on July 20 and 21, formal change of plea hearings were held in the Oregon court for Darren Thurston, Kevin Tubbs, Kendall Tankersley, Stanislas Meyerhoff, Chelsea Gerlach and Suzanne Savoie. These six pled guilty to a variety of conspiracy, arson and attempted arson charges — none of them pled to the destructive device charge used as a hammer by the feds in coercing these people to become informants. The US attorney’s office recommended sentence for Stanislas Meyerhoff is 188 months imprisonment for pleading guilty to 54 charges; Kevin Tubbs, 168 months for 56 charges; Chelsea Gerlach, 120 months for 18; Suzanne Savoie, 63 months for 15; Kendall Tankersley, 51 months for three; and Darren Thurston, 37 months for two.

The above terms of imprisonment are recommendations that the feds will make to the Court at the time of sentencing and are contingent upon these cooperating defendants continued full and complete cooperation for the rest of their lives. This term applies to ALL of the defendants who have pled out so far.

During this hearing, the government seemed especially keen on connecting the ELF and the ALF to broader environmental efforts and movements. The state stressed that Stanislas Meyerhoff and other defendants allegedly attended an Earth First! party directly after performing a sabotage, and also that the Vail arson followed unsuccessful litigation and grassroots campaigns against ski resort development in the area. The government also made a point of stressing that these defendants used the term “direct action” in reference to the arson incidents.

For the first time, new allegations were disclosed at the change of plea hearings disclosing additional arsons that allegedly occurred in Phoenix, Arizona, and the eastern district of Michigan.

Upon motion by the cooperating defendants’ attorneys, all of the plea petitions, cooperation agreements, and even the transcripts of the public court hearing for all six, were sealed, making them unavailable for public scrutiny. (However, the judge unsealed some portions of these documents at an August 22 hearing — read them at cldc.org.)

The government announced that it would pursue upward enhancement of sentences for the six taking pleas, arguing that the federal terrorism enhancement guidelines apply to their sentences as well. This enhancement, normally only utilized in cases where human lives were lost in incidents such as 9/11, carries up to an additional 30 year sentence. The government indicated that the defendants were free to argue against the terrorism enhancement, however, it would appear that all of the defendants who entered pleas in July stipulated to the prosecution’s “facts” underlying the plea petition. These “facts” included the verbatim definition of a “federal crime of terrorism,” thereby reducing the amount of work the feds will have to do to convince a judge that the enhancement applies. The definition of terrorism read in open court by the prosecutors is: A crime calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct. Under this broad definition, historic acts of nonviolent civil disobedience could be construed as terrorism. It is confusing and troubling that these defendants would permit the feds to potentially brand them with this over-used and inappropriate label.

Lacey Phillabaum was expected to enter a plea in Seattle in exchange for her cooperation. It is unclear which of the many jurisdictions informant Jennifer Kolar will plea in as a result of her extensive cooperation with the feds. Numerous other people have been contacted and have voluntarily agreed to provide information to the federal government about these cases, their political ideologies and their associations.

As Slingshot goes to press, Suzanne Savoie, Kendall Tankersley, Daniel McGowan, Jonathan Paul and Briana Waters are all out on pre-trial release. All other persons indicted in Oregon who have been located, are currently in custody. A number of people charged with crimes have not been captured and may be living overseas.

Without the information provided by Jake Ferguson, uncharged informants such as Jennifer Kolar and Lacey Phillabaum, as well as the parroted statements made by the cooperating defendants thus far, there would be no federal case. Ferguson and Stanislas Meyerhoff have admitted to their participation in most of the alleged arsons, yet Ferguson remains free and without charges (and according to a Rolling Stone article, $50,000 richer). To date, no other hard evidence exists linking the defendants to the alleged charges. The snitch statements all vastly contradict each other and have changed and evolved as the government changes it’s story. These informants will face cross examination at trial and vast amounts of resources are being utilized in defense of those defendants who continue to assert their innocence before a jury of their peers.

Misuse of Grand Juries

On March 21, Camilo Stephenson was subpoenaed to a Denver grand jury and questioned about the 1998 Vail ski resort fire. Jake Ferguson told the feds that Stephenson would substantiate his story that attempted to rope in additional people. Stephenson denied any knowledge of any of the incidents and was able to inform the jury as to Jake’s reputation as a drug addict, thief, and untrustworthy individual.

Jeff Hogg and Burke Morris were subpoenaed to testify in front of federal grand juries on May 18, Jeff in Eugene and Burke in Denver. Jeff refused to testify before the grand jury and was held in contempt by Judge Michael Hogan and sent to jail. Jeff is still in and could remain in jail until the grand jury’s expiration, which may be extended until March, 2007.

Burke answered limited questions asked by the Denver grand jury, questions about his personal life, but denied any knowledge of the incidents about which he was questioned. Burke also ended up in this position as a result of Jake Ferguson trying to use him to corroborate untruthful statements that Ferguson made to the feds.

On June 27, Jim Dawson of Olympia received a subpoena to appear before a grand jury in Seattle. His appearance has been postponed since he consented to be questioned by the FBI in lieu of his scheduled grand jury appearance. His partner, Heather Moore, also of Olympia, had earlier agreed to be voluntarily questioned by the feds regarding her community. The extent of their disclosures to the government is unknown at this time. As a result of their voluntary cooperation, additional subpoenas are possible.

The fact that the feds are continuing to subpoena people would normally lead one to believe that the government continues to search for additional defendants in these cases — it is either that, or a grave abuse of the grand jury system at work. In the Oregon court hearing on June 28, Jonathan Paul’s attorney told the court that he was putting the government on notice that he was deeply concerned with the unlawful abuses of the grand jury system by the government. Grand juries are intended only to decide whether or not to bring indictments. In this case grand juries are being used to gather evidence to prepare for trial, an illegal use of the grand jury.

Support Information

The next status hearing for Jonathan Paul, Daniel McGowan, Nathan Block and Joyanna Zacher is set for October 31 in Eugene, Oregon federal court. The court will further consider the defendants’ motion for the release of National Security Agency wiretaps and FISA surveillance of the activist community in Eugene and elsewhere for the past decade or more. At an August 22 hearing, federal prosecutors said they didn’t have “clearance” to discuss the issue.

The government continues to monitor and scrutinize media discussion of the green scare cases including on-line sources such as indy media sites. Many of the court filings include voluminous pages printed from the internet comment sections, personal email communications, and other documents that make it obvious that the government continues to spy on political groups and their activities. There is nothing illegal about doing prisoner support or discussing current events, but the feds continue to manipulate and misconstrue these communications to their own benefit. Please think of this before you write and post on the internet.

To stay informed about the latest goings on related to the Green Scare, visit cldc.org or portland.indymedia.org. Don’t forget to write to and support the non-cooperating defendants and talk to your friends and neighbors about the Green Scare cases.

• Nathan Block #1663667, Lane County Jail, 101 W 5th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401

• Joyanna Zacher #1662550, Lane County Jail, 101 W 5th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401

• Jeff Hogg #1065518, 1901 N.E. F St., Grants Pass, OR 97526

• Daniel McGowan www.supportdaniel.org

• Briana Waters www.supportbriana.org

If anyone has information they are willing to share on any of the cooperating witnesses, background, history, etc., to help in the defense of the non-cooperating defendants, please contact attorney Lauren Regan at lregan@cldc.org. Your opinion or anecdote could save a brave person many years in jail.

The Civil Rights Outreach Committee is a media working group regarding the Green Scare: civilrightsoutreach@gmail.com.

THUNDER 1951-2006

Thunder, Rafael Donner, a long time activist was found dead in his car on the streets of West Berkeley. Spending years working to free Leonard Peltier by coordinating monthly prayer circles infront of the Oakland Federal Building. He was a DJ on 104.1 doing a Pirate radio show entitled “Earth First, Corporations Last” on both Free Radio Berkeley and Berkeley Liberation Radio. He was also a dedicated advocate for People’s Park and worked on keeping the general peace between park users. He often recited the opening prayer during Park celebrations and could be found at numerous Native American powwows Sun Rise Ceremonies and other functions.

A Memorial was held July 30 starting at the Ho Chi Minh Park and proceeded four blocks north into People’s Park. There loved ones held an open mic event, some sharing stories and pain.

He is survived by two children, their mother, mother, nephew, and the larger community of friends and projects that he gave so much to.

LES 1982-2006

Les Mastenbrook was killed in a car crash in Cheyenne, Wyoming while driving cross-country from Oakland to Massachusetts to visit friends and her family there. Les joined the Slingshot collective earlier this year and was working on re-designing our website when she died.

Les was cut down at a very young age, but during her short time on earth, she made a lot out of her life. She grew up in Concord, MA and attended the Maryland Institute College of Art, from which she graduated Cum Laude with a degree in photography. She moved to Oakland where she made close ties with lots of folks. She was into screen printing, live music, photography, travel, cooking, web design and riding bicycles. Her excitement for life and warm smile were infectious.

The following was written by her house mate and friend Jacqueline.

I had wonderful but brief encounters with Les. When I went to Massachusetts for her funeral, I heard stories of her childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood that together addressed the great puzzle that is the complete spirit of Les.

Les was so happy, so delighted, filled with wonder, amazement, and joy for the world and it’s people. We first met when she was dancing — an immense smile upon her face. Les wrapped her arm around my shoulder and I felt really happy as we danced at that show. At other shows I went to with her, she always had that smile on her face. When we sat and talked she was excited and exuberant. She was always eager to go; to do; and to live. She loved when the world happened around her — and it did. Soon we became friends — inseparable. We looked out for one another and took on each other’s lives and burdens.

I watched Les hope and dream. We built goals and created a group house in Oakland together with all the possibilities that one could fathom. What I will miss the most about Les — without a question — are those morning talks on the side of my bed. Or when she would come to my room, to my bed, and grab my shoulders and scream “Jack” in my face before she would tell me of her latest news, or her previous night’s dreams.

California fell in love with Les — with her excitement and joy. And Les fell in love with California. And that is certainly the greatest gift I have ever received. I watched her laugh, cry, sing and fall in love.

I find solace that our last encounter was a great one. While I was heading to work, Les came back for some forgotten items for her much anticipated cross-country trip. She sat on the back of the car and I on my bike. I figured I should go to work because I was running late. But hey, she was my good friend, and I would rather talk to her. We had only a few moments together then we said,” I love you — have fun”. I gave her a kiss on her checks and I rode off. For selfish reasons I wish Les could come back, although I know that she was completely fulfilled with the life she had created for herself

HONZA 1974-2006

Honza was born Jan Chmelík in January 1974 in Ostrova, Czechoslovakia. He had a brother named Jacob (YA-koob) and a mom and dad. His family was close yet the relationship with his father was very strained. It was a case of being too much alike, perhaps. They were both very stubborn and convinced that their way of seeing and experiencing the world was the WAY.

From early on, Honza was obsessed with all things American. He wanted coke, levis and R rated movies. A case of “the grass is always greener?” Perhaps. Honza was one of a final generation of children born and raised in communist Czechoslovakia. He had an aunt and cousins who had escaped into Austria in 1968. So he was always acutely aware of what he didn’t have: video games, fancy clothes and bicycles. So when the borders opened in 1989 (remember the Velvet Revolution?), Honza went west as soon as he dropped out of the Charles University.

After exploring around western Europe for a while, Honza made the big trip over the big water. He was chasing a cute boy that he fell in love with and in 1993 he found himself in Washington D.C. That’s where I come in. Or at least I should explain, that is where I met Honza. And for the record, he was calling himself Jan (YAHN) then. At this stage in his life, Honza had yet to become the king of community living that many of you experienced him as. He was barely 20 years old, very romantic about life in Amerika, and he still had red cheeks for chrissakes! Needless to say, he was wet behind the ears.

When I met him, I was working in a gay coffee shop in DC. I was one of the resident fag hags. I was showing off my new belly tattoo (Honza told me. I have no recollection of meeting him the first time) and forcing everyone present to check it out, Honza included. We got to chatting and he lets it out that the love interest thing didn’t work out and he needed a place to live. Well I had just moved into an amazing group house in upper northwest DC full of activists and hippies and we were looking for one more roommate. So he moves in and that was the beginning of a ten year best friendship slash committed non monogamous marriage.

We used to joke that the house on Parkwood Place was our spiritual birthplace. It was during this time that Honza learned to reject all the symbols of amerikan capitalism and greed. Through it, Honza and I connected with the rainbow family, hempsters, activists fighting nuclear everything and folks fighting for indigenous peoples’ rights. Our spirit Mother, as we called her, was a feisty woman named redmoonsong that taught us the ins and outs of living in community. It was there that we learned about group process, house meetings, dumpster diving, sharing resources, walking lightly on the earth, vegetarian cooking. Consider it Alternate Lifestyle 101.

Honza went to his first rainbow gathering in 1994, a month after marrying me. We hitchhiked from DC to Wyoming in about four days and spent one dollar the entire way. Honza was a very thrifty Capricorn. I was his bourgeois amerikan wife. We always had a very east vs. west dynamic. Communism vs. capitalism. M&M’s vs. Lentilky. Through the Gathering Honza was further turned on to the Indigenous Peoples’ scene and he became more and more involved in working with the Diné people in Arizona, especially on Big Mountain. He also spent several springs in the desert in Nevada organizing and helping with big actions against the Nevada Nuclear Test Site.

Honza preferred working gatherings to big hippy events. Honza liked to work. He had big square hands that were meant for building things — and sewing and crocheting too. We used to accuse Honza of being an old lady trapped in a cute boy´s body. One of my favorite things ever would be riding in a subway in New York with him, he in his knee high Fluevogs and spiked up anarchy gear. He pulls out his knitting projects and starts chatting with the Polish grandmas about two vs. four needles. Honza was always bonding with the old ladies. I remember having a lot of fear about Honza meeting my grandmother. She’s very Christian and I thought she might reject him based on her Christian principles. Instead, they bonded instantly and traded dumpster diving secrets.

In 2000, Honza made his first trip to Short Mountain Sanctuary. I believe it’s safe to say that the Sanctuary was one of the most important influences of Honza’s life. Queer pagan anarchists —need I say more? Honza was completely at home there. I´ll never forget our first visit. Honza was new blood and it was all about that cute blue eyed boy with the sexy fucking accent. I´ll never forget the morning Honza was cooking up palachinky (Czech crepes) when he announced that he was going to feed all people who had worked that day first. He could turn from community sweetheart into communist dictator in nothing flat.

I’m not sure who was the one who turned Honza on to Queeruption but he was totally dedicated. The queer anarchy scene is where Honza felt the most comfortable, I believe. He believed in many hands make light work. And he was all about gender fuckery. His last community family was the anarchy queers of the Mission in San Fran. He told me many times that it was in that scene that he felt true family.

I am only able to paint a partial picture of the brilliant beauty that was Honza. He had so many loves and so many communities. I feel sort of like a cad trying to explain this beautiful soul to you when I know that there are so many others that could fill in so much more. Honza succumbed to toxoplasmosis, a crazy fungus on his brain. A totally weakened immune system made it impossible for him to fight it off. Honza had been HIV positive since the fall of 1999. He remained basically asymptomatic until the spring of 2002, when he was hospitalized for the first time in Brno, Czech Rep. That was a great summer. Lots of napping and good food.

The last two years of his life were dedicated to resisting fascist amerika, which Honza saw reflected in cops everywhere. He transformed from a quite mild mannered knitter into a crazed police instigating speed freak (without the speed). The San Francisco cops lovingly called him THE ELEVATOR because no matter what was going down, if Honza came around, the energy of the situation elevated.

Honza´s final days were amazing. His friends and family came from near and far. It was wonderful to put names with faces and to understand how far Honza spread himself out — how much of himself there was to give. I think about him everyday. The last time I went grocery shopping, I burst out into tears when I passed the Nutella. He loved that shit. Rest in Peace Honza. See you next time.

Making room for rad children

It seems inevitable that some radicals will have children. Our youth scenes aren’t particularly well adapted to multiple generations, and if good communities are to develop we must find ways to integrate the young and the old into our movement. Ironically, Emma Goldman once complained that the anarchist movement was too old and needed more younger people… Now we often struggle with the reverse. Besides offering mutual aid for schooling and kid-friendly zones, there is a distance from children that many radicals maintain which we must overcome.

Kids are not homogeneous as a demographic. It’s no more acceptable to dislike children than it is to dislike folks of any identity. They can’t help being minors. I find that I like kids in the same ratio as folks generally: maybe 1/3 are my style. However, I try and give the little spuds a chance before I exercise my free association and split. There’s no tacit permission that should allow any of us to avoid interacting with the kids in our communities. In fact, they need us all the more given the barrage of capitalist and statist propaganda dumped on them by media, school and, often, extended families. While there is no guarantee that kids will become anarchists, we can hope that raising them to understand ethics and anti-oppression increases the possibility. At least they’ll have the potential to make informed decisions about their worlds.

We must face our own socialized authoritarianism and repression in order to be healthy companions for children. While overcoming our own shit may be out of the question, we can still recognize it so that it does not traumatize another generation of people. Being with kids requires that we examine our own issues and find ways not to traumatize them in the ways we are hurt. Both avoidance and overemphasis of issues can cause harm. Many of us are poorly socialized around money, self-esteem, our bodies, sex, relationships, competence, success and failure, work and play, and authority. Communicating our own insufficiencies is often enough to avoid these pitfalls. Admitting that we don’t have the answers or that boundaries sometimes arise from irrational fear lets kids know that we are figuring it out and they can explore their own answers. Vulnerability is a great gift to a child. It communicates security and possibility. Learning to do this with kids could help improve our other relationships as well.

Before even attempting to borrow a kid for two hours, it’s good to think about the stuff that will probably come up for you. The people who raised us are models for us as caregivers, and we can choose to imitate or reject their strategies. Knowing what you need and can accept is crucial. For instance, what are your physical boundaries? Are you okay wrestling, changing a diaper, or curling up to read a story? Wiping noses? Wiping butts? How would you react if a kid who’s still nursing tried to pull up your shirt? Think about how you react to being naked and how you could tell a kid why some other people aren’t okay with it. Again, communicating your boundaries, even if they are different than what a kid is accustomed to, should make things smoother.

Kids are incredibly astute and can process a lot of “mature” concerns. Addressing racism when you see it with kids, or any other oppressive behavior, helps them develop their own ideas about how it’s okay to treat others. You can also model directly a better response than they know or have seen. If a kid acts out in ways that are harmful or oppressive (and I’ve seen two year olds do this), then it’s necessary to confront with both reasons and alternatives.

Besides understanding your own ideas about kids and their world, you need to find out specifically what your borrowed kid is up to. Check in with primary caregivers to find out if there are safety/health issues or personality stuff to know about. Knowing schedules, food preferences, naptimes, and favorite distractions can make looking after a kid a lot more feasible. It can be a long walk from the park to the comic book store, and it’s easier to ask than guess.

Supporting children also involves supporting their regular caregivers. Giving a break to mamas and papas so that they can go dancing, or even just take a shower alone, helps them re-energize. Cooking dinner, doing a school or daycare pickup, or arranging a few kids together for a playdate gives the grownups some time to escape sippy cups and board books.

If you know a kid for at least six months, you’ll probably witness them transition through another developmental phase. Adults have similar cycles, only slower. Generally, kids will explore, master, regress and integrate new skills, whether physical, emotional or intellectual. We need to let kids be where they are, instead of chastising them for all of a sudden being shy, modest, or outspoken. Chances are, things will change in a few months and they’ll be in a new place again.

Deciding to be an ally to children is about empowering them to do the things that interest and challenge them. We must create safe places (physically and socially) for kids to explore, and present alternatives to the marketing machine that informs lots of childrearing. Teach them to sew instead of shopping for clothes; make ice cream instead of buying sweets; and head out for a hike instead of the astroturf playground. The most memorable times from my childhood have nothing to do with things people bought me; they are the times I spent with people who cared for me.

Besides countering the influence of mainstream culture, we should interact with kids so that they realize that each relationship they have will be different. Moms and dads and housemates and ti@s will all bring different gifts and expectations. Being adaptable is very useful in our world of appearances. Avoiding normalization of master/servant roles and creating paradigms of reciprocity helps kids avoid stagnant expectations as they explore the world. There are lots of acceptable ways to communicate and interact, which we can share with the young ones.

So, if you haven’t hung out with someone under 10 since you were that young yourself, start imagining a day of climbing trees and chasing butterflies (or video games and the library). There’s a radical families listserve for San Francisco, and it would be great if more folks without kids found ways to be involved with planning and support. It takes time to get involved in a child’s life, but it may be the coolest thing you ever do. Maybe your neighbor has a kid you can borrow. Because after all, it takes an affinity group to raise a child.

WE READ IT FOR YOU Book Review: Consensus Decision Making

Review: CONSENSUS: A NEW HANDBOOK FOR GRASSROOTS SOCIAL, POLITICAL, AND ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS

by PETER GELDERLOOS

SEE SHARP PRESS 2006

This 120 page journey will strike a reader of any experience level as a simple approach on how to go about a difficult thing — conducting a group meeting. It describes not just any dreaded meeting but a meeting based on consensus, which the author considers the most fair and democratic.

Years ago, I was excited to dumpster score a hard cover copy of Robert’s Rules of Order from the library. In my naiveté, I ran with it to my local infoshop to show off what gems get passed off as garbage these days. The response I got was less than thrilled: “Oh that — that’s what the enemy uses to keep us down,” I was told. Robert’s Rules of Order, the antithesis of consensus, has its history in the post Gold Rush San Francisco and the particularly raucous and chaotic meetings that would go down then. That little 19th century organizer would go on to institutionalize alienation and public ill from the White House to City Council meetings in the present age.

Gelderloos’ book addresses the power discrepancies we live under, learning these techniques from years of work creating and perfecting consensus. His own experience includes working with Copwatch, Food Not Bombs, anti-war campaigns, prisoner support and prison abolition. He has also authored the book, How Nonviolence Protects the State.

The book opens with Food Not Bombs founder Keith McHenry, where he lays out the non-hierarchical bag. Like the rest of the information that follows, it’s readable and hardly contestable. First, Gelderloos defines terms and delineates the steps in a consensus decision. He then explains the roles such as facilitator and time keeper, and makes suggestions on how to make things run smoothly. Much of the information in the book is suggestive so that readers can adapt the processes to fit their own situations. In addition to meeting minutiae, the author looks at the larger meeting structure, including such murky areas as alternative voting, consensus minus one and a few other show stoppers. A lengthy discussion follows regarding power dynamics and different kinds of group structures. There is also an entire section devoted to teaching the consensus process. The book wraps up with a few sample dialogues of a meeting.

Two examples of the book’s content can be drawn from the second section. The author makes a big point of utilizing “affirming gestures” during a meeting and how there shouldn’t be a complementary gesture for disagreement: “…it can be very intimidating to someone if they start talking and everyone starts shaking their heads or giving a thumbs down — it’s almost as bad as being interrupted . . . if you disagree with a comment, you need to explain to the group why you disagree. There is no comparable negative hand gesture.” At the end of this section the author advocates having space to check feelings of group members because “living in a patriarchal society, we are taught to minimize feelings.” And that “You don’t have to be able to articulate the difference between CNT anarchists and Tolstoyian anarchists to trash an Army recruiting office. Good analysis is necessary for creating an effective strategy, but building cohesive groups and a strong movement requires a great deal of social skills and emotional intelligence Activists lack these skills because we don’t even recognize their importance.”

Much of this information will be old news to your average Slingshot reader but while sitting with this book I was struck by its value even for seasoned activists. For one, it’s healthy for me to review and re-look at the means I’ve been adapting. Do I agree with or think that my house needs a mission statement? Also I realized that this book and others like the Organizer’s Manual from 1970, are good to share with members of projects that I’m working on, lest I just assume we are on the same page. Finally, they can be used as reference, comic relief during an anarchist study group, or ignored by much of the consumer sheep.

Put that bottle Down!

In the last decade, the bottled water industry, thanks to an onslaught of heavy handed marketing tactics, has turned into a $35 billion global business. Looking for a refreshing drink? Head to the nearest corner store or cafe and they’ll sell you water in a plastic bottle for $1.00 or more. What has brought about this enormous change in the way we drink water, a substance necessary for survival? Water has turned into a huge industry with the world’s most powerful multinationals such as Pepsi, Coke, and Nestle all vying to quench your thirst.

Remember those days when we used to fill our glasses from the kitchen or even the bathroom sink? Due to an industry campaign to incite fear of tap water into the masses, many have turned to water filters, and increasingly, individual plastic bottles of water and boxed water by the case, shrink wrapped in more plastic that will take thousands of years to break down.

In most first world nations where there are strict tap water regulations, thus it is unnecessary to buy bottled water. While it may be convenient due to the lack of public drinking fountains, people did just fine until a few years ago finding a cup of water. Now that the marketing and availability of bottled water is everywhere, it’s hard to avoid bottled water when you’re out and would prefer water to a soft drink or juice. It is far better from an economic, environmental, and public health point of view to improve public drinking water supplies than it is to have a massive societal shift from consumer use of tap water to use of bottled water.

What’s in tap water?

The fear of contaminants in our water is one major reason people are buying bottled water. Here in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area, the majority of our drinking water comes from EBMUD (East Bay Municipal Utility District). Ninety percent of EBMUD’s water comes from the 577 square mile watershed of the Mokelumne River, which collects Sierra Nevada snow melt and flows into the Pardee Reservoir near the town of Valley Springs. According to the 2005 EBMUD Water Quality Report, the Sierra watershed is mostly undeveloped land, little affected by human activity. It is also protected from pesticides, agricultural and urban runoff, municipal sewage and industrial discharges. Unlike bottled water manufacturers, California municipalities are required to file annual reports under the California Safe Drinking Water Act. These disclosures list all the constituents found within the drinking water provided by the local municipality.

What’s in Bottled Water?

In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prescribe regulations that limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. However the EPA does not regulate contaminants in bottled water. Water bottlers are not required to test for the presence of E. coli, cryptosporidium, giardia, asbestos, or certain organic compounds such as benzenes. Instead, bottled water is regulated under weaker Food and Drug Administration standards.

The National Resource Defense Council tested 1000 bottles of water and concluded that there is no assurance that water out of a bottle is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap. And in fact, an estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle — sometimes further treated, sometimes not.

PepsiCo’s Aquafina is just heavily filtered water — not spring water or glacier water or geyser water, just water — and Coke’s Dasani is the same with a blend of minerals added back in for taste. In fact, Coke recently ran afoul of the FDA for billing Dasani as purified water; thanks to the added minerals, it now meets the labeling requirement.

Many bottles of water show images of healthy, active people or the Alps and Rockies and every other mountain range covered with pure white snow. Most bottled water does not actually come from these pristine sources. Check the bottle label or cap to see if it comes “from a municipal source” or “from a community water system”.

Environmental damage

Supplying drinking water in plastic bottles rather than through existing plumbing systems requires vast quantities of natural resources to manufacture the plastic bottles and then to move heavy shipments of water bottles from place to place. Bottled water replaces the decentralized use of local resources for local purposes with an centralized, corporate-controlled, industrial system on a global scale.

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that around 1.5 million tons of plastic are used globally each year in water bottles, creating a sizable manufacturing footprint. Most water bottles are made of the oil-derived polyethylene terephthalate, which is known as PET. While PET is less toxic than many plastics, the Berkeley Ecology Center found that manufacturing PET generates more than 100 times the toxic emissions — in the form of nickel, ethylbenzene, ethylene oxide and benzene — compared to making the same amount of glass. The Container Recycling Institute estimates that, in one year, supplying thirsty Americans with water bottles consumes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil.

According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, the US bottled water industry sold 6.8 billion gallons of water in 2004. Most was moved by trucks burning massive quantities of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming. Global sales of bottled water was 41 billion gallons for 2004. Over 22 millions tons of bottled water is transferred every year between different countries.

Ironically, making all that plastic and refining all that oil contributes to water pollution that makes people scared to drink tap water in the first place.

Moreover, bottled water generates massive amounts of trash. According to the Container Recycling Institute, nine out of 10 plastic water bottles in the US end up as either garbage or litter — at a rate of 30 million per day. According to the Climate Action Network, when plastic bottles are incinerated along with other trash, as is the practice in many municipalities, toxic chlorine (and potentially dioxin) is released into the air while heavy metals deposit in the ash. Plastic water bottle litter can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.

Recycling water bottles is difficult because plastic loses quality during recycling. As a result, most bottles collected for recycling in the US are shipped to Asia to avoid environmental regulations. Even when they are recycled, they are merely turned into another plastic item, often using large amount of virgin resources in the process.

The Developing world

This article’s concentration on “first world water” aims to expose the role of the corporate beverage industry without downplaying the degree to which actual polluted water sources affect many areas of the world, the United States included.

Developing countries are facing grave consequences from bottled water. With a wide availability of bottled water, municipal water standards are not improving as they should. Water remains dangerous in many areas around the world. The governments use the availability of bottled water as an excuse when in truth the average person cannot afford to live off bottled water. When this happens, water turns into a luxury to be bought and sold instead of a necessity for life. This is to say nothing about multi-national attempts to privatize even tap water in the developing world — that will have to wait for another article This is the real danger of bottled water.

What you can do.

*Contact your local municipal water source and ask for a water quality report so you can find out the truth about your local water. You might be surprised how much more quality control the water coming out of your tap has than bottled water. .

*Get a handy beverage holder that you can take around with you so you don’t have to shell out the cash for a bottle of water when you’re thirsty.

*Be aware that in large part, bottled water is a marketing ploy by international beverage companies to make more money.

Tampons Are Trash

If you are still using disposable menstrual pads or tampons, you might as well be drinking out of non-biodegradable styrofoam cups! Tampons and disposable menstrual products are unnecessary trash. If you are environmentally conscious, you should quit using them today! There are many reasons to stop using disposable menstrual products–environmental health, anti-consumerism, anti-corporate control of our body, health, feminism, women’s body esteem, and more.

In the zine “Let’s Forget Everything We Learned About Being A Girl…Bloodsisters of the World…Unite and Take Over!” (which was made as part of the Belladonna DIY Fest ’04), they write, “over 12 billion pads and 7 million tampons are used once and disposed of annually, and that 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along the US coastal areas between 1998 and 1999.” They also said that in California, it is illegal to feed the leaves, stems or short fibers of cotton to livestock due to pesticide residue, but this cotton is instead allowed to be made into tampons, mattresses, cotton balls. If it’s not good enough for cows to eat, why would you want it in your cunt?

In recent years, biodegradable cotton menstrual products, made by companies like Seventh Generation, have emerged on the market. This is definitely a move in the right direction, except they are still one-use products, and their high price is cost-prohibitive for many women. Most women still do not use their own cloth pads, like their grannies did. Yet women continue to bleed monthly, and the landfills are piled high with non-biodegradable tampons and pads full of blood. There are more conscious ways to deal with our menstrual blood and the environment.

Before the “sanitary protection” industry was created, women used absorbent materials such as moss, sponges, and cloth for their menstrual flows, for thousands of years. Most likely, your granny used cloth pads, not corporate disposable “protection.” The “sanitary protection” industry speaks about menstruation as if it is something women should dread, abhor, fear and hide. They act like Big Brother is here to sell you “protection” from your own body fluids. By acting like menstrual fluids are toxic, women are degraded and belittled. In addition to the industry, several religions have heavy dogmas around menstruating women, such as sexual taboos, food preparation taboos, etc. In American culture, we teach girls and women that their genitals should not be aggrandized or symbolized in any manner outside of the control of the porn or sanitary protection industries!

Buying disposable menses products is a form of consumerism, and most menses products come from big corporations. Why support more big corporations via your menses? Why consume unnecessarily? Sanitary protection corporations and industries have profited by exploiting women’s body esteem insecurities. You can choose not to support them.

Health is another reason to give up commercial menstrual products. Disposable tampons and pads very often are full of weird chemicals, bleach, and synthetic fibers that can cut up your vagina and vulva like little strands of glass. Some people argue menstrual fluids are supposed to flow out of us, not be blocked up inside with a tampon…and thus prefer pads. I am of this school, that feels “corking” your menstrual flow is not optimum. I feel it best to just bond with women everywhere all over the planet forever, and to honor my flow. You should do what works for you.

You can easily make your own cloth pads. I often just rip up strips of flannel, fold them into a rectangle a few folds thick, sew the edges if you want to, and they’re ready to use. In an emergency, you can fold a tube sock in half! But you can also buy really nice pre-made cloth, reusable, menstrual pads from companies such as Many Moons, Pandora Pads, Lotus Pads and others.

Cotton menstrual pads are a good gift to give young girls you know who are just beginning to menstruate. A gift like that can help start girls off in a direction of honoring the menses flow, rather than pretending nothing is happening. Be proud of your blood. It is not toxic. It is not shameful. You do not need protection or sanitation. You just need washable cotton pads!

Read Kirsten at www.kirstenanderberg.com

6 More Activists Off to Jail

During September, a federal court sentenced Kevin Kjonaas, Lauren Gazzola, Jacob Conroy, Joshua Harper, Andy Stepanian and Darius Fulmer — the Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC) 7 defendants — for their participation in the campaign to end the cruelty of Huntington Life Sciences corp. (HLS). The SHAC 7 were sentenced to between one and six years in federal prison and were ordered to collectively pay restitution in the amount of $1 million and one dollar to HLS for financial damages. The six were the first people tried under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992 (formerly known as the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act). Kjonaas got 72 months, Gazzola 52 months, Conroy 48 months, Harper 36 months, Stepanian 36 months and Fulmer 12 months. The SHAC 7 were convicted of conspiracy for advocating against HLS, talking and organizing protests — no violence or property damage was involved.

The SHAC 7 need support: kind letters from you and money for jail. They don’t have addresses as of this writing because they haven’t reported to jail yet. Check shac7.com for more support info.