I've been keeping a journal since I was 17 (basically my entire adult life!). So this blogging thing seems redundant sometimes. Often, though, it seems like trying to keep 2 journals, because I obviously can write some things in my private little notebook that I wouldn't want to put here on the web. I value being transparent and open but there are limits. hah.
Also, the fact that this is syndicated on indyblogs has made me happy but also put a different feel on writing stuff. I feel like there is a definite audience of which I need to be conscious, and a larger audience. For example, there are a lot of uncomfortable, controversial things about Indymedia, both locally and globally, that I have been thinking about and discussing with others, but that I can't really voice here.
Meanwhile I keep losing my pens, my really good pens that make it a pleasure to write in my journal....
What am I doing, I guess I'm just providing excuses for why entries both here and in my journal have been few and far between...
I'm finally doing a little paying work, and it's for something I can get behind ethically for once, the
Collaborative Technologies project/group.
CollabTech is a relatively new project of Free Geek, the non-profit computer recycling/rebuilding/educating organization here in Portland.
CollabTech is like a consulting agency that does information technology contracting for non-profits. The idea is to help non-profit organizations that need IT work done but can't afford to or don't want to hire a regular consulting firm. If they can afford CollabTech's regular rates they do, and part of the money, theoretically, goes into a 'technology bank', which can be draw upon later to fund projects for other organizations that can't afford to pay as much.
CollabTech is still in proof-of-concept mode, finishing up it's first project for an organization called Homestreet, which runs several mental health facilities in the area. The project went way over schedule and over budget, and some people have had to leave to do other work, so I am filling in to so some of the last bit of perl programming. I'm not getting paid as much I'm used to, but it's for a good cause - actually 2 causes, both Homestreet and CollabTech/Freegeek. Not only are we helping Homestreet, but we're proving that the CollabTech model can work so it can go on to do more projects. And it's great working with this group of people too.
So, in other words, this is pretty palatable work. But I still sometimes wonder if I should putting more effort into finding totally different kind of work, something that isn't so computer-intensive.
During my trip I enjoyed not using computers so much, and really wanted to limit my usage when I got back. I suceeded for a while but I've almost slipped back now to levels of use from before my trip. I need to make a concious effort to cut down. Like one of my server's users says on his website: "The world today has many other pleasures and only a
small percentage of them involve pressing things
with the index finger."
Kurt Vonnegut has always been one of my favorite writers. Such a wonderful way, he has, of mixing the humorous with the horrible. He just wrote a great little article called Cold Turkey for In These Times, about our current predicaments. (thanx 6rady)
I've been and will be super busy this week, not only because i've finally found some paying work but also i've been rushing to finish some videos about Bolivia in time for a an evening of talks and videos on Saturday called Bolivia In Crisis. One video is brand new and based on footage I shot when I was there in December. Another is from last February, made by Bolivia IMC which I was given a copy of by Libertino of Uruguay IMC, to which we are adding a voiceover translation. Then there's one from Argentina IMC, and another by a trio of gringos who I don't know much about - I got their film, called "No Se Vende El Gas" from a Colorado State University student who I met in Cochabamba.
All of this is to raise money for our project to send computers to Bolivia. So I hope lots of people show up... ok, gotta run... busybusybusy...
So I hapened to be listening to NPR's Marketplace just now and they had a little story about how The Passion of the Christ is the most popular illegally downloaded film on the internet right now, and how this popularity will surely lead to the making of a sequel. The commentator then suggested Hollywood would put out Starksy and Christ, since audiences liked Starsky but not Hutch. The guy went on to explain a little defensively how he only was thinking such crazy thoughts that others might think blasphemous because he lives in LA, and that's just how Hollywood types think. I found that the
idea is not new.
The most interesting thing about this, and otherwise I wouldn't mention it, is that before that segment on the radio show, during a break, an OPB announcer gave the warning that the next segment contained 'material that might be offensive to some listeners.' I listened to the whole segment and the only other stories were about Martha Stewart's show going on hiatus and a piece about skin creams that didn't really do anything to help with wrinkles.
So, it must have been the Christ thing that they were warning people about. Are there REALLY people out there, NPR listeners, that would be offended by that story? And was that something that just Oregon Public Broadcasting decided to do, or did all NPR affiliates make that announcement? Very strange.
Very interesesting article in the New Yorker by Seymour M. Hersh about the secret intelligence program in the Pentagon that led to the abuses in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
I'm sure it's all true and none of it is very shocking, but it's fascinating to read how these things come down the chain of command, how and why these things come get out of control, etc.
The one thing that bothers me is something that bothers me in the news all the time - way too many anonymous sources. Virtually all the meat of this story is quotes from an unnamed "former intelligence official" and an unnamed "Pentagon consultant." What is going to stop Rumsfeld from just saying "that's all lies?" My pessimisstic feeling is that even after this exposť, this whole thing is still going to just blow over and disappear in a few weeks.
I've been enjoying this site called JohnKerryIsADoucheBagButImVotingForHimAnyway.com. There are some good essays there. Though I kind of think the over-use of the words whose root-words are "douche" as insults are unneccesary and sexist, the sentiment is right where I'm at: Kerry is not a very good choice for president, but I'm going to vote for him. The difference between him and Bush is probably even less than between Gore and Bush, but the difference is non-negligible, and small differences can translate to big effects for opressed people around the world.
The Nation has published essays by 11 different authors about why and how the U.S. should get out of Iraq. About time somebody did that. I of course was against going into Iraq but I have had a queasy mixed feeling about the 'Get Out of Iraq' movement lately. I haven't been able to articulate or see any good articulation of what should happen there and how just up and leaving would do any good. But some of these writings speak to that pretty well.
My show at the KNOW the other night about my trip to south america went really well. There was a good turnout and we earned a lot of money for the Computers for Bolivia Project. Well, not a lot compared with how much we need, but it was something.
I feel sort of relieved that I have done it. Like there is some sort of closure. I got lots of good feedback too. It seems to have been informative and inspiring to many who were there. That makes me feel good. Also doing the show, and preparing for it, has reinvigorated my desire to travel more next winter, and also to work on my spanish more.
ok i'm mostly just posting this because i said if i didn't post for a few days i would have been apprehended by government security forces. Nothing of the kind, I've just been crazy busy (or maybe they just want you to think that).
All the busy is a good busy, but I can't help thinking it was avoidable. I'm giving a presentation about my trip to south america tommorrow, but I procrastinated on preparing for it - capturing the video and audio, etc. So I've been scrambling to do that. I think I procrastinated because, I think, I felt uncomfortable about looking at all that footage, for some reason. I found it difficult to do. Perhaps because those electronic representations are so far from the real experience. I don't know.
I just went through security in the Colorado Springs airport. Yes, amazingly enough, they have free wireless internet at some of the gates here (this helps dull the pain of waiting for my 2-hour late flight), so naturally I am blogging. hah. Anyway, I wanted to write about airport security. They're probably monitoring the wireless connection and I'll get arrested for writing this. If I don't post for a few days that's what happened.
Anyway, every time I fly I notice how inconsistent and incomplete the Transportation Security Administration and their airport procedures are. On this trip I'm especially conscious of it. In Portland, on my way here last week, they made me put my bag through one of those giant x-ray machines, AFTER checking it at the airline counter. Then, I wanted to lock it, but I wasn't allowed to touch the bag, I had to tell the TSA person how to do it and she did it for me.
Contrast that with today, where they have little tables set up BEFORE the airline counters. They unzip the main compartment of each bag, swab around the zipper and a little ways into the bag, then stick the swab paper into a machine.
Then they let ME re-lock my own bag. Then they put a little sticker on it that says "TSA" and then they wait with me till it's my turn to check in and carry my bag over to the counter for me.
Then we have security. At PDX, I specifically asked if I should take off my shoes, because often I have been asked to do that. The guy says, "well, we'll see, just walk through." So I go through the metal detector, no beeps, that's the end of it. Here in COS, they tell me to take my shoes off right away. I mention that they don't usually set off the detector, and the guy says "we're looking for other things besides metal."
And these are just examples. Oh and then we have the incompleteness - why are only the main compartments of bags opened and tested? I could probably fit a pretty effective chunk of semtex in one of the side pockets of my bag. This is just proof that all this security shit is just lame.
So what about these inconsistencies? I can only think of 2 explanations: First, it could just be simple incompetence and the result of running a giant bureaucratic agency across hundreds (?) of airports. Or, it could be on purpose. Why would they have inconsistencies in security procedures on purpose? To keep people confused and afraid. When you don't know what measure to expect, when the rules change with every airport, when you can't be confident that you know what the hell the deal is when you're getting on a plane, then you're going to be afraid. If it was the same all the time, people would get used to it and they would get less scared. However, as with everything else in our society, the fear level has to keep getting pumped up. Especially by the government. This sounds like paranoid conspiracy theory, but I don't totally discount the possibility that corners are cut and budgets are slashed because the priority is not to encourage competence and consistency -- and the lack of these things creates fear. All of this is just a smokescreen to make it seem like the administration is making us safer. But they are not.
Besides, I don't think the next terrorist attack will be anything to do with airplanes. There are so many other ways to cause horrible havoc and mayhem in this country. Trains, power plants, water plants, hotels, schools, factories, the list goes on... and what is being done at those places?
Well, the war tax resistance meeting is finished. It was a busy weekend, I didn't even have time to report on the second 2 days as they were happening.
I really don't even have time right now to do a detailed report. To be brief, I will say that I'm really glad I came. It has really been a good boost for my WTR documentary project, and for my own involvement and enthusiasm for war tax resistance. I met lots of great people from all over the country, interviewed many of them, and learned a lot.
There was a lot of talk about how to increase the visibility, accessibliity, and appeal of WTR. A lot of good ideas were discussed. I really would like to see more people, and at least more peace activists, to become active, public war tax resisters.
An ironic and sort of disturbing thing happened after the meeting officially ended Sunday afternoon. I went hiking with my brother and his wife on one of the small peaks next to Pike's Peak, and then we went over to the house of a friend of theirs. The guy has a really nice house, up in the hills kind of overlooking the city and with a beautiful view of Garden of the Gods. Plus, there's a hot tub on the roof! This was our main goal after our tiring sweaty hike.
I guess this guy, he's sort of the typical successful young professional. Like, if you are a U.S. citizen completely unconcious of any higher social goals in life, any artistic or activist or political involvement, then this guy's life would be basically what you'd be dreaming you could have. He's got this amazing house with a huge home theater system in the basement, pool table, bar, the aforementioned hot tub, etc etc.
After soaking in the hot tub for a while the conversation got to the point where he mentioned the military guys he worked with. I asked him where he worked and it turns out he is an engineer or a programmer or something at Schriever Air Force base!!! I felt glad that I had not explained exactly why I was in town. I couldn't believe it, the irony. I felt a little bit like a monk in a whorehouse or something. Just the previous morning we had learned in a presentation at the meeting about the militarization of outer space that Colorado Springs is virtually the center of that effort, and that there are 5 different military bases here. This is where they control a lot of horrible shit, the robot drones with the hellfire missiles, the surveillance satellites, the smart bombs, etc etc. And here I was in a hot tub with a guy that works on that stuff!! At least I could say that none of my taxes were going to help this guy buy more DVDs, cars, and beer.
I should have asked for more details about what he did, but chickened out. I didn't want to risk pissing the guy off or saying something offensive. He's a good friend of Allan and Jeannette, and the thing is, he is a really nice guy. He just obviously doesn't think to hard about things like politics and U.S. imperialism and his own participation in those. Just like most North Americans, I guess. You get to know them individually and a lot of them are great people, I believe. But most of them just don't think about the consequences of how they live their lives, and the connection between themselves and the rest of the world.
So how do you judge those people? Are they really such "great people" if they're so blind? I can't figure it out yet. All I know is there is some severe cognitive dissonance in this country. Severe.
This evening was the beginning of the meeting of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. Makes it sound important to call it that, or rather, maybe it makes me sound important, but really anyone is welcome to the meetings.
Tonite was dinner and introductions. Everyone went around the room and said who they were, where they're from, and what they did on Tax Day this year. Daniel, Tana, and I got up and sung the "Can't Can't" song that our Portland group sang on Tax Day. I mentioned my WTR documentary project and talked to some people afterward about interviews. There are a lot of really good, dedicated people here from all over the country. The combined experience is staggering. We probably have a total of several hundred years of resisting amongst all of us. I think the record in the room was one guy who'd been doing it for 39 years. wow. And who knows how many total dollars withheld?
So, tommorrow things start up at 8 am, so now I need to go get some shut-eye. It's beautiful here in Colo Spgs, I kind of wish I could go hiking instead of sitting inside all day. Maybe Sunday there will be time.
This morning I'm at the house of my brother and his wife, in Colorado Springs, having just flown in last night from Portland. I'm in town for the semiannual national meeting of the National Coordinating Committee for War Tax Resistance, which starts tommorrow. It was easy to decide to come to this meeting, since my brother lives right here (the meetings are in different cities every time).
This post is about other easiness. The ease of mobile networked computing, I guess. This is totally nothing new, and if you think I'm writing this as some earth-shattering news, you're wrong. This is just a personal observation of the first time this phenomenon has really happened to me.
What phenomenon am I speaking of? I guess i'm talking about the long-promised, much-hyped "work anywhere", locationless world we have supposedly started living in over the last few years, thanx to the Internet, laptops, etc. We've heard about this for so long, and I guess I'm suprised that, being the supergeek that I am, that I haven't really felt this before. But here it is: today, a couple hours ago, I woke up in this strange bed in a strange house (well, not totally strange, I've visited here before a few times, but still). I fired up my laptop, plugged it into an ethernet jack in the wall (yes, allan and jeannette are supergeeks too), and just... started doing what I usually do in the morning, which is: get my email, post to my blogs, read the news, read urls people sent to me, answer questions about various projects I'm involved with that people have emailed me about, etc etc. And I'm even drinking cup after cup of green tea, which is my usual morning ritual, too.
...And I suddenly got this weird realization of what was happening. I've got my laptop, internet connection, green tea (which i left here last time I visited, i think!), a reasonably comfortable chair -- that's all I need. I could be anywhere, doing the "work" that I do. Almost all of it, other than the video and sound stuff (which I could probably do portably too, most of it, if I had a little bit faster powerbook).
And yeah this is the first time I've really felt that good about it, I mean that things just work the way they're supposed to, bookmarks and cookies and passphrases and network protocols and batteries and browsers and RJ-45 jacks. It's pretty nice. I am not an early adopter. I get excited about new technologies but I am also fervently anticonsumerist. I am not going to go out and blow cash on something just cuz it's a snazzy new piece of gear. I wait till they work the kinks out, and till it becomes clear that the gizmo will really make my life better. These are things John Perry Barlow and Bruce Sterling were crowing about in Wired magazine half a decade ago, but it was mostly vaporware, really. I mean when you got down to it, until recently, only if you spent a shitload of money and time and happened to be at a high-tech office or school did this shit really create a net positive effect on your life and work. It was all just "gee whiz", it's the future!
A lot of this is real subjective and other factors help out. The sun is shining, it's warm and comfortable in this house, and I am in a good mood. These things help me to have a good attitude about this hunk of plastic and silicon i'm starting at. But the fact remains that other than the type of cereal I ate, I got up and pretty much did the same things and accomplished the same little tasklets that I would have done had I still been back home, even though I'm, what? about 1300 miles away?
But, speaking of sun, it's time to get dressed and get a breath of fresh Colorado air.
Though I'm not sure if I agree with the general position this blog takes, this particular entry makes some good points about the phrase "democratic revolution", and the idea that revolution and democracy are not compatible.
The way I see it, revolution is basically a discontinuity in democracy (in cases where it occurs in a democratic state). After it may be more democracy, or less, but the revolution itself probably can't be democratic.
I'll probably be called a reformist by some for saying that, or for even linking to this item....
Those wonderful impersonators of free market leaders, The Yes Men, have performed yet another wonderful action at the Heritage Foundation. They pretended to be a neoliberal thinktank so they could sneak into a Heritage Foundation conference, and actually got applause for nominating Ed Meese for president.
It's funny, for the past couple of years every time the Yes Men or Rtmark do something, my friend Josť and I trade a brief flurry of emails. It starts out with one of us emailing the other with the press release, asking if it's really them, because they do a very good job of hiding their identity, by creating fake domains and wonderfully subtle parody web sites. But, they have a very distinctive way of doing things, so we can usually tell, or at least suspect. Then eventually they add the exploit to the list of past capers on their own site or sites (either rtmark.com or theyesmen.org or both)
and we say "yup, we were right, it's them."
It's great to see them continuing their long campaign to expose the corporate evildoers, but it's almost disappointing to find out they are behind so many of these hijinks. I would prefer, I think, to see that numerous different groups around the world and the internet are engaging in these tactics. Why aren't there more? Actually I'm sure there are more, they're just not as good about publicizing their efforts, and so the questions is, why not?
Perhaps once the Yes Men movie comes out, more people will be inspired to start emulating their tactics. Yes, it's true, an actual movie, released by United Artists and created by the same people that made "American Movie." Coming out this summer. Wow!
I went to "alternative" Critical Mass on Friday. I plan to write something for portland IMC site later, but I want to get some thoughts down here now. It was the first time I even tried to ride a Critical Mass for almost a year, I think. I used to go every month but then after the war started the tremendous police backlash/crackdown just made it not fun anymore. People were just being herded around downtown by the cops every month.
Alternative massess have occasionally been tried, with varying success. This time it was the most fun I've had at CM for a long time. This was due to the fact that people were informed about the gathering place only by word of mouth, and we tried a new tactic which turned out to have great results.
The basic idea of the tactic is simple, and I don't feel bad about publicly writing about it, because it doesn't matter if the enemy knows it, it will still work. These are the best kinds of tactics. Anyway, what we did is this: agree upon a spot to meet at, then agree to split up if the cops get too bothersome, all go in different directions and gather again at the meeting spot. Then repeat the process, as many times as desired.
It was really great - our second application of the tactic ended up with a squad of motorcycle cops following us around Ladd Circle, round and round, with the bikes eventually lapping the motorcycles. It was hilarious. Finally we started to peel off one by one, heading out different spokes of the big wheel that is Ladd's Addition. We met up later just as planned, cops successfully hoodkwinked.
I've been involved in a lot of other bike fun lately too. I was cameraperson on a little film that re-enacted the altercation between some bikers and some meathead motorists a couple weeks ago. And yesterday I went to a zoobomb wrenching party, which was fun and perfect timing because I needed to replace my rear brake shoes.
I'm glad I've been able to take advantage of the great weather we've been having and be outside doing this great bike stuff.