November 24, 2011

Occupy the Sun

Filed under: Food and Farms, Freedom — Russ @ 9:20 am
If we use the sun with wisdom, justice, and respect for the land, it’s tantamount to the mythical free lunch. It’s win-win for everyone.
This perverse species, by enslaving itself to capitalism, by letting the earth-embodied sun’s rays themselves be enclosed and used for destruction and tyranny, has renounced the sun’s bounty.
We must set the sun free.
Happy Thanksgiving!

November 21, 2011

The Constitution of Occupy Wall Street


As we’ve seen with the recent repression of the Occupation movement, including hostile court action, the 1st amendment is inadequate to the rights and needs of the people. It funnels freedom of assembly into the representative government containment system. The people have the right to assemble only in order to petition the government. This means that the movement’s refusal to make demands, in itself, could be argued to place it outside the Constitution.
A true democratic movement, one which seeks to challenge directly Enclosure and 1% propertarianism by physically occupying and redeeming the land would perhaps be found by the courts to be outside the Constitution. So we have to be clear in our minds and public words that this is our constitution, not something to be mediated by the courts. We can be our own constitutional professors, just as we can rule ourselves in every other way.
We must assess the entire Constitution from this point of view: Is it applicable toward democracy, or does it try to kettle us into pseudo-democracy, “representative” government?
Meanwhile, this physical refutation of the criminal enclosure of our land and space is clearly the demand the movement was seeking all along. It’s a bottom-up direct action demand, one we make in earnest only of ourselves. Our occupation must be physical, of REO, of corporate land, of stolen (“privatized” or contracted out) public land, of idle arable land, of any idle resource, of any shuttered or threatened factory. The Occupation, true to its name, must run the gamut from the protest tents in the city parks to organized squatting to an MST-style land redemption movement right here in America and Canada.
And if it’s true that great protest movements have always challenged unjust and invalid laws, like Gandhi’s Salt March or the civil rights movement’s bus boycotts and lunch counter sit-ins, well here the illegitimate laws we challenge and physically flout are those of Enclosure of public space itself.
This shall be part of the foundation of a new constitution which embodies the sovereignty of the 99. But we’ll get none of it by begging courts (that is, making a begging system “demand”) to uphold the letter or spirit of the existing Constitution. Certainly we should try to do this, as much as possible. Try to “make them live up to their own rules”, as Alinsky said. But we must be clear that this is only one piece of the puzzle. We’ll need far more, and far stronger, tools than that.

November 18, 2011

Blog Hibernation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Russ @ 3:23 am
I’ve decided to take a few months off from regular blogging in order to rest, collect my thoughts, and take stock of the situation. I also have some study I need to undertake, and I want to give it my undivided attention.
So my plan is to put the blog into partial hibernation until sometime this spring. I may still post from time to time over the winter, but there’s no regular schedule for it. I intend to return to full-scale posting in spring.
I want to say thanks to my readers and commenters, and I hope you won’t forget me while I’m gone.
Let me know in comments if people would still like to have open threads at this blog. I’ll still put up short posts to allow for that, and participate in the threads.

November 11, 2011

Globalization, Home Schooling, and Democracy


Even where it comes to something which sounds benevolent like the Convention on the Rights of the Child, under kleptocracy we can guess the way it’ll really be used. Of course there’s some good things about it, such as bans on child trafficking, which are good where enforced. (Although even those are conceived in a way which avoids dealing with the real cause of things like the sex trade. It’s always the same corporate exploitation which drives people into that kind of desperate poverty.) But that’s not the real purpose of a treaty like this. That’s why I chose to write a post focusing on the malign uses to which even the most seemingly benevolent aspects of corporatism and globalization will inevitably be put. 
The basic rule for everything is to relocalize. So even if one granted, just for the sake of argument, good intentions on the part of the drafters and signors, an international treaty is in principle the wrong direction.
But we know never to grant these good intentions. In practice all international law is intended to serve the ends of corporate globalization and statism. It will be applied for this purpose, and ignored where it would counteract this purpose.
In this case it seems this Convention, since it insists on family rights, ought to support home schooling against corporate-school coercion. But in fact provisions of it are already being invoked by the state against home schoolers in England, Belgium, and elsewhere. Just like with every other aspect of globalization, this “treaty”, really a corporatist contract of adhesion, is a weapon of corporate war on the people. 
The basic rule: Never trust such things and never agree that they have authority over the people. My basic rule for all constitutions and treaties and so on is that they’re strictly binding on power structures, loosely or not at all binding on the people. If a national government chooses to dissolve its nominal authority in favor of an international code, then that government has simply abdicated, and we should deal with it as an illegitimate structure. But this does not mean the code has any authority over us. How can an abdicating structure bestow legitimacy upon another? When such a vestigial “government” then wants to use force on behalf of this alien code, that’s nothing but thug tyranny. 
As of 2009 this treaty had been ratified by every country except the US and Somalia. It’s not a surprise that Europe is more enthusiastic than the US. As I’ve discussed before, although for the moment I forget in which post, by now corporatism in the US has relegated globalization to a secondary role, in favor of directly using the US government as the preferred thug. This is because “pure” globalization has generated what from the corporate point of view is gratuitous opposition in the US. But the US as an administrative entity is centralized and homogenized enough that it wasn’t really necessary to dissolve US government pseudo-sovereignty in order to impose corporate rule. The government was already powerful and entrenched enough, while the system interpretation of the Constitution already seeks to dissolve all other levels of federalism.
But globalization has been more important for the Europeans, who needed to undermine the existing menagerie of polities, cultures, sovereignties, in order to achieve economic centralization. (Of course, they were only ever to partially achieve this. They achieved a monetary union but were had to stick with the dreaded “patchwork quilt” of fiscal policies still in the hands of rump countries. They’re been trying to dissolve fiscal policy independence by force, via “austerity”. But the euro and the EU itself are doomed, and good riddance.) 
So we know the context in which to place all internationalism, including even the best-sounding. Something like the Convention sounds good on paper, but no one ever intends to enforce it against economic coercion. Just like with everything else, no one assaults children more systematically and viciously than corporations, yet the few attempts to invoke treaties like this against globalization assaults have been laughed at and ignored. Nor was such a treaty ever intended to be used in such a way. Like with everything else, it’s meant to be used by the global power structure as a weapon against “rogue” countries, but to not exist in any meaningful way where it comes to members of the fraternity or their hired thugs.
That’s the common nature of all these things – freedom, government, law, rights, property, constitutions, democracy, public morality – they’re all intended to be used only as weapons on behalf of power. No one among the powerful considers any of these to have any meaning or value in itself. You invoke and apply them where convenient, distort or ignore them where convenient. It’s heads-I-win-tails-you-lose. The FDA’s peculiar notions of “science” and “precautions” are good examples of this double standard.
Just as we see with US “food safety” policy, which has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with empowering corporations and assaulting independent farmers, so the Convention on the Rights of the Child does nothing to protect children against their great corporate enemy, but will on the contrary assault them on behalf of those same corporations.
By contrast, home schooling and true community schooling are what are what true democracy advocates want. Anarchism means simply to oppose large, alien structures and to restore all power to the people at the natural, relocalized level on a true democratic basis. Although many have an aversion to the term, even many who ought to be friendly toward it, it’s really synonymous with democracy, meaning true participatory democracy, self-rule by natural communities.

November 9, 2011

Raw Milk, the FDA, and Movement Misdirection


In the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund’s (FTCLDF) raw milk rights lawsuit against the FDA, the FDA has previously said it considers individuals transporting raw milk across state lines for personal use to be engaging in “interstate commerce”, that they were criminals, and that while it had no immediate plans to arrest individuals for this, it reserved the right to do so. 
In response to this and countless other acts and declarations of FDA tyranny, the Raw Milk Freedom Rider demonstration engaged in a mass individual transportation of raw milk across the border from Pennsylvania to Maryland. Proving the value of direct action, this and other pressure has forced the FDA to issue a press release affirming that it will not try to enforce its renegade “law” that way.
Here’s the money quote:

With respect to the interstate sale and distribution of raw milk, the FDA has never taken, nor does it intend to take, enforcement action against an individual who purchased and transported raw milk across state lines solely for his or her own personal consumption.

The press release is nevertheless filled with lies and Big Lies. It lies about the evidence for raw milk’s health benefits. It lies about the number of cases of illness attributable to raw milk, a miniscule amount nonetheless. It elides the vastly greater number of illnesses caused by pasteurized milk.
On the big scale, it calls itself a “science-based public health agency”. Yet all its actions are directly in aggressive support of corporate interests. These actions and declarations are usually directly contradictory to one another. Thus here it claims raw milk isn’t sufficiently supported by science. Yet by that measure GMOs should never have been approved in the first place, and at the very least there should be mandatory labeling of all “foods” containing them. Indeed, by now evidence of GMOs’ menace to health is piling up. But where it comes to GMOs the FDA’s position is full steam ahead, with no claim ever having to be substantiated, no precautionary regulation ever having to be applied, no contrary evidence ever considered for a moment.
The “science-based” FDA dogmatically declares that GMOs aren’t different “in any meaningful or uniform way” from food, in spite of its possession of over 20,000 internal documents proving the myriad ways in which GMOs are radically different, always to the malign side. This is at the same moment that the same government’s patent office declares GMOs to be so different from other crops that they deserve patent monopolies. So far as I can see, the science-based FDA has not tried to correct what it presumably must consider the patent office’s mistake.
Meanwhile, there’s no doubt whatsoever about the science of CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations, AKA factory farms). These are literally unregulated bioweapons factories. No such concentration of animals could ever exist long without being wiped out by an epidemic. All such confined animals are permanently sick. They’re kept on a constant, heavy maintenance regime of antibiotics. By design the system is a biological arms race, as ever more powerful antibiotics desperately try to stay one step ahead of ever more resistant microbes. It’s a fact that each and every CAFO is a clear and present danger to the public health. A factory farm will one day be the source for a lethal pandemic among humans. This is not a possibility but an inevitability.
But the science-based public health agency is uninterested in this. On the contrary, it does all it can to defend and promote the CAFO interest. The day this mass pandemic comes, FDA officials will among those guilty of literal mass murder. They must be held accountable as such.
So that should put into perspective the FDA’s oh-so-touching solicitude for the public health where it comes to the big bad raw milk monster. 
So there’s one small gain, with a long hard fight ahead.
Which leads to some not-so-good news.
To succeed, a movement has to have a clear view of who’s the enemy, for starters. In the case of food the enemy, of course, is Big Ag. It has tremendous power and is very aggressive in getting the also very powerful government to act as its thug. Yet according to this piece, Joel Salatin in his new book wants to divert the focus of the movement away from the real enemy and toward a phony peripheral target, “overzealous consumer advocates”. 
Of course such myopic advocates do exist, but they’re powerless in themselves and gain a phony nimbus of power only where their advocacy advances corporate interests. In that case, they receive corporate money, they’re featured in the corporate media, and the corporate interest tries to hide behind this phony public face. Such “consumer groups”, some of them perhaps dupes and useful idiots, are really corporate front groups. That’s the source of the phony “Food Safety” pseudo-movement. Meanwhile, these front groups seek to defend and intensify all the worst corporate practices – factory farming, GMOs, the whole pesticide/herbicide regime, and so much more – which are very things making us sick.
Salatin must know all that perfectly well, as I’m sure Gumpert, Mark McAfee, and others do. Yet here they are propagating this pro-corporate lie, and the rest of the comment thread was eating it up. I didn’t see a single anti-corporate voice raised in dissent.
I don’t know what Salatin’s real agenda is, but at any rate here he is sticking up for Big Ag, representing them as innocent bystanders whose power just “accidentally” keeps increasing. Big Ag stands by passively, while these ferocious advocates run around terrorizing the poor little government into doing things which just inertially happen to benefit the corporate food rackets. They also force the poor innocent little corporate media into covering them. This is a typical line of corporate propaganda we’ve already seen in every sector – bank regulations cause financial crashes, environmental regulations cause oil spills, and on and on. Here it is indeed the regulations which are the problem, but their real source isn’t a food safety/consumer advocacy movement which on its own has no more power than, for example, the single payer movement. “Food Safety” regulation, as in the recent Food Control bill, is engineered by the likes of Monsanto and Cargill, often directly written by their lobbyists, and then laundered through these “consumer” front groups. This gives the corporate media the best angle to present what’s nothing but corporate propaganda.
Anyone who knows anything about how the system works knows that no activist movement can accomplish anything whatsoever with the government or media other than through direct action from the bottom up. Unless, that is, the “advocacy” happens to coincide with the corporate interest. Then the media’s red carpet is rolled out, the doors of government access are thrown open, and the “advocate” himself becomes a system fixture. But that’s all he is – an ornament, a piece of tinsel.
The movement can never win so long as forces within want to act as agents of misdirection. There’s only one enemy: the corporate-state nexus. There’s only one direction to attack: straight up.

November 6, 2011

How Do You Get An Occupation Event Going?

Filed under: Corporatism, Food and Farms, Freedom — Tags: , , — Russ @ 9:56 am


Wherever you are, of whatever sort?
The possibilities vary greatly, from urban to suburban to rural areas; the economic state of the region; the predominant politics and political conflicts; whether there’s an immediate proximate struggle which is part of broader structural issues; what forces could possibly be mustered for the action; whether those forces exist ready for action at the moment or if educational and organizational work is needed, and if so, what.
Someone I know wants to get an event going here in suburbia, but so far there’s been a disappointing response to feelers sent out to e-mail lists, and we’re mostly at the stage of casting about for a specific rationale. (Then there’ll be the nuts-and-bolts logistics of it, “permits” and such, but first we need to know we wouldn’t be “giving a demonstration and nobody came”.) There are several specific corporate assaults in this town, like a federally imposed pipeline (taxpayer money, federal thug enforcement including overriding of state law, “private” profiteering). It seems like people are mostly glum about things but not particularly ready to do anything about it. (I personally experience it as a foreign invasion.) There’s some other general swinishness going on. Verizon recently informed the town it would no longer pay taxes on its properties because it just dipped below a 50% market share, and some law allegedly exempts it from taxes if it doesn’t hold this majority share. The law actually means the opposite (though it does sound like a very stupid law to have written in the first place), but this is an example of something we’ve discussed previously, how corporations are increasingly simply refusing to pay bills and taxes and forcing creditors and governments to sue them. There’s also a flap over the municipal water authority, with privatization looming in the background. We know the record is 100% across the board – no matter what the public water utility was like, privatization always brings far more expensive water with worse services. That’s what’s happened everywhere privatization has won out.
So there’s a few examples of possible hooks upon which to hang a participation event. There’s also the broader question of the future of the town. For the moment it’s “legally” safe from further development, but that of course can change. The subdivision onslaught is just about economically spent anyway, but the barbarians of suburbia can still do lots of damage yet, even in a fairly short period of time. If we’re going to resist and overcome the vandals, we need a coherent plan of our own for the post-oil agricultural future of the area. Maybe an Occupation event could become a participatory assembly to discuss this future. Well, that’s a pretty far-out idea, but it could at least impress upon people the need for such a plan. So far as I know the only plans that exist still assume infinite growth. These are impossible, of course, but can still accomplish great destruction.
In the meantime, it sounds like lots of preparatory work needs to be done even before we can get a good turnout for an acute event. People need to be reminded of everything that’s happening, and have it all be presented as one big picture, with each specific feature placed in the big context. We also need an ongoing media project to keep people aware of all these things. We already have the building materials for that – websites, cadres, a base to build upon (although even this base seems lethargic at the moment). We just need to put it all together to function the right way, to generate its own energy.
So if the issue here is chronic, and people “aren’t ready” to come out for an acute Occupy event, that’ll have to be changed systematically. Of course, OWS itself seemed to be falling short on its first day, and even I thought it was fizzling out. So if we could get something started, who knows what kind of enthusiasm it might spontaneously call into being? 
So there I was talking about how to use existing forces to get an Occupy event going. And perhaps for the longer run we could use an Occupy event as a consciousness raiser and recruitment tool for the vaster arc of the general democratic movement. At our farmers’ market we have a dedicated space where a non-profit organization can set up a booth and engage in those two activities. So an Occupy event itself could serve the same purpose for any number of food, energy, transportation, health, education, political, and anti-corporate struggles. Just as these proximate struggles can be the rallying point for a broader occupation, so the Occupation can teach and recruit for the struggle.

November 3, 2011

Redolent of Olduvai

Filed under: Peak Oil, Relocalization, Tower of Babel — Tags: , — Russ @ 8:18 am


I haven’t read Richard Duncan’s Olduvai theory in a long time, but over the last few days I’ve been thinking about it a lot. It’s a Peak Oil theory which forecasts a pretty rapid collapse of civilization. One of its novel features is the prediction that blackouts of increasing frequency and length will plague technological societies. When we see these occurring, that should be taken as a milestone along the road to collapse. The proximate cause of this or that blackout isn’t what’s important according to the theory. The point is that as fossil fuels becomes harder and more expensive to extract, energy harder and more expensive to deliver, the likelihood of any particular event causing a blackout will increase, and the likelihood of that blackout being severe in range and duration will increase.
This is an anecdotal post along the lines of my previous one on Hurricane Irene. Last weekend the region experienced a snowstorm. I’ll grant that it was unseasonal and unexpected until a few days before, and the snow was pretty thick, but there wasn’t that much of it, and rapidly warming temperatures quickly melted most of it in most places. Yet it’s left many places without power entering the sixth day now. It’s simply astounding how the “greatest civilization on earth” looks utterly incompetent to even keep its lights on the moment a few flakes fall and a little wind blows. Based on what I’m told by people I know who lost power, they can’t get accurate information when they talk to the utilities, only optimistic timetables whose deadlines come and go. One town seems able to restore electricity by the street, seemingly at random, but has a long way to go to get everyone up. The main impression one gets of the “authorities” is of desperate, confused struggle. I say again, we got one snowfall over c. 12 hours, with nothing but beautiful weather since then.
Nor should repair efforts be much hindered by traffic, since the roads ought to be less traveled considering how many other systems were shut down. Many corporate schools remained closed, mostly on account of lack of power, for days. My nephew only finally went back to school on Wednesday, and with a delayed opening on that day. (Meanwhile, my friend’s home-schooled children didn’t miss a single day, even though they too still have no electricity. They’ve also endured the electricity loss with little trouble, while others I know, corporatized types, had to flee their houses as refugees to sleep on couches.)
Meanwhile I saw several towns which looked like disaster zones. Traffic lights out, clearly insufficient police to direct traffic at major intersections, traffic snarling at those intersections, the back roads filled with cars trying to avoid these snarls, and topping it all, major emergency roadwork, detours, and “Local Traffic Only” signs everywhere you looked. We couldn’t figure out what it was all about, but it must have had something to do with the storm. A little snow, and everything looks like an anthill kicked over.
I know this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. I recall sneers and complaints about how people were becoming prone to panic over a little snow as early as the 90s. But as I recall, that was mostly just the psychological aspect. As my friend commented the other day, they jam the stores to stock up on bottled water, and not because they think the taps will run dry, but because they can’t conceive drinking tap water for a few days. We’ve long seen this psychological decadence.
But this menagerie of blackouts and incipient infrastructure collapse does look more recent to me. I grew up used to big snowstorms in suburban areas, and it doesn’t seem like it used to be this way, that a lesser storm has such crippling effects.
So it was while surveying all this that I thought of Olduvai again. It does seem like more and more this extremely top-heavy tower is unstable, tottering, and finding it harder and harder to right itself given the slightest breeze.
Of course, we’re talking mostly about the infrastructure and neighborhoods of the 99%. No doubt anything the “public authorities” needed to do for the 1% was done crisply, well ahead of time. Looking at my friend’s generator, it occurred to me for the first time that for someone from a suburb to feel the need to buy a generator is a form of covert privatization. One is implicitly conceding that one has to go to a private market to actually obtain a service one’s public taxes already paid for. The list, of course, could be multiplied forever, starting with her needing to home school in the first place. Here again we see what I’ve written about many times before, how the taxes on the 99 are merely extortions by the 1.
I’m not saying I’ve changed my mind and become a believer in the fast crash scenario. I still think it’ll be a tortured process taking decades. But this confirms my existing prediction of a weaker form of the thesis, that degradation will be much faster in some areas than others, and that lumpensuburbia and its desperate corporatism-hangers-on will be especially vulnerable.
Meanwhile, as I’ve alluded to here, those of us who are already trying to build lives outside the system are already giving some proof of principle, that we’re better off physically and psychologically.