I have been paying more attention to my dreams lately. Last night I dreamt that I was a prisoner of four years, who hadn’t even been charged with anything yet.

So today, I will write a letter to a prisoner.

Prison is a really, really awful place. From Wikipedia:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 7,225,800 people at yearend 2009 were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole — about 3.1% of adults in the U.S. resident population.[7][8] 2,297,400 were incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails.[1][9] The U.S. incarceration rate was 748 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents, or 0.75%.[9] The USA has the highest total documented prison and jail population in the world.

NPR recently did a story on prison towns. While they were critical of the idea of basing a town’s economy on a prison, they still stated the facts of the system a bit too matter-of-factly. They presented the story in such a way that we should feel sorry for the towns whose economies are being hurt by a drop in the prisoner population due to a recent drop in crime.

We have to remember that these are human beings, and they are being locked in cages for years at a time. Many of the folks in prison are there for drug offenses, which should be treated as the addiction that it is, not as a crime.

If we lived in a decent society, prisons would be one of many issues that we just wouldn’t stand for. We would say, OK, if you politicians aren’t going to fix the problem for us, then we’re going to march en masse to the local prison and tear the damn thing down.

But, the least I can do is write a letter. So that’s what I’ll do today.

Last night, I met up with a couple of awesome Couch Surfers for Critical Mass. The weather was absolutely perfect. Since it was oppressively hot, by San Francisco standards, during the day, it was just pleasantly warm by 6pm when we left the ferry building.

There were a good number of us, and spirits were high, as always. Three guys had fog machines on our bike, which I initially mistook for someone’s electric assist bike catching on fire. As we rolled down Market Street, a young woman tisk-tisked us, talking about how there were more emissions because of us from the idling cars. Oh, sorry! Our fault. Because we’re the ones that drove the cars to begin with… And climate change is the only reason any of us ride…

Anyway, moving along. We went through Union Square, then down to the ballpark, where a game was getting ready to start. There were so many pedestrians that I think they could have had a critical mass of their own, if they had asserted themselves in crossing the street, that is…

At one point, I saw my good friend Derrick, all dressed up in his shirt and tie after work. I talked with him briefly and then escorted him across the road through the mass! That was funny. Another time, in SOMA, a young woman in an SUV honk-honk-honked at us, which only makes us cheer, wave, and flash the peace sign. This, of course, pissed her off even more, because – damn! – she couldn’t get under our collective skin! She flashed us the most pissed off look accompanied by two middle fingers… Even with a few annoyed people, the vast majority of the pedestrians and drivers, even, were in a celebratory mood with us, cheering and smiling, giving us high fives.

We made our way through the wiggle and then through Golden Gate Park. We ended with a perfect sunset at the beach.

All in all, this Critical Mass ride was right up there with the Halloween ride as the most fun.

It was also exactly what I needed. I found myself getting more and more bitter every day. I was thinking about politics and the negative aspects of society all the time. But Critical Mass is adding something positive instead of combating something negative, and I need to make sure I make this type of activity a mainstay of my life so I don’t get too depressed just thinking about everything else. So, I certainly have some ideas on how to bring this about, and I’ll be working on it!

I was at the protest against Chevron on Saturday in Richmond, CA, at the Richmond BART station and at the Chevron refinery. Among the various charges made on that day against Chevron:

  • Chevron has been damaging the health of Richmond residents for decades, causing major problems like asthma.
  • Chevron has been tasked by the city of Richmond with cleaning up the emissions from their refinery. Instead, they are also retrofitting their plant to be able to process dirtier crude.
  • Use of fossil fuel is a huge part of the global warming problem. As one of the most profitable corporations in the world (~$24 billion last year), Chevron is a critical piece of this.
  • Chevron has a hand in the death and exploitation of workers in oil-producing nations around the world, such as Burma
  • Chevron is an active war profiteer, processing Iraqi oil that has been stolen from the people of Iraq

This long list of charges motivated many groups to coalesce against Chevron on Saturday.

The events of Saturday were disorganized and largely ineffectual. The day started off with a music, food, booths, etc, at the Richmond BART station parking lot. There was much singing, dancing, and overall merriment. Yes, a good time, but I don’t agree with the several people who said that we were celebrating our resistance. Guess what? Protests of this kind happen very infrequently, and when they do happen, they don’t last long, and everyone goes home afterward. That’s nothing to celebrate.

I was at the protest with the Direct Action to Stop the War (DASW) “contingent,” which was basically nonexistent. From DASW, there was myself and two other people. Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was also there, and I spent my time hanging out and marching with them.

We marched the 2.5 miles to the Chevron refinery where there were more speakers. Towards the end of the speakers, some commotion broke out. Thirteen courageous individuals took it upon themselves to rush around the side of the police line and into the Chevron parking lot with cleaning supplies. The cleaning supplies were to add a message of “we’re going to clean up Chevron” to their action. They then played dead in the Chevron parking lot, surrounded by cops. At this point, the mass of people moved over towards that side of the parking lot and people lined up behind the police tape. The tape eventually fell down and people inched forward a little bit. I was right up at the front, feeling more angry than scared. The cops were remarkably frightening. They were all armed with billy clubs that they had out and ready. Some had large tear gas guns. Most of the cops were absolutely huge men. There were probably about one hundred police officers in full riot gear, guarding the Chevron facilities.

A short while later, a reverend with the West County Toxics Coalition (the local folks who have been fighting Chevron for years) stepped forward closer to the police, and unable to provoke them by his advance, negotiated his arrest. At that point, Dr. Henry Clark, the leader of the West County Toxics Coalition, grabbed the bullhorn and told the crowd that we had accomplished what we had come for. This completely diffused the anger of the crowd, and the crowd slowly dispersed.

While this protest had some positive elements to it, I think it and most other protests misses the point. The point is that this isn’t a game. We shouldn’t be out just to feel good about ourselves, eat, drink, listen to music, and then go home. These issues are vitally important.

The anti-war movement and the environmental justice movement need to step up their games. These protests need to have increased seriousness and frequency. I am currently reaching out to like-minded individuals to get serious about accomplishing our goals. We are at a critical moment for our society, for us as individuals, for our communities, our country, and for the world. Let’s not mess around.

“How does it become a man to behave towards this American government to-day? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.” – Thoreau

I’ve been neglecting this blog a bit lately. I’ve basically been busy as hell lately, and I suppose the blog has taken a back seat. So this post will be a rambling one bordering on stream of consciousness. So grab a cup of your favorite hot, cold or lukewarm beverage, get someone to rub your feet, and read on.

The fitness side of things has been going very well. It has been mostly bicycling (more on that soon!) but I have also been doing some calisthenics, push ups, basketball and pilates. However I guess I am drinking enough beer and soda to negate any exercise progress I am making. I am still holding steady at my (healthy) weight but I’ve still got that blasted belly fat. I think at some point I may abstain from alcohol for a month just for caloric reasons.

Now onto bicycling. I am surely becoming better at it. My legs are getting stronger and I am becoming more confident in riding. I let myself go faster down hills and don’t mind small bumps as much. I am actually surprised that I have not gotten a flat from some of the huge goddamn pot holes I have unintentionally gone over. I have also somehow managed to not pierce my tube on all the glass I have seen on the street. Also, yesterday I participated in my second Critical Mass. It is quite an empowering experience. After spending all month being a second-class citizen on the roads and being scared out of my wits several times by inattentive or malicious motorists, it is nice to have the bicyclists own the roads for a change. Yesterday I especially had fun stopping for a few seconds directly in front of some cars in a couple of intersections to let the mass go through. I did have to break off rather early, however, to meet some friends in the Sunset for dinner. On my way there I kept running into break-off massers. I am not sure what you call it, but I went through a group of bikers who were using an intersection as their own personal traffic circle, stopping traffic in all directions. Beautiful thing. After passing through that I had all four one-way lanes of Fell Street to myself. I love Critical Mass. I wish it were two times per month, every week, twice a week, every day. Maybe some day…

By the way, a quick “shout out” to my friend Peter’s excellent San Francisco bike blog.

School has been going well, although I probably need to start working harder at it. Last semester I worked too hard at school; I probably worked twice as hard as I needed to to actually get an ‘A’ and ended up with super duper A’s. Right now I am probably working hard enough for everything to be borderline A/B and I would really like to get straight A’s again. Unfortunately this semester there are no term papers like last semester where we get to pick our own topic. I really enjoyed writing my paper Anarchism in Spain during the Spanish Civil War last semester and I wish I had the opportunity to do something like that again. Unfortunately it is mostly book reviews, midterms, and one term paper on which our topic is rather narrow. School has been rather tiring, for sure. 11 out of my 12 weekly class hours are packed between Monday at 4pm and Wednesday at 10am. With bicycling to/from school most of the time I am pretty exhausted by the time I get out of work on Wednesday. But I keep on truckin’. I think I can wait until December and January for a decent vacation.

In December I will be going to Maryland for about a week. I’d like to be back in San Francisco for New Year’s Eve, and then I’ll be off to Hawaii to visit Kelly, Conor and Caleb. Hopefully Tim will be home by then. I’m very much looking forward to this vacation. But the real doozy will be next summer when I plan to go to Europe for a month, couch surfing as much as possible. I should probably get on getting that passport…

Talking about Couch Surfing, I have been hosting a LOT. The vast majority of the days I will have one or more (sometimes as many as four) couch surfers staying with me in my studio. I am taking a several day break from it right now but I really enjoy hosting people. I have met so many people and I’ve stopped counting how many I’ve hosted. Besides the obvious social benefits of it, I am looking at it from an anarchist perspective. It is essentially a gift economy; the apartment is theirs to stay in with no strings attached. They also get to avoid spending money at a hotel and I get the joy of knowing they kept money out of the hands of the big hotel owners. And to be selfish, I am racking up a huge list of people than can host me in the future!

To change gears here, work is also going well. We are trying to spin off a separate company. I won’t go into the details right now, but it’s involved setting aside a few weekend days to get some work done on our project that we are trying to launch. I don’t mind so much; the solitude while I work is nice and it is what I was looking for when I volunteered all of us to work on the weekends. The regular during-the-week stuff is going fine but I am looking forward to this new company getting launched and hopefully working in that line a lot more.

Now onto the “having fun” part of this post. As I posted before, I have recently launched a San Francisco drum and bass blog where I am keeping track of the different drum and bass events upcoming in the city, posting pictures and writing event reviews. I had a tremendous time last Sunday at Compression at The Cellar. I hope to go to more drum and bass events now that I am keeping track of all of them for the new blog.

A few fun things that are upcoming for me: Next weekend I am going to Monterrey for a night with a few friends for a birthday. I’ve been to Monterrey a few times but never spent the night. I think I won’t go to the aquarium again, even though it was great last time. I want to check out other parts of Monterrey, whatever they may be. The weekend after that I’ll be in LA visiting Alyssa. I haven’t been to LA for a while and I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure we’ll have a great time.

Now just some comments on our current political atmosphere. I become more and more turned off by mainstream politics every day. I am especially jaded by the Obama campaign. I can’t stand to see Obamamania going on here in San Francisco. If I had more time (how many times have I said this?) I’d challenge the Obamamania. I want to put up posters that say “Obama is a warmonger.” I want to make t-shirts to the same effect. I want to challenge the Obama street table volunteers to an impromptu debate.

What, you didn’t know that Obama was a warmonger? He has voted to fund the war in Iraq. The same war that has killed an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis, many more than you may know who have been killed directly by American soldiers. The same war that has made five million Iraqis flee their homes, internally and externally. Well, surely, you might think, Obama will change all of that when he takes office. Think again. He plans to keep thousands of troops in Iraq, including in the Green Zone, thus completely ignoring the will of the Iraqi people and destroying any hope of Iraqi sovereignty. Obama also seems to think the Iraqi people should be paying us money for our war that is essentially no more than mass murder. Should someone with this mentality be our president?

But it doesn’t stop with Iraq, of course. Obama’s effort to be “tough on terror” includes sending more troops to Afghanistan. Send them there for what? What are more troops going to do over there? It doesn’t take tens of thousands of troops to combat Al Qaeda, who are evidently holed up in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. I’ll tell you what more troops will accomplish however. They will, intentionally or not, murder more Afghan people, like the close to 100 that were killed a couple weeks ago by an American bomb. Is this who you want to be president?

This is the same man who thinks it is wise to leave “all options on the table” with regards to Iran. The same Iran that several years ago agreed to stop all nuclear activity if we would only promise to not attack them. We reprimanded the third party diplomat for delivering the message. Are we really going to consider bombing Iran, too? Or maybe we’ll just starve them out like Bill Clinton did to Iraq. 1 million dead Iraqis thank Clinton for that, and the rest of the Iraqis thank Clinton for making them more dependent on their dictator, making it extremely difficult to overthrow him. And this is who the San Francisco “liberals” are so excited about?

This is the same man that actually wants to increase the size of our military. Our military expenditures are already higher than the rest of the world combined. This is our idea of a presidential candidate that stands for peace, that wants to use diplomacy to settle our differences with the world? Diplomacy at the barrel of a gun, maybe. Change, my ass.

And just a bit on the economy here. I am actually kind of excited about the state of the economy. I think economic collapse would certainly be painful in many ways but it would also be a time of opportunity. An opportunity to make a change in our lives on an individual level and also an opportunity to replace what we have on a systemic level with something at least slightly better. We’ll see what happens, but my opinion is that the current bailout plan will make the decline of the American economy happen slowly rather than suddenly. Either way it’s going down the tubes.

Lastly, a quick comment on some stuff I am reading right now. I am reading Living My Life by Emma Goldman, an autobiography if the title didn’t give that away. An excellent book so far, talking about all of her travels, lectures, romance and more. I certainly like Emma Goldman much more than Lenin after reading his biography. Lenin was essentially a mass murdering elitist who did it all in the name of the working class. One thing I am getting out of all of this, however, is that I think I would admire someone much more for their actions rather than their words. Emma Goldman, until this point in the book at least (I think she’s about 30) has mostly done lecture tours. Anarchist lectures are generally meant to agitate the working class so they take action. Seems like a bit of a cop-out to me. But I still like Emma Goldman.

I also started reading a journal I subscribed to, Anarchist Studies. An article in the current issue discusses Leo Tolstoy’s Christian anarchism, which is something I had never heard of until now. There’s a lot about laws, slavery and non-violence in the article. I am skeptical of some of Tolstoy’s arguments, especially the one that declares that laws are slavery. I think the term slavery is cheapened when it is used so broadly like this. Having said this, I’d like to read some of Tolstoy’s books and articles that this journal article mentions.

Until next time, faithful readers…

As some of you may know, the Democratic National Convention is currently ongoing in Denver. Sounds like a great reason for a protest.

So far, over 100 people have been arrested. I have been following the progress on Colorado Indymedia and on Submedia. Keep in mind that both of these sources are openly pro-anarchist/activist. But the videos, they don’t lie.

I am planning a trip for New York City – I will be there from August 9 to August 18. One of my main goals while there is to connect with local activist, community and political groups.

Unfortunately in my several hours of research so far I have not found one event worth attending. Actually, I haven’t even found one event. Whether it is anarchism, direct action or bicycling, there is as of yet nothing for me to attend.

This drives home the point that activists, across the political spectrum generally, are disorganized and very small in number.

True, I cannot speak much myself, which I’m not too proud of. But this is something that I think needs to change drastically.

I will continue to search for groups in New York City. I still need to search around other issues like anti-war, environmentalism, fair housing and other things. And I would also like to try to find community groups like those who provide free food, health care and other services to those in need. I hope my search turns less depressing.

Because activists often are battling against large corporations, they need to learn from these corporations and become disciplined and organized. It is never going to be enough to have two “organizing meetings” per month and one action every two months. It is never going to be enough to take a lackluster approach towards outreach and publicity. The large, successful corporations, while not nearly perfect, certainly don’t engage in these ineffective activities.

I’m mad, and it is time for a change.

Been reading more of the Lenin biography. It is extremely well written.

It turns out that he was a lawyer, specifically a barrister. Also, he barely did any work as a lawyer. He had a low case load. And he was still being funded mostly by his mother.

He was born in 1870 and I have read up to 1895. We’ll see what happens as he gets a little older and his mother’s money presumably runs out. Right now he is in jail at the end of 1895.

I am reading a biography on Vladimir Lenin right now. I became interested in him because one of my professors described him as a full-time revolutionary. I want to see what the practical details were of how he accomplished this. Namely, how did he support himself while pursuing this path?

So far I have read up to his college years, and he hasn’t done a single day of work in his life. Either school or reading. Living off of his parents’ income. We’ll see what happens.

Today I encountered the perfect example of why I moved to San Francisco: More than 100 arrested in S.F. anti-war protests

I couldn’t ask for better inspiration than this. I am going to take some time on Sunday to just think.