Friday, December 30, 2005

Abolition Democracy

Reading the excellent interview book with Angela Davis. She's interviewed by Eduardo Mendieta who also does things like serve as the executive editor of Radical Philosophy Review. The interviews are just exceptional as she tackles and unpacks so many of the assumptions of the contemporary mainstream discussion about prison, torture, and the war. As the nature of interview books go, it is relatively light reading, but it never feels like a waste because her language is almost a political poetry, interrogating each question and then, only after examination, delivering one stirring response after another. Apparently, she has a book she's working on called Prisons and History. I can't wait to see it.
To end with a brief quote from the book:
"What we manage to do each time we win a victory is not so much to secure change once and for all, but rather to create new terrains of struggle."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Myth of Third World Debt (a poem)

The Myth of Third World Debt

I hear tell
that the ‘West’ claims
‘Third World’ countries
owe them a debt.

The white people them
They come to our countries
they unleash
upon we
the holocaust of slavery
the evil, parasitic, violent process
them call colonization.

What this means is
them rape Mother Africa
took her children to use as donkey
went right inside Mother Africa belly
and steal her resources
send them back home
to the ‘west’.

We the Africans,
funded the industrial revolution
with our blood, sweat, and tears and

So I don’t really understand
what the ‘west’ means
when them talk
‘bout ‘Third world debt’
I believe them have no shame
I know they full of untruth
they lie to themselves constantly
cause truth will kill them fe true.

I ask you to reconsider
who owes whom?

The west owes Africa
a debt so great
them can never
fully repay.

Though we may not say it,
don’t think we do not see it
We are silent
because white men talk too much
all in aid
of hiding the truth.

Third world debt
is a fiction of
white mans imagination.

Nyarai Humba (Via Wooster Collective) This poem was part of a mural. The day after the mural was painted, the poem was censored.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A scatterbrained note

"The Draft Is About White People
Sending Black People To Fight
Yellow People to Protect The Country
They Stole From The Red People"
Attributed to Muhammad Ali, Stokely Carmichael,
and numerous other people...
I found it while looking through the massive site The Talking Drum which reminds me of a similar sprawling site that I love Sunrise Dancer which has a sweet library. The Talking Drum is ostensibly a pan-africanist website and has some great stuff like a page for Assata Shakur, whose autobiography Assata is just a wonderful read.

Support the New York City Transit Workers Union's MTA strike. SEIU has already pledged support. I have to say that I think this could be similar to UPS or the notorious PATCO strike. Let's see what happens. The coverage so far has been straight out of Chomsky and Herman's Manufacturing Consent with the TWU just getting ripped and no critique of the Taylor law (which forbids strikes by public employees). Their militancy is treated as boorish behavior. The one quote I liked in the Times piece was about the union's founder's response to a judge declaring the 1966 transit strike in violation of a similar law: "The judge can drop dead in his black robes."
I'm unsure of Local President Toussaint's role, but, like the bushies say, the time for debate has ceased. We are at war. We'll debate later.

P.S. The coverage of the Morales election by U.S. media has been as awful as usual. Which makes me all the more hopeful.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Evo Morales seems to have won the vote in Bolivia. This decade is shaping up to be a good one for Latin America. Mexico's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is also keeping us interested.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A poem

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider --
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give -- yes or no, or maybe --
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

William Stafford (1914 -1993)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., remark to Harry Belafonte the day Dr. King was murdered: "I am deeply concerned that we're trying to integrate ourselves into a burning house."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Clemency is an interesting concept in America. Tonight, it has been announced that California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will not be granting it to death row inmate Stanley Tookie Williams. Williams was found guilty of killing four people in 1979. He says he's innocent. We don't presume to defend his innocence, we don't think he should be executed regardless. There are a hundred and one reasons, from personal experience to the findings of the Sentencing Project, that have convinced us that, whatever feelings anyone has about the ethics of capital punishment, the American state is not to be trusted with this. But defenders of Tookie Williams aren't generally making critiques of the capitalist state. They are saying that Tookie changed and that we should recognize when a man changes.
Schwarzenegger is the kind of man you would expect to be sympathetic to change. He's been accused of making racial slurs, groping numerous women, and that isn't the worst of it. His father was a nazi in Austria and while we won't make him suffer from the sins of the father, he invited Kurt Waldheim to his wedding and toasted him. Kurt Waldheim? You know, the nazi-war-criminal-banned-from-the-United-States-Kurt-Waldheim. That Kurt Waldheim. Did he invite Gigi Goyette? Type that name into google and do the math. What it adds up to is statutory rape and adultery. But Schwarzenegger has denied and sought forgiveness for that which he doesn't deny. Which is interesting. Because on one hand you would expect an adultering racist who slept with sixteen year olds to understand change. But on the other hand, maybe it isn't so surprising after all.

A lot of people have been reading George Jackson on the site today. This didn't make sense until I read Schwarzenegger's full text denial of clemency. The pertinent details can be found on pages four and five (it can be found easily enough online):

The dedication of Williams’ book “Life in Prison” casts significant doubt on his personal redemption. This book was published in 1998, several years after Williams’ claimed redemptive experience. Specifically, the book is dedicated to “Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt, Ramona Africa, John Africa, Leonard Peltier, Dhoruba Al-Mujahid, George Jackson, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the countless other men, women, and youths who have to endure the hellish oppression of living behind bars.” The mix of individuals on this list is curious. Most have violent pasts and some have been convicted of committing heinous murders, including the killing of law enforcement.

But the inclusion of George Jackson on this list defies reason and is a significant indicator that Williams is not reformed and that he still sees violence and lawlessness as a legitimate means to address societal problems.

The punishment, apparently, for seeing violence as a legitimate means to address societal problems is the death penalty. The foolishness of this line of reasoning is obvious. What is so much more painful is simply knowing Schwarzenegger's respect for Reagan. Reagan, whose long list of crimes against humanity simply offend the idea of summary, was a violent thug who made a mockery of the law with an apple in his eye and a quick pat joke. Reagan, whose idea on dealing with campus activists as a governor was "If it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over with. No more appeasement." The idea that the symbolic indicator of one's lack of redemption is their respect for George Jackson is a cruel joke.
Redemption plays heavy in the bible. It is about not having our debt (i.e. to God) forgiven, but having paid it in full. Christ, so the Bible goes, paid our sin off in full. It is one interpretation to reduce George Jackson to a mere violent thug. Jackson's violence in the California prisons shouldn't be the subject of any debate. Schwarzenegger reduces Jackson to this biography:

George Jackson was a militant activist and prison inmate who founded the violent Black Guerilla Family prison gang. Jackson was charged with the murder of a San Quentin correctional officer. In 1970, when Jackson was out to court in Marin County on the murder case, his brother stormed the courtroom with a machine gun, and along with Jackson and two other inmates, took a judge, the prosecutor and three others hostage in an escape attempt. Shooting broke out. The prosecutor was paralyzed from a police bullet, and the judge was killed by a close-range blast to his head when the shotgun taped to his throat was fired by one of Jackson’s accomplices. Jackson’s brother was also killed. Then, three days before trial was to begin in the correctional officer murder case, Jackson was gunned down in the upper yard at San Quentin Prison in another foiled escape attempt on a day of unparalleled violence in the prison that left three officers and three inmates dead in an earlier riot that reports indicate also involved Jackson.

Nowhere is mentioned the fact that his brother, Jonathan, was seventeen at the time. My understanding of the shooting that killed Jonathan, the judge, a prosecutor, and the other prisoners that Jonathan had freed was that they were killed by the police instead of being allowed to escape. This is less crazy than it might first sound. First, Jonathan had kidnapped the judge to hold hostage to get his idolized brother's release. Why would he kill his hostage before getting his brother out? Second, just over a month later during the Attica prison uprising, the National Guard retook the prison and killed eleven prison guards who were being held hostage.
As for Jackson's own "foiled escape attempt," this is simply not to be taken seriously. Jackson had a hearing coming up for his release. He was an extremely charismatic and intelligent black revolutionary and he was assassinated in the same way that Fred Hampton was assassinated. George Jackson's threat was actually not his "unparalleled" (!) violence, but his recognition that antisocial violence was not the answer and that it was time to organize to overthrow the a capitalist racist state that was every day dropping napalm on children in Vietnam and shooting black organizers in their sleep in Chicago. This is a kind of redemption. Not the easy redemption of the sunday television preacher. No, this is Malcolm preying on his community as a common street pimp and rising to be buried as a Black shining prince. That redemption.
If Williams is seen as a criminal and we are supposed to believe that an honest examination was made to see if he is seeking redemption, then his dedication to Jackson is critical evidence. But in the mainstream discussion, where a man who respects a criminal who sent death squads into whole countries to rape and kill can be governor, all is topsy-turvy. Through the looking-glass, Jackson's writing deserves no mention in his biographical footnote and he is simply another thug. Through this lens, it is pertinent to mention, as Schwarzenegge's writers do, that Williams is said to have "made a growling noise." Animals growl. In this context, all of this, George Jackson, guilt, all of it is meaningless.
In less than an hour's time, Stanley Williams will be executed. I am not a writer. I have no astute and profound end to this garbled note. Right now, I have only anger.

In frustration, typed in Gil Scott-Heron's Black History. 2:48 am EST.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Richard Pryor (1940-2005) has passed away. He was America's funniest comedian, political or otherwise, and will be missed. Any obituary can ill do the man justice. Pryor didn't simply cross America's racial boundaries, he exposed them, ridiculed them, and refused to perform according to their dictates. He wasn't the good black comedian that made whites feel comfortable. "Richard was always upset with Bill Cosby," comedian and friend Paul Mooney told The Times in a 1995 interview. "I think he wanted to be Bill . . . But I always like Richard's stuff better. Bill didn't wow me. He wowed white people . . . Black people sank into Pryor's material like an easy chair . . . That's what his talent was—talking about black people to black people."
"Richard basically blazed a trail for black comedy. He defined what it is. As a young black man he was saying what he felt—and was shocking," comedian Damon Wayans once said. "You were supposed to be smiling and laughing and shucking and jiving and he said, 'F--- that and f--- you for thinking that.' " But no one else's words can do the man justice, we'd suggest you go and rent some of his landmark standup to get an idea of what he was doing.
Here's an MP3 of Pryor talking about the police.

Added Angelina Grimké Weld's speech at Pennsylvania Hall and John Brown's Last Speech.
Also. I read an interesting essay by Monbiot on biofuel:

Over the past two years I have made an uncomfortable discovery. Like most environmentalists, I have been as blind to the constraints affecting our energy supply as my opponents have been to climate change. I now realise that I have entertained a belief in magic.

In 2003, the biologist Jeffrey Dukes calculated that the fossil fuels we burn in one year were made from organic matter “containing 44×10 to the 18 grams of carbon, which is more than 400 times the net primary productivity of the planet’s current biota.”(1) In plain English, this means that every year we use four centuries’ worth of plants and animals.

The idea that we can simply replace this fossil legacy – and the extraordinary power densities it gives us – with ambient energy is the stuff of science fiction. There is simply no substitute for cutting back. But substitutes are being sought everywhere. They are being promoted today at the climate talks in Montreal, by states – such as ours – which seek to avoid the hard decisions climate change demands. And at least one of them is worse than the fossil fuel burning it replaces.

(via Monbiot)

Quote of the day

In an article about the pending execution or clemency for Stanley "Tookie" Williams, several Los Angeles politicians weighed in their fears:

Councilman Bernard Parks, a former police chief. Parks alluded to the 1992 Los Angeles riots that followed the acquittal of white police officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King.

"All you need is a few to disrupt the entire city," Parks said. (Emphasis added)

It reminds me of Malcolm's response to a question about balancing his fiery rhetoric against his low membership numbers. He said, I'm paraphrasing here, that we shouldn't kid ourselves, that American society is like a barrel of black powder, and that while the number of people working to change it might be small, they simply need to serve as the fuse.
For more about: Tookie's case

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A People's History of the United States

So, it is finished. The whole thing is finally up. It isn't a short book.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Friday, December 02, 2005

We've Got Presents!

We've added Walter Rodney's The Struggle Goes On. This speech is among several of the last speeches that Rodney delivered and all are long out-of-print. Fortunately, we came across three very good editions and hope to have the other two online soon. The other two are "People's Power, No Dictator" and the last is "Sign Of The Times." These essays/speeches, for the most part, address the people of Guyana and Rodney and the Working People's Alliance's idea for political action. For this reason, they are not perhaps the first things that people new to Rodney should check out. In my opinion, that would be the two books "How Europe Under Developed AfrIca" and "Groundings with my Brothers" and his work on HIAW like "African History in the Service of the Black Liberation" and A Selection From Walter Rodney Speaks: the Making of an African Intellectual". Nonetheless, there are certain kernels in The Struggle Goes On. One quote:

"And there is another reason why assassination is not within our political textbook. And that is because assassination is the act of one man — any one man can assassinate a leader. But only the people can make a revolution! (Applause). And the day has to come when the real revolution will begin — the revolution in the economy, the revolution in the society, the revolution to bring us back to a level where we can hold our heads up high."