Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Howard Zinn DVD and Addition

We make no secret of the fact that we like PM Press and twe're happy to share that they're coming out with a new DVD with Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky.

It is also worth noting that we have a new addition: "The Feminization of Earth First!" by Judi Bari. Enjoy and, as always, spread the word.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

William Ayers

Reading any nonsense against Bill Ayers is frustrating, but in the context of a bomber of children, John McCain, being the leveler, the whole thing has heightened to the empire's usual level of absurdity. Well, Bill Ayers is great (true story: all this nonsense about Obama having a coffee at Ayer's house, and everyone else saying they've had coffee with Ayers, reminded me that I met Ayers at a conference years ago and we got to talking and he took me out to Starbucks. Maybe Ayers just really likes coffee.) and I think the only good thing to come out of listening to an empire's whining, that is literally this instant violently forcing its claws on the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, is that more people will read go check out Ayers's blog. I'm not such a fan of Obama, and every time I listen to people distance Obama from Ayers, I just recall Ayers being really friendly, not romanticizing the Weather Underground stuff (this was at an event with about thirty guys silently sizing him up while clearly getting their radical man-crush on and he just wasn't interested in catering to that), and trying to navigate a progressive radical path. On one hand, he's living a chaptered life and he's doing great work in education and people who want to demonize him need to go read some of his books on education and see who he is these last twenty five years beyond combating republican talking points. On the other hand, he supposedly* bombed the place where they orchestrate mass campaigns of murder, pillage and rape, and I'm supposed to root against him?!

*He was part of the WUO; I have no clue if he was involved with the Pentagon bombing.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

We don't know either, but we'll be there.

This is being forwarded around. Forward it some more and show up.


When: 4pm Thursday, September 25!
Where: Southern end of Bowling Green Park, in the plaza area
What to bring: Banners, noisemakers, signs, leaflets, etc.
Why: To say we won’t pay for the Wall Street bailout


This week the White House is going to try to push through the biggest
robbery in world history with nary a stitch of debate to bail out the Wall
Street bastards who created this economic apocalypse in the first place.

This is the financial equivalent of September 11. They think, just like
with the Patriot Act, they can use the shock to force through the
“therapy,” and we’ll just roll over!

Think about it: They said providing healthcare for 9 million children,
perhaps costing $6 billion a year, was too expensive, but there’s
evidently no sum of money large enough that will sate the Wall Street
pigs. If this passes, forget about any money for environmental protection,
to counter global warming, for education, for national healthcare, to
rebuild our decaying infrastructure, for alternative energy.

This is a historic moment. We need to act now while we can influence the
debate. Let’s demonstrate this Thursday at 4pm in Wall Street (see below).
We know the congressional Democrats will peep meekly before caving in like
they have on everything else, from FISA to the Iraq War.

With Bear Stearns, Fannie and Freddie, AIG, the money markets and now this
omnibus bailout, well in excess of $1 trillion will be distributed from
the poor, workers and middle class to the scum floating on top.

This whole mess gives lie to the free market. The Feds are propping up
stock prices, directing buyouts, subsidizing crooks and swindlers who
already made a killing off the mortgage bubble.

Worst of all, even before any details have been hashed out, The New York
Times admits that “Wall Street began looking for ways to profit from it,”
and its chief financial correspondent writes that the Bush administration
wants “Congress to give them a blank check to do whatever they want,
whatever the cost, with no one able to watch them closely.”

It’s socialism for the rich and dog-eat-dog capitalism for the rest of us.
Let’s take it to the heart of the financial district! Gather at 4pm, this
Thursday, Sept. 25 in the plaza at the southern end of Bowling Green Park,
which is the small triangular park that has the Wall Street bull at the
northern tip.

By having it later in the day we can show these thieves, as they leave
work, we’re not their suckers. Plus, anyone who can’t get off work can
still join us downtown as soon as they are able.

There is no agenda, no leaders, no organizing group, nothing to endorse
other than we’re not going to pay! Let the bondholders pay, let the banks
pay, let those who brought the “toxic” mortgage-backed securities pay!

On this list are many key organizers and activists. We have a huge amount of
connections – we all know many other organizations, activists and
community groups. We know P.R. folk who can quickly write up and
distribute press releases, those who can contact legal observers, media
activists who can spread the word, the videographers who can film the
event, etc.

Do whatever you can – make and distribute your own flyers, contact all
your groups and friends. This crime is without precedence and we can’t be
silent! What’s the point of waiting for someone else to organize a protest
two months from now, long after the crime has been perpetrated?

We have everything we need to create a large, peaceful, loud
demonstration. Millions of others must feel the same way; they just don’t
know what to do. Let’s take the lead and make this the start!


Monday, September 01, 2008

News from the Police Raid and Detainment of journalists at the RNC

Breaking: Amy Goodman and producers arrested in St. Paul

The following is a release from Democracy Now!

ST. PAUL, MN -- Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman was unlawfully arrested in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota at approximately 5 p.m. local time.

Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being unlawfuly detained. They are Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman's crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were being arrested on suspicion of rioting. They are currently being held at the Ramsey County jail in St. Paul.

Democracy Now! is calling on all journalists and concerned citizens to call the office of Mayor Chris Coleman and the Ramsey County Jail and demand the immediate release of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar. These calls can be directed to: Chris Rider from Mayor Coleman's office at 651-266-8535 and the Ramsey County Jail at 651-266-9350 (press extension 0).

An earlier video about harassment of journalists there:

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Utah Phillips RIP

The great folksinger and storyteller, Utah Phillips, passed away a few days ago. With the passing of Rosalyn Zinn in the last week, this has been a crummy week. Our condolences with the family.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Roslyn Zinn

It is with great sadness that we note the passing of painter/activist/teacher Roslyn Zinn. While we may only know her through the glimpses, her participating in the stories of Howard's life, the mentions in his talks, for those of us who didn't know her personally, her deepest impact is through his work. Her obituary in The Boston globe quotes Howard Zinn saying:

"I never showed my work to anyone except her, because she was such a fine editor," he said. "She had such a sensibility about what worked, what read well, what was necessary, what was redundant."

As someone who works in media production, I know that there is always more than the single author or director guiding the final vision. As one of the many people who has been profoundly impacted by this body of work, I mourn her passing. Our prayers are with her family and friends.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008


We hang with the anarchists, we've got a whole stack of Spanish Civil War books on the shelf and are quick to argue the possibility and beauty in an anarchist world. Occasionally, we drink with the liberals and we hang with every sect of lefty faction, including the world renowned communist factionalist league. But some of them anarchists grit their teeth when they hear us talk about Cuba. We love Cuba. A quick sail from the deepest south, a plantation society was overthrown.
And despite all the trashing from the U.S., rhetorically and physically, Cuba has held strong through coup attempts, biological warfare, losing its biggest subsidizer (don't scoff, capitalism is an entire system of subsidy), and the long silent endurance marathon of struggling to stay free so close to the empire's cold inner core. Look to Allende in Chile and the activists (students, organizers, teachers, doctors, workers, people all with dreams, stories, scars and strengths and families) taken to the stadium, look to Nicaragua and the rest of Central America and the families ripped apart and death squads, look to vietnam and the thousands of gallons of poison just pumped, carpet style, over the entire country. The masters have to make examples of the uppity slaves; one that has struck back must be put down.
Today, the New York Times reports that Fidel Castro is resigning as the president of Cuba. Lefties everywhere, of every stripe, need to touch base. The United States government has tried to destabilize and threaten Cuban sovereignty since the bay of pigs, including, but not limited to linking Cuba to the war on terror (president Carter, of all people, immediately got on a plane to Cuba and said that this was total nonsense and that Cuba shouldn't be linked to at all; we still hate Carter, but he did earn points for this one). If Cuba is attacked or messed with, lefties need to mobilize and stand up quick. We need to make clear that this is unacceptable. I wish the same thing was happening for Iraq and Afghanistan, but if the master's whip changes direction, we must be ready.
The world is a much better place because of Castro's work. We hope that he continues to live a long and healthy life.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Addition Poster

Oh, do we have a gift for some of you. Now don't go clicking all willy-nilly, but Anna over at Left Palate helped us put together a poster. So if you have access to something that can print 11 by 17 in color and want to help spread the word about History Is A Weapon, the idea and the website, go to our poster page and print up a copy. It's a bigger file, so don't hotlink it or anything, but we trust you.
Happy postering!
The History Is A Weapon poster page

Anna, who designed our wrapping paper, also made an early inspiration to competitor parody something that is perhaps best left described as little as possible. We think she thinks she is funny.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Liberal Challenge

Some days it feels like the United States is driving top speed into its own demise. And then we read the news and listen to another spineless democrat politician make another empty promise about reining the whole thing. Like clockwork, ten minutes later, another blog post comes up from another liberal, frustrated and angry, try to articulate the cognitive dissonance of asking for stronger support of the Democrats for just one more cycle while acknowledging that the party isn't doing anything other than talking tough and caving quick.

Forget the devil and his administration, forget the critiques, let's zero in on the substance. Bush has no interest in "benchmarks" for success in Iraq because success means war (got it), hegemonic control (maintaining it, but losing grip by the minute), and the oil pump (got it). Ending the war means surrendering his fortunes. But the Liberals, who seem like a nice group of people caught up in a group hallucination, need to begin copping some benchmarks. No revolutionary alternative can be explored because they "just aren't realistic." Instead, we're told to stay within the two party system, register voters, write letters, contribute, and occasionally march. They get mad at Pelosi for saying that impeachment is off the table and then take everything but Pelosi off the table.

What has to happen for them to say enough is enough? Do children have to be raped, or threatened, in front of their parents as part of policy? Does the war need to continue to its fifth year? Does, for the second election in a row, the power brokers of the loyal opposition (sic) have to mount a candidate that talks about more war instead of less (e.g., Kerry's promise to fight the war better and this season's crop of fools blustering nonsense about Iran)? Does any sense of justice have to be respected on any level or does it have to just be a return to the illusions of habeas corpus? Is there a standard liberals can demand that is more than "better than cheney?"

Whatever the standards are, can we get the liberals to just agree to what those standards are with a date attached? If Giuliani or Obama gets elected and keeps the war on, can we expect a new strategy? Not that the rest of us should stop what we're doing, but there is something ridiculous about the liberal's anger at the path we're on and their steadfast refusal to consider more radical options, often dismissing them as "unrealistic."

Kerry got the nomination largely because he sold himself as the "electable" candidate. Lefties get lectured about not achieving anything by working outside the system. And all the while, the most technologically insane war machine chews up country after country. We're told to grow up and be realistic by kids in their twenties with Obama buttons for saying that we need much more than a candidate with a stump speech. For years, we've listened to this. Kos, and Atrios, and all the big libral bloggers need to listen to their own advice for Bush on Iraq: quantifiable benchmarks, clear schedules, objective analysis, and a clear and attainable goal.

I know, I know. There are a lot of people out there who aren't liberals and who are pissed. Instead of whining about the short bus, we should acknowledge the great unrepresented many. Of course, many of these liberal machines, from the Daily Kos community to Moveon, didn't exist mere years ago, and so why can't we build a similar machine? Why can't we lose the petty infighting and the eighty year old debates and get to work on building a new kind of machine? Why can't we?

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Neither scientifically proven or impossible

In the last 24 hours, our last post generated some discussion from interesting corners, so we thought we'd add a few extra notes. First, a few years ago, I remember reading an interview with one of the founders of 2600, the hacker magazine, on CNN. He was asked some preposterous question or another about what evils hackers could do and his reply stuck with me:
CNN: What percentage would you say are destructive as opposed to those in it out of intellectual curiosity or to test their skills?
Goldstein: This raises several points that I feel strongly about. For one thing, hacking is the only field where the media believes anyone who says they're a hacker. Would you believe someone who said they were a cop? Or a doctor? Or an airline pilot? Odds are they'd have to prove their ability at some point or say something that obviously makes some degree of sense. But you can walk up to any reporter and say you're a hacker and they will write a story about you telling the world that you're exactly what you say you are without any real proof.
So every time a movie like "Hackers" comes out, 10 million people from AOL send us e-mail saying they want to be hackers, too, and suddenly, every 12-year-old with this sentiment instantly becomes a hacker in the eyes of the media and hence, the rest of society. You don't become a hacker by snapping your fingers...
...The main problem is that when you make up such a word, no further definition is required. When you label someone with a word that says they're evil, you never really find out what the evil was to begin with. Murderer, that's easy. Burglar, embezzler, rapist, kidnapper, all pretty clear. Now along comes cracker and you don't even know what the crime was. It could be crashing every computer system in Botswana. Or it could be copying a single file. We need to avoid the labeling and start looking at what we're actually talking about. But at the same time, we have to remember that you don't become a hacker simply because you say you are.

There is a similar phenomenon with the word activist and the concept of activism. This has been written about before, but it bears repeating. We're caught up in the scene and signifiers of activism, but we're not actually contesting power. And this doesn't just extend to the individual, but also to a number of these big anti-war groups. Yet it's not over just because we've lost our way. And just because groups and people identify as antiwar, it doesn't mean that they are doing anything to really stop the war and especially does not mean that they should be looked at as indicators for how the antiwar movement is doing.
This isn't intended to sound like a "group A is a real anti-war group and group B is a traitor/enemy/whatever." This is a case of good people with good intentions trying to figure out how to end the war.

And here's where we go off the idealistic deep end. We can end the war period full stop. Social agency is a wonderful thing and as long as we're not combating nature itself (c.f. AIDS, volcanoes, lightning, impending mortality), We've done more than we thought possible (often not as well as we'd like) when it was still in future tense: ending slavery, overthrowing the empires, ending civil death for women, getting children out of the factory, et cetera. Now, I'm sure there's a little whiner in most of the people reading this who'll quickly point out that the slaves just became sharecroppers and leased convicts, the empires went through a revolving door into neo-colonialism, the patriarchy is still alive and well, and that there are millions upon millions of child laborers all around the world today because of this wretched mess we're in.
True. But we've still gotten a lot done that was thought impossible at the time and we're just not finished yet. At a Chris Day talk I saw years ago, he asked everyone to recite "I am the products of 500 years of resistance." We are the products of five hundred years of resistance and it isn't over and it probably won't be over for a little while (I'm thinking early February, but maybe March?). This is important. And we need to remind ourselves of this when we start saying things like "Maybe we need to seriously consider the possibility that, as of our current place in history right now, it's simply not possible for anti-war activist organizations to end this war." and "it is impossible at this point in history to stop these wars." Maybe, if we want to be specific, it IS impossible for "anti-war activist organizations" as they are currently conceived to stop the war, but nothing that is made by people cannot be stopped by people.
So, to sum up, we shouldn't conflate the possibilities of stopping the war with the results from today's antiwar groups and strategies and saying that we can't stop the war is a cop out. Just as disorganized as yesterday's post, but that's what you get when you write at midnight.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Voices and Silence: Ruminations on the Peace Movement

This weekend, we went to a peace demonstration in D.C. We talked with a lot of people and had a good time, but also left with a lot of concerns about the direction of the anti-war movement and renewed confidence in some of our earlier misgivings.
We want the war to stop and we think the Democrats have proven, yet again for the really slow at home, that they have no intention on stopping it. At the last Democratic Presidential debate, all three of the front runners refused to promise that troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of their first term in 2013. This is insane. With the exception of one very nice Kucinich supporter I met at the rally, no one really thinks any of the other candidates have a decent shot and the republicans are all just as insane. Like always, no surprises here, the people of the country will have to stop the war.
Stephen Duncombe, author of Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy, recently said in an interview in the Indypendent:
"Think about normal protests, which are a spectacle. The march on Washington: how does it work? We all get on a bus, we all go down to Washington, we get off the bus, we go on a route that has already been worked out with the police, we march literally around in a circle, then we listen to our leaders speak to us on bad sound systems, and then we march over to a designated civil disobedience area, sit down, and have the police arrest us. Now this is a spectacle of impotence. The police have essentially engineered everything for us and what the police haven't engineered the protesters have done. In fact, that's what the protester's job is: to make it a safe environment worked out in advance with the police. Now I worked on some of those, so I'm critiquing myself here.
The globalization protests worked completely differently. They were chaos. They were carnivals. They were street theater. They were planned, but they were planned by the participants, not with the police. And they were also highly effective. The shutting down of Seattle, what happened in Prague, what happened in London, and other cities around the world, were highly effective at getting attention drawn towards the World Trade Organization, GATT, NAFTA, and so on. 9/11 sort of put the kibosh on that and you saw the return of the repressed march-chant protest where we literally become spectators toward our own activity." (from original transcript)

And that sad spectacle was what we saw on Saturday. Souvenir guys sold peace protests t-shirts dated to remind us that we actually went to the peace protest like it was disney world or a serious basketball game. There have been upwards of twenty "major" demonstrations in DC and countless other ones around the world, literally involving millions of people. What have we produced? A million dead in Iraq, years of war, and a very real concern that the U.S. will attack Iran (tangential side note: we don't think the U.S. will attack Iran, but it still boils our blood). In Michael Moore's documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, there is a popular scene of Bush mis-speaking:
George W. Bush: There's an old saying in Tennessee. I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee, that says: "Fool me once...” [pause] "... shame on...”. [pause] "Shame on you...” [pause] "If fooled, you can't get fooled again."
Everyone loves this and loves to call Bush a moron for not learning from his mistakes, but the sad truth is that we've had about half a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq and the peace movement hasn't stopped any of it. Lefties love to point out that Liberals are nuts for believing that any of their knights of hope will stop the war and that the definition of insanity is "is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." But the Left is just an insane: we have no real vision for how to stop the war and it shows. Speakers on a stage and marching in circles is not working and hasn't been for some time. It is difficult to live in this time and place, but we have to get past these self-therapeutic rituals of illusory resistance. We say "No justice, No Peace," and nobody asks what that really means. We have had no justice; does "no peace" really mean shouting loudly on empty saturday streets?

There's a real battle over words like "normal" amongst the left and academia. Who is to say that transgendered isn't normal and that white middle-class guy is? While we accept the basic premise of this, the bus we went down on was populated by some of the most abnormal people one could find. One bore looked and sounded like the Comic Book guy from The Simpsons who kept droning on and on about Humphrey in '76, another guy wearing a permanent helmet and an air traffic controller headset seemed like he belonged in a group home, and a guy with a serious facial rash seemed enthusiastic about, I'm not joking, a possible Sam Nunn presidential bid. The same trot guy we always see, young, but getting a little older now, still hawking his papers and arguing his correct line. Of course, we also met a swell couple and talked to them for several hours and had a grand old time with a number of people we met. This isn't intended to be mean, but we bring up these examples because we think there is something important about this.
When the big anti-war demos began, we really thought that the best thing that could happen is if they stopped. We had just gotten off the explosion of the corporate globalization movement in the late nineties and it felt weak to return to the march, chant, argue with Trot paper sellers, and get back on bus routine. We thought that the groups organizing the marches, no matter how well intentioned, had to sign expensive insurance waivers to get permission to hold their marches and wouldn't jeopardize anything past pre-arranged Civil Disobedience and heated rhetoric from the stage. In the absence of this dog-and-pony shows, we imagined the anarchists and other independent lefties swooping in to create a carnival of resistance. There haven't been a lot of these big demos in the last few years, but no one has risen to take the place of the March-Chant-Protest spectacle. The baton has been passed to...
On the bus, we listened to a nice, well-intentioned bus captain talk to us about a new kind of movement. But the major groups (UFPJ, NION, WCW, ANSWER, TON, etc ad infinitum ad boredom) are bickering and fighting and can't even get their act together. She talked about a new kind of movement, but passed out the same weathered copy of some paper we put down after a only a few sentences of another tired old re-tread article. She talked about a new kind of movement, and we were told how important the day was, but the speakers had repeated the same old things and we called out the same old chants and got back the same old responses. And we looked around our tired bus coming back and something crystalized.
They say that Bush has 30% of the country who still like him, but he can't go much lower. Because these people will like him no matter what: because he's white, because they're afraid, because their minds are so traumatized into that bad space where you think bombing Iran will somehow keep everything holding on for that much longer, because just because. And these people will never stray; after so much wicked and stupid things Bush has done, their loyalty is branded into their very eyes and censors what they can possibly hear. They're the ones at the pre-screened rallies, thanking him for all he's doing. They're politically like Terri Schiavo: there, but not. The fools who don't know when to stop, take measure, and re-align back to a better path.
I'm a lefty and will be until I die. I think we can have a world of justice and freedom and that capitalism and its various sicknesses, man-made that it is, can be unwrought and a better society can be formed. I don't think there is a liberal solution possible: we couldn't reform our way out of the concentration camps and we can't lobby our way past the death squads. But looking around the bus, I felt too much of a connection between Bush's thirty percent, following blindly, and this antiwar moment, performing our anger, but resisting nothing. We owe it to ourselves to create the new strategy. Because this isn't working.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Like Powell at the U.N., Bush trots out another general puppet

Petraeus is Bush. Say it again and again, if you have to. The puppet might as well have Bush's hand sticking in his back for all the independence he has. Bush's credibility is shot on the war and Petraeus is his proxy, a new untarnished voice, to repeat Bush's script. And every journalist and politician who, in turn, repeats Petraeus's findings is either a moron or someone in on the take. Petraeus is just another prop at the photo-op over the wreckage.
This can happen because the corporate media, for all it's self-deprecatory apologies for cheerleading us into this war (though always in past tense), continues to fight for the war. This is the liberals' grossest moment, from the New York Times and Jon Stewart on down, their champions tinker with rhetoric and pander to argument, but only push responsibility and tell us to believe it means more war. It all indicts the left, a left that doesn't even exist, because we're not smashing this whole machine apart.

This moment is truly depressing in so many ways. We have the republicans panting blood from eating children wholesale and the internal hemorrhaging of a party run by career criminals and simplest minds. Democratic politicians, the naked army they have always been (Obama, the great hope™, threatening more war on the rest of the world, Clinton the Corporate Lawyer shamelessly pandering knowing full well she will leap right if she gets the primary, etc), trying their best to play "republicaner."
And still no left.
Let's take stock. The liberals, represented by Kos and his ilk, who write a good game, but who are the indentured servants of the democratic party - no more independent than junkies - and smart enough to know that the Party is a collosal failure, yet still hooked to the gills. Then you have the institutional left, old C.P. fronts, who are still yoked to the throat with party line, infighting, and the verse-chorus-verse of New York Times Ad-March on Washington-Paper Sales. I actually love and care for this last group quite a bit, but the same old song and dance gets tired after awhile and it's frustrating that instead of fifteen little groups, we can't have one or two bigger groups getting to work.
Then there are the anarchists, who seem to be permanently arguing a propaganda of the deed that says "Anarchism isn't going to work." Like a list serv flame war that meets in person, it is the politics of a mob who happened to attend Sarah Lawrence. Some promise all the fun of hardcore Maoist cadres with none of the actual discipline and others who're just seeking riot porn to star in or videotape. But reacting against the anti-practice of the university marxists means an anti-theory of spontaneity navigated by the radicaler-than-thou only after it has been authorized by the purer-than-thou and vetted by the colorfully dressed unimaginative ones. A generation of kids who wore the clothes of the seventies growing up in the nineties reduced to reenacting the sixties and afraid of the future.
Every once in awhile, I catch a glimpse of the promise and the excitement rekindles, but I didn't today. These are depressing times and we need to get our act together.

Petraeus is bush and there is no left, repeat if you have to. We need to ignite a left and get rid of the the whole system that bush rides.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

On the Anniversary of the murder of Sacco and Vanzetti

On the anniversary of the state murder of Sacco and Vanzetti, we're just including a few quick links from History Is A Weapon. The first is the brief mention in the People's History at the end of War is the Health of the State.

The second is much rarer. Sacco and Vanzetti were members of the radical Galleanist anarchist tendency. HIAW has the Galleanist manifesto, Plain Words. Correct us if we're wrong, but we're the first spot on the internet with it and it is a great short read.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

We're so sick of the internet.

Let's be honest. The greatest networking system in the history of humankind and the best we can do is post videos of each other whining about how the Democrats enable Bush. A million monkeys on a million typewriters collectively lamenting that a CIA agent was outed for political reasons. This is craziness. If every single CIA agent was outed - and sentenced to hard labor - it would be a good day for the entire world. Instead, we're exchanging crazy talk.
But we haven't given up on the internet. So many people visit History Is A Weapon, they link to us and use articles here to back up their online arguments. It's great. On top of that, we see ever so brief glimpses of what the internet could be:,, moveon (complain all you want, but it combines massive numbers of people into a fundraising and hissy-fitting might), campusactivism: the list goes on. Through the piles of silly online petitions and closed-circuit activist list-servs, there is the faintest sight of the possible future and it looks good.
The big dilemma is how to use online networks to build offline activism. Sure, we can advertise another march around another government building, but after more than a decade of connectivity we're reduced to forwarding grainy daily show reruns.
Well, our complaints are wearing us down. We want to make something new, something online and spectacularly dangerous. The kind of thing that takes over, changes everything, and skips well past hope into the realm of revolutionary possibility. Yes, it's ambitious, but none of us are getting any younger and while History Is A Weapon is great, the future is the terrain of choice.
Want to help? We need some friends who know Drupal and PHP. If you don't have that, send us some money so that we can hire some people who do (or at least buy a book or two on the subject).
We're going to make your favorite thing, we just need to get some coders who can make the brick and mortar. If you want to help, send us an email.
Update:We'll be leaving this post up for a while, so don't hesitate to respond even if it has been a few weeks.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Social Forum

The U.S. Social Forum is coming up. You should be there. We're trying to see if we can go, but the hotels are booking up quickly. Keep an eye out for History Is A Weapon if you go.

p.s. loving the latest Kristian Williams' book, American Methods.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

A response of sorts

We don't update HIAW everyday, but we do respond to History Is A Weapon email, pay attention to new links, and work on various ventures to be unveiled in the future. So we were pleasantly surprised to discover a sharp jump in visitors yesterday after our popular map, Everything you ever wanted to know about U.S. foreign policy that history books tend to neglect, got picked up by reddit and made it to their front page. A lot of people must have voted for it to make it that high up and we say thanks.
But the squeaky wheel gets the grease and there is a long comment string on reddit debating the merits of the map, to which we offer a response. First, we agree that it could've been designed better and we've been looking for a flash designer to improve it. Second, while we know we're not revealing any secrets, we are missing a lot of stuff and are still making additions (as it says on the map, we welcome contributions).

But there were a few criticisms that we thought didn't hold much water and while a number of people made perfectly good arguments against these criticisms, we still want to dis them ourselves because we're human and it gets on our nerves.

  1. People who said we were biased: the name of the map is literally "Everything you ever wanted to know about U.S. foreign policy that history books tend to neglect," which explicitly points out which side we're biased towards. While we'll debate and refute the b.s. hagiography and mythologizing that passes for American history, we know that we're doing so within a context where those histories (the b.s. hagiography et al.) are the dominant ones. We're confident that enough people have enough sense to understand this stuff. We want people to be critical and come to an understanding of not only their history, but why some histories are promoted and others are silenced. It's absurd to suggest that there are people who get every morsel of their understanding of history from History Is A Weapon, which is why it's dumb to act like we're somehow shirking our responsibility because we think the stories of Vietnamese Women and American Soldiers and peace activists deserve a moment in the the spotlight.

  2. People who ragged on Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill as our sources: This isn't personal and it isn't about personalities. These ad hominem arguments are frustrating enough for us to write this long screed. It is relatively unimportant that we appreciate the tremendous, and tireless, academic work that Ward Churchill has done or that we love Noam Chomsky and think that he is one of the greatest people in the world. Regardless of what you think of their ideas, they both have gigantic bibliographies to back up what they're saying. There was a funny interview with Chomsky where this reporter gushingly asked how he could become as smart as him and Chomsky said (completely paraphrasing here) "read the footnotes and the bibliography. Don't just take my word for it, I could be lying about all of this stuff. There's a reason that I put the bibliography in there. It's not about just trusting me. It's about understanding how to teach yourself how to understand this world we're in." We delight in adding, of course, that both Chomsky and Churchill depend much on the record-keeping of the institutions and political actors that they criticize. We suspect that the reason people avoid attacking Chomsky and Churchill's bibliographies is because it would introduce a much bigger can of worms in their own minds.

  3. People who implied that we're unethical nutbags: Perhaps this note isn't helping our case on the nutty front, but we didn't toss our ethics when we got political. We do have an agenda: we think a world with peace and justice is possible and we think that capitalism and the combination of oppressions - patriarchy, white supremacy, etc - are the main hurdles to this better world. None of this is hidden behind a curtain. Type in if you want to get our introductory statement. But we don't lie about it and we don't appreciate suggestions that we're untrustworthy because we have politics.

(edited for clarity)


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Brown and Perelman

After finishing Stephen Duncombe's excellent Dream, I've started reading Fredy Perlman's The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism AND H. Rap Brown's Die Nigger Die! Brown's writing is excellent, but it is his speech that is electrifying. While I'm not far into either book, what is interesting is comparing Perlman's denunciation of nationalism with Brown's celebration of Black Nationalism. I'm just starting both books, but can't recommend either of them highly enough. Which means that The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism is going to go on HIAW soon.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Aborton, America, and Debate

There are two types of lefty political junkies: those who will stoop to obsessing over the elections and those who won't. With all apologies to the latter heads, we are working towards revolution and the total eradication of the capitalist state, but we also chase election gossip like the next hit on a aluminum foil pipe. For those of you still reading, we wanted to remark on a disturbing trend: Liberals' chastising of republican candidates' pro-choice histories.
Blog after blog raises hackles when uncovering decade-old contributions to Planned Parenthood and it makes us ill. But before we raise the biggest reason, let us digress a bit mercenary at first. The biggest difference between the democrats and republicans on a national level, all squawking and superficiality aside, is the choice women get in birth control. Hillary and Obama can talk on and on about all the great visions they have for a better America, but cut to specifics and Obama will take a country that we have attacked and bullied for decades and he'll threaten them with nukes and Clinton, ex-Walmart board member, is just gross. Sure, Sharpton and Kucinich will be allowed on stage to give the naive some hope, but anyone allowed to play ball for real is republican-lite. The republican model looks similar with the only difference that they use their farthest right fringe, like racist Tancredo, not as a bait-and-switch to keep the base in line, but as cover to push for their grossest visions (i.e., they're just answering to the grassroots). The battle royales they have are more like Professional Wrestling: a lot of sound and fury and very little actual heat.
Why is it so important to point this out? The day the democrats run an anti-choice presidential candidate, the Democratic party will deflate and third parties will get a rush of new dynamic recruits (maybe the republicans will win the next election, but it will fundamentally move the debate to the left on every issue, including choice); the day the republicans run a pro-choice candidate, the democrats will win the next election as the anti-choice base will immediately jump ship for the next largest antichoice party.
But, and I'm sure that this some dailykos junkie is already thinking this: what if liberals already know that the parties will never allow their nominee to buck the rule and it is just a strategy to weaken turnout from the base in case an ex-prochoicer wins the nomination. This is brings us to the second reason: abortion shouldn't be a political football. It is a right that should need no endorsement, apology, or excuse in the political ring. The ideal candidate quote is simply: "If elected, I will do everything in my power to guarantee a woman's right to choose. Next question."

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Monday, April 09, 2007


Paul Street has list of websites for soldiers and vets who're opposed to the war which I've posted below. The Times had an article about the growing issue of AWOL soldiers. What is the antiwar movement doing (and not doing) to support and assist more soldiers who don't want to continue perpetuating the crime of Iraq and Afghanistan? What else should we be doing?

Courage to Resist

GI Rights Hotline

Different Drummer

Citizen Soldier

Iraq Veterans Against the War

Gold Star Families for Peace

Veterans for Peace

Bring Them Home Now

Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors

Veterans Against the Iraq War -

Democracy Rising

West Point Graduates Against the War

Jonah House

War Resisters Support Campaign

Center on Conscience and War


Nuremburg Principles – soldier’s legal and moral duty to resist orders to commit war crimes.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

The Activist Top Ten for 2007

1) There is no purchasing the revolution or surfing to it online. While this might seem like a no-brainer to most, the tendency to reduce social change to individual action penetrates even the sharpest minds. So while we might be too cool for the (red) scam, we can still get caught up in the American Apparel branding. Which brings us to...

2) A lifetime of purity is worth a good ten minutes of coalition. What's it worth if you believe all the right things but can't work with anyone who doesn't? People getting shot at in Iraq don't care if you're working with democrats, nationalists, liberal reform groups, or radical communists if it stops the war. Jerry Falwell and the Chamber of Commerce may not agree on banking regulation and sermon subjects (or they might...), but they rule because united they stand, divided we fall. We don't need to drink together, but we have to let bygones be bygones and keep our eyes on the prize.

3) Even a vigil a day won't keep the system at bay. A moral argument may convince regular people to join us, but the empire isn't rhetorical. Politicians and the various institutions of war, from Exxon to the Ivy Leagues, don't give a whit about our moral arguments: they know their goal and they've made calculations to achieve it. Getting them to change their actions means getting them to change those calculations: politicians want to stay in office and corporations want to maintain profits. Threaten their primary needs and they won't just listen, they'll respond.

4) Accountability isn't optional. The worst sentence ever is "At least we're doing something." From meeting attendance to successful actions, the objective isn't to make ourselves feel better, but to grow and strengthen into a movement that can make the world better. Even the smartest ideas in the world have to survive the furnace of reality. If things are going well, they should be noted so we can repeat them; If they're going poorly, we have to trust ourselves enough to work out the kinks; we need to be honest with ourselves if we're going to have a chance. The point isn't to tear people down, but to always improve.

5) Education is nice, but there's no quiz at the end and no entrance exam. We don't need people who can quote Chomsky and know all the best lefty websites if they're too busy to do their share of organizing. This is a collective effort and nobody gets a free pass for catching all the radicaler-than-thou references. This also encourages the fence sitters who're considering getting involved but feel that they "don't know enough" yet.

6) Get in an affinity group. Encourage other people to get in affinity groups. Don't wait for an impending action. It's the fastest way to become more than the sum of our parts.

7) Community is critical. We're all going to feel defeated and none of us is an island. The system breeds misanthropy ("everyone else lets it continue this way cause they're sheep..."), but community is a stark reminder that there are actually a lot of people out there who're dreaming and working towards a better world.

8) Remember that we've won before: the biggest empires come crashing down, the hardest chains break, and the cruelest plantations burn. We've done it before, and with some hard work, we'll do it again.

9) No one has all the answers. Listen to our elders and learn from the teachers, but remember that the solutions haven't been figured out yet. It is really up to us. And last but not least...

10) Work and Hope. We can make it happen.

brought to you by History Is A Weapon (
What're we forgetting?


Monday, March 12, 2007

This upcoming week

It is a week until next monday, the fourth anniversary of this criminal war. For our American readers, we hope that you are doing more than just preparing to show up at a protest, but that you are actively helping organize one in your area. Any excuses that you are too busy, too old (or too young), too inexperienced, or too anything, and we will quickly remind you that Iraqis (and Afghanis) with identical excuses didn't get to opt out of the war. Go shut down a recruitment center, military base, congress person's office, whatever. If you don't know where to look, check out,, or your local Independent Media Center Affiliate. And if you can't find something happening in your area, pick the best nearest target and put something together with your friends (and email them and post about it on your blog, you internet-literate fiend you).
Be Your Heroes.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

9/11 fantasists pose a mortal danger to popular oppositional campaigns

Rarely do we print a full article on the blog. This was too good to pass us (and by too good, we mean to say that we agree with it one hundred percent):

9/11 fantasists pose a mortal danger to popular oppositional campaigns
These conspiracy idiots are a boon for Bush and Blair as they destroy the movements some of us have spent years building

George Monbiot
Tuesday February 20, 2007
The Guardian

'You did this hit piece because your corporate masters instructed you to. You are a controlled asset of the new world order ... bought and paid for." "Everyone has some skeleton in the cupboard. How else would MI5 and special branch recruit agents?" "Shill, traitor, sleeper", "leftwing gatekeeper", "accessory after the fact", "political whore of the biggest conspiracy of them all".

These are a few of the measured responses to my article, a fortnight ago, about the film Loose Change, which maintains that the United States government destroyed the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Having spent years building up my leftwing credibility on behalf of my paymasters in MI5, I've blown it. I overplayed my hand, and have been exposed, like Bush and Cheney, by a bunch of kids with laptops. My handlers are furious.

I believe that George Bush is surrounded by some of the most scheming, devious, ruthless men to have found their way into government since the days of the Borgias. I believe that they were criminally negligent in failing to respond to intelligence about a potential attack by al-Qaida, and that they have sought to disguise their incompetence by classifying crucial documents.

I believe, too, that the Bush government seized the opportunity provided by the attacks to pursue a longstanding plan to invade Iraq and reshape the Middle East, knowing full well that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Bush deliberately misled the American people about the links between 9/11 and Iraq and about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. He is responsible for the murder of many tens of thousands of Iraqis.

But none of this is sufficient. To qualify as a true opponent of the Bush regime, you must also now believe that it is capable of magic. It could blast the Pentagon with a cruise missile while persuading hundreds of onlookers that they saw a plane. It could wire every floor of the twin towers with explosives without attracting attention and prime the charges (though planes had ploughed through the middle of the sequence) to drop each tower in a perfectly timed collapse. It could make Flight 93 disappear into thin air, and somehow ensure that the relatives of the passengers collaborated with the deception. It could recruit tens of thousands of conspirators to participate in these great crimes and induce them all to have kept their mouths shut, for ever.

In other words, you must believe that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their pals are all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful, despite the fact that they were incapable of faking either weapons of mass destruction or any evidence at Ground Zero that Saddam Hussein was responsible. You must believe that the impression of cackhandedness and incompetence they have managed to project since taking office is a front. Otherwise you are a traitor and a spy.

Why do I bother with these morons? Because they are destroying the movements some of us have spent a long time trying to build. Those of us who believe that the crucial global issues - climate change, the Iraq war, nuclear proliferation, inequality - are insufficiently debated in parliament or congress, that corporate power stands too heavily on democracy, that war criminals, cheats and liars are not being held to account, have invested our efforts in movements outside the mainstream political process. These, we are now discovering, are peculiarly susceptible to this epidemic of gibberish.

The obvious corollorary to the belief that the Bush administration is all-powerful is that the rest of us are completely powerless. In fact it seems to me that the purpose of the "9/11 truth movement" is to be powerless. The omnipotence of the Bush regime is the coward's fantasy, an excuse for inaction used by those who don't have the stomach to engage in real political fights.

Let me give you an example. The column I wrote about Loose Change two weeks ago generated 777 posts on the Guardian Comment is Free website, which is almost a record. Most of them were furious. The response from a producer of the film, published last week, attracted 467. On the same day the Guardian published my article about a genuine, demonstrable conspiracy: a spy network feeding confidential information from an arms control campaign to Britain's biggest weapons manufacturer, BAE Systems. It drew 60 responses. The members of the 9/11 cult weren't interested. If they had been, they might have had to do something. The great virtue of a fake conspiracy is that it calls on you to do nothing.

The 9/11 conspiracy theories are a displacement activity. A displacement activity is something you do because you feel incapable of doing what you ought to do. A squirrel sees a larger squirrel stealing its horde of nuts. Instead of attacking its rival, it sinks its teeth into a tree and starts ripping it to pieces. Faced with the mountainous challenge of the real issues we must confront, the chickens in the "truth" movement focus instead on a fairytale, knowing that nothing they do or say will count, knowing that because the perpetrators don't exist, they can't fight back. They demonstrate their courage by repeatedly bayoneting a scarecrow.

Many of those who posted responses on Comment is Free contend that Loose Change (which was neatly demolished in the BBC's film The Conspiracy Files on Sunday night) is a poor representation of the conspiracists' case. They urge us instead to visit websites like, and, and to read articles by the theology professor David Ray Griffin and the physicist Steven E Jones.

Concerned that I might have missed something, I have now done all those things, and have come across exactly the same concatenation of ill-attested nonsense as I saw in Loose Change. In all these cases you will find wild supposition raised to the status of incontrovertible fact, rumour and confusion transformed into evidence, selective editing, the citation of fake experts, the dismissal of real ones. Doubtless I will now be told that these are not the true believers: I will need to dive into another vat of tripe to get to the heart of the conspiracy.

The 9/11 truthers remind me of nothing so much as the climate change deniers, cherry-picking their evidence, seizing any excuse for ignoring the arguments of their opponents. Witness the respondents to my Loose Change column who maintain that the magazine Popular Mechanics, which has ripped the demolition theories apart, is a government front. They know this because one of its editors, Benjamin Chertoff, is the brother/nephew/first cousin of the US homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff. (They are, as far as Benjamin can discover, unrelated, but what does he know?)

Like the millenarian fantasies which helped to destroy the Levellers as a political force in the mid-17th century, this crazy distraction presents a mortal danger to popular oppositional movements. If I were Bush or Blair, nothing would please me more than to see my opponents making idiots of themselves, while devoting their lives to chasing a phantom. But as a controlled asset of the new world order, I would say that, wouldn't I? It's all part of the plot.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Our letter to The New York Times' Public Editor

Dear Byron Calame,

Reading the piece this Sunday on Tariq Ramadan ("Tarig Ramadan Has an Identity Issue;" The Magazine 2/4/2007), I came across a sentence that I have often read in the Times. Though the wording may vary, the blatant contradiction is always irritating.
"The message not only provides educated European Muslims with a political cause but is also pushed with considerable success at such international leftist jamborees as the World Social Forum, where the world's antiglobalists meet."
Antiglobalists at international world meetings? There is so much wrong in these few words that it boggles the mind. There is a growing library of hundreds of books about the various movements present at the World Social Forum and I would ask that your writers, or at least your editors, skim perhaps the first few pages or maybe just a back cover of any of these books. Immediately you will find that we are anything but "antiglobal." We have groups like "globalise resistance." Go around the world and you will see that one of our icons is Che, a revolutionary Argentinean who led a revolution in Cuba, before going off to fight in Africa and Bolivia. We meet at international meetings like the World Social Forum precisely because we believe that humanity's solutions require a world conversation and transnational strategies. If you want "antiglobal," go talk to the militias hiding in their bunkers from phantom conspiracies or the minutemen bullying the border.
We are a movement that is opposed to the cutthroat system of capitalism and its mercenary perversion of the state. There is an argument that we have entered into a new phase of capitalism called "globalization," which we are steadfastly opposed to. Yet to reduce us to isolationists or "anti-globalists" is so wrong that it borders on deceit.
Please ask your editors to refrain from this foolish shorthand. If you want to go around labeling people as "antiglobalists," I have two candidates. The first is the U.S. government. They seem to love going to war with every other country around the world. Sounds Antiglobalist enough for me. The second is a bit closer to home. Your own Thomas Friedman wants us to believe that capitalism has made the world flat. Perhaps this is a bit of a stretch on "antiglobal," but, as we can see in this Sunday's magazine, apparently any clap trap can make it into the Times.

[History Is A Weapon]

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

An update

We were going to post something about rethinking activist strategies, but instead, we'll just strongly recommend Dan Berger and Andy Cornell's article Winning the (Anti) War and Rebuilding Political Imagination. But we think you'll be back. Why? Because we just posted the full text of George Jackson's Soledad Brother.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New Panther Arrests

It was reported today that new charges were mounted against 8 former Black Panthers for the 1971 killing of a cop. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) smartly compared the 1973 torture and interrogation sessions to the frighteningly similar ones at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. Besides the clear parallels in response to people of color resisting empire, domestically or far, far away, this is a painful reminder that while the state demands a monopoly on violence, it also boasts of a long memory. There have been whispers that there may be more cases like this in the coming months and years. It is paramount that people of conscience mount campaigns of support and solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the struggle.
It is unclear if there is a support system set up yet, but when we find it, we'll pass it along.

In peripherally related news, E. Howard Hunt, scum, died today. Scum, I mean Hunt, assisted in organizing a criminal invasion of both Cuba and Guatemala before assisting in the Watergate break-ins that led to the resignation of Nixon. What is interesting is this: Hunt served 33 months for, essentially, spying on the Democrats and lying about it. Then he was released and lived free until his death. This guy ushers in a forty year plus death squad regime in one country and tries to do the same thing in another and no one in D.C. blinks an eye. Thousands upon thousands of people killed. He's never held for war crimes. No house arrest even like Pol Pot. Nope, he can just shop at walmart like anybody else. A single police officer's death from thirty-five years ago? Continued investigation, grand juries, and indictments.
Rule of law? Rule of scum.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bill Moyer Movement Action Plan

Just added Bill Moyer's (not to be confused with progressive journalist Bill moyers) Movement Action Plan. Better get your slippers on, take out your notebook, and clear your schedule, because it is loooooong. No complaints, however, because Moyer gets to tackling the questions so many of us have: How do we fight and how do we win?

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