Monday, December 28, 2009


I'm reading discussions about the idea of a communist "vanguard" for the working class, and trying to sort out my feelings about the whole thing.

The bare bones idea seems to be that you can't wait for a group of people who've been marginalized, denied educational opportunities, and denied opportunity for political expression to figure out how to start a revolution and then do it effectively (since all that crap piled on them seems aimed at preventing precisely that). The solution some people have come up with (if I'm understanding what I'm reading correctly) is that what's needed is for a "vanguard" of intellectual working-class-allies to agitate the working class, get them all riled up and carve out some room for them to express themselves and start exercising the power they were always told they didn't have or deserve.

This sounds fairly reasonable, especially because it's speaking to the part of me that gets very frustrated with low-income self-identified conservatives who repeatedly vote against their own self-interest (oddly, in the name of protecting the sanctity of self-interest itself). However, I feel like I have to check that part of me. That part of me also says that these low-income self-destructive conservatives are obviously too stupid to know what's good for them, and clearly a bunch of educated elites like me (since, though it seems odd to me, an education is kind of an "elite" quality, for good or ill) to come in and take their whole lives and all their problems out of their hands so that someone who knows what to do can make it all better.

How fucking disempowering is that logic? That's why I resist it. If I look at people who disagree with me as though they must be saved from their own decisions, I stop being the person who's trying to help them realize their own power.

Seems to me that's the power and the danger of the "vanguard" notion as well. Obviously not all corners of middle- or working- or lower-class society are going to be class-conscious enough (or have the energy to spare, or have safe enough conditions, though those are obstacles I don't see mentioned much in leftist discussions) to go out and kick patriarchal classist capitalist ass. Obviously those people who have a better idea should lend those skills to something useful instead of using them to further their own power.

But they can use this to further their own power. We've seen this with TEA Parties organized by multi-billion dollar insurance companies that are agitating less-conscious working-class people to give their power over from working for their own welfare to working for the welfare of their oh-so-helpful-and-sympathetic new corporate masters. That's the really nasty thing about astroturf organizing like this; it uses people's suffering and gets them all riled up to diffuse that bitterness and hope in a direction that accomplishes nothing and is therefore "safe" for the companies holding their leashes.

How to organize without doing that? How is it possible to get people interested in a cause without taking their energy and directing it as a commodity belonging to whomever can take it?

I think it comes down to something I learned in a women's empowerment circle (and yes, I attended one for a little while, and still would be if my work schedule allowed it). There is a huge difference between offering support to someone while she works through her problems, and taking her problems out of her hands to solve them for her. One of these affirms her right and ability to control her own life, and one undermines it even as it attempts to assist.

It seems to me there's a place for a "vanguard," but the term makes it sound cohesive enough to worry me. The only reason I'm even conceding the term is that--should the seemingly-impossible occur and a revolution come or... or something--these people will have power. They will. Since I am firmly against power being wielded in secret (since power that is openly named can be more easily held accountable), naming this kinda-sorta-group of people is okay with me right now.

I'm just trying to sort out my feelings on the whole thing, and trying to figure out just what it is that people are advocating when they talk about a "vanguard." I guess it might just be like any "ally" out there. White allies to POC are good, but shouldn't use their advantages to take over anti-racist work. Same with hetero and cis allies to LGBT people, men who support feminism, etc.

Maybe this is a case of an archaic word being jammed into a discussion which has moved beyond it. I'm still not sure what I think; I'm just rambling here and hoping it goes somewhere useful.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Things Republicans tell environmentalists:

I hear a lot of oddball stuff at the door from people who don't believe that what Citizens Action Coalition does matters. We generally go for the consumer rights angle with these people, since talking to them about the air they breathe doesn't work (it just reminds them that Rush Limbaugh doesn't believe in global warming), talking to them about the water they drink doesn't work (since most of them have enough money to buy bottled water and do), and talking to them about their rates going up doesn't always work either (because they believe that standing up to the utilities will only increase the cost of doing business and therefore raise their rates in the end).

All that I can deal with. It's really not that unusual or difficult, since it all amounts to one thing. "None of those things can happen to me. I have money, therefore I am invincible."

But there are a few things that they bring up that are really sort of mind-bending. Not all Republicans are dumb like this; there are a lot of them who are far more environmental in their approach than they want to admit (perhaps because it might get them associated with liberals to admit that they care whether we pollute our groundwater). Some of the best logical disconnects I've seen are as follows:

"Wind and solar can't replace coal. What we need is more nuclear." Never mind the fact that wind and solar can and--in some states--do replace coal. The good bit is what often follows. "In France they get all their power from nuclear, and they've even got a way to recycle the waste so that it's clean now, too. That's what we need to do."

That's right! I have heard hardcore Conservative Republicans tell me that America should be more like France. Are you seeing why this totally blows my mind? The appropriate reply to them is obviously that French citizens pay half or more of their income in taxes, a huge amount of which goes toward paying for their nuclear program. Don't believe nuclear is expensive? Then why do nuclear states have electric bills twice as high as non-nuclear states. If Republicans want their rates or their taxes to go up, they should pick which way they want to pay. Either way they will.


I also love hearing from these people that nuclear is so clean because the reactor only puts steam into the air. What the fuck do they care? These people don't believe in global warming anyway, so it ought to matter to them that the reactor puts out less air pollution, but at the expense of

  • contaminated water (and less of it, since nuclear power plants require billions of gallons of water that they're legally allowed to take from nearby cities' drinking water in a drought, since the choice between thirsty poor people and dying crops is cake compared to a nuclear meltdown),
  • national security risk (since even a decommissioned nuclear plant is an awesome target for a terrorist attack, and we can't mine all our uranium in the USA anyway, often getting it from countries that don't like us),
  • higher utility rates,
  • and the use of taxpayers as collateral for everything nuclear-related (see the Price-Anderson Act, which means that if a company wants to build a nuclear plant and defaults on their loan, if a company makes a mistake and the plant melts down, or really anything goes wrong, they're not liable; taxpayers are).

So yeah, it's a little better for the air, but all of those others things outweigh that. They should outweigh that even further for Republicans.

So why are they so pro-nuclear? Because the coal-dependent utility companies who make more money by spending more money (and yes, they're paid based on their expenses, which means their projects don't have to be successful or efficient--just expensive) did an advertising campaign decades ago talking about how great nuclear power was for the environment. These ads stopped because those companies got sued for lying in their ads, but not everyone knows that or cares.

Now, the fact that our government is actually acknowledging that global warming happens means that this is coming up again. They're being more careful not to state that nuclear power is actually environmentally-friendly at all (since now they know they can get sued over it and will lose), but they're still pointing out that this'd be an awesome way to reduce our carbon footprint (never mind that 1% of our coal plants in this country go to power uranium refinement and that'll only increase if we build more nuclear power plants).

This is something I hear a lot. "You guys aren't in favor of nuclear, are you? You've kept them from building any nuclear plants in this state; I don't support you guys."

The appropriate answer is, "Nuclear power is expensive, and if we let utility companies charge you for a nuclear plant, your rates would double. Everyone's rates would double, which is our members don't want. Also, we're not the ones who shut down Marble Hill. The regulators did that because the spending had gotten so high that it was no longer the project they'd approved. We're just the ones who got ratepayers a refund for all the money that had been wasted building a plant that never went online. We keep rates low in Indiana. Is that work you can support?"

At which point I point them back down to our support statement, and if they say no, I walk away and hope their neighbors are smarter than they are. Staying and arguing wastes my time, and only lets people like that think they're important.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I feel like I have to rehash this constantly

I'd just like to say super-quickly that being pro-choice or anti-choice has nothing to do with being pro-abortion or anti-abortion.

Most of the people I know who are pro-choice are personally anti-abortion. However, that's their personal decision, and they respect the right of women to make a different one, even if they disagree.

"Pro-choice" doesn't mean you don't have an opinion on abortion, or that you actually like it. It means that you believe you can only choose for yourself, and other people all have to choose for themselves. If you respect the right of other individuals to make decisions for themselves that you wouldn't make in their place, you're pro-choice. Period dot. You don't have to like abortion.

Personally? I am pro-abortion, and this is totally distinct from my identification as pro-choice. I think that there are so many children out there who need good homes that, if I were to bear my own child instead of taking in one of them, I would effectively be taking food out of the mouths of starving kids. If I can afford to care for a child, I want to take care of the ones we've already got before birthing a new one.

Yes, that means if I get pregnant I'm getting an abortion. Hell fucking yes I am. This may seem shocking to you, so if you want to look at me as a baby-hating monster, you go right ahead. I'm not the one who's increasing the human population knowing full well that we aren't feeding all the brothers and sisters and sons and daughters who are already here.

Look at me as a child-hater if you want, but keep in mind that when I see you playing with your own biological child instead of one that you adopted to give them a better chance at life, you keep in mind that if I were that kind of asshole, I could point the finger and be saying the same damn thing about you.

Most people reading probably already understand this, though. I'm pro-abortion because my first duty is to the people who need me who are already living, and this is how I express that. I'm pro-choice because you can decide differently, and that doesn't make either of us a bad person.

Get it?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


MN Society of Friends wins at civil rights.

The congregation will continue to hold both opposite-sex and same-sex weddings at its meeting house, but will no longer sign the legal marriage certificate for opposite-sex couples. Instead, couples will need to have the certificate signed by a justice of the peace.

"Everything else proceeds as it normally has, except that we will not sign the marriage certificate," Landskroener said.

You go, guys.

(ht karjack via rm)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Iran update.

Iran protests by pro-democracy advocates on National Student Day were attacked by security forces on Monday. The country's Green Movement has found new ways of organizing and keeping its message alive.

Istanbul, Turkey - In Iran, riot police clashed with thousands of protesters Monday in the latest round of demonstrations, which took place despite a concerted six-month effort by Iran's security services to stamp out the opposition Green Movement.

Witnesses said that at Tehran University, just one of several flashpoints in Tehran and other cities marred by violence, police used tear gas and batons, and plainclothes agents wielded electric stun-guns against students and other demonstrators throwing stones. Protesters chanted slogans against the security forces and "Death to the dictator"; passersby were beaten with batons in alleys off the main streets.

Iran specialists say the persistence of the protests in the face of powerful counter-measures from the regime indicates that politics in Iran has irreversibly changed.

"This is not a revolution, this is the commencement of a civil rights movement," says Hamid Dabashi, a prolific historian of Iran at Columbia University in New York. (...)

While Monday's protests focused on students, they were the largest in months. Efforts by security forces to arrest student leaders did not appear to work — partly because of new organization techniques developed since June.

"Communication is all through [personal] networking — they have adjusted so that they do not make decisions as a single group," says Ali Akbar Mousavi-Khoeini, a former prominent member of Iran's strongest student organization who moved to the US earlier this year.

"They have changed to do networking activities, so that decisionmaking is not longer taking place at a top level," says Mousavi-Khoeini. "The decisionmaking process has changed to avoid having to meet and vote."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

NYS Senator Savino speaks on Marriage Equality

Thanks to keori for this video link.

She has said everything that should be said. Everything. One bit hits particularly close to home for me, since looking up to a lesbian couple is one of the core reasons why I won't marry my partner in a state where they can't do the same. This video is really profoundly amazing. Share it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What in the damn it.

Many thanks to ethrosdemon for posting a link to this pile of stinking misogynist horseshit.

Summary: A woman writes to Ask Amy of the Chicago Tribune asking if being date raped, well, makes her a victim of rape. Ask Amy responds that the questioner is indeed a victim--of her own "awful judgment." She adds after that that, yes, "no matter what, no means no," but that doesn't change the fact that the first thing she had to say was the same stupid victim-blaming that makes coming forward about rape that much more of a miserable experience for the victim of the assault.

I suggest emailing Ask Amy rather than commenting on the article page. if you're interested.

Have fun, kids. Here's what I sent.

"First of all, thank you. I hope your letter will be posted on college bulletin boards everywhere. Were you a victim? Yes. First, you were a victim of your own awful judgment. Getting drunk at a frat house is a hazardous choice for anyone to make because of the risk (some might say a likelihood) that you will engage in unwise or unwanted sexual contact."

Good news! This is indeed being posted everywhere. It's being reposted by women and men who are horrified that your response to a woman sharing a story of date rape is to tell her that she brought it on herself.

All you should have said was this:

"No matter what -- no means no. If you say no beforehand, then the sex shouldn't happen. If you say no while its happening, then the sex should stop."

That's good stuff, and that's the long and short of it. You had no call qualifying and diminishing this excellent statement by prefacing it with the same old endlessly-repeated line of crap about how it's the rape victim's job to prevent rape by not being a naughty immodest drunken slut. Women have heard enough of this, and I hope that next time a woman comes to you with such a question, all you'll say is, "You didn't want to have sex. Someone had sex with you. That's rape." Because that is all there is to it.

When doling out responsibility and dishing out the blame, whether her level of intoxication provided an opportunity doesn't matter at all compared to the blame owned by the man who TOOK THAT OPPORTUNITY AND RAPED HER. A little perspective, please. You said "no matter what, no means no." No matter what means NO MATTER WHAT. It means don't include that victim-blaming crap next time, please. The fact that you included that is basically taking a woman who has been violated and kicking her when she's down. I hope you can see the problem with that.

You owe "Victim? in Virginia" an apology, and it might be a good idea to throw in an apology to every other woman who has looked to an authority figure for help after an assault and been told that she had it coming because it was her job to prevent it, and she failed because she's a bad woman. They deserve an apology for the insult you just added to their injury.

-(my name).