current dispatches
previous dispatches


september 01 dispatches

09-27-01    colby rages against domestic terrors

If the hype around "New York's Finest" (the NYPD) and the city's alleged love affair for Giuliani fooled anyone into thinking that this city's brutal policies towards the homeless might change, or at the very least lessen in the midst of the WTC incident, think again. The motive in terrorizing the homeless and bombing the literal hell out of Afghanistan is the same: Humiliate and destroy poor people of color in the name of Western power and profit. Tonight on the 2 train, waiting at 14th street, a cop ran into the train to shake a homeless man who was sleeping on a seat with a brutal, "wake up, wake up," before he jumped back off the car as the doors were about to close. Sleeping homeless and black is still a crime. So is committing "terrorist" attacks, I hear. Unless, of course, you commit them as a cop or otherwise under the auspices of the US government. I yelled "leave him alone" to the racist, power-mongering cop and muttered "fuckers," shocking my train mates. Futile, no doubt, but I couldn't contain my rage. Especially after just stepping off my last train to a circle of cops surrounding an Arab-looking man, handing him a summons. The cops dispersed and I asked the man what happened. He looked sad and confused and told me he didn't understand, he was just waiting for the subway to go home.

reply to this dispatch.


09-24-01    emily on books, bombs, and big brother

Much of the bluster re: the terrorists' electronic communication network is focused on public libraries. The FBI has already stormed the public libraries of south Florida in search of names, the names and patron records of everyone who used any computer in any public library in south Florida. My initial thought: Ah, we'll be alright. Libraries didn't give names during the McCarthy era. Libraries didn't give names to COINTELPRO. Libraries are committed to preserving open access to information, it's pretty much their sole reason for being, and open access REQUIRES privacy. You can't have one without the other. That's why a record of your book-borrowing is erased from the system as soon as you return a book. It's why at my branch of the New York Public Library we only take first names, just as indicators, and you can give any string of letters you want to designate your appointment time. Hell, you could even give numbers (although I have a personal thing against quantitative stuff). I was wrong. All but one librarian, an unsung hero in Broward County, handed over names immediately. The American Library Association has issued their guidelines--we must cooperate. There was some debate among council members about whether librarians should require warrants, but ZERO debate about whether libraries should comply with those warrants. I still think everybody should use the library. There's lots of information there, history and strategy and philosophy and all kinds of resources that are vital for thoughtful and reflective and intelligent action, and helpful reference assistance from yours truly. But don't use your real name.

reply to this dispatch.

09-20-01    another link from craig

Ananya sent me an article called Terrorists Leave Paperless Trail that details the extensive government infiltration of the on-line communication that supposedly preceded last week's events. As she said, regarding the call for greater government surveillance in the name of national security: "What are people thinking?"

Whether the feds have actually been able to track anything down or whether this giant dog and pony show will serve simply to justify the military attacks around the corner -- no matter. It's clear that these events have been deployed successfully by the u.s. government to elicit popular submission to a right-wing regime that just nine months ago had been labelled an illegal coup. The outrageous infiltration tactics used to fuck with mobilizations in Philadelphia and Los Angeles over the past year will seem like fond memories compared with what's to come.

reply to this dispatch.

09-19-01    craig and friends with more of the same

Remember the millions and millions of dollars in back dues the u.s. has owed the United Nations for decades? Colby informed me that following the WTC incident the u.s. paid off its entire debt in two days. Like me, you'll probably have a hard time finding mention of this in the media. But I suppose it's no newsflash what favors the u.s. expects in return for its economic manipulations.

# # #

We've finally posted Ananya's essay From Indo-Chic to Ethno-Kitsch from the second issue of make. Though the horrific rise in domestic terrorism aimed at Arabs and other "foreigners" in the u.s. represents a grossly obvious system of cultural genocide, Ananya's piece reminds us that more subtle, daily forms of cultural imperialism help define and defend the structures of white supremacy so violently enacted this past week.

# # #

Our resident librarian Emily offered the following on-line sources for coverage and commentary. (There seem to be some temporary problems at Znet, but it's well worth trying):

Interview with Noam Chomsky at ZNet.
ZNet Full Crisis Coverage.
Report on food crisis in Afghanistan from the LA Times.
Petition in opposition to President Bush's escalating war policy.

reply to this dispatch.

09-014-01    craig, on the world trade center

Looking back at the earlier entries on this site, Dean's recent comments regarding political uses of the term terrorism seem eerily prophetic.

It kills me to hear news commentators insist that the attack at the World Trade Center came from nowwhere, that this is an attack on freedom and democracy, on "our" way of life. The racist lies and collective amnesia our schools and media teach in place of history leave our population completely unprepared to understand these events in the global context of of u.s. imperialism and genocide.

News reporters stationed at the site of the plane crashes comment again and again, "It looks like a warzone down here," and I think, it is a warzone, and not the one you imagine or the u.s. government proclaims -- cowardly evil versus civilized good. This week tells us what the rest of the world knows too well -- the u.s. is always at war. Armed with a defense budget that swallows the GNP of so many nations, the u.s. military possesses technology such that our planes drop bombs rather than themselves explode, though to the same effect. People say, "How could this happen in america?" and this questions refers to a mythologized power that would not exist without the hoarding of global economic wealth which u.s. war machines serve.

Consider what General Butler, looking back on his military career, wrote back in 1935:

I spent 33 years and 4 months in active service as a member of the Marine Corps. . . . And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-clas muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. . . .

Thus I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped maike Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras 'right' for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those yeras, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.

The images of destroyed lower Manhattan remind me of recent photos of Iraq in the June/July issue of Ms. Magazine. Downtown New York today looks like Iraq -- today and ten years ago. The war crimes committed by the u.s. government against Iraqi people did not stop with murderous bombings, but continue to this day in the form of economic sanctions. 250 people die every day in Iraq as a result of our government's sanctions. This time of mourning in New York is a day in the life in any number of nations terrorized for decades by u.s. military and economic campaigns.

So when the supposedly lefty Village Voice proclaims, "Terrorists bring war to our shores" their lie contributes effectively to a belief in the u.s. that war does not happen if we don't see it, which thanks to the corporate and government controlled media, we don't. My heart breaks into a million pieces for people in this city, and each of those pieces would need to break a million times more to bleed for all the deaths around the world the u.s. has brought on. This week, our government reaps what it has sown.

# # #

My only hope this week has been in conversations with friends and activists, people mobilizing against the already-rampant attacks on middle-easterners and preparing to organize resistance against the coming war. From the west coast, Mimi Nguyen tosses up some esential critical reflection, and provides some illuminating links. Here in New York, at least one group I know of is circulating a statement of dissent, which you can read here.

reply to this dispatch.

09-09-01    dean with some dialogue

in the past couple months i've gotten some really interesting responses to the my essay decoding non-violent rhetoric. now you can look at some of these spicy responses as well as my response to my loveable critics. its so fun! i hope you'll join in the chit-chat.

reply to this dispatch.

09-08-01    craig with some conscious hip-hop links

Dean and I went to see the Welfare Poets and Aztlan Underground at The Point last night. The Welfare Poets are amazing, and their song "The Bullet" (inspired by Malcolm X's speech, "The Ballot or the Bullet") exposes the lies of the "democratic" practice of voting in the white supremacist, colonial united states:

We didn't vote to be colonized and enslaved.
We didn't vote to be tamed.
We didn't vote to suppress our rage.
We didn't vote to be driven insane.
We didn't vote to be disproportionately jailed.
We didn't vote to end fighting for liberty,
for it is still necessary by any means. . . .
We didn't vote to get into this shit,
we won't vote to get out.

Indigenous/Chicano Aztlan Underground brought t-shirts proclaiming, "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us" and reminded the audience that if you recognize u.s. land claims as illegitimate, the meaning of "illegal alien" falls apart. In their performance, they named experiences and histories they are thankful for -- and along those lines, I want to thank Aztlan Underground for passing on critical tools for understanding the violence and history of the global landscape on which I'm situated.

reply to this dispatch.

09-06-01    anti-globalization notes by craig

I can't quite form coherent thoughts about what I think are fundamental shortcomings with an anti-globalization "movement" that counts too heavily on transforming political structures through playful slogans and colorful parades. But I'm thinking of Ward Churchill, who cautions against pseudo-pacifist assumptions that the moral superiority (contained in the message) of protestors can move the state to abandon its many institutions and practices of violence. Though certainly the development of activist cultures of resistance is valid and even essential, is it a worthwhile end in and of itself?

But anyhow, Abolish the Bank and Globalize This both have info for people heading to D.C. for the IMF/World Bank actions at the end of September. A new ad-hoc group calling themselves the Masquerade Project is providing gas masks and info on health risks associated with tear gas and pepper spray.

And if you've never been to the amazing Colours of Resistance site, please check out their sharp critiques and suggestions for anti-globalization organizing. As the intro to their site states, "Colours of Resistance came together as a response to the disturbing divide between the issues and movements of certain communities - in particular, the alienation of people of colour from the "anti-globalization" protests which caught mainstream public attention at the turn of the 21st century. It is our hope to connect these mass anti-capitalist convergences back to the local struggle."

reply to this dispatch.

09-03-01    emily, on her summer "vacation"

The list of horrifying transgressions on my recent gay press trip to Amsterdam is so long and extended that my brain is quickly deleting the memories, and I see no need to clog the bandwith at with all and sundry (we can discuss the implications of my access to such things as 'gay press trips' on another day, when the weather is cool enough to police my own transgressions without resorting to wrist-slitting in an ice cold bath). Still, I would like to note one incident that raised lots of questions for me about history and memory and the importance of keeping both in the present.

The Tourist Board of Amsterdam had scheduled for us a meal at Indrapura, an Indonesian restaurant in one of the gay districts in town. As we sat down, exhausted from so much gay spirit at the Pride parade (and drunk out of our minds--most for the purpose of easier hook-ups with Dutch boys, me in an effort to stave off the company of the guy from Genre magazine), our tour guide explained that "Indonesia used to be a part of Holland, so there's a lot of Indonesian food in Amsterdam." Um. Used to be a part of Holland. Well, I suppose that's one way of putting it. But colonialism is hardly the history of handshakes and pats on the back and gentlemen's agreements that sure, we'll go ahead and become a part of Holland, it'll be fun and advantageous for the both of us! Nope. Not like that at all. Bloody, murderous, violent, terrifying, causing rifts so great they will likely never be healed--that's colonialism as I've come to understand it. No less than mass murder. And here I am, sitting in a former capital of colonial Europe (Indonesia, South Africa, Americas), an emissary from the present's most violent colonialists (go USA go!), eating from plates set before me by Indonesians that all these years later continue to serve the greedy maws of the entitled Dutch and the rest of the rabid white world. Do you know what I mean? The entire meal was hard to swallow.

[more colonial inquiries at indo-chic by ananya.]

reply to this dispatch.

08-30-01    craig on returning, relocating

I spent most of August on various trips out of town, and just before leaving the computer broke and I only finally wrestled it back from incompusa this afternoon . . . so apologies for disappearing for awhile, especially to folks who sent us emails. We're getting back into the swing of things.

Yesterday was one of those days that makes me hate this city and pine for Los Angeles -- too hot, too crowded, too much hostility on the subway and on the street. Today: one of those days that makes me love the city, just loving the sense of being an interloper in this incredible haywire scheme. Here a day of errands can become an adventure, my backpack strapped tight is a jetpack, a parachute, guiding me along. In between picking up packages at the post office and doing research down at housing court, I wandered into a fancy design store/gallery in Tribeca, where the employees were actually friendly and invited me to an opening next week for Douglas Coupland's (Shampoo Planet, anyone?) new show, which apparently involves "lots of bottles."

Other moments that have inspired satisfaction in calling NYC home? A night of films sponsored by Paper Tiger at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum that offered an archaelogy of urban activisms, from the fight to save Community Gardens to the riots at Tompkins Square Park a decade ago. The films saddened and inspired, and left me asking once again -- where is our sense of history? Why don't the stories of the recent past circulate as framework and reference and model and lesson? The work I do is inextricably bound up with what has gone before but I feel tripped up by our collective amnesia.

And just what happened on my summer vacation? Toronto, where I got a great pair of barely-used converse for like six bucks, and Montreal, where we rode bikes across islands and ate dinner at midnight. Virginia, where Dean and I spent time with his family and we played endless games of cards and liberated an original Sega machine from his foster parents' closet. Chicago, where I fell in love with a new place and saw great music at Ladyfest Midwest and ran into an old friend from high school who was travelling with Radical Cheerleaders from Florida, and where we visited an incredible art exhibit that brilliantly spoofed and condemned gentrification through a fictitious company called "Pioneer Renewal Trust" whose computer guide to home-buying had hidden within explanations of feudalism.

Going away was good, and coming back is good . . . though my day truly was spooked by the persistence of bus ads zooming by, proclaimng "I scream, you scream, we all scream for pork loins." That is not good.

reply to this dispatch.