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9/11 mistakes and missing apologies

The day before the 9/11 anniversary Willow, Evan and i were in the Staten Island Ferry.  The threat level was it’s lowest level.  A yellow 1.  It does not go lower.  Yet when we got on the ferry there were perhaps a dozen Coast Guard agents in full combat gear, including machine guns.

photo (18)

At what price freedom?

It is a 30 minute ride and since there did not seem to be any imminent threats, i approached one of these exotically dressed coast guard sailors and asked if i could ask him questions.  He agreed.

“The threat level is the lowest possible.  Is it still necessary to have sailors with machine guns on board?”  I asked, trying to be courteous.

“This is what we do before and after 9/11.  It does not matter what you think.” He replied flatly.

TerrorThreat sign SI ferry

It seemed unnecessary to bother him anymore with questions.

But it got me considering the 9/11 anniversary and how it has affected this country.  I have written about my personal experience of the anti-globalization movement which was derailed by post 9/11 mock patriotism.

The following internet “meme” got me thinking about the origins of the second Iraq war.  It is well documented that even before 9/11, key Bush administration figures (including Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz) wanted to invade Iraq as a means for the U.S. to “play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security…”[20]

911 misfire

Internal communications indicate Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was happy to use Sept 11 attacks as an excuse to invade Iraq, independent of the evidence.   Wikipedia says:

On September 11, Rumsfeld asked for: “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit Saddam Hussein at same time. Not only Osama bin Laden.” The notes also quote him as saying, “Go massive”, and “Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”[22]

Good thing we did not play into the hands of the terrorists

Good thing we did not play into the hands of the terrorists

Rumsfeld was clear that we were back calculating the rationale for attacking Iraq.

Excerpt from Nov 2001 Rumsfeld memo on how to justify invasion of Iraq

Excerpt from Nov 2001 Rumsfeld memo on how to justify invasion of Iraq

Later, in his February 2003 speech to the U.N. Security Council, Powell alleged that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction from inspectors and refusing to disarm. However, after the U.S. had invaded Iraq and overthrown Saddam Hussein, no weapons of mass destruction were found.  Powell would later confess on the Daily Show  “I, of course, regret the U.N. speech that I gave,” and “Of course I regret that a lot of it turned out be wrong,”

The mainstream media was also complicate in the run up to the invasion.  Again from wikipedia:

A study coauthored by the Center for Public Integrity found that in the two years after September 11, 2001 the president and top administration officials had made 935 false statements, in an orchestrated public relations campaign to galvanize public opinion for the war, and that the press was largely complicit in its uncritical coverage of the reasons adduced for going to war.[66][67] PBS commentator Bill Moyers had made similar points throughout the run up to the Iraq War, and prior to a national press conference on the Iraq War[28] Moyers correctly predicted “at least a dozen times during this press conference he [the President] will invoke 9/11 and Al Qaeda to justify a preemptive attack on a country that has not attacked America. But the White House press corps will ask no hard questions tonight about those claims.”[68][69]

These rationale for the war having been proved false, the Bush administration moved on to the reliable “We are installing democracy in Iraq” justification.  Which has not worked terribly well.

So why does any of this matter?  What bothers me most is that a relatively small number of US Americans died and then we went off and killed literally millions of the wrong people because of it.  And we still think that the big problem with 9/11 is the US got hurt.  The country generally has no shame or remorse about this tremendous mistake we made.

And because we refuse to learn from history, we appear about to make the same mistake again with ISIS.  We are looking to return to Iraq and now Syria to start another war, because a tiny number of US Americans have died. In this war we will kill tens to hundreds of thousands of the innocent people (and some militant extremists). This is what ISIS clearly wants, for the US to attack them so ISIS can capture the regional anger and frustration with the US’s dysfunctional foreign policy, so they can recruit more and grow their movement.

Here is another cute text running around the interwebs:

Are you confused by what is going on in the Middle East?
If so, please let me explain it for you in clear terms:
We support the Iraqi government in the fight against ISIS.
We don’t like ISIS, but ISIS is supported by Saudi Arabia who we do like.
We don’t like Assad in Syria. We support the fight against him, but ISIS is also fighting against him.
We don’t like Iran, but Iran supports the Iraqi government in its fight against ISIS.
So some of our friends support our enemies, some enemies are now our friends,
and some of our enemies are fighting against our other enemies, who we want to lose,
but we don’t want our enemies who are fighting our enemies to win.
If the people we want to defeat are defeated, they could be replaced by people we like even less.
And all this was started by us invading a country to drive out terrorists
who were not actually there until we went in to drive them out.
It’s quite simple, really.
Do you understand now?









How long can you keep a secret?

[This is an old post. When i wrote it i showed it to the planners and was told that i could run it if i wanted, but one planner asked me to hold off til the issue was no longer topical, which i did.]

One of the myths in community is you can’t keep a secret here.  In fact, this place (i am thinking Twin Oaks, but to a lessor extent Acorn as well) holds a tremendous number of secrets.  What you can’t do is keep a secret when a lot of people know about it and other members know there is a secret being kept.

That is what is happening tonight.  The planners and the membership team had an unusual evening urgent meeting to talk about something.  There are 3 planners and 6 members of the membership team and there were a number of other people at this meeting as well.  The most plausible guess is that it is some expulsion level situation, the news for which has not broken to the membership.  You may well never know what is happening, but i and a half dozen other communards i spoke with this evening certainly will and probably soon.

secrets are heavy, especially when held by many

secrets are heavy, especially when held by many

The math goes terribly against secret keeping in this kind of circumstance.  In part because many of the people on these teams have romantic partners, who they want to tell about it and then need to be sworn to secrecy.  Yet with every leak to an intimate, a general leak becomes more likely.  As soon as a bit leaks out generally the rest can often be teased out, because people who know will feel the need to correct the inevitable rumors.

Also, it is only a question of time before the secret will have to be released because of the pressure associated with the existence of the secret being known.  For the people who know it, especially the planners, there will be pressure to release it to folks who are curious or concerned and there will be pressure to set a soon deadline as to when the informant will be put out in a mailbox, from members only to read.

What everyone does not know, will likely soon be revealed

What everyone does not know, will likely soon be revealed

By the following morning the commune was buzzing and the people who were at the meeting were doing a heroic job of trying to maintain the secret, but simply by looking at who was inside the loop and who was outside and by lots of members asking lots of questions, before noon a likely scenario was established.  But as i said, you may never know – because in fact the commune can keep some secrets, just necessarily from itself.

Tell no one.  Death keeps it's secrets

Tell no one. Death keeps it’s secrets

[It turns out the secret was soon revealed and was mostly about a controversial person who wanted to come to visit and was ultimately asked not to.  This secret is old and largely forgotten news now.]

Corporate Art

Between Point A and speaking at schools and selling hammocks i am traveling a bunch these days.  This week i am in Tarrytown NY for an unusual fall craft show for the hammocks business (usually people dont buy hammocks in the fall, but this is a good fair for us generally so we thought we would try it).  We are staying in a Marriott.

There are several nearly identical pieces like this o the ground floor

There are several nearly identical pieces like this on the ground floor

I wonder about this piece.  Is it an effort to get folks in the hotel comfortable with the idea of endless clearcuts (there are about 6 of these installations in a row on one long halfway)?  Some manager decided that instead of having live plants in the same locations in large planters, they could save money on watering by going with this faux natural look?

i would the first to admit that i have minimal aesthetic sensibility. But it strikes me that there is something wrong here.

The Dolphin Effect on Homelessness

One of the most surprising evolutionary tales for me was the one of dolphins.  Our best story tellers claim that cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) evolved from the seas into land mammals and then evolved back to aquatic based life.  This is either a tremendous re-adaptation to the changing climate of the seas or a fantastic U turn in habitat of preference.

sometimes it is best to beat a strategic retreat

sometimes it is best to beat a strategic retreat

Back in August we hung out with traveler kids in Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan. Point A folks helped a risk reduction outreach volunteer give out clean needles, anti-overdose medicine naloxone and clean socks.  And we heard stories.

The most striking stories were of this dolphin effect, how these kids (which is used as a diminutive, rather than some indication of age) came to their traveler lifestyle.  Usually some catastrophic event threw them into poverty, homelessness and addiction (typically alcohol, heroin or both).   After a while, pressure from outside friends, family and often they themselves got them to “clean up”.  They quit substance use and returned to a more conventional life style.  Working a straight job (some even doing outreach work with traveler kids) and living in a house or an apartment.

Then something funny happened.  They decided that they were happier as travels and living on little to nothing, but being with their friends and animals.  Now from a place of choice, rather than catastrophe they returned to this life style.

Rayenbo Acorn and Kat Traveler in Tompkins Square Park NYC

Rayenbo Acorn and Kat Traveler in Tompkins Square Park NYC

i have plans and fantasies about the traveling kids.  One of the interesting consciousnesses about this community (and it is deeply a community, where they share most of what they have with each other) is that housing is a burden.  If you have a house or flat you have to pay for it, and this generally requires a job.  So for most of the year the traveler kids are content to sleep outside, in parks when they can.  Under scaffolding when it is raining.  But in the winter, they continue the noble tradition of squatting.

My hope is we can continue working with them, introduce transparency tools to strengthen connections and hopefully learn about contemporary squatting from them.

The kid of comments i am uninterested in for this post is all the risks and warnings folks have about traveler kids.  i’ve heard them, thanks anyway.

fuck the police


because Sara Tansey is a badass, that’s why

Originally posted on narcissism for the dubiously modest:

this weekend i took the kids to visit my sister in DC. we were in the car and the kids were asking how long it would take us to get where we were going. we told them 20 minutes, unless we got stuck in traffic or lost, etc. what we didn’t anticipate was getting pulled over.

i hadn’t even noticed the cop car behind us until it flashed its lights and blew its sirens. i assume that my 8 y/o son didn’t either, though i dont know for sure. at first we didn’t realize it was us they were pulling over. but we figured it out and pulled 1908067_747129632018709_7864569770200059818_ninto some parking spots on the side of the street.

i have kids who say “fuck the police” when they see them passing by in their cars. and elijah had already revealed that he’d given this particular cop car pulling in behind…

View original 524 more words

Building Consent Culture Acorn

“… i will personally escort you off the property”  Belladonna is serious about consent. And if you don’t embrace how it is done at Acorn, your visit might be cut short.

She created this workshop (one of the very few visitor orientations) in response to a real need in community.  Perhaps one quarter of the visitors rejected for membership by Acorn over the last two years are due to failures to understand our consent culture.

Typically, these were not gross sexual assaults, but rather were mistakes by basically fine people who were not familiar with or paying attention to our culture.  Sometimes they were intoxicated, sometimes part of the problem is they come from a culture where people don’t ask others before they touch, sometimes guests misinterpret non-verbal signals,  sometimes they were fooled by parties where the consent rules appeared to be relaxed.

It looks simple, but there is a lot going on.

It looks simple at first, but there is a lot going on.

Don’t be fooled, the rules are never relaxed. The purpose of the workshop is to insure that the community is a safe place for members and guests alike and that these recent mistakes become a thing of the past.

While the topic is heavy, the form of the workshop is accessible.  Belladonna and Rejoice do short skits to demonstrate both problems and proper approaches.  There is more laughing than lecturing.

New concepts are introduced to many of the participants.  You can’t ask for Green Light Consent, it has to be offered.  Green Light means you have a prior agreement with someone about permissible physical or sexual interactions and it is delineated. “You can always hug me” someone offers.

clear messages - these might not work in the dark

clear messages – these might not work in the dark


A visitor asks about how shaking hands as an introduction fits into the culture, but then quickly figures out themselves that there is an effective non-verbal communication built into this ritual.  You would never grab a hand which was not offered back.

Sometimes failures are well meaning.  At the communities conference there was a blind participant who was occasionally asking for help in her process of mentally mapping the site.  A helpful person lightly turned her in the right direction, this was not what she wanted at all, because the “helpful” contact was not explicitly requested nor approved.

There is an introduction to toplessness.  Acorn tries to be a liberated zone and when it is hot, both men and women can choose to go without shirts.  This is novel to many visitors and rather than being surprised by it, this workshop both warns of it’s likelihood and encourages people to not stare nor presume there is a sexual message where there is not one.

And there is compassion for the stranger to our culture.  If you are uneasy conversing with someone who is topless, better to say something and take space than to act strangely pretending that nothing is wrong when you are uncomfortable.

i walk away from this gathering proud of us, knowing that this is the way things get better and we are building the place we want to live.

Careful language,

Careful language when understanding the state. Don’t consent to search.

What does NYC have for Kids?

I’ve lived in a bunch of cities: San Francisco, Washington DC, Sydney, Honolulu, Arnhem, Amsterdam, Brno, Vienna, Ljubljana.  In some ways it is strange that I have been living in a rural environment for so long, because I self identify as an urban rat.

Ljubljana is the Capital of tiny Slovenia, the richest part of former Yugoslavia.  This canal city boasts the highest education level in the world.  I fought the Krsko reactor here in 1995.

Ljubljana is the Capital of tiny Slovenia, the richest part of former Yugoslavia. This canal city boasts the highest education level in the world. I fought the Krsko reactor here with locals for much of 1995.

The Point A project is about starting communities inside large urban centers, and the way the project has worked out I have a significant responsibility for NYC.  Which is nice for me, big complex city, which in other blog posts I have likened to crack.  But despite having been there 6 times in the last 6 months, I am just really starting to know the city.


Google sez this is NYC i don't recognize it.

I am coming back up in a few days on my way to a craft fair (TarryTown link) and I am bringing Willow and his young friend and fellow communard Evan, ages 12 and 14.  We have a day together in NYC and I want to show them around.  The trouble is I dont really know the city very well from an exciting to a young person perspective.  So I am asking for help from my lovely comrades who are familiar with New York City.


If you had a single day in the city with a couple of high energy boys, what would you show off?  Anywhere in or near the 5 boroughs with an emphasis on Staten Island.  Links are fantastic.  You can comment inside this blog, or on Facebook where I have linked this post or to me via email if you prefer.


Shouldn’t this already be a fingerbook?


I am especially looking forward to the suggestions from Prof James, Lex, Elena, Diana, Teagan/Arrow and Aurora.


Thanks in advance.


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