At first glance, I am not much like my father. He was a professional man, dedicated to building his architectural firm, reliable, respectful, a liberal Democrat, faithful to his wife, a military officer and a patriot. He believed the system would deliver justice and fairness if we voted for the right political candidates. My father was concerned with appearance, dressed conscientiously and carefully. He would not go out on a business lunch with his secretary unescorted, not because he was worried something untoward might happen, but because others might think something was happening. [I, in contrast, started a romance with my father secretary and stole her away to the commune.]
But current events are turning me more into him that I might normally admit. I remember in the summer of 1973 my parents and brother went to Mexico on vacation. It was the height of the Watergate investigation and my father was riveted to the coverage. I remember he bought a radio so while the rest of us were running around on the beach he could listen intently to the scratchy radio station broadcasting the Senate hearings. He was especially excited about John Dean who betrayed the president and catalyzed his ultimate resignation. My father disliked Nixon with a rare passion.
It is a different time, but I find myself mimicking my old man. Willow, Hawina and I are currently in Cuba. But back in the US, the Trump/Russia scandal is unraveling and every evening I am huddling around the internet listening to various new broadcasts drinking in every new nefarious detail. And perhaps my John Dean is Paul Manafort.
If you have not been following the Russia scandal closely you can be forgiven for not knowing exactly who Paul Manafort is. He was the Trump Campaign manager from March of 2016 until he was fired as his deep connections to the Russians were revealed, in Aug 2016. Manafort has a long colorful history of helping increasingly dangerous politicians. Two years after law school he worked on the “re-election” campaign for unelected US president Gerald Ford. Manafort received about $1 million for lobbying for Congo’s kleptocrat and brutal dictator Mobutu. He got another cool million image crafting for Ferdinand Marcos, the brutal dictator of the Philipines. The secret ledger recovered after the overthrow of the treasonous Ukrainian president, Yanukovych show Manafort was paid $12.7 million for his work helping elect the pro-Russia president. Hacked text messages between Manaforts adult daughters discussing their father include gems like:
- “Don’t fool yourself, that money we have is blood money.”
- “You know he has killed people in Ukraine? Knowingly,”
- “He is a sick fucking tyrant, and we keep showing up and dancing for him and eating the lobster. Nothing changes.”
Manafort, who is young looking 68, came out of retirement to work for Trump. He “had no relationship with Trump” before the election. In his 5 page application to Trump, he played down his brilliant work with autocrats and instead hyped three things which apparently won job or him:
- He was willing to work for free
- He lives in Trump Tower in NYC
- He was a Washington outsider and an enemy of Karl Rove
But was he really working for free? Between 2006 and at least 2009, Manafort was paid secretly $10 million each year by Ukrainian aluminum magnate on a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government”. Manafort took cryptic notes during the infamous July 9th meeting with Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner and several Russians offering damaging intel on Hillary Clinton. These notes referred to the RNC and political contributions from the Russians. If this turns out to have happened, it is treason.
Less exciting than treason is tax fraud. Manafort is reported to have received $60 million in loans, through shady banks in Cyprus and sketchy domestic connections. Manafort has been told he will be indicted. Mueller has brought in the special IRS Criminal Investigation Unit (IRS-CI), which seems to mean he has evidence of at least tax fraud, likely of Manafort, possibly Trump himself.
The question still stands, will Mueller to get Manafort to sing? Meaning will he testify against the president in exchange for Mueller getting the testimony he needs to indite Trump. If Manafort is willing to betray Trump to save himself, it may well mean he, like John Dean before him, brings down the president.
When you go through customs at the Havana airport, you see this digital screen of an analog clock.
To be convincing, the sweep second-hand jerks a bit every time it moves. And thus you are introduced to the temporal paradox which is Cuba’s capital.
The vast majority of cars on the streets of Havana are from two eras, the last decade and the period immediately before the revolution and US embargo, around 1959.
The time machine affect has numerous positive aspects. The old city streets often have wide parks running through the middle. A crippled economy means there is little traffic. High gasoline costs mean that vehicles rarely have just one person in them. Huge trees line the streets.
There are some innovations which other places would do well to mimic. Stop lights on major intersections count down the number of seconds before they turn either red or green, to better inform drivers.
The city streets in Havana are named in a novel and clever way. The main dividing street is Avenido Paseo. To the west the streets are increasing in even numbers. To the east the streets are lettered. Perpendicular to these, running parallel to the coast the streets are odd numbered. Thus you can tell uniquely where you are by just knowing 10th and 11th or C and 9th. No confusing East and West like DC or Streets and Avenues like NYC.
The architecture favors balconies, flat roofs and porches and the social structures take advantage of these. Many doors down the street are left open with people inside and outside often visible. Most buildings were built before there was air conditioning and the architecture encourages placing people in breezes.
This is a repost of the CommuneLife blog. Lot of great pictures of communards getting out and being part of what many are describing as the largest protest in the history of the country. There is still lots to do, and we can celebrate that this event was a big gathering and an inspiring success.
Photos by Steve and GPaul of Compersia Folks from the DC and Virginia communes were very involved with the protests: Christian and Paxus of Twin Oaks appreciate PETA’s big fuzzy suits. Vegans GPaul of Compersia and Christian of Twin Oaks pose with PETA people. Paxus of Twin Oaks and GPaul of Compersia rest after the […]
Multi-colored “pussy hat” on Paxus was knit by Hawina, who was unable to attend, but wanted to be there in spirit.
It was not even 6:30 AM and I got handed a sign.
I was especially happy to see one of my core issues (nuclear power) on the stylishly designed placard.
We assembled in McPherson Square in downtown Washington DC. The plan was simple. There are six entrances to the Inauguration Celebration. Our goal was to block as many of them as possible to disrupt the flow of MAGAs (Make America Great Again hat people) and therefore the program.
Organizers told the group we were in that we had a number of undocumented immigrants in it. This meant we were going to do so-called “soft block” actions to reduce the risk of arrest. This included our “soft blockade.” Which really meant we were constricting traffic and slowing the progress of people trying to make it to the inauguration.
We were surprisingly effective. In part because the DC police were unwilling to suppress the protests. One of the gates was actually closed by locked down protesters, aided because the police were unwilling to hurt people to remove them. This stems from past protests where DC police roughed-up and arrested protesters prematurely and the city had to pay huge civil settlements.
It seemed as though the strategy was to arrest as few people as possible. Other gate blockers were dragged away by the police, and sometimes needed to be cut free.
We were with the peaceful non-violent protesters who were not breaking the law. These Movement for Black Lives activists who blocked the gate were using a known civil disobedience strategy; one in which they knowingly break the law (usually trespassing or obstructing traffic) with the intent of being arrested and standing trial for what they have done.
But there is another way.
There are those who would break the law, mostly destroying property, without any intention of cooperating with the police in their arrest and incarceration. While often identified as a group, the Black Bloc is really a tactic. It was originally developed in Germany for use in anti-nuclear and squatting actions in the late 1970s. Besides all the black clothed fashion, this tactic includes protecting yourself from police violence including scarves, sunglasses, ski masks, motorcycle helmets with padding, or other face-concealing and face-protecting items. This guise allows it difficult to distinguish between different participants and harder to prosecute.
Frankly, groups using Black Bloc tactics have been hugely head-achy for me. They often come to events that they do not organize and intentionally incite violence from with the police, demonstrating their predominantly white, male privilege. If you are trying to organize a non-violent civil disobedience action, a group using Black Bloc tactics can be one of your worst nightmares. It can destroy your action. It can ruin your relationship with the locals. It can incite police violence towards your peaceful protesters. And they can result in dangerous escalations of tensions.
The Black Bloc was different this time. First off, no single group could claim ownership over Trump’s coronation. More importantly, the group using these tactics was so big, that it did not really attach itself to any other action and acted autonomously (which is how they are supposed to work). People using these tactics broke some windows, burned an empty limousine outside the offices of the Washington Post, and were involved in the bulk of the 217 arrests from today’s actions.
Predictably, CNN would divide the protest world evenly between those destroying property and those who were not. In fact, there were so many actions and so few of them were destructive of property or violent, that almost all our large crew did not see any altercations with the police. Though there were some of us who sought out people a part of the Black Bloc to shadow the protests.
We were involved in several actions. Perhaps the most fun was the Festival of Resistance which started at the Union Square train station and marched back to McPherson Square. What you can’t see well enough from the above picture is that the parade stretches for blocks and blocks back to the station.
Shepard Fairey who created the famous Obama “Hope” image is back with “We the People” which had three lovely female images. As far as resistance art work goes, this was a great event.
If there is not enough time to have fun at these actions then you are definitely doing it wrong. At the end of the action we all relaxed a bit and found some folks with similar strange ideas as us. Cel has always identified with Wolves.
Protesters have all manner of advise. Much of it was directed angrily at Trump. Another big chunk of protest banners are oriented towards generalized critiques for general consumption. And finally, the smallest fraction of poster art is directed towards other protesters, like this image above. We are going to need a lot of bravery in the coming time.
You political experience is tremendously influenced by who surrounds you and how much you know them. I was lucky at this action. Most of the fine folks from Compersia in DC were at this action. Add to this various Point A activist from up the eastern seaboard and I had my very own basket of deplorables.
There were lots of good signs
More marching tomorrow.
Fortunately for me, my anger and confusion about the election results were quickly redirected. Within a day of president elect Dumpster Fire’s electoral college coup the requests started coming in. “Where can we stay in DC for the inauguration protests?” “Are you coordinating transportation to these events?” “Which action can I get arrested at?” “Which actions are permitted and family-friendly?”
Then began the frustrating and confusing task of figuring out what actions were in fact happening around the inauguration. Unsurprisingly, part of why this is confusing is Trump’s partisan Inauguration Committee is working hard to ban protests from happening anywhere near the event. They will fail.
Fortunately, my friend and world-class organizer Mike Ewall of the Energy Justice Network did much of the information gathering for me. Mike compiled a list of most of the known actions around the inauguration, which I turned into a Google document and started adding information to about how many people are attending and whether these are likely arrest actions.
DC area intentional communities are planning on hosting known out-of-town protesters (or perhaps we should take a page from the Dakota pipeline activists book and call them “Democracy Protectors”). If you are planning on coming to these events and need housing, let me know.
In order to build the kind of power that creates change you need a direct action campaign that harnesses a series of actions into an escalating sequence. Millions of Americans have participated in the past half-century in such campaigns: bus boycotts and lunch counter sit-ins, the Fight for $15, farmworkers, campus divestment campaigns on South African apartheid and fossil fuels, strikes against corporations, impeding mountaintop removal coal mining, blocking the U.S. plan to invade Nicaragua, preventing the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite this, most Americans don’t understand the difference between a protest and a campaign.
I think it is a good idea to go to these protests to help prevent them from being just one-off events and turn them into an on-going campaign and movement. This means that countering “he who shall not be named” and his plunder monkeys is going to take a lot more than freezing our butts for one weekend in late January in DC.
Chaos has engulfed the commune! Well, not quite, but perhaps technically so. The by-laws and policy of Twin Oaks are tremendously elaborate. Over the near half century of history of the commune we have designed contingencies for many unexpected circumstances. What do we do if someone disappears? What do we do if someone wins the lottery? What if 24 members accept a visitor and 6 reject them? What do you do if you are topless in the garden and the UPS person shows up? What do we do if there is only one planner?
It is the last of these examples that delivered us to the current non-crisis. Twin Oaks government was inspired by the book Walden 2, a behaviorist fiction story. Described in Walden 2 book is the planner manager system of governance we use. Managers control area budgets (both labor and money) and planners operate across multiple areas or full community wide as executives.
I have long joked that the Twin Oaks plannership is a self perpetuating autocracy with a democratic cap. At any time there are supposed to be at least three planners (up to five if there are stand in planners, who are in training). When their is a vacancy the planners look at a membership list and seek out a member who they would like to work with. They approach this member and ask them if they want the job and if they do, then the community is consulted. The planners have an interview with anyone who is interested. A veto box is put up, and a minority of the membership (20%) can block a planner, but this is pretty rare. [Note: this is actually a streamlined description of the process which is actually more complex.]
The plannership is a crazy difficult job. My personal estimate is about half of the planners drop out early. There is a rule that you can not run for two consecutive planner terms, but no one has wanted to in the nearly 20 years i have been here. So what happens if there is only one planner? If there are no acceptable candidates to join or no one is willing to?
We have elections. This surprises people who know the community well. We don’t have elections for individual for any position really, it is not part of our culture. Managers serve until they tire of a position, they are mostly replaced by people who they train to replace them. Sometimes a council will choose between a couple of candidates, but this is rarely by voting, instead typically it is done in a meeting.
On October 1st of this year we had no planners. One term ended and the other resigned. If there are no planners or just one, then we go to elections. This has only happened one other time in the last 19 years.
What has the effect been on the community? Almost nothing. A decision about a feedback is pending the new planners. Some managers probably did some things without consulting the planners, but they might have done them anyway. The internals of the community are both resilient and decentralized. We don’t need an executive for much of what we do.
And tomorrow the election results will come out. And i am running. There are 8 candidates. Some of the candidates are unexcited about the job, but are open to doing it. Others, like myself, are excited about the position (which i have done twice before) but are at least somewhat controversial. Still others are well liked and respected and at least one of those will certainly get the job.
Anarchy was fun while it lasted.