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1000 words from Paris

In a clearly anti-democratic move, the President of France has shut down public assembly during the present climate negotiations, because of the recent attacks on Paris. In response some protesters have shown up as shoes.

France Climate Countdown

Paris  symbolic protest called by Avaaz, “Paris sets off for climate”,  (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

But squelching public assembly is not going to stop some of the world’s best critical minds, assembled in Paris for these climate negotiations, from getting the word out.

air frances protest poster

Dozens of mock ads are displayed in Paris

One of my favorite comrades, David Solnit, is working for 350.org on the protests of COP 21. This UN conference will have 40K delegates including 140 heads of state and will be the largest conference France has ever hosted.

Paris Tear gas

Some activists are ignoring the police and state ban. Paris Nov 30,2015 –   Photo Credit: Eric Gaillard /Reuters /Landov

Does Paris event matter? CNN says “the fate of the world as we know it could be at stake.” There are two big questions:

  1. Can the parties reach a legally binding agreement?
  2. Will there be climate assistance to poor countries?
live-the-climate-experience

Bill Posters/Brandalism

The chances for success in finding a binding agreement are quite low. Obama’s deal making is crippled by an uncooperative Congress. Europe is an economic crisis and unwilling to foot the bill for the transitions needed (with the exception of a few countries like Denmark and Germany.) Even with the world’s largest renewables portfolio, China is the biggest energy consumer and carbon emitter. And even if a deal were possible, the strongest proposal on the table is still too weak to avert a 2 degree increase in temperature, which climate scientists say we need to avert to avoid catastrophic ecological effects.

Shoes in Paris better

In terms of climate protection assistance to poor countries, what is important to realize is that the world has changed dramatically in the last decade. China had 9 of the 10 worst polluted cities in the world in 2005. Now India has most of them, with air pollution killing 1.3 million people a year. Will some nations or investors step forward and help the planet by harvesting this low hanging fruit of technological transfer, where small investments can have significant emissions reductions?

APTOPIX France Climate Countdown

Is a country made of its people? (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Update: An uncharacteristically useful first draft has come out early, with key questions about which parts (or all) of the document should be legally binding and both aid and expectations of developing countries.

The Problem with Paris

There have been terrible terrorist attacks against the city of Paris and everyone knows about it.  The mainstream media (MSM) is jumping on tragedy the way they are fantastically capable of and everyone in the US who is even near a television knows all about it.  Almost.

We know about it in the context of a corporate controlled  media.  We know all about how innocent the victims were.  We know that French President Hollande is promising a “pitiless” war in response to the attacks.    And we know because the attackers are terrorists and the victims are innocent and the French President is promising a vicious response, that starting this French war against ISIS is justified.  Except we are wrong.

France is not starting a war with ISIL  because of these recent attacks on Paris.  France has been at war with ISIL for over a year, bombing them in Iraq for that entire time and, two months ago, it started also bombing suspected ISIL sites inside of Syria.  Except it has not really been a war because, having learned from the US, the French were perfectly happy killing members of ISIL and countless surrounding Syrian and Iraqi civilians using airstrikes without ever being exposed to a hostile response from ISIL.  Here is the sentence you will never see in the MSM reporting of the Paris attacks:

By attacking Paris, ISIL is retaliating against French attacks on Arab civilians and ISIL fighters in Iraq and Syria.

But this background information is critically important if you are trying to understand what is actually happening with these attacks.  It gets worse.

cartoon US rousing hornets in Syria

Those who fail to learn from the past …

Recently declassified US Intelligence documents indicate that the US and western allies, including France were hoping and supporting extremist Islamic resistance to the Assad regime as recently as 3 years ago.  This western supported resistance became ISIS.

Be careful what you wish for

Be careful what you wish for

We have seen this before in the US around the 9/11 attacks.  If you ask most US Americans if the 9/11 attacks on the US were unprovoked, they will assure you they were.  If you asked them why bin Laden organized these attacks, you will get muddled answers, including gems like, “They hate our freedom”.  Before 9/11 bin Laden had outlined the reasons why he was retaliating against the US:

  1. US military presence in Saudi Arabia (despite significant protests)
  2. US sanctions in Iraq that killed 600K children
  3. US support of Israel’s oppressive policies towards Palestine

One can argue about whether these were good enough reasons to launch the 9/11 attacks, but it is hard to argue either that they were unprovoked or a surprise.

Our blindness to our global war efforts does not invalidate others efforts to defend themselves.

Our blindness to our global war efforts does not invalidate others efforts to defend themselves.

Back to Paris.    The day before the Paris attacks there were similar attacks in Beirut, which got basically no MSM attention.  Why no attention?  One could claim that Beirut has been in some state of war for many years.  But i believe the reason is deeper.  We see over and over that the US MSM does not care about terrorist attacks unless the victims are white.

beirut and paris candle

Do i condone these attacks on Paris?  Certainly not.  But what i feel an extraordinary need to condemn is the willful ignorance of why these attacks are happening and how the systematic nationalism and racism of the US media helps to insure that they will keep happening.

Other good critical sources on asymmetric reporting on terrorism and failed US policy in the middle East:

From Salon.com

We cannot properly honor the deaths of Parisians killed in these terror attacks without analyzing our governments’ understanding of the subsequent radicalization that has followed invasions and airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria; drone strikes in Somalia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Yemen, and other countries; and the American bombing of the Doctors without Borders hospital in Afghanistan in October.

From Sara Tansey’s blog on raising anti-racist kids

We cannot bring ourselves to say JeSuisBeirut. White supremacy does not allow us to imagine ourselves in the lives of people of color. We cannot see our humanity, our pain, our fears in the eyes of the Sunni Muslims who were terrorized as they mourned the loss of a loved one.

An excellent and accessible article from the Nation on interviewing ISIL prisoners.

At the end of the interview with the first prisoner we ask, “Do you have any questions for us?” For the first time since he came into the room he smiles—in surprise—and finally tells us what really motivated him, without any prompting. He knows there is an American in the room, and can perhaps guess, from his demeanor and his questions, that this American is ex-military, and directs his “question,” in the form of an enraged statement, straight at him. “The Americans came,” he said. “They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.”

ISIS takes no prisoners

ISIS takes no prisoners

CommonDreams.org assaults the US and western approach to conflict in the middle East in the article called Paris: You dont want to read this.

But I do have this: stop what we have been doing for the last 14 years. It has not worked. There is nothing at all to suggest it ever will work. Whack-a-mole is a game, not a plan. Leave the Middle East alone. Stop creating more failed states. Stop throwing away our freedoms at home on falsehoods. Stop disenfranchising the Muslims who live with us. Understand the war, such as it is, is against a set of ideas — religious, anti-western, anti-imperialist — and you cannot bomb an idea. Putting western soldiers on the ground in the MidEast and western planes overhead fans the flames. Vengeance does not and cannot extinguish an idea.

I am still getting a fact check on this article about how the Bush Administration was instrumental in building he foundation for ISIL.   The second point of the 5 is quite weak, and does not support the thesis.  But the other points appear to make the case reasonably well.

  1. ISIS leaders’ training as part of Hussein’s regime gave them the knowledge they’ve needed to be deadly:

Even with the influx of thousands of foreign fighters, almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, including the members of its shadowy military and security committees, and the majority of its emirs and princes, according to Iraqis, Syrians and analysts who study the group.

They have brought to the organization the military expertise and some of the agendas of the former Baathists, as well as the smuggling networks developed to avoid sanctions in the 1990s and which now facilitate the Islamic State’s illicit oil trading.

Here is an informative piece on the controversy over the name ISIS/ISIL it’s proposed replacement and how acronyms are quite exotic in Arabic.

The main misapprehensions about the word currently circulating [Daesh] in our media boil down to the following list:

  • That daesh is an Arabic word in its own right (rather than an acronym) meaning ‘a group of bigots who impose their will on others’
  • That it can be ‘differently conjugated’ to mean either the phrase above or ‘to trample and crush’
  • That one of the words in the acronym also means ‘to trample or crush’
  • That it is an insult or swearword in its own right
  • That is has different meanings in the plural form

An excellent Guardian piece on how the US prison in Iraq at Bucca was the training camp for IS and US prison relations with Baghdadi helped him rise to power and build ISIL

“He was respected very much by the US army,” Abu Ahmed said. “If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State. If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.”

Noam Chomsky on Paris attacks

 

StrangeFolx: Infinite Pizza

Brittany ran to me as i was walking through the Ash Street gardens of the Baltimore Free Farm. She was clearly excited to see me.

“I am so glad there is an old person here now!” was the first thing she said to me

I cracked up laughing.  She explained that the party was full of 20 somethings and she thought my experience would be a grounding effect.  Most people don’t find me grounding, but i was still totally flattered.

Brittany dances with chicken at StrangeFolx 2015

Brittany dances with chicken at StrangeFolx 2015

Many folks say they are busy, but you make time for what is important to you.  I really wanted to go to StrangeFolx, the Baltimore Free Farms anniversary celebration.  I wanted to go because i had missed the protests that BFF had played an amazing supportive role in.  I wanted to go because i am regularly impressed with daring, tenacity and street smarts of these punks.  I wanted to go, because i wanted a big, political party that someone else had organized.

StrangeFolx Invitational Poster

StrangeFolx Invitational Poster

On the way to the event i stopped at a roadside stand and got a flat of strawberries.  I was handing them out to the perhaps 100 people who were already at this event by 1 PM.  I walked by Billy who was pumping out pizzas.

Over 100 oizzas came out of this oven that day

Over 100 pizzas came out of this oven that day

As i approached the oven, there was a metal stake sticking up in the middle of the steps which dozens of people would soon be walking.  “Fix that!” i barked at Billy pointing to the offending stake, in the way busy organizers sometimes dispense with pleasantries.  A nearby anarchist reminded me, “You could fix it.”  Billy soon put a purple cup over the stake and pronounced it fixed.  Safety isn’t first with this crowd, otherwise they would not be rioting with the police.

Billy suggested that i change my thinking about pizza.  Moving away from the idea that it would be a point in time in which one might have pizza, to more of a continuum or infinite span of pizza.  And he made quite good on his promise to deliver unending pizza.  Recently toughened up by the tremendous cooking effort done to support protesters of police violence in Baltimore, the Free Farm kids prepped for this 8 hour long anniversary party of a few hundred people.  GPaul asked for a vegan pizza, and in moments it was there.  The advantage of these real pizza ovens is they can cook a full pizza in just a couple of minutes.

A protester throws a tear gas canister back toward riot police after a 10 p.m. curfew went into effect in the wake of Monday's riots following the funeral for Freddie Gray,  in Baltimore. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

A protester throws a tear gas canister back toward riot police after a 10 p.m. curfew went into effect in the wake of Monday’s riots following the funeral for Freddie Gray, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

When Billy finally took a break he greeted me warmly and gave me an illegal piece of riot swag.  I was touched and i looked at him curiously.  “We could not have done it without your cooks. It was amazing to have all this help and we desperately needed it.”  When Baltimore exploded, Billy called me.  He asked me to put out the call to Action: Baltimore needs cooks.  So i blogged about it, copied it to few facebook pages and crossed my fingers.   I got great reaction, with cooks responding to the blog post wanting to help.  Many had minor logistical problems (like little money and no car).  I cobbled together ride shares and other minor logistics, but folk were resourceful and wanted to get to Baltimore.  In the end about a dozen cooks ended up volunteering at BFF.  And i felt some pride around networking effectively.

But as though my ego were on some type of zen roller coaster, shortly after this i got schooled by Brittany on how unworkable my clever plans were to try to build coalitions with people of color (POC) activists.  She was clear and firm in telling me that the internship scheme i was proposing would not fly culturally.

Instead Brittany and Billy agreed that the best thing for white allies to do these days is be consistent in providing the type of food services for protesters that BFF and Food Not Bombs have been providing.  And be patient.

Call to Action – Cooks to Baltimore

Baltimore is on fire.

One less police car - Fire in Baltimore yesterday

One less police car – Fire in Baltimore yesterday

But it is not the flames of store fronts and rare police cars.  It is the anger of locals who have tried everything else.  There have been protests in Baltimore for months over police killings of unarmed black youth.  MLK would have been proud of the tireless efforts by local organizers to try to influence the behavior of the police, non-violently.

But with the recent death of Freddie Gray who was arrested for reasons unknown, had his back broken, was denied medical attention when he asked for it repeatedly and then died in police custody, have thrown the city of Baltimore into a crisis.  The important thing to realize, is that this is happening all the time across the US.  Unarmed, young blacks are being killed by the police on a nearly daily basis.  What is also important to understand is the US is unique in this behavior, basically every other country in the world is able to deal with their populations without requiring the police to kill their unarmed civilians.  Freddie Gray did not cause the riots in Baltimore.  The Baltimore police and the mayors office doing nothing for years about this problem caused these riots, Freddie’s death just sparked them.

It is easy to feel hopeless.  It is easy to feel like there is nothing you can do.  This is often the luxurious place of white privilege,  There are things you can do.  Very specifically, if you understand community, you can go to Baltimore and help cook for protesters.  The Baltimore Free Farm (one of the most incredible urban projects in the US ) has made a call to the communes for cooks, if you have ever lived in community or feel like you understand how community works/have strong social skills, you are welcome to help.

We got the following request from our dear friends at the Baltimore Free Farm​ (BFF).

1) There are major protests in Baltimore
2) BFF is feeding protesters and needs more cooks
3) The best cooks for them are people who understand community and are not randos
4) Cooking experience is good, and willing volunteers who are not cooks can be trained and are welcome

If there are Acorn or Twin Oaks cooks (or others community savvy folx) who are willing to go up, they need help immediately and are estimating they will for the next several days to a week.

BFF will house volunteers. If you are interested please contact Billy at BFF.

If your problem is how to get there, i will help you get there. Paxus@twinoaks.org

Almost all protesters are non-violent.  You can help them.

Almost all protesters are non-violent. You can help them.

Making the big labor credits

I live in a world that is slightly inconceivable to most people.  I do a lot of work, almost all of it stuff I am super pleased to do.  And I don’t get paid for it.  Instead the communities I live in (Twin Oaks and Acorn) cover most of the costs of my living: Food, shelter, clothes, education, entertainment, medical insurance, dental insurance, and most of my travel.

solidarity in stars

Instead of getting paid in money, besides the services listed above,  I accrue labor credits.  For each hour I work, I get one labor credit.  My labor obligation is 42 hours a week.  It makes little sense, however, to compare this work quota to most people’s straight jobs.  On the rare cases when I commute (like to a college speaking gig or a craft show) I get “paid” for my time traveling.  I get labor credits for voting and going to the doctor, and some small fraction of the time I spend taking care of my son Willow is labor creditable.  All the time I spend with Willow on home schooling, including the prep is labor creditable.  When I clean our collective dishes, I get labor credits.  If I were to cook for more than 7 people (which I never do) it would be also be creditable.

Working with Tofu

Working with Tofu at Twin Oaks

Some of the stuff I do is hard.  I do mediation between people who are furious with each other.  I work to stop nuclear power plants.  I am trying to start income sharing communities in NYC, where couples committed to each other for life find it easier to not share income.  I help find consensus when there is sharp disagreement.  With some regularity people thank me and appreciate the difficulty of this work.  When I am feeling clever or exhausted by my efforts I say, “That is why I make the big labor credits”, a silly knock off on the phrase “That is why I make the big bucks.”

Silly, because all labor credits are exactly the same size.  One hour is one credit.  It does not matter how hard I work in an hour to the accounting system (though other members certainly appreciate and celebrate anyone’s hard work).  The labor credit I get for an hour of preparing space for a party is the exact same size as the one I get for hour I spend getting a drunk and belligerent guest out of the party.  The labor credit I get for folding mail in the sun while talking with charming visitors is the same size as the one I get for counseling and talking down a manic or suicidal member.

Working in the Gardens

Working in the Gardens at Acorn

I don’t need to get a bigger labor credit for the harder work.  Turns out when my basic needs are met, I am pretty well off.  The communities are poor.  The people who live there have legitimately calculated taxable income below the poverty line (or at least in the case of Twin Oaks–Acorn is higher but still below the national average income).  What this radical sharing we deploy does is to permit us to live like kings (or at least like the upper middle class), while we live in technical poverty.

If you are thinking to yourself “Wait why doesn’t everyone do this?  We could eliminate the awful effects of living in poverty without having to make any more money,” you would be on to something.  Besides stopping climate change, we would be saving millions of lives from the sharp edge of poverty.

What stops us is we don’t trust each other enough to share what we have, almost all of which is sitting idle almost all the time.

Post Script:  I should clarify this thing about traveling, since it has sparked a bunch of questions.  Perhaps half of these trips are paid for by the communities i live in.  These include craft fairs trips with Hawina, college speaking gigs,  hammocks sales trips and almost monthly trips to DC/Baltimore and NYC for the Point A Project, With the possible exception of Ira from Acorn, no one at either Twin Oaks or Acorn travels even close to this much.  And i travel more than this.

I visit my mother at least two or three times a year, often in Florida, and she pays for this travel completely.  I also travel with the Star family (my family of choice) and i pay for this out of money i earn outside of the community.  I am also fortunate to have romantic intimates who pay for me to come and see them in all manner of curious or exotic locations.

Birthing Communities: Pending events in DC and NYC

As regular readers of this blog know, we are trying to start urban based income sharing communities in cities in the Northeastern US, specifically NYC, Washington DC, Baltimore and Richmond VA.  We have different strategies in all these towns and friendly competition between the organizers as to what the best approach is to get these new communities off the ground.

In NYC, where we knew fewer people who were interested in this lifestyle, we have been doing public events for the last year.  We have one coming up the weekend after this one called Community Matchmaking.  Please consider coming if you are excited about intentional community in the NYC area.

10382877_3086448208430_3886154887053164440_n

In Washington we have a group of people who are willing to seriously investigate this style of living.  Cities make things more complex and for the last year this DC group has been working on its agreements, strengthening its social fabric and doing the first round of recruiting to people inside our networks.  DC is now ready to step up its outreach efforts and is having its first public outreach effort on March 24th.  If you are in the Washington DC area and have a strong interest in intentional communities, this is certainly the place to be.  Dinner and introductions start at 6PM.

Next Stop DC

What you should know about this ambitious DC group:

  • The plan is to launch this new community within a year.
  • There are 6 to 8 people planning on being income sharing members and another dozen and a half who are considering it.
  • Most of these folks are currently living in group houses in the DC area.

The event on Tuesday is reaching out to people with collective living experience.  Later events will focus differently and reach out to different audiences.  Do you find collective living enriching and strengthening?  Want to talk about ways to make collective living a lifelong option for more people rather than the transitional living situation that it so often is?  Want to talk about ways to accentuate the positive and ameliorate the negative of living with a bunch of people in close community?  Come out on Tuesday and join the discussion!

Pressing the PANYC Button

Names have power.  I spent years going to a summer environmental youth festival in Europe called “Ecotopia”.  Regular participants consider themselves Ecotopians. We talked about “Ecotopian Principals”.  When things went well, we marveled at the “Ecotopia spirit”.  It was originally the title of a book by Ernest Callenbach, who coined it in his 1975 popular classic, which was a prophetic tale of the Northwest region of the US succeeding and reversing industrial capitalism.  But the name  quickly went on to mean much more to many people.   If we had, for example, called it Summer Green Fest, we would have identified with it less deeply and it might well have died a decade sooner. Ecotopia landscape Some of the best names are ones which occur organically.  I remember when we were designing an all womens anti-nuclear office in Prague which was staffed by internationals.  Emily said “Why don’t we just call it the Prague International Anti-Nuclear Office?”  I said “don’t you think that is a little long?” She said “We would call it PIANO for short, the acronym.”  Instantly there was no other choice, we just started calling it Piano from that day on. The Point A project wrestled a bit initially with what to call ourselves, we wanted a good name.  But the more we talked about it, we realized that the communities that the project created would have their own names, identities and origin stories – so a good name would be nice, and i like Point A, personally.  But it is not a brilliant name. Busy people compress things.  Your goodbyes are shorter, repetitive tasks get shaved by seconds where you can and multi-word names you have to type repeatedly become acronyms.  Point A has a growing number of specific urban sub-projects (including currently DC, NYC, Baltimore and Richmond).  So i started writing Point A – NYC and then PA – NYC and finally PANYC.  omg what a great name. Dont-Panic We are often told “don’t panic”, not just in the context of the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, but to maintain order.  From where i sit, if we follow this strategy the chances for the planet to survive are vanishingly small.  The people who want us to stay calm are often the same ones who think Climate Disruption is not a thing.  They think business as usual is the way to go and they most certainly think that we should respect the powers that be and the current authority structure.

Cartoon-Climate-Disruption

Totally a thing.

I could not disagree more. We need to be panicking.  We need to be doing things dramatically differently.  Business as usual is suicide, convenient and lucrative for a tiny fraction of the population, certainly.  But no less suicide for the planet and everyone we care about. Well see if the other folks in the project are as excited as i am by this name and the implications.  But i have a spring in my step just thinking about it.