Monday, July 20, 2009

Chipotle Kicks Fair Food Activists Out of Food Inc. Screening

Chipotle has got to be one of the slickest companies when it comes to PR, so when fair food activists showed up to one of their events to uncover the truth about Chipotle they weren't too happy.

People can't get enough of those burritos and it makes it all the better when they see the feel-good signage everywhere about all the great things the company does. Playing off their socially-responsible reputation, the company sponsored free screenings of the new movie Food Inc.

At the movie, activists from Denver Fair Food were slated to speak to the audience about the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Well that and the fact that Chipotle has FAILED to agree to their straightforward demands of earning a penny more per pound of tomatoes they pick. Instead, they were greeted by a Chipotle representative who kindly kicked them out of the event, barring from speaking or tabling as previously agreed.

You can read the whole account at Denver Fair Food's blog. It's a pretty good story.

The tomato pickers make poverty wages and companies such as Taco Bell, McDonald's and Burger King have agreed to the modest raise.

It's strange to think that Chipotle, a supposed pioneer in food justice, wouldn't go along with fast food giants to work with farmworkers committed to a fair food system, but so far it's true. Let's keep the pressure on Chipotle and continue to speak the truth everytime they try and speaking nice to food justice.

What Church Can Teach Us About Movement Building

Will Potter who runs a blog about the green scare entitled Green is the New Red gave a short speech at an environmental/animal rights conference about the lessons he learned from the Catholic Church about creating community and building healthy movements. It only began to scratch at the surface of how we create strong and lasting communities, but I think it was a good start.

Will Potter Opens the 2009 Let Live Conference from Let Live Foundation on Vimeo.

Many of us have had really bad experiences with organized religion growing up and understandably have tossed it aside to pursue a more fulfilling spirituality, or even abandon spirituality altogether. Potter also left the religion he was raised in for many good reasons. However, it was nice to see him reflect back on the elements of the Catholicism he was raised under that were healthy.

Even though much of religion can be pointed to as the source, or at least a large contributor, to many of the injustices we've experienced in the world, many of them also have a wisdom that runs centuries deep as to how we can best relate to one another and support one another.

My parents came from the Mormon religion and I am absolutely amazed and impressed with the way in which many Mormons maintain close-knit and supportive family and church structures. Of course there are elements of coercion and dogmatism present, but many of the simple acts that Potter points to in the Catholic Church are also seen in the Mormon church.

As we continue to work towards relating to one another in new and healthy ways, it's important to draw from our own experiences, even from places we have formally left. They often hold pieces of incredibly profound insight into the human condition.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hondurans Anti-Coup Blockades Paralyze Economy

In response to the military coup against left-leaning President Manuel Zelaya, protesters have established blockades of the four major highways leading out of the capitol Tegucigalpa.

According to several news reports, three of the four reports have been successfully shutdown by Hondurans protesting the coup.

Honduras' reliance on a few major highways for transport means that these blockades are quickly slowing economic activity to a practical standstill. The blockades by all accounts have also been done non-violently.

One group participating in the blockades is the United Workers Federation of Honduras, the largest union bloc in the country. Other blockades are springing up along the border by fellow unions in Nicaragua and El Salvador in solidarity with those opposing the coup.

You can follow the status of the blockades with Narco News' around the clock coverage.

Meanwhile, negotiations continue slowly after the interim-president Roberto Micheletti rejected a proposal by Costa Rican president and crisis mediator Oscar Arias for Zelaya's re-instatement followed by early elections.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Assed Movie

I'm assuming that you have either read the Harry Potter books or you never will. But to be polite- SPOILERS ABOUND.

I went last night to the premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I had a fun time: got a free bucket of popcorn from a kind and generous friend, made someone fart from a joke I cracked about caretaker Argus Finch being played by Willie Nelson, and made friends with another trombone player. Still, I can unequivocally say that this movie SUCKED!!!

Even forgiving the fact that these amazing books are being Hollywoodified, the movie was still a flop.

First off, it lacked a good fight scene. They took out the entire epic battle that the book ends with and replaces it with a totally anti-climactic scene of Snape killing Dumbledore. It leaves the audience feeling a hint of sadness, but nothing like the despair or tragedy that drips off the pages. Instead they insert a manufactured scene of Bellatrix and Fenrir Greyback attacking the Weasley's. The scene was short and BOORRRRRING. I mean, come on, that scene ended with tghe Deatheaters suddenly flying away. Excuse me? How is that entertainment? I know they have the budget to make a kick-ass, all-out fighting sequence and it didn't happen.

Then there's the characterization of the kids. They did an ok job of showing Malfoy's inner conflict and dread at killing Dumbledore, but what about Harry?!? In the books, we see Potter's self-absorbed side. We see his emotionally illiteracy, common for so many adolescent boys. I loved that! It showed the imperfection of people, even heroes. It was a way for boys to be able to see from the outside how the inability to express one's emotions and empathize with others jeopardizes friendships and intimacy. This was almost completely lacking. There were shots of humorous teenage awkwardness, but nowhere the social shortcomings of Potter. In fact, there's even (also manufactured) scene of Potter consoling Hermione after Ron chooses to snog that one girl instead of her. THAT NEVER HAPPENED! And it never would have because Potter wasn't like that.

And then there's the complicated history of Severus Snape and Harry's mother Lilly. That was not even as much as mentioned in passing in this movie at all. This past is so foundational to Snape's approach to Harry and also an important key to why he is loyal to Dumbledore. So when we find out who the Half-Blood Prince is ( the freakin name of the movie) it's revealed through Snape bluntly telling Potter that is the Half-Blood Prince and for him not to use his spells. Whoa. Big deal. Damn that was disappointing.

So, in the end this was in fact a half-assed movie. It seemed the production team simply wanted to string along key events. Wait, not even that. They cut out key events...So just half-heartedly stringing along some key events to put together a movie. They must know that Harry Potter fans are suckers enough to go watch the movie regardless of quality. So, there you go- a painfully mediocre movie. My recommendation: save the money you would have spent on an absurdly large bucket of popcorn and go buy the book instead. Unless of course, you're a half ass.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Immigrant Taxi Drivers Form Co-Op in Denver

Denver cab drivers have successfully broken the stranglehold three major taxi companies in Denver had on the market by forming their own worker cooperative, Union Taxi.

Driving a taxi means long hours and high monthly leases to cab companies. In the article Denver Taxi Drivers' Struggle Pays Off , Sudanese driver Yousif explains, "I worked seven days a week, 18 hours a day, no day off. Sometimes I didn't make nothing for myself."

Drivers have to pay anywhere from $1,600 to $2,100 a month to lease a vehicle. Many drivers struggled to earn fares to even break even, forcing them to put in ridiculously long hours. Now in the co-op all drivers put in $700. The drivers will then split profits earned.

The co-op is part of the Communications Workers of America, the union that helped them change a state law which had previously made it near impossible to start its own business.

Union Taxi is an exciting example of workers coming together to run their own business and have a voice in the work they do. It will be a difficult road ahead, to be sure, but it sounds like they are pleased to be working on their own terms in a company based on solidarity instead of filling the coffers of large taxi companies.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: An Anarchist Critique


Robbing banks. Liberating animals. Storming the statehouse. Abolishing speciesism and racial/Blood Purity as demarcation lines between magical beings. Creating a revoutionary guerilla foco in the forest while mounting a base of support in the population. Joining with other focos to foment a popular revolt in a rebel stronghold that will bring down the government once and for all. But Harry Potter does not strive for wizard liberation, nor the liberation of the “magic” internal colonies. Harry Potter’s Hogwarts revolt does nothing more than to restore state power to those with whom Harry Potter agrees.

Read the rest of the review and the wonderfully nerdy comments here.

Anarchists dorking out on Harry Potter?!? Ummm of course!

Honestly I'm mostly surprised that it has taken this long for an anarchist critique to come out. Also, I'm glad to see some comments defending the liberatory principles of J.K. Rowling's series. Sure, Potter and Aurors aren't purely non-hierarchical, but their actions and goals are more emancipatory than the reviewer gives them credit.

I also found this review, Harry Potter, Anarchist which gives a more thorough look into the anti-authoritarian themes within the the Harry Potter series.

All of this makes me want to re-read The Deathly Hallows so that I can better participate in this glorious intersection between anarchist theory geekery and Harry Potter fanatacism.

Friday, July 3, 2009

An Excellent Anti-Capitalist Analysis of the Financial Crisis

It's always hard to get good anti-capitalist perspectives on the financial crisis because unfortunately anti-capitalists oftentimes have little patience and understanding of the inner-workings of modern day capitalism. I understand why. I remember in college several friends of mine trying to major in business to understand the economy so they could better subvert and help build something better. They all dropped out before it was over.

So, when I came across Promissory Notes by the Midnight Notes Collective, a group of Autonomist-Marxists, I was relieved. It was like listening to NPR's Planet Money if those guys were on the frontlines of a global justice summit.

The Midnight Notes analysis is refreshing because it looks at how capital reacts to working class resistance and other social movements actions. It flips the dominant view on its head- how are we going to respond to all the injustices being wreaked on the planet by elites? And says- actually capitalists are constantly responding to us and how they can continue maximizing their profits while holding on to all that power.

The basic premise of Promissory Notes, which I love, is that the global financial meltdown happened in part because of grassroots resistance. And their case is compelling. Also, there are certain irreconcilable contradictions in capitalism that those in power have continued to try and keep at bay through corporate globalization and recently financialization and finally those contradictions could not be brushed aside or glossed over any more.

Their analysis is compelling and thoughtful. Also, it ends with a very solid and inspiring suggestion for organizing towards a more just world. Everyone should definitely check it out.

Again that link is here- Promissory Notes

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Best Invitations EVER!

I had my friends at P&L Printing, a worker-run print shop, come up with a custom made birthday invitation. Special thanks to Matt for spending two hours designing this thing (he's a perfectionist).

Robot Birthday Party

I'm going to make a real effort to plan this party so it rocks. Celebrations always sneak up on me and I end up half-assing it all the time. Well not this time! We're talking about TWO birthdays in one, so it's got to be done right.

Just so everyone knows, this is Obsidian and Ember's party. It's Saturday, August 8th at noon. You and all your friends are invited.

I got really excited about their party early on when Whitney picked up a copy of this hipster magazine Cookie. It's all you'd expect from a hipster magazine, with really absurdly priced fashion forward kids clothes, models that aren't real human beings but robots pretending to be mothers and their cute children, but also with some admittedly cool ideas.

The one I am running with is their Robot Party.

I am doing these suggestions of theirs:

"Nuts and bolts"—dried vegetable snacks, almonds, and cashews—make great party fare. (Double-check with parents about nut allergies.) Fill aluminum pans from the supermarket, then arrange them in a rectangular pattern for a graphic motherboard look.

Make a Robot

Use an aluminum takeout container with a paper lid for the body of this robot craft. Gather metal items, such as large screws, paper clips, and washers, that kids can use to make faces. Arms and legs can be crafted from silver pipe cleaners or aluminum foil.

Takeout containers, from 36 cents each,

3:00 P.M.
Recharge Your Circuits

Even robots need their batteries juiced. Create a healthy "circuit board" from sticky rice and kid-approved vegetables like carrots, peas, cucumbers, and red peppers.

Walk the Walk

On the floor around the room, tape down as many pictures of robots as you have guests. Then play music and encourage the kids to dance. When the music stops, each steps on an image to earn a prize. For more detailed instructions, click here.

Wind-up robots (a good prize idea), $2 each, for stores.

TIP: Find free, printable robot images at

Cut the Cake

This cake was baked in a basic 9-by-13-inch pan, then cut up, frosted, and painted with edible silver dust. Colorful licorice "wires," candy "buttons," and cookie limbs completed the look. For instructions on how to bake this cake, click here.

Edible Luster Dust, $6, N.Y. Cake, (212) 675-2253.