Sunday, June 10, 2012

Because The Ocean Rising is Totally Political

Radicalizing Netroots Part 2.

This is the second in a two-part review of Ian Awesome's adventures at Netroots Nation. Click here to read part 1.

The next day started off with chuckles. Daniel introduced me to the most ridic spoof of Jem (remember? From the 80s?) on YouTube that could ever be made.

Warning: extremely offensive. Do not play around children. Do not play around elderly people. Do not play in the workplace. In fact, you probably just shouldn't click play.

This, in fact, turned out to be the highlight of my day. After spending all day going to panels and trying to find fellow revolutionaries (and Tweeting an insane amount of Tweets about the Radicals' Caucus the next day) I headed out to a couple receptions (one of which was about marriage equality. I, while welcome, definitely drew some curious looks. Why was I there again? Oh yeah. Free booze) and then joined Joe Jervis and co. for the Providence JoeMyGod meetup. Hilarity and more drunkenness ensued.

The next day was definitely far more action-packed. We started off with the LGBT caucus, which invited a politician (no, I don't remember who, politicians kind of bore me) to speak. Note: "He has a 100% equality rating with the HRC!!!" isn't exactly a shining endorsement. We also received official White House copies of Barack Obama's pride proclamation.

Zach Wahls and myself. Photo taken by Jamie McGonnigal.

Also, Zach Wahls, famed for his impassioned speech to the Iowa legislature on behalf of his two moms (and the most Tweeted about, swooned-over member of the LGBT caucus) called me a cutie pie.

We had our unofficial, unsponsored Radicals' Caucus, and I'm happy to report it went well. We started by identifying our key issues (police oppression, decolonization, anti-capitalist organizing) and then brainstormed how we would support each other in our blogging efforts. We agreed that we would push for more politically challenging content at the next Netroots conference, shook hands, exchanged information, and promised to keep in touch.

The highlight: I was not, surprisingly, the only out-and-proud anarchist at the conference. Neat.

After the Caucus I stepped out for a smoke and a chat with FarmerChuck of the Daily Kos. This was cut short, as a member of Occupy Providence ran up to me, breathless. Her comrades, she explained, had been marching through the nearby mall. Arrests were happening. I was needed. I took off at a run, ducking into the hotel and sprinting through the skyway bridge connecting the mall to the Westin.

As I hurtled through the doors, sweating, panting Occupiers were running the other way. "Don't go in!" they warned me. "Is shit going down?" I responded. "Yeah. They're arresting everyone."

So of course I went in.

The arrests, it appeared, had been completed, and all I had left to do was take pictures as Occupiers were being dragged into the mall security office. This wasn't appreciated by Providence Police Department. One large cop, who probably thought he was intimidating, immediately started shouting.

"Leave the area immediately."

"No sir, I don't think I will be."

"Leave the premises at once or you will be arrested."

"I have as much right to be here as you."

"You have been given two warnings. If you don't leave immediately, you will be spending the night in jail."

"Fuck off."

I left. It galled, but I had no intention of missing my evening's plans. Grrr.

Evidently taking this picture is a crime in Providence. I hate cops.

Turns out that the arrestees weren't actually arrested; they were merely banned from the mall for the year and then released. It pissed me off that the cop had succeeded in running me off. 

I relaxed after my near-miss with the Providence Police Department and took a walk to blow off some steam. Note: Waterfire is a great little festival that happens in Providence in which they put a bunch of bonfires in the middle of the river and eat a bunch of fried food. Neat. 

I went to the Daily Kos party that took place, danced my ass off, then retired to the hotel. The conference was done.

The next day I packed, swore over the debit card that I had drunkenly misplaced the night before, and scrambled down to wait out front for my ride to the airport. I looked across the front of the hotel, and who do I see?

Jesse LaGreca.

I stared at him for a moment, and thought, should I?

Of course.

"Jesse. JESSE! Anarchists rock! Stop talking shit!"

"Uh... well, you see... they..."

"THEY NOTHING. I rock! Stop talking shit!"

".... Okay."

Mission accomplished.

I got to the airport, got on my plane, and flew away. Goodbye, Providence.

Looking back over the week and the events that took place, I am for the most part, satisfied. Did I meet a lot of fellow revolutionaries? Hmmm. No. Did I reach out to my less radical friends? Did I get them talking about the issues I cared about? For sure. 

Over the next year, it will be interesting to see if the foundations laid by myself and my fellow radicals will give rise to something new. Will Netroots remain a primarily mainstream Democratic conference? Most likely. Will I and others continue to try and push a more radical agenda? Most likely, and I hope that our work impacts the blogosphere and the conference itself in more concrete ways. I'm not giving up on it anytime soon, and I know others who agree.

So, thank you Netroots. I'll see you next year in San Jose. Brace yourself.

Radicalizing Netroots

Netroots Nation.

This is my second year participating in the gigantic Netroots Nation conference, a big event billed as a "progressive" bloggers' conference put on by blogging giant Daily Kos. I was lucky this year, like last year, to get a full scholarship to go, with all expenses except for food paid for through the LGBT Netroots Connect program. 

Last year was an incredible experience in which I finally got to meet a lot of my blogging heroes and connect with other writers in my field of LGBT activism. I thought my head was going to explode; all of the writers I had been reading and admiring all under one roof, talking about the issues I cared about. I was there to learn, but to my surprise, other people there with reams more experience than I as writers were interested in learning what I had to teach them. As progressives, our sharing was intensely valuable and I went home having accomplished a lot of goals; namely, learning how to be a better blogger and networking with others in my field.

My goals this year were different. In the interceding months, my focus of writing and organizing had shifted. With the advent of Occupy, income inequality and issues beleaguering the working class had taken over my life. I now assist with the social media and press aspects of Occupy Seattle, as well as organizing on-the-ground actions. As that work went on, I suddenly found my politics and ideologies shifting even farther to the left. As I was presented with the endemic problems facing the working class, I began to question my faith in political process. I found myself loathing the concept of government. Capitalism, I had come to realize, was perhaps the worst and biggest enemy to Occupy's work globally.

In short, I had become an anarchist. 

This presented a few problems for me, internally, when I applied for this year's scholarship. This conference overwhelmingly is centered on the idea of reform. In every panel and workshop, we talk about how to accomplish our goals legislatively and how to elect the candidates we want. 

How, then, would I fit in? I don't believe in our legislature; I don't recognize the legitimacy of political candidates. Had I become too radical for this group of people that I loved so much?

I tried to come up with goals. One of my first, and this was merely a personal one, was to confront Jesse LaGreca. I know, this may seem petty, but LaGreca rocketed to fame at Occupy Wall Street with a now famous video denouncing Fox News and had become something of an Occupy superstar. As happens so frequently with internet stars LaGreca started to view himself as an authority in OWS, and since published diaries on Daily Kos denouncing "black bloc anarchists", in effect ordering them to leave the movement.

In my mind he had no such authority, and I would tell him so.

Other, more important, goals were simple: find fellow radicals and radicalize my peers. At a time when my LGBT comrades were celebrating recent victories and pushing hard for marriage, would I be able to find fellow revolutionary thinkers? Would I be able to convince people that queer issues were being prioritized ineffectively? 

I arrived the night before the LGBT pre-conference, met up with friends, had a beer or two. Some of them had watched my radicalization over the past year, and knowing looks were exchanged at the bar when I mentioned corporate corruption and its effects on queer communities; a member of GLAAD I hadn't met before looked at me knowingly and said "Oh. I know who you are."

... this was going to be interesting.

The first day's activities took place in the LGBT pre-conference, when everyone who had been working on queer issues got together and brainstormed new challenges we were facing and hopefully came up with solutions.

Bil Browning, Adam Robbins, Me, and Seth E. Kaye. Photo taken by Jamie McGonnigal.

The first half of the day was fairly boring; we all introduced ourselves to each other. Most of us knew one another but it was nice to see new faces. 

After lunch, things got interesting. We had three panels on the issues of marriage equality, immigration, and LGBT health. During the marriage conversation debate was heated both out loud in the room and in the Twitter storm that ensued. Some in the room (like myself) objected to the prioritizing of marriage equality over other, perhaps more important, issues such as health care and ADAP funding. My question regarding the assimilation of queer identity into heteronormative institutions was rebuffed; a panelist responded that just because we had a different sexuality from straight people we weren't really any different. 

I objected to that of course, but that's fine. 

The next panel was regarding immigration, and I was stunned, as in last year, with the bravery of some of the activists who had been trying to get the DREAM Act and similar legislation passed. Simply identifying oneself as undocumented is to risk deportation; some of these amazing folks had actually risked arrest in order to work on their issues. 

One panelist said something that drew immediate applause from my table: "Among LGBT immigrant youth, marriage is a white, middle class issue. We're trying to survive, not get married." The applause drew a rash of glares from around the room, I was quick to note that the majority of those who objected to this statement were indeed white. 

Finally we had the LGBT health panel, of which I was invited to take part in as an HIV-positive individual. Interesting highlights: the number one killer of LGBTs in the US is smoking. HIV/AIDS actually accounts for a small, small portion of the overall healthcare costs of LGBTs. There is a noticeable lack of prevention education for HIV. One question that seemed to raise a lot of questions: is bareback porn to blame for the spread of HIV? I argued that it wasn't; if we had more education about HIV/AIDS and its consequences, people would relegate bareback porn to "fantasy" instead of "a fun thing we should do."

We wrapped up, had a mixer with the Netroots Women's pre-conference and then dispersed for the evening.

The next day started with a treat. I have the privilege with organizing with an amazing woman who writes as Just Jennifer on the Daily Kos and she e-introduced me to her fellow radical colleague, Allison, who writes as UnaSpenser on that same site. I met with her and two others for breakfast; much to my suprise (I didn't find out who he was until I was halfway through my french toast) one of the two was famed OWS livestreamer Tim Pool.

After breakfast Allison and I brainstormed. We had similar goals; we wanted to find out who was radical and what we could do to promote a more radical agenda at an overwhelmingly Democratic conference. We picked a time two days hence, on Saturday, and began Tweeting about a Radicals' Caucus meeting. I was helped with super damn awesome gay blogger Daniel Villarreal (follow him on Twitter, @hispanicpanic79, you won't regret it) and we hoped to have a solid turnout. 
Daniel V. and myself. Photo taken by Joe Jervis

Uh. Maybe. 

Occupy Providence had set up shop outside of Netroots Nation so I went over to introduce myself. They lacked a legal observer and so, having taken the National Lawyers' Guild training in Seattle, I offered my contact information and hustled off to an amazing panel about sexual liberation. Interesting (if not disturbing) observations: If you have three or more condoms on you at a time, this can be used against you in a prostitution investigation in New York City. Many teenage girls don't use condoms not because they don't know how to use them, but because they're afraid they will fall out of their purses and they'll be labeled sluts. If you have been fired for taking a sex-positive stance, you can contact the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.

Nothing much happened after that, unless you count the thunderstorm that suddenly broke over the building when I walked into the marriage equality panel that took place that day (evidently someone up there knew it was trouble) and the riot act I read an SEIU rep at a mixer that night. Note: it's not classy to yell at an SEIU rep while drinking the free booze provided by... the SEIU. Oops.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sarah Who Again?

Mama Bear is back after a relatively long and (happily) quiet stretch where we didn't have to pretend that Sarah Palin was an actual person with ideas that we should listen to and stuff.

By now we all know that Shah Walker of Wisconsistan has not been unseated and will be renaming the governor's mansion to "Scott's Pleasure Casbah" where he will be executing one civil right a day just because he can.

Sarah is taking this opportunity to get her Bumpit on national television, as she is relating Walker's victory to Barry O's inevitable defeat. Also, something about his goose being cooked. Or something.

As she denounced Obama’s “hopey changey stuff”, the former Alaska governor continued: “More and more Americans realize that what Wisconsin has just manifested via this vote … is the complete opposite of what president Obama and the White House represents today.” 
Palin predicted that the Obama administration will try to downplay Walker’s victory and distance itself from the GOP’s win in Wisconsin.
“Jay Carney — can’t wait to see how he spins all this and ignores it, and President Obama himself,” she said. “They’re going to really try to distance themselves from this despite the fact that they, leading their lapdogs in the leftist media, made this a front page story for how many months? Months and months.”
Mama Bear-- or is it Bulldog with Lipstick?-- is going to cook a goose for some lapdogs. Or something. You heard it here first.

.... And I'm Back?

Not only have I made a temporary return to OneAngryQueer, but I have returned to the fabulous Netroots Nation blogger's conference. After the usual shouting and hugging and saying "I missed you so much!" to all of our comrades that we haven't seen since last year (as well as meeting new colleagues) we are now settling down to the LGBT pre-conference in order to brainstorm future strategies for our communities.

Of course, my politics have definitely changed since last time in the last year. Not only have I done a crazy amount of IRL organizing, my politics have (like my hair) gotten a lot more radical. I have a feeling that there are some people in this room that I love and respect... who I might be yelling at a bunch later on in the conference.

Anyway. I'll post a few things on OAQ, sometimes about Netroots and sometimes about other shit. Yay! A week where I get to do nothin' but blog!

Oh, and drink. And flirt. And annoy people.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I Know, I Know

So it's become obvious that I just don't have time to update this here blog doohickey at present. Between going to school full time and Occupying, etc, I haven't had the ability to post regularly here.

However! I'm still writing. You can catch me periodically over at the New City Collegian, Seattle Central Community College's guerilla student blog. ALSO! Brad Crelia at has invited me to return (he's paying me this time so why not) in order to continue posting my column there as well as promoting me to editor.



Ian Awesome

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Courting Catholics

In the wake of the passing Senate Bill 6239 which is expected to go to the Washington State House of Representatives this week, it appears that opponents of marriage equality have wasted no time in getting their demonstrations started. As early as Friday morning, members of a Catholic charitable organization known as the Knights of Columbus already showed their presence on the Capitol steps carrying a sign stating “Knights of Columbus Support Marriage Exclusively Between One Man & One Woman”.

It's okay, guys, the Knights didn't get the memo that Jesus is cool with you too.

The Knights of Columbus, whose ability to help raise $1M along with the Catholic Church and other anti-marriage organizations during the 2008 California Proposition 8 battle, seem to be in a bit of a bind themselves these days with most of their money and donations going to anti-gay marriage as opposed to relief work right on the heels of their 130th anniversary, as Nicole Sotelo reports in the National Catholic Reporter:

“On the surface this sounds benign, but “family life” is the Knights’ terminology for predominantly anti-gay initiatives, whereas “community projects” represents soup kitchens and food pantries… Additionally, in 2009 and 2010, Knights officials contributed $200,000 as noted in annual reports to Vox Clara, the bishops’ committee responsible for turning back the clock on the liturgy and implementing the recent controversial language changes in the Mass. They have been a significant funder of the committee since 2006. Over the same time period, the Knights donated almost $1.2 million to fund the bishops’ newly created committee that works against equal protection for gays and lesbians and dubbed it “charity” in their annual report.”

Although Washington has historically been considered one of the most non-religious states, the Catholic Church represents the largest religious organization in this state with 1,058,721 members, inclusive of the Archdiocese of Seattle and the Diocese of Spokane. While many Washington Catholics such as Governor Christine Gregoire (D) - who helped to endorse this bill – are split on the issue of same-sex marriage, they can also be great allies in the fight for greater civil rights.

As same-sex marriage becomes a closer reality for residents of Washington State, it will be increasingly important for members of equal rights groups to garner increasing support religious communities in raising money and awareness about the facts of marriage equality and help to assuage concerns about the negative impact of allowing gay marriage and in speaking out, as I have in my own personal blog, about addressing the fundamental dissonance in fighting against marriage when monies raised could be going toward more constructive ends.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NOM Has A Hissyfit, Part Five Thousand

This is an exciting year for queers in Washington State, as it appears that the legislature is finally on the brink of approving same-sex nuptials for all residents of the Evergreen State. Numerous politicians have voiced their support for a measure legalizing marriage equality, while a number of large corporations based in Seattle and outlying areas have endorsed the proposed law, to include Starbucks:

Starbucks is proud to join other leading Northwest employers in support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples. Starbucks strives to create a company culture that puts our partners first, and our company has a lengthy history of leading and supporting policies that promote equality and inclusion.

This important legislation is aligned with Starbucks business practices and upholds our belief in the equal treatment of partners. It is core to who we are and what we value as a company. We are proud of our Pride Alliance Partner Network group, which is one of the largest Employer Resource Groups for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) employees in the U.S., helping to raise awareness about issues in the communities where we live and work

While I'm not a HUGE fan of corporations, I DO get a tickle when they (whatever their other practices) get their heads out of their collective asses and fall on the right side of history regarding LGBT rights. One organization (which seems to have forgotten it was effing broke recently) has weighed in heavily against the measure, specifically targeting Starbucks for their support. Who is it? Our old friends over at National Organization for Marriage:

Today, Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), sharply criticized Starbucks' decision to wade into the gay marriage fight in Washington State. That decision comes on top of an earlier decision by Starbucks to ask the Supreme Court to strike down the federal definition of marriage as one man and one woman as well.

"Americans should be able to drink a peaceful cup of coffee without worrying that a portion of the company's profits is going to be used to push gay marriage without a vote from the people," said Brown. "This is a gratuitous leap into a hot button culture war issue; respect for diversity touted by Starbucks ought to include respecting the diverse views of all its customers and employees."
Meh. I'm not sure that Starbucks has actually contributed a dime to marriage equality, but can't you just HEAR Miss Bond's hissyfit in NOM's hatequarters?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Norm Stamper Speaks: "Police Departments Are The Junior Partners In The Community"

Since the formation of the Department of Homeland Security on November 25th, 2002 under the Presidency of George W. Bush, an unprecedented militarization and escalation of tactics in the US has taken place among police departments. From the arming of our police forces with armored personnel carriers to the frequent use of SWAT teams against unarmed and non-threatening protesters, a rash of police actions have swept the country that has led many activists, advocates, and citizens to ask: is this what our police force should be used for?

In no place is that escalation and use of heavy force more apparent than Seattle. The Seattle Police Department has a long history of excessive force in its actions, perhaps most notable by the slaying of John T. Williams, an indigenous woodcarver who was shot by Officer Ian Birk simply because he could not hear Birk’s order to stop.

Occupy Seattle has seen its share of extreme action, most famously in the case of Dorli Rainey, an 84-year old woman who waspepper-sprayed on November 15th, 2011 after complying with a police order to stand on a sidewalk. In other cases, police have used horses, flash-bang grenades, and physical assault in order to subdue peaceful protesters.

The Department of Justice has, since these incidents, issued a strongly worded letter to the Seattle Police Department for their abuses, specifically citing Occupy Seattle as a matter of interest in their investigation. The Department, under the auspices of Chief of Police John Diaz, has been recalcitrant in the wake of this admonishment and continues to refute the Federal Government’s attempts to rein in what appears to many to be a department which has gone out of control.

In 1999, a notorious riot exacerbated by police action took place in what has now been called the “Battle of Seattle.” The Chief of Police at that time was one Norm Stamper, who after his retirement has publicly stated he regretted his decisions during that action and now works tirelessly against police brutality. Thanks to the Occupy Seattle Media Team, I was able to schedule an interview with Stamper, in which we addressed the WTO riots of 1999, current uses of force in the SPD, and what he feels Chiefs like Diaz should keep in mind.

Ian Awesome: You were chief of police during one of the most notorious stateside clashes between police and protester in recent decades. What are you doing now and how has your tenure as chief of police in Seattle affected your current affairs? 
Norm Stamper: It was during that event that I made the worst decision of my career, which was to permit the use of chemical agents on a non-violent, non-threatening crowd on 6th. We made that decision because we felt it was a necessity, but there was NO necessity for that decision, and I will regret that forever. That week is unfortunately considered my legacy.
I’m a writer, I do some public speaking, and I am mostly involved in drug policy reform and work for the abolition of the death penalty. 
So what’s happened of course is that every time there is an anniversary for the Battle of Seattle, I’ll get a call asking me for my reflections on what happened in ‘99 and what I would have done differently. Of course, Occupy has really taken hold in this country and captured the imagination of so many people so I’ve been doing a lot of interviews on that as well. 
IA: Occupy Seattle has frequently been the victim of heavy-handed tactics even though the recipients of those attacks were peaceably demonstrating or, in many cases, just sleeping. Do you think the current level of force (such as indiscriminate pepper-spray use, riding horses into crowds, punching, flashbang grenades, and use of SWAT teams) is appropriate to the actions of these demonstrators? 
 The remnants of a flashbang grenade used at our Port Action. Photo by Joseph H.
NS: There are times and circumstances when use of force is justified but, generally, there appears to be no justification of the use of chemical weapons and other methods of force. The iconic UC Davis video is a perfect example. These non-violent demonstrators were causing no harm to anyone, to include the police, and were sprayed in a manner that was almost cavalier. It was as if that officer was watering his roses! 
In short, I think that there has been a massive overreaction across the country. My overarching opinion is that it is too much too soon and that it is exacerbating tensions between Occupy and police departments. 
IA: You recently said on The Nation that the paramilitary bureaucracy today is worse than it was in the 1990s. Would you view incidents such as the use of SWAT teams to evict unarmed and peaceful Occupiers from buildings as a symptom of that increased sense of “protesters are the enemy?” 
NS: You know, I do believe that in general there has been a major increase in the militarization of American law enforcement. We are seeing SWAT teams used for things that were not part of the designed purpose of SWAT teams. They were established to deal with hostages, bank robberies, heavily armed individuals, and often times domestic violence situations where someone is holding their partner at gunpoint. SWAT is a smart response to these problems. What’s happened is SWAT is now being employed for very low level drug offenses, on political protests and other situations. 
SWAT operations can get people killed when used improperly, even though the purpose is to protect lives, to include the lives of alleged perpetrators. There is a problem in law enforcement today and that is scared cops! They have been erroneously conditioned to believe that the next person who answers a door they knock on is going to kill them. If that’s your mindset and orientation and your tools are SWAT, tragic outcomes are all but inevitable.

IA: Recently the Department of Justice soundly chastised the Seattle Police Department with Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez characterizing SPD’s practices to ensure trust with the community as “broken,” which Police Chief Diaz hotly denies. What would your response be were you in his position? Do you have a word of advice you would give to Chief of Police Diaz? 
NS: Well, without being presumptuous, I would offer this view to any chief including Diaz. If you do not conceive of your police department as belonging to the community, then you have the wrong conception of policing a free and democratic society. I think it’s very important the police take the view that they are the junior partners of the communities they serve. If there’s a senior partner in that relationship it is the community by at least a ratio of 51/49, and that isn’t just the business community or blind supporters of the police department, but also critics and those who have been on the receiving end of oppressive police action.

Norm Stamper is just one voice among many calling for the demilitarization of our police forces. The question is, of course, will current federal leadership and individual police departments listen? 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Yes, I'm Really Posting This On My Blog

Sorry for the writing hiatus. I'll come back, I promise.

In the meantime, I made this video about tacos. I'm not sure why the sound doesn't work.

It's been that kind of week.