Saturday, December 20, 2003

This is probably certainly a bad idea to waste more time...

I just came up with an idea for combining the time-wasting "googlewhack" game with the viciously evil time- (and life) wasting problem of spam.

Some spams have taken to putting two random words in the subject. Well, it's not a big leap to use those words for a googlewhack attempt.

Now, the odds of getting an actual googlewhack from this method are so small, that I figured the 'score' in this game would be based on the total number of results found by google (the smaller the number, the better).

My first try did really well - turning up only 87 results: "fernery monk".

My second attempt did very poorly at 56,800 results: "showtime rotisserie".

Some additional rules:
Only 2 word spam subjects allowed.
The words must be real words - not 5cr4mbl3d text.
Don't waste your time actually trying this, please...

Reading: The Economy of Cities

Jane Jacobs' "classic" economics text from 1969, The Economy of Cities, occasionally enters the classically dry mode of academic prose, but overall was an interesting and valuable read.

About halfway through the book, a key understanding hit me.

Most 'international development' projects ("structural adjustment", the work of the World Bank, focus on conversion of local work/production into export production (e.g., turning farmer's fields from subsistence production to "cash crops").

Jacobs' central thesis identifies that economies grow ("develop") through the adding of work to existing work. Her thesis is much more than that - a whole book's worth - but this point is critical.

If that point holds, then it's no surprise that all these work conversion projects fail to help anyone's economy. The thinking of the international development planners reminds me of the strategy of the "underwear gnomes" on South Park:
"Step 1: Steal underwear.
Step 3: Profit!"
They never acknowledge the need for a "step 2" - ignoring that there probably is no way for there to be a step 2.

The 'international development planners' are thinking that "well, our economies make big money from exports, so if we convert other economies to exports they will profit!" But the reason our economies have profitable exports is because of the way we got to those exports - and all of our other economic activity. Jacobs emphasizes throughout her work that the economic vitality of communities stems directly from the diversity of of economic activities in that community.

Basically, the practice of converting an economy to focus on one export industry (or a few) is a very effective way of stalling that economy and reducing independence.

Jacobs' thesis highlights the importance of the division of work - adding new work to existing work - as the key to successful economic growth. The elimination of existing work so that it can be replaced with "export" work is doomed to economic failure, if Jacobs is right (and I think that the bulk of her ideas are pretty close to the mark).

Reading: If at all Possible, Involve a Cow

Yesterday, I finished reading If at all Possible, Involve a Cow: The Book of College Pranks by Neil Steinberg. A number of times I was laughing out loud in what would have been an embarrassing way if anyone else had been around.

That said, the book left me with little in the way of ideas or principles to remember and use once I put the book down.

Particularly disappointing was the author's belittling of those who might not see the humor in a particular prank - most notably those pranks he was personally involved in.

In the end, the book is mostly a very fun read, but not much else. That said, I support the author's advocacy for more pranks in college (and would extend that to life in general).

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Graffiti Archaeology

The name of the Graffiti Archaeology site is pretty self-explanatory. I will say that the time-line photos of graffiti sites [flash] are an excellent way to put the art into a temporal context.

Seen on Boing Boing.

Government of Canada Goes RSS

The Government of Canada has created a whole slew of RSS feeds for government news.

Seen on Boing Boing.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Be afraid of the near future...

Fark has a contest where folks have submitted Photoshop newspaper headlines for Election Day 2004 [mature language warning]. Funny - and scary.

Probably the most believable of the spoofs, and certainly one of the most scary, carries the headline "Bush Declares Martial Law, Suspends Election ... 'You will continue to bask in my compassion!'"

Conspiracy, art, coolness

Frances Richard has written a lengthy and quite interesting article about Mark Lombardi.

Lombardi's later work consisted of amazing drawings "which map in elegantly visual terms the secret deals and suspect associations of financiers, politicians, corporations, and governments". Hist aesthetic was delightful.

"Miserable Failure". Heh.

Try a Google search of "miserable failure" to see George W. Bush top the list. Heh.

Now that's "putting the web to work"!

Some fanatics are trying to turn this around by having the phrase "real american hero" turn up Bush. How about we counter their counter by pointing "Real American Hero" to Michael Moore instead...?

It's, like, we can't really say much, anymore. You know?

Andrew Lam has written an editorial about the loss of writing and expression as we become enmeshed in technologically facilitated communication.

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Beware of James Baker III

Greg Palast continues to expose important issues around the powers in the U.S. This time, he takes on the history and activities of James Baker III - a key Bush supporter.

Sunday, December 7, 2003

Time doesn't stand still: A decade of webbing

Saturday, December 6, marked the 10th anniversary of my very first 'web hit' (that wasn't me testing my own server).

December 6 is a terrible anniversary to have to share, which is a big part of why I rarely mark the occasion of that first web visitor. The date of the Montreal Massacre remains the most chilling anniversary in Canadian history in my lifetime.

I will, however, take a moment to reflect back on ten years of running webservers. I started as part of the Apple Research Partnership on a beta version of MacHTTP. My server was at, then while I was working at Carleton University. I managed to hold on to the domain for some time after that, but eventually moved to my 'permanent' domain of

Many of the web projects I've worked on over the years are still intact after all this time (although a few have been 'retired'). In general, I try to avoid having links to my sites 'disappear' since I get so annoyed when it happens on other sites.

Some of my projects have taken on lives of their own - most notably the Activist Network which was started in August of 1999.

In some ways, it seems like such a short time since I began this work - but it can also be hard to conceptualize my life before, without the web.

What an odd period of history this will seem to have been to future generations.

Friday, December 5, 2003

Reading: Making a Killing

I've spent a lot of time over the past few years doing activism around Talisman Energy Inc.'s involvement in war-torn Sudan. Talisman is a Calgary-based Canadian oil company who don't seem to mind the use of military force to advance their profits.

Now Globe & Mail reporter Madelaine Drohan has published a book about how some corporations cross the line into the overt use of violence to advance their interests. Making a Killing: How and Why Corporations Use Armed Force to Do Business covers the specific cases of a number of corporations since the 19th century who have used violence to get their way.

Drohan combines research with her direct experiences of the more recent examples - gleaned through years of journalistic work both in Canada and throughout Africa.

I found the chapter dedicated to Talisman and Sudan to be quite solid, especially given my own experience and knowledge around the issues and events.

Reading: Troublemaker's Teaparty

I found Charles Dobson's The Troublemaker's Teaparty: A Manual for Effective Citizen Action to be an excellent resource. It's well structured, fairly comprehensive, provides numerous references for further information, and emphasizes those critical areas in activism that are too often neglected for perceived expediency - especially 'community building'.

The book is also the most effective introductory guide to community action & activism that I have seen. An excellent 'how-to' for people new to activism, it's also a great reference for those whose time as activists can be measured in decades.

If there were justice in the book market, this would be a best-seller for a long, long, time.

The book is based on Dobson's extensive website The Citizen's Handbook.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

The Fall of My Dictatorship

In a bold move, a people's democratic collective has formed to seize power over the Activist Network project.

The formal transition of power to the collective is scheduled to take place when the current dictator, Grant Neufeld, steps down at the end of this year.

This non-violent coup - prompted by the outgoing dictator - is expected to see a radical transformation of the administration and development of the Network after years of dictatorial tyranny under Neufeld's rule. One gleeful participant might have said: "At long last, an end to the suffering is in our grasp. The power is being taken into the many hands of our people's participatory democratic collective."

The transition is not expected to be entirely without difficulties. A spokesperson for the outgoing dictator stated "We expect there to be some delays in the functioning of the system during the transition period as the current administration is phased out and the new administration 'learns the ropes'."

In an effort to dispel any notions of sabotage on the part of the outgoing regime, Dictator Neufeld has ordered all his minions to cooperate fully in the transition process and extended a formal statement of apology for difficulties with the system during the change over.

(Noting that Neufeld is the only human worker under the outgoing regime, some have concluded that by "minions" he is referring to his computer equipment. This view has led to a call in some quarters for a program of independent psychiatric care, or at least a decent vacation, for the fallen leader.)

After the historic meeting where the time-table for handing over power was set, the teary-eyed dictator was sent walking off, alone and powerless, into the night.

Also seen on the Activist Network.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

The threat of DHMO!

There's much to learn about the dangers of DHMO [Traduzione italiana, Deutsche Übersetzung] (Another source).

There's even a fringe group who are actually encouraging the use of DHMO. Takes all kinds, I guess. Fortunately, there are groups (NCCAD, Coalition to Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide) working against the prevalence of DHMO in modern society.(For those who might ask, yes I understand the chemical composition of DHMO. I did take some chemistry in university.)

Friday, November 21, 2003

Abuse of language comes as no surprise

Word Pirates is a service dedicated to the reclaiming of words and phrases that have been misused and abused by "marketers, politicians and other short-sighted, self-interested, sticky-fingered people".

I suggest things like calling an unprovoked slaughter of Iraqis "liberation and democratization" need to be challenged...

Thursday, November 20, 2003

The height of street art

Kurt Wenner has done some amazing street paintings.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Is there a bright side to all this?

Wow. Looking at all my postings today as one batch, I noticed that they're quite negative. There's a lot of bad stuff going on in the world.

But, I'm actually extremely optimistic.


There are some tremendous successes occurring in efforts to bring about social justice. Masses of people are starting to recognize the situation of the world - and many of them are actually trying to do something about it.

"Saving the world" doesn't require everyone to become a 'hardcore activist'. It just requires that a majority of people do a little bit to make the world better.

Alberta's Bill 43 - from the Ministry Against Education

The Parkland Institute has published an article explaining some of the very bad elements contained in Bill 43. Basically, the Alberta Government is trying to get rid of accessibility and quality in post-secondary education, and replace them with profits for elites.

Color me shocked. (yeah, right)

Electronic Voting is a corrupt disaster waiting to happen

It's becoming clearer and clearer that the commercial electronic voting systems being developed and deployed are a major threat to democracy.

The big name in terrible practices these days is Diebold. The Why-War? website is hosting a campaign against Diebold.

If we lose this battle, we will likely lose any semblance or possibility of democracy.

Sadly, I'm not exaggerating.

Making electoral web pages accessible

Optimization Week has a detailed article that analyses the websites of U.S. presidential contenders. In a nutshell, they're all bad for accessibility and for taking too much bandwidth to download.

Stock Market? Bad.

An Object Lesson in Investing, by Ian Williams, discusses the various evils behind the stock markets, mutual funds, and other 'investment' scams.

Monday, November 17, 2003

I see your "Factory Farming" and raise you a "GMO"

The Krafted: Genetically Krafted Foods site takes on food (or, more appropriately, alleged food) mega-corp Kraft (mass purveyors of genetically modified organisms) with a Flash animation for the holiday season.

Enter the Meatrix

Free Range Graphics have produced a fun Matrix spoof: The Meatrix [Flash].

Unfortunately, no one can be just told what the Meatrix is. You have to experience it for yourself.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Custom smileys

Adam Grant has created a neat little custom smiley generator.

Seen on Boing Boing.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Laughing at the suffering of others: Conrad Black in Trouble

The Guardian reports that former Canadian Conrad Black (he renounced his citizenship a few years back in order to be able to get the title of "Lord" in the U.K.) is in a growing mess as the illegal financial doings of his company (Hollinger Inc.) are made public.

I don't think there are many in Canada who regret his departure from our fine shores.

More U.S. arrogance

The BBC reports: "UN talks on protecting the ozone layer have ended without a deal, after the US asked permission to continue using a chemical it had earlier agreed to ban."

The Lego Stork

The Making of a Brick is a flash animation that tells how Lego is produced.

Seen on Boing Boing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Reading: Escape From Slavery

Last night (late last night) I finished reading Escape From Slavery:The true story of my ten yearsin captivity—and my journey to freedom in America, by Francis Bok (with Edward Tivnan).

This is a very well-presented and deeply affecting story. I found myself having to frequently re-contextualize by explicitly remembering that he was abducted in 1986 and escaped in 1996 and that slave-raids like the one that took him are most likely still be happening today. Certainly there remain unfathomable numbers of people living in slavery throughout the world today. The American Anti-Slavery Group suggests a number (27 million) that is close to the total number of people living in Canada.


Since escaping to the U.S., Francis has been active with the AASG. They are a very impressive group who have had many successes in their ongoing work to end slavery in Sudan and elsewhere. Part of that work has also been significant in contributing to efforts to bring peace to Sudan, and challenging the role of foreign companies involvement in Sudan's "civil" war (such as Calgary's Talisman Energy, Inc.—see Project Sudan for more info).

Monday, November 10, 2003

My retirement is in the news

Tom Babin from FFwd called me up for an interview last Monday after he read about my impending retirement from the Activist Network on the website. His article is in this week's issue (it hit the stands on Thursday) and is now available on the FFwd website.

There's a good picture of me in the print edition (but, unfortunately, not online).

Just to clarify, I'm retiring from the Activist Network, but certainly not from activism. I expect to remain as busy as ever with projects like the Revolutionary Knitting Circle, Calgary Dollars, anti-poverty work, and things seem to be heating up around the Lubicon again. And there are some other projects I'm not talking about publicly yet.

Regular sleep remains a distant memory...

Sunday, November 2, 2003

Internet tools for democracy

The BBC is running a new website for citizen engagement called "iCan". It lists issues, provides opportunities for people to connect with each other, offers guides and tools for activism and lobbying.
Seen on Wired.

Lawrence Lessig writes for Wired on the change in campaigning that blogs represent.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I got an email from someone who "needs help"...

In running the Activist Network, I get some, um, ‘interesting’ emails on occasion. This evening, I received one titled “I NEED HELP” (the whole message was in all caps, of course — but I’ve changed that here to reduce the pain associated with reading it):
I’m trying to find out how i can get a petition started for the women that are giving birth to children that are drug babies. I want a petition started to try and get them prosecuted for doing drugs while pregnant.
Anyone who knows me will immediately identify that I hate this kind of nonsense.

But, I try to be polite to everyone, even those who promulgate evil. So, here’s what I wrote in response:
It’s already illegal to use drugs — so no new laws would be needed to prosecute drug users (pregnant or otherwise). Existing ‘endangerment’ laws could probably be applied, too.

As someone who has never done drugs (other than about half a glass of alcohol in total over my lifetime, and one puff on tobacco cigarette when I was 10) I completely oppose your position on this. Instead of targeting a symptom (people turning to drugs), let’s target the root problems — the biggest of which is poverty (although it's certainly not the only problem).

Instead of just saying “what a terrible thing to happen, they should be punished” let’s ask why it happens. What causes people to turn to drugs? What leads people to be on drugs when they’re having kids? And most importantly: What can we do to reduce drug use, especially for those who might have kids?

Criminalization doesn’t stop the problem — drug use seems to ironically go up as laws get tighter. Alcohol prohibition was a tragic failure — why would we think that the prohibition of any other drugs would be successful? I really wish prohibition could work — I see drugs as a vile scourge and tool of oppression — but the sad fact is that prohibition doesn’t work and actually makes things worse.

Finally, when it comes to negative impacts on pregnancies, it’s not just women — it has also been shown that the sperm of men who smoke, drink, or do other drugs can contribute to birth defects.

In any case, to answer your question, there is a brief petitions guide at:

(Please keep in mind that most people see ALL CAPS text in email as rude shouting — so you might want to ‘tone it down’ when seeking the help of others.)
Wasn’t that a nice, fair, response?

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

I'm retiring from the Activist Network

I am set to 'retire' from the Activist Network project by the end of this year.

If the project is to continue, others in the community will have to take it on. I will make myself available in an "advisory capacity" and for mentoring for those who get involved - so that they (you?) won't have to reinvent everything for themselves.

What You Can Do

Following this message, I'll be sending a description of
There are various tasks/jobs involved in running the Network as it is today. If you are at all interested in working on the project, please email me at and I'll add you to the project organizing email list.

A community discussion event in Calgary is in the works to look at the future of this project. Watch for an announcement on that in the weeks ahead.


I started the "Calgary Activism" website and email lists over four years ago, in August of 1999. In January of 2000, I joined with an Arusha committee that was hoping to revive the old "Network" newsletter (activist events and group listings). That's when we renamed the project the "Calgary Activist Network".

I find now that my energy for the project is dwindling - in no small part because I have taken most of the work on it for just myself. It's simply too much for one person to do. While I still have many ideas and opinions about the project, change is needed or the Network will stagnate. It's time for me to move on and let folks with other perspectives and ideas take charge of the project.

It's also important to end my virtual-dictatorship of the Network and put it more directly in the hands of the community in the form of a 'democratic collective'.


While it's true that I have done much of the work on the project, some major thanks are due to the folks who have provided support and input over the years - a number of people have contributed their efforts and perspectives to advancing and improving the Network.

In particular, I want to thank Gerald Wheatley who has been a substantial source of support, vision, and key in getting the bulk of the funding that has come in for the project.

Thanks also to the many people and groups who have made use of the project - it has been inspiring to see such a diverse range of activism going on!

Note that my 'retirement' will not affect the various email list services, and individual activist group websites, that I host.

Thanks to all who have participated in, and used, this project over the years,
Grant Neufeld
Outgoing Director of the Activist Network

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

And I thought I was arrogant

Verisign (long may they rot in hell) have issued a reply to ICANN's instruction that they stop the evil "DNS Wildcard Service" (SiteFinder).

To summarize Verisign's (long may the rot in hell) reply: "We are a law unto ourselves. God help anyone who gets in our way."

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Avast me hearties!

The morrow be International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Arrr.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

More on Bush is evil

Michael Moore has posted a letter/essay detailing a few things about the Occupant of the White House (George Bush, for those of you who've been off-planet in recent years) that help clarify just how unacceptable his continued presence there is.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Even more evil from Verisign

Verisign (the evil corporation that bought the evil Network Solutions, NSI) has just committed another atrocity. Earlier today, they decided that rather than returning errors when someone accesses an invalid domain name (e.g., a typo like they'll instead redirect that to some valid domain (reportedly slipping in some Verisign advertising and/or tracking in the process).

A lot more details are available on Slashdot.

This situation is prompting some folks to talk about making a complete break with the whole centralized NSI/ICANN root server setup. A couple possibilities already developing are the Open Root Server Confederation and the OpenNIC: Democratic Name System.

There are a few other articles of interest:

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Plop. Plop. Plop.

The University of Minnesota's Chemistry Outreach Program has a recipe for silly putty. (You'll need to refer to their recipe for slime for some of the directions.)

Sunday, September 7, 2003

Woo-hoo! Firefly to become feature film

Word is out that the best new TV show from last season, Firefly, is set to be continued as a feature film. The series was very foolishly cancelled after being poorly handled by Fox (weird scheduling, showing episodes in the wrong order,...). Even my dad really liked the show - further illustrating Fox's bad judgment.

Seen on Ain't It Cool

For the hard-core Legoist

Ben Ellermann has put together a tutorial for designing your own instruction booklets for Lego models.

Philippe Hurbain has put together a technical report: "Lego® 9V Technic Motors compared characteristics". It goes into fine detail on the differences and capabilities of the different types of 9V motors that Lego has put out.

Both seen on LUGNet

Bible stories in Lego

I don't know if my grandmother would approve, but I've been a fan of the Brick Testament website since I first saw it, and now over 175 of the photos have been published as a book "The Brick Testament: Stories from the Book of Genesis".

Saturday, September 6, 2003

RaiseTheFist webmaster sentenced to one year in U.S. federal prison

Democracy Now has a good article on the case of Sherman Austin (webmaster of who was sentenced to one year in federal prison on Wednesday.

When he is released, his probation terms will ban him "from associating with anyone who wants to change U.S. government 'in any way.'"

This is yet more evidence that: U.S. Government == Evil.

Seen on

Friday, September 5, 2003

Dominate the Elements!

I've been playing this Risk-like video game, on Mac OS X, called iConquer. The game lets you design your own maps and I've made a few.

On Wednesday night, I decided to make a map for the game based on the Periodic Table of the elements. My tagline for the game:

"Don't just conquer the world - rule the elements themselves!"

You can download the plug-in (if you have iConquer).

Drat! Foiled again.

So, I was all set to have posted to this blog for 7 days in a row. But, yesterday (the seventh day - hrmn, maybe I can work a biblical reference in here), Blogger stopped letting me log in.

Everything is fine again today, so here's hoping that it works for the next 7 days...

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Spam humor

Defective Yeti gives a spammer a near-failing grade (a "D") on their composition.

In fact, that site has numerous fun stories and ideas (like a Lego-based economy).

Indiana Jones or Battlestar Galactica... Hmm, hard choice....

I've found out that the Battlestar Galactica DVD box set is coming out on the same day as the Indiana Jones set. Like I can even afford either set, anyway (although I'll almost certainly make the sacrifice needed to get the Indy DVDs - now where did I put that burnt offering...)

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Indiana Jones DVDs

The Indiana Jones trilogy is finally coming out on DVD. The box set is due for release on Tuesday, October 21.

Collectors beware: with word out that Indiana Jones 4 is planned for release in 2005, we can expect another box set to come out sometime after that, I guess. I just hope they don't do any revisionist nonsense to the Indy movies (like happened to the original Star Wars trilogy).

Overactive Brain

It's annoying to get hit with cool code/project ideas just when trying to go to sleep. I went to bed quite late last night (after reading about 80% of Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan — reading until I couldn't keep my eyes open). As I laid down on my bed, my brain went into overdrive with ideas for a new project that I'm working on.

I was forced to get up and get back to work - there was no resisting the ideas in my head. An hour later, I had finally purged the ideas (and the numerous others that followed after I got to my computer) into project documentation, and went to sleep.

I wish my brain had a configurable flow control so I could turn it down when I need to sleep.

Monday, September 1, 2003

The politics of OS choice

Linux For Anarchists, by Mike Benham, is an interesting political analysis of why political anarchists (and other social justice & anti-capitalist activists) should avoid Microsoft software, along with an explanation on how to make the transition to Linux.

(Mike is the guy behind the Distributed Library Project)

(He's also another revolutionary knitting type - in this case an "Anarchist Knitter"!)

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Distributed Library Project

I've been doing some work on the Distributed Library Project (DLP). It's a project to setup websites that provide for sharing/lending of books (and other resources) within communities.

The project is pretty new - so a lot of stuff remains to be worked out. I've put some of my notes up, including a detailed data model (which is pretty rough at this point).

The project has been setup as open-source, available on SourceForge, so PHP/HTML/MySQL developers might want to check it out.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Software Patents Bad

"Freedom of Speech in Software" by Phil Salin, is an article (dating back to 1991) arguing against patents for software.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Stealing the U.S. Presidency

Eric Blumrich has produced a two-minute Flash animation, "Grand Theft America", which explains Katherine Harris' role in illegally purging citizens from the Florida voter roles (helping Bush steal the presidency in 2000, and herself to take a congressional seat in 2002).

Some humans are evil.

(The animation is based, at least in part, on a report by Greg Palast dating from February, 2001)

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Middle East analysis and perspectives

Robert Fisk's columns for the Independent.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Oh, sweet, heavenly...

Life-size Han Solo frozen in Lego carbonite. (with discussion on LUGnet)

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

The Pieing of Klein

I was at Alberta Premier Ralph Klein's annual Calgary Stampede Breakfast on Monday (as part of a contingent of anti-poverty activists there). So, I got to see the pieing of the Premier. I also had my camera along so got some pictures. Just of the aftermath of Klein with pie in the face - I didn't catch the actual pieing on camera.

[Note that the Alberta Indymedia website that I posted the pictures to seems to be having some troubles. You might need to click on the individual picture links to see them.]

Thursday, March 6, 2003

Peace poem

This Wednesday morning I woke up and came up with a short poem while in that semi-conscious state. So, I got up, wrote it down, then went right back to sleep. I ended up presenting it "later that same day..." at the Poets Against the War event. Here it is (to be read in beat-style with slight hip-hop flavorings):

The warmongers.
They say that to preach the peace is,

But my heart,
it's smart,
it knows that's antithetical

to the meaning of life
we must pull away from the strife
and seek to embrace here the poetical.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Protest photos: Tibet rally

I've posted the photos I took at the protest, of the murder of Tibetan activist Lobsang Dhondup, which took place this afternoon.

Monday, January 20, 2003

"Diversity of Tactics", "Solidarity", ...

There’s a dialogue about tactics that’s going on on the Alberta Indymedia website. The background is that at the peace action in Calgary this past Friday, some people engaged in tactics outside the bounds set by organizers (and, frankly, entirely inappropriate to an action which is calling for peace).

Specifically, the protest was organized on the basis of total non–violence (since we’re advocating for peace) as well as taking no illegal actions (because the core message was intended to be a call for the U.S. and it’s supporters to obey international law — kind of hard to be credible if we’re breaking the law ourselves).

Unfortunately, some in attendance took it upon themselves to act outside of that — although not in major ways: some chants with violent implications, some chalk graffiti using violent language, and chalking the sides of a building after being directed by police to not do so.

On “Diversity of Tactics” and “Solidarity”

Most actions (protests, rallies, etc.) are not appropriate for having a “diversity of tactics” used, unless explicitly defined as supporting “diversity of tactics”.

For those who do not favor, or find adequate, the tactics chosen by the organizers of an action — please refrain from undemocratically taking it upon yourselves to impose your tactics on the others involved.

If an action is organized on the basis of non–violence, no violence should be used (including violent words such as “fuck”, violent gestures such as giving the finger, and statements with violent implications such as “smash the state”.) Likewise, if an action is organized on the basis of being open to civil–disobedience and even targeted property damage, participants should not engage in tactics to halt such actions.

If you do not agree with (or find sufficient) the choice of tactics for an action you might otherwise support, there are a few reasonable routes you can take:

  • Pull together people who agree with the tactics you prefer and organize separate actions with them.
  • Organize a counter–action separate from, and perhaps in opposition to, the action you disagree with.
  • Express your concerns to the organizers and other participants (preferably by participating in organizing meetings).
  • Don’t participate.
  • Participate in the event itself using the tactics chosen, recognizing that genuine democracy is about sometimes accepting a route that is not what you want but is what the community wants and needs.

To claim status as a participant in an action, and then act counter to the action, is known as “disruption” and “agitation” — tactics well known to the forces of oppression.

A protest is much more than the people who show up for the few hours of action. Days, weeks — even months — of work and community building go into creating the framework and opportunity for people to come together in common action.

Yes there is a balance that must be struck between those tremendous efforts, and the interests of the participants at the event itself. However, by choosing to participate, individuals and groups are giving their support to — and hopefully as a part of — the community that has built the action.

Opposing those who unilaterally (I choose that word with no small irony) take it upon themselves to break with the will of the community at an action is not breaking solidarity — it is the disrupters who break solidarity by countering the purpose of the action and the community behind it.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Photos from Peace Rally

I've posted a bunch of photos I took at the "Peace Rally for the People of Iraq" in Calgary yesterday.