Archive for November, 2009

Newspaper corrections (personal pronouns edition)

Here’s the opening of a story published earlier today by Dan Ball at KVBC News 3 Las Vegas, entitled Few new City Hall obstacles remain

It looks like the city of Las Vegas may soon get a new City Hall.

No, we won’t.

Last I checked, the city government in Las Vegas will soon get a new City Hall.

The rest of us in the city of Las Vegas aren’t getting anything, except the $185,000,000 bill for Oscar Goodman’s new office.

For six years, chef John Simons has operated Firefly restaurant on Paradise and Flamingo. Four months ago he opened a second location inside the Plaza hotel downtown. Simmons says he supports a new City Hall.

I’m hoping that we can develop kind of a really cool, vital downtown scene, ya know?

Because nothing says really cool and vital in a downtown scene like municipal government office buildings.

Betsy Fretwell is the city manager for the city of Las Vegas.

If we can move the City Hall from its current location we will be able to create about $4 billion in private investment in the downtown area and create over 13,000 jobs over the period of time and over four projects.

Well, hell, why don’t we just move the City Hall every year? Why not build a new one every month? Just imagine how much private investment and how many jobs all that new construction could create.

The project is estimated at about $185 million. Fretwell says the city can afford to pay for it.

You do have to evaluate what you can afford. We’ve done that, we’ve done a full feasibility report for the City Council. …

Actually, what’s happening here is that she does the evaluating. We do the affording. Whether we want to or not.

Betsy Fretwell doesn’t have to afford a damned thing; she evaluates, and we’re forced to pay up whether we reckon we can afford it or not.

Hence, this massive screwjob against Las Vegas workers, in order to fund a ridiculous and obviously self-serving local government boondoggle.

See also:

Las Vegas Wobblies Rally Against Chipotle in Support of Exploited Farmworkers (pics)

Click on any of the pictures for the full-size images

During the weekend of November 6-8 members of the Las Vegas Industrial Workers of the World, in conjunction with Food Not Bombs Las Vegas and Southern NV ALL, attended the Living Without Borders encuentro sponsored by the United Coalition for Im/migrant Rights (U.C.I.R.), which was held at UNLV. On the final day of the encuerto, we took part in a demonstration against the Chipotle across from campus organized by MEChA de UNLV in support of the Student/Farmworker Alliance (S.F.A.) and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (C.I.W.) and other farm workers who often work very long hours for wages that average below the poverty level.

The LV IWW, along with Fellow Worker Paul Lenart from the Reno IWW, rallied with other groups from the encuerto in solidarity with fellow workers being exploited by agriculture suppliers in Florida and throughout the industry. The demonstration was for the most part uneventful and garnered some support from passing cars and bystanders. However, at one point a group of Metro policemen (at least 10) descended upon us to preserve order by demanding to know who our leaders were and arrogantly declaring they were going to "teach us how to protest" so they wouldn't "have to" arrest anyone. Things got a bit tense after we responded that we didn't believe in hierarchies and therefore had no leaders and Paul informed the officer who was trying to tutor us on protesting that we weren't required to walk in a circle, as his lesson plan called for us to do. Not long after, a Metro sergeant arrived, spoke to us briefly, agreed that we didn't need to walk in a circle, wished us luck, and told the other Metro officers to leave. The rest of the morning was once again pretty uneventful and rather fun in general. In addition to displaying signs to passersby, we also provided people entering or exiting Chipotle with printed information about the C.I.W.'s grievances, resulting in several instances where potential customers turned away.

The C.I.W. is a community-based organization composed mainly of Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. They have been organizing workers in the agriculture industry since1993 to fight for fair wages, better working conditions, and more respect from bosses, among other issues. Since 2001, they have been using targeted boycotts of fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and other large tomato buyers to encourage them to agree to pay one penny per pound more for tomatoes and other produce directly to the workers who picked them. The resulting increase is minimal for the buyers (25 cents/box), but could increase the average farmworker's wages by 2/3's of the current approximate salary of $10,000/year. In the recent past, such boycotts have successfully led to agreements with Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, and Whole Foods Markets to participate in C.I.W.'s penny-per-pound program, as well as agreeing to require that their suppliers respect the rights and safety of farmworkers. In spite of marketing themselves as a socially responsible business and promising customers "Food with Integrity," Chipotle has repeatedly refused to sign those same agreements with C.I.W.

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Billy Jack as an Anarchist Metaphor (with video)

Recently after one of the organizing meetings for Food Not Bombs Las Vegas, Charles "Radgeek" Johnson and I engaged in a conversation with a friend who has attended the A-Cafe several times over the past few months. At one point, the issue of an Anarchist society's ability to defend itself against a statist country was discussed, with the contention that the Anarchists would be unable to defend themselves against an attack by the army of an invading state. More specifically, our friend was of the opinion that Anarchists would be unable to organize themselves in order to fend off such an attack without an hierarchical structure of leadership.

I brought up the Ukrainian Revolutionary Black Army during the Russian Revolution as an example of a force organized along Anarchist, bottom-up principles that was very capable of standing up to statist forces. Another example that was mentioned was the Workers' Committees of the Spanish Civil War, as well as various instances where guerrilla warfare has proven effective against rigidly organized forces.

The perceived flaw with the examples of the Black Army and the Spanish Revolutionaries was that in both cases they were eventually defeated by an alliance of statist forces, due to being vastly outnumbered. In the case of the Black Army there were as many as six separate armies opposing them at any given time, while the Spanish Anarchists were left alone against communists, fascists, and nationalists within Spain, which were supported by the governments of Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin from outside Spain. Yet both groups held out for some time and achieved several significant victories during their respective periods.*

So, this is where the Billy Jack reference comes in to play. Anybody that has seen the movie (has anybody not) is aware that Billy Jack was one of the biggest bad asses in movie history, who routinely pummeled anyone that transgressed against his group of outcasts and undesirables (which was just about every scene). However in the end, he meets his match when pretty much every guy in town surrounds him in a park and one of them eventually manages to crack him across the back of the head with a stick.

So the question would be, does the fact that Billy Jack eventually loses to an enemy with far superior numbers somehow invalidate the fact that he was more than able to defend himself, even at times when he was outnumbered to a lesser extent?

The fact that we are surrounded and vastly outnumbered by the State and its supporters is a serious issue that necessitates caution for us outcasts and undesirables within the Anarchist movements. However, it is no reason to conclude that we are incapable of defending ourselves without the State, in spite of obvious evidence to the contrary. Nor is it a reason to throw our hands up in the air and concede defeat without even trying. We can learn from the mistakes of the "Billy Jacks" of the past (try to stay out of the park = lesson number one) without accepting slavery as an inevitable circumstance.

*I realize that this is an extreme simplification of the subjects, but I didn't want to engage in a fifty page history lesson just to make what should be a rather simple point.
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