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(en) US, Phoenix Anarchist Coalition - It's Back: Upheaval Call Out + Upheaval #3

Date Thu, 22 Nov 2007 13:54:04 +0200

Anarchist Information News Team Upheaval is once again accepting submissions for future editions of Phoenix's only published source for the latest in the thought, action, and practices of movements struggling against injustice and exploitation. We're looking for words and pictures covering a variety of subjects, including:

- Border issues and immigration
- Police brutality and repression
- Gender, feminist, and queer issues
- Struggles against white supremacy, white privilege, and racism
- Gentrification and community displacement
- Ecological issues
- Prisoner resistance and the prison-industrial complex
- Subverting the alienation of everyday life
- Ways to make our social visions a reality

This list of topics is not complete and we would also like to receive photographs, artwork, and poetry; use your imagination! We also welcome any and all digital and paper correspondence, to be printed in Upheaval's future letters columns. You can send them to us at the addresses listed below.

If you are interested in being a part of Upheaval, but don't have the time to write a story, there are other ways you can help. Let us know if you would like to volunteer to print, assemble, or distribute copies of Upheaval around the valley, or if you know of a place where we can put papers so lots of interested folks can find them. We are also looking for people who can translate English to Spanish, and Spanish to English, to help us make future issues of Upheaval bilingual. Of course, we can always use financial support to cover the costs of creating the publication; please consider donating to our latest project, either through our paypal account at the PAC website or by sending well-concealed cash to the PO Box listed below.

We all have the chance to create something wonderful here - let's give freedom a voice in the valley of the sun!

We encourage discussion and dissent, but ask that all content be egalitarian in nature. The Upheaval editorial collective has final say on what is printed.

Submissions can be sent to the PO Box or email address listed below; or, you can just bring them in person to a bi-weekly PAC (Phoenix Anarchist Coalition) propaganda meeting.

In solidarity,
- the UPHEAVAL editorial collective

c/o PAC
PO Box 3315
Tempe, AZ 85280-3315
http://www.phoenixanarchist. org

Upheaval #3 is out
by Upheaval Tuesday, Mar. 07, 2006 at 9:51 PM

Upheaval #3 articles

2006: What an awful time to be an American! What a beautiful moment to be an Anarchist!

Since Upheaval #2 came out last Fall, corruption and distress seem to have become the rule. Bush and the NSA have been exposed for secret wiretapping of US citizens. Secret US torture camps have been discovered all through eastern Europe. Scumbag lobbyists like Jack Abramoff have been outed for buying out our “elected officials” to up the military-industrial complex. We’ve already begun the march towards a meaningless war in Iran while we’re still sinking deeper into meaningless quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Christian right is calling for the execution of all queers; Bush continues his crusade to gut our Social Security. Meanwhile, Peak Oil is approaching, global temperatures are breaking records, the glaciers are melting, and no one seems to be able to do anything substantial to stop any of it. Dick Cheney even blasted some dude with a shotgun. Every day, there’s less and less of a reason to pretend that this whole “American democracy” shtick is anything more than the weakest of corporate shams. Is it any wonder that everyone but the Minutemen have stopped waving around those idiotic American flags?

On a heavier note, we at Upheaval mourn the passing of fellow Arizonan Bill Rodgers. In a jail cell, sometime during the night of December 22nd, Bill took his own life in a final, brave act of defiance against his captors. He was about to be extradited to Washington to serve as a scapegoat for the federal government’s war on environmentalists, facing charges of “eco-terrorism.”

Anyone who knew Bill — or spent any time in Prescott’s Catalyst Infoshop, which he helped run — must have found it profoundly insulting that they tried to paint him as some kind of public enemy. By all accounts he was a kind, humble man who worked diligently for the betterment of the planet and the happiness of his fellow humans. It’s obvious that Bill was no “terrorist” — and if a court determines that he played a part in the nonviolent destruction of some rich assholes’ new ski resort, in defense of the ecosystem it was destroying, then we here at Upheaval can only say: right on, brother. None of us can afford to ski anyway.

While we were working on our second issue, Upheaval received a mysterious package from the Catalyst people. They’d read about us on the web, and wanted to exchange a copy of our magazine for the fist issue of their own zine, the Stray Cat.

The Stray Cat was a charming, hand-worked little thing, bursting with wit, humor, and optimism about projects that the Catalyst had planned for its community — a free school; movie nights; an “alternative tourist bureau.” The tone of the whole thing was so earnest, laid-back and friendly, it was hard not to think that the people of Prescott were pretty lucky to have Bill and the other members of the Catalyst in their town. We were excited about the bright future this small autonomous zone was going to enjoy through the efforts of these fun, hard-working anti-authoritarians.

But on December 7th, that bright future was darkened by the shadows of federal agents, who raided the Catalyst and seized materials and computers to support their “eco-terrorism” witch hunt. On the same day, they threw Bill in jail.

The Catalyst managed to survive this temporary setback. Despite all they’ve been put through, including the loss of one of their founders, the Catalyst still seems committed to serving the public. Last week they held a memorial service for Bill.

Let’s take a cue from the Catalyst folks, and look on the bright side of all this: we anarchists claim that the state is not the friend of the people, but their enemy. And nothing could make that clearer to everyone than a dose of heavy-handed, indiscriminate government persecution. Seeing it hit so close to home — just up the road, as it were — made it obvious to us that if we don’t hang together, they’ll arrange to have us hanged separately. It’s sobering to think that if we’d sent a copy of Upheaval to the Catalyst just a few weeks earlier, this very magazine might now be sitting in some spook’s filing cabinet as part of a creepy secret dossier on America’s Growing Scourge of Anarcho-Terrorism, or Eco-Fascism, or Deviant Anti-apathy, or Treasonous Action Against the Holy Corpratocratic Death Machine, or some other equally specious nonsense. It’s funny — when we started this magazine, it seemed like nobody wanted to read about anarchism. But since the Catalyst raid, it’s likely that we’ll now have readers in some of the highest tiers of the federal government. And really, could we ask for a better audience to convert?

You too can join the Upheaval anytime you like — we’re always accepting submissions of words, art, and photographs that deal with struggles for revolutionary social justice. Past subjects have included: border issues and immigration; police brutality and repression; gender, feminist, and queer issues; radical environmentalism, resistance to white supremacy, white privilege, and racism; prisoner support; critiques of global capitalism and the state; and tactics for realizing and organizing our revolutionary visions.

As always, your letters are welcome, and donations are gladly accepted. Send any and all to our PO box, or go to the PAC website.

This issue is dedicated to Bill Rodgers, and all his efforts. We hope his passing inspires us all to continue the work that he, and so many other fallen allies, have begun.

In solidarity,

The Upheaval editorial collective.


c/o the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition

PO Box 3438, Tempe, AZ 85280-3438



An open letter from Phoenix Copwatch

Operation Backfire: the FBI’s war on the ELF/ALF

by Katelyn

The Real Eco-Terrorists

by Ken Dahl

They Won’t Stop Gang Violence

by sallydarity

The Importance of Being an Ally

by Elizabeth V.

The Perfect Pope

by frog

Don’t Slice Babies’ Junk Off Dammit!!

by anonymous

bell hooks: two reviews

by frog & sallydarity

Book review: Confessions of an Economic Hitman

by anonymous

Minutemen Invade Phoenix

by sallydarity

An open letter from Phoenix Copwatch on police actions during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration

(which the Arizona Republic refused to print in their letters column)

The dehumanizing crowd control tactics used by the police against people at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Margaret T. Hance Park were poorly covered by the media. Because we had heard about the police reaction to fights last year, members of Phoenix Copwatch were present to document potential abuses. Phoenix Copwatch is an independent volunteer group formed to combat police abuse.

What we witnessed was completely inappropriate. Rather than trust the mostly black crowd to disperse on their own, the police used horses to force hundreds of people from the public park out into the street minutes after the event ended.

Once in the street, the police used pepper spray on a number of individuals, sometimes while riding past them on motorcycles. Some of the youths may have been involved in minor fist fights, but many were guilty of nothing. Had the police not forced people out of the park so quickly, there wouldn’t have been so many folks in the streets in the first place.

The black youth at this event were stripped of their dignity by being herded like cattle and “sprayed like cockroaches,” as one young man stated. We believe that this is a matter of racism, and it is an atrocity for the police to behave in this way, especially on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Phoenix Copwatch

Operation Backfire: The FBI’s war on the ELF/ALF

by Katelyn

The decade-long move to falsely portray environmentalism as terrorism finally culminated last December 7th when, as part of a nationwide string arrests, six suspected Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) saboteurs were hauled off by federal agents. The investigation has been named “Operation Backfire" by the FBI. Suspects Bill Rodgers, Kevin Tubbs, Sarah Harvey, Chelsea Gerlach, Stanislas (Jack) Meyerhoff and Daniel McGowan were charged with a number of politically motivated arsons that took place between 1996 and 2001 in Oregon, Wyoming, Washington, California and Colorado.

On December 22, 2005, Bill Rodgers was found dead in his cell in what has been ruled a suicide by the Coconino County Sheriff’s office. He was awaiting extradition to Washington. The county medical examiner determined that he suffocated after placing a plastic bag over his head. Rodgers ran the Catalyst Infoshop bookstore in Prescott, Arizona.

A couple of weeks later, Jonathan Mark Christopher Paul and Suzanne Savoie were also arrested and linked with the initial group of arrestees. In 1993, Paul spent five months in jail for contempt of court in Spokane for refusing to testify regarding the investigation of a 1991 ALF attack against US Department of Agriculture offices.

Three additional suspects — Josephine Sunshine Overaker, Rebecca Rubin, and Joseph Dibee — are still at large, and are believed to have left the country. The three are linked with an ALF/ELF cell which, according to an FBI affidavit, refers to itself as “The Family." This alleged group also includes Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, Sarah Kendall Harvey, Daniel Gerard McGowan, Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff, Jonathan Mark Christopher Paul, Darren Todd Thurston, Suzanne Savoie and Kevin Tubbs.

It gets more complicated, however: in a defense motion filed in US District Court to release Chelsea Gerlach, another suspect, Jacob Ferguson, was identified as one of several unnamed FBI informants. This would explain why, although he has admitted to being involved with a number of crimes attributed to “The Family," Ferguson has yet to be charged with any offense.

In the same court motion, Jack Meyerhoff was also named as a government informant. Before the arrests, the FBI claims that he wore a wire to record private conversations between him and another defendant, Chelsea Gerlach, in order to shorten his own sentence. These recorded conversations became the basis for the charges against the defendants in this case.

Recent court hearings seem to indicate that Sarah Harvey and Kevin Tubbs have also admitted guilt, and are cooperating with the authorities.

U.S. Attorney Karin J. Immergut said, “There is no doubt that getting inside information was one of the critical components of being able to crack the case," suggesting that the state’s case against the ELF/ALF defendents rests heavily, or even entirely, on the testimony of informants.

Amongst all of the events surrounding Operation Backfire and “The Family," another group of suspected ELF members were also recently taken into custody. On January 13, 2006, Eric McDavid, Zachary Jensen, and Lauren Weiner were arrested outside of a K-mart in Auburn, California, and accused of planning attacks on a wide variety of targets including US Forest Service buildings, the Nimbus Dam near Sacramento, a cellular telephone tower, a power station, and many others — however, none of these actions were actually carried out.

The case against the Auburn Three also relies heavily on evidence gathered from an FBI infiltrator. The affidavit explains that an FBI source wore a wire to record conversations within the group, and that a cabin where the four stayed was rented by the FBI and rigged with hidden sound and video equipment. Lauren was released on bail on January 26th, while Jensen and McDavid were denied bail. On February 14th, they are all scheduled to appear before a federal judge for a status hearing.

Related Links:

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. “THE FAMILY” Affidavit: <http://www.kirotv.com/download/




Arrest Warrant for Josephine Sunshine Overaker:<http://portland.indymedia.org/en/


The Real Eco-Terrorists can be found at http://arizona.indymedia.org/news/2006/03/37873.php

They Won’t Stop Gang Violence

by sallydarity

Stanley "Tookie" Williams was executed December 13, 2005, for the murder of four people.

I didn't know anything about Tookie Williams until about two weeks before he was sentenced to die, when I saw Redemption, the movie made about his life. Over the next few days, as I thought about the movie and Tookie’s approaching execution, I became convinced that there was enough reason for people to see he should not be killed.

Although he had been the co-founder of the Crips gang in L.A., once in prison he spent several years putting energy into stopping gang violence. He wrote a number of books geared towards a young audience, and spoke with young people to discourage them from joining or staying in gangs. As a result of his efforts, he was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize. Thousands of others had already been protesting Tookie’s planned execution.

I'm not saying that Tookie's survival would end all gang violence, nor that his efforts for redemption could bring back the people he allegedly killed. But his execution would erase the hope that he’d given to many youths. I thought for sure that enough people would see that.

However, when I heard that it was up to Governor Schwarzenegger to stay Tookie’s execution, his death suddenly seemed like a possibility. I started to put together some pieces of the bigger picture as I know it.

And you know what? I decided that I don't believe that our government wants to end gang violence. In fact, they might even have reasons to let it continue.

From my perspective on the issue, there are only two possible reasons the government would have an interest in ending gang violence: to protect the people with money (specifically white people with money), and to create a source for manual labor and military recuits. The reason the government would want to let gang violence continue is similar to why they continue the drug war, the war on terrorism, or the war on union organizing: so they can keep the police budgets rising, keep the rich people scared, and label another group of people “criminals” so they can beat them down in the street, throw them in jail, and maintain the racist status quo.

Even if the government really did want to end gang violence, I'm not quite sure where they would start. Initially I was thinking they could start by adequately teaching the histories of people of color. But there are reasons why we don't learn much about anyone other than rich white men in school, reasons which also cause disempowerment, poverty, competition, and other factors that ensure that gang violence will continue.

There are many examples throughout history of the government undermining the empowerment and rising-up of people of color. Cops in Chicago killed Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers in his bed1; COINTELPRO actively attempted to destroy the organizing efforts of the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and many others.2 There is even evidence that the CIA brought cocaine and crack into the ghettos.

My favorite author, bell hooks, wrote that “As long as black males are deemed savages unable to rise above their animal nature, they could be seen as a threat easily contained." That’s not to say that the government, or white people in general, make conscious choices about the fate of men of color — but certain aspects of the government definitely have, and continue to do so. It should also be said that the present status of people of color in the US is shaped by consistent patterns of white supremacy, imperialism, capitalism, and patriarchy. Of course we want an end to gang violence, but we should not expect the government to do what is necessary to stop it. Some might even say that the police force or the military are just large, powerful gangs themselves.

Killing people like Tookie Williams will do nothing to end gang violence. Gang violence will end only when the people are empowered, and the system toppled. And there are many more reasons for this to happen than just to end gang violence.

1Formed in 1966, the Black Panther Party was a group of black radicals whose goal was the empowerment and self-determination of black people, which they sought to carry out through various means, including the Free Breakfast for Children program, armed self-defense classes, and other community projects.

Fred Hampton was a prominently known Black Panther. During a raid, he was murdered in his bed by the Chicago police on December 4th, 1969. The police and FBI knew where he slept because they had an informant draw out a floor plan of the apartment.

2COINTELPRO was a branch of the FBI that dealt with what they considered threats to the government and social order. Officially operating from 1956-1971, they surveilled individuals and groups as well as actively disrupted them by doing things as writing and sending fake letters to create distrust or conflict amongst people.

The American Indian Movement (AIM) is an American Indian national-liberation movement which started in 1968 in response to the various issues affecting Native Americans. The group fought for land, self-determination, autonomy, and respect for their culture.

The Importance of Being an Ally

by Elizabeth V.

It is important to combat and dissect the forces in society that limit your freedom to live a stable and fulfilling life, to love whom you wish, and to have equality with everyone else in society. It is important to realize and name the people and government structures that may judge and oppress you and others simply on the basis of your race, class, gender, sexuality or ability.

But when a movement for social change focuses on only one of these systems of oppression, or when one piece of the puzzle is left out, it always negatively impacts the movement’s effectiveness. The successes of women's rights movements were limited when they excluded and marginalized non-white and lesbian women. And when Black Nationalist movements refused to confront their homophobia and patriarchy, they alienated themselves from many other groups. I believe that inclusion is strategic; we can only hope to dismantle all systems of oppression by finding unity among our differences. United, we have the power to defeat those people and institutions that oppress us all.

Learning to understand and articulate the ways that you are discriminated against can be a strong starting point towards forging a broader political critique. This is especially useful for people who historically have been taught to be quiet and subservient, or who have learned to consider their own views and problems as less important than those of others. It is important for everyone to go through this process for their own personal growth and development, and as a means of strengthening their position in the community that they come from and identify with. For example, people of color should be critically aware of the multiple ways in which racism limits their potential; women should be aware of the ways in which they are oppressed by patriarchy; lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered and queer people should be aware of the ways that they are stigmatized as a result of homophobia, and so on. Different oppressions cannot be equated; for example, the pain and suffering caused by racism and white supremacy is different from the anguish of poverty, and the struggle of being a woman is different from the exclusion faced by people of “different" sexualities and gender identities. However, there are certain commonalities between seemingly unrelated oppressions such as poverty, and the struggle of being a woman. They are all systems of dominance maintained by the broader culture, and there are many ways in which different oppressions can overlap to exacerbate each other, multiply each other, or change into and out of each other. Transgendered people may not only face disdain from their family and community members, but may also face discrimination in the workplace and in the job market.

Of course, most people that face these forms of discrimination already are aware! However, it is important to talk about norms that frequently go unstated and unanswered. Sometimes, the simple act of collective recognition and community discussion can be a very powerful experience from which further action can be taken. Once you get to know yourself and position yourself within the broader oppressive power structure, you can begin to understand the different ways that other people besides yourself are also put down, shut down, violated, and punished for their identity — as well as the ways in which you, personally, participate in dominating and silencing people that are different from you.

Most of us hold some sort of privilege in society. White people benefit from racist social structures, as when they are ignored by the police, who target people of color. Citizens of the United States have access to more resources and more stability than non-citizens. Middle-class or wealthy people have access to education, health care, and other privileges that they often take for granted. Men are allowed to dominate and control women. Straight people can express their love in public and private without fearing harassment or attracting hateful violence. People who have clear-cut gender identities have the privilege to not be fired or forced into poverty because of the ways they dress, act, look, or identify as people. We all wield a certain level of power over others, even if our identity as “nice people" doesn’t always let us see it. We can and do benefit passively from these systems of oppression even if we don’t “actively" participate in them — and by being inactive, we legitimate oppression by default.

I think it is important to own up to these privileges, and many others, and try to confront them, even when it is difficult. It can be painful to see yourself as part of a system that puts other people down, or that is unjust. However, the only way that we can combat these injustices is by recognizing the ways that we, our friends, our families and authority figures maintain these systems of pain and oppression. I admit to myself that I am embroiled in systems of racism, that I say or think or do things that are classist, and that I judge people when their gender expression is different or weird. We all need to acknowledge that we, as normal human beings, act in the ways that society has programmed us to act. We need to recognize the power that we as individuals hold, and strive to change our own oppressive actions, tendencies assumptions and privileges. We must learn to combat them actively.

I think that one of the best ways to combat these oppressions is to be an ally. Allies, as I see them, are people who are not directly oppressed by horrible systems, but who consciously work to help end them. Part of being an ally is being willing to learn about other people; the other part is respectfully putting what you have learned into action. The following list — which is by no means comprehensive — is a compilation of different things I try to do to be a more sensitive, compassionate, strategic, and effective person and organizer:

1. When in doubt, listen to others! Listen to other people’s stories, perspectives and ideas, and learn whatever you can from their experience.

2. When not in doubt, question the foundations of your beliefs. We are all limited by our own experiences, and have only partial critiques of authority as a result. We need to recognize that we do not already have all the answers.

3. Learn not to interrupt people; let others talk. Try being silent if you have a problem talking over other people. Make sure quiet people have the opportunity to express themselves. Show respect.

4. Learn not to assume that you know what other people want or need. You probably don’t.

5. Read! Sometimes people won’t want to answer all of your questions on their particular oppression. Reading gives you a great opportunity to learn about oppression without asking silly questions. But don’t assume you know everything after you have read. Keep listening.

6. Don’t speak for other people. Allow them to speak for themselves instead.

7. Go out of your comfort zone – in all areas of your life!

8. Offer support to friends and community members. Let people know that you care. But don’t force your caring on them. They are not your community service project.

9. If in a group, try to make sure that everybody’s views are being acknowledged and that the space you are creating is respectful of diversity.

10. Learn to be humble.

I do not think that it is important to learn to be an ally simply so that you yourself can be a more perfect person. But being an ally gives you a better perspective on groups that are different and less privileged than your own, and this can help you understand ways that power works. This is imperative to creating the means to either overthrow or fundamentally change our present society.

It is also important to recognize that institutions such as business and government agencies actively engage in policies of discrimination. While some abominable laws and practices have been stopped as a result of, for example, the civil rights movement of the 1960s, we can clearly see, as the poverty rates and prison percentages of this country illustrate, that we are still living in a land where institutionalized racism is the status quo. The government has an even easier time persecuting LGBTQ people and illegal immigrants, because groups such as these are exempted from discrimination laws. Rule of institutionalized racism, patriarchy, homophobia, nationalism, and ablism are all perpetually being written and rewritten by lawmakers and businesspeople.

I think that it is fair to say that not only do governments and businesses engage in discrimination, but that they thrive on this separation because it enables them to keep society divided and unable to unite against them. As long as we are thinking of discriminations and privileges as pegs in a hierarchy of oppression, we are allowing ourselves to be ruled and segmented.

I believe that a world worth living in is one where all people can be equal; in which all people are free to make their own choices, as long as they are not hurting anyone else; in which all people benefit from the joys of diversity. I believe in a world where nobody dominates another, where nobody is allowed to push other people down to raise their own status, and in which people are not punished for their race, gender, sex, sexuality, culture, upbringing, or disability. I think that all of these forces of oppression are tied into the broader systems of control maintained and necessitated by capitalism, the state, and the church — systems that reinforce, rely on, and benefit from our individual and collective hatreds and prejudices.

I think it is unhealthy to segregate or rank oppressions. If we live in a world where white women are equal to white men, but the rest of the world suffers in poverty, there are still problems to be dealt with. If we live in a world where people of different ethnicities are given equal opportunity (currently not the case, despite common mythology!), but where gay people are allowed to be beaten up on the street, murdered or marginalized, that is not a good world. If we live in a world where gay and lesbian people have access to marriage rights, but where poor people do not have access to clean drinking water or healthcare, that is not a good world. Destroying the structures of capitalism may end or lessen poverty or inequality, but that won’t necessarily make people any less racist, sexist, or homophobic. Finding one piece of the puzzle will not necessarily solve all or any of the other problems that we face.

I think it is important to forge strategies for social change which recognize the importance of all of these oppressions, and which include the experience of a wide variety of perspectives. In addition, we can use the alliances and understanding forged from working on these complex issues to deal with the so-called “big picture": fighting capitalism and the state.

As long as one person is oppressed, all people are oppressed. We should not accept the tools that the ruling classes use to stratify us and keep us divided. I think that the goal of any revolutionary activist should be to learn how to combat these systematic oppressions, and how to eliminate them wherever they exist. We must educate ourselves to understand them, and deal with them in our own organizing.

The Perfect Pope

by frog

The pope is considered to be the terrestrial leader of the Roman Catholic church, elected by a conclave of archbishops, ordained by the almighty himself. A divine ruler, he is supposed to be celibate and infallible. His church, the Roman Catholic or “universal” church, is one of the world’s wealthiest organizations. The pope remains in power until he dies or chooses to resign — “he,” because officially a woman pope is not an option, and never has been for the church’s seventeen hundred years. Women are evil, as demonstrated by our sinful seductress predecessor, Eve.

Since the church was founded by Saint Peter, there have been many popes. But which guy was the best? Who was the overachiever? Who was the most popular? Who was the most infallible and who was the most celibate? Who was most macho? Who maintained earthy priorities? And are any of them as perfect as they claimed?

There have been many scandalous popes. Pope Benedict XVI is rumored to have Nazi ties. The previous, Polish pope, John Paul II, was supposedly involved with the Nazis too. And there was that pope that put Galileo on house arrest.

These are all noble achievements. However, I believe Pope Alexander VI was exceptional. Let me tell you his story.

Rodrigo Borgia was given the name Alexander VI when he became pope in 1492 (and Columbus sailed the ocean blue). His uncle had already been pope before him, and Rodrigo had held many Vatican offices simultaneously prior to being elected pope himself. An adept womanizer, he sprinkled illegitimate children throughout Rome.

Alexander’s favorite lover bore him his four most beloved children: Giovanni, Cesare, Lucrezia, and Geoffredo. Giovanni, the eldest, had his father’s good looks and womanizing skills. He frequently held carnally indulgent celebrations. He was the favorite son, the firstborn who would inherit all his father’s wealth and even the papacy if Alexander could establish a Borgia dynasty.

However, Cesare, the insanely jealous second-eldest child, had Giovanni murdered, and then became his father’s new favorite. In a short time, Cesare’s uninhibited ambition made him the most feared man in Italy. He was the Vatican’s military leader, murdered anyone who looked at him the wrong way, and took his younger brother’s wife for a lover. Cesare was notorious for stealing brides.

Alexander VI himself was a very indulgent man. He held feasts and orgies in his and his children’s honor. One of the most infamous was the “chestnut orgy,” where Alexander skipped vespers to feast with his children. There was wild dancing, and nude prostitutes were summoned to crawl on the floor and gather chestnuts in any way they could without using their hands. At the end of the party, Lucrezia rewarded silk scarves to the courtesans who had accomplished the highest number of sexual endeavors with the court servants. The Borgias were famous for these sorts of magnificent celebrations.

Lucrezia had blond hair and a fair complexion, two qualities that made her extremely desirable by Renaissance beauty standards. Her family used her as a pawn to form political alliances through marriage. Lucrezia was first married off at the tender age of thirteen to Giovanni Sforza. The alliance with the Sforzas was important at the time, but when the alliance was no longer useful, the Borgias attempted to take Giovanni Sforza’s life. When that failed, Alexander demanded that the couple divorce, on grounds that the marriage was never consummated. The ex-husband was forced to publicly declare impotence. Lucrezia, too, had to profess her virginity. She was six months pregnant at the time.

Lucrezia’s child was known as infans romanus, meaning child of Rome. It was never proven who the father of the child was. Some people believe the father was a messenger for Alexander VI. Some believe the father was Cesare Borgia. Others believe that the father was Alexander himself, making Alexander both his son’s father and grandfather. Whatever. It was always a firmly guarded family secret.

Lucrezia’s carefully chosen second husband, Alfonso di Bisceglie, was attacked by Cesare’s henchmen. It was an unsuccessful murder attempt, but the husband was killed in his bed days later. This was extremely unfortunate, because he and Lucrezia actually did have a loving relationship. Some historians suspected that Cesare might have been romantically involved with his younger sister, which would explained why he killed any man she was with.

The third choice for Lucrezia was a man from the most wealthy family in Italy. He was Alfonso d’Este. Alexander used his political leverage to get the alliances he needed from the Estense family. Lucrezia grew to be an important part of the Estense family, and remained part of it until she died from childbirth complications at the age of thirty-nine.

I must also mention the poisonings. The Borgias had a very efficient method of ridding themselves of political enemies. The unfortunate victim would be invited to dine at the Vatican with the Borgias. To refuse such an invitation was a grave sin, and could potentially lead to excommunication. During dinner, the victim would be slipped poison in their wine, and eventually die. It was rumored that Lucrezia wore a hollow ring which encased the poison; however, there has been no evidence to prove that Lucrezia ever had such a ring. For many years, the Borgias employed poisoning to rid themselves of their enemies. Alexander himself might have died from a poisoning gone wrong, after he drank his own poison by accident.

Alexander VI and his crazy kids were a controversial family. There have been many books that document the lives of the Borgia children, and I have heard that a movie about Lucrezia is coming out soon too. Greed and nepotism were common of Renaissance popes, but Alexander took them to the max. His family was rich, inbred, illegitimate, and holy all at the same time.

The Vatican has yet to release the official Borgia documents for public scrutiny.

Don’t Slice Babies’ Junk Off Dammit!!

by anonymous

As practiced here in America, circumcision is the surgical removal of genital tissue, called foreskin, from infant boys. It is considered by many Americans to be a beneficial and benign medical procedure. However, in sync with much of the rest of the world, American opinion towards circumcision is changing as more people become aware of the benefits of genital integrity, as well as the negative long-term consequences of this outdated, violent and tragic violation of human rights.

The routine circumcision of infant males is a solution to problems that don't exist in the first place. The most common defense of circumcision made by everyday Americans boils down to “I'm circumcised (or my partner is) and I'm just fine. Don't tell me what to do to MY baby." The claim is also commonly made that removal of foreskin makes the male's genitals easier to clean and less prone to infection. This argument assumes that an intact foreskin is not hygenic, and susceptibile to infection — problems that do not actually exist among genitally intact male populations. I've heard and read of claims that circumcision reduces the risk of prostate, penile, and cervical cancer. However, the medical community at large does not support these claims by any means. In fact, no pediatric organization in the country recommends or endorses the procedure as a valid medical procedure for any of these medical conditions.

It's common to hear that uncircumcised penises are gross, smelly, or aesthetically unpleasing. But imagine someone advocating for the removal of female genital tissue to fix a perceived (but not actual) problem with the natural odor and shape of vaginas — which, by the way, varies widely from one woman to the next. Even though it's the exact same argument, most of American society would be outraged if female circumcisions were performed in this country. Still, for some reason, the cultural practice of male genital mutilation is disguised as a beneficial medical intervention, and circumcision continues in America.

Among the myths about circumcision is the mistaken idea that the foreskin is “extra" skin, and not a necessary, integral part of the entire penis. This misunderstanding of male genital anatomy is tragically common in mainstream American culture. In many ways, explaining an intact, uncircumcised penis to a man circumcised shortly after birth is like attempting to explain colors to a blind person. First, the blind person has to believe and trust you that such a thing as “sight" exists in the first place; then, there is no deeply satisfying way to communicate an experience that is derived from organs that someone else simply does not have.

Most circumcised men no longer have enough tissue to masturbate the way nature intended. Intact (uncircumcised) males do not require synthetic lubrication to masturbate to orgasm because of the way the intact foreskin folds in on itself, rubbing against both itself and the head of the penis. This can come as a surprise to many circumcised men, if they are used to using their hand directly on the remaining erogenous tissue with the aid of artificial lubricants.

After becoming educated about circumcision, some men have decided to modify their penises by non-surgically expanding the penile skin to approximate some of the benefits of a real foreskin. This is called foreskin restoration, and is based on the fact that, under the right circumstances, a body will manufacture new skin cells. Foreskin restoration can improve sexual functioning dramatically and can also aid emotional healing. Many men who undertake foreskin restoration report significant positive changes in sexual sensitivity and function.

However, the tissue removed during circumcision can never be brought back. There are sensations that men circumcised as infants will never feel, because their penises were never allowed to develop into the sensory organs their DNA had intended. This is a sad realization for many men to make. Anger, frustration and depression are common reactions to understanding what they have lost. What follows are verbal descriptions of a few of the body parts removed by circumcision, compiled by the National Organization for Restoring Men:

* The foreskin’s gliding action is a hallmark feature of the normal, natural, intact penis. This non-abrasive gliding of the penis in and out of its own shaft skin facilitates smooth, comfortable, pleasurable intercourse for both partners. Without this gliding action, the corona of the circumcised penis can function as a one-way valve, making artificial lubricants necessary for comfortable intercourse.

The return of this natural gliding action is one of the primary benefits of foreskin restoration. In many cases, wives of restoring men were initially doubtful about restoration but came to value it highly when their husbands had grown enough new skin to effect greater levels of comfort and pleasure during intercourse.

[Source: P. M. Fleiss, MD, MPH, “The Case Against Circumcision,” Mothering: The Magazine of Natural Family Living (Winter 1997): 36-45.]

* The frenar band is a group of soft ridges near the junction of the inner and outer foreskin. This region is the primary erogenous zone of the intact male body. Loss of this delicate belt of densely innervated, sexually responsive tissue reduces the fullness and intensity of sexual response.

[Source: Taylor, J. R. et al., “The Prepuce: Specialized Mucosa of the Penis and Its Loss to Circumcision,” British Journal of Urology, 77 (1996): 291-295.]

* There is no known method of restoring the frenar band.

Circumcision removes the most important sensory component of the foreskin - thousands of coiled fine-touch receptors called Meissner's corpuscles. Also lost are branches of the dorsal nerve, and between 10,000 and 20,000 specialized erotogenic nerve endings of several types. Together these detect subtle changes in motion and temperature, as well as fine gradations in texture.

[Sources: 1. R. K. Winkelmann, “The Erogenous Zones: Their Nerve Supply and Its Significance,” Proceedings of the Staff Meetings of the Mayo Clinic, 34 (1959): 39-47. 2. R. K. Winkelmann, “The Cutaneous Innervation of Human Newborn Prepuce,” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 26 (1956): 53-67.]

* There is no known method of restoring Meissner's corpuscles or other specialized sensory nerve cells. However, restoring and restored men almost universally experience tremendous increases in sensitivity, in part because the highly sensitive nerve cells in the glans are no longer buried under several layers of keratinized skin.

The frenulum is a highly erogenous V-shaped structure on the underside of the glans that tethers the foreskin. During circumcision it is frequently either amputated with the foreskin or severed, which destroys or diminishes its sexual and physiological functions.

[Sources: 1. Cold, C, Taylor, J, "The Prepuce," BJU International, 83, Suppl. 1, (1999): 34-44. 2. Kaplan, G.W., “Complications of Circumcision," Urologic Clinics of North America, 10, 1983.]

* If the frenulum is amputated, there is no known method of replacing it. If only a small portion of the frenulum is left, it is probably no longer functional as a tethering structure. There is no known method of attaching it to a restored foreskin, but some men have reported stretching the frenulum remnant as they stretched their foreskin.

Several feet of blood vessels, including the frenular artery and branches of the dorsal artery, are removed in circumcision. The loss of this rich vascularization interrupts normal blood flow to the shaft and glans of the penis, damaging the natural function of the penis and altering its development.

[Sources: 1. H. C. Bazett et al., "Depth, Distribution and Probable Identification in the Prepuce of Sensory End-Organs Concerned in Sensations of Temperature and Touch; Thermometric Conductivity," Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 27 (1932): 489-517. 2. Netter, F.H., Atlas of Human Anatomy, Second Edition (Novartis, 1997): plates 238, 239.]

* There is no known method of restoring arteries and vessels that were removed during circumcision. However, many restoring men have noticed that the new skin is more richly vascularized than the older skin of their penis. We have no medical explanation for this phenomenon.

Circumcision performed during infancy disrupts the bonding process between child and mother. There are indications that the innate sense of trust in intimate human contact is inhibited or lost. It can also have significant adverse effects on neurological development. Additionally, an infant's self-confidence and hardiness is diminished by forcing the newborn victim into a defensive psychological state of "learned helplessness" or "acquired passivity" to cope with the excruciating pain which he can neither fight nor flee. The trauma of this early pain lowers a circumcised boy's pain threshold below that of intact boys and girls.

[Sources: 1. R. Goldman, Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma (Boston: Vanguard Publications, 1997), 139-175. 2. A. Taddio et al., "Effect of Neonatal Circumcision on Pain Responses during Vaccination in Boys," Lancet 345 (1995): 291-292.] (http://www.norm.org/lost.html)

Body modification has a long history. It is one of the many ways that people choose to express their individuality and cultural ties. It is clearly within an individual's personal rights to modify their own body in any way that they see fit. Sadly, countless people have had their bodies modified without their consent in violent, damaging ways. Genital mutilation of any sex or gender takes place at the intersections of patriarchy, institutional sexual violence, blind tradition and the struggle against human-rights abuses.

When and which sex that genital mutilation is performed on differs from culture to culture. Adolescent boys, young girls, and infant boys are all among the victims. Some mutilators make a slit at the opening of the foreskin. Some remove the labia. Some remove the entire foreskin and frenulum. Some remove the clitoris, labia and then surgically narrow the vagina. In the United States, circumcisions are performed on infant males as a matter of course, without a diagnosable problem. These are all human tragedies, and a part of war culture.

The first step towards healing from these culturally inflicted wounds is refusing to participate. Thankfully, resources exist in print and online for learning how to take care of your intact son. Do the right thing and honor the bodily integrity of your child. Children deserve a warm welcome into the world and into adult society. As a culture we have the option to replace traumatizing, violent initiation rituals with ones of caring, compassion and connection. Start honoring your child from the day he's born and refuse to allow non-medical circumcision. Take this step towards ending sexual violence on all fronts and creating a safe space for all people to experience their own physical and spiritual connection to themselves, free from violence.

Educational Resources:

* Raising Intact Sons:


* Doctors Opposing Circumcision:


* National Organization for Restoring Men:


* Circumcisions Resource Center:


* DMOZ Directory :


* International Coalition for Genital Integrity :

<http://www.icgi.org/ asdfsd>

* The National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers:



* Jewish Circumcision Resource Center:


bell hooks: two reviews

1: by frog

I have read many books on feminism as well as a few books by bell hooks. I’ve found that there is not much feminist literature addressing the negative effects of patriarchy on men; most feminist books focus only on the plight of women in contemporary society. When I heard about the subject of bell hooks’ newest book, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love, I thought that she had to be joking. The book was explaining the need for masculinity. Obviously, hooks had lost her feminist focus. She was getting too soft. Women do not need masculinity in their lives, if they choose. Still, despite my uncertainty, when I found the book at the Tempe Public Library I took it home.

The Will to Change discusses the condition of the male in our patriarchal culture. Many women, claims hooks, desire more intimate relationships with their male partners; however, many women still fail miserably at finding satisfying loving relationships with men. hooks makes the case that this trend of dysfunction between men, women, and other gender identities is caused by patriarchy — societal male dominance. Women and men both suffer under the patriarchal system. The Will to Change addresses the emotional and psychological problems that men face under a social system in which little boys can be avoided emotionally by both male and female peers and family members. Antisocial behavior is seen as normal in male teenagers, which causes men to often remain emotionally immature compared to their female counterparts.

hooks also discusses children’s literature, and offers a feminist critique of Harry Potter.

The Will to Change describes behavioral trends that I have noticed throughout my own life in male friends, family members, and lovers. This book satiated my desire to understand the culturally imposed dissimilarities between men and women. I recommend it to anyone who is striving to understand the behavior of the people they care about.


2: by sallydarity

I got discouraged from writing a book review of bell hooks' The Will to Change about a year ago — not because it wasn't an amazing book, but because I didn’t know how to choose from the dozen quotes I’d collected to include in the review. I didn’t want to leave out any of the points hooks made in the book. To keep this short, I’ll just share one quote:

Many men are angry at women, but more profoundly, women are the targets for displaced male rage at the failure of patriarchy to make good on its promise of fulfillment, especially endless sexual fulfillment. Men may be too terrified to confront the facts of their lives and tell the truth that possessing the right to engage in rituals of domination and subordination is not all that patriarchy promised it would be. (84)

Within a short amount of time, a few of my friends and myself determined that we wanted all guys to read this book. We think it has the potential to spark a change in guys, and ideally create a situation where we can have more equal relationships. Although the book is not just for men, it provides a lot of insight into what shapes boys and men, and how a lot of them might heal them from domineering emotional cripples into allies to women, and traitors to patriarchal masculinity. For feminists, reading this book might help to reignite a compassion for, and deeper understanding of, patriarchal males.

hooks is not afraid to ask some of the more difficult questions facing feminism and gender equality: Are men also victims of patriarchy? Are men truly privileged if they cannot have equal relationships? Do women perpetuate patriarchy? Can men change, and how?

hooks points out that, since it affects both men and women negatively, everyone has an interest in fighting patriarchy — and that we might get closer to ending patriarchy if we stopped calling what men have “privilege.”

You might think that this book undermines the work feminists have done toward claiming victimhood. But while hooks doesn’t let your average feminist get away with claims based on blame and power-grabbing, she also isn’t easy on the guys
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