Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

I’m not the right person to comment on Aaron Swartz’s death. Plenty of others who are better informed than I have done so already. A few of the more insightful articles I’ve read are:

Lawrence Lessig: “Prosecutor as Bully”

Glenn Greenwald: “The inspiring heroism of Aaron Swartz”

Alex Stamos: “Aaron Swartz Died Innocent”

What I do want to do is reprint Swartz’s “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” in its entirety and invite some discussion about how academic publishing works and how those who participate in this type of publishing view the prosecution against Swartz (especially in light of pushes for increasingly open access).

My general take is pretty in line with Aaron’s: traditional academic publishing is a dinosaur living on borrowed time that young scholars are pretty much forced to feed. If you don’t publish in respected, old-timey, usually paywall-protected journals, you are reducing your already slim hope of a tenure-track job. The publishers’ commoditization of your work does nothing to compensate you; it merely stands on tradition that you work for pennies while they make a good sum of money off of you and others like you (which you actually indirectly fund, at least as a grad student, through journal subscriptions at the campus libraries paid for by your tuition). Meanwhile, you get backpatted for being such a successful author as to publish in one of these prestigious journals and add that line to your CV. It is a shit system, but, at least for young scholars, there’s very little one can do about it. You aren’t in a position of power at all. And the pushback for flouting the system (what MIT and the prosecutor did to Swartz) reinforces the reality that we aren’t all going to they aren’t about to let us publicly rebel and just toss everything out there for the public to find (though a lot of people have over the years have been doing just this).

Anyway, the text of the manifesto is below the cut. And thank you for everything, Aaron.


We vote by mail in Oregon, so my ballot was submitted a while ago.  And, like many, I’m ready for this all to be over so the stupid ads and junk mail and “news” articles cluttering up my internet cease.  Even more than that, I’ll be happy to not have to engage in dialogue with true believer campaigners who are so sure electing their candidate will change everything.  Guess what?  It won’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly one of those anarchists who claims you shouldn’t vote because it “legitimates the system” and is hypocritical, and then parrots an unsourced Emma Goldman quote.  That’s nonsense, and especially so when you live somewhere where there are ballot measures that decide policy put directly to voters.  And it does matter which candidate takes office.  That said, to me it’s important to remember how limited the impact of voting, especially for political offices, actually is.

In a recent article for Spin (“How Political Change Actually Happens”), Boots Riley of The Coup (who I’ll get to below the cut) and Occupy Oakland lays this point out as follows:

If what you want is actual change, then what has to be built is a mass movement that is militant and can use direct action to slow or stop profit. A movement that can do that can demand whatever it wants. Why? Because politicians answer the dictates of the ruling class, the 1%. [Politicians] are merely puppets. If you have a movement that stops a portion of the economic machine, the ruling class will make their puppets dance for you.

None of the changes that we see as great advances in human or civil rights have come by electing the right politician. Social Security, Medicare, Section 8, AFDC, Civil Rights legislation — that all came because there were movements that were using direct action to stop profits; movements that the ruling class was scared would turn revolutionary.

Interestingly, this reminder to question change through voting, reformist liberalism, and the existing socioeconomic system, is often most clearly expressed through music (though music is no substitute for real action, as Boots is always the first to mention).  And there are a number of artists who have recently released (or will soon release) albums with messages to this effect.  Here’s a quick rundown of a few I happen to like (skewing toward indy hip hop since that’s where I’m at right now), and I’d be happy to hear if you have other suggestions in this vein.


I haven’t taken much time to write about music recently (or, on this blog, at all).  There are various reasons for this, including: A. my interest in strange, often noisy, and overtly politically-oriented styles of music, and B. my somewhat narrow topic focus here.  But when I heard about the ridiculously prolific, smart, and politically-relevant rapper Sole doing a new studio record (and seeking crowdfunding to get it done right), I figured I should write something up about him and why people should check him out.

Sole was one of the founding members of the collective/label anticon., who I discovered in the early 2000s while living in Oakland/Berkeley.  During that time, around 2001-06, a lot of interesting and great stuff was happening with DIY/indy/underground/whatever hip hop in the Bay Area and elsewhere, and the anticon. collective’s work was one of the several ongoing projects I latched on to.  All of their work, and a lot of underground hip-hop of the time, deviates greatly in style and content from the kind of mainstream crap that most think of when you talk about hip-hop or rap.

Sadly, as with many such things, I kind of let my attention slide when I moved north and started all the things that I’m now occupied with.  Distance from a locale where these things actually happened, plus new priorities led me to let a lot of less-pressing interests wither.  So, I missed out on the news of Sole leaving anticon. or his recent work; until a few months back when someone linked something on some forum or page and I (re-)discovered him via this video: