Tuesday, January 31, 2006


At the Crossroads

As with the injustices that led to such horrid violence in the North of Ireland, the mounting injustices in the US must be addressed foremost by moral authorities if we wish a political reconciliation rather than armed conflict between pro and anti-democratic forces in our country.

It is not enough to simply condemn violence in vague pieties from national offices or ivory towers; if one opposes violent resolution of grievances, then one must not only offer an alternative process, but also work to see it affected. For if politics cannot achieve justice--and it has failed miserably in America--then violence will inevitably follow.

So far, America's religious leaders have not applied themselves to developing solutions to the problems that divide us, problems that themselves are acts of violence--the violence of poverty, the violence of bigotry, the violence of greed. Indeed, they have yet to develop solutions to end American aggression abroad, despite the condemnation of the world for US crimes against humanity.

So until the religious community, Christian and otherwise, actively resist our political system and leadership that is maintained by force and violence against the principles of democracy, let us hear no more about the piety of non-violence. Because as we have seen all too clearly since 12/12/2000, the primary violence of injustice and tyranny in our country has gone mostly unconfronted by the clergy.

Nor should the self-righteous be too quick to engage in conflict resolution before those who have committed these injustices have paid the price for their grievous misdeeds. Much innocent blood has been shed from Biloxi to Baghdad; were some guilty blood to be shed, who are they to condemn it?

It is not too soon for dialogue, though, nor to talk about the responsibilities of both moral and political authorities to ensure these injustices are resolved so that the conditions for further violence are removed. But if those who denounce violence truly wish to end it, they must demonstrate the existence of an alternative strategy as well as a coalition of forces sufficiently powerful to make this achievement a credible possibility.

If there is no peaceful struggle and genuine sacrifice, then moral condemnation of violent struggle is the worst form of hypocrisy. For this tyranny that envelops us must be opposed--one way or another.


Orcinus Attacks

"Organizations like the Building Industry Association of Washington represent, in many ways, the essential face of modern conservatism: their bottom line is money and power, by any means necessary."

[Post includes links to the works of Jay Taber and Paul de Armond.]


New Breed

"If the Democratic party has been this weak and unable to combat fascism, they need to suffer their losses and join the rest of the American public in the soup line which will be financed by a faith-based organization. Then and only then will change come. Voting for a Dem that will not fight to save our country is no different than voting for a Republican. I cannot place hope in those who have given me every reason to believe they are not going to protect this country. I can wait until a new breed comes along."


Hire Me

If you need open source research, program funding or issue analysis, organizational evaluations, editorial advice, persuasive writing, tutoring, or simply a little help organizing and interpreting the information you already have, I just might be the guy you're looking for.

I've worked for governments, non-profits, colleges, and newspapers, as well as run my own consulting business.

Everything from strategic planning to grant research and development to marketing and communications--I've done it with considerable success.

Whatever you need--a day, a week, a project, a product--I can help you achieve your goals. San Francisco area, or telecommute; drop me a line.


Next Step

In case you've ever wondered why there was no anti-war movement in England during the thirty years (1966-1996) its army and intelligence services attacked the Northern Ireland civil rights movement--supplying bombs and weaponry to Loyalist paramilitaries throughout the Irish island--it isn't only because of the IRA bombings in Belfast and London.

According to Tim Pat Coogan (author of The Troubles), due to the legal right of the British government to censor absolutely anything on TV, radio, or in print, the only way the English people could find out about the paramilitary death squads, massive internments without trial, official practices of torture and forced confessions, and the assassinations carried out by undercover SAS operatives, was to somehow get ahold of an Irish newspaper.

Unlike in the US, where we at least retain a nominally free press, in England, papers and stations can literally be closed down, taken off the air, and personnel jailed when the government feels threatened by exposure of its misdeeds. I imagine that now Alito has been confirmed, the White House will seek even broader dictatorial powers to control what Americans are allowed to know. It's the logical next step toward a totalitarian police state.


Common Sense Security

[Some useful advice from Sheila O'Donnell, ACE Investigations.]

As our movements have become stronger and more sophisticated, the techniques of the state, corporations, and right-wing groups have also become more sophisticated. We have seen government agents, corporate security and right-wing intelligence networks share information as well as an ideology. For instance, the FBI's COINTELPRO operations targeted dissidents in America in the 1960s and 1970s. Caution and common sense security measures in the face of the concerted efforts to stop us are therefore both prudent and necessary.

Spend a few minutes to assess your work from a security point of view: understand your vulnerabilities; assess your allies and your adversaries as objectively as possible; do not underestimate the opposition. Try to assess your organizational and personal strengths and weaknesses. Do not take chances. Plan for the worst; work and hope for the best.

Here are some specific suggestions for protecting yourself and your projects:

Monday, January 30, 2006


Dramatic Reenactment

Until we have a democratic system of governance (i.e. proportional representation, devolution of centralized powers...) the Democratic Party will continue to function as what author Walter Karp called an Indispensable Enemy of the Republican Party--a player in a dramatic reenactment of political opposition.

When a human rights movement again coalesces around people willing to fight and die for their principles, then we might see meaningful change--not before.



As one of the language groups of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Chinookan is also the source for the name of this weblog. Skookum: strong, stout, brave; fine, splendid--is also a commonly used term in the Pacific Northwest for something well done, be it a work of art, craft, or social enterprise.


Information Warfare

The Pentagon sees the Internet as "equivalent to an enemy weapons system."


The Umbrella Group

[The following true story is extracted from the book Blind Spots by Jay Taber.
An earlier and considerably longer composite of excerpts from Blind Spots is available here . The author is currently seeking venues for publishing The Umbrella Group as a feature story. Assistance in this endeavor appreciated.]

The Umbrella Group

On September 20, 1992, CBS 60 Minutes aired a segment on the violence of the industry-backed Wise Use Movement, focusing on the threats, intimidation, and assaults against parents and community groups in the US who raised concerns about water and air pollution. Caught on film were movement provocateurs Chuck Cushman and Skip Richards, as well as movement propagandist Ron Arnold--all based in Washington State--and interestingly, David Macintosh, White House staff representing President Bush at a national Wise Use gathering. On behalf of President Bush, Macintosh congratulated them for the role they were playing in shaping US policy. As Mr. Macintosh put it, “This is an important movement—one that reflects the American people’s desire to have sensible government.” Part of the footage of Clean Water, Clean Air was shot in Whatcom County, Washington where I lived at the time.

In our Pacific Northwest neck of the woods, the threats in the early 1990s were coming from folks stirred up by the real estate development industry against environmental protection and Indian treaties. Several of those targeted for harassment were my colleagues and friends.

While on our fall 1994 vacation, Marianne and I stopped for lunch in the picturesque logging/mining town of Republic, in the mountains of Ferry County 100 miles northwest of Spokane. As we often do when visiting new locales, we picked up the local newspaper to get the flavor of the area. The eight-page Republic Miner contained the typical small town articles about weddings, civic group functions, and the Sheriff’s report, along with the usual hardware, grocery, and real estate ads. What caught my eye, though, was a full-page color ad by The Umbrella Group--an unusual name for this arid side of the state--that consisted mostly of text denouncing environmentalists and anyone else who allegedly was putting timber workers and miners out of work. The name rang a bell, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

When we tuned into the local radio station, we learned that the mill that employed most of the town was scaling back and making layoffs. The call-in show we caught in mid stride was full of scapegoating and fear-mongering. As it turned out, TUG was another industry-funded lobbying group that was evading disclosure by failing to report campaign expenditures, which in turn enabled them to come in under the radar of media and good government groups that monitored election department forms to see who was funding support or opposition to candidates, initiatives, or referendums.

The following week, I saw a notice in the Bellingham Herald for a meeting of the Committee for Environmental Justice, at Laurel Grange. When I entered the hall, I spotted Gene Goldsmith, the Wise Use State Legislator from Ferndale. As I looked around, I noticed several characters I hadn’t spotted before at Wise Use rallies or public hearings. Some of them were wearing camouflage clothing; one who was operating a video camera on a tri-pod between me and Representative Goldsmith, had a ball cap on with an insignia of a revolutionary war Minuteman.

Skip Richards, a Building Industry Association contract field agent, opened the meeting by introducing the master of ceremonies from Snohomish County, Don Kehoe, who launched into a mild-mannered, monotonous diatribe on Millenialism, Armageddon, and the looming “End Times.” Several “expert” speakers continued in a similar but more excited vein over the next two hours--interrupted only by spontaneous testimonials from audience members who popped up here and there, regaling their encounters with agents from ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms). Guys with dark rings around their eyes, like the cast in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, like maybe they’d been losing a lot of sleep worrying about the UN invasion or maybe been over self-medicating.

As I witnessed the escalating fervor of the many wild-eyed participants, including a visibly agitated Washington State Representative Gene Goldsmith, whose one leg kept bouncing up and down—accelerating with the passion of the testifiers--I began to wonder how many of these marginally-sane malcontents were packing firearms under their jackets. I was considerably relieved when they announced the coffee and cookie break, and headed in to grab some refreshment and look around.

The kitchen was worse—it was full of maniacal Larouchites leaning over the tables frenziedly pitching their knowledge of the House of Windsor and Rothschild connections to internment camps run by UN troops at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for locking up people like themselves who knew the secrets about the New World Order. There were other sociopaths nearly foaming at the mouth while frantically hawking guns, books, and armaments orders to already pumped-up militia recruits who were loading up on caffeine and sugar. Soft sell was not in their repertoire.


October 26, 1994, four days after the Laurel Grange militia revival, the Wise Use Whatcom County Council announced it was withholding support from a human rights group formed in the wake of a cross-burning and shotgun attack at a migrant workers’ camp near Lynden. A city of five thousand with a history of anti-abortion, anti-gay, religious activism--due in part to the concentration of Christians involved with organizations like Eagle Forum, Focus on the Family, and Christian Coalition--Lynden’s prosperous berry farmers relied on seasonal workers from Mexico. To some of the Wise Use bigots--particularly their associates in the militia recruiting organization Citizens for Liberty-- these non-white laborers were viewed on a par with Indians and Blacks--not only unequal in the eyes of God, but undeserving of equal protection under the law. The County Council’s major objection to the human rights group, however, was its support of equal rights for homosexuals.

Meanwhile, down in Snohomish County, just north of Seattle, growth management activist Ellen Gray was threatened by property-rights zealots brandishing a hangman’s noose. Ellen was later asked to testify before a Congressional committee investigating domestic terrorism.

In January 1995, Whatcom County Council member Marlene Dawson--a real estate speculator on the Lummi Indian Reservation--urged U.S. Senator Slade Gorton to “drastically cut Lummi funding” on behalf of her and other white fee land owners. The Fee Land Owners Association (FLOA), in which Marlene was active, had been at odds with the tribe over the sovereignty of Lummi Nation to manage water resources within its own jurisdiction. To the white developers, this interfered with their ability to make easy money at the expense of the tribe.
This situation played out on numerous Indian reservations throughout the state, especially those with waterfront. Puget Sound was notorious for battles between tribes and developers. United Property Owners of Washington (UPOW) is the umbrella lobbying and litigation organization for the whites. Former U.S. Representative Jack Metcalf from Langley on Whidbey Island (whose father was a Silver Shirt Nazi-sympathizer during World War II) served on UPOW’s board.

Senator Gorton made a name for himself in the 1970s as the Washington State Attorney General who led the fight to deprive Washington Indian tribes of their fishing rights guaranteed under the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliot. I remember in 1974 my Lummi and Samish friends being rammed and shot at while fishing salmon. As a U.S. Senator in 1995, Gorton took the action of threatening to deprive the Lummis of funds used to support such needs as health services for their elders and the Head Start program for their children.

After an armed stand-off on the reservation between Lummi Police and Whatcom County Sheriff’s Deputies at the site of a Lummi Nation well, anti-Indian organizers stepped up their activities. Several Indian youth were harassed and assaulted in the nearby Ferndale School District, and placard-carrying contingents from FLOA, stirred up by Skip Richards’ and his new partner Kris Heintz’ propaganda equating property-rights with civil rights, became regulars at County Council meetings.


A short while later, at a human rights workshop I had the good fortune to meet Eric Ward from Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment in Seattle. Eric, and his partner Bill Wassmuth, were focused on constraining racist based political violence. Eric, a young, dreadlocked, black man with blue eyes had been initiated into human rights work combating neo-Nazi skinheads in Eugene, Oregon. Bill, an older, white, former Catholic priest from Idaho, had received his initiation fighting Aryan Nations, which is suspected of blowing off the back of his home with dynamite.

On April 19, I made an early morning trip south to Snohomish County to introduce myself to Ellen Gray. When we met for lunch, I related to her some of the stuff Paul de Armond was uncovering, and suggested, “We might be able to help you do something about the militia thugs down here. You know your Sheriff’s mixed up with them.” She stopped me in mid sentence, staring with a puzzled look. “You seem so calm. Do you know what happened this morning?”
I said, “No, what?”
“Someone blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.”

Later in May 1995, Ben Hinckle, who’d opened for Chuck Cushman at a Wise Use Rome Grange revival, hosted an open-to-the-public Citizens for Liberty meeting at Squalicum Harbor Center. Citizens for Liberty--an amalgam of adherents of the John Birch Society, Liberty Lobby, and other racist /anti-Semitic organizations--was waxing as a militia recruiting group, drawing interest from less stable members of Fee Land Owners Association and other property-rights fanatics. The new political climate boastfully created by the Building Industry Association, had clearly signaled it was time for these dormant Minutemen to prepare for action.

The targets of their delusional fear and hatred had been provided—now it was time for revenge. Whatcom County Sheriff Dale Brandland attended to warn them not to “take the law into their own hands.” At a later public meeting of Citizens for Liberty, Hinckle threatened Paul with a knife.


As Paul’s report Wise Use in Northern Puget Sound circulated around the state and nation, attracting interest from civic groups, academia, law enforcement, and news reporters in the US, Canada, and Europe, the anti-Indian element of the property-rights fundamentalists began to escalate the conflict. In September 1995, Bellingham’s KGMI radio talk-show host, Jeff Kent, led Fee Land Owners Association representatives Jeff McKay and Linnea Smith in an hour-long diatribe against the Lummis. When U.S. Senator Gorton stepped up his attack against Native sovereignty, Washington Environmental Council and the Washington Association of Churches joined the Lummis in condemning this unconscionable act of revenge for losing the fish wars in federal court as a younger man.

For a brief period that fall, humanists and renegade Democrats worked along side attorney Joe Bowen, a Skagit Indian fielded to challenge Gorton for U.S. Senate. Perhaps in the twisted minds that comprised Citizens for Liberty, this confirmed their delusions of conspiracy against their version of white supremacy guaranteed by the “organic” U.S. Constitution, the one without amendments beyond the original ten—the one they carried in their shirt pockets when attending militia meetings. But it was not what they thought that mattered most—it was what they did that counted, and their decision in November 1995 to sponsor a talk by Ron Arnold, the hate-mongering Wise Use propagandist from the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise in Bellevue, was one they’d come to regret.

Arnold, “Merchant of Fear” Alan Gottlieb’s partner, is a not so subtle master of violent rhetoric, who covers himself by claiming his calls to “kill the bastards” (environmentalists) are metaphorical.

Movement entrepreneurs Arnold and Cushman--national players who mobilize ruffians to carry the banner for industry--generate violence toward Indians and environmentalists from coast to coast. According to Western States Center researcher Jonn Lunsford, crimes including “animal mutilation, property damage, death threats, arson, assault and battery, bombings, and attempted murder” follow in their wake. In May 1988, Cushman was the featured speaker at Protect America’s Rights and Resource’s national convention in Wisconsin, held to oppose honoring Indian treaties. Shortly after his 1988 appearance, Indian fishermen there were assaulted and shot at by sports fishermen.


The week before, on November 11, 1995 (Veterans Day), another event took place that had Paul and I in an excited state of mind. Paul’s sister Claire had received a call early that Saturday morning from a friend who’d passed the Rome Grange on the way to town, and seen a large sign out front announcing “Washington State Militia.” Paul called me before breakfast to arrange a rendezvous at the Grange. He and Claire would sit on one side of the room, visibly taking notes and tape-recording if it seemed safe, and I would sit on the other side of the room blending in.

Shortly after the pledge of allegiance and welcome, Paul and Claire entered and sat across the room toward the front. I noticed a few heads turn as his presence was whispered back and forth. After a couple of warm up speakers who lamented the “browning of America” by immigrants, and warned of the police state that would take their children, wives, and other property, an out-of-uniform Sheriff Brandland came in eating a bag of popcorn and sat opposite me on the bench under the window. When the presentations started to get repetitive, Paul and Claire walked out. The Sheriff left after a bit as well. When the refreshments break came, I held back and pretended to be interested in some of the recruitment flyers they’d passed out. I noticed the keynote speaker, Keith Anderson (recently convicted of securities fraud), was speaking sotto voce to his assistant near the window. I pretended to not be interested and only strayed as close as necessary to pick up their conversation.

What I heard them say was, “Trochman’s coming to speak at the Lakeway Inn. Things are gonna start happening. He doesn’t fuck around.” John Trochman was the leader of the Militia of Montana, a heavily armed outfit that wasn’t above robbing banks, storming county jails to bust out their buddies, and engaging in shoot-outs with state police when pulled over for traffic infractions.

To avoid suspicion, I wandered downstairs and availed myself of the voluminous tabled handouts free-for-the-taking and returned upstairs with the boys. When Anderson’s speech on how to evade taxes and launder money concluded, I decided it was time to find Paul. He quickly made some calls to Eric in Seattle and human rights leaders in Bellingham to develop a response. When they spoke with the management of the Bellingham Lakeway Inn, the Trochman reservation was cancelled, forcing the militia recruiters to relocate their event to Mt. Vernon, thirty miles south. With this advance warning, human rights activists in Skagit County merged with those from Whatcom in protest on the day of the big event.

Eric was terrified with, “the idea of militias being able to utilize the electoral force of Wise Use groups” to legitimize racist based policies regionally and nationally. In Whatcom, Snohomish, and Chelan Counties, this epidemic was in full swing.


July 1996 brought several surprises to Whatcom County, not the least of which was a press conference by the U.S. Department of Justice, announcing the bust of eight local individuals for involvement in bomb-making and illegal modification of firearms into fully-automatic weapons—machine guns. News of this development, given the growth in militia organizing activities of the past year and a half, made Paul and I very concerned. Paul installed motion detectors and lights around his home. I started closing the blinds at night--drawing the heavy brocaded curtains over the windows in the living room where I often sat up late reading. I never said anything about why I was doing this, hoping to spare Marianne some worry. I guess I was only sparing myself, though. I realized this when she asked me if I thought someone might try to poison our dogs. I wondered if I’d be shot in my recliner some evening.

Paul shared information with local and federal law enforcement agents, but the communication was strictly one-way. As a member of the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force Speaker’s Bureau, I’d been lecturing at adult education forums in local churches about the danger posed by community silence. Most of my time consisted of undoing the years of misinformation published in the Herald.

The morning of the DOJ press conference, Paul was stuck at work, so I picked up our video of the Washington State Militia gathering and drove down to the Bellingham Police Station where the press conference was to be held. When I arrived, there were three huge, mobile, satellite-hookup news vans from Seattle television stations in the parking lot, a temporary chain link fence surrounding the station, and plainclothes agents--sporting sunglasses and earphones--all over the place.

Stepping up into the van of one of the major network affiliates, I interrupted a news team in the middle of organizing the sequence of their coverage and monitoring their satellite connection on the several live screens in the wall of electronics running the length of the walk-in van. They were pretty hyper, and seemed to overlook my presence, until I said, “I have a videotape of the militia meeting with me.”

When it was time to go inside the police station, I walked behind the news team, and when stopped by the armed agent at the entrance for lack of a dog tag, I produced a Public Good business card, which I referred to as an online media publication, and was escorted by another federal agent into the conference.


In August 1996, after four and a half years of cover-up by the Bellingham Herald, the Wise Use/militia connection was finally revealed in the Portland Oregonian. This was soon followed by an article in the Anacortes American, the first coverage by a paper inside the legislative district Skip Richards hoped to represent. Quoted as a background source in the Oregonian, I was becoming increasingly concerned for the safety of my family. After all, my face had just been broadcast on regional television as a militia-buster, and I figured if anything was going to happen, it might already be underway. Meanwhile, Bill Wassmuth and Eric Ward, down at the Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity office in Seattle, were busy making sense of things for the metro news audience.
In October, trailing distantly in the polls, candidate Richards chose to play the race card in the general election, insinuating in his campaign literature that the Indians (presumably through guarding their treaty rights) were undermining all that the white people had struggled to build in Whatcom County. His associate Bill Geyer’s County Executive campaign also flopped, in spite of the Herald’s refusal to connect him to Wise Use. The third member of the local trio who’d initiated the faux property-rights rebellion (as well as a key figure in the Washington Property Rights Network that subverted elections in 14 counties), Building Industry Association executive Art Castle, relocated to the Kitsap Peninsula.

On January 15, 1997, the trial of eight Washington State Militia members began in federal court in Seattle. One of their secretly recorded conversations, introduced as evidence, included a discussion about a route through the heavily wooded Whatcom Falls Park to the rear of the home of Whatcom Human Rights Task Force Chair Damani Johnson. Some of the defendants were set free due to a juror’s inability to follow the judge’s instructions; others went to prison for four years. Bellingham Herald crime reporter, Cathy Logg--who courageously covered the arrests and had her home and computer broken into--eventually moved away from Whatcom County.

Malcolm Gladwell, in the Crime and Science article published in the February 24, 1997 issue of New Yorker magazine, wrote about why some people turn into violent criminals. “New evidence,” he says, “suggests that it may all be in the brain.”

In the opening paragraph of Damaged, Gladwell describes the racist, anti-semitic, mass murderer, Joseph Paul Franklin, sitting in front of the judge in Clayton, Missouri completely still except for his left leg, which bounced up and down in an unceasing nervous motion. Just like Gene Goldsmith’s did at the Laurel Grange revival meeting.

According to Gladwell, Dorothy Otnow Lewis--a psychiatrist at New York’s Bellevue Hospital, who over the past twenty years has examined roughly two hundred murderers—concluded that Franklin was “a psychotic whose thinking was delusional and confused” due to “brutal physical abuse he had suffered as a child.” The blows to the head inflicted by his mother, she said, accounted for his “bizarre statements and beliefs.” Although he didn’t seem insane, she didn’t feel that Franklin’s brain worked the way brains are supposed to work-that he had identifiable biological and psychiatric problems.

When I read this article, I couldn’t avoid thinking of the Wise Use zealots, Citizens for Liberty, the Committee for Environmental Justice, and some of the fanatic fundamentalists steering the Whatcom Republican Party. As Lewis noted, some sociopaths are not evil; “They are driven by forces beyond their control.” Driven described to a “T” the malcontents I’d observed first hand over the past five years. They were driven to harangue anyone who disagreed with them. They were driven to organize, petition, lobby, and demonstrate against sex education, against the teaching of Evolution, against homosexuals, against environmental sanity, and perhaps most tellingly—against talking circles in the elementary schools—used to assist teachers in detecting victims of child abuse.
Local Wise Use Women in Timber activists viewed this and Outcome-based Education as intolerable intrusions into the inviolate domain of family life—the realm where the man was autocratic head of the household—where wife-battering, child-beating, and even incest were no business of social workers or society at large. The touchstone of family autonomy was something I’d heard repeated by these women in many venues. It came as no surprise when Citizens for Liberty/Washington State Militia member Fred Fisher was revealed as having been convicted of forcing repeated sexual intercourse on his nine-year-old foster daughter.

More importantly, these relatively small groups of neurotics were driven in 1993 to take over the legislative branches of Bellingham and Whatcom County governments. Public policy in city hall and the courthouse wasn’t just corrupt—it was literally insane.

I called Paul and told him about the article. It seemed vital to understanding some of the madness around Whatcom politics—indeed national politics after the 1994 mid-term Congressional elections. Remember the Contract with America crap? U.S. Representative Helen Chenoweth? Reverend Moon? Anyone sane enough to manipulate the damaged ones for political power is very evil indeed—and dangerous.

Dorothy Lewis’ colleague, Jonathan Pincus--a neurologist at Georgetown University--became convinced that “Almost all the violent ones [criminals] were damaged.” Gladwell claims They [Lewis and Pincus] believe that the most vicious criminals are, overwhelmingly, people with some combination of abusive childhoods, brain injuries, and psychotic symptoms…somehow these factors together create such terrifying synergy as to impede these individuals’ ability to play by the rules of society.

Since there is no objective standard for judgment, Pincus, says Gladwell, tries to pick up evidence of an inability to cope with complexity, a lack of connection between experience and decision-making which is characteristic of cortical dysfunction—the inability to adapt to a new situation. Like, say, the modern day White Supremacists Paul and I observed at militia recruiting meetings in Whatcom and Snohomish Counties? The ones who claimed that filing legal affidavits with county clerks declaring themselves white, property-owning males exempted them from paying taxes? The ones who asserted the County Sheriff is the highest law enforcement officer in the country? Like the ones holding Sodom and Gomorra placards in front of a photo exhibit at Bellingham City Hall of gay and lesbian people in the workplace? Not every suspected fruitcake was as cut and dry as the Larouchites who occasionally set up a table in front of the Bellingham Central Post Office. I wondered where to draw the line between ignorance and mental deficiency.

As Gladwell observes, child abuse has devastating psychological consequences for children and the adults they become…prolonged child abuse is a key to understanding criminal behavior because abuse also appears to change the anatomy of the brain…brain scans of children who have been severely neglected [show] that their cortical and sub-cortical areas never developed properly…were roughly twenty or thirty percent smaller than normal. Bruce Perry, a psychiatrist at Baylor College of Medicine, told Gladwell, “There are parts of the brain that are involved in attachment behavior-the connectedness of one individual to another-and in order for that to be expressed we have to have a certain nature of experience and have that experience at the right time. If early in life you are not touched and held and given all the somatosensory stimuli that are associated with what we call love, that part of the brain is not organized in the same way.”

All the “tough love” doctrine espoused by the Far Right came flooding back as I read these words. I imagined some of the horrors that must be taking place daily in some of the homes of families where religious fanaticism and other delusions fostered a siege mentality. According to Perry, “Such a person is literally lacking some brain organization that would allow him to actually make strong connections to other human beings…after age two-they’ve missed that critical window.”

I think it was about this time that Paul mentioned to me that his father, Fred, had worked in public health administration where he produced educational films. He said Fred later went into making documentaries for a subsidiary of KING Broadcasting in Seattle. It was there, in the early 60s, while Paul and Claire were in elementary school, that Fred came under threat from Far Right anti-communist zealots known as the Minutemen. Fred had produced a documentary on these holdovers from the McCarthy era of the 1950s, and they had in turn threatened Fred and his young family. It made a strong impression on Paul and Claire, who’d been raised Unitarian and spent their summer vacations volunteering in migrant worker camps near Yakima. When the same violent, racist rhetoric and threatening behavior erupted in 1990s Whatcom County, it was all too familiar.


“What you get is a kind of erratic-ness,” says Frank Putnam, who heads the Unit on Developmental Traumatology at the National Institute of Mental Health, in Maryland. “These kinds of people can be very different in one situation compared with another. There is the sense that they don’t have a larger moral compass.”

According to Gladwell, abuse, in and of itself, does not necessarily result in violence, any more than neurological impairment or psychosis does. However, Lewis and Pincus, he says, argue that if you mix these conditions together they become dangerous, that they have a kind of pathological synergy, that, like the ingredients of a bomb, they are troublesome individually but explosive in combination. I thought of people who believed their job or their one asset—their home, their land—might be taken by “eco-Nazis” or “lazy Indians,” and I began to appreciate the powder keg Richards, Castle, and Geyer had been toying with. What they’d done was not only criminal and immoral—it was cruel.
While seven militia members were convicted of explosives and firearms violations, the Building Industry architects of the revolution—those who initially incited political violence by bringing armed vigilantes into the political process—were never held accountable.

[Read what some are doing about this today . ]


Orderly Press Coordination

James E. Hansen, longtime director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming [climatology] lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists. Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.

Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, said there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen. ...He said the restrictions on Dr. Hansen applied to all National Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel. He added that government scientists were free to discuss scientific findings, but that policy statements should be left to policy makers and appointed spokesmen.

Mr. Acosta said other reasons for requiring press officers to review interview requests were to have an orderly flow of information out of a sprawling agency and to avoid surprises. "This is not about any individual or any issue like global warming," he said. "It's about coordination."

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Fatal Attraction

Seeing how my television viewing is limited to the occasional Saturday night rerun of movies like Lawrence of Arabia or The Magnificent Seven, I find myself recalling now and then Neil Postman's cogently-titled book Amusing Ourselves to Death. This morning, unavoidably seated at the breakfast counter, I incurred the dubious entertainment of choice by my significant other, bouncing back and forth between a Jack Russell Terrier steeplechase competition, and a program that featured a young couple painting their bathroom.

Jack Russell's are undoubtedly cute little creatures, and the joy of home ownership where one can indulge in such activities as choosing paint is something I'm sure many of my fellow renters in the world envy, but the fact these programs are sufficiently popular to attract corporate sponsors must say something about our culture. I'm just not sure what.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Jump Into Their Dreams

The United States missed a year-end deadline to answer questions from the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concerning violations of Western Shoshone human rights and their right to ancestral lands....

Julie Ann Fishel, land recognition program director for the Western Shoshone Defense Project, said Western Shoshone elders see pressure from the United Nations as the only solution...

The United States, without Western Shoshone consent, has allowed gold mining and military testing of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons on their ancestral lands. ...Without voice or resolution in the United States, the Western Shoshone appealed to the United Nations demanding reform of U.S. laws that allow for the theft and destruction of indigenous lands. ...


As the young Oglala poet Joel Waters remarked recently, indigenous people's pockets might be empty, but their hearts are full of hope. Now they need to have that courage to "jump into their dreams."

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Boilerplate Hate

While our current attention is focused on Latino scapegoating by GOP-sanctioned militias, the anti-Indian sovereignty campaign continues over economic, environmental, and cultural issues. Raids by state and federal police in New York and Arizona recently are the prelude to a bitter attack on Indian nations expected over the next few years.

These are not entirely separate issues from the largely Mestizo immigrants; the same people threatening Latin Americans are threatening Indians. Same ideology, same tactics, same disruption to stable communities, same violence, same social movement, same hate entrepreneurs, same political backing. If we are part of a developing human rights movement, these, as well as civil rights for American Blacks, have to remain inseparable items on our agenda.


Creating Calamity

A great resource on how US policy drives immigrants north from Latin America to the Mexican border, and then kills them when they arrive.


The Movement

Last summer my colleague Chip Berlet wrote an article about building the intellectual infrastructure required to create a democratic social justice movement.

Since then, I have thought more about how that term movement gets bandied about to stand for everything from an affinity network of concerned individuals to coalitions of noble organizations to institutions momentarily gifted with far-sighted leaders proposing social reform. But by definition, movement implies that all the above are actually making headway together toward achieving a goal, creating a wake--something that has momentum.

Looking around the American political landscape, I see much running about the deck of this vessel called The Movement, with all its compartments and rankings of crew and charts of destinations, but despite all this activity, the vessel is standing still. No smoke emits from the stack. No glorious engine churns, propelling The Movement toward a new and better world.

Since first reading Chip's article Investing in Ideas, I've had the pleasure of meeting some extraordinary people with sound minds and creative energy from across our country--some young, some old--with nowhere to apply either their skills or energy productively. They discuss this dilemma daily on blogs and other websites and in letters to the editor or on the street, but there is pitifully little opportunity for the best and the brightest to use their ideas to advance equality.

If they were, however, say, Young Republicans out to plunder the public treasure and destroy the world in the process, there would be endless opportunities in the form of paid internships and fellowships and teaching positions and media jobs to further and nurture the cause. Which brings me back to the vessel analogy, and the point both Chip and I try to make.

The Movement needs fuel to run on, supplies, a trained crew, repair yards, and schools for its commanders--places to learn the trade. What it doesn't need is more confused passengers running around on a rusty deck asking when it will get underway.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Creating A Scapegoat

The nationally-coordinated GOP campaign against humane immigration reform continues. Media collusion essential to inflaming resentment.


Kicking Down Doors

Singularity has the latest on the new Homeland Security Police


Lessons to Learn

One of the least known incidents of the summer of 1969 was the briefly-considered invasion of Northern Ireland by the military of the Republic of Ireland, in order to protect largely defenseless Catholic communities from well-armed Protestant vigilantes acting in collusion with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the British army. Quickly abandoned as a means of protecting the nascent civil rights movement, due to the realization that it might provoke wholesale slaughter prior to their ability to arrive in defense of the Catholic communities in Derry and Belfast, the government of the Republic chose instead to set up refugee camps on the border to assist the tens of thousands of homeless Catholics either bombed or burned out by the fanatic Protestant fundamentalists led by fascists like Ian Paisley.

It was only after this murderous rampage by the ultra-right Protestant supremacist mobs that the IRA began preparations to defend from and later retaliate against the Protestant terrorists inflamed by Paisley's organizations. By August 1969, top members of the Irish government were involved in smuggling arms to protect the Catholics in the north.

Tim Pat Coogan's book The Troubles contains many lessons for those involved in civil rights struggles and civil disobedience as a means of reforming or bringing down undemocratic governments like our own. The British, after all, pioneered the use of outsourced terror and torture over centuries of colonialism, and perfected these modern techniques in Northern Ireland.


Discrediting Citizen Activism

Eleven misguided young people recently indicted for arson as activism are in big trouble. As Geov Parrish observes in the following article, "Why? Because it's very, very useful for the government to label these folks domestic terrorists or ecoterrorists rather than what they are: activists whose fanaticism led them to actions that didn't physically injure anyone, didn't truly terrorize anyone, but, as with any arson, inconvenienced, saddened, and enraged the people connected to the torched buildings and objects....

...As the widespread use of the label ecoterrorist suggests, the government loves this sort of thing. As with another Eugene export, the anarchists who smashed windows during the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle, these fires legitimized for many an overreaching persecution of all activists by law enforcement. ...Today, programs like the Pentagon's counterintelligence TALON unit, which has gathered the names of thousands of peaceful antiwar protesters and other activists get funded because some general or some Justice Department or White House lackey can point to the threat of domestic terrorists. ...

It's all very, very useful. This is why, when law enforcement infiltrates activist groups—whether it was the Industrial Workers of the World a century ago, peaceniks in the 1960s, or animal-rights groups today—often as not, they encourage the group or its members to engage in property destruction. It's a means to an end: the discrediting of citizen activism, and the further expansion of state power.
...They [the arsonists] are idealistic fools, but they are not terrorists."


Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Useful Advice

"Thanks to the tireless and absurdly undervalued work of Jay Taber and a handful of like-minded researchers, I was already familiar with the Minutemen. ... Had everyone been on the same page - if every counter-protester was aware of the infinitely useful advice Jay provided me - we could have gotten twice the coverage and conveyed a laser-focused message."
--Arvin Hill, North Texas human rights activist

"I am interested in knowing how people like you get to do what you do so well. ...your work [at Public Good] is a very convincing statement of competency. Thank you."
--Nancy Pivarunas, San Francisco tenants organizer

"Blind Spots is a must read for organizing."
--Nancy Trium, Southwest Washington land use activist

"The Skookum blog is powerful and worth reading."
--Juli Kearns, Atlanta indigenous web-support person

"War of Ideas by Jay Taber is scholarly and clear-headed. No mean feat."
--J. Alva Scruggs, Connecticut alternative media editor

"You have taught me much. Thank you."
--Karena Espuela, Austin pro-democracy writer

"I read your work often and learn from you. In what you do is an element of heroism, sacrificing oneself or ones time and talent for a greater good. I wish more people would follow your example."

We corresponded about 4 years ago when New College was secretly imploding and I was a student in the degree completion program being traumatized by the experience.  You, an unabashed truth teller with a deep understanding of the ramifications of the culture that existed there, helped my sanity greatly. I must always reiterate that and thank you for it whenever I contact you.  Thank you again."
--L.E., San Francisco university student


Holding On and Letting Go

Community, culture, and clan that give rise to modern tribal institutions and networks both gain and lose something in the transition, but islands of cooperative values can also provide safe harbor from the brutality of markets and the neglect of states. What they shelter is perhaps best expressed in their poetry.

"The very dust under your feet responds more lovingly to our footsteps than to yours, because it is the ashes of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of its sympathetic touch, for the soil is rich with the life of our kindred."


Such a Simple Thing

Prevention of Incitement to Hatred Act

Monday, January 23, 2006


End of Apartheid in Bolivia



Prime Time

Last week's Immigration Watch on SPLC's website shows the GOP hate campaign moving right along. Maybe one of these days the liberal clergy will muster the courage to show up to publicly oppose Minutemen and their Republican friends. Maybe even hold a press conference in our country's capitol. Read more at http://www.splcenter.org/intel/news/item.jsp?aid=38


Day of Judgment

It takes a lot to stir Americans from their TVs, and I suspect many would be content to leave the Bush Dictatorship to the usual high crimes and misdemeanors we've come to expect from them, but a couple of things have potential to create a stir as it were. Not apartheid policy toward Blacks or Native Americans, not toxic environmental policy, not mindless belligerence toward other countries--those are old hat.

Rather, I think, it'll be the willingness of the Bush Junta to bring on Armageddon in Africa and Asia, thereby triggering the collapse of oil supplies as a consequence of insurrections from Nigeria to Indonesia. If anything could do it, that would have Americans crying for a coup de tat in the White House. And wouldn't that be ironic.

Sunday, January 22, 2006



When I first caught wind of anti-immigrant vigilantes being stirred up in support of racist legislation to support GOP electoral campaigns, my first thought was, “not again.”

So when I got a call last fall inviting me to present at a December 10 national human rights conference in Whatcom county, Washington, in order to help put the Minutemen militia in historical context, the first thing I did after getting off the phone was to look at the Whatcom GOP website to see who was running things. What I found was Whatcom Republican Party Chairman, convicted insurance fraud Bruce Ayers, and Republican National Committeeman, Jeff Kent, a former radio talk-show host who’d been fired in the 1990s for leading anti-Indian racists in diatribes on the air.

Whatcom GOP Chairman Ayers had previously played a leading role in garnering Republican support for property-rights vigilantes in the early 1990s, and even served on their Board of Directors. For a couple years, the property-rights group merged activities with militia recruiters until the militias were busted by the FBI and ATF for building bombs to murder human rights activists.

Needless to say, when I read that the Minuteman militia was coordinating its national anti-Latino campaign with GOP Congressional hearings on immigration, I figured mainstream media would be running interference for the militias once again. And, judging by what I’ve seen so far, I was right. As the apparent paramilitary wing of the GOP, it might not look so good to have convicted felons and nazis and certified loons as grassroots support, so US media is simply not reporting it.

Once the anti-immigrant national campaign gets an infusion of cash from right-wing fundraisers like Alan Gottlieb, though, things could get real ugly.


Nothing New

Recent mainstream media coverage of the Minuteman controversy--one on the Canadian border, the other on the Mexican border--illustrate the limits of public education through network television, chain newspapers, and commercial radio.

In fact, if you stop to consider the patronizing language by the two newspapers (linked below) toward those protesting vigilante violence, it becomes easier to understand how the Minuteman militia--like the militias of a decade ago--working in tandem with the Republican right-wing agenda, actually rely on media cooperation to downplay liberal concerns; to conceal their violent histories, criminal convictions, and direct links to racist organizations; and to use the bigots' phony, stage-managed concerns to lend support to anti-democratic public policy simultaneously winding its way through state and national legislatures.

Hence, for those fighting fascism in the US, competing for media attention is an almost pointless exercise and use of energy. Better to develop their own forms of communication for educational and organizing purposes, and only use the hostile-to-democracy mainstream media strategically. Otherwise, they only defeat themselves.



Saturday, January 21, 2006


United Irish

History is often more complex than legend allows. Nowhere is that more true than in Northern Ireland.

When my Grandmother's Grandfather's Grandfather's parents and siblings emigrated from Northern Ireland to South Carolina in 1768, the anti-Catholic/anti-Presbyterian laws had been in effect for well over a century. These laws of the English Crown that deprived the Irish of employment, education, property, and other rights were specifically aimed at not only bolstering the dominance of Anglican landlords over the native residents, but also at destroying the unity of the United Irishmen.

As author Tim Pat Coogan observes in his book The Troubles, "The Anglicans looked with disfavour on one section of Protestantism, almost with as much disfavour as they did the Catholics. These were the Presbyterian Dissenters in the north of Ireland, who also suffered a certain amount of disability under the law, thereby encouraging some of them to make common cause with the Catholics."

In fact, the United Irishmen, led by the famous protestant Theobald Wolfe Tone, aimed to unite Catholics, Protestants, and Dissenters in setting up an Irish republic which would separate from England. It wasn't until 1795, twenty-seven years after my ancestors Shane and Margaret O'Neal and their children departed from Belfast on the Brig Dungannon, that Wolfe Tone, "generally regarded as the father of Irish republicanism", made contact with the French to acquire arms for the rebellion.

Two hundred years after my line of O'Neals landed in North America, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, once again, emphasized the unity of the dispossessed and unrepresented -- Catholic and Protestant -- against the apartheid regime of Anglican fundamentalists backed by the English military. Not a story that has often been told.

Friday, January 20, 2006


Mission Accomplished

I don't know that we can predict the calamity the Bush Dictatorship has brought on the US anymore than we can foresee the impact of its unbridled official criminality on the character of our fellow citizens in the years to come. Nor can we foretell the means of our dictatorship's demise anymore than citizens of Chile could that of Pinochet, Spain Franco, or Portugal Salazar.

What we can be sure of is that having destroyed our economy and emptied the vaults of the US Treasury, our ability to maintain previous standards is out of the question. How Americans will behave under deprivation and severely diminished expectations is anybody's guess. The fact that we will have to be exceptionally creative in adapting to our rapidly disintegrating state is a challenge we will face out of necessity, not foresight.


Very Organized Crime

By Chris Floyd

...this year's congressional races and the presidential contest in 2008 are already over, and the Bushists have won. ...the vast machinery of electoral malfeasance that propelled this extremist faction to power over the wishes of the electorate in both 2000 and, yes, 2004, is not only still in place, it's growing stronger all the time.

No one has laid bare the malodorous innards of this democracy-devouring monster better than Mark Crispin Miller, whose new book, "Fooled Again," takes us back to the dastardly of Election Day 2004 and the hydra-headed campaign of vote-rigging that preceded it. This second heist of the White House is one of the great untold stories of our time -- even though it was largely carried out in plain sight.

Miller performs the simple but increasingly rare act of journalism and gathers a mountain of overwhelming evidence from publicly available material. ...a solid case based on official records, sworn testimony, eyewitness accounts, news reports and the Bushists' own words.

As often noted here, tens of millions of votes are now counted using paperless, easily hackable electronic voting machines programmed -- and often administered -- by a handful of corporations whose officers are unabashed Bush backers. Two of these, the notorious Diebold and lesser-known but equally shadowy ES&S, were kickstarted by right-wing tycoon Harold Ahmanson, once the major backer of the Christian Reconstruction movement -- which advocates total theocratic rule of state and society by Christian mullahs, with death for homosexuals, disenfranchisement for unbelievers and slavery for debtors, among other delights.

With these corporations at the helm, the 2004 vote was the most shambolic in U.S. history, plagued by an epidemic of machine breakdowns and shortages (almost entirely in key Democratic precincts) and by a rash of "glitches" that "inexplicably" switched the voter's intended choice to a different candidate, or added hundreds or even thousands of "ghost" votes to a candidate's total. In every single recorded case of such "accidents," the beneficiary of these unearned votes was President George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, as in 2000, strange voting patterns emerged in pockets across the country, where unknown fringe candidates unaccountably received thousands of votes -- at the expense of the Democratic candidate. Of course, gaming the electronic voting grid was only part of the operation. Voter suppression techniques first unlimbered in 2000 were polished to a high sheen in 2004. These included purges of deliberately misidentified "felons" from the rolls; mass intimidation campaigns in poverty-ridden districts (e.g., "official" notices that anyone owing back rent, child support, unpaid traffic tickets, etc. would be arrested if they tried to vote); reducing the number of polling stations in Democratic-leaning precincts and stocking them with old, derelict machines; and a sophisticated, nationwide scam of deceitfully "registering" Democratic voters -- who then discovered they were not on the books when they showed up to vote. The Republican National Committee paid millions to the man behind this flim-flam, the theocrat and Bush insider Nathan Sproul....

Despite the scandals, the indictments, the mounting death toll in Iraq and the ever-deepening unpopularity of Bush and his minions, the faction's tools for "manufacturing consent" -- so ably exposed by Miller -- are greased and ready, unchallenged by the clueless, spineless Democrats and the dollar-dazzled media. So look for more "astonishing upsets" and poll-confounding "surprises" in the coming national elections, as brute power rapes reality once again.


Another Teachable Moment

For those interested in comprehending the White Power Movement in order to defeat it, the present media fix on Minutemen militias and their political allies in Congress is another opportunity to drive a stake through the heart of the monster known as white supremacy. For those who are organizing popular educational curricula on the topic, putting this particular incarnation of mainstream vigilantism in context historically and politically should be a top priority. Otherwise, we just keep responding every ten years or so to the latest outbreak of organized malicious harassment of minorities as if it were some unexplainable, mysterious aberration, rather than an ongoing project of anti-democratic social forces that have continued unabated since our country's founding.

In the current conflict over immigrants, the militias and their political manipulators have had a five year head start on many of the social justice organizations that have no ongoing programs, but rather hibernate between outbreaks of violence as though there were no continuity of organized hate, no daily war of ideas in the media. Now, once again, after the failure of institutions and markets to address the problem, the pious are cautiously stepping forward with little preparation or thought into a field of battle they barely understand.

Another teachable moment.


Not A Game

The potential hijacking of the Minuteman issue by the Democratic Party for electoral purposes should put community activists on their guard. Not that Democrats shouldn't oppose racist vigilantes, but manipulating concerned citizens for political media spectacles is part of the problem with America, not the solution.

When party machinery takes hold of social unrest or discontent--for or against equality and justice--the image inevitably created by soundbite media is that of a highschool homecoming game, complete with marchers and banners and cheering mindless throngs. Not the type of message meant to encourage thought and reflection on how we organize our society.

Protests and marches and demonstrations are fine for stirring up inclusive emotions and noble sentiments, but unless they are followed by teach-ins and press conferences and adult forums in local churches and schools, the energy mobilized is all for naught. Competing for attention on the TV evening news or in the local newspaper monopoly does next to nothing to educate a severely misinformed populace; to do that requires research, planning, funding, and persistent outreach through community networks, unmediated by the gatekeepers of mass communication.

Making a social justice issue a partisan political issue almost certainly ensures that won't happen. Using scapegoated minorities--be they Black or Latino or American Indian--for the self-aggrandizement of privileged white institutions like the Democratic Party is self-defeating. Social justice is a moral issue, not a partisan one, so take the lead of groups like American Friends Service Committee, and leave the organizational banners home.

If you're set on marching, pick up a sign instead, something simple and to the point. Something like "Minutemen--Klansmen." After all, this isn't a game.


Emerald Example

Author Diarmaid Ferriter observes in his book The Transformation of Ireland, as the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland discovered in the early 1970s, if the machinery of government was not democratic, the fight for democracy had to be a fight against the state itself. A change of regime was insufficient.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Unbalanced Power

Unfortunately, in our toxic society, if you support sane environmental policy and attempt to hold public officials accountable, you will be derided by the institutions and markets that foster economic inequality and social exclusion. Same goes for honoring Indian treaties and being grateful guests in their land.

Neither of these principled positions on relationships with life and other humans require advanced study or degrees, but merely an honest, thoughtful, and kind attitude. Plus a little courage and support.

Fighting for fairness, equality, and justice may be treated with disdain by elites and cynics, but it's nothing to apologize for. Indeed, they're the ones to be called to account.

As for my estimate of the situation, the impending disruption of critical resource flows from the third world to the first world due to unbalanced power between states as well as between states and indigenous nations will exacerbate tensions and intensify conflict over the next century. Africa and Asia will bear the brunt of this, but here in the US, Indian nations will be attacked for the considerable resources they hold title to by treaty.

National security will likely be invoked against Native American sovereignty, much as it has been against Iraqi, Nigerian, and Venezuelan sovereignty. Indian country is well aware of this, and that's largely why, in my opinion, they are holding a national symposium on communication and media relations in six weeks.

US tribes realize they literally stand to lose everything under a national security state desperate to maintain a high energy consumption culture at the expense of the rest of the world. There may be sixty million Indians in Latin America ready to take over the state apparatus in countries like Ecuador and Bolivia, but in the US, Indians are a very small percentage of the overall population with few reliable allies.


Hate Does Not Rest

[from our colleague at Orcinus]

As a general matter, the media did an exceedingly poor job of covering the Minuteman Project. ..They claimed the volunteers were being vetted for possible white supremacists by the FBI -- only to have the FBI completely deny that this was the case. They said the only people who would carry guns would be those with conceal-carry permits. In fact, almost no one was checked for permits. ..

Most important of all, the organizers of the Minuteman Project claimed that they would be keeping out white supremacists and other racists through their vetting process. In fact, there were at least six men participating who were members of the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group whose members have been involved in crimes including assassination, shootouts with police, the machine-gun murder of a Jewish talk show host, bank robberies, plots to bomb Disney World and more. At least two of these men actually discussed setting up sniper positions along the border sometime in the near future. In addition, there was at least one member of the Aryan Nations, another major neo-Nazi group, participating in the Minuteman Project. No mainstream press account mentioned any of this. ...

Because when you strip away the bullshit, what is left of the Minutemen is the reality of what they are: a publicity stunt whose entire purpose is to lodge in the public mind the notion that Latinos Are The Problem. The Minutemen are the opening PR volley, as I've said, in a sustained campaign to scapegoat Latino immigrants and whip up public sentiment against them. The undercurrents of this campaign are old and well-established white-supremacist ideologies. ...

All over the country, anti-immigrant measures are in the wings now, waiting to be trotted out in a number of states around the country, including Washington. The House just passed a draconian anti-immigration bill that includes building a fence along the Mexico border. Another one -- targeting the birthright citizenship of Latino children -- is working its way through as we speak.

Hate does not rest. The interests promoting this campaign are relentless. And the long battle has only just begun.


Day of Reckoning

A Nigerian writer of Ogoni ethnicity, Saro-Wiwa led a successful nonviolent campaign to bring Shell Oil’s horrific ecological record in Nigeria to national and international attention. For his service to humanity, he was executed on November 10, 1993, by the Nigerian government, a military dictatorship which served as the long, bloody arm of the oil conglomerates....

"We have decided not to limit our attacks to Shell as our ultimate aim is to prevent Nigeria from exporting oil," the rebels said.

"Pipelines, loading points, export tankers, tank farms, refined petroleum depots, landing strips and residences of employees of these companies can expect to be attacked. We know where they live, shop and where the children go to school."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006



We are presently attempting to generate interest in establishing a research learning center in San Francisco, in order for experienced political opposition-researchers across the US to pass on their skills and knowledge to those born after the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. There currently is no place in the US doing that, and when these people retire, that's a big hole in the human rights movement. The top researchers in the country are already on board with the idea, but we haven't located a fairy godmother yet.

The primary function of the center would be in the field of communication: learning to present ideas and information in the most effective format applicable to a targeted audience. Students of the center would learn by doing projects they select and design within the framework of a proposed, reviewed, and accepted application. Genres of presentation would include exposes, occasional papers, white papers, investigative reports, intelligence estimates, and even historical fiction.

Using expert researchers as guest instructors, advisors, and distance-learning adjunct faculty, students would be mentored on how to plan a project, conduct the research, write up the results, and disseminate their analysis in varying formats for different venues. These skills would then be built on in studies, seminars, and exercises designed to examine the uses of communication devices in psychological warfare, in which students would create products based on the information acquired in their initial research project.

An intermediate step to opening a brick and mortar establishment will be to interview and record these researchers for later editing in anticipation of making the lessons they've learned available through broadcast and podcast, and would comprise the initial task of the center's digital library archive.

Serious inquiries and offers of assistance should contact Jay Taber tbarj@yahoo.com
[ We now have a discussion blog for this project. ]

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Some Passages in Ireland

I'm still hunting for the elusive title of the book about early aero-poste in Spanish West Africa. Meanwhile, I stumbled across a book I'd forgotten to mention that's definitely worth a read--A Book of Migrations by Rebecca Solnit.


Shades of Gray

On May 17, 1999, the Makah Nation of Washington State harvested its first whale in seventy years. A year prior, journalist David Neiwert wrote about the internal and external conflicts for the Makah in preparing to exercise their federal treaty right to whaling as a way of life. Two years after the successful hunt, journalist John Dougherty described how this all came about.

We at Skookum think this second installment from the Shadowtail series tells us a lot about who we are as Americans and as modern human beings. We hope you enjoy it.


Tale of Two Pities

In our attempt to resurrect storytelling to the prominence it deserves, Skookum's editors have selected the following stories by Paul de Armond to kickoff our Shadowtail series of tales from the shadows of American public drama. Let us know what you think.

Monday, January 16, 2006


Blood Ties

For my friends in need of a cheerful little story:


Bucking the Tide

Given the social and spiritual crisis within our landscape of desolation, groups accustomed to focusing on conventional advocacy/pressure groups methodology to the exclusion of opposition research, are advised to reconsider their legal and media strategies within the unfolding context of hyper-vigilant social conflict in the US. With socioeconomic discontent already at toxic levels, the manipulation of race-based resentment toward minorities such as Latino immigrants and American Indians by mainstream political organizations in conjunction with paramilitary affinity groups like Minutemen, is a factor social reformers ignore at their peril.

Granted, opposition research is not an activity generally undertaken by education and advocacy organizations, but in the current climate of insecurity, they would do well to systematically avail themselves of what they can learn about what their opponents and enemies are up to. Otherwise, 2006 could be a very nasty and disappointing year for those seeking to make headway against the totalitarian tide in America.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


A Minor Inconvenience

E-mail from my cousin in Argentina yesterday sent me scouring my journal for the name of a book about a pilot who flew mail between Santiago and Buenos Aires. I did not find it, but I did find a note that I was reading The Lovers of Algeria by Anouar Benmalek a while back, and apparently enjoying it. Now I have to track down the other book without the assistance of our public library now that they no longer maintain reading lists in our electronic account files due to their opposition to Homeland Security police. Guess I'll have to reorganize my system to keep track of such things.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Cultural Faultlines

Dr. Richard A. Griggs of the University of Capetown writes extensively about the principle of subsidiarity, where social organization takes place at the most appropriate levels to resolve problems or manage coordination. The basic concept behind this decentralization, or the devolving of power to regional or national groups within modern state structures, is that enduring ancient nations and regional relationships not only preceded the assimilating and occupying states, but they also provide a unique, authentic cultural heritage essential to even modern man's well-being.

As Dr. Griggs observes in his papers dealing mostly with the evolving state and economic boundaries of Europe and Southern Africa, the state form--while becoming largely an anachronism for all but political and military purposes--is now in the process worldwide of being divided along the ancient cultural faultlines that correspond with the submerged nations now resurfacing as a result of organic nationalism converging with economic, environmental, and social forces seeking greater autonomy and stability.

For those who'd like to learn more, Dr. Griggs' papers are available through the Center for World Indigenous Studies' Fourth World Documentation Program located in the Chief George Manuel Memorial Library .

Friday, January 13, 2006


A Sad Tradition

Our colleague over at Orcinus runs down What's in a Name? with a lavish history of Minutemen, militias, and other vigilantes:

After reading it, we recommend browsing some of the highlights of vigilantism in American society over the years:


Basic Life Forces

“Narratives and stories are not extrinsic niceties, but are basic life forces needed to establish and to preserve communities and develop a common culture of shared understandings, and deeper, more vital ethics..."


Unresolved Grievance

[Ed. note: the following excerpt from Moral Sanction
was resurrected in response to a post titled Without Country located at http://www.idyllopuspress.com/meanwhile/?p=745]

Colonialism takes away a subdued people’s place of communal interaction; this removal of meeting places destroys their cohesion. As the first step in the process of disenfranchisement, the erosion of the land base of an enemy leads to the severing of their philosophical roots and the abolishment of orally conveyed cultural lessons that demoralizes the vanquished and prepares them for conversion to the dominant mentality.

In the wake of such callous brutality, atrocities are perhaps inevitable. Subsequent attempts to reclaim the souls and diminish the trauma of both the oppressors and the oppressed--such as truth and reconciliation processes--are dangerous, and must be carefully designed to avoid the eruption of acts of vengeance or reactionary terrorism.

The clarity of argument for moral sanction against aggression is most pronounced in the case of classic colonialism, where a foreign power occupies, or controls by its military force, the territory of another people. It is less clear in the case of neoliberal economic colonialism that often relies on puppet regimes, economic penalties, and mercenary or paramilitary forces to suppress the fulfillment of social needs. But it is most obscured where the descendants of colonists--through the passage of time and consolidation of control--manage to assuage their collective conscience regarding their inherited privilege.

The evolution of their mythology in rationalizing the acts of their ancestors during the process of invasion and conquest is a continuous, semi-conscious, collective effort at avoiding moral sanction. The dissonance of conscience provoked by this mechanism of self-delusion is most dangerous when confronted with the reality of resistance by those deprived—particularly when the violated claims of indigenous populations are codified by statute and treaty, as they are in the US. The determination of American Indians to reclaim their heritage, their right to exist as a people and culture, has never wavered. Empowered by their knowledge of history, an authentic philosophy, and overarching relational values of integrity and sharing, they have persistently awoken a moral position in our conscience.

Indigenous statesmen, during the initial internment to reservations, faced the formidable task of forbearance while laying the groundwork for future reclamation. However conscious indigenous leaders like Chief Joseph were of the sacrifices his people would make for the right of self-governance, the courage they manifested in positing their relationship with the United States in moral terms, made it difficult at first, and ultimately impossible to deny their humanity. Everyone knows truth when they hear it.

Moral sanction, however, is not expressed solely in words; to be made visible, it must be dramatized in deeds. Despite the spiritual challenge, bewilderment, and trauma associated with diametrically opposed values--witnessing the murder of elders, women, and children--Joseph’s resilience, and steadfast commitment to the apparently lost cause of Native American sovereignty served to disturb authorities of his era and document the unresolved grievance for ours. The message of moral sanction, communicated through the acts of resistance by Makah whalers, Navajo lawyers, and Iroquois warrior societies, demonstrates the moral imperative of self-determination.


Ethical Imperative

[Ed. note: the following is excerpted from the essay Moral Sanction, posted last spring. The full essay is available at http://skookumgeoduck.blogspot.com/2005/05/moral-sanction.html]

The patterns of cultural preference, consciously articulated as values, provide continuity and grounding in times of social disintegration, turmoil, and transition. The core values expressed in acts of moral sanction--even if they at times motivate righteously indignant believers to commit violence--are ultimately the foundation on which a new society can reintegrate around altered relationships of the old.

As such, communication of these values leads to the empowering acts of individuals that develop commitment to a process of transformation they believe will lead to greater fulfillment of these values. Faith in the possibility of justice, despite the evidence of history, is sometimes all that prevents the complete annihilation of human dignity. Hence the ethical imperative to fight for lost causes.


Growing Pains

[Note: This rumination by Paul de Armond was copied from Metachat. Emphasis by Skookum.]

It seems a bit of a tautology; this insight into manipulative culture and Empire. Society has serially evolved forms of social/political/economic organization that reflect larger and larger scales. Tribes, institutions, markets and networks. They represent a continuum of increasing scale of population, land area, energy consumption, communication bandwidth, etc

The earliest, smallest scale, most localized form of society is the tribe or clan (T): bound by kinship and personal relationships that connect all members of the society in very direct ways. Limited in scale, tribes tend to fission and migration when population grows so that the personal relationships are not able to be maintained across the geography of the food-bearing area. They are highly egalitarian, in the sense that political power is broadly distributed; frequently reflected in consensual and consultative group decision-making.

The institutional (I) form of society arose when agriculture made it possible to have populations spread over much greater geographic areas. Institutional societies contain and retain much of characteristics of tribal/clan organization on a local scale, but on the full societal scale, there is a division of labor (so to speak) in communication and political power, through a hierarchical organization and stratification of power relationships.

The oldest extent institutions (religions like the Catholic Church for example; educational forms like the university in Western culture and those surviving hereditary monarchies such as the Saudis or the British royal family) tend towards a climax form that combines tribal (i.e. hereditary) and institutional (i.e. hierarchical) forms in a highly homeostatic society. The Egyptian and Chinese empires were exemplars of the "dynastic water empire" climax form of T+I society. They tend to be very durable and yet ultimately slowly decay and collapse from within.

In a tribal society, power is based in individual competence, prestige and the depth of the network of kinship ties connected to an individual. This favors elders over youngers. Institutions, on the other hand, vest power in position and "place" in society -- frequently passing power along hereditary lines such as aristocracies. Feudalism is a transitional form of tribal individual political power coalescing into the structurally imbalanced power of hierarchical institutions.

Empires are not solely institutions, however, there is another, more atomistic form of social organization: the market (M). Markets are driven by zero-sum games of directional flows of resources and wealth. Like institutions, they tend towards concentrating wealth, power and access to resources. Predatory monopoly capitalism is one of the most polarized forms of market organization, one where society resolves into monopolies of supply and rate bases of demand, where simply to exist on the demand side automatically makes one not a participant in trade, but simply a consumer who becomes a resource for the monopoly and cartel actors who control the market.

So the climax form of market organization ends up looking like the sort of "natural" monopolies that predominate in utilities, the energy cartels that have unified the global petroleum market or the "regulated" cartels that dominate finance -- highly centralized and self-reinforcing imbalances of economic power. It should also be noted that markets exist at higher scales of resources, populations, wealth, etc. The climax form of M societies is highly dependent on institutions to make and enforce the rules and laws which perpetuate the economic imbalances.

In a truly free market ("black" markets in drugs, weapons, slaves, finance are the only examples of truly "free" markets), the ossification and predatory nature of monopolies always opens opportunities for competitors to emerge and displace the dominant actors. Therefore, the coercive power of the state must be enlisted to suppress competition -- thereby distorting the market even further and hastening the change from below by more efficient competitors. The current attempts to legislate intellectual property laws to maintain entertainment monopolies are an exemplar of this corrupt and ultimately self-destructive tendency of monopolies.

The most recent form of social organization to emerge is the network (N) -- a loosely linked meshwork of tribal, institutional and market organizations that act through flows of information and political power rather than material resources, wealth or stratified position. The network form is not historically new. Tribal confederations, Ghenghis Khan's horde, revolutionary and subversive groups and most particularly social movements have all embodied networks as their exemplary form of organization.Indeed, social movement theorists like Wallace and Gerlach have postulated that networks and movements are the primary mechanism of social change in cultures that already have assimilated the tribal, institutional and market (TIM) forms of social organization.

Networks have very high communication costs and insufficient communication capacity is the most important limiting factor for the scale of a social network. The current turmoil in global civil and uncivil society is due to the "growing pains" of transition from an TIM to a TIMN society. That the most powerful actors on the world stage are the oil cartel (a market actor) and Muslim revitalization movement (a network/movement) goes a long way toward explaining why institutions like states or confederations like the EU or the United Nations are reacting, not leading the situation so inaccurately described as the "Global War On Terror."

We are seeing the conflict between the disproportionate power of the most powerful market actor (the oil cartel) and the emerging power of the most dynamic network actor (Muslim revitalization.) The US is an institution struggling through the extension of military and political power to retain its centrality on the world stage. It's not about "Freedom," indeed, it's not about much of anything that is traditionally thought of as a motive force in history. It's about the changing forms of social organization brought about by the empowerment of networks by rapidly falling costs of communication.

The ideas about TIMN social organization are those of David Ronfeldt. The analysis is my own.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Strength of Unity

I was discussing the other day how unhealthy social movements can become when deprived of resources. Under the threat of perceived competition or inadequacy, many people fall back on the competitive model that characterizes all that is wrong with our society, and, in the process, often neglect healthy values of social organization like cooperation and reciprocity.

In a related essay by Vi Hilbert, she observes that, "The first psychiatrist of this land, our medicine men, used the simplest things. They realized how important acknowledgment was. If a person was to rise to the highest goal that their families expected them to practice and if their deeds and accomplishments went unnoticed, why should they try? Why should they do anything? Nobody paid any attention to that anyway.

Our medicine men knew that this was very important. If you could see somebody doing a great piece of work at great hardship to him or her, then you pointed that out. You paid attention in public for the great thing you had just seen accomplished by this person. What a wonderful job this person was able to do because somebody had taught them how to use their hands and their mind and their eyes in a good way.

They would give credit to the teacher and to the student. Everyone was acknowledged in having a part in this great work that was being done because this person had been able to learn about what was important. So this is acknowledgment. It's medicine used by the greatest of our medicine men, because if you sit in a roomful of people and you go unnoticed forever, why should you come to be with any of the people who are there. Nobody knows that you're there. Nobody cares that you're there. Why should you be there to learn anything?

So that person might have a medicine man sense the sadness in your heart that nobody ever paid any attention to. Nobody ever notices that you even exist. The moment a medicine man points out to the houseful of people that you are there and you have been seen to do this. You have been acknowledged for the gifts that you yourself have given and then you are known then you feel good about who you are because somebody has paid attention to what you do and who you are. Acknowledgment is the best medicine that could ever, ever be practiced."

The road ahead is difficult; bad people will try to divide us. Unity and respect is our strength--let's build on it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Apologizing for Vigilantes

From the January 9th Houston Chronicle Editorial Page
False note
A set of rallies protesting illegal immigration fizzled, suggesting Americans want more nuanced answers.

"LAST Saturday, about 20 cities found themselves hosting parties to which few people came. Municipalities from Danbury, Conn., to Denton, Texas, were sites for nationally coordinated “Stop the Invasion” protests — a series of rallies, often at day labor sites, decrying illegal immigration and flawed border policies. The lukewarm attendance said a lot about how most citizens view the role of immigration — both legal and illegal — in American culture....

Considering many Americans’ growing resentment of illegal immigration, the demonstrations’ feeble turnout was surprising. Their concerns echo widely in Washington, where Congress is considering numerous proposals on how to reform immigration policy."

Well, the Chronicle got it half right. (Which is head and shoulders above Fox Republican News Network and other fascist media.) Surprising?, not really, because the growing resentment, as they call it, isn't echoed in Washington--it's generated there, by GOP think tanks desperately looking for new ways to distract Americans from their high crimes. And racist scapegoating, I'm sorry to say, is an old Republican standby for mobilizing resentment and winning elections. Something major newspaper editors ought to understand by now, especially in Texas.


Missionaries and Activists

Well, you saw how well the peace people did in Texas when they mobilized in opposition to the vigilantes, and, pretty much stayed on message: Armed groups threatening minorities is unacceptable. Writing defensive letters to the editor that repeat all the bogus bigot talking points is a loser's way out of doing street confrontation.

The Minutemen and their white privilege pals are incoherent; respectfully debating with them (or news reporters) only lends credence to their lies. I continuously repeat to those willing to engage in psychological warfare to at least review the basics beforehand. We aren't trying to win the hearts and minds of bullies and racists; we're trying to circumscribe their threatening misbehavior before they start killing people. There's a big difference between missionary work and community activism--liberals need to learn that.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Baghdad to Biloxi

Veterans for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Military Families Speak Out, at the call of the Mobile, Alabama Veterans for Peace Chapter, will conduct a 135-mile march between Mobile AL and New Orleans LA from March 14 to March 19, 2006.


"The fuse burns through the neglect and abuse of the people whose lives were shattered by this storm and the government response is an ongoing, daily reality, especially in New Orleans; and so is the mounting collective anger and the sense that they themselves are the collateral damage of a colonial government, much like the people of Iraq."

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