Monday, July 31, 2006


Philanthropic Branding

For readers who've yet to discover our special purpose weblog Continuity, look to the sidebar Access and click on the Continuity link. Presently focused on funding an investigative research learning center in San Francisco, our discussion includes such things as the global offensive against social justice by the philanthropy industry, as well as a way out of destructive philanthropic investments for those with a troubled conscience.


Sign of the Times

In requesting protection from the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations, minority Turkmen of northern Iraq today in Geneva presented accounts of harassment and violence perpetrated against them by majority Kurds. Making use of the latest forms of alternative medias, the Turkmen cited as sources both an online non-profit news consortium article and a weblog posting alongside a story from the Washington Post.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Ice Cold Indifference

Both Semezdin Mehmedinovic and Hans Magnus Enzensberger allude to the ice cold indifference of killers in the civil wars of the Balkans and West Africa that shows in the eyes of murderous malcontents as though their souls had left their bodies. Enzensberger in particular speaks to the malign neglect of a long-globalized free market that created the inhumane conditions that foster such psychotic symptoms.

But we see this heartless manifestation as well in less intense though equally lethal conflicts like the North of Ireland or South of America where privileged sectors of society are bolstered in their human indifference by both the persuasive and the coercive powers of the state. How else can one explain Orange Order marches or Ku Klux Klan rallies, let alone Zionist or Khmer Rouge massacres in UN refugee camps?

Like the character Walter remarked in The Big Lebowski, "They're not Nazis, they're worse--they're nihilists."


White Hot Hate

In Sarajevo Blues, written under the siege of 1992, Bosnian author Semezdin Mehmedinovic describes the psychopathic brutality consciously constructed by sadists like Radovan Karadzic, whom he once knew as a middling writer of children's poetry. As an editor of the underground press at the time, Mehmedinovic observed first hand how one of the longest-standing, ethnically tolerant, and religiously diverse cities in the world was turned into a hellish nightmare where he encountered such absurdities as being held up at gun point by one of his former soccer buddies turned Chetnik.

Subtle changes like the appearance of gray hairs on his ten year old son led Mehmedinovic to speculate on the vulnerability of all mass communication societies to the scientific application and strategic use of white hot hate. For its poetry, for its inside view, for its honesty, Sarajevo Blues deserves a broad hearing.

Friday, July 28, 2006


A Very Long Time

This being the 25th anniversary of the H-Block hunger strike in the North of Ireland, I was thinking about how nearly the entire world is in some degree recovering from the traumas of diaspora, degradation, and war accumulated over the second Christian millenium. I also thought about how if all war and oppression, hunger and disease ended tomorrow, it would still take a considerable cooperative effort to heal all the damage.

Human beings are remarkably resilient given an opportunity to recover, but some kinds of damage--especially to the very young--are irreparable. Were we somehow miraculously transformed into wise and compassionate beings worldwide, there would still be millions of individuals incapable of surmounting the disabilities still being inflicted today.

The reason I raise this less than cheery topic, is because part of the challenge in reconciliation, post trauma, is in getting those who did not suffer to comprehend the fact that some recoveries take a very long time--often generations--depending on the severity of the collective and personal experience. A generous world would take this into account; an impatient, anxious, or less than magnanimous people might not be willing to accept that.


Zionist Apartheid

BC editor Bruce Dixon compares ethnic cleansing in two US-backed apartheid states.

"We at BC have to believe that if the American people knew the truth about what their tax dollars pay for in Israel and what is left of Palestine, there would be a deep and widespread revulsion, similar to that occasioned by US support for apartheid in South Africa. But there are important differences between that time and this one. Though unspeakably odious, racist South African was only marginally important to US interests. By contrast, the maintenance of Israel's apartheid regime, essentially a white hi-tech and military outpost in the middle of all those brown people sitting atop a large share of the world's proven oil reserves is absolutely central to US foreign policy for the foreseeable future. The US is Israel's banker, its arms depot, and its principal diplomatic sponsor. The US is far more complicit in the crimes of the Israeli state than it ever was in South Africa."

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Politics of Inclusion

New deists comprise one of the largest spiritual movements in history, and--like the Christian fundamentalists of fifty years ago--are waiting in the wings for someone with political savvy and diplomatic skills to usher them into participating more effectively in a politics of inclusion.Having rejected both corrupt pragmatism and criminal opportunism for a philosophy of love over power, some may appear naive in seeking peace on earth or permanent autonomous zones where they can live out their lives in cheery festival, but their overarching need for a community of sharing is a powerful moral value. And people with strong moral convictions, once their energy is channeled into productive social activity, can affect enormous change over time.

American society presently is not supportive of such values, and rarely provides opportunities for guidance and support to those who seek a more harmonious way of life, but this is no excuse for rejecting these people out of hand just because some at times might pursue ill-considered social engagement or serve to mirror how cynical and cowardly progressive Americans have become. In the end, they're what we have to work with.


Mainstreaming Xenophobia

We recently added this classic 2000 discussion on global fascism with Chip Berlet, Martin Lee, Frederick Clarkson and Jean Hardisty to our audio/visual section. Listen in.


Looking for Community

Jean Hardisty describes progressives as sincere but ineffective at building a movement as they attempt to buck the conservative tide in her article Lessons from the Right.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Cheating Indians

Wampum returns from vacation with both guns blazing. Federal judge removed from Indian trust case for suggesting that Interior's cheating Indians out of tens of billions due in royalties has racist implications.


Marginalizing Spirituality

Last time the Building Industry Association engaged in domestic terrorism against its political opponents, eight anti-environmentalist/anti-Indian militiamen went to federal prison for manufacturing bombs to murder their perceived enemies. The prelude to this lethal politics, organized and supported financially by the Building Industry, included electoral, legislative, and administrative subversion, beginning with a statewide propaganda campaign scapegoating environmentalists and treaty protection activists throughout Washington state.

One of the basic tenets of psychological warfare is to not repeat your enemy's talking points, because repetition sinks in, especially to a highly misinformed audience. If our main point is that we need to either change our ways or lose everything we value that cannot be measured in dollars, then we need to say that. Marginalizing the spirituality of those who value all life as sacred, just to appear more reasonable, only adds fuel to the fire of right wing provocateurs like the Building Industry.


Chile Jails Indigenous Leadership

Terrorism law used to remove Mapuche Indians from land coveted by timber companies.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


An Absence of Gratitude

One of our admirers recently wrote about the universal denial of resources to the democratic social movement in our country, and noted in passing the widespread practice of the theft of creators' work in this field of social endeavor. Ignorance and superficiality aside, we think there are perfectly understandable reasons for this absence of gratitude toward our social protectors.

One is that their recognition exposes the need for protection and thereby the relative unimportance of advocacy as a social activity for extending human rights, and the other is that by supporting the more effective efforts of prophylactic cultural creatives, institutions and individuals would be acknowledging a social obligation rather than a philanthropic consumer choice.

In the end, however, this all boils down to a fundamental respect for human dignity--something that, despite the lofty rhetoric, is noticeably lacking in American society, progressive philanthropy and academia included.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Defies Reason

With all due respect to the innocent victims of the Middle East, and to journalists like Seymour Hersh, I have to say I have no interest in hearing once again all the details of who's doing what to whom where and how in this tragic region, unless and until Americans are willing to listen and learn about the patterns of colonialism that have repeated themselves so many times they've become much more than obvious to any thoughtful human being. Because, to anyone who really cares about the atrocities, the question that must be asked is why. And the answer to that is so simple it defies reason that media pundits are still able to baffle so many so easily.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Out of the Box

"Most of the urban participants in the Other Campaign were raised in a largely individualistic, capitalist culture and do not really know how to communicate and make decisions collectively in large assemblies. ...We have much still to learn about listening.

Time and urgency should not be seen as opposing forces, imposing a decision to give priority to one or the other. Both must fuel the spirit and direction of the organizing. Deeply entrenched cultures and institutions of oppression will be uprooted through slow, considered organizing from the bottom up, but the scale and force of state repression demand a simultaneous stepping up of the intensity, breaking out of the box of marches and town square speeches to carry out more diverse and creative actions that communicate and convoke."
--John Gibler


Great Rift

While the 57 country Council on Migrations is being held in Morocco to discuss how best to accommodate migratory populations--a phenomenon that presently amounts to over two hundred million people worldwide--we thought it might be beneficial to reflect on the fact that since the day Lucy's descendants wandered out of the Great Rift Valley of the African horn, our ancestors have all at one time or another decided to go in search of greener pastures. Of particular note in the Rabat conference is the notion of policing as a failed and ineffective means of solving migration problems, which reminds us of the axiom to be good company, whether as guests or hosts--something the indigenous of North America have long entreated upon their paleface relations.

Considering that we are all out of Africa, we'd like to imagine a new scenario where, upon reuniting, long-separated branches of the human family will someday greet those seeking refuge with empathy and understanding. Strange as it now seems, there was a time when this was fairly commonplace.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Funding a Movement

"A small step towards funding a move towards a better society has been made easy by the publisher of Skookum. He's written a number of books, which can easily be purchased over the internets. He has spent decades in activism, opposition research and community building, from which he has learned a great deal.

I'm currently reading his book War Of Ideas. I am particularly impressed by his comparison and reviews of the community models used to cope with anti-democratic behavior. This is a solid reference book, even for people who are not able to spend a good bit of time in activism.

I am familiar with the work of two other researchers in the area he covers. There's David Neiwert, publisher of Orcinus, and Chip Berlet, of Political Research Associates. They are very good at what they do, but their starting points are more liberal than left wing. Jay Taber takes a vital step further and starts from the left. Of particular importance in his work is a guide to knowing when people in power structures are clueless, but not vicious, and how to work with what there is without spinning your wheels or getting coopted.

One of the biggest obstacles faced by people hoping for or working on a democratic social movement is the enclosure of the cultural and educational commons. The fences are a denial of resources, foreclosing the chance for sustainable pursuit of activity and a legal structure that permits theft of creators' work.

Given how unlikely it is that the big time eleemosynary outfits are going to address this, it comes down to people who can spare ten dollars for something worth having in its own right."
--J Alva Scruggs

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Coming Soon


Now Playing


Read this Book

I just finished reading Brotherhood to Nationhood by Peter McFarlane, the biography of the legendary First Nations leader and world indigenous organizer, the late Grand Chief George Manuel from British Columbia. As the principal strategist and spokesman for the self-determination of Canadian Indians from the 1950s to the 1980s, it's hard to overstate the key role he played in changing the relationship between Ottawa and the hundreds of Indian bands, as well as the public understanding of aboriginal rights worldwide.

Suffice to say that the voice the Maori, the Saami, the Bushmen, and the Basques now have in bodies like the UN, are in no small part due to his efforts. The fact that he gave his life to this cause is well-known; the fact that he was willing to die to preserve the Indian way of life perhaps less so.

Few likely recall that in the early 1970s, extermination of indigenous societies in North America was still the agenda of all three federal governments, forcing Mohawk, Lakota, and later Maya warriors to literally take up arms in defense. As the premier leader of the liberation struggle in Canada, Manuel had to take into account the possibility of going underground should the Canadian government escalate its violence toward the First Nations movement.

Accordingly, Manuel assumed his responsibilities as a War Chief preparing for that eventuality should his diplomatic efforts fail--duties that prompted him to consult with both the African National Congress and the Irish Republican Army. To his relief, the pressure he was able to bring to bear against Canadian apartheid, through European states, organizations, and institutions, was sufficient to forestall armed conflict.

And maybe that's his greatest legacy: the recognition and willingness of Euro-Canadians to respect and coexist with the First Nations as they continue to negotiate their relationships into the future--a future that was purchased by more than just rhetoric and public relations. Anyone who thinks that the powerful can be made to cooperate, through reason alone, should read this book.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Sensibility of Spirit

Coalitions--like other tools of community organizing--should be used when they help make you more effective. Same with non-profit corporate status, litigation, or lobbying.

As others have observed, though, it's the authenticity of the grievances and legitimacy of the protagonists that ground a group or network socially, and make it possible to offer genuine empathy and meaningful support to others.

Perhaps it's the political awareness engendered by an understanding of previous social movements that enables one to grasp the commonality in self-determination struggles across time and space. As such, solidarity is more a sensibility of spirit than it is a mechanical response based on the habitual opinions of reform.


Negotiating Self-Determination

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization has a new look at their highly informative website. Check it out:

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Focus on Failte

Creating community on our own:

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


A World Apart

Leslie Marmon Silko and Ray A. Young Bear, both of whom pleasantly informed my appreciation of storytelling, seem almost like a different world from the dark, poetic weavings of Louise Erdrich. But all three authors impart a distinct, enriching view of American reality created out of the conflicting mixture of blood and origin stories that inhabit it. Ceremony, Black Eagle Child, and Love Medicine should all be required reading for students of American literature--even if they are in reality Laguna, Iowa, and Ojibwe.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Conference on Precaution

Shoshone honored for holding US accountable to International Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.


Closing the Circle

Virginia Indian tribes to visit English parliament in quest of reconciliation on 400th anniversary of Jamestown colony.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Continuity Initiative

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Horns of a Dilemma

Over the past couple years, I have had occasion to seek the counsel of a trusted colleague regarding accusations of fraud against two writers--one somewhat popular and one of seemingly limited influence--both of whom came recommended by this colleague. Having read the inspirational book of one and the erudite white paper of the other, I came to the conclusion that both had something to offer to our understanding of the human condition today, but that neither was entirely aboveboard in revealing their apparently hidden agendas.

One of them committed an error of fact that I found so serious I took it upon myself to investigate his background; the other, whose propositions I found intriguing, left minor questions as to his authenticity. Chancing upon two more recent papers of the former, I discovered to my horror this person to be actively involved in promoting xenophobic white nationalism. The latter turned out to be a fraud in how he represented himself, and, according to another highly respected colleague, someone who at times has resorted to unforgivable racist stereotyping.

How to resolve this troubling dilemma? Do we ignore minor frauds by authors who otherwise contribute vital ideas? Can we accept that people change, sometimes for the worse, and note their earlier works we find useful while ignoring later transgressions? Should we promote their beneficial insights if we judge them to be otherwise harmful by either ommission or commission? Are caveats sufficient when giving them recognition?


When Tempers Flare

[Back in 1975, the late Vine Deloria wrote the following about a leading figure in protecting Native American sovereignty by the name of Hank Adams. As another saintly research activist in the vein of Jack Minnis from the Civil Rights Movement, Adams saw what needed to be done and did it. Neither fame nor fortune ever graced Hank's steps, but like other visionaries with integrity, this never stopped him from putting his people first.]

FRANK'S LANDING, Wash. - When the media collide with a social movement, their chief contribution seems to be the simplification of issues and the creation of instant personalities. The complexity of conflicting ideologies which separate the respective minority groups from the rest of America is often overlooked in the rush to lionize the most-obvious heroes of the latest cause. As a result, accomplishments become fewer and fewer; and the public, satiated with its superficial understanding and oozing with sympathy, moves on to find another cause. The media-created personalities emerge a decade later in where-are-they-now articles and little is accomplished.

Now that Marlon Brando is filming the AIM version of Wounded Knee as a never-to-be-forgotten but hardly understood epic, future historians will be all the more puzzled when trying to distinguish fiction from fact concerning the activities of this generation of Indians. It is time, perhaps, to attempt to sketch out for the record some of the important persons of the recent Indian movement who have rarely achieved wide public recognition but who have contributed and influenced events far in excess of what one would expect from a virtually anonymous individual. Future historians - indeed, present historians - when looking for the most important Indian of the post-war years will be missing a bet if they fail to choose Hank Adams, a slight, shy and somewhat mysterious Assiniboine-Sioux from Fort Peck, Montana.

Like Bob Moses, the enigmatic and shadowy black organizer from the early movement in Mississippi, Adams has remained a mysterious character who has shunned the spotlight, avoided the college lecture circuit and escaped the evening talk shows. But Adams has been the key man behind the scenes, the crucial individual who held the line through knowledge, perseverance and hard work during those times when others shirked the dirty work or failed to see in the turn of events the crucial nature of the confrontation.

[In January 2006, Kevin Gover, Pawnee professor of law at Arizona State and former assistant secretary of state for Indian affairs at the U.S. Department of Interior, reflected on his experience with Adams thirty years earlier.]

Some people impress with aggressive deeds or a dynamic presence. Others impress by speaking loudly and forcefully; still others, by their natural charm. The most impressive people of all, though, are the ones who impress with the breadth of their knowledge, the gravity of their ideas and the eloquence of their expression. Hank Adams is one of these.

I met Hank in 1975 when he was chairing the American Indian Policy Review Commission's Task Force on Trust Responsibilities. As it happened, I had just partied my way into failing grades in college. I doubted the value of education and of scholarship in changing the way Indians lived and the way the United States dealt with tribal governments. Hank hired me to work for the task force.

I had no idea who he was, this small, unassuming man. I had no idea that he was a hero of the treaty fishing rights battle in the Northwest. I had no idea that he had survived an assassination attempt. All I knew was he was giving me a job. What I really got, though, was a life-changing lesson in the power of words and ideas. ...

Most of all, I saw intellect, scholarship and commitment to which I could aspire. I wanted to know as much as Hank knew, and use words as well as Hank used them.

[More recently, Cobell v Norton--the largest Indian trust fund recovery case in American history--relied heavily on a careful audit (by Blackfoot accountant Elouise Cobell) of the Bureau of Indian Affairs records, records Hank Adams three decades earlier preserved when the Native American occupation of BIA headquarters in Washington threatened their loss or destruction.]

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