Monday, April 30, 2007


Maintaining an Open Society

I was thinking about the former French investigating magistrate Eva Joly's comparison of American and French systems for fighting corruption, when I was reminded of a comment by an FBI secretary we encountered during one of our investigations of financial fraud that was funding a network of right-wing vigilantes in the Pacific Northwest. Paraphrasing, she candidly remarked that, "90 % of the cases we solve are dropped in our lap by informers, private investigators, or ordinary citizens who happen to stumble on evidence of a crime." Joly, now Special Advisor to the Norwegian Government on Corruption and Money Laundering, observed that while rich people in both France and the US have advantages to stop their dirty laundry being aired, in France they at least get investigated, while in the US system they often avoid even that.

Locating this reality within the rapidly evolving context of a US Department of Justice deliberately disabled by criminal interests promoting privatization of our government, lends all the more urgency to FAIR's criticism of the media industry for its subversion of investigative journalism.

Not that we at Public Good can resolve this dire situation alone through our proposed national investigative research learning center, but we can make a contribution to instituting the knowledge, skills, and experience required in maintaining an open society--a challenge, if neglected, can lead to extremely undesirable consequences.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


Smoking Gun

Money laundering is commonly understood in the US as a game of Caribbean hide-and-seek by major corporations evading the IRS, or by foreign drug lords looking to invest underworld revenues in aboveworld holdings. While this view is accurate as far as it goes, what it overlooks is the routine role American financial institutions like Citibank play in finding homes for these illicit funds in places such as the Caymans and Bahamas. It also neglects to consider the vast fortunes stolen from government treasuries by dictators in regions like West Africa, with the help of the American, British, and French oil companies operating there. More importantly, as author Nicholas Shaxson details in his book Poisoned Wells, these funds--laundered in London, New York, and Paris--are often used as slush funds for bribing politicians and regulators in Western countries like the three listed, and can easily drag them into supplying these oil republic dictators with armaments and other military involvement.

Lacking independent tribunals to investigate, prosecute, and try our executive branch in the US, oil booms in the Third World simultaneously fund the dismantling of our democratic institutions as well as the burgeoning poverty and instability overseas. Observing what has happened during just one administration devoted to the criminal privatization of the United States Government, it is not hard to see how the continued corrosion of financial fraud could swiftly bring down already frail institutions like the federal judiciary, as well as the Departments of Justice and State.

Lest we think this is a matter solely for international institutions like the UN, oil dictators in the Third World often operate with a gun to their head held by criminal syndicates like ExxonMobil and Chevron. Think about that next time Secretary of State Rice welcomes one of these tyrants to the White House.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Writer's Paradox

As an avid writer with limited technical understanding of the medium I often inhabit, I am always intrigued by the routes people use to arrive at our weblogs, posts, and papers. This morning's comment by a reader from Amsterdam, submitted to a page in our index, left me wondering if this person was perhaps a student of one of our colleagues in Europe, or if they just happened on us through a search engine. (Tracking down random anonymous guests is not something I'm inclined to do.)

As a storyteller who began learning the craft around campfires with a visible, audible audience, I have had to adjust to generally less responsive online readers more accustomed to passively consuming my creative output than they are to participating in the discussions I attempt to generate. It's a paradox I live with: more readers, less communication.

The distance correspondences I have managed to develop, however, are frequently more rich in content than ones I can produce locally, so there is indeed a tradeoff. Which got me thinking about the irony of online publications like the International Journal of Communication (a great resource), and the fact that they have no built-in method of conveniently producing correspondence with their readers. Broadcasting, but not receiving.

All this reminded me of a remark made years ago by my friend from the University of San Francisco, who observed that perhaps my unique contribution to understanding social change was the accessibility of my presentation of ideas developed through discussions with my more formal colleagues.

A task I gratefully welcome, even if it sometimes leaves me wondering just who my audience really is.

Friday, April 27, 2007


The Laws of War

The principle [was] put forward at the Nuremberg trials in 1945-46 that a soldier is not obliged to obey unjust orders, orders that contravene the laws of war. Indeed, one has an obligation to disobey them. The Israeli soldiers who are resisting service in the Occupied Territories are not refusing a particular order. They are refusing to enter the space where illegitimate orders are bound to be given.

--Susan Sontag, On Courage and Resistance, March 2003

Members of the U.S. armed forces are prohibited from speaking out against the war in Iraq. The Uniform Code of Military Justice limits what soldiers may say about political issues. But as opposition to the Iraq war mounts, some service members are finding ways to air their opinions. Some are speaking anonymously while others sign a petition.

"You know this isn't really what we signed up to do. This isn't really what I believe America is about," an Army intelligence officer says, speaking from his base in Iraq. Comments like this would land him in a military prison if he were identified."There's no clearly defined enemy; we're not fighting a military. The insurgents are terrorists. Everybody we're shooting is technically a civilian."

--NPR, April 2007


Survivors To Testify

Canada agrees to settlement with the 77,414 remaining survivors of government-mandated Indian boarding schools that forcibly removed Indian children from their families between 1867 and 1996. Those who were physically and sexually abused are eligible for additional compensation. The settlement includes the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to hear testimony about the experience as part of a national healing process.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Articles of Impeachment

United States of America v Richard B. Cheney


War on Ideas

In this article, Canadian journalist Linda Solomon notes the current use of the Ideological Exclusion Provision of the Patriot Act to deny visas to foreign scholars, lawyers and professors scheduled for speaking tours, academic conferences, and teaching positions at American universities. As she cogently observes, this provision is solely designed to prevent the entry of ideas incompatible with the prevailing ideology of the Department of Homeland Security as dictated by the White House.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


A Delta Diverted

Speaking of energy, after poisoning the life-sustaining fishery of the Cree with James Bay 1, HydroQuebec now plans to begin James Bay 2, in which they will actually take the river. Unable to eat the now mercury-tainted fish, and unable to hunt geese that've disappeared along with the dammed and flooded habitat, the Cree will--upon completion of the megaproject--find themselves residents of a delta diverted to turbines in a completely different watershed.

As a major supplier of electricity to New England, HQ evidently felt it necessary to pull a fast one on the Cree, first asking them to participate in an environmental assessment, and then when the assessment revealed their whole way of life would be destroyed, used the Cree's good faith involvement in presenting their concerns as evidence that they had relinquished their rights.

All of which, of course, goes to show once again that small is beautiful, and big is bad--sometimes really bad.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Keeping Democracy Down

It takes a lot of effort and money to prevent discussion, deny obligations, and derail reconciliation in our country, and maybe that's why major media had to consolidate so drastically between Bush 1 and Bush 2. I mean, even with the willing help of pseudo public ombudsmen like 60 Minutes, PBS, and NPR, it isn't easy to fool all the people all the time when evidence to the contrary lays scattered about the landscape like rancid buffalo carcasses during the wasting of the Great Plains.

Which is probably why the anti-democratic movement in America has had to rely on segmenting it's war across a broad front of issues in order to prevent the electorate from comprehending they're all part and parcel of the same tyrannical package. While actively colluding to exclude us from the decision-making process on all public issues, they simultaneously promote the idea that we can be against one or two aspects of corporate tyranny -- i.e. war of aggression or nuclear power -- but the social system that enables these abominations is not up for discussion. Yet that is precisely what we need to talk about.

Subverting solidarity, undermining unity, hamstringing hope--this is what an overwhelming absence of independent media has done to our struggle for equality and opportunity in the US. As a ploy, though, parrying public participation has rendered diminishing ethical returns. As a point of vulnerability, we must be relentless in our attack.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Can't Be Trusted

When all the arguing over nuclear power is said and done--when all the radioactive dustup has settled--the bottom line is that the nuclear industry (including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) has been a boondoggle of such mammoth proportion that there is simply no way to keep white collar crime away from it. And in the end, that is precisely what will lead us to not just another Three-Mile Island, but to Chernobyl--American style. If we let them.

The Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) $7 billion nuclear plant fiasco of the 1970s may be the best known example of shoddy construction, inadequate oversight, and NRC coverup of quality-control fraud, but it is only one of many examples across the country that combine to create a notorious track record that should make even the most gullible among us skeptical about trusting these shifty no-counts with our money, let alone our lives.

For those who'd like to learn more about how the citizens of Washington state organized to defeat the industry and the federal agencies that conspired to defraud them, this In Context article serves as a primer on organizing against nuclear power. Bad ideas never die, but we can prevent them from becoming our worst nightmares.


Arrogance of Affirmation

For those of us who are fortunate enough to have acquired knowledge, the choice of how to use this gift bestowed by our mentors and teachers can be a tormenting task. Given the institutional pressures to apply knowledge in a manner contrary to public benefit, it can also be a demoralizing one. Taking note of the vast resources devoted to undermining social morale, it is not surprising that many of those inclined toward creating community find the monumental institutional duress overwhelming. It is, in fact, designed for that purpose.

Incapacitating the spirit of resistance through the science of coercion--also known as psychological warfare--is most successful when those who are targeted by state and market propaganda inadvertently assist public and private media in the mission of indoctrination. Having channeled the anger, resentment, and righteous indignation of the kindhearted into a knowledgeable cynicism and informed despair, all that remains is for the ruthless to consolidate their power. Once the unhappy subjects believe they are indeed helpless, the prophecy is mercilessly self-fulfilling.

This is not to say that there are no difficulties ahead, that there have not been battles lost, nor that the present is not discouraging. What I am asking of those blessed with the intellect and motivation to prevent harm despite the odds, is that they consider the harm done by ceding the field of battle, by counseling surrender, by failing to shield young minds before they can become strong--by the arrogance of affirmation.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Partial Truth Abortion

CBS 60 Minutes pro-nuclear propaganda spotlighted. Once well-regarded newsmagazine now unquestioningly promotes industry interests. Interlocking directorates between major media and military technology industries one possible explanation.

Friday, April 20, 2007


An Honesty Rarely Found

In my home state of Washington, about 40 miles north of where I was born on Seattle's Elliott Bay, the Tulalip Indian Tribes are in the process of creating tribal laws to protect tribal cultural property guaranteed in perpetuity by the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott. As yet to be specifically delineated, these laws are intended to prevent annihilation of Tulalip culture by the destructive acts of individuals, businesses, and governments--on and off the Tulalip reservation. As an entity responsible for much of the damage done to tribal cultural property since the treaty, the State of Washington is a primary target of the proposed tribal legislation. To say that this assertion of indigenous property rights under federal and international law might cause a disturbance to entrenched powers is a considerable understatement. To acknowledge that this action was the inevitable consequence of both state and market neglect of these obligations requires an honesty rarely found in either sphere of influence.

As I write these words today, I recall the many battles fought by the dominant society that dishonored this treaty, as well as the traumatic cultural losses endured by the indigenous peoples of Puget Sound. Battles that have devastated the salmon, the orcas, the forests and streams. More importantly, battles that denied human dignity to the tribes of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, where in the 1970s I worked alongside Indian fishermen then attacked for asserting their aboriginal right to fish.

Having witnessed firsthand in the 1990s the malice mustered by the Building Industry Association of Washington against the modest and ultimately unenforceable environmental protection measures codified in the state's Growth Management Act, as well as the violent harassment by the vigilantes they hired to oppose endangered species protection and Indian treaties, my first recommendation to the governor, media, and church leaders is to make every effort to curb inflammatory rhetoric.

My second suggestion is that those in a position to inoculate populations vulnerable to manipulation by commercial interests team up with other popular educators post haste. You can bet the hatemongers of the BIAW and professional fearmongers at the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise are already planning and funding their attack.

With the well-documented history of anti-Indian aggression in Washington state, there's really no excuse for civic and moral leaders to remain silent or uninvolved. They either shoulder their responsibilities or they don't.


How Did We Get Here?

In her second volume of dispatches from Baghdad Burning, Riverbend makes the observation that her country of Iraq no longer exists, and probably never will. As she notes, even 'the Vichy government that rode in on American tanks' can no longer maintain that illusion.

What they will have, she suggests, are semi-autonomous regions run by gangsters working for US oil companies amidst the chronic criminality fomented by fanatic clerics and their militias--the worst of all worlds. While Riverbend accepts the permanent destruction of her country as a given, she wonders what it will be like in a religious fundamentalist state beholden to no one but religious zealots, drug dealers, and arms merchants. Like Afghanistan, she suspects.

As a Western-educated, secular young woman, she concedes she has little to look forward to other than an end to bombings, kidnappings, and brutal beatings of her family and friends for no reason at all. I expect she will eventually join the four million Iraqi refugees who've already left or become internally displaced.

Which brings me back to her assessment of an America where many of her generation were attending college prior to the unleashing of shock and awe on their entirely innocent families as pretext for de-nationalizing Iraq's vast oil reserves. Her bewilderment at an America that would tolerate such aggression and even reward the perpetrators with a second term to continue the massacre of her people is understandable.

What effect the now-entrenched criminilization of American public institutions will have on our own country is something I doubt many Americans have begun to ponder. As the civil corrosion accelerates, will we even bother to collectively wonder how it all came to pass?

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Public Health Failings

80 percent of Iraqis lack access to sanitation, 70 percent lack regular access to clean water, and 60 percent lack access to the public food distribution system, the report says. As a result of these multiple public health failings, diarrhea and respiratory infections now account for two-thirds of the deaths of children under 5, the report said. According to a 2006 national survey conducted by Unicef, 21 percent of Iraqi children are chronically malnourished, which puts them at risk for both stunted growth and mental development.


To Poison the Womb of Time

I was reading Harper's account of how General Electric, Hewlett Packard, and other traitorous warmongering corporations emptied the US treasure chest back in 2004, and was reminded of comments by Mia Couto in his book Sleepwalking Land about the bandit government of Mozambique ten years after their war of independence from Portugal. Reminiscent of the Preservation of Capitalism Act the ways and means committee cynically concocted in the US Congress, Couto had this to say about the Mozambican bandits: "Do you weep for the present? Well, know that the days to come will be worse still. That's why they made this war, to poison the womb of time, so that the present would give birth to monsters instead of hope. ...They have stolen so much from you that not even your dreams are your own."


Compassionate Conservative

The World Health Organization predicts that "depression will become one of the most common disabling disorders in the world by 2020, second only to heart disease."

The roots of these disorders: rising expectations from media saturation, and reduced satisfaction from loss of collective family and community life, says Kalle Lasn, help to explain shootings, drug use, domestic violence, obesity, rage, cynicism and the hopelessness enveloping our culture.

Facing a budget deficit caused by his refusal to sue Enron for recovery of several billion dollars owed the state, Governor Schwarzenegger has targeted mental health programs serving adults suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe anxiety for elimination.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


A Distinct Way of Life

An associate of mine recently drew my attention to a weblog discussion of neocolonialism that compared the Native American with the Islamic experience. To initiate discussion, the host noted that, "Imperialism does not only attempt to conquer land and resources--the culture and religious values are also targeted for colonization."

In this brief discussion, it was observed that while neoliberals expect both Muslims and Native Americans to assimilate by adopting Western values and customs, few white people actually attempt to become Muslim, as distinguished from New-Age Indians who exploit indigenous knowledge for commercial and spiritual purposes.

Coincidentally, one of my colleagues at the Center for World Indigenous Studies, Rosalee Tizya, coordinates the New-Age Indians Study, a continuing research effort that examines the abuse and misuse of ceremony and ritual by non-tribal native people who have not been properly trained by spiritual leaders. While the study focuses primarily on Canada, I think we can apply some of the concerns to the US.

From my own personal perspective, I think what is important to remember is that the cultural property of indigenous peoples is the culmination of living a distinct way of life, an architecture of conduct and behavior that represents a unique philosophy acquired through collective endurance, communal forbearance, and personal discipline over millenia. It is an achievement of humanity that can be shared, but should not be taken.

Looking at the sentiments of non-tribal peoples seeking spiritual inspiration lacking in consumer societies, I think the best advice is to be respectful. Celebrate the common wholesome values you find. Practice the law of generosity. But be yourself. If you are Euro-American, you can enjoy learning the lessons from Native Americans about how to live on this land while still nurturing your own Irish or Portuguese heritage. You don't need to become an Indian to be a friend to Indians--in fact, it's better if you don't.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Sleepwalking Land

In a recent discussion on dichotomies among evangelicals, I made the remark that, "They’re not that different from their neighbors--they want to feel good about themselves. They’re just a little more misinformed about what it’s gonna take to pull off the total transformation of our society required to meet the pious goals they’ve set. Like many of their secular counterparts, they’ve yet to get their minds around the vast undertaking we’re faced with, and the courageous tenacity this is going to demand from us."

In a reflective moment afterward, I recalled the economic panic and religious hysteria of the 14th century Barbara Tuchman wrote about in her book A Distant Mirror, and privately pondered what impact ten-dollar-a-gallon gasoline or an unstoppable TB pandemic might have on our ability to remain civil, rational people in the 21st.

Later that day, I came across a passage in Sleepwalking Land by Mia Couto: 'the obsessions of people who live by what they can see, unaware of the future world, are well known.' This reminded me of the adage that a warrior of justice must not only be circumspect about the current situation, but also anticipate the consequences of evil that lie ahead. In that respect, a warrior protector is one who has awakened to the truth of this, and thus cannot become an evangelical, because he knows the unaware--regardless of their pious sentiments--will not join him in battle.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Your Lucky Day

New project at Public Good.


Words to Live By

A little-known fact about Sinn Fein's struggle for equality and unity in Ireland, is the active support they've received from Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress. During the 1998 negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement, now on the verge of a power-sharing executive in Belfast, the ANC sent a senior delegation to lend its assistance by sharing stories of their own struggle against apartheid, then only recently ended.

At the Sinn Fein congress, ANC deputy secretary general Thenjiwe Mtintso said, "Sometimes people talk about the miracle in South Africa. The problem with that is that they reduce our struggle to the supernatural. There was no miracle in South Africa. There was the blood and tears of South Africans. ...What is crucial is not to lose sight of the strategic objectives in whatever it is you are doing in negotiations. We had to weigh everything against the strategic objectives of complete transformation in our country."

Good words to live by in America today.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Gaming the System

Harpers' Ken Silverstein illustrates the mechanics of bribery and money-laundering that perpetuate warmongering in Washington. Clearly a case for abolishing the federal income tax.


Ungrateful Guests

To the small minds of white triumphalists, showing gratitude or respect or remorse toward peoples mistreated during the five centuries of Euro-American ascendancy is a sign of weakness. In this respect, celebrated inhumanity here differs little from Northern Ireland or South Africa in the not too distant past.

What we learn from the demise of the conquering conscience, though, is that it is a fragile identity, based on fear instilled through religious doctrine and imperial mythology--a mindset that shuns the light of insight and only persists by preventing thoughtful discussion. To accomplish and maintain delusions of racial superiority, small minds require big mouths; they must make a lot of noise to keep the banter of denial lively--something akin to the delinquent child who perpetually disrupts the classroom.

The fact these small minds are being left behind by those who are creating a more wholesome society based on equality, reciprocity, and truthful reconciliation, will not necessarily cause them to alter their misbehavior. They may in fact become louder, even acting out their hostilities at perceived loss of status and privilege.

But while we must be on our guard against this habitual aggression, we mustn't be deterred or deflected from our course. If the delinquents force a response, it should be appropriate, proportionate, and remedial. In other words, not on their terms.

We have more important things to do.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


The Terminator

As an energy industry funded phenomenon, the Wise Use Movement is the cutting edge of fascism in America. As an adjunct of the GOP and its supporters, Wise Use operatives have for twenty years engaged in not only bogus propaganda, but also arson, assault, bombings, and attempted murder. One of their primary targets is American Indians.

The emerging anti-Indian battlefield is centered around California, where organized anti-Indian groups--led by Governor Schwarzenegger--have scapegoated Indians for state budgetary shortfalls caused in fact by white collar crime perpetrated by friends of the governor himself. A second tier of anti-Indian hostility in the state is represented by agricultural water users (i.e. in the Klamath River Basin). But the issue with the greatest potential for fostering violent bigotry is clearly the energy rights-of-way conflict, where industry front groups in the Southwest are already fearmongering and scapegoating Indians over energy insecurity.

All of this entrepreneurial hate propagation presently takes place within the context of the Cobell Indian Trust Fund litigation over royalties looted by the U.S. Department of Interior in collusion with the U.S. Department of Justice and the energy industry. Unwilling to participate in obstruction of justice at the behest of the White House, several US Attorneys were recently purged. Some of them are suspected as having been cut loose for refusing to participate in the conspiracy to defraud Indian tribes over energy rights-of-way.

Energy in California is a very big issue, and the governor--despite personally subverting the attorney general's prosecution of Enron for bilking the state on energy bills--made the statement over gaming revenue that, "The Indians are ripping us off."

Governor Schwarzenegger is a dangerous demagogue with the ability to get innocent people killed. He is also potentially the terminator poster boy for Wise Use. As usual, the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise will undoubtedly be involved in funding and coordinating the anti-Indian groups. Some links to players and topics follow.

California anti-casino group

Energy industry front group

Cobell trust fund litigation

Energy connection to US Attorney purges

Preparing for Battle


Voyage of Skullduggery

Commemorations like the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial are opportunities to discover as a people who we really are. They allow us to confront our national mythology with the benefit of temporal perspective. They bolster our capacity to renew ourselves in a more honest, reconciliatory fashion. They also expose the unhealed wounds between our indigenous and settler societies.

Through the creative participation of many tribes, some of these wounds were addressed in positive, educational ways. The Wisdom of the Elders radio series comes to mind, as does the site consecration process on the Columbia River with the renowned commemoration architect Maya Lin.

Still, to others, it was simply a chance to display pride in ignorance, asserting dominance as virtue. Our president's inviting the Chinook tribe to join in the ceremony at the White House, only to remove their federal recognition shortly after, reminded us that commemorations can bring out both the best and the worst in humanity.

Yet much has changed since the first centennial. Native Americans are now US citizens, their children are no longer kidnapped by missionaries, and many tribes are beginning to recover from the trauma and treacheries perpetrated against them over four centuries. Self-governance, education, and economic development hold promise that the tricentennial might see an America renewed and reinvigorated through their endurance, an America where respect and coexistence are honored and celebrated, an America where we no longer need mythologies of discovery and destiny to sustain our identity and sense of self-esteem--an America where cooperation and reciprocity are valued more than domination and larceny.

Maybe we won't have to wait another hundred years.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


The Honorable Thing

In my short career advising local governments on how to get federal funds for trails and habitat preservation, I met two mayors of small, rural, farming cities, one of which was a Dutch Reformed stronghold.

The secular mayor enjoyed horseback riding, as did I, and after performing what seemed like miracles for his town, he always went out of his way to greet me at large political functions. The devout Christian mayor enjoyed bicycling on the trails I got funded, and used to invite me to lunch now and then.

When I took on managing environmental litigation for a non-profit, I had the ability and wherewithal to bring their towns to their knees for non-compliance, but chose instead to meet each mayor for coffee to explain our view and how we might resolve things. One met our offer, and the other failed to persuade his council to do likewise.

Years later, when some Congressmen were scapegoating local Indian tribes for the two cities' difficulties in meeting clean water standards to protect endangered treaty salmon resources, I arranged for a liberal minister from the Christian redoubt to co-host a discussion at the large tribal community center along with a religious tribal leader. The mayors attended and listened attentively.

Afterward in the parking lot, the Christian one remarked that treaties were things of the past, and that it was time to move on. I took a deep breath, and responded, "Think of them as liens on real estate, contracts, extensions of the U.S. Constitution. The United States and its citizens continue to benefit from the ceded lands, so the contractual obligation to protect resources guaranteed in perpetuity by these treaties continues. Should we default on the agreement because we think we can get away with it? Would that be the honorable thing to do?"

Monday, April 09, 2007


Radical Hope

In his review of Radical Hope--a book about the transformation of the Crow tribe by Jonathan Lear--Charles Taylor observes that,
A culture's disappearing means that a people's situation is so changed that the actions that had crucial significance are no longer possible. ...You find yourself in a circumstance where, as Lear puts it, "the very acts themselves have ceased to make sense." Nothing of significance could happen anymore. This is a terrible reality, and it is one that we have trouble understanding, but it is a fate that we in "advanced," more "complex" societies have been imposing for many centuries on "indigenous" or "tribal" peoples.

With the devastating impacts of globalization and a pervasive loss of faith in progress, we are now experiencing our own kind of culture death--perhaps less horrifying, but real nonetheless. Abandoned by the malign neglect of the same forces of mechanized state and market aggression that devastated the plains Indians, will we who've long rejected the role of passive consumer show the resilience required in recreating our society? Are we prepared to lead those who lament, "I am trying to live a life I do not understand."

Friday, April 06, 2007


Politics of Land and Bigotry

Associate Professor Robert Miller of Lewis and Clark Law School writes in Indian Country Today that for the second year in a row the Bush administration is attempting to kill Indian Health Care funding as part of an overall strategy to terminate US trust responsibilities to Indian tribes. In light of revelations of White House/Department of Justice collusion in covering up the Indian Trust Fund fraud in Land and Mineral Leasing Management at the Department of Interior, this current campaign to renege on long-standing federal treaty obligations revitalizes the Anti-Indian Movement initially funded by resource extraction industries.


Nebulous Anxiety State

In The only thing we have to fear is the 'culture of fear' itself, author Frank Furedi discusses how fear is transmitted by cultural scripts which inform people of emotional and behavioural formulae which have come to be part of their everyday behaviour and thought. But the transformation of anxious responses into fear, he observes, also requires the intervention of social forces, of what he has labelled 'fear entrepreneurs.'

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Noblesse Oblige

On occasion I've met aristocrats who still honor the concept of noblesse oblige, but I've never met one who questioned whether there was anything noble about the status of acquired privilege. I mean, if the rich were truly magnanimous, they wouldn't be rich.


Mountain Spirit

I wrote a while back about Zuni Pueblo protector societies that maintain barriers against unhealthy influences on their people. More recently I came across another metaphor for Public Good in the Apache Mountain Spirit People -- protectors, teachers, role models -- who, like the mountains, serve, look over, inform, and provide inspiration to those below.

Room for many disciplines.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Mainstream Mendacity

My favorite blog on the law, Trial Ad Notes, links to the story of the latest settlement between Seattle and those wrongfully arrested during the N30 protests in 1999. In the comment I submitted there, I note the mendacity of Seattle media then and now.

While much is made of the alleged bias of mainstream media on the liberal conservative continuum, this mediated discussion almost never raises the dichotomy between owner and renter bias in the news. For those of us who rent the tools of media, the distinction could not be clearer.


Interior's Dirty Laundry

Wampum delineates the how and who of influence-peddling in the Wise Use White House cabinet. I can hardly wait for the book.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Acting for Dollars

It's probably obvious that what we mean by activism differs from that of the typical do gooder. Most ameliorators, in fact, abhor the idea of being called activists; they are professional advocates. Reformers, but not a threat to the privileged. Usually on the payroll of the inherited wealthy.

Others, mostly those in it for the prestige, call themselves activists, but rarely engage in anything more effective than generating intense emotional feelings akin to religious apparitions.

Mainstream activism, or conventional activities associated with non-profits, then, is by and large choreographed public theater that maintains a benificent facade for social elites and the serfs who serve them. Successful scripts guarantee long runs in media, as well as almost unbreachable bulwarks against prosecution for the fraud, extortion, and bribery engaged in by the patrons of this largesse.

Going off script, or even drawing attention to the fact there is a script, lands one on the margins promptly and permanently. Suggesting that the services provided by ameliorators ought rightly be conditions of citizenship--paid for from our enormous payroll deductions--is tantamount to heresy.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


High Drama

With all the resources commanded by media giant CBS, you'd think 60 Minutes could come up with a more challenging topic than the lame dispute over using or not using DNA database evidence that might lead police to a close relative of a suspect or convict. Pretending this is a big social issue--while leaving aside questions like why black men in the southern US are still fodder for a prison industry founded on pre-Civil War legal and moral values--creates the misperception that legal institutions are generally reasonable while civil rights advocates are nothing but sky-is-falling nitwits.

Then again, given the degree of criminality within the U.S. Department of Justice at present, I suppose CBS feels compelled to help its friends in the White House. As Dan Rather himself once remarked, "When President Bush asks me to jump, my only question is how high?"


Sun-baked Pizza

A year ago, the Brazilian pizzeria on the other side of the park from us installed solar panels on the roof. On their takeaway boxes--now decorated with a sun icon--they brag that their annual electricity bill was $12,000 before the conversion, but last year it came to $8.

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