Monday, October 29, 2007


A Very Human Being

The 1950s were a heady time for the United States. With a five-star general in the White House, and the Dulles brothers heading CIA and State, there was little room for democracy to develop in Latin America before being crushed by right-wing death squads under the tutelage of the Pentagon.

In Back on the Road by Ernesto Guevara, we learn how the young intellectuals south of the border viewed the thuggery of the United Fruit administration, and why they chose armed struggle against the Yankee gringo.

More importantly, we see through the eyes of a young, socially conscious physician cum journalist, how the most sensitive of his generation had no choice but to oppose the plantation economy imposed by Washington. We also see how the Pan American social movement he became a part of helped lay the groundwork for the indigenous movement of today.

Written before Ernesto Guevara de la Serna became the radical icon 'Che', this second journal of his travels from Argentina to Mexico concludes just prior to his immersion in the Cuban revolution. These letters of a young man, new father, philosopher, and adventurer are an important counterpart to the then nascent disillusion in the US expressed in similar titles -- a vital counterpoint to the benign image of 1950s America.

If for no other reason, Back on the Road should be read to humanize this very human being. We owe his children that much.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Journey to Authenticity

In the largely synthetic reality we inhabit as residents of a consumer culture, it is often difficult to find refuge from the commercial onslaught, but it is essential that we create such spaces if we are to begin our journey to authenticity. Taking time to think may seem like an obvious point of departure for this journey, but without a peaceful space to consider reliable guides -- absent the intrusion of imbecilic pseudo adventures -- the first step is never taken. Rejecting counterfeit society positions us to begin our journey, but it does not get us underway to a healthier mindset; the work that encompasses requires embracing genuine relationships that only reveal themselves one step at a time.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Ethics Epidemic

You know you're in trouble when your PC alma mater starts to resemble a GOP Medicare scam. Unfortunately, that's the first thing I thought of when reading Washington Babylon this morning. I guess that's what happens when the virus of criminal enterprise is allowed to breed unchecked in public institutions -- it eventually infects an entire society.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Promoting Prostitution

It's hard to imagine a less honorable occupation than trafficking children for prostitution or body parts. Yet, as an article in The Irish Times shows, this modern form of slavery and cannibalism is alive and well in Europe.

Kidnapping, rape, and murder of children by the criminal networks managing the prostitution industry in places like Las Vegas are also thriving.

Think about that next time someone says there's no harm in 'sex work'.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Becoming Informed

One of the things you won't hear from white supremacy apologists in mainstream North American media, is an historical account of how much federal government effort and taxpayer dollars has gone into destroying any and all attempts by Native Americans to preserve their cultural and governance structures. You'll hear plenty about federal expenditures on social problems in Indian country, but chances are you'll hear next to nothing about how those expenditures are siphoned off by federal bureaucracies and corporate criminal networks -- long before tribes see a dime.

Blaming the victim is as old a psywar technique as any, and corporate mouthpieces are adept at this deception. The trick for humanitarians is not to get suckered into letting these lowlifes set the agenda for public discussion.

Now that tribal governments, First Nations, and native peoples are beginning to recover from the 400-year assault on their sovereignty and are asserting themselves successfully through international fora like the UN, we'll see a lot more of the colonial remnant talking heads attacking them for insisting on running their own affairs. For those who want to support the world indigenous movement as a matter of human rights, moral sanctions are most effective when appeals to conscience are based on an awareness of the actual record of laws, treaties, and other agreements consciously ignored and repeatedly subverted by the dominant parties -- the US, Mexican and Canadian governments. Those who are too lazy to become adequately informed should probably refrain from mouthing off.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


A Matter of Force

Our colleague Professor Robert J. Miller of Lewis and Clark Law School discusses the Doctrine of Discovery and how it is still being used against Native Americans.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Subverting Solidarity

Comprising the sole overt opposition to the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights last month, the CANZUS cabal (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United States) may have inadvertently tipped its hand. As ruthless practitioners of neocolonial experiments in undermining indigenous sovereignty, the gang of four have generated widespread interest in both the world indigenous movement as well as the unsavory new methods of undermining aboriginal unity.

In the months to come, we anticipate informative exposes of this cabal's instruments of subversion as well as the instruments of liberation wielded by such bodies as the newly-formed League of Indigenous Nations. While we wait for additional articles like Rudolph Ryser's analysis on the Western Shoshone v United States of America, this might be a good time to become acquainted with existing international law and procedures for protecting the human rights of native peoples.

If things go as we suspect, the ongoing colonial conflict in the Pacific Rim is likely to heat up soon.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Crooked Path

After teaching what we thought would be a valuable lesson to the New College board of trustees this summer, we decided to give them a chance to walk the straight and narrow. I mean, in addition to forcing them to fire the school president, we got them put on probation by both the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, as well as by the U.S. Department of Education. You'd think that'd be enough to get them to mend their ill-considered ways.

With an enrollment decline of over 60% and a follow-up visit by the WASC Special Investigation Team looming next month, some might even think the alleged reforms would include a genuine effort at truthful communication. Granted, that would be a new phenomenon in the school's thirty-six year history, but better late than never.

Unfortunately, some people are slow learners -- real slow. As noted on the New College Independent Alumni Association website, the newly-appointed New College Public Information Officer has started his tenure by shooting himself in the foot. I guess we should have seen it coming.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Just Cause

The European Court of Justice might soon choose to consider an application by the Cornish Stannary Parliament. Citing discriminatory treatment by England in the Duchy of Cornwall -- also known as the nation of Kernow -- the Cornish petitioners' case sounds in part like a British version of Cobell v Norton (the Indian Trust Fund case) combined with Western Shoshone v United States of America.

In fact, it's possible all three of these disputes might eventually end up being heard by the International Court of Justice. Either way, we expect an increasing number of opportunities for public education on the rights of indigenous peoples in the near future.

Indeed, given recent rulings against the United States for violating the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, we anticipate the precedent set by the Shoshone Nation will land the four member states opposed to the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights ( Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US ) increasingly in international judicial fora.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Where the Buffalo Roam

Indian Tribes of the Northern Rockies by Adolf and Beverly Hungry Wolf is a fine example of historical compilation accessible to all audiences. We learned a lot and enjoyed the stories immensely. A great introduction to a remote but fascinating culture.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Damascenes and Alawites

We're enjoying reading The Gates of Damascus, a delightful travel narrative by Lieve Joris. A surprisingly insightful look at Syrian society.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Human Rights Regime

As indigenous leaders meet in Bolivia to discuss how to get member states of the UN to live up to the recent Declaration on Indigenous Rights, Rudolph Ryser provides the historical background to this perhaps over-celebrated document. As things inevitably heat up in international negotiation and conflict related to this long overdue development in the global human rights regime, it's helpful to know both how we got here, as well as what it really means.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Time Running Short

With the recent closure of refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran, hundreds of evicted families are returning to face the brutal Afghan winter without food, shelter, blankets or water. With the closure of 400 schools last month by the Taliban, 60% grinding poverty, and international humanitarian relief drying up, this evacuation is a catastrophe in the making. Those who wish to help avert yet another disaster in Afghanistan should send donations to RAWA.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Ambassadors of Meaning

I have made it a habit not to talk about what I am writing, not only because of my persistent superstitions, but because I do not have the language with which to describe something that possesses all of the words that are related to it: a book can only lend some of its language as ambassadors of meaning after it has been written; now the loan would be tantamount to theft. So it is a question of fidelity. And it is very dangerous to be disloyal; for in order to speak about what I am writing I would have to first exit the work. Asking me this question is like asking a couple in the throes of passion, “How is it going?”

--Hisham Matar


Regaining Consciousness

This New Yorker article on brain damage therapy and recovery is too fascinating to describe.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Kunduz Kabul Kandahar

I'm only halfway through The Lion's Grave by the acclaimed New Yorker war correspondent Jon Lee Anderson, but already I have a very different picture of reality in the Hindu Kush. In Anderson's 2001 and 2002 dispatches from Afghanistan, the chaos of chronic warfare against invading superpowers over two centuries, combined with the inevitable inter-tribal vengeance and personal feuds that accompany such a destabilized society, makes Catch-22 seem perfectly reasonable by comparison. Anderson's juxtaposing of engaging journalistic narrative with real time logistical correspondence as he navigated the early days of the latest international conflict there, makes for an informative as well as entertaining literary adventure.

We look forward to more from this courageous and thoughtful reporter.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


By the Sea

I was reading that in antiquity the seaside Palestinian community of Gaza was noted as a center of fine arts and crafts in regular contact with the universities of Cairo and the Phoenician port of Beirut nearby. The regular exchange of goods and ideas from Andalusia, Libya, and Anatolia fostered a cosmopolitan atmosphere still alive in these Mediterranean people now sequestered in a prison-state. Perhaps in time Gaza and Beirut will once again become renowned seaside resorts. Heaven knows they could use a little R&R.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Obstructing Justice

Vanity Fair's David Rose explores how the free-for-all fraud by military contractors in Iraq has surpassed former levels of Defense Department corruption by decimal points. Most enlightening has been the highly unusual practice by the U.S. Department of Justice in helping companies like Halliburton to conceal a level of illegal profiteering that hasn't been seen since the Civil War.


Atoning for Terror

From the early 1950s, following the era of decolonisation, a sense of grievance and frustration had produced a multitude of Islamist movements spreading from Algeria to Indonesia. But they were inconsequential. Had the US not cultivated them as allies against communism during the Cold War, history could have been very different. ...

All this is history – and unchangeable. Today, relations between Islam and the West, particularly as represented by the US, are worse than ever before. A civilisational clash may not be here yet, but it could be around the corner. How can it be avoided? Imagine for a moment that the US had a sudden change of heart, realised the error of its ways, and wanted to bury the hatchet with Muslims. How could the US atone for its past? Here are ten key elements.


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