Thursday, January 31, 2008


Solemn Soliloquy

With the demise of New College imminent, we thought this post from last summer might be appropriate as well as informative.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Distressing Truths

For those who prefer not to slog through the blogs to find the gory details of New College’s 14-year decline into oblivion, I’ve selected what I deem the most pertinent pieces and condensed them into a handy pocket-size edition for posterity. What with hackers, disappearing urls, and blurry pdfs, I figured this might be easier on the eyes and certainly easy to share with off-line friends. For those who dread reading lengthy bureaucratic reports, you’ll be pleased to know I’ve only included one short summary from a key report, while printing verbatim the more interesting stories and testimony that seem to convey the essence of the tale Waco on Valencia.


Insulting Turkishness

PEN supports the commemoration of Hrant Dink, the Armenian journalist murdered in Istanbul last year while awaiting trial on charges of "insulting Turkishness" for writing about the Armenian genocide.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


The Colonial Agenda

With the US, Canada, and New Zealand comprising the only member states of the UN officially opposed to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it is not surprising to see mainstream American media now undermining these human rights in the guise of promoting them (a basic psywar technique). MSNBC editors know that most people only read headlines, and that by burying any “balance” in an article toward the end or in a follow-up story on another day, the impression most readers are left with is the headline. Since Americans are probably the worst informed society on earth — or maybe just the most gullible — keeping them ignorant is child’s play. See for yourself if this headline isn’t more than a little misleading.

Dual citizenship of ancient nations poses many challenges, most stemming from systematically divisive colonial structures that prevented democratic development. Given a chance to work things out for themselves, indigenous peoples are already advancing human rights worldwide.

MSNBC could have said that, but they didn’t. That wouldn’t suit the colonial agenda.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Leading the Way

A recent reader asked why we often focus on indigenous societies in the US. The answer is that indigenous America is inherently organized on a cooperative model. Cooperative societies do not support colonizing institutions--be they economic, religious, or political. Social inclusion by definition respects cooperation with nature and with each other. Native American tribes and nations are leading the way in creating cooperative resolution of the many problems we face, and have even initiated educational tools for that purpose.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


About Skookum

Skookum, as noted in the subheading, is a journal of the American psyche in transition. As observers and participants in our journey to authenticity, contributors to Skookum are well aware of the obstacles and difficulties we face in this arduous task. Many are also intimately acquainted with the forces organized to prevent social inclusion and to subvert attempts to reestablish democracy in the Americas.

As such, the individuals involved in protecting this nascent process function as informal guardians of those who are regularly punished for their good deeds. Until the Americas become societies where our best and brightest are honored and nurtured, rather than marginalized and deprived, there will be a need to shield the good-hearted from the poisonous ideas and ruthless brutality of those who abuse power in our countries.

It is our intent that the ideas expressed in the discussions hosted on Skookum, and on our other sites listed in the sidebar under Access, will serve as shields for those who choose to act on their conscience to create a better world. As warriors and shield-makers, there is no greater honor than to find we've helped in that regard. If we've helped you, kindly let us know. e-mail: Jay Taber, Skookum editor,

*Skookum participants are pro-democracy, anti-fraud, and peace partisan. Public Good is an archive of our consultations and interventions. Skookum Index is a collection of stuff from our associates, colleagues and friends whom we count on for guidance, advice and moral support. Included in the collection on Scribd are pdfs of some of Jay's essential essays and commentary.

(Besides serving as a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal, Jay wrote a regular column for IC Magazine. You can listen to him speak about the Fourth World and the Fourth Estate here.)


A Very Important Gift

One of the tasks and obligations often overlooked in the frantic vertigo of modern life, is the act and ceremony of honoring those who bring honor and inspiration to others who struggle to tell the stories we need to survive. As an associate scholar of CWIS, I have been blessed by many mentors — intentional as well as accidental — but recently discovered a colleague who deserves special mention for his work. As observed in an article by Sandra Sarr, Michael Pavel, Associate Professor at Washington State University, is someone who has been given a very important gift, and perhaps more importantly, has developed the art and craft of honoring to a high degree.

Take a moment to read about what honoring means to Dr. Pavel, and see if you don’t agree.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Collective Punishment

I remember the shocking real-time film from the siege of Sarajevo, as well as the attendant world outrage that led to UN and NATO engagement with Serbia. Reading yesterday's post by Palestinian Red Crescent physician Mona El-Farra about the siege of Gaza by the State of Israel, I couldn't help comparing the senseless brutality of ethnic cleansing in the two countries. As Dr. El-Farra observes, the collective punishment of denying food, water, medicine, and electricity to 1.5 million civilians does not create an atmosphere for constructive negotiation.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Blowing Smoke

Given their propensity for blowing smoke, I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the remaining scoundrels on the New College of California board of trustees issued a fawning press release announcing Peter Gabel and Colleen O'Neal's resignations from the board. Of course, some might understandably suspect that the resignations have something to do with the scathing indictment of Gabel and O'Neal's subversion of the transition team and obstruction of the reform process, but what has reality or the law ever had to do with the New College trustees?

Still, we're glad that the two ringleaders of resistance to transparency and accountability are gone from the board. Now, what about the rest?

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Prospects Dim

Some people never learn. This is especially sad when it happens in an institution of higher learning. But, we work with what we have.

In the case of New College of California, unfortunately, what we have is a mess. A mess that hasn't been cleaned up in thirty years.

In its latest of numerous scathing indictments of the school, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (the accrediting agency) has issued a detailed report of the ongoing misfeasance by administrators and malfeasance by trustees in terms of academic, financial, and ethical mismanagement. To quote the suppressed report leaked to students just yesterday, "The prospects for success are dim."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Stonewalling Stymies Students

With Spring semester registration next week, students at New College of California don't know whether to register, boycott, picket, or all three. As the school's board of trustees continues to maintain secrecy about a Western Association of Schools and Colleges report issued last week, students and faculty are left in the lurch wondering if the institution is on the verge of losing accreditation any day, and what, if anything, they can do about it.

As things heat up, with lawyers showing up at faculty meetings to talk about trustee liability for financial damages, and students apparently ready to walk out in protest over trustee stonewalling, we expect fireworks by February.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Irony and Paradox

I don't remember when irony and paradox became my constant companions, but I do recall being vaguely aware of their presence from a young age. Perhaps like redwood bark they slowly accumulated around my young psyche until they became deeply-furrowed with time. Awareness itself is a phenomenon worth reflecting on, and indeed formal studies of the history of consciousness are even offered in academia, but irony and paradox only became tangible to me as a result of civic involvement—an arena where human frailties and contradictions are magnified.

Finding humanity in places where I'd least expect it, as well as experiencing its betrayal from quarters where I'd hoped for better, has tempered my expectations while simultaneously giving me encouragement. As I acknowledge the need to find hope somewhere among the ruins of human relations, I am repeatedly reminded by natural, uncoerced acts, that perhaps generosity is a more authentic attribute than selfishness, and that cruelty is thus contrary to the order of things.

Living within the boundaries of a TV empire, yet nourished by an indigenous culture that produced the mind of Momaday and sense of Silko, I can fully appreciate the development of my longtime friends as we walk together through the forest of forlorn kin and kind. Working with fellow imperfect beings in an already perfect world only accentuates my reliance on them as perpetual patterns woven inexorably into the fabric of my existence.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


From Humble Beginnings

Wampum recounts how Israel began 61 years ago by bombing hotels--long before it advanced to bombing refugee camps and other civilian terrain.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Bad Company

US joins China and Iran in opposing UN resolution against the death penalty.

Monday, January 07, 2008


Sacred Completeness

The Indian sings a poem so that the gods may become flowers and enter a mother's womb and come out as clouds and that the clouds may then rain on the cornfield.

--Carlos Fuentes, A New Time for Mexico

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Orthodoxy of Radicalism

A while back, I recounted how my political science curricular proposal, Communication for Change, had been hijacked by a washed up professor trying to hold on to his prestigious teaching position, but plagiarism is the least of the damage he apparently wrought. I have since encountered some of the graduates of the Activism and Social Change program he took charge of, and was sadly disappointed at the orthodoxy of radicalism associated with what I call the moral theatrics industry.

At the heart of the problem, I am convinced, is activism as a career, as opposed to activism as a civic duty. Those who view civic involvement as a way to make a living will naturally adopt doctrinaire tactics oriented toward philanthropic marketing, rather than painfully examine strategies for achieving a public benefit. Unfortunately, for those absorbed in pious posturing, this distinction is largely lost in the rhetoric.

One of the habitual tactics of this corporate activism is the perpetual building of paper coalitions –- frequently described as supporters, allies, or affinity groups -– supposedly to convey a working combination that wields political clout. Usually unexamined or fictitious, these combinations mostly signify delusions of grandeur, and are illustrative of a fairly common desire to appropriate a sense of cohesion that doesn't exist—often expressed as solidarity within a vaguely defined movement. Mostly, it serves as a fetish or pointless distraction.

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. When they simply drain limited energies and other resources, they should be avoided.

Having managed litigation for a coalition of non-profits for five years, I know from experience how much energy goes into keeping a real coalition together. Better for each organization to work individually, than to add to already demanding administrative tasks. Of course, if they're just paper allies, the whole exercise is just another fruitless distraction—something career activists seemingly spend a lot of time on.

Careerism is certainly a draw to political activists, but an even greater appeal, I think, is the prestigious identity associated with activism. What I find fascinating about this (and it very much applies to my alma mater and the plethora of Bay Area producers of moral theatrics) is that they simultaneously conform to the capitalist framework of social discontent-–a very predictable, very controllable, very ineffective commodity.

It takes a long time for people to unlearn useless information and ineffective practices, especially when they learned them as part of an alternative education they believed to be avant-garde learning for social change. In the meantime, they mostly get in the way.

Friday, January 04, 2008


Fighting to Win

Early on in the current New College conflict, we encouraged students and alumni/ae to look into filing a class-action suit against the board of trustees. Six months later, we still believe they will get nowhere without competent legal representation. As an example of how to go about fighting to win, we offer a recent example of another San Francisco-based institution that conspired to defraud its students and alumni/ae.

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