Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Camp Marigold

When you have a dog, bad credit, and low income, it's not easy finding a place to live in California's wealthiest county. So when we had to relocate from our studio apartment of nine years due to property foreclosure a year ago, we counted ourselves lucky to find an apartment in a nice neighborhood.

Our ground level unit faces the off street gravel parking area under a big oak tree, so we have a handy area to barbecue as well as for storing our Volkswagen Van. When we first saw the place, we named it Camp Marigold, after the stop over cabins we once stayed at up near the Klamath River.

The fourplex of apartments we're in -- two up and two down -- is complemented by two detached units out back behind the coin-op laundry facility. Both of those are public housing subsidized, and are occupied by middle age individuals--one female and one male. The male has mental problems, but generally behaves, with occasional late night loud music or visitors.

That unfortunately changed when our landlord inadvisedly rented the front lower unit next to ours to another publicly subsidized mentally ill middle age man with disposable income. The combination of the two quickly turned into a problem for the other tenants and neighbors. Now able to supply free beer and a place to hang out, they soon attracted a steady stream of derelicts from the Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, including small time dealers and prostitutes.

As the daytime partying grew to be a regular nuisance, the host's mental health deteriorated, causing him to nail his windows shut and phone police when he thought people were trying to break in. We'll never know what was real and what was imagined, but after numerous visits from local police and the public housing authority, the cabin tenant is moving to a more suitable facility where he'll get greater supervision. We're hoping things will return to the normal trials of living in close proximity to people with different lifestyles, but for now we're just glad the homey hookers and other lowlifes have found other haunts.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011



Much as we'd like democratic revolution to be as simple as using a cell phone and waving a rainbow flag, the dreadful reality of our globalized world is that isn't going to cut it. Transitioning from feudal fiefdoms, be they transnational corporations or local thugs, requires intellectual preparation and political organization.

In their report on the transition from feudalism to democracy in Bolivia, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs documents the mechanisms used to change land ownership and territorial resource management to support self-rule.

For civil society in countries lacking indigenous majorities, the political science lessons from Bolivia and throughout the Andes help to illustrate that research, education and organizing go hand in hand. Trying to short cut that process is just wishful thinking.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Wealth of Ideas

How do people decide what to talk about? What method do they use to determine what they discuss? Why do they cede this function to Wall Street?

The narratives we engage in our daily lives about vital issues create the context within which we organize our communities and societies. If we limit that context to market perspectives, then nothing but money matters. Understanding our world demands more.

Since market narratives control most major media, expanding our comprehension requires stepping outside these dominant venues to look around at the wealth of ideas excluded by their gatekeepers. One place to look is in tribal explanations of world affairs, made available by networks of activists and scholars devoted to indigenous studies.

For the last five years, I have actively associated with the Center for World Indigenous Studies, contributing my views to their various publications like Fourth World Eye, Fourth World Journal, and the Forum for Global Exchange. Reading the contributions from other scholars has broadened my perspective considerably.

Reviewing past and present issues of Fourth World Journal, I can see that translation of indigenous ideas to a popular audience begins with thoughts first explored in academic surroundings. I suppose that's why they're called think tanks.


Sorrow of War

Bao Ninh was born three weeks after me in October 1952. He spent 1965 to 1975 in the North Vietnamese Army fighting the American Army, and then spent ten more years retrieving bodies from the jungle. His novel The Sorrow of War was published in 1994.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Quest for Vengeance

The collapse of the modern state as a stable social institution is accelerating beyond most people’s imagination. Although we had early warnings from Argentina and elsewhere, the turbo–charged theft of Wall Street heists and IMF austerity is now reverberating throughout North America and Western Europe.

No longer is colonialism limited to the Third and Fourth World; today, agents of private equity are quickly cannibalizing public reserves set aside for health, education and retirement. As public health collapses in former superpowers like the US and Russia, economic panic and religious hysteria will soon become commonplace.

Scrambling for survival, no one will be immune to the pandemonium. As calamities proliferate, the quest for vengeance will likely replace our demands for justice.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Denial of Life

Whether we're talking about Microsoft or Monsanto, monopoly is the antithesis of diversity, which itself is the essential relation of life. Monopoly, as the structural expression of greed, is the denial of life. No amount of philanthropy can change the fact that monopolists have stolen our future.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Against Humanity

Poverty is widely recognized as a symptom of structured socioeconomic violence. Privatization is thus the linchpin to what author Michel Chossudovsky called The Globalisation of Poverty. As an act of systematic state violence, privatization -- under the auspices of international law -- is rightly considered a crime against humanity.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


White Highlands

According to Jemima Pierre, the International Criminal Court has only indicted African leaders, lending to the impression that barbarity only descended on the continent after the departure of colonial powers. In her article on British colonial war crimes in Kenya, Pierre exposes the falsity of that premise. Also writing for the current issue of Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford reports on the role of the United States in the atrocities that transpired in the Congo that left 6 million dead.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Hard Habit to Break

Living high on the hog, globally speaking, did not seem to upset great numbers of Americans until the emergence of environmental consciousness. Even then, little change took place in American consumptive habits until the price of petrol tripled in the first decade of the new millenium. Now, with a recently revamped awareness of the human rights aspect of petroleum extraction and contamination, American heads are exploding as they watch Internet videos of tribal peoples wallowing in petroleum waste where they once had pristine rivers teeming with fish and wildlife.

My guess is that most Americans could easily halve their petrol consumption, but choosing to do so involves a willingness to alter their way of life. Driving around aimlessly is apparently a hard habit to break.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Funding Feudalism

Under the Reagan administration, protecting US-friendly feudalism in Central America went hand in hand with privatizing clandestine military operations. The crimes against humanity committed by foreign death squads, trained at US Army schools, primarily targeted peasants mobilized by liberation theology against brutal feudal systems that had been around since Europeans first enslaved and massacred entire indigenous societies.

Since then, as support for feudalism regained the upper hand within the Roman Catholic church, privatizing US institutions like the military, schools, and Social Security has become both a lucrative form of feudalism as well as a religious battleground. While theocracy and feudalism are core values within the Republican Party, separating the two is awkward for the Democratic Party, which supports privatization, yet depends on peasants for their votes.

As Rachel Tabachnick documents in her article on funding feudalism in the United States, theocracy has the upper hand in mobilizing resources for activism, and with the Obama administration out-privatizing Reagan, forces of liberation in the US literally have nowhere to turn for help. With a growing American peasantry, a key objective in their liberation is an awareness that their freedom is jointly impeded by church and state, and that organizing against this criminal cabal does not come with a paycheck or the blessing of feudal philanthropies.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Give It a Try

Life might seem overwhelming to anyone whose eyes have recently opened to the state of American politics. To those who are feeling hopeless or distraught, I say start where you live; your county, town, or neighborhood probably has others like you.

While I now contribute to international politics, helping people to be more effective in their corner of the world, I began my political engagement forty years ago with my block, and through interaction with others slowly acquired the skills necessary to affect positive change. Advising others, likewise, grew along with my experience.

With so much going wrong in the world, putting something right can change one's attitude and sometimes those of neighbors, colleagues and friends. When that convergence happens, it's amazing what you can do. Why not give it a try?

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Unelecting Obama

Paying lip service to popular messages might be enough to hoodwink white progressives, but Obama's disingenuous promises to Latinos is going to be a tough sell after the escalated raids and deportations by his administration. Black Agenda Report examines why they may be more than willing to unelect Obama in 2012.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Clean Water Clean Air

When I first encountered the Wise Use Movement — corporate funded vigilantism against environmentalists — it was just after CBS 60 Minutes aired its September 20, 1992 program Clean Water, Clean Air about community activists assaulted by corporate thugs. One of those threatened with murder was my closest friend.*

Over the last twenty years, efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice to make life miserable for those who advocate sane environmental policy has escalated. In 2006, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D)-San Francisco proposed a law that would make interfering with corporations in any way a federal crime.

In the current issue of Mother Jones magazine, James Ridgeway examines FBI harassment and incarceration of environmental activists, and the Homeland Security mindset that views these non-violent activists as a greater threat to America than militias that blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City.

*Recalled in this excerpt.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Democratic Aspirations

While Americans understandably remain focused on the misanthropic agenda of the GOP, the fascist agenda of the DNC offers little consolation. While theocracy is still abhorrent to a majority of US voters, they apparently have grown accustomed to privatization. And make no mistake, privatization is fascism. The fact it was both Reagan’s and Obama’s main mission shows just how far we’ve fallen from our democratic aspirations.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


International Brigades

International brigades that joined the fight against fascism in 1930s Spain have had a lasting effect as role models. So much so that anarchists and socialists today often adopt their attire and nomenclature as they fight the tyranny of globalization.

While the tactics of this struggle differ from its predecessor, the strategy of solidarity remains. As European and North American activists engage in battles against states and international institutions responsible for the misery of globalized austerity, they simultaneously embrace the defense of indigenous societies leading the resurgence of a socially oriented way of life.

From Gaza to Oaxaca, today's international brigades come unarmed but ready to die for the cause of freedom. As observers, correspondents, and participants in breaking the stranglehold of the IMF, WTO, and World Bank on the Fourth World, these volunteers carry on a tradition born in the battles of a century ago. While state propaganda and media control have evolved to consolidate tyrannical powers, so, too, have the international brigades evolved to counter the terror of state-sponsored violence. With Internet communications, their voices are finally being heard.

Monday, May 09, 2011


Liberal Mythology

If American intellectuals are dispirited by our collapsing society, it might have something to do with unfulfilled expectations based on liberal mythology. As one participant in a series of conversations held online five years ago remarked, there never was a liberal golden age; there were sporadic democratic movements opposed by the establishment, but that was it.

Granted, the undermining and reversal of those movements has us reeling, but how we view past events contextualizes the present, and determines whether we put up a spirited resistance to fraud or simply throw in the towel and hope for the best.

In American Psyche, a collection of four ad hoc discussions about liberal culture, liberalism is explored in a forthright, accessible format. See if they offer a more realistic interpretation than that espoused by the liberal establishment.

Sunday, May 08, 2011


Transforming Values

Indigenous philosophers always speak of transforming dominant society values as the path to reconciliation. Perhaps the most sacred of indigenous values is generosity.

What gets lost in translation is that indigenous generosity is not the same as dominant society philanthropy. In philanthropy, a portion of what was gained through greed is given to those cheated out of a decent life. Indigenous generosity means abandoning greed in all relations.

Collectives, cooperatives, and communal societies already operate from this principle; if dominant society transforms its values to conform with it, such misanthropic behavior as we see on Wall Street or in the World Bank will no longer be tolerated.

Friday, May 06, 2011



As illustrated by the infographic Degrees of Disaster, the current global consumption of oil has reached 87.8 million barrels per day, 1 million of which is consumed by the US military alone. As the Pentagon plans more wars in Africa and Asia to consolidate control of world oil production, the effects of climate change associated with oil-consuming civilization spirals out of control. With 2 billion people anticipated to face water shortages and one third of plant and animal life expected to disappear in the near future, the repercussions of the present model of consumption aren't hard to predict.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


Making a Difference

I watched Fair Game last night, and it reminded me that while the crooks often get off, it's vitally important to fight for the narrative. Yesterday morning I listened to Julian Assange say essentially the same thing.

With corporate media distorting reality to conform with government propaganda, defiant voices like Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson are what stands between our authoritarian state and a totalitarian state. Anyone who's lived through that knows it's not a trivial difference.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Enemy of Ignorance

Wikileaks' Julian Assange discusses the role of Internet companies in helping government intelligence agencies spy on innocent citizens, and the role of corporate media in helping to distort reality in conformance with government propaganda.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


So What

As the military establishment celebrates the assassination of bin Laden, those who’ve followed the al Qaeda saga might rightly answer, so what. A ten-year war to kill a guy the FBI had in its sights ten years ago, before 9/11? Seems like a pretty lame excuse for flag-waving.

With our social infrastructure in freefall due in large part to the needlessly bloated military budget, the consolation of another bogeyman biting the dust hardly seems worth all the excitement.

Monday, May 02, 2011


Struggling to Survive

In Peak Psychotherapy, Abundant Human Connection, Carolyn Baker explores the emotional repercussions of collapse. Examining the mental health infrastructure for treating illness associated with industrial civilization, Baker observes that many are turning to indigenous traditions that resonate more fully with their deeper humanity. "As health care disappears," says Baker, "humans will be forced to heal differently."

As health care is privatized and made more exclusive, immersion in nature, creation of beauty, and human interconnectedness, argues Ms. Baker, will supplant much of professional mental health care in the future. Whether sitting in rural natural surroundings, or in urban rubble, healers as counselors will often as not be found there as well, bartering with their neighbors struggling to survive the trauma of social panic and despair.

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