Monday, February 28, 2011


Crimes Against Humanity

While truth and reconciliation commissions investigating child abuse in church run residential schools in Canada and Ireland continue to uncover rapes, murders and the ongoing community trauma from this horrible injustice, police and prosecutors on both sides of the Atlantic continue to provide cover for the church and state officials responsible. As Reverend Kevin Annett reveals on his website Hidden From History, reconciliation won’t happen until the whole truth is known and the perpetrators are prosecuted. As Annett observes, abuse is too soft a word for these brutal crimes.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Title Fight

Enbridge, the corporation hoping to build a pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to coastal British Columbia, has said they will pay First Nations one billion dollars to end their opposition to the plan. So far, First Nations in Alberta and British Columbia aren’t selling.

But bribery is only half the equation. The other side of that corporate coin is the threat of mobilizing anti-Indian animosity from non-indigenous Canadians hoping to cash in on pipeline construction jobs. In fact, while Enbridge is touting the big bribe, they are simultaneously marginalizing First Nations as a minority getting in the way of progress.

Despite growing opposition from north coast communities, the premiers of Alberta and British Columbia earlier this week wrote the prime minister in Ottawa, urging him to push through the Northern Gateway pipeline regardless of environmental and indigenous peoples concerns. As the filmmaker of Oil in Eden said, “I think it is shaping up to be a title fight here on a number of different levels.”

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Federal Faith Funding

Bruce Wilson examines the federally-funded missionaries teaching in Florida public schools. Established under the Clinton administration faith-based initiatives, evangelizing against unions, gays, and Native Americans continues to be subsidized by the federal government.

Friday, February 25, 2011


A Lose-Lose Proposition

At the turn of the century, Americans had the opportunity to vote for two noted humanitarians, Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke. Instead, US voters split their vote between two undistinguished members of the American aristocracy. After two terms of arguably the least humane of US administrations in history, the voters placed their trust in an aristocracy-approved interim manager, a man who idolized President Reagan–possibly the most inhumane administration of the last century.

As we look ahead to the consequences of Obama’s austerity measures, imposed on the working class in the aftermath of lavishing our public wealth on his benefactors in Wall Street, perhaps it will dawn on some that complying with the rules set by the aristocracy is a lose-lose proposition.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Intestinal Fortitude

Last year, Bay Area Congresswoman Jackie Speier took on Craigslist for cashing in on trafficking women and girls for prostitution. Now she's taking on the GOP for attacking Planned Parenthood. I know courage and integrity are rare commodities in Congress, but if we had a few more like her, the country wouldn't be in such a mess.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Lynching Perry Mills

Between 1993 and 2007, my alma mater in San Francisco, New College of California, systematically harassed and removed independent minded faculty and staff concerned about administrative malfeasance. Several whistleblowers lost their jobs and pensions. Finally, after fourteen years, the U.S. Department of Education closed the school after finding the Board of Trustees had, among other violations, been engaged in money-laundering student advance loan funds.

Two weeks ago, another institution of higher ed was in the news. Western Washington University, where I spent two years of undergraduate study, had won a case before the state supreme court confirming its right to hold personnel disciplinary hearings behind closed doors. What news accounts of the case failed to note, however, is that the person being disciplined, Perry Mills, had been railroaded before a lynch mob organized by his department chair in retaliation for the professor's whistleblowing about the chair's misappropriation of student fees.

As noted in the following account by a news reporter removed from the disciplinary hearing, the whole process consisted of trumped up charges designed to silence the professor.
Mills was suspended and barred from campus for a year before he brought suit in federal court to force WWU to state the reasons for his suspension and to get a hearing on the facts. Only then did the university reveal 4 reasons which were accepted on the basis of hearsay and not investigated. The move to suspend Mills followed immediately after the publication of a year-long audit of his department in which Mills charged his department Chair, Mark Kuntz, had wrongly diverted around $20,000 in student course fees.

This audit was a whitewash that came to the ultimate conclusion that the money had been diverted but that the university could not take action because it had no written policy forbidding students to be charged course fees that were applied to other purposes. The publication of the audit was followed by an angry letter from the former dean of the college stating such policy was in place and the audit was a fiction. The audit was irregular in several ways, not just the false statements but also in the fact that Kuntz, the person who committed the embezzlement, was a key member of the audit committee and was instrumental in re-writing the initial auditor's report to absolve himself of wrong-doing.

Mills was suspended based on complaints made by Kuntz to Provost Bodman, who was responsible for the audit and appointed Kuntz to the audit committee. An earlier letter from Kuntz, written while the audit was underway, was very specific about the need to silence Professor Mills: "How long are we going to protect his freedom of speech?"

After suspending Mills and barring him from campus, Bodman and Kuntz refused to take any further action to investigate, collect facts or follow the procedures laid out in the faculty handbook. Instead, a series of meetings ensued in which Mills resignation was demanded. Mills sued in federal court for denial of due process. The upshot was the university would hold a hearing, now 18 months after the suspension, into the facts. Essentially, the court ruled the administrative process needed to be completed before the courts could intervene.

The faculty panel (which should have happened before the suspension) finally occurred 15 months later. The panel was conducted as as quasi-judicial hearing that allowed hearsay, statements without cross-examination, and introduction of new charges as the old ones were knocked down. I was present long enough to hear some of the ground rules laid out.

I was well known to the university because I had been pursuing a series of public document requests for a year in an attempt to obtain the facts about the audit of the diverted $20,000. Despite the obstruction of the administration, I had found enough to show the audit was hopelessly compromised by Kuntz' participation investigating himself.

When the hearing began, the first item of business was my ejection and the closure of the hearing. I was there because I had done considerable investigation and was hoping for further disclosures regarding the embezzlement and retaliation against Mills for reporting the diversion of funds. I was never readmitted to the now secret proceeding.

Later, the faculty panel found all of the allegations [against Mills] regarding guns, knives, etc. were fabrications. In particular, the supposed incident reported by Kuntz involving a knife was refuted by his own informant, who was interviewed under oath by telephone.

The panel's findings of fact and conclusions (6 months suspension without pay) were repeatedly rejected by the administration. Then Mills' suspension with pay was extended an additional year under the excuse that the university did not have office space available.

Once the administration's machinations in trying to fire Mills ground to a halt, Mills' attorney filed for a review by the Superior court. Suddenly, the discredited allegations about guns and knives showed up in the university's pleadings, despite their own quasi-judicial process had rejected these accusations as false and unfounded. Judge Steven Mura of the Whatcom Superior Court side-stepped the university's procedural irregularities and upheld the closure of the hearing and six month suspension without pay. His oral ruling was bizarre (I was present) in that he spent much of his time referring to the discredited allegations and did not appear to have read the findings of fact from the faculty panel. He also stated that he expected to have his ruling appealed.

The next step was the State Appeals court, which fixed on the closure of the hearing as the point at which the process became illegal. The university appealed to the Supreme Court which reversed the appeals court and made new law in granting legislative authority to university administrations.

Note that none of the court cases (which are cases, but the internal prosecution of Mills by the university is not a "case" under the state constitution) were [not] rehearing the facts of the "case" before the university faculty panel, only the legal procedure. Yet, low and behold, the allegations rejected by the panel keep popping up as sensational commentary on the facts, contrary to the findings of the only hearing into the facts.

In the upcoming budget crunch, state educational institutions will be well advised to take advantage of this newly discovered feature of the law in getting rid of faculty who embarrass their administrations by daylighting theft and fraud.

So the long sad tale has come to this. Not one single institution, not the university, nor the courts, nor the press, has managed to get the facts before the public.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Show Up

Ralph Nader says that if Americans want to topple their corporate dictatorship, they have to show up. They can't sit back and wait for someone else to do it for them.

When neighbors asked me why I spent every Monday and Tuesday evening at city or county council meetings, year in and year out, my response was that policy is made by those who show up. The crooks looking to influence that policy were guaranteed to be there, and the way I saw it, somebody needed to keep an eye on them.

At the time, there were no public interest monitors of our local governments--not one. Needless to say, our corporate monopoly daily newspaper portrayed those policies in ways that made the crooks happy.

Now days, the crooks don't have it quite so easy, due to the fact a handful of us made the effort to show up and speak our mind. But showing up was not enough; we also did research beforehand, so we knew what we were talking about, and when policy was crooked, we hired lawyers to fight it. Not only that, but we started a community newspaper to challenge the lies of the corporate news. Finally, some of us ran for public office, and win or lose, gave the crooks (and community) something to think about.

And we were not paid, but were volunteers, eventually organizing ourselves into neighborhood associations and networks that jointly took on crooked policies at the local and state level. Tiring work that made a difference. If we'd waited for a philanthropic benefactor to pay us for our civic participation, nothing would have ever happened.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Ambassadors of Greed

As Indigenous Environmental Network spokesman Tom Goldtooth remarked after the 2009 UN Climate Change talks in Copenhagen, he had never before witnessed the intensity of deception perpetrated by industrialized countries and large non-governmental organizations. To prevent that deception from being challenged, UN officials, having invited indigenous delegates to participate, turned around and prohibited the Indigenous Caucus representatives from speaking. Having silenced the voices of the peoples who live in the remaining forests of the world, the industrialized countries and large NGOs agreed to back global carbon trading, whereby the indigenous peoples’ forests would become the carbon offset property of industrial polluters, and the countries receiving the carbon market payments would in turn enforce bans on the indigenous way of life.

As documentary filmmaker Rebecca Sommer illustrates, the NGOs on the take in the UN carbon market scheme known as REDD are now acting as missionaries on behalf of the industrial polluters, governments and banks, in order to make sure that the deception promoted in Copenhagen and Cancun is effective in destroying indigenous peoples’ unity. As ambassadors of greed, the large NGOs, subsidized by the philanthropic derivatives of industrial polluters, are attempting to insert themselves as liaisons between the UN and indigenous nations.

As Goldtooth explained, the forests targeted by REDD include areas heavily populated by indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities whose rights, interests and livelihoods are at stake. Allowing industrialized countries to continue polluting by renting these forests is a sham. Trees would become part of a property rights system run by the UN and World Bank at the behest of fossil fuel corporations and carbon trading companies–clearly not a solution for climate change.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Philosophy of Privilege

In the 1990s, when I was embroiled in the property rights political turmoil that catalyzed the modern militia movement, the cast of characters engaged in vigilantism and the grievances they promoted were pretty much the same as they are today. Their rebellion -- fueled by racism, religious fundamentalism, and beliefs about international conspiracies -- culminated in murders, shootouts with police, bombings, and arrests.

Today, that movement still feeds off the hostilities surrounding abortion, immigration, the United Nations, and the Federal Reserve system. Politicians still pander to their bigotry, and activists still harass targets of their prejudice.

Reading accounts of the history of American Conservatism, what is clear is that the philosophy of privilege that undergirds their violent prejudice is a mainstream attribute of American culture. While individuals pick and choose the particulars that make up their personal prejudice packs, they are by and large against human rights, which makes them sympathetic with the historical position of the United States Government until very recently.

With the advent of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, relationships between indigenous peoples and metropolitan populations is undergoing a makeover that will redefine property rights, borders and governance worldwide. It is also addressing such things as privilege and religious colonialism.

As we struggle to adapt to the consequences of climate change and economic globalization, we must be mindful of the political undercurrents that, left unchallenged, have the power to undermine our achievements as well as derail our ongoing efforts. In many ways, we have yet to recover from the last murderous rampage.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Peyote Pathways

When I first encountered peyote in the powdered form known as mescaline, it was still a legal substance in the United States. That changed in 1970, but was later amended to exempt members of the Native American Church when using peyote for religious purposes.

As hippies seeking to escape the madness of American society, we ingested mescaline — along with psilocybin mushrooms and cannabis — as a means of expanding our consciousness. Described by Aldous Huxley as doors of perception, experimentation with these entheogens was the only pathway available to us as inheritors of traditions that no longer practiced a natural spirituality.

Although I once shared peyote with some Indians camped above the Grand Canyon, as hippies we had to find our own way in this uncharted territory of entheogenic stimulation. Many years later, I discovered the remarkable history of entheogenic usage by indigenous peoples of the Americas, including the peyote pathways between the lands of the Inca and Kiowa.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Looking in the Mirror

Ending the drug wars responsible for so much misery at the hands of US military proxies is slow going, but that hasn’t deterred the president of Bolivia from defending the right of indigenous peoples to use coca leaf. Locked into the militarized anti-narcotics mindset that continues to demonize this mild stimulant used daily by the Quechua and Aymara peoples of the Andes, the United States still opposes changing international law to recognize the indigenous peoples’ right to use this tonic and medicine in their daily lives and religious ceremonies.

Ironically, while the US allows domestic use of peyote (a psychoactive medicinal plant) by American Indians under the concept of religious freedom, it is dead set against coca, a benign stimulant consumed in Bolivian tea houses. It’s the same mentality that criminalizes cannabis.

As the World Health Organization has documented in numerous studies, US society and culture is detrimental to mental health, and part of that is an attitude of belligerence. Culturally accepted levels of violence, I would posit, are a direct result of an inability to come to terms with institutionalized aggression toward indigenous peoples, their cosmology and cultural expression. The use of entheogens and other natural plants to enhance physical and mental health is anathema to the dominant view of militarized society, which is at the root of why Americans demand and consume destructive substances like alcohol, heroin and cocaine in such large quantities.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Banana Republic

Glenn Greenwald runs down the concerted effort of the Pentagon, Department of Justice, Bank of America, and Chamber of Commerce to destroy Wikileaks by any means necessary. Unconcerned with violating the law in order to bring the whistleblowers down, the corporate/government consortium that committed the crimes revealed by Wikileaks, observes Greenwald, has no compunction committing further crimes as revenge. As Greenwald concludes, the federal government's power has been privatized, leaving government agencies to cover up corporate crimes. In essence, he says, we are now a banana republic.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


A Little Banged Up

I think it was Jeff Bridges in the movie Seabiscuit who remarked that racehorses are like humans--just because they've been a little banged up by life doesn't mean they should be thrown away. I thought of that line when reading the story about Grimes Poznikov in this morning's San Francisco Chronicle. It's the kind of story that makes San Francisco the remarkable place it is.

Saturday, February 12, 2011



As Dan Sisken writes at Mondoweiss, Americans are flocking to the AlJazeera website to watch news coverage of the Egyptian uprising by Egyptian reporters and other Arab anchors and analysts. As Sisken observes, it's the first time we've had easy access to news unfiltered by US government, military, corporate or arms industry talking heads. Kind of refreshing, don't you think?

Friday, February 11, 2011


Shining a Light

I have occasionally written here about dominion theology and religious colonization as part of the indigenous experience that forms a backdrop to many of the ills and unresolved grievances we face today. But while we struggle against the backwardness and cruelties of religious fundamentalism, we must also acknowledge the role of liberation theology in shining a light on the social justification for the indigenous peoples’ movement.

For anyone who has committed their lives to social justice, the ironies that comprise the evolution of human rights for indigenous peoples are simply part of the landscape. In Chiapas, one man who became part of the indigenous landscape was Don Samuel Ruiz Garcia, the bishop of the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas from 1959-2000. Tatic Samuel (Father Samuel in the Mayan language tzotzil) passed away on January 24.

While the Zapatista uprising in 1994 was not his doing, the work of Tatic Samuel in raising political consciousness among the Lacandon Maya is part of their story. In his view, Father Samuel illuminated the obstacles and alternative paths for them to recuperate their dignity. In 2004, Samuel Ruiz said, “The question that God puts to us at the end of our existence will be: What side were we on?”

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Industrial Ideology

In the current issue of Challenge Magazine, retired Department of Defense analyst Franklin Spinney examines The Domestic Roots of Perpetual War. As a 33-year insider at the Pentagon, Spinney witnessed the evolution of America's war-centric foreign policy and the corrosive influence of warped financial incentives fundamental to the Military-Industrial-Congress-Complex belief system. The "grotesque diversion of scarce resources to a bloated defense budget that is leading the United States into ruin", says Spinney, "distorts and debases our economy, our politics, our schools and our media."

Monday, February 07, 2011


Systematic Larceny

Egyptian dictator Mubarak's offer to investigate corruption in his administration, while preposterous to Egyptians who've lived under his 30-year tyranny, is no more ridiculous than US President Obama's promise of change in Washington. As Obama and friends celebrate Reagan's centennial, the continuity of systematic larceny instituted by Reagan -- that forms the core of the Obama agenda -- locks in corporate corruption of government that is arguably the equal of any tyranny on earth. The fact this is accomplished with little effective opposition only speaks to the passivity of American citizens, made possible by the psychological control of mass media.

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