Saturday, March 30, 2013


Deceitful and Treacherous

Glenn T. Morris, University of Colorado associate professor of political science, recently submitted a lengthy polemic response to my editorial Report from Sycuan, an account of the North American Preparatory Meeting for the 2014 UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. From what I've been able to determine, Morris was one of the instigators who disrupted the gathering.

Along with his cohort Ward Churchill, who was fired by the University of Colorado for academic misconduct, Morris was expelled from the International Indian Treaty Council for disruptive behavior. Seven years later, the American Indian Movement National Board of Directors expelled Churchill and Morris from AIM.

The AIM Grand Governing Council described Morris as deceitful and treacherous. "Using the American Indian Movement to give them credibility, cover and access," says the Grand Council, "they [Churchill and Morris] have been able to infiltrate other organizations and movements nationally and internationally."

The AIM Grand Governing Council urges its friends and supporters to expose and isolate Churchill and Morris, and help undo the harm they've inflicted on naive innocents in both academic and activist milieus.

Morris, an attorney, has seemingly built a career out of choreographed belligerence, and seems stuck in his obstructionist role. Evidently, his MO is so ingrained, he is incapable of seeing how his misbehavior is an impediment to the indigenous peoples movement, of which he purports to be a champion. His response to my editorial helps to illustrate the tenor of some indigenous ideologues that challenges the movement's success.


Report from Sycuan

Regarding the composition of indigenous voices preparing for the 2014 United Nations World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP), I have received disturbing reports from observers at the North American Preparatory Meeting held at Sycuan three weeks ago. Without getting into the recommendations emanating from the North American meeting to be considered at the Global Preparatory Indigenous Peoples Conference at Alta, Norway in June, it is essential at present to consider the dysfunctional process sanctioned by the UN, and incorporate our analyses of this and other events affecting the implementation of UNDRIP (the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), of which the WCIP is an integral part.

The WCIP was proposed by the State of Bolivia, and approved by the UN General Assembly.  It is the first conference since the passage of UNDRIP in 2007, where the states of the world will convene for the express purpose of considering recommendations from the indigenous peoples of the world specifically relevant to advancing indigenous self-determination.

The UN — an organization of states that excludes indigenous nations — has nevertheless established a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), a Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and a Global Coordinating Group (GCG) for the purpose of planning and convening the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. While the implementation of UNDRIP is of vital concern to indigenous nations, it is in the very nature of the UN design of addressing these vital concerns that indigenous nations find some of their greatest challenges.

To wit, the Global Coordinating Group  — responsible for coordinating the regional and global gatherings in advance of WCIP — was selected by the UNPFII, but hosting of the preparatory meeting at Sycuan was handled by the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus (NAIPC)–a group of individuals apparently from NGOs. According to the UNPFII report on the preparations and participation leading up to the WCIP, the UNPFII recommended in items #68-83 that indigenous nations, councils, institutions and parliaments be accredited to participate in the WCIP, but said nothing about the establishment,  selection or composition of a North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus.

The UNPFII members are appointed by UN member states. I could not locate any information on how the members of the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus were selected. While the caucus might be legitimate, the difficulty of locating information on the process of member selection, rules of participation and decision-making does not lend itself to building confidence in the process. What is clear is that hostilities at Sycuan were intense, and it thus behooves us to examine the process that led to them, in order to get things on track before the Global Conference in Norway.
As I note in my editorial Out of Control, NGOs — despite their good intentions — cannot develop constructive agreements to resolve indigenous nations’ grievances through the UN system. They can advocate, but not decide. While the invitation from GCG coordinator Debra Harry to indigenous nations delegates was welcoming, the  conduct of the preparatory meeting was reportedly a shambles. According to observers, some participants were insulting, intimidating and disrespectful toward others. What message the emissaries from the tribal nations took back to their peoples isn’t hard to imagine.
While we sometimes see this type of behavior in those unaccustomed to diplomacy, allowing disrespectful conduct to derail something as important as implementing UNDRIP is inexcusable. If participants are frustrated by the policies of governing authorities, then they should fight to change them; they should not be allowed to obstruct others who are trying to do so.

According to Kenneth Deer, the primary North America GCG coordinator appointed by the UNPFII, there was a faction at Sycuan that did not want to participate in the WCIP. So what were they there for, other than to obstruct the process for those who do?

This, and Deer’s remark about hostility displayed toward the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) delegates, confirms for me that some ideologues from NGOs were largely responsible for the hostilities, and should have been asked to leave by the coordinators if that was their position, as the whole purpose of the meeting was to prepare for the world conference.

As Mr. Deer put it, “The problem with the WCIP is that the states will come out with an outcome document that will be binding to states. We have to try everything we can to influence that document. And we can’t do that by staying away. We have to be there, lobbying and looking for allies, and there are some, who will not let the outcome document undermine UNDRIP.”

The UN, of course, has responsibility here, in that it has allowed — if not encouraged — a dysfunctional process to develop in regard to a vital concern to indigenous nations. Indeed, the UN — by neglecting its human rights obligations on this concern — has demonstrated its institutional disrespect toward indigenous nations. Alas, it is now up to indigenous nations to put things right. Whether they do that by working with the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus or not is up to them. Either way, it is time for indigenous NGOs to take their proper place in civil society as advocates, and leave the negotiating of UNDRIP implementation to those with the authority and capacity to do so. Otherwise, nothing productive can be achieved.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Roads to Tyranny

As I asserted in a post in 2010, pandering to Christian bigotry is one of the fastest roads to tyranny in America. As Sarah Posner reports today at Religion Dispatches, religious discrimination against Muslims and gays by federally-funded Christian non-profits remains an allowed violation of the U.S. Constitution by the Obama Administration. In answer to reporters questioning this abuse of power by the president, the newly appointed Faith-Based Office csar Melissa Rogers stated the discriminatory policy is under review. As Posner observes, though, the review has been going on for four years.

As Peter Montgomery notes,the global reach of Far-Right Christian hatred has murderous intent. The fact President Obama blows off this human rights concern should be a source of outrage by American tax-payers.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Closing Tax Loopholes

In today's press release by the Tax Justice Network and the Public Interest Research Group, it appears there is strong support for the U.S. Senate to close offshore tax haven loopholes for corporations that rob the U.S. Treasury of $190 billion a year. Not quite enough for another bank bailout, but plenty enough to avoid cutting off Medicaid or Food Stamps for poor people.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Day of Reckoning

For the indigenous peoples of Canada, indeed the world, the day of reckoning has arrived. No longer submissive to the domination of modern states that stole their wealth in the past, indigenous nations are looking to a future where they are treated with respect. As reported from Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Cree are not taking mistreatment by the courts lying down. If necessary, they will shut down the mining industry to get their message across.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Tar Sands Tar Baby

TransCanada -- one of the Tar Sands pipeline companies -- isn't satisfied with undermining environmental laws; it doesn't even abide by the pipeline safety codes. As TransCanada whistleblower Evan Vokes received a national award yesterday for exposing the TransCanada safety scandal, politicians in Canada are asking Canadians and Americans to trust the pipeline companies and government agencies responsible. In fact, even as oil continues to ooze from earlier ship accidents on the coast of British Columbia, investors and politicians continue to hype the alleged economic benefits to government and industry of expanding oil shipping, all the while neglecting to explain why they can't clean up the messes that already exist.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Managing Dissent

While mainstream media inundates us with propaganda by the pets and progeny of the aristocracy, we seldom get a look at why that is. In Paid to Lose, Wrong Kind of Green explores the world of professional progressives, the liberal wing of Wall Street derivatives. As WKOG reports, their primary role is to prevent an authentic democratic movement from emerging, thus complementing the conservative wing's efforts in maintaining the status quo.

Elaborating on the harm Canadian international development NGOs on the government payroll cause to human rights and the environment, Halifax Media Co-op interviews Dru Oja Jay, co-author of Paved with Good Intentions.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Republic of NGOs

Ten billion dollars of wasted aid to Haiti might not sound like much of a scandal these days, but given the prominent role played by the Red Cross in this travesty, maybe it's time to rethink international disaster aid. With 10,000 NGOs on the ground in Haiti looking for handouts from international aid, little seems to be left for the actual victims of the earthquake disaster. As Toward Freedom reports, 350,000 displaced Haitians are still living under plastic bags, while ten billion dollars found a home elsewhere.

Monday, March 11, 2013


Changing the Rules

If you thought #Occupy was dead, think again. #Occupy London and friends, going by the moniker The Rules, are hosting a campaign to expose the City of London as tax haven capitol of the world. Visit the Hidden City of London is the theme for the campaign by The Rules, which is sponsoring a March 16 day of action at the Bank of England.

Friday, March 08, 2013


Interpreting the Past

How we understand the present depends on how we view the past. How we view the past determines our options for the future. Interpreting the past is the work of historians, but preserving interpretations is the work of archivists, media gatekeepers and librarians. Books don't have to be banned if they are ignored.

Official historians find their way easily into publications used in schools, colleges and universities, and thus form the core of how a society perceives its past. Dissident historians find their way onto public library book shelves, but are often obscure and happened on only by chance. Amateur historians, using Wikipedia and self-publishing houses, can contribute to our understanding via the Internet, but face serious challenges in finding an audience through established archives.

My own experience with archivists, media gatekeepers and librarians illustrates that amateur dissident historians should expect to have to fight to have their interpretations made accessible. Even Wikipedia and self-publishing houses can be hostile to the vocation.

My three historically-oriented books -- Blind Spots, War of Ideas, and Waco on Valencia -- comprise a polemic memoir, academic treatise, and editorial compilation, respectively. While they are not great works of literature, they are historically accurate, based on primary documents--not official or journalistic interpretations.

While all three deal with the shredding of the social fabric by anti-democratic organizations, one looks at the US as a whole, while the others concern themselves with a regional or local institutional corruption of values -- each over roughly a ten-year timeframe -- that allows readers to see how the progression of corruption unfolded. Blind Spots is available in the Washington State Library, Waco on Valencia in the San Francisco History Center, and all three by order online. None are noted on Wikipedia, as their policy censors self-published books.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


Saharawi Self-Determination

If international law was any guide, Western Sahara would have been an independent state long ago. The indigenous peoples there have fought for independence from Spanish colonial and now Moroccan military occupation, and successfully presented their case before the International Court of Justice. But, as Aluat Hamudi reports, the right to self-determination for the Saharawi people is being blocked by the political and economic interests of Spain, France, Morocco and the United States. Helping us to better understand these interests, Hamudi recounts the modern history of the Saharawi territory, and profiles the main players in the conflict.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


Reality of Inequality

Not what we think it is.

Monday, March 04, 2013


Choctaw Paella

In honor of Lucas films (Phil--not George), I made Choctaw paella, better known as Jambalaya, for dinner. Technically Creole food from New Orleans, Jambalaya consists of tomato, garlic and onion with file gumbo (sassafras leaf powder), shrimp and chicken, served over a bed of rice. Rice, having come with the Africans, combined with sassafras from the Choctaw Indians of Louisiana, and the idea of rice and shrimp with garlic and onion being Spanish, all that was needed to compliment it was some French wine. Naturally, New Orleans was where these ingredients and cultures all came together to make my favorite dish.

Saturday, March 02, 2013


Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Cruel and unusual punishment, including psychological torture used to coerce cooperation with government officials, is not against the law in the United States. Neither does extended incarceration in prison without being charged with any crime violate any federal law. People dragged before a grand jury fishing expedition against political dissidents can be locked in solitary confinement forever. While today's release of two victims of U.S. Attorney witch hunts in Seattle after five months of this torture is welcome news, the fact that the system of cruel and unusual punishment continues as a normal function within the U.S. Department of Justice means anyone dissenting against U.S. policy risks losing their health and freedom.

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