Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Private Equity System

As a tool of thievery, the modern state has perfected privatization on behalf of the aristocracy, private equity in this case being the enemy of social welfare. Since the individuals comprising the private equity elite are known, it only makes sense to channel our indignation in ways that hold them accountable for stealing our livelihoods--ways that force them to return our money.

With the big bad bankers hogging the headlines, America's aristocracy has seen smooth sailing for hedge funds and other private equity predations. I've noted this blind spot before, but with political illiteracy at an all-time high, it seemed worth repeating.

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 the former superpowers, economic panic and religious hysteria are becoming commonplace.

Earlier generations made sacrifices battling the symptoms of greed, gaining concessions to human dignity, yet leaving in tact the sociopathic private equity system. We now know, however, that the institutions of greed themselves must be conquered if we are to survive. Defeating these institutions that deny us the ability to live decent lives is our greatest challenge.

The private equity system, amassed by greed over many generations, is a formidable foe. It controls our governments, our economies, our lives. Freeing ourselves from its relentless grip requires sacrifices yet unimagined.

As leading humanitarians have noted, this sacrifice is not optional; we will either vanquish greed as the dominant value, or our children will experience horrendous misery and suffering. Indeed, the suffering has already begun. Soon, many more of us will be faced with the choice of struggle or surrender.

While the precepts of privatization have roots in slavery and colonialism, control of mass communication enabled the private equity movement to rebrand itself from slaver to entrepreneur. In the age of the Internet, that brand is coming under greater scrutiny.

For the privileged elites who hollowed out our economy and public treasury through private equity manipulations, looting Social Security is their final foray in re-establishing a feudal society. This IJOC article on private equity media ownership is informative for those of us outside the rapidly-changing industry.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Right Click for War

In his book Peddlers of Crisis, Jerry Sanders examined the systematic integration of perception management during the Cold War. Noting how synchronized government propaganda, mainstream media and authoritative academia -- the prototype for the Total Information Awareness program at the National Security Agency -- was orchestrated to support endless war, Sanders remarked that to keep the money flowing, they had to make everyone believe the Russians were ten feet tall. Fast forward to the post Cold War, and the peddlers of crisis are now online social entrepreneurs, working in tandem with the traditional warmongers on the task of manipulating public sentiment in support of the new and improved American empire.

In her expose of Avaaz -- the creme de la creme of neoliberal activism -- Cory Morningstar details the consumer branding by the imperial network of financiers like Soros Open Society. Profiling the entrepreneurs in the pro-war, champagne circuit of e-advocacy, Morningstar illustrates the premise that in order to be pro-democracy one has to be anti-fraud. If fraudulent polls and cooked up member lists constitute the justification for the elite's imperial project, then right-clicking for war means the revolution has finally been funded. The only problem is that the project has consequences--like 9/11.

Blowback from people pissed off at American supported tyrants or American promoted invasions of their countries may not concern the Ivory Tower activists, but for those of us going without food, shelter or medicine while the U.S. Treasury bails out banks and finances aggression worldwide, perpetual warfare at the expense of general welfare is a real problem--not a ten foot tall myth.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Trampling on the Treaties

In Trampling on the Treaties, Chuck Tanner and Leah Henry-Tanner examine Washington gubernatorial candidate Rob Mckenna via his career as a public official opposed to treaty rights, as well as his working relationship with Anti-Indian activists and organizations. As the Tanners note,

Mckenna's Anti-Indian policies and ideas, and his willingness to ally his public office with opponents of tribal rights, should raise a large red flag for all people in Washington state who support respectful relations with Indian Nations.
As Washington Attorney General, Mckenna's legal briefs, they warn, "provide a political framework for backlash against Indian Nations"...His actions as Attorney General, "point to a pattern of disrespect for the basic rights of indigenous nations"...When Mckenna perceives a state interest at issue, "he will oppose the fundamental rights of Indian Nations and ally with anti-Indian activists to achieve his goals".

Monday, September 17, 2012

Measures of Reconciliation

In December 2009, when the New York Times reported on the Obama Administration celebrating its achievement in settling royalties claims by American Indian tribes against the U.S. Department of Interior for pennies on the dollar, the misappropriated royalties from the plaintiffs' 56 million acres -- administered by Interior under the Indian Trust Fund -- were to be partially restored and distributed by year's end. As presaged in a September 2005  Mother Jones article by Julia Whitty, it would turn out to be a bittersweet victory for Blackfeet warrior Elouise Cobell.

As noted in a December 2009 article at Indian Country Today,

The willingness to settle for $3.4 billion of the estimated $47 billion stolen by the U.S. government since 1887 reflected the desperate poverty of the plaintiffs as a class, as well as the realization that it was probably the best they could do given the American political system.
In December 2010, when the Obama Administration hosted the White House Tribal Nations Conference to celebrate its belated and half-hearted endorsement of the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, tribal leaders were hopeful that the attacks on American Indian governments -- begun in 2004 by the Internal Revenue Service -- would come to an end. Instead, less than two years since the tribal summit, the U.S. Department of Treasury has escalated its attack on tribal sovereignty, imposing discriminatory policy on tribal governments and their citizens.

In what is possibly the most callous and cynical follow-up imaginable to the settlement of Cobell, the IRS is now trying to tax the meager benefits received by the plaintiffs after generations of unimaginable suffering by them and their ancestors -- some of whom literally froze and starved to death -- while Interior and the oil and gas companies lived lives of luxury at their expense.

As noted in the June 2012 testimony by the National Congress of American Indians to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, it is noted that,
In 2005, the IRS began an aggressive campaign to audit every Indian tribal government in the country and impose inequitable tax treatment on Indian tribes. In this effort, the IRS has frequently undermined longstanding principles of tribal sovereignty, tribal self-government and the federal trust responsibility and failed to respect the roles of tribal governments under the U.S. Constitution and the plain language of federal statutes.
Concluding its detailed testimony of unfair treatment of Indian tribes by the IRS, the National Congress of American Indians urged the U.S. Congress to rein in these abuses of federal authority. As observed in this testimony,
The timing of the IRS effort -- to attempt to change the law regarding taxability of trust funds at precisely the time when the United States is finally making partial compensation for many decades of trust funds mismanagement -- raises the implication of unfair dealing.
As James Warren observed in the June 2010 issue of The Atlantic,
The story turns on theft and incompetence by the Interior and Treasury Departments, with culprits including Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the same Minerals Management Service now at the center of the BP oil spill fiasco...Government officials exploited computer systems with no audit trails to turn Indian proceeds into slush funds but maintain plausible deniability.
As U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth who oversaw the case for a decade, remarked, the whole matter is  "government irresponsibility in its purest form."

On Friday, 14 September 2012, the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives held an oversight hearing to examine the dramatic shift in federal policy by the Internal Revenue Service regarding tribal distributions from trust resources under the Per Capita Act. Noting that the IRS on 6 September backed off on its claim that trust fund distributions from the settlement of Department of Interior mismanagement of Indian Trust Fund resources are taxable, tribal witnesses at the hearing made the important observation that the IRS has not backed off on its more significant claim that other trust fund distributions are.

This unilateral reversal of U.S. policy by the U.S. Treasury not only attempts to take tribal resources exempt from taxation under U.S. law, but would also establish the unprecedented situation where tribal distributions derived from these resources would now be included in income determination for federal benefits such as housing, health and education--as well as Social Security. As American Indian tribes try to raise their members from lives of poverty through self-sufficient efforts -- using their own resources -- the idea that the IRS would try to thwart these efforts is baffling.

As Athena Sanchey Yallup of the Yakama Nation Tribal Council remarked,
the IRS' attempts to tax our trust resources are simply a disingenuous money grab that our People can ill afford...The IRS' policy change perversely requires poor tribal members to pass on tribal resources to avoid taxation [and] corrupts the trustee relationship by profiting from trust resources of the beneficiary.
In the August 30, 2012 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, it is noted that flagrant violations of historical treaties constitute some of the principal wrongdoings committed by the United States towards indigenous peoples. Indeed, as Special Rapporteur James Anaya reports, plenary congressional power over the "domestic dependent nations" is out of step with contemporary human rights values.

This plenary power, exercised throughout the history of US-tribal relations, he notes, has had devastating social and economic consequences still apparent today.

Anaya goes on to say that,
the image now often popularized of Native Americans flush with cash from casinos is far from the norm. A number of tribes do have casino operations as part of economic development efforts, taking advantage of special exemptions from ordinary state regulation and taxation that are available to them under federal law. Most tribes, however, do not have casinos and, of those that do, only a handful have reaped substantial riches sufficient to significantly reduce poverty levels.
The loss of their lands by force or fraud, says Anaya, meant the substantial or complete undermining of indigenous peoples' own economic foundations and means of subsistence... Measures of reconciliation and redress, he notes,  should include initiatives to address outstanding claims of treaty violations or non-consensual takings of traditional lands and to secure indigenous peoples' capacities in accordance with the United States international human rights commitments.

Only then can we advance toward reconciliation.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

US v Durkan

Red-baiting political dissidents in the US is nothing new; in 2008, when the FBI raided peace activists in advance of the Republican and Democratic Party conventions -- in order to prevent Quakers and anarchists from protesting US foreign policy -- the people whose homes were ransacked while they were carted off in handcuffs had done nothing criminal. Today, in the aftermath of the 2012 national conventions farce, yet more innocent citizens are being harassed by FBI agents acting out their Orwellian fantasy.

In Seattle today, U.S. Attorney Jenny Anne Durkan is convening a grand jury to intimidate anarchist Leah-Lynne Plante into admitting some imagined crime against the state, while her friends who were with her when FBI thugs with assault weapons battered down her door are wondering just what it is about the U.S. Government that makes it see terrorists behind every peace button or black flag. As the National Lawyers Guild notes in this article, anarchism is the perfectly legal belief that society would be better off with no government, laws, police or any other authority.

When armed thugs break down your door for expressing this belief, it's not hard to imagine that others may soon come to the same conclusion.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Through the Looking Glass

In his seminal study Science of Coercion, Christopher Simpson observed that communication might be understood as both the conduit for and the actual substance of human culture and consciousness. As Simpson noted, psychological warfare is the application of mass communication to modern social conflict.

In the U.S. Army War College manual on psychological warfare, the stated objective is to destroy the will and ability of the enemy to fight by depriving them of the support of allies and neutrals. Some of the methods used in the manual are sowing dissension, distrust, fear and hopelessness.

In the decades since these treatises were first published,a new form of psywar has emerged in the form of false hope. With unlimited funding and organizational support from foundations like Ford, Rockefeller, Gates and Soros, U.S. Government propaganda now has a vast new army of non-profits that, along with corporate media and academia, serve as both a third wing of mass consciousness and a fifth column for destabilization campaigns worldwide.

As Cory Morningstar captures The Simulacrum in her multi-part series on the non-profit industrial complex, domesticating the populace is a fait accompli, and the only question remaining is what will happen if and when capitalist activism is seen for what it is. By following the money from aristocratic derivatives to embodiments of false hope like Avaaz, MoveOn, and Change, Morningstar steps through the looking glass to expose how NGOs have become a key tool of global dominance using social media as a means of social manipulation.

When the smoke generated by phony progressives clears, all that is left is an industrial wasteland of false hope and real threats. When the betrayals of NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are known, we can finally begin to exercise our responsibilities. Until then, programs like Democracy Now remain little more than adult versions of Sesame Street for the toy Che brigades.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Good Government

As the governments of the United States and Mexico clamp down on Indigenous community projects to reinvigorate good government, it might be a good time to ask why it is that the central powers would want to prevent Indigenous governments from providing for their people. Have the modern states of Mexico and the US become so perverted that they see universal housing, health and education as evil? Or is it just the notion of people working together and sharing the wealth for the benefit of all that disturbs these federal powers?

Perhaps good government doesn't scale. Maybe it can only take place at the community level. If that is so, then devolving federal powers -- including taxation -- to the local level is a matter of survival.

As Indigenous peoples take the lead on re-establishing good government as a human institution, they will need civil society support to protect them from the wrath of modern states founded on theft. As they once informed the nascent American government on the principles of democracy, Indigenous governing bodies might now help guide the trajectories of social movements like #Occupy. With the possibility of reciprocity, generosity could become the leading light in democratic social renewal.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Climate of Fear

American Friends Service Committee and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee have joined suit against the U.S. Department of Treasury for violating the free speech rights of Muhammad Salah, a U.S. citizen. Due to Treasury's designation of Salah as a terrorist -- even though he has not been charged with any crime -- Salah and his wife have been unable to provide for themselves or their children. Indeed, for the last 17 years, it has been a crime for anyone to assist Salah with food, housing or medicine. Remarkably, it is even a crime for the plaintiffs to discuss with Salah his predicament.

Keeping in mind Salah is a U.S. citizen living in Illinois, the facts of his case are astounding. Without notice of charges or evidence or an opportunity to respond, Salah's assets were blocked indefinitely. He has never been served with a warrant, charged with criminal wrongdoing, or afforded a hearing. Since 1995, he has been unable to work, study, or engage in civic or religious activities that require spending money.

Under U.S. law, a law found unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court, this arbitrary punishment absent a crime can continue forever. In fact, Salah may never have the opportunity to plead his case before a judge and jury, as the current status of free speech in the US is subject to the whims of the administration in power.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Humanities Laboratory

Something I am anxious to see happen -- perhaps as a joint venture of Public Good Project and the Center for World Indigenous Studies (CWIS) -- is a humanities laboratory, affiliated with a college or university, where people from different aspects of humanities collaborate on various genres of intentional communication. With the advent of digitally-supported knowledge production through and around institutions of higher education, scholarship as a communal endeavor affords a vast new interface between the institutional and the public. Using laboratories to apply this knowledge to social situations makes academic ideas and conversations available to the many dimensions of civil and tribal self-organizing now underway. Indeed, such endeavors are essential to activist media tomorrow.

I draw this to readers attention for the purpose of emphasizing the value of communications studies, which goes hand in hand with learning the skills of investigative research I've discussed previously. While my advanced degree is in humanities and leadership, my collaboration with investigative researchers and communications specialists has instilled in me an appreciation for these aspects of scholarly activism.

While this is a demanding task, the humanities laboratory/communications studio concept explored in the Prepared to Lead cinematic documentary proposal, as well as the archival digitization project at CWIS -- the catalysts for this plan -- demonstrate the connection between archiving and curating knowledge and its effective application. We have yet to garner any funding for either, but we hashed out the vision and strategy, and that's a start. We also went through the process of submitting a formal proposal to Sundance Institute, which is a demanding but educational protocol.

As I told my associates, sometimes good ideas need time to develop. We also discussed the benefits and challenges of collaborating with educational institutions in order to access resources we'd never likely muster on our own.

For the digitization project, I scoped out federal government grants to cover the professional services required, and the paperwork alone is daunting. My conclusion was that absent a private donor, our best bet to move forward on communications development was to explore partnering with a college or university.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Standing in the Way

In this film about geomilitary mapping in Mexico, we learn about the academic/non-profit front of the U.S. Army project to militarize indigenous territories as a means of privatizing communally owned land. As a process of gathering cultural intelligence to be used by the neoliberal axis in taking these lands, mapping as a form of spying feeds into the U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Office program for supporting the U.S.-Mexico Merida Initiative, a military/market strategy for eliminating indigenous autonomy.

As we see in reports from Oaxaca, mapping culture is a way of mapping resistance by those Wall Street and the Pentagon see as standing in the way: the indigenous peoples of Mexico. While mapping by indigenous communities for their own purposes can be an important part of cultural survival and revitalization, in the hands of their enemies, this knowledge is a devastating weapon.