Let Bufffalo Roam – Wildlife 'management' is an oxymoron

They have no space. Land-owners have taken all that was theirs and made it private property, leaving little allotments here and there; small spaces of ‘reserved’ land, unconnected and geographically uninformed.

That statement can be applied to a host of issues and nouns in the US. What I am describing is the plight of the last wild bison in the US, the Yellowstone herds. They are descendants of the only survivors that saved themselves from the shameful buffalo slaughter of the 1800’s. I have for several years been located out of southwest Montana, near the small town of West Yellowstone. Here I work every winter and spring with Buffalo Field Campaign, a grassroots media organization that documents the harassment and slaughter of these creatures, advocating for their right to roam their native homelands.

Conflict occurs when bison leave Yellowstone National Park in the winter and spring to find food and give birth. When the animals are in Montana, they are subject to harassment and slaughter at the hands of the state and federal agencies who claim to be protecting them and their habitat. A European cattle disease called Brucellosis is touted as the reason for the mismanagement, but livestock-industry control over grass and space are the real rationale.

We’ve used any and all tools in the infamous “bag-of-tricks” to try and stop the slaughter over many years. We are dealing with a war over grass and who gets to eat it. The cowpokes of the Western landscape did their damnedest to ensure that only cows could eat the grass, and they will fight tooth and nail to make it remain so, and banks are on their side. But, rag-tag and passionate as we are, we will fight back, tooth and nail, for the rightful roamers: wild buffalo.

These bison are the last continuously “free-roaming” population that remains of the 40-60 million bison that once ruled this continent. They are the last to maintain their identity as a wildlife species. In efforts to subjugate First Nations and to fill a lust for shaggy buffalo coats and strong hides to run the industrial revolution, settlers brought that vast number to just 23 at one point and have from that time on been involved in “bison conservation”.

Free Roaming is meant to elicit thoughts of unhindered movement by force of will. In actuality the agencies that “manage” these animals forcibly chase them away from what should be designated as their winter range when they follow their natural instincts of migration outside of Yellowstone in search of accessible forage and to continue the uses of their ancestral calving grounds. Bison Conservation to date consists of public herds being created around the nation by capturing and transporting animals from the Yellowstone population to start new herds or improve the genetics of existing herds. The vast majority of “bison” in this country are found on ranches, where they are raised for meat. This type of conservation does nothing to preserve what is special about these wild animals. Chasing animals into a trap, poking and prodding, keeping them in captivity and transporting them by truck across the nation is not congruent with the word wild. Destinations that are large enclosed areas or geographically isolated areas effectively destroy the migratory instincts these animals would follow in their natural environments.

The Yellowstone herds are the only population of bison in the world that still follow their ancient traveling intuition. So while the current form of conservation does create public herds, it removes what is distinctive about bison to create what is manageable by man. “Manage” is a word that, when used in the context of wildlife by wildlife management agencies, means nothing more then those actions or activities performed by that agency out of convenience. Herd numbers are kept at a level that corresponds with available resources (money, people, etc), not healthy numbers for the animals or the ecosystem of which they are an integral part. Boundaries are crated to safeguard livestock and their producers, and to make management operations easier for agencies, not to be harmonious with how bison access or use the land. In writing this I hope to articulate some larger social malignance that I think is at the base of all this mismanagement, the concept of private property.

I am not going to expound the evils of land ownership, but rather try to illuminate the need for responsible land stewardship practices. In the uncluttered western states there is debate right now over the current use of lands for livestock production and what some believe to be the opposite and adverse reaction to lands without livestock: housing subdivisions. I hear this debate termed “cows or condos.” This paradigm I think is an example of the social paradox that is currently limiting the entire native flora and fauna that truly hold the land rights in the country from their open spaces. If we continue to manage the land for our personal benefit, if government lands are managed with the economic benefit of industry first, there will continue to be no room for wild horses, for the black-footed ferrets, for the purple dwarf monkey flower, or for the wild bison.

A larger collective mental shift is needed to make any real headway for wild spaces and the creatures that inhabit them. I encourage everyone to find her or his individual voice for helping this shift to come about organically. It feels to me that a change is on the cusp of rising and a persistent push will send it over the edge of possibility into reality. To paraphrase the words of Broch Evans, we need “endless pressure endlessly applied” to create the changes we want. An encouraging thought for me is that the spaces don’t need to be created: they are there. They just need to become available to the animals that require them for their survival.

Montana, as an example, is full of open space. Millions of acres of federally designated wilderness, state owned and managed Wildlife Management Areas (which unfortunately are used more often than not for cattle grazing), millions of acres of National Forest, and all the state and federal parks located in our great state are all there for the bison’s taking once we overcome a few political and social hurdles. With the help of private landowners that are willing to incorporate their spaces into safe and protected migration corridors, the dots of available public lands can be connected and utilized to preserve a national treasure, our wild bison. That is the real bison conservation plan.

Buffalo Field Campaign is in the field everyday where wild bison go, maintaining a frontline presence to document any action taken against our shaggy friends, and we are always looking for support. To get involved and volunteer for the bison write us at volunteer@buffalofieldcampaign or call 406-646-0070. For more information concerning the plight of the wild bison please visit, www.buffalofieldcampaign.org, or give us a call.

Creating Conscious Communities – our modest efforst are really the only hope

Each day there are opportunities for resistance, liberation, freedom, creativity, engagement, and meaning. It is easy to miss these opportunities and get distracted and bogged down by day-to-day hassles — stuck in traffic, staring at the internet, emotionally numb, confused, and feeling disconnected from anything important. There are no easy answers about how to live our lives but we all make choices about where we put our time, our energy, and our passion. While you can never guarantee the outcome, if you aren’t even putting time and energy on a daily basis into some kind of alternative to the mainstream economic / cultural / political / technological system, your tomorrow is going to end up similar to your today. By contrast, as tough, frustrating and scary as it can be, putting some of your life every day into the counter-culture and alternatives to the system makes a difference — at least in the way you experience your own life.

You can look at the discouraging state of the world with its wars, oil spills, sweatshops, global warming, and Velveeta culture, and feel lost and powerless. Very powerful corporate and government structures have devised many ways to maintain the status quo. But something has to give. We live on a finite planet — if our lives are reduced to ever-increasing mass industrial consumption while population continues its increase, our species will push ecological systems beyond their limits and we’ll suffer collapse. It may be we’ve already gone too far and this process is already beginning.

The powers that be are betting on a technological fix to the problem of a finite planet that won’t threaten the existing power structure with its unequal distribution of power and centralized decision-making — a way to keep living as we’re living. Even if this was possible, a technological breakthrough would not address the dehumanizing way the system subordinates human needs for freedom, meaning and engagement to the needs of the system.

What we need is a cultural and political breakthrough — a total shift in values and social structures in which human satisfaction, expression and connection with the moment, other people and the earth become more important than acquiring and consuming things and services.

Whereas a government / corporate technological fix requires funding for research in universities and corporate labs, a values breakthrough requires reviving community and creating more vibrant dialog, independent organizing outside of the system’s imperatives, and an explosion of creative and visionary experimentation. Even people with a critique of the current system and a yearning for change don’t yet know what a new world will look like or how we can create one. Our values and understanding is limited by the world we inhabit. Our ability to cooperate and communicate with others — our self-knowledge and capacity for universal love –are always inadequate to the task at hand and in the process of evolving, growing and developing.

In figuring out what to do day-to-day, it can be helpful to keep in mind our most visionary goals and values and then work backwards to figure out how we can live them. People should be able to live decent lives without hurting other people and without hurting the earth. We must have freedom, meaning, excitement, opportunities to fulfill our individual potential, chances to be close to other people, and space to enjoy beauty, the natural world, and pleasure. This means we have to be safe from violence, have self-determination and have sufficient material resources to meet our needs.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the need to keep my greater goals in mind and reverse engineer them to figure out how to negotiate a complex series of bummers at the Long Haul infoshop collective in Berkeley. Actual involvement in any human project is not like a visionary Slingshot article. Instead, it is messy, compromised, potentially discouraging and complex. Things can be ambiguous and sometimes you can’t solve a problem, you can only pick the least bad option. When you get frustrated like that, you need to step back. Instead of getting stuck in each specific problem — which could easily trap you in an endless and depressing cycle of reaction and negativity — maybe you can figure out a way to change the level of discourse. Maybe a positive new initiative can do more good than struggling to fix an impossible knot.

At the end of the day, I would rather be engaged in a meaningful, exciting, deeply human, creative, and yet marginal, dysfunctional and struggling counter-culture than clinging to the status quo that chases absurd goals and is crumbling.

Questions of Race & Resistance – Oakland house squat evicted

Recently here in Oakland I got a call from one of my comrade’s squats. After 7 months of residency with little yet positive interactions from the buildings actual on-paper owners, the day had come when the owners decided it was time for everyone to go.

The community had been called via a phone tree, and I think the collective expectation in all our minds was a battle with the police. Banners had been prepared, and almost everyone was ready.

But when the supporters arrived at the scene, we learned that there are some things that us anarchists here in Oakland just hadn’t considered.

The owners, a black, Muslim family, had come and called the police. When the police came, they told the owners that they needed to file an eviction notice with the court and left shortly after. Following their departure, the owners, by now very angry, took matters into their own hands. They threw items out of the house, tore up plants in the yard, assaulted people multiple times with their feet, plates, bookshelves and fists, as well as attacking the folks outside with video cameras who had originally intended on doing cop-watching.

It was a couple hours of chaos. The squatters and supporters inside attempted soft barricades and ran around in confusion. At one point they did a banner drop that seemed pretty inappropriate for the situation, since it had been intended for the cops. The folks outside stood around in equal confusion. Some talked to the home owners about the situation, some got in arguments with them, some gawked from across the street, some took the squatters possession and animal companions to safe spaces, and a lot just didn’t know what to do or what to feel.

Racial tensions arose from both sides. The owners expressed a lot racist sentiment for the white squatters, while I witnessed a couple supporters say racist things themselves. One supporter, when asked by a black neighbor what was going on, responded “You people…” and proceeded to assume the neighbor was one of the owners and accuse them of assault. Multiple squatters and supporters criticized the family for wearing gold, saying that by wearing it they were oppressing “their own people”.

At one point the squatters themselves called the police. The police once again told the owners that they needed to file an eviction notice, and one of the supporters that had been inside pressed charges against one of the owners, who the police took away to jail. I am not sure, but the word was that he was cited and released.

Shortly after the police left the remaining owners left as well. In the couple of weeks following, owners would drive by multiple times in a day, and at one point assaulted one of the squatters on their way back home.

Eventually the owners showed up with baseball bats while only a couple of the squatters were home. The squatters had-had enough of the violence and left the house. It is now empty with no trespassing signs on the doors and windows.

Although this is an extremely brief summary of what happened that day, what happened has brought up a lot of questions about race and resistance.

This house was owned by a black family in a predominantly black neighborhood. It was abandoned for 13 years while owned by the family, and the owners had no intentions to inhabit it. It was squatted by predominantly young, white radicals. There was racism on both sides.

One of the first questions with this squat is: is this gentrification, and should the squatters have been more considerate to this in the first place? The squatters were doing things for their immediate community, like fixing bikes for the neighborhood children. They had support from their immediate neighbors and were giving advice to the ones in danger of foreclosure. But what is more important, helping the neighbors or the squatters being sensitive to their contribution to gentrification? And it’s important to keep in mind that in the neighborhood in question, West Oakland, there is an abundance of radical houses with young white inhabitants.

White privilege needs to be addressed. If the house had been squatted by people of color, would the police have not asked for an eviction notice? What if the owners were a white family? How could squatters in this type of situation address their privilege?

Another question is: is it okay for squatters to occupy a building when the owners, who are a family and not a bank, are ready to reclaim their property? Anarchists have a lot of rhetoric about how property is theft, and how private property is fucked up and no one should own land. If property owners are claiming the house, then they are saying it’s their property and theirs alone. When squatters claim a building, are they doing the same as the owners? Both have justifications as to why it’s theirs. Is one justification right and the other wrong? Are they both right, or both wrong?

A big issue from this experience was the decision to call the police. The owners called them the first time. As a black family, they did not get support from the police, which is unfortunately common for most people of color. The family then took action independently to reclaim their property. They made decisions independent of the state to try to physically intimidate people out of the building. I am not condoning the violence against the squatters and supporters, a lot of them were my friends and allies and it hurts me to have them hurt. I am not supporting pulling up the vegetable plants from the garden or throwing peoples bikes off of the second floor. But we as anarchists for the most part agree that we need to find ways to live our lives without turning to the police for support, and once the police didn’t help the family, they collectively found a way to reach their goals themselves.

The next time the police came; it was the anarchists that had called. This was a controversial issue within our community, for various reasons. The most obvious, why are anarchists calling the police? Are there times when it is acceptable for us to turn to the state for assistance?

Since the family had called and was willing to have people arrested, was it okay for the folks in the house to fight with the same tools as the family? If someone has a gun, you would probably rather have a gun as opposed to a knife. If the squatters had physically fought back, they would have been arrested. It’s also important to note that the family had brought children with them, and the squatters and supporters were very uncomfortable with the idea of fighting back with these kids’ parents.

I personally still don’t know what my feelings are about this, and I think a lot of the people involved feel the same way. Physical assault is a serious and traumatic thing, and I think it’s very important to support any victim of assault. The environment at the time was so chaotic it doesn’t appear that the folks on the inside had the ability to really get together and make a collective decision.

I feel that after going through this experience, it is really important that radical folks, especially in urban, multiracial areas, start pondering these questions and making personal decisions. Such as, is it ever okay to call the police? I’m sure there are a variety of different answers to the question. My personal feelings are no. I feel as radical folks, we need to do more expansive thinking and discussion on problem solving. One thing that will be more helpful to actions such as this one in the future is to spend the time before the action thinking of the possibilities and worst case scenarios and making a collective plan for all of them. It is best to be as prepared as possible, especially since in a bind an affinity group may not be able to make collective decisions.

And how should we treat our allies when they make decisions we don’t necessarily support. Here in Oakland the responses have been mixed. Some folks have
completely turned their backs on the people involved in this particular situation and said that they are snitches. Some don’t think we should write someone off as a bad person or a snitch for calling the pigs under pressure. And others are completely supportive of the decisions made that day by the people involved.

It’s very easy for a community to become divided, but I think through sensitivity and honest communication we can keep a community strong.

Slingshot issue #105 – introduction

Slingshot is an independent radical newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.

A crucial aspect of creating this paper is breaking down the false barrier between publisher and reader — between a tiny group of active “experts” who impart knowledge and faceless masses of passive readers who soak it up. Over and over while we’re making the paper, we’re reminded how silly that division is and how it works against the paper we’re trying to publish and the world we want to live in.

While we were wrapping up work on this issue, we discussed how we wished we could have had an article on the revolution in Tunisia that was unfolding the week we made the paper. Or something about the sudden and surprising sale of local college station KUSF that threw dozens of volunteer djs off the air with no notice. And while we pulled together a tiny selection of upcoming actions and on-going campaigns, we know we could do a lot better if folks let us know about the work they’re doing or the things they’re experiencing.

Just like the poster in this issue declares, “we’re all artists”: We’re all journalists. We’re all publishers. We all have something important to share and contribute to the collective knowledge. If you could meet us, you might be disappointed to realize that the people who make Slingshot are pretty ordinary. Or maybe it would be empowering — we’re nothing special; we’re just like you. If you have some information you think might belong in Slingshot, chances are we won’t know about it unless you tell us. And chances are we would love to know about it and share it with others.

Each issue, people wander in to see if they can help out and end up designing a page or drawing the cover. This issue, one of us who thought of herself as “just” a cartoonist spoke up at a meeting wondering if we had a particular article, and ended up writing it for the front page.

We seek to create a supportive atmosphere so people can access their inner journalist and achieve their full potential for creativity and expression. This isn’t easy and we don’t necessarily know how — but we’re trying.

• • •

Despite our landlord’s ongoing bankruptcy case, which could threaten us with eviction (mentioned in last issue), we’re still here at the moment. The threat hasn’t stopped us from discussing how we can encourage more active uses of the Long Haul space and from making lots of small changes and improvements over the last few months. We’re working on having more events, craft workshops and zine reading times. One of the most successful improvements has been our DIY zine space featuring everything you need to make your own zine. We even have a light table — fancy. Lots of people are typing, cutting, pasting and drawing.

• • •

We’re changing the way we mail out copies off the paper this issue to comply with postal rules. If you are a free distributor, you’ll now get multiple one pound envelopes, rather than 1 six pound envelope, for example. Sorry for the waste of envelopes.

• • •

Two years ago we published a full-color coffee table book to celebrate the 40th anniversary of People’s Park in Berkeley. It is a great book but apparently not commercially viable. We want it to be a powerful inspiration in people’s hands, not sitting unread in our basement. Please help by letting us know if we can send you a free copy for your infoshop, coop or local library. We’re also still selling and/or accepting donations for copies.

• • •

Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors, etc. to make this paper. If you send something written, please be open to editing.

Editorial decisions are made by the Slingshot Collective but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collectives members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.

Thanks to the people who made this: Bird, Brian, Carolina, Citizen, David, Dee, Eggplant, Emmalee, Glenn, Heather, Hurricane, Jackie, Jake, Jayson, Jesse, Josh, Julia, Kathryn, Katrina, Kermit, Kerry, Kyle, Mando, Tristan.

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 4 p.m. at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)

Article Deadline & Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 106 by April 16, 2011 at 3 p.m.

Volume 1, Number 105, Circulation 19,000

Printed January 28, 2011

Slingshot Newspaper

A publication of Long Haul

Office: 3124 Shattuck Avenue

Mailing: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703

Phone (510) 540-0751

slingshot@tao.ca • slingshot.tao.ca

Circulation Information

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income and anyone in the USA with a Slingshot Organizer, or $1 per issue or back issue. International $3 per issue. Outside the Bay Area we’ll mail you a free stack of copies if you give them out for free. Note: they come in 1 lb. packages – you can order 1 package or up to 6 (6 lbs) for free – let us know how many you want. In the Bay Area, pick up copies at Long Haul or Bound Together Books in SF.

Slingshot Back Issues

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues of Slingshot for the cost of postage: Send $3 for 2 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. PO Box 3051 Berkeley, CA 94703.

Upcoming actions around North America

People all over the world are organizing for a better world and against corporations, government repression, environmental destruction and injustice. Here’s a small sampling of upcoming actions, ongoing campaigns, and calls to action. Organize your own and let us know about it for next issue or lend a hand to one of these.

Tar sand resistance

As oil deposits around the world become more scarce, companies have turned their eye toward reserves that have, in the past, been considered too difficult, too dirty, or too expensive to extract. The tar sand mines in Alberta account for half of Canada’s oil production and have been described as the single most destructive industrial project on the face of the planet. Tar sand mining requires tearing up large areas of land, using huge amount of water, and generating lots of toxic waste. It also takes a huge amount of energy to extract and refine the oil, meaning that each barrel of tar sand oil carries a carbon footprint 10 to 45 percent greater than traditionally extracted oil. Because of expanding tar sand oil production, Canada has become the single largest supplier of oil to the US.

Northern Rockies Rising Tide in Missoula, Montana is resisting transport over Highway 12 of hundreds of mega-loads of mining equipment built by Exxon Mobil, Conoco/Phillips, and Harvest Energy Corp for use in Alberta tar sand mining. The loads are 30 feet tall, 27 feet wide, and over 200 feet long — like a three story house almost the length of a football field. Highway 12 is two-lanes and winds along a river that has been designated as Wild and Scenic up and over the Rocky Mountains. These highway shipments are visible aspects of an oil industry mostly hidden from view.

While local officials have opposed the shipments, they lack jurisdiction to stop them. It will take a grassroots movement of native communities, environmental groups and residents to resist big oil’s privatization of public roads and continued destruction of Northern Alberta and the earth’s climate. Rising Tide has been on the ground floor conducting trainings, organizing the first International Tar Sands Resistance Summit, and being a vocal opponent of the shipments. Over 270 shipments will leave the Port of Lewiston, Idaho between now and the end of next year. To plug into the resistance, check out northernrockiesrisingtide@gmail.com.

Revolting Borders

US border policies are designed to kill. The increase in border wall construction, surveillance, checkpoints and internal deportations — tied up with the inequality of global capitalism and free trade — have driven people crossing the US/Mexico border to travel dangerous routes. The vast, rugged, and confusing desert border of Arizona has taken an unknown number of lives. The official death toll was 250 last year, but anyone who has spent any time in this desert knows it is, in reality, immeasurable. It is hard to find people, alive or otherwise, and easy to get lost. These desolate routes are the preferred routes for guides leading migrants across the border, where one can walk 4 days before reaching the first paved road and find shelter from surveillance in canyons and dense shrubbery.

For most migrants, the Arizona desert is neither the beginning nor the end of their journey. People are forced to leave home by poverty crafted and maintained by the global north. For Central Americans, the journey through Mexico can be more dangerous than through Arizona. As a warm welcome, or welcome back, to the USA, many face work-place exploitation, the complications of an undocumented life, racism, and the constant fear or separation from loved ones. Many people profit from this migration and the restrictions against it.

No More Deaths takes direct action against the lethal border conditions and the politics behind them by locating and exploring trails used by migrants and then placing food, water and supplies on the trails. Over the last seven years, these actions have saved countless lives. No More Deaths also hosts volunteers in the border city of Nogales, Sonora, provides medical treatment to migrants, and document abuses experienced at the hands of the Border Patrol.

Out of town volunteers can join these efforts each summer and local residents volunteer year-round. The more time one can stay, the better you can discern the intricacies of the desert, the border, and the group. Government policies dehumanize, demoralize, and generally attempt to weaken those who are already vulnerable. Often they succeed. The people, however, are resilient and strong. Supporting that strength in others, and nursing our own for another time when we might need it ourselves, is a direct act of opposition. Contact www.nomoredeaths.org to get involved. (Note: There is related work responding to the increasing collaboration of local law enforcement with federal immigration enforcement agencies in Tucson and Phoenix by groups like CopWatch and MigraPatrol. Check them out, too.)

Move against Mountain top removal

The campaign against mountaintop removal (MTR) mining in Appalachia continues throughout the coalfields. MTR is a form of strip mining where rock over a coal seam is blasted away and dumped into stream valleys to expose coal. MTR magnifies the environmental damage of coal — global warming, mercury pollution, etc. — by destroying hardwood forests and habitat and poisoning local watercourses. Local campaigns are going on in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and beyond.

In West Virginia, a five-day march to Blair Mountain will take place this summer. The 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain was the largest armed labor uprising in American history, and the battlefield is currently being threatened by mountaintop removal — Massey Energy and two other coal companies hold permits to blast on this historic site. In 1921, after a generation of violent suppression and exploitation of the people in the southern coalfields of West Virginia, 15,000 coal miners rebelled in an attempt to overthrow the coal barons and marched on Blair Mountain. To join the march on Blair Mountain, see friendsofblairmountain.org.

For details about other upcoming actions including Mountain Justice Spring Break or Summer actions, check out mountainjustice.org, ilovemountains.org, or appalachiarising.org.

Legal support is also ongoing. Coal companies are pursuing a federal lawsuit against five protesters who participated in a January 2010 tree-sit on Coal River Mountain in West Virginia. The tree-sit lasted nine days and prevented Massey Energy from blasting within 2,000 feet of the Brushy Fork Impoundment — a 9.8 billion gallon dam of toxic sludge that would engulf entire communities if it were to fail. Marfork Coal Company is using the lawsuit as an attempt to intimidate activists, target journalists, and gather personal information of political opponents. A trial is scheduled for June 14 in Beckley, WV. Info: marfork5.wordpress.com.

Activists with the Sludge Safety Project are working to pass the Alternative Coal Slurry Disposal Act, which would ban slurry injections in West Virginia. Slurry is the byproduct of washing coal and contains heavy metals and other toxic chemicals. Slurry injection has poisoned the water of entire communities like Prenter and Rawl in West Virginia. Info: www.sludgesafety.org.

We want more than this DREAM

The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act) lost a Congressional vote in late 2010. It would have provided a path to citizenship for young undocumented people who came into the US before the age of 16, are under 30, have ‘good moral character’ and have resided in the US for 5 consecutive years if they finish two years of college or the military and meet other requirements.


The DREAM Act was never the end goal. In our hands, it was a tool. It was a tool of hope, for those of us who look towards the future and see that those paths we thought we could walk down are not open to us. It was a tool that would have allowed thousands of young people to say they were undocumented with out fear of deportation or losing their jobs. It was a tool to push the issues of undocumented immigrants farther in the government’s agenda than they had ever gone in over 20 years.

But because it is a tool not made by us — undocumented youth — and a tool made for Congress, it is an imperfect tool. Whether or not people agree with the specifics of it, what is clear to me is that the commitment of young undocumented people to fight for the rights of all immigrants has not and will not waver. It is also clear to me that even though we could not get the DREAM Act, not yet anyway, we won something much greater and useful than a bill.

We formed a stronger movement, filled with people coming out as undocumented and challenging immigration laws, authorities and stereotypes whenever needed; people willing to get arrested for our beliefs and risk deportation. People continue to do the work necessary to educate the public, create resources for undocumented communities-resources in jobs, in scholarships, even in traveling within the US, and boldly assert our rights as part of this nation and our right to change it for the better living of all.

As much as I would love to write that the solution is to create alternative systems to education and jobs, alternatives that do not require a social security number, and that we need not be constrained by the laws and rules of society as they exist, I know the reality of fearing the deportation of the ones you love even for a minor traffic violation. I know the reality of talking to students who want to be teachers and doctors and know they could never get a license to practice these, or even a driver’s license for that matter. These immigration laws are real and they are suffocating all of our society. When young people lose motivation to study because they know they cannot get federal aid for college, or a job in their chosen field, as a society we hurt our present and future. When people can be scared into not fighting for their rights at a workplace all the workers lose out.

We must not just imagine and create a different path to learning, working and interacting with each other, but we have to make sure we address and rewrite the old laws, old paths, old guidelines or requirements that are keeping about 11 million residents from contributing and living fully in this country. I believe that is what we, the people of the undocumented youth movement, have been doing and will continue to do.

Yeah, it would have been nice to win the DREAM Act this time around, but it is by no means the only resource we have, nor is it the only thing we are after. The world belongs to all of us, all living creatures and ecosystems, and we are not about to give that up.

For more information and to join us go to www.iyjl.org and/or www.dreamactivist.org/

Resistance to Austerity: It's not just for Europeans

The continued economic recession offers stark choices. You can buy the mainstream ideological line that we’re in a time of economic scarcity and end up spinning your wheels fighting other struggling people over who will get this scrap of welfare at the expense of that crumb of education funding. Or, you can seize the opportunity presented by the recession to expose the rotten system in which the richest people continue to get richer at the same moment they ask ordinary people to do without.

Don’t be fooled by the TV talking heads: the economic stress we are living through is not about a lack of resources, it is about how those resources are distributed and how the process is controlled. There is a lot of talk about tightening belts at the same time that Wall Street had a great year during 2010 — the stock market was up 11 percent for the year and bankers received billions in bonuses. It is curious to hear frantic calls to cut government budgets at the same time as tax cuts are passed for the richest 1 percent — you wouldn’t want them to have to cut their yacht budget.

While recessions impose real pain, they are built into the fabric of the free market system — rather than being a failure of the system, they are a normal part of its operation. It is easy to get confused and distracted by complex discussions of the housing bubble and Wall Street gimmicks like mortgage derivatives and credit default swaps. These details obscure the easy lesson of the recent crash, which is that the economic system is operating on its own internal logic always concentrating wealth and power at the top and disconnected from the welfare of the vast majority of people and the earth.

How can we see through the distractions and false choices that supporters of the economic status quo have been pushing to grasp that the recession offers opportunities for people to organize for a better future. We don’t have to be depressed by the depression — we can resist austerity and struggle for a world organized to meet human needs, not serve corporate greed. Austerity was Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2010 — it means a government policy of spending cuts and reduction of public services.

In Europe in particular, 2010 saw an eruption of popular protest against economic austerity with massive strikes, riots and protests in Greece, England, France, Spain, Italy, etc.

In the US, by contrast, the recession hasn’t (so far) trigged much popular revolt against the economic system and its injustices during recession times — a rejection of continued corporate control and domination by unaccountable Wall Street tycoons.

In the absence of organized opposition to the recession and economic injustice, many people stung by the recession have been attracted by the Tea Party movement — an exercise in confusion and distraction focused on government abstractions like “the founding fathers” and details about “the Constitution,” rather than economic issues. The Tea Party actually demands more economic hardship for the poorest people while it distracts attention from the failures of the capitalist economic system, and subtlely implies that immigrants and minorities are the real problem with its demands to “take American back.” From whom? Certainly not the Fortune 500 or the richest 1 percent who make their income from stock dividends, not working a job — the Tea Party never mentions them. The Tea Party demands small government, but ignores Big Business.

How can we make 2011 a year of resistance to austerity — not just in Europe, but in the US and around the globe? How about a general strike in Pittsburgh or a bread riot in Atlanta? When banks try to throw a family out in the street, an organized neighborhood can barricade the block. If folks in London can throw shit at Prince Charles’ limo like they did at a recent demonstration in London, maybe someone can TP Donald Trump’s mansion or something. Who the fuck in the USA is parallel to Prince Charles, anyway?

And how can we widen resistance from begging for government / economic crumbs to attacking the absurdity of an economic system which requires inequality and injustice as well as unlimited economic growth on a finite planet, which is threatening us all with ecological collapse?

Demanding “no cuts” to a particular government program or “no fee increases” for higher education misses the point by implying that if the capitalism system would just start working better again — growing and creating wealth to feed government bureaucracies — everything would be fine. Capitalism is cyclical — good times follow bad times just like bad times follow good times — but no matter which side of the business cycle you’re on, the system maintains economic inequality and concentrates power. Excessively modest / reformist goals piss away the opportunities presented by this moment. As some people try to defend aspects of the welfare state, don’t forget that the reason it was created in the first place was to avoid riots, strikes and social disruption so as to preserve the basic injustices of the system by making them a little less unpleasant.

The most dangerous aspects of capitalism are the ways it sucks meaning and self-determination from our day-to-day lives and the way its value-free efficiency carves up the planet. Environmental destruction — deforestation, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, etc. — actually fall during recessions when production falls. That tells you that moments when the capitalist system is “healthy” and profits are surging are precisely the most unhealthy moments for human beings and the natural world. A particularly cynical right-wing talking point is that the recession requires environmental rules to be rolled back because they are killing jobs.

When business is booming, our time for unpaid but meaningful activities like family, community, pleasure, expression, etc. gets gobbled up by the machine to be transformed into stuff and services. The economy wants to displace every parent and sell us childcare and a housecleaner, abolish every gardener and sell us produce and a garden service, ignore every artist and sell us entertainment on a computer chip.

We can demand a different way. A system that keeps you busy doing meaningless jobs you hate to more quickly undermine the planet’s ability to support life and make a tiny number of people rich and powerful so they are unaccountable to everyone else is a crazy system. It isn’t the type of system you want to see recover — it is the type of system you want to go out into the streets to overturn. Many millions of people who see through the confusion will be out on the streets in 2011. Will any of them be in the US? Will you be there? What can we do to be part of the future, and not the past?

The Matrix of the Philippine Mining Industry

The mining industry is one of the biggest industries in the world and a vital industry in the techno-industrial society. In every part of the world with minerals, mining companies compete to exploit the resources from which they can profit, which has led to horrendous destruction of the Earth’s biosphere. Life support systems such as water, forests, and wildlife are destroyed everyday by these companies.

The Philippine Archipelago is a set of mountainous islands with three major regions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Geologically, the Philippines is part of the Circum-Pacific Belt of Fire, where mineral resources are exceptionally abundant.

In the Philippines, as well in other parts of the earth, local peoples’ livelihoods are eradicated with the mining process. People in the farming and fishing industries lose the resources vital to their jobs, and indigenous / tribal peoples are harassed or bribed to leave their land, or are displaced to city slums. For those that stand up to militantly oppose the mining industries and its effects, there is the risk of murder.

People all over the Archipelago are organizing and working with outside groups to resist corporate tyranny and achieve justice. Throughout the years the approach of working together with communities has been dominated by leftist groups and is hierarchical in many regards. These groups tend to follow the same patterns of NGO’s and missionary aid, who enter communities, bring in new ideas, give support (depending on what “specialty” the NGO might have), and try to get people following the leftist brand of socio-political and economic solutions.

The Philippine opposition-political spectrum is predominantly composed of two blocks, Akbayan and BAYAN MUNA, which are both communist. All throughout the country, these groups have been working on anti-mining issues and have partnered with communities against mining. However, the dilemma is that people are left with little or no decision making power, since these groups are most likely to mediate, and in many occasions dictate what needs to be done.

In response to the bureaucratic, hierarchical approaches to resistance of mining, the Undangon ang Mina Network (Stop Mining Network) and our communities of support in the Philippines aim to take action by:

1. Connecting to communities of resistance (local and international).

2. Informing local groups where head offices of companies are located (such as Philex Gold Corporation in Vancouver, Canada) and set up international boycott campaigns.

3. Document corporations’ human rights abuses and environmental destruction to inform the local and global community.

4. Bring an anti-authoritarian approach to our local communities, as well as supporting the locals with what they think is the best solution for mining situations in their area.

5. Learning from exchanges with different communities and struggles.

In a nutshell, mining companies are bullies who are mostly coming from Canada, Australia, Japan, Asia, and Europe. Some of these companies’ actions include:

-Manipulating laws (through pro-development politicians) to pursue mining operations.

-Bribing local and national politicians, the police, and military forces to support their campaigns.

-Disrespecting local people’s parameters on their land and resources.

-Displacing indigenous/tribal communities by forcing them to leave their land and resources.

-Bribing local people with money, resources, and jobs.

-Threatening the stability of an area when it becomes a mining target.

-Destroying farmlands and water resources.

-Destroying forest ecosystems.


Mining in the Philippines started in pre-colonial times. In a number of regions in the Archipelago, indigenous communities mined for gold, copper and many other minerals for various day-to-day purposes. Natives from all over the Philippines used gold, pearls, agate, as well as other minerals for body ornaments, and gold was also bartered with merchants from all over Asia and Europe. Many merchants from Luzon and Jolo Islands and Brunei traveled throughout Mindanao in search of slaves and gold.

Roughly 400 years ago, the Spaniards took advantage of all the affluent mineral resources they could get. In fact, gold was the main reason why the Spanish colonized the Philippines. The Spaniards made a law called Inspeción de Minas which allowed them to inspect the existing minerals in the Archipelago.

Following Spain, Americans made strategic steps to exploit the minerals of the Philippines. In May of 1867, the U.S.A. did a geological survey, which validated the Philippines as a mineral-rich country. They issued Act 468, a law that basically gives the American government the right to claim a number of areas as “reserved areas” for future mining. The first commercial mine was in Benguet, in central Luzon, by the Benguet Mining Corporation.

In the year 1914, Surigao and parts of the Caraga Region were declared as an “Iron Reserved” area for future mining. By then, the mining industry in the Philippines was beginning to bloom and the US government took hold of whatever it could grasp, forming a Mining Bureau to regulate all potential operations in the future.

In 1921, there was a decline in large-scale mining, but many were making a living from small-scale gold mining. However, by 1933 and until 1941, gold became the dominant and most valuable mineral in the mining industry.

Under the tyranny of the Japanese, Filipinos were coerced to mine for metals in many regions of the Philippines, to be used for war weapons. This paved way for a more commercialized, exploited, and degenerated Philippines.

In the 1950’s, copper mining became successful, and was the baby of mining corporations. Large-scale copper mining reached its peak in the 1960’s and 1970’s. By the late 80’s, world demand for copper decreased because gold became of global interest again. A number of companies mining for gold in that period were forced to close operations because of law violations, resulting in a slight downturn for the industry.

Under the WTO and the IMF-WB, the neo-colonized Philippines were again coerced to adjust its economic policies to adhere to neo-liberal policies. By 1994, pro-development politicians, such as Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, lobbied a mining bill which would later become the Republic Act 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (This law basically puts power over land, resources, and life forms to corporations. Combined with the Regalian doctrine, a law which practically gives the government the right to own and do whatever they wish in public lands, many areas became mining hot spots).

By 1996, the Philippine’s mining industry allowed offshore companies to operate fully in the reserved areas, which created disaster in a number of places in the Philippines. In March of 1996, it was estimated that 1.6 million cubic meters of mine tailings flowed from the mine pit to the Makulapnit and Boac rivers, trapping 4,400 people in 20 villages. That incident destroyed the Boac River, as well as the downstream communities and coastal areas. Another tragedy that happened in 1998 was the Malangas Coal Corporation case in Zamboanga Del Sur,Mindanao, where an explosion occurred in the mine site, killing almost a hundred workers and injuring 35 people. In 2004, another disaster happened in Surigao Del Norte, Mindanao. That time, it was from one of the largest and longstanding mining corporations in the Philippines (the Manila Mining Corporation(MMC). Five million cubic meters of waste materials containing high levels of mercury damaged local people’s agricultural lands and temporarily poisoned the adjacent Placer Bay.

Today, hundreds of mining applications are pending to prey on the resources of the Philippines, and there are 20 major large scale mining op
erations, 10 medium scale mining operations, and more than 2,000 non-metallic small scale mining operations in existence.

To learn more about how you can help, check http.undangonangmina.alphabetthreat.co.uk and kinaiyahanunahon.alphabetthreat.co.uk

Back to Black Mesa – Native Americans vs. big coal

Herding the Begay family’s 42 sheep and goats on the high desert plateau of northeast Arizona is how I spent the holiday called Thanksgiving by U.S. commercial culture. Hostein and Mazie and their children Etta and Tom are a Dine (Navajo) family who have been resisting eviction and cultural genocide by the U. S. government for over 35 years. For me, and 120 other volunteers in the 2010 Black Mesa Caravan, supporting indigenious resistance was our Thanksgiving. Organized by Black Mesa Indigenous Support, the yearly pilgrimage brings food, firewood, building supplies and tools along with an enthusiastic labor force to about 35 of the Dine families resisting forced relocation from their homelands on Black Mesa (usually called Big Mountain).

I have been to Big Mountain five or six times since my first visit in 1998. On that visit with my friend Paul Bloom I thought there was the possibility of pressuring the U.S. government into easing its brutally unjust treatment of the Dine resisters. Our call was “Repeal Public Law 93-531” the 1974 law that divided the land area previously shared peacefully by the Hopi and Navajo, and resulted in over 12,000 Navajo being forced from their homesteads. Over the ensuing years I have seen Senator John McCain, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Peabody (Western) Coal, and both the Navajo and Hopi Tribal Councils bring more and harder disruption, suffering, and death to these Dine elders and their families. Big Mountain land and water was stolen from the Dine to extract its rich coal reserves. This time my sole intention was to help a resister family with its daily chores for a week. Such a change in my expectations was a painful reminder of the powerful and relentless greed of multinational corporations like Lehman Brothers and Peabody Coal and a corrupt Mormon lawyer named John Sterling Boyden.

I know how hard life at Big Mountain is. When I tried to do sheep herding in 2000 I couldn’t keep up with the herd and depended on the dogs to get them home. Now, 68 years old, I needed to be reassured by the Caravan organizers that I wasn’t too old. They did, and I proudly rose to the occasion. On Tuesday and Friday my co-herder Terri Compost and I kept the herd out the full seven hours. True, I would kneel or lie down for a minute or two whenever the herd slowed for a fill up on juniper berries or young sage. And a good thing that I still had a little gas in my tank because once we had the herd in the coral around three o’clock we would then split fire wood until dark. As I ate dinner, usually by candlelight, I remembered the peaceful exhaustion of having done a full day’s meaningful labor.

In spite of the drain on my body of keeping up with the sheep and goats, the beauty of the high desert panorama that unfolded before us at Big Mountain filled me with a giddy kind of joy. It is not lush or lavishly colorful in the usual sense, but a rolling carpet of sand dotted with light green sage and darker juniper trees that is open and accessible to the human form. Yet its overwhelming vastness can easily swallow one up. For that reason volunteers were assigned to herding in groups of two or four so that herders would always be paired. We were also advised not to rely on landmarks for finding our way but to follow the tracks of the herd to get back home.

Nevertheless, one of the volunteers did get separated from her partner and spent two bone chilling nights stranded on a ridge. With a cell phone with a dead battery and lighters out of butane this woman was lucky to be found with only slight frostbite on the tips of her toes. She wisely conserved the food she had until she was found. Her rescue happened because one of the Dine trackers defied the Hopi rangers’ insistence that only they would be conducting the search and continued his search. It was while this tracker was tracking the lost woman that a hawk flew over and spooked his horse who, we are told, then ran straight to the ridge where the lost woman was. The community which had mobilized an effective search was very relieved and had learned important ways to help herders get home safely.

News from the Land

In addition to working at our host families’ homesteads, on the Saturdays beginning and ending our stay at Big Mountain we had large group meetings where the leaders of the resistance, a.k.a. the Grandmas, spoke about their struggle. We heard about Hopi rangers confiscating the Grandmas’ sheep and destroying traditional Dine hogans as has been going on since the late 1980’s. Even in the week we were there we grew more familiar with what it is to live under police occupation. While our comrade was lost the Hopi rangers, as mentioned above, attempted to curtail the Dine from searching for one of their lost supporters, claiming they would do it by helicopter (which never happened). The Hopi police also came onto the Caravan’s base camp at Katherine Smith’s homestead where we had our large meetings. As an occupying force will do in order to monitor and control resistance to its occupation, the Hopi demanded that Grandma Smith get a permit for the gathering. Thank you Hopi Tribal Council for being such a willing pawn of U.S./Corporate cultural genocide.

Of the new developments in this decades-old land struggle, those involving their own Navajo Tribal Council were of greatest concern to the Grandmas. Most often mentioned was an agreement between Ben Shirley, the new president of the Navajo Tribal Council, and LeRoy Shingoitewa,the chairman of the Hopi Tribal Council, pledging to “clean up” the land dispute issue. Since the Navajo Tribal council has never offered anything but hollow lip service to the traditional Grandmas it was believed that such an agreement could only mean greater pressure on the resisters to force them off their land.

Water is always an important issue, especially in the desert. For years the Navajo tribal government has profited from the sale of water, essential to the livelihood of the people on Big Mountain, to Peabody Western Coal Company. That water from a pristine aquifer was used to slurry coal 273 miles to Laughlin Nevada. Finally, in 2005, due to a Clean Air Act suit, the Mojave coal power plant in Laughlin was closed (only because its pollution was hampering tourism at the Grand Canyon). Long time dry water wells around Big Mountain and Tuba City began to recover.

As important a victory that the closing of the Mojave Generating Station was, the Grandmas never underestimate the destructive greed of Peabody Coal Company (now Peabody Energy since coal became a dirty word). However for these traditional Dine, as stewards of the land, their own tribal “leaders” are often as serious a threat. Many of the elders were angered by the recently signed Northeastern Arizona Water Settlement in which the Navajo Nation agreed to take only a minuscule portion of the water from the Little Colorado river to which they are entitled. Such betrayal by their “leaders” must be hard to bear. As a supporter it enrages me.

For what could enrage one more than the First Peoples of this land, who live without plumbing or electricity, to be forced from their land and ways so that their coal can be turned to electricity for the air conditioners of Phoenix, the light spectacles of Las Vegas, and the street lights of Los Angeles.

There will be yearly caravans to Big Mountain. If you would like to be part of this struggle check out www.blackmesais.org or contact bayareacaravan@gmail.com. For a full history of the theft of Dine land see “The Wind Won’t Know My Name” by Emily Benedek.

Put some mojo in your dojo

Suigetsukan dojo in Oakland, California has long been popular in Bay Area progressive communities because of its balance of intensity and inclusion, tolerance of diverse life-styles, and sliding scale tuition. Compared to other places I’ve had the opportunity to train in North America, I’ve felt a supportive yet rigorous climate, one without machismo, mystification or mindgames. Suigetsukan hosts the Girl Army, a Women and Transgender Self-Defense program that integrates an anti-oppression analysis.

I was intrigued to hear of youth Jujitsu classes starting up at Suigetsukan, and surprised that word hadn’t gotten around in the community. In life’s tempest I had wandered to the Midwest for some years and come back to find a lot of my friends turned into ‘rents. And how were they showing their kids how to hold their own in Oakland? Didn’t they remember that cool dojo where squatters met nuclear engineers at swordpoint?

An Ancient Tradition

Jujitsu is derived from the grappling arts of the Samurai–techniques taught to defend themselves were they to lose their weapons on a battlefield. From these roots have evolved a wide variety of fighting techniques, including Judo, Aikido, and Brazilian Jujitsu. The style taught at Suigetsukan is Danzan Ryu, developed by Henry Okazaki after he immigrated to Hawaii from Japan. He was one of the first teachers of women and non-Japanese.

A little cross-culture reality-check: As Asian martial arts became popular in the West, an image emerged of a peaceful warrior. This icon not only hoped to use force only when necessary in an ideal sense, but also had the calm spirit to not rush to fearful conclusions, and the presence of mind to see non-violent alternatives.

Is this because Eastern culture is thoroughly infused with a mellow mysticism? Actually, the Japanese arranged their harsh, pragmatic arts as sport and personal development because the American occupiers frowned on anything resembling military activity. Before that, in the rush for Japanese military modernity in the late 1800s, practitioners of traditional warfare sought to preserve their craft as an idealized cultural heritage.

Meanwhile in China, according to legend when the Manchurians demanded the secrets of Tai Chi from their Chinese subjects under penalty of death, they were granted a watered-down recreational version. The emperors were happy. Yet in all the great traditions of the soul, from Bodhidharma to P.T. Barnum, showmanship and hype can be vehicles for the profound truths of life.

The Youth Program

All these ideals translate well into a youth program. Suigetsukan youth classes offer a safe environment for girls and boys to learn Jujitsu. Through a blend of games, drills and traditional forms training, students get to have fun while gaining all the well-known benefits of an early martial arts training such as improved self-esteem, confidence, focus and healthier bodies.

Sensei Gina Rossi is the lead youth instructor. She’s been studying martial arts for 19 years, and is a fourth degree black belt in Danzan Ryu Jujitsu and a third degree black belt in Aikido. She also teaches after school youth classes at Urban Promise Academy in Oakland and adult Jujitsu, Aikido and Battodo classes at Suigetsukan Dojo.

Usually I find martial arts classes hard to watch, something geared for a bodily participant rather than distant eyes. But this kids class fascinates. The children have silly natures. Gina must guide them to mastery without thwarting their true natures; it is a Ju-Jitsu of the spirit. “Have fun with this, but be serious,” she says. She must draw the line sometimes: “Try not to be silly.” This class could be the beginning of a life-long journey; it is more than social occasion. “Focus on yourself.”

Q: How did you [Gina] decide to coordinate the youth program? Was the program your idea?

Yes, the program was my idea. I had been teaching youth at a middle school after school program for a year and I decided to start the program at the dojo. I think having a youth program is an important part of a martial arts school.

Q: How are parents involved?

The parents are involved to varying degrees. One parent, Gopal Dayaneni, is also one of the instructors. He is a green belt at the dojo and teaches with me every Thursday. Some parents watch class and help out at events. Other parents just drop their kids off and come back when class is over.

Q: I see your “not-too-tight, not-too-loose” approach. How has practice shaped your original theory/ideas?

I started off not wanting to be authoritarian and wanting the kids to have fun but found that if I don’t have clear boundaries and structure then it isn’t as fun and we don’t get to do as much martial arts. So, I try to find a balance between serious training and time to be silly and I try to be transparent about it so the youth know what to expect.

Q: Suigetsukan’s been around for 20 years. Besides using the mat, how does the kid’s class build on that?

I think the youth program brings a lot to the dojo. It makes the dojo intergenerational. It is easier to integrate martial arts techniques at an early age. Many of the great martial artists started as kids (for example, our own Mike Esmailzadeh Sensei and Jonathan Largent Sensei). To learn more, see suigetsukan.org/youth-classes/.