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Roswell ‘Chicken Man’ blows up house, himself to avoid eviction

Roswell ‘Chicken Man’ blows up house, himself to avoid eviction | News

Jonathan Copsey

ROSWELL, Ga. – Rather than be evicted, Roswell’s “Chicken Man” Andrew Wordes took extreme measures March 26 when he blew up his own house with himself inside.

Witnesses said at about 12:45 p.m., Fulton County Marshals came to the Alpine Drive home to evict Wordes. Wordes allegedly told everyone to get back before an explosion rocked the home.

Witness Lee Hollingsworth said at about 1 p.m., he heard an explosion within the home that blew the roof “a foot into the air and all the windows blew out.”

“It was very scary,” said another witness, Maggie Bean. “Andrew asked if everyone was away from the house and then said something to the effect of ‘it ain’t going to be pretty.’”

Bean said she saw a large puff of smoke come from the garage before flames erupted, engulfing the front of the home.

Fire crews arrived at the home within five minutes of the initial 911 call, which was made by one of the marshals, said Roswell Fire Chief Ricky Spencer, however firefighters did not try and enter the home.

“We did not attempt to go into the house immediately, because the fire was underway,” Spencer said. “About 75 percent of the house was in flames.”

In total, Spencer said it took 21 firefighters with four engines 30 minutes to extinguish the flames.

Police Chief Dwayne Orrick said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms sent agents to the scene to search for possible explosives; however he said none were found. Reports of a second device were unfounded, Spencer said.

Roswell Police Spokesman Lt. James McGee said fire crews extinguished the fire by about 2 p.m. and had found a body. They are not willing to identify it yet. The body was taken to the Fulton County Coroner.

Wordes, an outspoken gun and property rights advocate, first gained notoriety in 2009 fighting city ordinances that would not allow him to continue raising chickens, turkeys and other fowl on his property. Represented by former Gov. Roy Barnes, Wordes – since dubbed the “Chicken Man” – won the right to keep his more than 100 birds.

A subsequent city ordinance to limit Wordes’ fowl was thrown out by Roswell Judge Maurice Hilliard when the judge ruled he was grandfathered in. But then Wordes began to run into troubles on other fronts. He was stopped by police coming home from a Roswell City Council meeting in December 2009 for a traffic violation and driving on a suspended license.

In 2010, he was cited for a nuisance by city code enforcement for having seven or eight inoperable automobiles on his property, apparently with the intent to repair them and sell them. Then, Wordes violated sediment and erosion ordinances when he did some grading on the property that city authorities said damaged a nearby stream.

Wordes pleaded guilty, had the cars removed and the property repaired. As part of a plea agreement, Wordes agreed to a one-year probation. He was fined $2,000, but was allowed to do 180 hours of community service instead.

Wordes had long maintained he was the subject of a vendetta by the city. When his violations caused liens to be placed against his property, the city notified the holder of his mortgage. That mortgage was sold and the new holder filed for foreclosure of the property.

In July, Wordes found most of his birds had been poisoned. At least 60 animals died from the mystery ailment.

At court Aug. 10, 2011, Hilliard found Wordes in violation of his probation agreement and sentenced Wordes to three months in jail. When he was released, he found his home vandalized and burgled, and accused the city of not protecting it better. Missing were several weapons.

The trail of legal problems culminated Monday when Wordes was to be forcibly evicted from his home.

“I feel sorry for the guy,” Bean said. “It’s just a sad situation.”

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John Dee the Bohemian in Prague

John Dee languishes in Bohemia

The adviser to Queen Elizabeth I saw his fortunes decline in Prague

The scholarly John Dee will likely always be remembered for getting caught up with Edward Kelley, a somewhat shady character who came to an ill end in the north Bohemian city of Most. How much Dee himself was an unwitting dupe and how much he was a willing accomplice in Kelley’s schemes is a still a matter of debate.

Dee, though, was at one time a respected adviser to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth I. He is said to have coined the phrase and indeed championed the idea of a “British Empire”, and he had an unrivaled collection of maps and charts. His knowledge of astronomical navigation and optics helped make it happen. He also became the backbone of Queen Elizabeth’s secret service and signed his letters with the code 007. Dee is even credited with introducing the public to basic mathematical symbols.

He studied everything, including animatronics — making a clockwork flying insect for a stage production that was so realistic it was considered the work of the devil.


He didn’t reject the criticism, indeed he was as interested in the occult arts as he was with other sciences. If he had stuck to the mundane, he would now be remembered as an architect of the modern era. Instead, he is scorned as a brilliant man who wandered too far down the wrong path.

Once he consumed all of the knowledge there was to know, sleeping only four hours a day and studying the rest of the time, he became increasingly obsessed with the unknown and wanted to talk to angels so he could come into touch with divine wisdom. This led to him being written out of mainstream history and remembered mainly by occult afficionados for his work with crystal balls and magic mirrors of volcanic glass.

This is also what led him into contact with the convicted coin forger Edward Kelley, and eventually brought him to Prague to the court of Rudolf II.


Dee met Kelley in England in 1582, when Dee was unsuccessfully trying to contact spirits with a crystal ball. Kelley claimed he could contact spirits, and the lives of the two became tied together after that. A year later, Kelley claimed to have found a rare manuscript, The Book of Dunstan, and some red powder and white powder or liquid for making base metal into gold.

Their séances, where Kelley heard angels speak in their natural “Enochian” language and Dee translated, eventually led the pair to Poland and then Bohemia. At that time, Rudolf II was emperor and Prague was the must-be place for anyone dabbling in the occult arts. Dee, however, was a bit of a second fiddle as Kelley was clearly calling the shots. Dee’s close connections with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth also made him suspect.

Rudolf II and King Stefan Batory of Poland both were reportedly wary that Dee was using his alleged communication with angels as a way of tricking the monarchs into accepting British or Protestant influence. Stefan Batory in particular was concerned that everything be in line with the teachings of Rome. Britain, of course, had become Protestant very recently, and was growing in world influence. This put other rulers a bit on edge when it came to accepting advice from British advisers.

Dee even told Rudolf he only spoke to good spirits, and was learning from them what no book could tell anyone. He said that if he was listened to, he could create divine visions and apparitions in every church, and return religion to its glory days of miracles and wonder. Among other things, Dee advocated fasting and breathing exercises, combined with reciting ritual formulas during sex to create an ecstatic state. Rudolf, who was more inclined to feasting than fasting, was not convinced that any of this was a good idea. The ritual ideas Dee put forward were similar to those being used in some secret esoteric sects of the time, but they were clearly not welcome in Rudolf’s more mainstream approach to alchemy.

Dee tried his luck in Saxony for a while, seeing that he was not entirely welcome in Prague. He also sought work and favor in Bohemia from Vilém of Rožmberk (Wilhelm von Rosenberg) when he saw that Rudolf II was not overly receptive. The Rožmberk family was also heavily interested in the occult arts.


Dee was known throughout his life for being secretive, and he kept notes in code. He also sent coded messages back to England, and none of this inspired confidence from potential sponsors.

In 1586, Dee and Kelley used the latter’s red powder in Prague to turn mercury into gold in front of Rudolf II, or convincingly told the Emperor that they had done so. This cemented Kelley’s role in the Bohemian court, but since Dee claimed not to know the secret he became a third wheel in the Kelley–Rudolf relationship.

Dee’s life hit its all-time low in Bohemia when Kelley claimed that an angel named Madimi had told him that the two should share everything, even their wives. Dee was obviously reluctant but gave into pressure on May 22, 1587. The event took place in Třeboň, which was one of the seats of the Rožmberk family.

Jane Dee was not too keen on the idea. Dee’s diary records that she “fell a weeping and trembling for a quarter of an hour” before agreeing to what Dee saw as God’s will expressed through the angels.

Nine months after the angelically suggested wife swapping, Jane Dee gave birth to a boy named Theodorus Trebonianus Dee, which Dee raised as his own.

Relations between Kelley and Dee were a bit strained after this, and the communication with angels reportedly stopped. Kelley received a startling final message relating to a great purge and the Book of Revelations, and then broke off talking with angels. Likely, this was an excuse because Kelley no longer needed Dee for anything.

Dee and his family left Bohemia in 1589, never to return.

John Dee was born July 12, 1527, in Tower Ward, London, to Rowland Dee, who was of Welsh descent, and Johanna Wild. The name Dee relates to the Welsh word du meaning black. Rowland Dee was a hanger-on in the court of Henry VIII. Dee claimed to be descended from Rhodri the Great, a ninth century king based in what is now Wales.

Dee studied at Cambridge, and was one of the original fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge. He studied at several schools on the Continent and lectured in Paris, counting mapmaker Gerardus Mercator among his acquaintances. He joined his father’s guild, the Worshipful Company of Mercers, in 1555.

His legal troubles also began that same year. Dee was accused of casting horoscopes concerning Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth. He also faced treason charges that were dropped. He appeared before the Star Chamber and also at a religious inquiry. He cleared his name, and turned his attentions to trying to establish a National Library. When that idea made no progress he turned his focus to his own library at Mortlake.


His fortunes changed when Elizabeth took the throne in 1558 and he became her adviser. He even used astrology to choose her coronation date. He grew increasingly involved in the occult, and in 1564, he wrote the Hermetic work Monas Hieroglyphica, which he dedicated to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, the father of Rudolf II. The book introduced a new glyph that Dee used to explain the mystical unity of all creation. Dee hoped to present the book in person to Maximilian, but was not successful.

He married Jane Fromond in 1578. She had been a lady in waiting in the entourage of Elizabeth Clinton, Countess of Lincoln, at the court of Queen Elizabeth. She was 23 and Dee was 51, and her court connections reportedly helped Dee advance his flagging career. Jane also assisted him in some of his research.

A series of setbacks — his failure to gain patronage in foreign courts, his failure in Britain to get calendar reforms, lack of support for his plans to explore and colonize North America, in particular Canada — all pushed Dee further into the occult and his new pastime, screeing, or crystal gazing.


This led him to Edward Kelley and his Polish and Bohemian adventures.

Jane Dee was suspicious of Kelley from the start, and sympathized with Kelley’s wife, Joanna, whom Jane thought was mistreated.

After leaving Bohemia, John Dee saw his fortunes fall. He found his home vandalized, his library with many of his books and instruments destroyed or stolen. Support for magic and the occult had waned. Queen Elizabeth wanted Dee to urge Kelley to return so the two of them could use heavenly advice to boost the economy, but it was not to be, and Kelley would die in Bohemia under house arrest.

In 1595, Dee was appointed by the queen to be warden of Christ’s College in Manchester, to give him some official standing and income. He was not happy at the post and felt his staff disrespected and cheated him.

When James I took over the throne in 1603, he did did not share his predecessor’s love of the occult and gave Dee no support.

In 1605, Jane died of the bubonic plague in Manchester and was buried at Manchester Cathedral. The same year, John Dee left Manchester for London, and later his home in Mortlake. Dee spent his final years in poverty at Mortlake, selling his possessions to support himself and his daughter, Katherine. He died in Mortlake in late 1608 or early 1609 at the age of 82. A memorial plaque to Dee was placed on the south wall of the present church, St Mary the Virgin Mortlake, in 2013.

John Dee and his library, as well as his promotion of seafaring, made him the inspiration for Prospero in William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, which was written in 1610–11, some two to three years after Dee’s death. There has been some speculation that Dee had a relationship with Shakespeare as an adviser and patron, but there is very little in the way of solid evidence to support the idea.

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Advocates putting Homeless in Corrections in California

Homeless, Mentally Ill and Addicted: The Downward Spiral

By Stephen Bitsoli | February 8, 2018

Several states are in the midst of hepatitis A virus outbreaks. San Diego and the surrounding region are among the hardest hit, but southeast Michigan has more reported cases and more deaths. Utah, Colorado and Kentucky also have experienced outbreaks.

California had 683 cases as of Jan. 23, with 21 deaths. Michigan recorded 715 cases as of Jan. 24, with 24 deaths. Colorado has had 62 cases, and one reported death.

Understanding these outbreaks requires acknowledging the links between homelessness, addiction and mental illness—and it requires more than a single solution.

Hepatitis A is typically a disease spread by human contact with already-infected individuals or pieces of their stool that are too small to see. High-risk groups include the homeless, the incarcerated (and those released from prison) and drug users—all groups that have some overlap. The homeless and the incarcerated also suffer from mental illness and are drug users, a condition known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders, and the deficiencies of health care in many prison facilities make incarceration a key risk factor.

According to a 2009 National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) fact sheet, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that “20 to 25 percent of the homeless population in the United States suffers from some form of severe mental illness,” compared to only six percent of the population as a whole.

A one-year study of people with serious mental illnesses examined by California’s public mental health system found that 15 percent were homeless at least once in the previous 12 months.

In addition, the NCH fact sheet found that “some mentally ill people self-medicate using street drugs, which can lead not only to addictions, but also to disease transmission from injection drug use.”

The Los Angeles Times cites experts who say that 50 percent to 70 percent of homeless people with severe mental illness (SMI) also have problems with alcohol or drugs.

The likelihood of homelessness also is increased when you have a mental illness, an addiction disorder and a disease such as hepatitis A. None of these conditions is going to go away if you are homeless and have no access to health, substance abuse or mental illness services.

If only one of the three gets treatment, the other two remain, and the third may return because they are all connected.

In 2016, Kevin Fischer, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Michigan, suggested on Michigan Public Radio that closing all the state mental hospitals in the 1990s by then-Gov. John Engler resulted in an “explosion in homelessness.”

The mentally ill were supposed to be sent home, but many ended up on the streets because the private mental health system and the patients’ families were not prepared to handle them.

Joel John Roberts, CEO of People Assisting The Homeless (PATH) Partners, says many people in the mental health field put the blame on Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, who they say released more than 50 percent of the state’s mental hospital patients and abolished involuntary hospitalization of people with mental illness.

“This started a national trend of de-institutionalization,” Roberts wrote.

Then, as president, Reagan ended funding for federal community mental health centers. No one expected the mentally ill to wander the streets. The feds thought the states would take care of them. The states thought private insurance or family would take care of them.

Somewhere, somehow, they were wrong.

To get these outbreaks under control, and to prevent future outbreaks, we need more support for mental health and substance abuse treatment, and better harm reduction strategies (including clean needle exchanges and safe injection sites).

Some of that funding could come from Medicaid if the Trump administration eliminates the Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) Exclusion, which prohibits Medicaid funds going to mental health providers with more than 16 beds. There’s bipartisan agreement that this rule, which dates back to 1965, needs to go. The executive branch can, has, and does issue exemptions for this rule, and Trump has pledged to speed up the process.

But virtually no one thinks the rule needs to remain.

More than money is needed. Sometimes only one co-occurring disorder is apparent. First responders need to be trained to look for and recognize both.

In 2017, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) & Michigan Association of CMH Boards wrote, “Supports and services for persons with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders must be the norm for all agencies across the network.”

The department added this was because “it is more prevalent than addiction-only or mental illness-only among the people served by MDHHS providers. Practitioners in every program at all levels of care must be competent to address comorbidity in mental health and substance abuse treatment.”

Effective treatment, according to the NAMI, requires not only that both be treated—but preferably at the same time. It’s called integrated intervention, and often involves detoxification, inpatient rehabilitation with psychotherapy, supportive housing, maybe medications (either to treat mental illness symptoms or to control addiction) and self-help/support groups.

The Michigan House of Representatives’ bipartisan House C.A.R.E.S. (Community, Access, Resources, Education, and Safety) Task Force’s final report recommended that crisis intervention training (CIT) for first responders should include “information on signs and symptoms of mental illnesses” and “co-occurring substance use disorders.”

It also recommended that trial and pre-trial practices “should assess defendants to determine whether the person has a serious mental illness, co-occurring substance use disorder” and so benefit from “mental health services.” Better and more consistent efforts must be made to screen for mental illness and co-occurring substance disorders during the booking process, the task force said.

But that’s if the individual ends up in the mental health or criminal justice system. There are harm reduction practices that can save lives even if the person with mental health and substance-use disorder remains out of the system.

One is providing maintenance drugs (medication-assisted treatment or MAT) such as buprenorphine (brand name Suboxone, also available as an implant, Probuphine, that only needs to be replaced every 90 days) or methadone to addicts to prevent withdrawal, and there are drugs for mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and psychosis.

Another—although hep A isn’t as likely to be spread this way—is providing intravenous drug users with a safe injection space. These spaces are also known as safe consumption sites, fix rooms, drug consumption room (DCR), supervised injecting facilities, and shooting galleries. But they share the following characteristics: a clean facility, with clean needles, the availability of testing supplies to make sure the drug is unadulterated, and a nurse to administer naloxone in case of an overdose.

They not only save lives—no deaths have been reported at any such site around the world, including Canada and Australia—they also save money.

Editor’s Note: San Francisco is set to become the first in the U.S. to introduce safe injection spaces, with two sites scheduled to open in July.

A recent study estimated that such strategies could save an average US city $3.5 million per year and that some could save more (Baltimore: $6 million). The American Medical Association likes the idea, as do the Clinton Foundation and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Some in the anti-drug camp oppose harm reduction in particular, and substance abuse treatment in general. They prefer incarceration to rehab. Their position on the mentally ill is less clear, but maybe they feel that, too, is the result of a poor personal choice.

Stephen Bitsoli

Maybe paying for these sinners to go to dual diagnosis treatment centers seems like rewarding bad behavior. The result: we have a homeless problem, an opioid epidemic, and hepatitis A outbreaks,

Punishment isn’t working, and science and public opinion now believe addiction is like a disease. It’s time to look for compassionate, evidence-based solutions.

Stephen Bitsoli, a Michigan-based freelancer, writes about addiction, politics and related matters for several blogs. He welcomes readers’ comments.

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Alexander Ocasio-Cortez

This is the summer in which the Presidency of Donald Trump has begun to cohere. Disdain for voting rights, for women’s rights, for the protection of the environment, and for our alliances abroad is becoming American policy. There is nothing Trump will not do or say to flaunt his primacy. Not long ago, at a tense G-7 gathering in Quebec, he reportedly tossed a couple of Starburst candies at the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, and told her, “Don’t say I never give you anything.” By then, Merkel and the other Western allies had grown accustomed to the President’s contempt and his preference for autocrats, and so the moment passed as unremarkable, another paragraph in the story of the Trump era.

There are many ways to wallow in the everyday devolution. Prolonged viewing of MSNBC is a highly rated option. There are even various means of escape to recommend. The Yankees are awfully exciting this year, and Season 2 of “Glow” is strong. In the meantime, where can the outraged and the dispirited turn for a glimmer of hope?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is twenty-eight. She was born in the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx and lives there now, in a modest one-bedroom apartment. Parkchester was originally a planned community conceived by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and was for decades segregated, predominantly Irish and Italian. Today, it’s largely African-American, Hispanic, and South Asian. Ocasio-Cortez comes from a Puerto Rican family in which the parents’ self-sacrifice has been rewarded by their daughter’s earnest striving, and, now, a historic achievement. Come November, Ocasio-Cortez is almost certain to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. As recently as ten months ago, she was waiting tables at a taco place near Union Square called Flats Fix. On June 26th, she pulled off a political upset in the Democratic primary for the Fourteenth Congressional District, soundly defeating the incumbent, Joseph Crowley, the most powerful politician in Queens County and the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives.

In the general election this fall, Ocasio-Cortez will face Anthony Pappas, a professor at the Peter J. Tobin College of Business. Pappas’s platform appears to center on tax cuts and an obsession with the legal ramifications of his unpleasant divorce, many years ago. It is unlikely that those concerns will be widely shared by voters of the Fourteenth District, which takes in parts of the eastern Bronx and northwest Queens and votes almost uniformly Democratic. (In an oddity of New York election laws, Crowley, who was also the Working Families Party candidate, will remain on that party’s line in November, but his spokesperson said that “this is a total non-thing,” emphasizing that Crowley is a Democrat, endorses Ocasio-Cortez, and “is totally supporting her. She is going to be a member of Congress.”) Ocasio-Cortez has natural presence. She is also well mannered, disciplined, shrewd, and self-possessed. When I asked her if Pappas has a chance, she smiled but would not bite.

Ocasio-Cortez lives around the corner from her favorite restaurant, Taqueria Tlaxcalli, on Starling Avenue. We met there for dinner on a steambath Sunday night just after her victory. The surrounding commercial area is among the most eclectic in the borough: it includes a sari emporium, the Al-Aqsa Restaurant, Bangla Bazaar, the Chang Li Supermarket, halal grocery stores, Iglesia Bautista Fundamental del Bronx, Crown Fried Chicken, the Asian Driving School, and Jerry’s Pizzeria.

When Ocasio-Cortez arrived, the owner greeted her as a local celebrity. In an instant, people crowded around. She is quick to shake hands, hug, hold a constituent’s shoulder. When kids come near, she kneels and talks on their level. Everyone wanted to tell her their reaction to her win, their shock and delight. “Thank you so much!” she told one after the other. These kinds of encounters were happening to her everywhere she went. At a pizza parlor in Grand Central, her waiter nearly swooned. Since the primary, she’s been fielding calls of congratulation “from everyone you can name,” including her ideological lodestar, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, who, she said, “seemed to come from a mentoring place.”

We sat down at a table near the window. She allowed that she was getting worn down. “You’re speaking to me when I am still emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and logistically processing all of this,” she said. “The whole thing’s got me knocked a little flat.”

With good reason. Not long ago, Ocasio-Cortez was mixing margaritas. Today, she is the embodiment of anti-corporate politics and a surge of female candidates in the midterm elections. “It’s a lot to carry,” she said. As a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, she was on the receiving end of Murdoch-media hysteria. The Post greeted her win with the headline “RED ALERT.” Sean Hannity pronounced her “downright scary.” And Ben Shapiro called her a member of the “howling at the moon” segment of the Democratic Party. On the anti-Trump right, Bret Stephens wrote in the Times that “Hugo Chávez was also a democratic socialist,” and warned that, in a national election, the likes of Ocasio-Cortez will be “political hemlock for the Democratic Party.” None of it seemed exactly real. When I asked her where she was going to live in D.C., her eyes widened in surprise, as if it had not occurred to her that she would no longer be spending most of her time in the Bronx. “Not a clue,” she said.

Ocasio-Cortez was born in the neighborhood, but, as she puts it, she “grew up between two worlds.” Before she started school, her father, an architect who was born poor in the South Bronx, and her mother, who was born poor in Puerto Rico, decided that the public education around Parkchester wasn’t good enough. They wanted Alexandria to get a leg up, and so, with help from relatives, they scraped together enough money for a down payment on a small two-bedroom house in Yorktown Heights, a prosperous suburb in Westchester County. By the time she entered Yorktown High School, Alexandria had become a driven student. She was aware of being an anomaly—the Puerto Rican kid from a hard-up family in a nearly all-white school—but, she says now, “I don’t think I had that class consciousness as a child.” She was intent on becoming an obstetrician-gynecologist.

Not all of Ocasio-Cortez’s teachers at Yorktown High were encouraging. One told her that the Times was too hard for her to absorb; another said that the Intel science fair was beyond her grasp. In fact, she read the Times daily and won second prize at the Intel fair, with a project on the anti-aging effect of antioxidants in roundworms. Back in the Bronx, some in her family struggled, particularly her cousins. “Their stories are not really mine to tell,” she said, “but growing up they were wearing T-shirts with pictures of their friends who had died—and that’s just scraping the surface.” The extended family in New York ranges across the experience of city life: some are police officers, “and the other half have gotten stopped and frisked.”

When Ocasio-Cortez was seventeen, she put together enough loans and scholarship money to go to Boston University. In the first week of her sophomore year, she got a call from home: her father was dying of lung cancer. His death was “destabilizing in every way,” she said. “My mother was done. My brother was lost. I took it hard, too, but I channelled it into my studies. That’s how I dealt with it. I was home for a week and went right back to school. The last thing my father had told me in the hospital was ‘Make me proud.’ I took it very literally. My G.P.A. skyrocketed.” She changed majors, from biochemistry to economics and international relations, and worked part time in Senator Edward Kennedy’s Boston office, dealing with constituent concerns, including immigrant issues.

What really shaped her politically, though, was coming home: “The crucible was the aftermath—moving back to the Bronx.” With her father gone, her mother had taken jobs cleaning houses and driving a school bus. The family went into debt and the house was on the verge of foreclosure. The experience, she said, was humiliating, paralyzing. Ocasio-Cortez put her career ambitions on hold. Her long days as a waitress and bartender, dealing with sexual harassment (“people touch you, they tell you things”)—the experience was hard, but it was formative. The family eventually sold the house, and Ocasio-Cortez’s mother, in order to save money, moved to Florida, where she now works as a secretary.
“Luke, use the Force, or crush up the Adderall Chewbacca gave you and snort it—your call.”

Just out of high school, Ocasio-Cortez had done some volunteer work as a phone-bank caller for the Obama campaign in 2008, but she devoted much more time to the Sanders campaign in 2016. She helped find a site for a Bronx campaign headquarters, in an old nail salon, and started knocking on doors. She met activists from all over the city: community organizers, Black Lives Matter leaders, members of various unions, environmentalists, feminists, L.G.B.T.Q. campaigners, democratic socialists. After Sanders failed to overtake Clinton, some of his staff started an organization, called Brand New Congress, with the aim of recruiting candidates in the Bernie mold to run for the House and the Senate. For the B.N.C. activists, Sanders had shown that a non-corporate, “small dollar” campaign based on a left-wing agenda could win, and not only in traditionally left-leaning districts.

At first, B.N.C. wanted to field candidates for every congressional seat. One of the group’s founders, a Harvard graduate and former Silicon Valley techie named Saikat Chakrabarti, went on “The Rachel Maddow Show” to launch the effort. Soon, applications flooded the B.N.C. Web site, eleven thousand in all. One of them came in the fall of 2016 from Gabriel Ocasio-Cortez. He was writing on behalf of his older sister. Alexandria smiled and recalled that her brother had asked her if he could send in the form and, on a lark, she said O.K. “But I was also working in a restaurant!” she said. “I mean, it’s one of these things where it was, like, ‘Eff it. Sure. Whatever.’ ”

In late December, 2016, Isra Allison, one of B.N.C.’s lead organizers, called Ocasio-Cortez just as she was leaving an anti-pipeline demonstration in Standing Rock, North Dakota. “She told me what B.N.C. was about,” Ocasio-Cortez recalled. “I was just, like, ‘O.K., I’m listening.’ By that time, they had policy plans, and Sanders was the political shorthand.” Ocasio-Cortez e-mailed Allison a video of a speech she had made at Boston University on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day and a description of her work as a waitress: “Having that small business experience opened my eyes to TONS of issues—from labor law, to immigration. . . .”

In her early conversations with Allison and others at B.N.C., Ocasio-Cortez was unnerved. “Where did I get off?” she said. “I mean, I’m going to tell people that I, as a waitress, should be their next congresswoman?”

In the weeks to come, by phone, by video chat, and in person, leaders of B.N.C. and another post-Bernie-2016 group, called Justice Democrats, gave Ocasio-Cortez media training and coached her on policy issues, Federal Election Commission filings, debate tactics, and social-media strategies. In a district where contested primaries were rare and turnout low, organization could win the day. In a year of campaigning, Ocasio-Cortez and her volunteers made a hundred and seventy thousand phone calls, knocked on a hundred and twenty thousand doors, and sent a hundred and twenty thousand text messages. A deft user of Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez posted a photograph of her disintegrated, waterlogged campaign shoes. “Respect the hustle,” she wrote. She worked tirelessly to attract volunteers and organizing groups from all over the city: the Bronx Progressives, the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, the 7 Train Coalition, Queens Neighborhoods United, Black Lives Matter, and, not least, the Democratic Socialists of America. These factors, her campaign manager, Virginia Ramos Rios, said, “suggested a clear path to victory.”

There was another factor. As the population of the city and the borders of the district changed, Crowley had become a demographic anachronism. The Fourteenth is now twenty-two per cent white and fifty per cent Hispanic. Ocasio-Cortez, though, did not merely invoke her affinity with the new face of the neighborhood. One of her most effective strokes was a two-minute-long video, the creation of Naomi Burton and Nick Hayes, D.S.A. activists from Detroit, who started Means of Production, a media-production company, and set out looking for working-class-oriented campaigns. They learned about Ocasio-Cortez on Facebook and sent her a direct message on Twitter. For less than ten thousand dollars, they produced a soulful social-media-ready film that showed the candidate in her apartment, on a subway platform, in a bodega, talking with a pregnant woman, to kids selling cupcakes. All the while, in voice-over, she speaks directly to the viewer:

Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office. I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family. . . . This race is about people versus money. We’ve got people, they’ve got money. It’s time we acknowledged that not all Democrats are the same. That a Democrat who takes corporate money, profits off foreclosure, doesn’t live here, doesn’t send his kids to our schools, doesn’t drink our water or breathe our air cannot possibly represent us. What the Bronx and Queens needs is Medicare for all, tuition-free public college, a federal jobs guarantee, and criminal-justice reform.

The video went viral. Something was afoot. And yet it was hard to think of Joe Crowley as a reactionary ogre. Crowley went to Queens College. His father was a cop, his mother was an immigrant; his cousin was a battalion chief in the Fire Department who was killed on 9/11 making rescue attempts at the World Trade Center. Crowley was, by the standards of New York City politics, a centrist Democrat, who had cast some votes that would haunt him—he voted to back the Iraq War and to repeal the 1933 Glass-Steagall measures to control the banks—but even Mother Jones credited him with being a “reliable progressive vote in Congress.”

Nevertheless, Ocasio-Cortez, who built her campaign on small donations, effectively cast Crowley as an establishmentarian beholden to big money and to “luxury real estate” interests. The era of the clubhouse machine bosses—like Meade Esposito, in Brooklyn, and Donald Manes, in Queens, men who, in the seventies and eighties, doled out patronage jobs, had friends in Albany and City Hall, kept close to the local clergy and the union heads, and handed out turkeys from the back of a truck—is long past. But Crowley was what remained of his boroughs’ political nexus. He still had the juice to put his allies on the bench and on the ballot. In a way, this was his inheritance. In 1984, his uncle Walter ran for Congress and lost to Tom Manton, a lawyer and an ex-cop. The defeat hurt, but in 1987 Manton tapped Joe Crowley to be an assemblyman, and, when Manton retired from Congress, he helped make sure that Crowley got his seat. In turn, Crowley accrued power in Congress in the time-honored way, by gaining seniority and securing support from bankers, real-estate interests, and unions.

Like some other Democrats, Crowley had lately started tacking left—he supported a “Medicare for all” bill, and demanded that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement be put “back on its leash”—but he did not take Ocasio-Cortez’s challenge seriously enough, at least not until it was too late. At first, she fooled him. “When we were collecting signatures for the petition to get on the ballot, we didn’t advertise that we were getting four or five times more than we needed,” she said. “We didn’t want to trigger his sense of urgency or his spend.”

Crowley, who had not faced a primary opponent in fourteen years, had grown complacent. He focussed almost solely on what one of his aides told me was “the universe of prime voters,” people who had made a habit of coming to the polls for off-year ballots. Meanwhile, Ocasio-Cortez was reaching new voters, young people and older residents who had generally stayed away. She was, in the parlance of her campaign, “widening the electorate”—if not by tens of thousands then by just enough. And Crowley kept stumbling. At what was meant to be their first debate, Crowley didn’t show; his spokesperson lamely blamed scheduling issues. Ocasio-Cortez debated an empty chair with the incumbent’s name on it. Even a few weeks before the election, however, Crowley was getting polling information that showed him leading by more than thirty points.

The next debate was scheduled for a television studio, at the hyper-local channel NY1. “Early in the day, I was losing my mind, I was so nervous,” Ocasio-Cortez recalled. “By the time I sat down, I thought he could see my heart leaping out of my chest.” At first, Crowley was indulgent toward Ocasio-Cortez, treating her like a daughter who had come back from college with a lot of wacky ideas she’d picked up in Political Theory 201. But, as she pressed him on one issue after another, Crowley assumed a sour expression. Who was this young woman to lecture him on where he lived and raised his kids? Finally, tired of the attack, Crowley said that he was willing to endorse Ocasio-Cortez, if she were to win the primary. Would she do likewise?

“Well, Representative Crowley, I represent not just my campaign but a movement,” she replied. “I would be happy to take that question to our movement for a vote.” This seemed to gall him. He accused her of being weak on gun control. Where did you get that? Ocasio-Cortez asked. From a Reddit forum, he said. One could sense every voter under forty giggling. A Reddit forum.

Eight days before the election, Crowley and Ocasio-Cortez were to have another debate, this time in Parkchester. There were rumors that Crowley might bag it again, but, when Ocasio-Cortez saw that he’d tweeted pictures of himself at a subway platform nearby, she figured that he was coming. He was not. Instead, he sent Annabel Palma, a Latina former city councilwoman. He paid for his absence with a blistering editorial in the Times: “A spokeswoman for Mr. Crowley said he had scheduling conflicts that wouldn’t allow him to attend the two debates, inevitably leading voters to wonder—what are we, chopped liver?” On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez noted that Crowley had sent as his surrogate “a woman with a slight resemblance to me.” The implication of a racist insult was lost on no one.

Ocasio-Cortez spent the last week of the campaign going door to door, hoofing it to the end. She and Crowley met at a forum in Jackson Heights, but by this time Crowley was on his heels, defending himself feebly against the Times editorial. On the Sunday before the election, she travelled to Tornillo, Texas, for a demonstration against the Trump immigration edicts that had separated thousands of migrant children from their families. She was photographed shouting through the fence her words of protest.

On Election Day, in a car on the way to the billiards hall where Ocasio-Cortez was going to watch the returns, some of her advisers were getting encouraging reports from polling places. Shut it down, she said. No more looking at phones, no more guessing: “Let’s see the vote.” That night, cameras captured her expression of shock as she watched the news: a thirteen-point landslide. She had no words. It was a moment of pure joy playing out live on television. Crowley gamely accepted the results and, with a pickup band behind him, took out his guitar and dedicated “Born to Run” to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. For a man in six kinds of pain, he sang a creditable version.

If the Murdoch press was predictably outraged, some establishment Democrats were wary, too. Nancy Pelosi dismissed the win as a local phenomenon. And, while her tone was curt and superior, her larger point was clear: in November, Democratic candidates, no matter what shade of blue, had to beat Republicans. Districts had to flip. At dinner, Ocasio-Cortez bristled at the establishment dismissals. She did not doubt that there were many factors in her win—her identity as a young woman, as a Latina, as a daughter of a working-class family—but she had also out-organized a party boss, hammered away at immigration and health-care issues, and brought out new voters. It was infuriating for her to listen to the condescension.

“I’m twenty-eight years old, and I was elected on this super-idealistic platform,” she said. “Folks may want to take that away from me, but I won. When you hear ‘She won just for demographic reasons,’ or low turnout, or that I won because of all the white ‘Bernie bros’ in Astoria—maybe that all helped. But I smoked this race. I didn’t edge anybody out. I dominated. And I am going to own that.” The more complicated question was how she was going to own her identity as a democratic socialist.

In 1988, Edward Kennedy attended a ceremony at the Roseland Ballroom, in New York, celebrating the life and work of Michael Harrington, a founder of the Democratic Socialists of America, the author of the best-selling book “The Other America: Poverty in the United States,” and a professor of political science at Queens College. The Kennedy family, in general, admired Harrington, no matter his ideological allegiances. In 1963, John Kennedy declared himself shaken by Dwight Macdonald’s long review in The New Yorker of Harrington’s study of poverty. Shortly before J.F.K. was killed, he told aides that he wanted to wage a battle against the slums, the hunger, and the inadequate medical care that he had read about. The fight was left to his successor. And, thanks largely to the Johnson Administration’s War on Poverty—to Medicaid, Medicare, and expanded Social Security benefits—the poverty rate dropped, from 22.4 per cent in 1959 to 11.1 per cent in 1973. At the Roseland ceremony, Ted Kennedy said, “I see Michael Harrington as delivering the Sermon on the Mount to America. . . . Among veterans in the War on Poverty, no one has been a more loyal ally when the night was darkest.”

Harrington, in exposing the harsher realities of American life, sought to push the Democratic Party left. “Put it this way,” he once said. “I’m a radical, but, as I tell my students at Queens, I try not to soapbox. I want to be on the left wing of the possible.”

“The left wing of the possible” reflects how Ocasio-Cortez practices politics. Her agenda is in line with the Sanders agenda: single-payer universal health care, equal rights for women and ethnic and sexual minorities, a fifteen-dollar minimum wage, guaranteed employment. “No person should be too poor to live” is her credo. She told me that in criminal-justice reform she is sympathetic to the abolitionist movement, which calls for the closing down of many prisons.

When Ocasio-Cortez is interviewed now, particularly by the establishment outlets, she is invariably asked about “the S-word,” socialism; sometimes the question is asked with a shiver of anxiety, as if she were suggesting that schoolchildren begin the day by singing the “Internationale” under a portrait of Enver Hoxha. When I asked her about her political heroes, though, there was no mention of anyone in the Marxist pantheon. She named Robert F. Kennedy. In college, reading his speeches—“that was my jam,” she said. R.F.K., at least in the last chapter of his life, his 1968 Presidential campaign, tried to forge a party coalition of workers, minorities, and the middle class.
“Would it kill you to lie fallow?”

For many older Americans, “socialist” is bound to have a ring of the sinister or the antiquated. This is generally not the case with a generation whose most formative political experience was the economic collapse of 2008-09. In 2016, the Institute of Politics, at Harvard’s Kennedy School, polled people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine, and discovered that support for capitalism was surprisingly low. Fifty-one per cent of the cohort rejected capitalism; thirty-three per cent supported socialism. A later edition of the survey found that fifty-one per cent were “fearful about the future,” while only about twenty per cent were hopeful. John Della Volpe, the director of polling at the institute, told me that he was so surprised about the results of the survey that he repeated it to make sure they were accurate. Based on further research derived from focus groups around the country, Della Volpe said, “these young people are thinking of Canadian health care, not the U.S.S.R.,” when they speak of socialism. What they want to see, he said, is “like a combination of Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, the Square Deal and the New Deal.” But many young people are wary of participating in politics, because the role of big money seems so decisive. Della Volpe considered it a hopeful sign that, while millennials showed a deep distrust of politicians, many were also finding sources of optimism in new figures on the scene, ranging from the student activists in Parkland, Florida, to political candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The reasons for anxiety are manifest. Broad statistical metrics back up the idea that income inequality has increased and that the middle class is languishing. Seventy-eight per cent of Americans working full time live paycheck to paycheck; nearly half do not have four hundred dollars at the ready. Raj Chetty, an economist at Harvard and a director of the Equality of Opportunity Project, points out that while ninety per cent of people born in the nineteen-forties outearned their parents—the traditional American expectation—this number has fallen to fifty per cent for people born in the nineteen-eighties. The “American dream” of social mobility, moving from the bottom fifth to the top fifth, is twice as likely to be fulfilled in Canada. In the meantime, wealthy élites insure that their children—through expensive educations and countless other privileges—retain their status. Colossal resentment is the result, and Trump, with his preternatural skills as a TV-trained populist demagogue on the right, was able to build a movement on it.

Ocasio-Cortez keeps to a minimum her denunciations of Trump, as if the critique went almost without saying. She is more voluble about her view of capitalism. “I do think we are in a crisis of late-stage capitalism, where people are working sixty, eighty hours a week and they can’t feed their families,” she said. “There is a lot that is economically dystopic in this country. So that’s why people are open to change.”

But what first appealed to her about the Democratic Socialists of America had less to do with theory or ideology than with the simple fact that she kept seeing members at rallies for every cause she cares about, from the Hurricane Maria rescue effort to Black Lives Matter. She defines her politics as a struggle for “social, economic, and racial dignity.” The distance between here and there—between establishing a set of values and policies and then finding a way to pass them into law and pay for them—is not at the core of her argument. She knows it is a long road. “I want to get there,” she said. “I want to live in that country.”

This is an old dream. In the nineteen-tens, the Socialist Party of America had more than a hundred thousand members, ranging from Lower East Side garment workers to Nevada miners, and Eugene V. Debs ran as the Party’s Presidential candidate five times. In that era, there were hundreds of Socialists in public office, two in Congress.

D.S.A., which was founded in 1982, is not a party but a dues-paying organization, and it has seen a bump in membership recently, from five thousand in 2016 to more than forty thousand today. The first co-chairs were Harrington and the author Barbara Ehrenreich. David Dinkins, the former mayor of New York, was a member of D.S.A. There’s no question that some members are Marxists in the traditional sense; some want to see the destruction of capitalism and the state ownership of factories, banks, and utilities. Jabari Brisport, a D.S.A. member from Brooklyn who recently ran, unsuccessfully, for City Council, told me that the group is “a big umbrella organization for left and leftish types, from Bernie-crats to hard-core Trotskyists.” Julia Salazar, a D.S.A. member in her mid-twenties who is running for the New York State Senate with the ardent support of Ocasio-Cortez, told Jacobin, a leftist quarterly, that a democratic socialist “recognizes the capitalist system as being inherently oppressive, and is actively working to dismantle it and to empower the working class and the marginalized in our society.”

Ocasio-Cortez and, for the most part, the people around her speak largely in the language of Sanders. Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist, and yet in the most extensive speech he ever gave on the theme—at Georgetown University, in November, 2015—he did not mention Debs. Rather, he focussed almost entirely on Franklin Roosevelt and the legacy of the New Deal. He said that he shared the vision that F.D.R. set out in his 1944 State of the Union speech, what Roosevelt called the Second Bill of Rights. Sanders pointed out that universal health care was “not a radical idea” and existed in countries such as Denmark, France, Germany, and Taiwan. “I don’t believe government should own the means of production,” he said, “but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.”

Left-of-center political terminology has long been a welter of confusion. “What’s in a name?” the American historian Sean Wilentz writes in the journal Democracy. “Franklin Delano Roosevelt called himself a Christian, a Democrat, and a liberal. . . . The only Americans who considered Franklin Roosevelt a socialist were right-wing Republicans.” Norman Thomas, who ran for President six times at the top of the Socialist Party of America ticket, was irritated by the notion that F.D.R. had carried out the Socialist platform. He hadn’t, Thomas said, “unless he carried it out on a stretcher.” For decades, liberals have sensed that “liberal” is so toxic for the broader electorate that many of them, including Hillary Clinton, adopted the term “progressive,” which has a distinct legacy. On the left, the sharpest bolt of opprobrium one can hurl is “neoliberal”—a term that makes little distinction between Bill Clinton and Augusto Pinochet.

Frances Fox Piven, a political scientist and a former D.S.A. board member, told me that, while these terms are fuzzier than they once were, “socialism,” in the practical politics of the young, describes above all a disgust with widening inequality. “When people say they are ‘socialists,’ they are reacting against unrestrained capitalism,” she said. “I don’t know that it has much meaning beyond that. There are volumes written about the historical, theoretical work by socialists and their critics, but I don’t think that that’s what’s moving these young people. They are moved by the idea of an economic system that is tempered, constrained, and restrained by democratic values. There were a lot of debates in the seventies and eighties between Maoists and theoretical socialists, some of whom were a little crazy. That has nothing to do with what’s happening now.” Michael Kazin, a co-editor of Dissent and a D.S.A. member, agreed: “The radical left’s major influence in American history is to push liberals, progressives, to the left. And that is going to be the impact. I don’t believe we are going to have a socialist transformation of America in my lifetime.”

Ocasio-Cortez and her circle focus less on the malefactions of the current Administration than on the endemic corruption of the American system, particularly the role of “dark money” in American politics and the lack of basic welfare provisions for the working classes and the poor. When they hear conservatives describe as a “socialist” Barack Obama—a man who, in their view, had failed to help the real victims of the financial crisis, while bailing out the banks—they tend to laugh ruefully. “I think the right did us a service calling Obama a socialist for eight years,” Saikat Chakrabarti, one of Ocasio-Cortez’s closest associates, said. “It inoculated us. But people focus on the labels when they are not sure what they mean. What people call socialism these days is Eisenhower Republicanism!”

On July 4th, I met Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti at a park off the Grand Central Parkway, in Queens, where hundreds of families had come to picnic, play volleyball, and listen to the World Cup on the radio. She’d just arrived from an interview with a Bengali radio station, and now she was talking with people near a carrousel. She’d done what seemed impossible a year ago—she’d “expanded the electorate” enough to beat an incumbent of national stature and, it once seemed, local invulnerability. But it remains unclear whether her story will be the start of a trend in the midterms and beyond. The Republicans hold the Presidency, both houses of Congress, thirty-three governorships, and thirty-one statehouses, and they have steadily been appointing judges, from state benches to the Supreme Court.

So far, the polls for the Democrats in House races are promising, but the over-all electoral picture is mixed, particularly for the left. Ben Jealous, the former head of the N.A.A.C.P., has a decent shot at the governorship in Maryland. According to a recent poll, Cynthia Nixon, who endorsed Ocasio-Cortez, is trailing Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic gubernatorial primary by thirty-five points, though she has pushed him leftward. What is certain is that Ocasio-Cortez has energized Democratic Party politics in New York and, to an extent, the country. Cori Bush, a nurse and a minister who is running for Congress, told me that the news from New York definitely reached her district in St. Louis. “Our social media is going nuts, people are reaching out, people are donating,” she said. “Just a few days ago, we made a whole nine dollars in one day. Nine. After Alex’s election, it was two thousand dollars in one day.” Using her newfound political celebrity and her deftness as an organizer and a social-media communicator, Ocasio-Cortez has been trying to help like-minded candidates—particularly women like Ayanna Pressley, who is running for Congress in Massachusetts, and Zephyr Teachout, who is running for attorney general in New York. It’s far from clear what will happen in November—who has not learned by now that polls cannot be trusted?—but Ocasio-Cortez’s victory has been a boost for the young, for minorities, for women, for a lot of people who have been beaten down by the seeming dominance of Trump and the unrelenting news he generates.

A few days earlier, Ocasio-Cortez had visited the Capitol, in Washington, and had spent much of her time thinking about her father. When she was five or so, he was planning a road trip to Florida with some of his friends, and she begged him to let her go along. “Three burly men and a five-year-old in a sedan,” she recalled. “One day, his buddies went to get a beer or something, and he took me to the reflecting pool of the Washington Monument. I put my toes in the water, and suddenly the goldfish started to nibble my toes. It was a beautiful day, the sun was out, totally clear. And my dad pointed to all of it—the reflecting pool, the monuments, the Capitol, and he said, ‘You know, this is our government. All of this belongs to us. It belongs to you.’ And so, when I went to the Capitol, I thought about that. I feel like it’s supposed to belong to us. Not all of it belongs to all of us. Not yet. But that’s the whole point of going to Congress, isn’t it?” ♦

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Indigenous Peoples in International Law

Indigenous Peoples in International Law

Author S. James Anaya

The international system’s contemporary treatment of indigenous peoples is the result of activity over the last few decades. This activity has involved, and been substantially driven by indigenous peoples themselves. Indigenous peoples have ceased to be mere objects of the discussion of their rights and have become real participants in an extensive multilateral dialogue that also has engaged states, NGOs, and independent experts.

During the 1960s, indigenous peoples began drawing increased attention to demands for their continued survival as distinct communities with historically based cultures, political institutions, and entitlements to land. Indigenous peoples articulated a vision of themselves different from that previously advanced and acted upon by dominant sectors.

In the 1970s indigenous peoples extended their efforts through a series of international conferences and direct appeals to international intergovernmental institutions. These efforts coalesced into a campaign, aided by concerned NGOs and an increase of supportive scholarly and popular writings. The proliferation of scholarly literature helped establish indigenous peoples’ demands among influential intellectual and elite circles. Among the major developments in this movement was the International Non-Governmental Organization Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas, which was organized as a project of the NGO Sub-Committee on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Apartheid and Colonialism. The 1977 Conference contributed to forging a transnational indigenous identity that subsequently expanded to embrace indigenous peoples from other parts of the world. The conference also helped establish a pattern of coordination among indigenous peoples from throughout the world in the formulation and communication of their demands.

Following the 1977 Conference, indigenous peoples’ representatives began appearing before U.N. human rights bodies in increasing numbers and with increasing frequency, grounding their demands in generally applicable human rights principles. Indigenous peoples have enhanced their access to these bodies as several organizations representative of indigenous groups have achieved official consultative status with the U.N. Indigenous peoples also have invoked procedures within the Organization of American States, particularly its Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Indigenous peoples’ contemporary efforts build on the initiative of the Council of the Iroquois Confederacy in the 1920s. Deskaheh, speaker of the council, led an attempt to have the League of Nations consider the Iroquois’ longstanding dispute with Canada. Although Deskaheh found support among some League members, the League ultimately closed its door to the Iroquois, yielding to the position that the Iroquois grievances were a domestic concern of Canada and hence outside the League’s competency.

The heightened international concern over indigenous peoples generated through years of work was signaled by the U.N. General Assembly’s designation of 1993 as “The International Year of the World’s Indigenous People” followed by the proclaiming of an “International Decade” on the same theme. With this heightened concern has come a reformulated understanding of the contours of general human rights principles and their implications for indigenous peoples. And grounded upon this reformulated understanding there is a new body of international law concerning indigenous peoples.

ILO Convention No. 169 of 1989

The International Labour Organisation Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, Convention No. 169 of 1989, is international law’s most concrete manifestation of the growing responsiveness to indigenous peoples’ demands. Convention No. 169 is a revision of the ILO’s earlier Convention No. 107 of 1957, and it represents a marked departure in world community policy from the philosophy of integration or assimilation underlying the earlier convention. With indigenous peoples increasingly taking charge of the international human rights agenda as it concerned them, Convention No. 107 of 1957 came to be regarded as anachronistic.

The discussion on the revision of the convention proceeded at the 1988 and 1989 sessions of the International Labour Conference, the highest decision-making body of the ILO. The annual conference is comprised of representatives of worker and employer organizations as well as of states. Special arrangements were made to allow representatives of indigenous groups limited participation in the deliberations of the conference Committee designated for the revision. At the close of the 1989 session, the full Labour Conference adopted the new Convention No. 169 and its shift from the prior philosophical stand. The convention came into force in 1991 with the ratifications by Norway and Mexico.

The basic theme of Convention No. 169 is indicated by the convention’s preamble, which recognizes “the aspirations of [indigenous] peoples to exercise control over their own institutions, ways of life, and economic development and to maintain and develop their identities, languages, and religions, within the framework of the States in which they live.” Upon this premise, the convention includes provisions advancing indigenous cultural integrity, land and resource rights, and non-discrimination in social welfare spheres; and it generally enjoins states to respect indigenous peoples’ aspirations in all decisions affecting them.

Upon adoption of Convention No. 169 by the ILO Conference in 1989, several advocates of indigenous peoples’ rights expressed dissatisfaction with language in Convention No. 169, viewing it as not sufficiently constraining of government conduct in relation to indigenous peoples’ concerns. Criticism was leveled at several of the convention’s provisions that contain caveats or appear in the form of recommendations, and at the underlying assumption of state authority over indigenous peoples. Whatever its shortcomings, Convention No. 169 succeeds in affirming the value of indigenous communities and cultures, and in setting forth a series of basic precepts. Although the convention “contains few absolute rules [it] fixes goals, priorities, and minimal rights” that follow generally from indigenous peoples’ articulated demands. Indigenous peoples’ organizations from Central and South America have been especially active in pressing for ratification. Indigenous organizations from other regions that have expressed support for the convention include the Saami Council, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, and the National Indian Youth Council.

New and Emergent Customary International Law

ILO Convention No. 169 is significant to the extent it creates treaty obligations among ratifying states in line with current trends in thinking prompted by indigenous peoples’ demands. It is now evident that states and other relevant actors have reached a certain new common ground about minimum standards that should govern behavior toward indigenous peoples, and it is further evident that the standards already are in fact guiding behavior. Under modern theory, such a controlling consensusconstitutes customary international law.

A watershed in relevant United Nations activity was the 1971 resolution of the Economic and Social Council authorizing the U.N. Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities to conduct a study on the “Problem of Discrimination against Indigenous Populations.” The resulting multivolume work by special rapporteur José Martínez Cobo was issued originally as a series of partial reports from 1981 to 1983. It compiled extensive data on indigenous peoples worldwide and made a series of findings and recommendations generally supportive of indigenous peoples’ demands. The Martinez Cobo study became a standard reference for discussion of the subject of indigenous peoples within the United Nations system. Moreover, it initiated a pattern of further information gathering and evaluative work on the subject by experts working under the sponsorship of international organizations.

Upon the recommendation of the Martinez Cobo study and representatives of indigenous groups that attended the 1977 NGO Conference, the U.N. Human Rights Commission and the Economic and Social Council approved in 1982 the establishment of the U.N. Working Group on Indigenous Populations. The working group’s original mandate was to review developments concerning indigenous peoples and to work toward the development of corresponding international standards. The scope of the working group’s activity subsequently was expanded to include a study on treaties between indigenous peoples and states and another on indigenous cultural and intellectual property. Through its policy of open participation in its annual one-or two-week sessions, however, the working group has become an important platform for the dissemination of information and exchange of views among indigenous peoples, governments, NGOs, and others.

The working group’s most groundbreaking work has been the group’s decision to draft a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples for adoption by the U.N. General Assembly In 1988, the working group chair produced the first complete draft of the declaration, which substantially reflected proposals submitted by indigenous peoples’ representatives. Discussion of the declaration proceeded at subsequent sessions of the working group until it had completed, in 1993, its final revision of the draft. In 1994 the subcommission adopted the working group draft and submitted it to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

Through the process of drafting a declaration, the subcommission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations engaged states, indigenous peoples, and others in an extended multilateral dialogue on the specific content of norms concerning indigenous peoples and their rights. By welcoming commentary and proposals by indigenous peoples for over a decade, the working group provided an important means for indigenous peoples to promote their own conceptions about their rights within the international arena. Virtually every state of the Western Hemisphere came to participate in the working group discussion on the declaration. Canada, with its large indigenous population, took a leading role. States of other regions with significant indigenous populations also became active participants, especially Australia and New Zealand. The Philippines, Bangladesh, and India are just three of the other states that made oral or written submissions to the working group in connection with the drafting of the declaration.

The United States contributed notably to the ILO process. Representatives of a total of 39 governments participated in the conference committee, in addition to the worker and employee delegates that are part of the “tripartite” system of governance in the ILO. The ILO treaty revision process accelerated the international discussion of indigenous peoples’ rights by focusing it on the adoption of a normative instrument within a fairly short time frame.

The draft U.N. declaration goes beyond Convention No. 169, especially in its bold statements in areas of indigenous self-determination, land and resource rights, and rights of political autonomy It is clear that not all are satisfied with all aspects of the draft declaration developed by the subcommission working group. Some indigenous peoples’ representatives have criticized the draft for not going far enough, while governments typically have held that it goes too far. Nonetheless, a new common ground of opinion exists among experts, indigenous peoples, and governments about indigenous peoples’ rights and attendant standards of government behavior, and that widening common ground is in some measure reflected in the subcommission draft.

New Generation of Consensus

Other international initiatives, as well as already developed normative instruments, contribute to a new generation of international consensus on indigenous peoples’ rights. In 1989 the state parties to the Amazonian Cooperation Treaty agreed to establish a Special Commission on Indigenous Affairs with the objective of “[e]nsuring the effective participation by each Amazonian Country’s indigenous populations in all phases of the characterization of indigenous affairs,” especially in regard to development programs. The commission subsequently adopted a work plan giving priority to the recognition and protection of indigenous land and resource rights. A larger segment of the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere benefit by the creation of an Indigenous Peoples’ Fund, pursuant to a convention signed at the Second Summit Meeting of Ibero-American Heads of State in 1992. The fund is to address the development needs of indigenous peoples in countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, in accordance with decision-making procedures that include representative indigenous organizations.

In 1991 the World Bank adopted a revised policy directive in view of the pervasive role the Bank plays in financing development projects in less-developed countries where many of the world’s indigenous people live. Much of the discussion within international institutions about indigenous peoples has focused not just on the potential benefits of development programs aimed specifically at indigenous groups, but also on the damaging effects of many industrial development projects that have taken place in areas traditionally occupied by indigenous groups. The World Bank adopted Operational Directive 4.20 after a period of expert study that helped reshape attitudes within the bank toward greater programmatic action concerning indigenous peoples affected by bank-funded projects.

Resolutions adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environmental Development include provisions on indigenous people and their communities. The Rio Declaration, and the more detailed environmental program and policy statement known as Agenda 21, reiterate precepts of indigenous peoples’ rights and seek to incorporate them within the larger agenda of global environmentalism and sustainable development. The Program of Action adopted by 1994 U.N. Conference on Population and Development similarly includes a part on indigenous people and affirms prevailing normative assumptions in this regard.

In its 1989 resolution “on the Position of the World’s Indians,” the European Parliament expressed its concern over the conditions faced by indigenous peoples and called on governments to secure indigenous land rights and enter consultations with indigenous groups to develop specific measures to protect their rights. The European Parliament adopted another resolution in 1994, on “Measures Required Internationally to Provide Effective Protection for Indigenous Peoples.” The 1994 resolution holds that indigenous peoples have the “right to determine their own destiny by choosing their institutions, their political status, and that of their territory.”

More generally emphasizing the underlying need for international attention and cooperation to secure indigenous peoples in the full enjoyment of their rights are: the 1972 resolution of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights identifying patterns of discrimination against indigenous peoples and stating that “special protection for indigenous populations constitutes a sacred commitment of the States;” the Helsinki Document 1992-The Challenge of Change, adopted by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which includes a provision “[n]oting that persons belonging to indigenous populations may have special problems in exercising their rights;” and parts of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the 1993 United Nations Conference on Human Rights, urging greater focus on indigenous peoples’ concerns within the U.N. system.

The new and emergent international law of indigenous peoples, which includes ILO Convention No. 169 and customary law, is a dramatic manifestation of the mobilization of social forces through the human rights frame of the contemporary international system. Indigenous peoples themselves have been at the helm of a movement that has challenged state-centered structures and precepts which have continued within international law and global organization. This movement, although fraught with tension, has resulted in a heightened international concern over indigenous peoples and a constellation of internationally accepted norms generally in line with indigenous peoples’ own demands and aspirations.


Akwesasne Mohawk Counselor Organization. 1984. Deskaheh: Iroquois Statesman and Patriot. Rooseveltown, N.Y.: Akwesasne Notes, Mohawk Nation.

Barsh, Russell Lawrence. 1990. “An Advocate’s Guide to the Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.” Oklahoma City University Law Review 15: 209-236.

—-.1994. “Indigenous Peoples in the 1990s: From Object to Subject of International Law?” Harvard Human Rights Journal 7: 33-86.

Burger, Julian. 1987. “The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.” Report from the Frontier London: Zed Books.

Cernea, Michael. 1993. “Sociologists in a Development Agency: Experiences from the World Bank.” New York: The World Bank Environment Department.

Davis, Shelton, and William Partridge. March 1994. “Promoting the Development of Indigenous People in Latin America.” Finance and Development. pp. 38-40.

Deloria, Vine, Jr. 1969. Custer Died for Your Sins. New York: McMillan.

Helsinki Document. 1992-The Challenges of Change, para. 6(29), reprinted in UN GAOR, 47th Sess., at 65, U.N. Doc. A/47/361.

1984. Washington D.C.: Indian Law Resource Center.

Maiguashca, Bice. 1992. “The Role of Ideas in a Changing World Order: The Case of the International Indigenous Movement.” Paper presented at conference, Changing World Order and the United Nations System, sponsored by the United Nations University Yokohama, Japan, March 24-27, 1992.

National Lawyers Guild, Committee on Native American Struggles, ed. 1982. Rethinking Indian Law. New Haven: The Advocate Press.

Roy, Kelley, and Gudmundur Alfredsson. 1987. “Indigenous Rights: The Literature Explosion.” Transnational Perspective 13:485-94.

Swepston, Lee. 1990. “A New Step in the International Law on Indigenous and Tribal People: ILO Convention No. 169 of 1989.” Oklahoma City University Law Review. 15:677-714.

1988. “Universal Declaration on Indigenous Rights: A Set of Preambular Paragraphs and Principles” Working Group on Indigenous Populations. UN. Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/1988/25, at 2.

Wilmer, Franke. 1993. The Indigenous Voice in World Politics: Since Time Immemorial. Newburg Park, Calif.: Sage.


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SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State

SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State

by Kerry Coast

This post has not been reviewed by the Vancouver Media Co-op editorial committee.

STORY about Indigenous posted on June 4, 2018 by Kerry Coast

New book batters Canadian denial, launches in Vancouver this week

Also posted by Kerry Coast:

Suffer the Little Children – Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State
By Tamara Starblanket

Clarity Press, 2018
Foreword by Ward Churchill
Afterword by Sharon H. Venne

Official launch this Thursday, June 7, 6pm at the Vancouver Native Education Center.

This much-anticipated book places Canada’s Indian Residential School programme among the world’s leading crimes against humanity: genocide. From the Introduction: This book is meant to serve as a battering ram to hammer through the wall of denial. 

         Advance remarks on this book by Noam Chomsky, Steven Newcomb and Irene Watson indicate its importance to leading thinkers today. The Foreword by Ward Churchill and Afterword by Sharon Venne, an international legal expert on the rights of INdigenous Peoples, lend even more credibility to the work. It’s a subject of pivotal importance in Canada, and yet few have had the fortitude to approach it. Far fewer have had the endurance to complete such a painful analysis.

One of the most important things about this book is its refusal to allow Canada to be considered a “post-colonial” state. The evidence against Canada’s genocidal “forcible removal of children” during the Indian Residential School era is connected to the present-day foster care system, which targets young Aboriginal families in particular: still forcibly removing children from the genocidally-targeted group and placing them with members of another group. With the colonizing group: be they white, yellow, beige, or brown families. And still removing those Indigenous children with the same genocidal objective of “bringing about the destruction of the group, in whole or in part,” in order to continue colonizing and absorbing the yet-unceded Indigenous homelands.

Starblanket’s thesis, on which the book is based, was argued successfully for a Master of Laws degree from the University of Saskatchewan.

​         Another of the book’s most important accomplishments is Starblanket’s assessment of Canada’s official federal treatment of the Indian Residential School fallout as having only to do with individuals. Individual survivors were compensated under the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Survivors’ Settlement Agreement. In fact, the intended and effective result of the “schools” was a series of national crises among the Indigenous Nations whose lands Canada tries to claim. With their children gone, and their languages and systems of culture and governance uncertain, the crime was against nations – not individuals. Starblanket breaks down the very different legal implications.

​         The crime of removing the children was against nations and peoples with the right to self-determination, land, language, history and future: individuals do not have such rights.

​         But it is Canada’s special reservation to deny the nationhood and national characters of some fifty nations. This is in keeping with Canada’s posture that the state has the ability to absorb various Indigenous “minorities” within its stolen borders, and award them various “Aboriginal rights” in place of their internationally-recognized rights as nations and peoples.

Canada’s assault on these nations is justiciable – for all the reasons Starblanket puts forward – under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969; under the Geneva Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 1948; and, in some ways, under more recent international norms, such as the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. These latter two are equipped by the United Nations with Treaty Bodies – with Committees which have repeatedly reviewed and severely criticized Canada for its denial of the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples. Starblanket concludes that self-determination is the answer. Not “reconciliation,” which she debunks as a public relations scam.

​         Information does not make change, however. There is no Committee to receive reports on, or review violations of the Geneva or the Vienna Conventions. Only states can take other states to the International Court of Justice for that. And, so far, no other state has been willing to intervene in what is known as the “domestic judicial complicity in genocide,” such as it is within Canada. This book may help with that.

If there must be a shortcoming in Suffer the Little Children, it is the absence of international legal prescriptions for justice. Genocide is not a crime which a state can be allowed to rule on domestically when its own government is one of the parties to the crime. There is an important precedent. In 2007, Menchu v. Montt was heard by the Constitutional Court of Spain. That case concerned Guatemala’s genocide against the Mayan people, and it found General Rios Montt guilty of genocide. Unfortunately, the presiding Spanish judge, Justice Garçon, died suddenly and unexpectedly shortly thereafter. And the ruling was reversed.

​         The importance of this book is that it makes available, to the people of Canada and to the people of the world, the trial of Canada – if not the actual court room. These things take time, and this book keeps the clock ticking.

​         If the empires and invading nations cannot be relied on to deliver justice, even when their Constitutional Courts decide a fairly obvious matter, perhaps the people of the world can do better. If not the colonizing people of Canada, who have a vested interest in the displacement, denial and dispossession of the original nations; then perhaps the people of the world – as the overthrow of apartheid in South Africa was achieved, in part, by outside groups.

​         And if the example of Menchu v. Montt could be brought to bear in the case of Canada, might we get the next chapter of this story? Something like Starblanket v. The Director of Child and Family Services? The case has certainly been laid out: the Ministry has been advised, time and again, over decades, of the effects its actions are having – and it keeps doing them.

The book will be officially launched this Thursday, June 7, at the Vancouver Native Education Center. Event starts at 6pm.

Follow this link to the Book: Suffer the Little Children

Quotes from the book:

“While other aspects of Canada’s “Indian policies” can be seen to fit the definition of genocide, specifically at issue in this book is its century-long program of forcibly removing indigenous children from their families, communities, societies—in sum, from their Nations—and placing them for sustained periods in “residential schools” where the stated goal was to strip them of their cultural identities and “remake” them into “end products” deemed useful to Canada’s colonizing and ever-growing settler population.”

“I am the sole member of my birth family still alive. My grandparents, maternal and paternal, as well as my late mother and her siblings, were all forced to spend their formative years in the schools, an experience from which none of them would ever recover.”

About TamaraStarblanket:

Tamara Starblanket is Spider Woman, a Nehiyaw iskwew (Cree Woman) from Ahtahkakoop First Nation in Treaty Six Territory.  Tamara holds an LLM (Master of Laws) from the University of Saskatchewan, and an LLB from the University of British Columbia. She is the Co-Chair of the North American Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus (NAIPC) at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She presently coordinates and teaches in the criminology program at Native Education College in Vancouver, BC.

Early Reviews:

“Settler-colonialism reveals the brutal face of imperialism in
some of its most vicious forms.  This carefully researched and
penetrating study focuses on one of its ugliest manifestations,
the forcible transferring of indigenous children, and makes a
strong case for Canadian complicity in a form of ‘cultural
genocide’ – with implications that reach to the Anglosphere
generally, and to some of the worst crimes of the ‘civilized
world’ in the modern era.”
Noam Chomsky

“Tamara Starblanket’s work is confident, clear and succinct;
her work is ground-breaking and provides us with new ways of
looking at how the states treatment of First Nations Peoples
has gone unrecognised for its genocidal affect. This work
provides an excellent critique on the exclusion of cultural
genocide from how genocide is defined in international law.”
Professor Irene Watson,
Research Professor of Law, University of South Australia

“Tamara Starblanket’s book provides a much needed
examination and critique of the ‘residential school’ system that
forcibly transferred Indigenous children from their families,
communities, and nations into institutions run by the colonizer
state—in this case, Canada. Despite the fact that the United
Nations 1948 Convention on Genocide explicitly includes
‘forcibly transferring children of the group to another group’ in
its definition of ‘genocide,’ there are those who deny that the
colonial ‘civilizing’ project amounted to genocide. Starblanket
demonstrates that the residential schools in fact aimed at
destroying the most intimate level of Indigenous life—the child-
parent relation—employing brutal beatings, solitary
confinement and other horrible punishments, often resulting in
children’s deaths. The goal of the schools was to prevent
Indigenous societies from perpetuating themselves. Though
officially repudiated, the residential schools produced a
continuing social and institutional legacy. Starblanket’s work
brings this history and its legacy effects to our awareness and
shows that ‘the road home’ requires an emphasis on
Indigenous self-determination.”
Peter d’Errico,
Professor of Law, University of Massachusetts

“Tamara Starblanket has skillfully taken on one of the most
difficult and contentious issues, genocide. With intellectual
courage and determination, she has approached the issue
from the perspective of a Cree woman, scholar, and attorney
who has first-hand knowledge of the deadly and destructive
intergenerational impacts of Canada’s domination and
dehumanization of Original Nations and Peoples.”
Steven T. Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape),
author, Pagans in the Promised Land Decoding the
Christian Doctrine of Discovery

“This is heavy stuff, about which much more should be said,
and Starblanket is unsparing in saying it…I am proud to call
her sister, and to thank her.”
from the Preface by Ward Churchill,
author, A Little Matter of Genocide

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Doctrine of Discovery 15th. Century Religious Prejudice

Five Hundred Years of Injustice:

The Legacy of Fifteenth Century Religious Prejudice

by Steve Newcomb

When Christopher Columbus first set foot on the white sands of Guanahani island, he performed a ceremony to “take possession” of the land for the king and queen of Spain, acting under the international laws of Western Christendom. Although the story of Columbus’ “discovery” has taken on mythological proportions in most of the Western world, few people are aware that his act of “possession” was based on a religious doctrine now known in history as the Doctrine of Discovery. Even fewer people realize that today – five centuries later – the United States government still uses this archaic Judeo-Christian doctrine to deny the rights of Native American Indians.

Origins of the Doctrine of Discovery

To understand the connection between Christendom’s principle of discovery and the laws of the United States, we need to begin by examining a papal document issued forty years before Columbus’ historic voyage In 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued to King Alfonso V of Portugal the bull Romanus Pontifex, declaring war against all non-Christians throughout the world, and specifically sanctioning and promoting the conquest, colonization, and exploitation of non-Christian nations and their territories.

Under various theological and legal doctrines formulated during and after the Crusades, non-Christians were considered enemies of the Catholic faith and, as such, less than human. Accordingly, in the bull of 1452, Pope Nicholas directed King Alfonso to “capture, vanquish, and subdue the saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ,” to “put them into perpetual slavery,” and “to take all their possessions and property.” [Davenport: 20-26] Acting on this papal privilege, Portugal continued to traffic in African slaves, and expanded its royal dominions by making “discoveries” along the western coast of Africa, claiming those lands as Portuguese territory.

Thus, when Columbus sailed west across the Sea of Darkness in 1492 – with the express understanding that he was authorized to “take possession” of any lands he “discovered” that were “not under the dominion of any Christian rulers” – he and the Spanish sovereigns of Aragon and Castile were following an already well-established tradition of “discovery” and conquest. [Thacher:96] Indeed, after Columbus returned to Europe, Pope Alexander VI issued a papal document, the bull Inter Cetera of May 3, 1493, “granting” to Spain – at the request of Ferdinand and Isabella – the right to conquer the lands which Columbus had already found, as well as any lands which Spain might “discover” in the future.

In the Inter Cetera document, Pope Alexander stated his desire that the “discovered” people be “subjugated and brought to the faith itself.” [Davenport:61] By this means, said the pope, the “Christian Empire” would be propagated. [Thacher:127] When Portugal protested this concession to Spain, Pope Alexander stipulated in a subsequent bull – issued May 4, 1493 – that Spain must not attempt to establish its dominion over lands which had already “come into the possession of any Christian lords.” [Davenport:68] Then, to placate the two rival monarchs, the pope drew a line of demarcation between the two poles, giving Spain rights of conquest and dominion over one side of the globe, and Portugal over the other.

During this quincentennial of Columbus’ journey to the Americas, it is important to recognize that the grim acts of genocide and conquest committed by Columbus and his men against the peaceful Native people of the Caribbean were sanctioned by the abovementioned documents of the Catholic Church. Indeed, these papal documents were frequently used by Christian European conquerors in the Americas to justify an incredibly brutal system of colonization – which dehumanized the indigenous people by regarding their territories as being “inhabited only by brute animals.” [Story:135-6]

The lesson to be learned is that the papal bulls of 1452 and 1493 are but two clear examples of how the “Christian Powers,” or “different States of Christendom,” viewed indigenous peoples as “the lawful spoil and prey of their civilized conquerors.” [Wheaton:270-1] In fact, the Christian “Law of Nations” asserted that Christian nations had a divine right, based on the Bible, to claim absolute title to and ultimate authority over any newly “discovered” Non-Christian inhabitants and their lands. Over the next several centuries, these beliefs gave rise to the Doctrine of Discovery used by Spain, Portugal, England, France, and Holland – all Christian nations.

The Doctrine of Discovery in U.S. Law

In 1823, the Christian Doctrine of Discovery was quietly adopted into U.S. law by the Supreme Court in the celebrated case, Johnson v. McIntosh (8 Wheat., 543). Writing for a unanimous court, Chief Justice John Marshall observed that Christian European nations had assumed “ultimate dominion” over the lands of America during the Age of Discovery, and that – upon “discovery” – the Indians had lost “their rights to complete sovereignty, as independent nations,” and only retained a right of “occupancy” in their lands. In other words, Indians nations were subject to the ultimate authority of the first nation of Christendom to claim possession of a given region of Indian lands. [Johnson:574; Wheaton:270-1]

According to Marshall, the United States – upon winning its independence in 1776 – became a successor nation to the right of “discovery” and acquired the power of “dominion” from Great Britain. [Johnson:587-9] Of course, when Marshall first defined the principle of “discovery,” he used language phrased in such a way that it drew attention away from its religious bias, stating that “discovery gave title to the government, by whose subject, or by whose authority, the discovery was made, against all other European governments.” [Johnson:573-4] However, when discussing legal precedent to support the court’s findings, Marshall specifically cited the English charter issued to the explorer John Cabot, in order to document England’s “complete recognition” of the Doctrine of Discovery. [Johnson:576] Then, paraphrasing the language of the charter, Marshall noted that Cabot was authorized to take possession of lands, “notwithstanding the occupancy of the natives, who were heathens, and, at the same time, admitting the prior title of any Christian people who may have made a previous discovery.” [Johnson:577]

In other words, the Court affirmed that United States law was based on a fundamental rule of the “Law of Nations” – that it was permissible to virtually ignore the most basic rights of indigenous “heathens,” and to claim that the “unoccupied lands” of America rightfully belonged to discovering Christian European nations. Of course, it’s important to understand that, as Benjamin Munn Ziegler pointed out in The International Law of John Marshall, the term “unoccupied lands” referred to “the lands in America which, when discovered, were ‘occupied by Indians’ but ‘unoccupied’ by Christians.” [Ziegler:46]

Ironically, the same year that the Johnson v. McIntosh decision was handed down, founding father James Madison wrote: “Religion is not in the purview of human government. Religion is essentially distinct from civil government, and exempt from its cognizance; a connection between them is injurious to both.”

Most of us have been brought up to believe that the United States Constitution was designed to keep church and state apart. Unfortunately, with the Johnson decision, the Christian Doctrine of Discovery was not only written into U.S. law but also became the cornerstone of U.S. Indian policy over the next century.

From Doctrine of Discovery
to Domestic Dependent Nations

Using the principle of “discovery” as its premise, the Supreme Court stated in 1831 that the Cherokee Nation (and, by implication, all Indian nations) was not fully sovereign, but “may, perhaps,” be deemed a “domestic dependent nation.” [Cherokee Nation v. Georgia] The federal government took this to mean that treaties made with Indian nations did not recognize Indian nations as free of U.S. control. According to the U.S. government, Indian nations were “domestic dependent nations” subject to the federal government’s absolute legislative authority – known in the law as “plenary power.” Thus, the ancient doctrine of Christian discovery and its subjugation of “heathen” Indians were extended by the federal government into a mythical doctrine that the U.S. Constitution allows for governmental authority over Indian nations and their lands. [Savage:59-60]

The myth of U.S. “plenary power” over Indians – a power, by the way, that was never intended by the authors of the Constitution [Savage:115-17] – has been used by the United States to:

  1. Circumvent the terms of solemn treaties that the U.S. entered into with Indian nations, despite the fact that all such treaties are “supreme Law of the Land, anything in the Constitution notwithstanding.”
  2. Steal the homelands of Indian peoples living east of the Mississippi River, by removing them from their traditional ancestral homelands through the Indian Removal Act of 1835.
  3. Use a congressional statute, known as the General Allotment Act of 1887, to divest Indian people of some 90 million acres of their lands. This act, explained John Collier (Commissioner of Indian Affairs) was “an indirect method – peacefully under the forms of law – of taking away the land that we were determined to take away but did not want to take it openly by breaking the treaties.”
  4. Steal the sacred Black Hills from the Great Sioux nation in violation of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie which recognized the Sioux Nation’s exclusive and absolute possession of their lands.
  5. Pay the Secretary of the Interior $26 million for 24 million acres of Western Shoshone lands, because the Western Shoshone people have steadfastly refused to sell the land and refused to accept the money. Although the Western Shoshone Nation’s sovereignty and territorial boundaries were clearly recognized by the federal government in the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty, the government now claims that paying itself on behalf of the Western Shoshone has extinguished the Western Shoshone’s title to their lands.

The above cases are just a few examples of how the United States government has used the Johnson v. McIntosh and Cherokee Nation v. Georgia decisions to callously disregard the human rights of Native peoples. Indeed, countless U.S. Indian policies have been based on the underlying, hidden rationale of “Christian discovery” – a rationale which holds that the “heathen” indigenous peoples of the Americas are “subordinate to the first Christian discoverer,” or its successor. [Wheaton:271]

As Thomas Jefferson once observed, when the state uses church doctrine as a coercive tool, the result is “hypocrisy and meanness.” Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court’s use of the ancient Christian Doctrine of Discovery – to circumvent the Constitution as a means of taking Indian lands and placing Indian nations under U.S. control – has proven Madison and Jefferson right.

Bringing an End to Five Hundred Years of Injustice
to Indigenous Peoples

In a country set up to maintain a strict separation of church and state, the Doctrine of Discovery should have long ago been declared unconstitutional because it is based on a prejudicial treatment of Native American people simply because they were not Christians at the time of European arrival. By penalizing Native people on the basis of their non-Christian religious beliefs and ceremonial practices, stripping them of most of their lands and most of their sovereignty, the Johnson v. McIntosh ruling stands as a monumental violation of the “natural rights” of humankind, as well as the most fundamental human rights of indigenous peoples.

As we move beyond the quincentennial of Columbus’ invasion of the Americas, it is high time to formally renounce and put an end to the religious prejudice that was written into U.S. law by Chief Justice John Marshall. Whether or not the American people – especially the Christian right – prove willing to assist Native people in getting the Johnson ruling overturned will say a lot to the world community about just how seriously the United States takes its own foundational principles of liberty, justice, and religious freedom.

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Inter Cetera bulls on May 3 and 4 of 1993, it is important to keep in mind that the Doctrine of Discovery is still being used by countries throughout the Americas to deny the rights of indigenous peoples, and to perpetuate colonization throughout the Western Hemisphere. To begin to bring that system of colonization to an end, and to move away from a cultural and spiritual tradition of subjugation, we must overturn the doctrine at its roots. Therefore, I propose that non-Native people – especially Christians – unite in solidarity with indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere to impress upon Pope John Paul II how important it is for him to revoke, in a formal ceremony with indigenous people, the Inter Cetera bulls of 1493.

Revoking those papal documents and overturning the Johnson v. McIntosh decision are two important first steps toward correcting the injustices that have been inflicted on indigenous peoples over the past five hundred years. They are also spiritually significant steps toward creating a way of life that is no longer based on greed and subjugation. Perhaps then we will be able to use our newfound solidarity to begin to create a lifestyle based on the first indigenous principle: “Respect the Earth and have a Sacred Regard for All Living Things.”


Cherokee Nation v. Georgia 30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 1, 8 L.Ed. 25 (1831).

Davenport, Frances Gardiner, 19l7, European Treaties bearing on the History of the United States and its Dependencies to 1648, Vol. 1, Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Johnson and Graham’s Lessee V McIntosh 21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543, 5 L.Ed. 681(1823).

Rivera-Pagan, Luis N., 1991, “Cross Preceded Sword in ‘Discovery’ of the Americas,” in Yakima Nation Review, 1991, Oct. 4.

Story, Joseph, 1833, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States Vol. 1 Boston: Little, Brown & Co.

Thacher, John Boyd, 1903, Christopher Columbus Vol. 11, New York: G.P. Putman’s Sons.

Williamson, James A., 1962, The Cabot Voyages And Bristol Discovery Under Henry VII, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wheaton, Henry, 1855, Elements of International Law, Sixth Edition, Boston: Little Brown, and Co.

Ziegler, Benjamin Munn, 1939, The International Law of John Marshall, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Steve Newcomb

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Unpacking the Shadowy Outfit Behind 2017’s Biggest Fake News Story


In late 2016, about 200 websites – including – were identified as “Russian propaganda outlets” by the dubious website PropOrNot, hiding behind a cloak of anonymity. Now, journalist George Eliason peels back some of that anonymity in this article originally posted at Washington’s Blog.

Editor’s note: In November 2016, was listed with about 200 other websites at the shadowy “PropOrNot” website, which was claiming to serve as a watchdog against undue “Russian influence” in the United States. The PropOrNot blacklist was elevated by the Washington Post as a credible source, despite the fact that the neo-McCarthyites who compiled the list hid behind a cloak of anonymity. As an article at Consortiumnews explained at the time, the Post granted PropOrNot anonymity “to smear journalists who don’t march in lockstep with official pronouncements from the State Department or some other impeccable fount of never-to-be-questioned truth.”

Now, George Eliason, an American journalist living in Ukraine, has published an article at Washington’s Blog – one of the other 200 blacklisted websites – examining the cast of characters who may be behind the PropOrNot endeavor. As explained in a disclaimer at the original article at Washington’s Blog: “A leading cybersecurity expert has publicly said that Mr. Eliason’s research as presented in this article does not violate the law. Washington’s Blog does not express an opinion about whether or not the claims set forth in this article are accurate or not. Make up your own mind.”

By George Eliason

A little over a year ago, the deep state graced the world with PropOrNot. Thanks to them, 2017 became the year of fake news. Every news website and opinion column now had the potential to be linked to the Steele dossier and Trump collusion with Russia. Every journalist was either “with us or against us.” Anyone who challenged the Russiagate narrative became Russia’s trolls.

Fortunately for the free world, the anonymous group known as PropOrNot that tried to “out” every website as a potential Russian colluder, in the end only implicated themselves. Turnabout is fair play and that’s always the fun part, isn’t it? With that in mind, I know the dogs are going to howl this evening over this one.

The damage PropOrNot did to scores of news and opinions websites in late 2016-2017 provides the basis of a massive civil suit. I mean huge, as in the potential is there for a tobacco company-sized class-action sized lawsuit. I can say that because I know a lot about a number of entities that are involved and the enormous amount of money behind them.

How serious is this? In 2016, a $10,000 reward was put out for the identities of PropOrNot players. No one has claimed it yet, and now, I guess no one will. There are times in your life that taking a stand has a cost. To make sure the story gets out and is taken seriously, this is one of those times.

In this article, you’ll meet some of the people staffing PropOrNot. You’ll meet the people and publications that provide their expenses and cover the logistics. You’ll meet a few of the deep state players. We’ll deal with them very soon. They need to see this as the warning shot over the bow and start playing nice with regular people. After that, you’ll meet the NGOs that are funding and orchestrating all of it. How am I doing so far?

The image above is the clincher or game winner that supplies the necessary proof up front and the direct path to PropOrNot. This was a passive scan of showing the administrative dashboard belongs to the as shown on the left of the image. On the right, it shows that uploads to come from and is a product of that publication.

Now we have the first layer of PropOrNot and our first four contestants. We have a slew of new media organizations that are influenced by, or feeding PropOrNot. Remember, fake news got off the ground and got its wings because of the attention this website received from the Washington Post in Dec. 2016.

At the Interpreter Mag level, here are the people:

  • Michael Weiss is the Editor-in-Chief at the According to his Linkd profile, he is also a National Security Analyst for CNN since July 2017 as well as an Investigative Reporter for International Affairs for CNN since April 2017. He has been a contributor there since 2015. He has been a Senior Editor at The Daily Beast since June 2015.
  • Catherine A. Fitzpatrick is a Russian translator and analyst for the Interpreter. She has worked as an editor for and the former Cold War project funded by the CIA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
  • Pierre Vaux is an analyst and translator for the Interpreter. He’s also an intern. He is a contributor to the Daily Beast, Foreign Policy, RFE/RL and Left Foot Forward and works at Dataminr Inc.
  • James Miller’s bio at the includes Managing Editor of The Interpreter where he reports on Russia, Ukraine, and Syria. James runs the “Under The Black Flag” column at RFE/RL which provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. He is a contributor at Reuters, The Daily Beast, Foreign Policy, and other publications. He is an expert on verifying citizen journalism and has been covering developments in the Middle East, specifically Syria and Iran, since 2009. Miller also works for the U.S. Embassy in Kiev “diplo-page” the Kiev Post.

The Interpreter is a product of the Atlantic Council. The Digital Forensics Research Lab has been carrying the weight in Ukrainian-Russian affairs for the Atlantic Council. Fellows working with the Atlantic Council in this area include:

The strand that ties this crew together is they all work for Ukrainian Intelligence. If you hit the links, the ties are documented very clearly. We’ll get to that point again shortly, but let’s go further:

PropOrNot -> Atlantic Council -> Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)

Who are the BBG? The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is an independent agency of the United States government. According to its website, its mission is to “inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.” Its projects include Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio y Television Marti, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcast Networks.

The BBG’s bipartisan board was eliminated and replaced with a single appointed chief executive officer as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which was passed in December 2016.

On January 1, 2016, the Interpreter became a special project of RFE/RL and under the oversight of the BBG. The Secretary of State had a seat on the board of the BBG until December 2016. Why the change?

During the 2016 election, the BBG developed a major conflict of interest. At least two BBG board members worked actively for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. These government officials were working against the president-elect after the election. It looks like it didn’t go unnoticed. In the following linked article, it shows that they should be investigated for their part in an attempted coup.

From a Nov 7, 2016, article– “Karen Kornbluh is helping refine and to get Hillary Clinton’s message out.” All of them are names to watch if Clinton wins — and key jobs at the FCC and other federal agencies are up for grabs.”

According to her bio: Karen founded the New America Foundation’s Work and Family Program and is a senior fellow for Digital Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Karen has written extensively about technology policy, women, and family policy for The Atlantic, The New York Times and The Washington Post. New York Times columnist David Brooks cited her Democracy article “Families Valued,” focused on “juggler families” as one of the best magazine articles of 2006.

Michael Kempner is the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of MWW Group, a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter, and may get a greater role if she is elected. Kempner is a member of the Public Relations Hall of Fame. Michael Kempner hired Anthony Weiner after the sexting scandal broke in 2011.

Jeff Shell, chairman of the BBG and Universal Filmed Entertainment is supporting a secondary role by being an honor roll donor to the Atlantic Council. While the BBG is supposed to be neutral it has continuously helped increase tensions in Eastern Europe. While giving to the Atlantic Council may not be illegal while in his position, currently, the Atlantic Council’s main effort is to ignite a war with Russia. This may set up a major conflict of interest.

As journalist Robert Parry wrote in October 2016, the propaganda campaign in favor of military confrontation with Russia was driven by “a consensus among the major think tanks of Official Washington, where there is near universal support for Hillary Clinton, not because they all particularly like her, but because she has signaled a return to neocon/liberal-hawk strategies.”

The people who were lining up to take senior positions in a Clinton White House believed that President Obama had been too timid in stressing the dangers of overreach and the need for restraint, especially in the Middle East, and it was time for a more hawkish approach, as embodied by Clinton.

Parry goes on to say that at the forefront of this propaganda campaign was the Atlantic Council, a think tank associated with NATO. Their main goal was “a major confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia,” Parry warned.

So, to make sense of all this, most of the people listed would have held cabinet positions in a Hillary Clinton presidency. If the Interpreter is a project of RFE/RL then the decision to go ahead with PropOrNot would have to go across their desk. That would include, possibly, then Secretary of State, John Kerry.

The unasked question of why would a U.S. Government Agency do this needs to be addressed. All the people listed above were actively working for Clinton to get her elected and throw Donald Trump’s campaign off the rails.

After the election, they were going to take care of Clinton’s “deplorables” by dissecting alternative media. I wrote about this before the election and I warned several major new sites what they could expect. I was right on the money. After she lost, it was already in motion. The deplorable media didn’t fall into a particular political pattern other than they did not promote Hillary Clinton.

The purpose of PropOrNot has been to trick people into demanding that freedom of speech be rolled back. This was/is to be done by destroying fact-based media. If you read further, the entire plan is laid out starting from 2015 when it started coming together.

These people want reality shaped on what the perceived majority (louder) group believes to be true, regardless of what the facts are. Perception based reality is only a Facebook like away from killing one person or elevating another to hero status regardless of what they have done.


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