Standing Rock and Veterans Stand

New Orleans      Standing Rock seems like yesterday though it was the fall and winter of 2016, when the Standing Rock Sioux were joined by representatives of tribes from throughout the nation and thousands of supporters in an encampment that tried to stop the completion of the Dakota Pipeline.  The fight inspired deep support.  A truck with clothing and supplies was loaded around our coffeehouse in New Orleans.  Appeals were wide spread and many counted their participation as a milestone in their lives.  I interviewed an organizer-participant on the top of a hillside overlooking the camp where he was able to get cell service and spoke with me on KABF’s Wade’s World for 30 minutes finally admitting that he was standing the whole time in freezing rain.  This was a serious fight.

One of the tactical surprises in the later stages of the resistance when the encampment was being threatened by the sheriff and others was the sudden announcement that a group of veterans being spearheaded by Wesley Clark, Jr., a former solider and son of General Wesley Clark a one-time presidential contender originally from Arkansas, was issuing a call for thousands of veterans to come stand in solidarity with the water keepers.  The fact that they had a GoFundMe site was widely publicized and the publicity helped the site blow up with donations that eventually, with various GoFundMe efforts, totaled more than $1.4 million dollars reportedly.  The notion that so many veterans might rally in this cause was very, very interesting and could have been strategically critical it seemed from an organizing perspective.  When the day came though the numbers were less than expected and the number of veterans reported was in the two-hundred range even as their organizers continue to claim that thousands were on the way but stranded by weather and logistics.  The story drifted as the courts moved increasingly against the tribe and the North Dakota winter became characteristically harsh and bitter for participants.

An amazingly well-reported story in the High Country News by Paige Blankenbuehler entitled “Cashing in on Standing Rock:  How Veterans Stand squandered $1.4 million raised around the #NoDAPL protests” fills in the blanks, and it makes a Dakota winter seem mild.  This is a story that freezes the soul.

The reporter is confused about charities and nonprofits, but she gets right the fact that for inexplicable and suspect reasons the GoFundMe donations were deposited in the personal account of one of the organizers, Michael Wood.  His handling, or rather mishandling, of the money is the lingering issue, but the total disorganization of everything else was the hot mess that meant the numbers at the action were weak, promised reimbursements were late to nonexistent, and logistics on the ground were virtually nonexistent for many veterans trying to support the indigenous efforts.

That’s a tragedy for all of us that no accounting or auditing can cure.  Wood is in a California condo paid for by these contributions. His take-the-money-and-run attitude about Veterans Stand is appalling, and his claim that these were personal donations is scandalous, but the real heartbreak underlying this story is the richness of an alliance between protestors and veterans that has been crippled by this Standing Rock scam and could shut the door on any a future alliance that mobilizes veterans for social justice for years, if not forever.

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Please enjoy this unreleased version of Nothing Compares 2 U by Prince.

Thanks to KABF.

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Facebook Escapes Responsibility

New Orleans    The reviews are in on Mark Zuckerberg’s trip to Washington to visit with Congress. Amazingly, he seems to have emerged largely unscathed from two days of hearings.  All reports indicate that the political class was befuddled and confused, didn’t really understand social media or grasp the full range of the business model, and let Zuckerberg skate on question after question with responses that he would have his “team” look into it and get back to them.

Is this the way a Congressional grilling works?  Is this accountability from Facebook?  An apology and another, “we’ll try harder” is about all that emerges clearly here.   That’s a bag of potato chips for dinner kind of response.  Very unfulfilling!

Not that I’m quitting.  It’s too vital for our communication.  Just minutes ago, I got a message needing urgent advice on a tenant problem in Virginia.  We use Facebook as an organizing tool many places.  We’ve opened up whole countries for ACORN organizing based on a first reach out via a message sent over the internet transom that Facebook facilitates.

Furthermore, reading how difficult it is to quit, it is also pretty clear that they have pretty much all of my information and everyone else’s as well.  I got the Facebook message that one of my almost 3000 friends had opened some random app that made me one of the 80 odd million folks that Cambridge Analytics had sucked up through their scam.  The message wasn’t a remedy and didn’t offer a fix.  Just a note that I’m one of the millions, so it’s too late for me.

But, why is this so hard to fix?  I’ve never opened an app on Facebook and never clicked on an ad.  How hard could it be to require that Facebook ask for permission to use my data?  How hard could it be for Facebook and its algorithms to block random apps from getting my stuff?  This isn’t complicated.  Why when Facebook turns its other cheek are we getting the cold shoulder?

Not that Facebook is any better than Google or any of the others.  The business model is based on ads and pimping me out along with everyone else I know to advertisers.  For the life of me I can’t understand why Congress finds that confusing.

I want a team.  I want our team in Congress to get back to Facebook and tell them to wipe the smirk off of their faces and toe the line for real not with more than vapid apologies.

How hard is it for Congress to pay attention, do its homework, and do right?  And, if it’s too hard for them to regulate Facebook and its friends, then how hard is it for us to find some new folks to go to Washington to figure it out?  The answer is simple:  it’s not that hard really.

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