Friday, July 22, 2011

NOLA Anarcha- Why Anarchists Should Protest the ALEC Conference

It is important for everyone interested in the topics I write on here to know what ALEC is.  I've written a bit about it on a few occasions, and included a bit about them in the video I compiled.

ALEC is meeting in New Orleans in just a few short weeks.  ALEC protests have thus far mostly called for transparency and similar watered-down demands.  The article I include below calls on anarchists to participate.  What I like about the article is that it argues that anarchists should be involved not so much because of the specifics of ALEC's heinousness, but because of what they represent.
While ALEC's dealings aren't a meaningful divergence from the normal machinations of power, it is easier for people to see that the system's a sham, and easier for them to finger the true culprits, when corporations are writing their own legislation. This is why the anti-ALEC organizing to confront those economic power structures is worth supporting.
The article below didn't emphasize the privateness of prisons the way a lot of websites and articles do.  At the same time, the reason I put together the video "Private Prisons in a Wider Context" is because ALEC and privatization of prisons is part of a broader trajectory that we must oppose on that macro scale, which is something I'm seeing very little discussion of so far.

Why Anarchists Should Protest the ALEC Conference in New Orleans, August 5th

via NOLA Anarcha Blog ---

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is coming to town! They are a bunch of nasty fuckers who bring corporations together with state legislators so corporate lawyers can hand pre-written bills to the politicians, who then try to get the bills passed in their state legislatures.

ALEC has been making the news a lot recently, with NPR pieces[pt.1, pt.2] about how, in meetings with private prison corporations, they wrote the infamous SB1070, the anti-immigrant law that anarchists and others have been fighting against in Arizona.

Leaked documents from inside ALEC prompted an interview segment on Democracy Now! The documents show that ALEC, in partnership with it's corporate members, actually wrote many pro-corporate laws that have since gone into effect, including free trade agreements that were a main focus of the anti-globalization movement many anarchists participated in after the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999.

And on the Huffington Post, an article explains how ALEC is carrying forward the ideological program of deregulation and privatization pushed by Milton Friedman. This simplistic, fundamentalist capitalist ideology has had many negative local effects, as was mentioned in a recent article on this blog.

Now, anarchists have no illusions about the fact that big business owns and runs the government, but at least corporate power usually fears public anger that arises from the blatant merger of State and corporate power enough to put on a political puppet show for us! Mostly, the way elites legitimize the unequal and unjust system that they preside over to the rest of us is to make sure that it at least has the appearance of people, through elected politicians, getting to decide democratically what happens in our country. ALEC doesn't bother with that populist song and dance, they facilitate the outright penning of legislation by corporations themselves becoming law. So we end up with things like Immigration Policy, brought to you by Corrections Corporation of America! etc...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Beware the Funders of Immigrants’ Rights

What would make a giant foundation headed by rich people be interested in donating money to so many groups promoting social justice? What’s Ford Foundation’s interest in all the immigrants’ rights non-profit organizations that are involved in Arizona (and beyond)? While a member of the Board of Trustees at Ford Foundation is simultaneously on the Board of Directors at none other than the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)[1], Ford funds groups who have campaigns against CCA.[2] Other groups[3] also funded by Ford, are working on campaigns to counter the racist overpopulation myths that have been promoted by institutions like the Population Council who have received close to $100 million from Ford[4]. This speaks not so much of blatant hypocrisy, but that those in charge of the Ford Foundation have a completely different agenda than a lot of the groups they fund.

The publication in 2007 of the book The Revolution Will Not Be Funded put out by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence sparked discussions about the role of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC)[5] in movements. The book delves into “…the way in which capitalist interests and the state use non-profits to (1) monitor and control social justice movements; (2) divert public monies into private hands through foundations; (3) manage and control dissent in order to make the world safe for capitalism; (4) redirect activist energies into career-based modes of organizing instead of mass-based organizing capable of actually transforming society; (5) allow corporations to mask their exploitive and colonial work practices through ‘philanthropic’ work; (6) encourage social movements to model themselves after capitalist structures rather than to challenge them.”[6]

This article will focus on points one and three, addressing not only Ford’s historical involvement with the CIA and violent coups, but also their tendency to channel resistance into “reasonable” and “responsible” activities like legal defense and reform, and how their hollow push for “equality” is part of “progress” on their terms. Although there is emphasis here on the Ford Foundation and how it may impact the immigrants’ rights movement, this article also addresses funding from other foundations[7], private donors and the government, which may have similar impacts on groups, as does the desire to win over politicians, mainstream media, etc. This is about whether the world we want to live in is compatible with that of any funder or anyone in positions of power whether they’re promoting social justice or not. This is about how people orient themselves in relation to the current power structure. 

History of Manipulation

Many of us are engaged in a battle against the deeply engrained myths about overpopulation which are part of the attack on the fourteenth amendment which gives citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil. The argument that immigration means overpopulation and destruction, reeking of racism, has infiltrated various sectors of politics and activism, including environmental groups. These myths can partly be traced back to the Population Council, which Ford Foundation has been funding since 1954. What does it mean for organizations working to fight these ideas about immigrants and overpopulation to accept Ford Foundation funding?

A little context: “The 1957 report of an ad hoc committee, consisting of representatives from the Population Council…outlined the emerging strategy of population control. Titled Population: An International Dilemma, the report depicted population growth as a major threat to political stability both at home and abroad.”[8] As I have written in “Invasion by Birth Canal?” “The efforts to supposedly end poverty through population control…is actually an attempt to decrease the threats that Black/Brown and poor people’s desires for freedom and equality (or even just survival) represent to these systems,” and to deflect responsibility for the poverty which is usually due to “resource/labor extraction as part of colonialism, capitalism, and neo-liberalism.”[9] Ford Foundation and others, making themselves out to be benevolent funders of the “empowerment” and “education” of poor (brown) women, are making deflecting responsibility for poverty and environmental problems onto these same women in the U.S. and abroad.

Ford Foundation, along with other institutions has sought stability across the world including within the US. In so doing, it has made itself a player in supporting the promotion of population control, as well as Capitalist-influenced economic change that has been accompanied by coups and horrendous human rights abuses, such as in Indonesia:

“Sukarno’s independent foreign policy greatly antagonized Western powers, and during his regime international agencies such as the Ford Foundation focused on sending the country’s intellectual elite [known later as the Berkeley Mafia] abroad for training, in the hope that one day they would inherit power. Their investment paid off in 1966, when a bloody military coup, which left a million dead, brought the country’s current ruler, General Suharto, to power. Under the influence of Western-trained technocrats, Suharto embraced the philosophy of population control. Today he has become one of its most prominent spokesmen in the Third World.” Naomi Klein describes Ford’s involvement a bit more in depth, “The Berkeley Mafia had studied in the U.S. as part of a program that began in 1956… Ford-funded students became leaders of the campus groups that participated in overthrowing Sukarno, and the Berkeley Mafia worked closely with the military in the lead-up to the coup, developing ‘contingency plans’ should the government suddenly fall.”[10]

Extremely similar was Ford’s link to the 1973 coup in Chile, involving the Chicago Boys who were trained (funded by Ford) in Milton Freidman’s neo-liberal program at the University of Chicago.[11] The coup and the resulting detainment, torture, and deaths are an indirect result of Ford’s vision for stability and development.

Of course Ford Foundation is a different entity now and has turned to superficially supporting human rights efforts in response to the torture, disappearances, and murders. Yet, maybe Ford is not all that different. Naomi Klein wrote, “Given its own highly compromised history, it is hardly surprising that when Ford dived into human rights, it defined the field as narrowly as possible. The foundation strongly favored groups that framed their work as legalistic struggles for the ‘rule of law,’ ‘transparency’ and ‘good governance,’”[12] which, as we’ll see, is part of a larger pattern.

In reading about Ford, one might get the sense that they didn’t fully comprehend the implications of that which was being taught to the Chicago Boys. Compared to many other institutions, Ford Foundation hasn’t pushed a neo-liberal agenda much. However, despite the fact that they have funded projects that are critical of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), they have also funded organizations with a more successful pro-NAFTA stance.[13] It is commonly acknowledged that NAFTA contributed to the loss of land and jobs in Mexico and so not only is Ford tied to the myths about overpopulation, they also share responsibility for the economic/political conditions that have led to mass immigration. It also appears that they are funding research that would help facilitate Homeland Security, as well as trade and growth in the border region, something that may cause more migrants and indigenous people to face displacement and dispossession.[14]

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Private Prisons in a Wider Context: Video

It has been encouraging to see the awareness about the role of private prison companies in influencing criminalization of people grow and grow in the last year.  SB 1070 and the relationship between various legislators like Russell Pearce and private prison companies like CCA and Geo Group within the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and between governor Jan Brewer and CCA, has been exposed recently.  People had already started to address the connection between Wells Fargo and private prison-run detention centers that hold thousands of migrants in other parts of the country and a tiny bit here in AZ.  Now there are country-wide campaigns popping off against private prisons companies and against ALEC.

However, as horrible as the conditions in private prisons are (and they do tend to be several times worse than state-run facilities), and as obvious as it is that SB 1070 passed with great influence on the part of those who stand to make millions off of putting people in cages, I would hate to see the focus be solely on this most recent phenomenon.  An anti-private prison campaign can easily fall into the same traps as the "go after the real criminals" message, as though there's nothing wrong with the "criminal" "justice" system.  As though the criminalization of people who cross a man-made line is not similar to the criminalization of so many of the people in prisons today and historically.  We should also consider the limitations of previous nation-wide anti-private prison campaigns like the one that targeted Sodexho in the early 2000's. A focus only on the privatization of prisons can only divert energy from addressing the prison system in general; the various reasons people end up in jail or prison, and the ways in which the system will never and is not meant to address the real ills of our society.

I put together the following video to provide a complex yet still simplistic (limited by time and resources) history of criminalization of people for the benefit of the few.  Please share it with anyone you think would be interested.  This video is a follow up from several of my blog entries including No Borders or Prison Walls and What came first: the Racism or the Profit Motive? On Private Prisons' push for SB1070

Please also view the 2nd part.  It all ties together, and there's some good commentary towards the end.