Wednesday, January 23, 2019


In the Sixties there was a big guy in a suit who would come into the shop and say in a loud voice, "Who here called for the FBI?"  In many places when he did this, the assumption was that he himself was an FBI agent.  He told us people would answer intimate questions, open their bookkeeping, and treat him with fearful respect.  Not us.  We were in Browning, the Blackfeet Reservation.  We knew the FBI never came there unless there was positive publicity for a dramatic case.  I'm still a sceptic in some ways, but I'm no conservative.  

We knew that the FBI was originally supposed to pursue the seven major crimes, which were murder, manslaughter, rape, assault with intent to kill, arson, burglary and larceny.  Added later were kidnapping, maiming, a felony under chapter 109A (i.e. sexual abuse), incest, a felony assault under section 113 (e.g. assault with intent to commit murder or assault with a dangerous weapon), an assault against an individual who has not attained the age of 16 years, felony child abuse or neglect, a felony under section 661 of this title (i.e. larceny).

Notice that there are items that make legitimate the removal of indigenous children from their own parents so available for white adoption.  Children are the most valuable product of families, a more vital resource than minerals or timber.  There is nothing addressing the interference with federal funds meant for tribes.  Both schools and rez families are meant to benefit those who suffer from poverty and isolation.  Intercepting that money stunts lives and kills people.  Nothing is said about casinos.  Nothing is said about non-Indians committing any of these crimes against reservation people.  Nothing is said about syndicated criminal webs that are national or even international.

The creation of Homeland Security made me nervous because defensive militarization is always a drain on funds and an opportunity for people wanting power.

"The Department of Homeland Security is a federal agency; the FBI, on the other hand, is one division of another federal agency (the Department of Justice). So, the DHS can be understood to occupy a higher rung on the hierarchy as far as domestic security and intelligence is concerned.

"Logistically, the DHS also appears to hold the superior position; it has a $40.6 billion budget that finances an agency of 229,000 members, according to 2017 numbers. The FBI, on the other hand, has an annual budget of $8.7 billion and only operates about 35,000 employees.

"Furthermore, the head of DHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security (currently Kristjen Nielsen) reports directly to the President of the United States. In contrast, the Director of the FBI reports to both the Attorney General as well as Director of National Intelligence, both of which report to the President. Interestingly, however, the Director of the FBI and the DHS Secretary both serve “at the pleasure of the President.”
Short answer: DHS.

This is only one little piece of the tangle of three dimensional chess of investigation and protection services in the US.  It never occurred to anyone that the salaries of these people would be removed in order to cripple them.  AND their families.  We always thought in terms of guns.  Although, when they turned up in pairs, in suits, with polished city shoes, we tended to mistake them for Mormon missionaries.

There is a religious dimension to all this, both in terms of righteousness and in terms of guiding authority.  It's tempting to think of it as a split between Catholic (paternalism) and Protestant (community mainstream) with the Catholics using authority and Protestants using convention for their guides.  But that just confuses an issue that's already very mixed up.  We can't even agree on what is an offence, much less what it should mean in terms of consequences and who should be in charge of enforcement.

Since I'd watched everything on (!), I buckled and went back to Netflix.  I wanted to watch "House of Cards," but didn't get much out of it.  The plot simply  killed most of the characters from the first series, giving each a little bit of the cascade of confrontations that passed for narrative.  There were quite a few references to current presidential matters, like the desire to turn over the cabinet to entirely female members -- forgetting that simply going by gender is no guarantee of quality.  There are as many totally unqualified cabinet members who are female right now, as there are ancient fossils of the male gender assignment who are simply rich.

I tried thinking about public schools -- I don't have any knowledge of parochial schools -- which is as tangled and internally contradictory a subject as any legislature.  The re-centering of high schools from academics to sports is almost complete.  Sports teach loyalty only to one's team and make coaches so completely dominant that secret things can happen in the showers.  At home the kids are hypnotized by video games, but though they are wired to see everything as strategy and scores, I doubt any of them could make points in a stick game on a rez.

As I post, it is the anniversary of the last "massacre" of Blackfeet.  There was no Homeland Security or FBI then, just cavalry leftovers from the Civil War.  

"When word of the Baker Massacre (now known as the Marias Massacre) reached the east, many Americans were outraged. One angry congressman denounced Baker, saying “civilization shudders at horrors like this.” Baker’s superiors, however, supported his actions, as did the people of Montana, with one journalist calling Baker’s critics “namby-pamby, sniffling old maid sentimentalists.” Neither Baker nor his men faced a court martial or any other disciplinary actions. However, the public outrage over the massacre did derail the growing movement to transfer control of Indian affairs from the Department of Interior to the War Department–President Ulysses S. Grant decreed that henceforth all Indian agents would be civilians rather than soldiers."

This is the kind of atrocity that is the background of Nathan Phillips and that fuels his drive for peace.  

The Internet and vids have changed everything but not by teaching kids to game.  Every hand holds a camera.  Every small event is public and analyzed.  Every kid is soon named.  Every person is judged by appearance.  A divided country will seize any moment for politics.  There is no more "personal."  Authorities can promote dissension by "standing back."  The Rule of Law can be pretty confused.  So now what?

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