Believe What You Like But Know What You Must

People are free to be consumed with contemplating their existence, their origins, the origins of the universe, supreme beings, controllers of destiny or anything else. But solving "the Great Mystery" is neither a requirement of being Ohnkwe Ohnwe nor does it provide a path to righteousness. I maintain that spirituality does not require faith or the leaps that faith requires but rather awareness. If it helps to believe that "God has a plan" and we just must have faith that "He" knows what "He" is doing, then walk that path. My interest is in taking the mystery out of life by pointing to the obvious that is ignored everyday in the midst of fanatical ideology and the sometimes not too subtle influences of promoting beliefs over knowledge. I have said it before: “beliefs are what you are told, knowledge is what you experience”. I support a culture that prepares us to receive knowledge and to live a life with purpose. I am certainly not suggesting there is only one way to do that.

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Governor's "New" Good Ideas

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo recently gave his State of the State Budget address. In it he proposed a couple of brand new ideas to stimulate the economy and raise revenue for the State of New York.

The first of his innovative ideas is to create retail establishments in areas that are in dire need of help to bolster their economies. The shops would be allowed to sell merchandise without the oppressive State taxes normally associated with certain products. These shops would only be in certain designated locations and would allow consumers to avoid these oppressive taxes that would still exist everywhere else. The consumers who avoid State tax by patronizing these shops would incur no liability for tax evasion. In fact their purchases are intended to stimulate the local economy, help the NY producers of these products and help keep dollars circulating within those communities and the State for a longer duration. This is being touted as a tourism  program with the hope of attracting out of state consumers to make the trip to these shops and purchase these tax free products thereby giving travelers from other tax jurisdictions the opportunity to avoid their own regions oppressive taxes to New York State's benefit.

Now you might be asking what products is Mr. Cuomo speaking of here. It can't be the state's agricultural products; there is no tax on produce. The answer is simple and obvious: Wine! The key is finding a product that is heavily regulated, over taxed, some what addictive and can be identified with a specific region. Then you strip away the regulations and the tax but only in "special" locations and Bingo! you have a new twist on an old industry. The wine producers of New York will now have streamlined flow to retail. A new breed of retail establishments can emerge to provide jobs, good investments, tourism and most importantly create a flow of revenue that does not leave an area as fast as it comes.

I don't know. Sounds kind of fishy to me; almost "black market". Tax free booze, cheap and more financially accessible? I thought alcohol was a vice. Should New York State be encouraging the growth in the consumption of alcohol? Could this encourage an illicit wine trade? What about all those fine tax paying retailers who won't be able to compete with the new State duty-free wine shops. What about all the lost revenue? Can New York State afford to lose tax revenue? This sounds awfully familiar.....

Oh yeah! Those goddamn Indians. Does this mean that the Governor finally realizes that this very same idea that has been developing for over 30 years in the Native tobacco trade is not a bad thing? Does this mean Mr. Cuomo has looked at real data and realized that the State has actually benefited from Native tax-free sales? Could it be that the manufacturing on Native lands, the wholesaling, distribution and retail now makes sense to those in Albany? Does this mean the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance can finally stop seizing Native brands transported by Native wholesalers from one Native territory to another Native territory? That Native to Native commerce can finally exist without the threat of having loads hijacked by the State? Does this mean the NYS Attorney General will drop his suits against Native manufacturers and withdraw the cease and desist letters to others attempting to block the products entry to the State even though it is just passing through en route to Native lands? Will the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms finally stop characterizing Native tobacco products as contraband simply because they bear no tax stamp from the State and finally cease their raids?

Don't kid yourself! In spite of the hypocrisy, the evidence and the obvious economic benefits to the State, Cuomo is still hellbent on killing Native smoke shops. Is it an Italian thing or does "Duty-Free Wine Shop" just sound better?

What was that second great idea the Governor had again? Oh Yeah! Casinos! How does he keep coming up with this stuff? It's great to be Chief!    

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New York Continues Aggression Against Natives and Native Commerce Even as the "Idle No More" Tsunami Bears Down

Cuomo, The Younger shows no signs of backing away from an aggressive policy of direct interference with Native to Native commerce even as the "Idle No More" movement continues to gain momentum. Seizures of trade goods, cease and desist letters and lawsuits against Native manufacturers shipping to other Native territories continue as the numbers associated with projected tax revenue fail to materialize. And now, at a time where thousands of Native people and their allies are plugging up malls, highways and rail systems just to demonstrate a refusal to lay down, this man with unbridled ambition just seems to be asking for trouble.
The "Idle No More" movement which began North of the imaginary line across Turtle Island may have started over bad Canadian legislation but it is not limited to it. The movement is about protection of what is ours and what is our responsibility. That includes our land, our water and the air that we breath. It also includes our livelihoods and the lives of the generations to come. And make no mistake about it, the movement is here and it is growing. Even without provocation from the state or feds, measurements on what to do and how long to do it are being made on or about every native community everyday and this, in the dead of Winter. Between holidays, snow and freezing temps, this is the time that NYS governors expect the least from us. Not this year. 2012 was just roaring as it went out and 2013 promises to be a year like no other. 
Unprecedented aggression from federal agents that culminated in three armed invasions of three separate Haudenosaunee territories this past year and a state hell bent on destroying the private sector economies of our lands already have people ready to close the Thruway and block the border crossings but now there is not just massive support from all Native lands and Native people on Turtle Island but international support as well. No one saw this coming and now you would think no one could ignore it. But the young Mr. Cuomo appears to be doing just that. This guy with his 70% approval ratings has nowhere to go but down and yet he seems to promote an heir of invincibility as he ponders presidential aspirations. "Idle No More" may not have begun here but the seeds of Native resistance have been sown plenty around here and their roots run deep. This is not a question of kicking a sleeping dog. We are not sleeping. We have just been lying here waiting for the alarm to ring.    
Do you remember the story of the other Cuomo that went on to be President? Of course you don't. Because it didn't happen and an "Arab Spring" here may seal the deal for this one too. Just because there always seems to be bigger and better issues than the "Indian problem" to deal with, doesn't mean we go away and there are neither votes nor money to be made fighting a modern Indian War. Walk gently, grasshopper.