Black Rock City: 100,000 or 50,000?

Are rangers really Brand Protectors? That is what is being alleged in discussions in the local community. Who should decide what is sexual assault, and what gets brushed off as “unwanted touching”? Cops? Black Rock Rangers? Ummm, here’s a thought: the victim?

BMorg wants to increase the population size to 100,000, which would bring them at least another $15 million per year. The larger population size is effectively a tax on the food and drink camps, not to mention a MOOP and abandoned bike nightmare. It is a boon for the airline and bus service, and will require even more vendors licensed to sell stuff on the Playa. The tiny Pershing County, where a quarter of the population are incarcerated, is already overloaded with the year-round burden of Burning Man. They think that a 50,000 population is more realistic.

Some of our previous coverage:

Pershing County Asks to Limit Black Rock City to 50,000

Sheriff asks Org to pony up more money and officers

Local sheriff overwhelmed by Burning Man arrests

BURNILEAKS: Sexual Assaults, Missing Kids and Violent Crime

Recent story from Reno Gazette-Journal Are Nevada’s Small Towns Ready For Burning Man To Hit 100,000 people?

Black Rock City’s Law Enforcement Liaison Roger Vind presented to Pershing County Commissioners yesterday. We are publishing his statements as well as our source’s notes on them. You can download the 2017 PCSO Post-Mission Synopsis here.


From DS:

I have attached a copy of the comments made by Roger Vind BRC’s Law Enforcement Liaison and presented to the Pershing County Commissioners yesterday.

2018 BRC letter 8-15-18

DS:

Below are my comments submitted to the LRM reporter. I expect an article in our local paper next week. I will forward a copy when available.

Please note the authorization for traffic stops on the Playa comes from BRC with the signed SRP. The 2013 Settlement Agreement specifies Integrated Command.

Prior to 2014 the BLM LEO agency(s) used the Federal Court and most of the drug citations were dismissed with a $500 traffic fee or so I believe. With the significant reduction  of fees paid to Pershing County due to the 2013 Settlement Agreement’s INTEGRATED COMMAND as insisted by BRC. Which has shifted to Pershing County the prosecution of crimes on the Playa. A consequence of Integrated Command.

I always marvel at BRC’s chutzpa  in trying to alter reality.


Here are my comments after reading the text of the statement for the record by R. Vind. I have sent by previous e-mail a copy of the BRR Manual and inserted some excerpts below.

I see the Rangers as BRAND PROTECTORs not Law Enforcement assets for either Black Rock City (BRC), the BLM or Sheriff though BRC tends to use them as though they are a Law Enforcement offset. Having read the Sheriff’s 2017 Post Mission Synopsis (PMS), the published text of the District Attorney’s EIS/SRP comments, I can find no validation of BRC’s complaints or their alternate reality unsupported by actual facts. I have included Unified Crime Report (UCR) graphs below.

 


Roger Vind (NHP Lt. ret.) BRC Law Enforcement Liaison

Emma Weisman Agency Relations Manager at Burning Man

 

In evaluations of the new SRP proposal. BLM is seeking input from interested publics and local and state agencies about the potential impacts (both positive and negative) on the resources of the Black Rock Desert environment, the social services necessary to support such a large event and economic impacts associated with the event.         Comments will be considered as part of the scoping process until August 4, 2018.

 My Itemized response to Burning Man’s concerns:

  • Pershing County has never produced the (Burning Man) Event
  • The BLM Burning Man EIS SRP public comment period was open to both the Public and Cooperators and not subject to the whims or revisions of the Multi-Million Dollar San Francisco based for profit corporation (BRC). BRC has done two Public Comment meetings in Pershing County and meets frequently with the BLM.
  • The statement “In fact there are 57 instances pertaining to Law Enforcement in the 2018 Black Rock Ranger Manual…” is unclear, confused, and needs clarification.
  • Additionally the following statement “the manual clearly supports law enforcement’s roles and our utilization of law enforcement involvement.” Is telling. (The manual is available online)
  • Unreported Sexual Assaults are a serious matter that BRC should finally address for the benefit of their participants/victims as our District Attorney suggests: “Anecdotal information from state and federal law enforcement officers suggests that the BRR encourages event participants to avoid reporting incidents to law enforcement in favor of resolving matters “in house” with the BRR’s assistance,” Shields states in the letter. “Such stories from law enforcement seem to be credible because the 2018 Black Rock Ranger (BRR) Manual contains instructions to BRRs to ‘filter’ what is reported to law enforcement.” (The “filtering” is done in part by the BRR chain of command as indicated by the manual.) And is clearly not contradicted by Sheriff Allen as R. Vind alleges.
  • R. Vind goes on to complain about the self inflicted wound from the Settlement Agreement’s Integrated Command BRC’s cost savings bonanza.
  • Then ignorantly refers to “The County also generates revenue from the convictions it secures…”
  • BRC authorizes the BLM to perform “traffic stops” in the closure area, has done so for years with their SRP.
  • BRC’s 2017 Afterburn report might be done December of 2018. It takes over a year before its available. BRC pays ONLY for an eight day event which means the Sheriff’s PMS is done at TAXPAYER expense.
  • Are the Commissioners still waiting to receive Emergency Plans previously requested?
  • Has there been ANY community involvement in Pershing County from BRC as requested by Commissioner Rackley last year?
  • This is the first year BLM/BRC has acknowledged the legal requirement for Vendor compliance with County Business Licenses.
  • Firearm(s) found in the vehicle of a BRC employee during the 2016 Coroner’s investigation. The others had been admitted to Black Rock City after the Contraband search by BRC in 2017.

 

The voters of Pershing County will hold the Sheriff accountable for the magnificent job he is doing despite the budget limitations imposed by BRC and their untrustworthy conduct, unreasonable, and outlandish demands.

BRC has a clear financial incentive to increase the “paid population” by 30,000 at the standard ticket price of $425 or $12.75 million.

Pershing County has acknowledged the actuality that 50,000 is a more viable population cap for our limited resources.


(excerpts) 2018 Black Rock Ranger Manual

Sexual harassment, as defined within the Ranger Department, may consist of, but is not limited to, any unwelcome touching, stalking, repeated requests for a date after someone has said “no,” continuing to engage in sexual discussion or banter after being asked to stop, or similar behavior. Harassment will not be tolerated, regardless of who engages in it.

What happens if I make a report?

Reports of harassment are very serious. The Ranger Personnel Manager will investigate reports of harassment and will take remedial measures when appropriate. If you have made a report and are one of the principal people involved, you will be notified of the findings when the investigation is complete.

Will my report be kept confidential?

Information about harassment reports will be kept confidential and only shared with Ranger Managers on a need-to-know basis to complete the investigation. The Rangers’ policy with regard to sexual harassment or violence in the workplace is one of zero tolerance. We strongly support and adhere to the Burning Man policy. Burning Man is founded on expectations set by the community standards inherent to it.

One such community standard is creating an environment that is free of sexual harassment and violence by volunteers, staff, or vendors. Any reported occurrences will be investigated and regarded with the utmost compassion and gravity. The investigation will follow the guidelines set by the Burning Man Board for conflict resolution. Violation of this policy may result in progressive discipline, up to and including: counseling, eviction, termination, or legal action. The full text of the Burning Man Project’s organization-wide conflict resolution protocol may be found here.

 

In approaching any situation, a Ranger’s initial default action is DO NOTHING. (The exceptions to this axiom are must-report situations [e.g., medical emergencies, lost child, etc.]). If, in the process of doing nothing, you decide that your presence would be helpful, engage by helping participants solve their own problems. If they are unable to do so, try to solve the problem for them. If the situation still needs attention, call Khaki.

Must-Reports—Situations that Must Be Called in Immediately Black Rock Rangers are entrusted with considerable flexibility in how they handle the situations they encounter in Black Rock City. Rangers are trained to rely on their own judgment and abilities, and to escalate matters (generally to Khaki who is part of the Shift Command Team) for assistance when appropriate. There are, however, situations in which the Ranger Department requires that Rangers report what they observe to the Shift Command Team immediately.

The requirement to report is in place to ensure that the Burning Man organization is aware of events that are critical to maintaining agreements we have in place with other departments and agencies, our internal reporting metrics, or legally required or advisable record keeping and reporting.

It is important to note that this policy only requires that a Ranger escalate required information to the Shift Command Team. The Shift Leads will then follow up with appropriate actions, which may be as simple as noting the event in the shift log, or may include further escalation. It is not the individual Dirt Ranger’s responsibility to contact LE or medical.

How to Report

All reports begin by calling Khaki on the radio.


Crime and Population Statistics

 

Shadow Banning: It’s Not Just Conservatives

Shadow Banning is in the news this week, with Silicon Valley tech giants Google (YouTube), Facebook, LinkedIn, and Apple all kicking Alex Jones off their platforms in a simultaneous multi-platform purge. Predictably, the Streisand Effect kicked in, sending Alex Jones’s InfoWars app trending to #3 on the download list at the App Store.

Twitter kept Jones on and CEO (and Burner?) Jack Dorsey went on Fox News’ Hannity talkshow, where he claimed they do not shadow ban accounts or target conservatives. If they don’t shadow ban accounts, then why is there this site shadowban.eu where you can type in your Twitter handle to test if you are shadow banned?

Google are good guys, aren’t they? Don’t be evil? They would never abuse their monopoly power to arbitrarily punish sites. They’re Burners, and used the Burning Man logo to promote their company to the tech industry. So they must love freedom, freedom of speech, and radical self expression, right? The goal of their search engine is to put you in touch with the best information…isn’t it?

Well maybe their vast powers of Artificial Intelligence can give me an explanation for what’s going on.

Burners.Me is by far the largest blog about Burning Man on the Internet, with almost 2000 stories written by 30 different people over 6.5 years. We have 270,000+ followers on Facebook, 15,000+ on Twitter, and tens of thousands more who subscribe to every post on email. We’ve been quoted by the New York Times, Bloomberg, The Guardian, VICE, and many other mainstream media outlets. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of other sites that link in to our articles.

We have been the #1 blog and #1 post on WordPress multiple times; and frequently in Top 100. This is not just about Burning Man, this is out of all blogs in the world. WordPress powers 27% of the Internet, 75 million blogs

So you would think that a search for “Burning Man blog” would bring this site up pretty quickly, yeah? For most of Burners.Me’s life, we were on page 1 of the search results for this. Now, it’s on the bottom of page 5, behind many smaller and abandoned blogs and some totally unrelated content.

 

What about a search for “Burning Man“? We have thousands and thousands of pages about every aspect of the event.

Bottom of page 11.

Hmmm. What about “burning man drugs” – we have scores of harm reduction posts by Terry Gotham. We have the actual data about drugs found at Burning Man and drug-related arrests from the Pershing County Sheriff’s office, as far as I know the only location on the Internet with that.

Funnily enough, if you search “Terry Gotham” Burners.Me is on page 1.

Use a proper search engine, duckduckgo.com, we come up 3rd for “Burning Man blog”. As it should be. Accurate search results, not Deep Mind controlled propaganda narratives.

This blog’s a hobby for me. My art project. I started it to share my opinion, not to get an audience. So the consequences of this particular search result manipulation are pretty minor. But think about what it means in context: someone from the Burning Man Project went to someone from Google – possibly direct to the Billionaire Burner founders – and said “do us a favor, mute this voice”? And they did it? No trial, no opportunity to mount a defense, no notification that anything at all had even happened. Not even the courtesy of a label like the “Fake News” people get. All you can see (if you pay attention to such things) is your web traffic go way down, for no apparent reason.

How many times a day does this happen to people that “They” don’t like, and how many messages and voices are getting invisibly tuned out of The Matrix like this? Do they do the same thing to me personally, to my friends, to my companies?

Is it right that corporations should have that kind of power? Is it right that a festival should? One that purports to be all about making the world a better place?

Perhaps there is a genuine explanation for why smaller blogs with less content rank higher. I’m all ears, Google.

What she said:

Smithsonian A Hit: Qui Bono?

Is Burning Man cashing in from their Smithsonian exposure, right before the big cash-out of the “Original Founders”?

Here is some of the coverage of No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick gallery:

Smithsonian web site

Smithsonian magazine

Bloomberg

Billboard

CNN

DJ Mag

Fast Company

Architectural Record

Artsy

Washington.org

The New York Times asked “Will the Spirit of Burning Man Art Survive in Museums?”

Recently, they announced a deal with Intel and Linden Labs, creators of Second Life – home of the Burn2 cyberspace regional Burn.

Sansar and Intel remake the Smithsonian’s art of Burning Man exhibit in VR (updated)

Will there be a Burning Man: IMAX 3D now?

It is great that big corporations like Intel are patrons of the arts. To whom does that patronage flow? Qui bono: who benefits? Burners?

The Smithsonisan exhibit, all the media attention around it, and now immersive HD multimedia experiences are creating a lot of value.

Where is that value going? It is going to the brand. Who owns the brand? A private company. Who are the directors of that company? Well, it does not appear to be who they told us the controllers were when we first exposed the existence of Decommodifcation, LLC.

There’s been a bit of discussion in our recent Rockstar Librarian post by trolls who think if you are going to write about Burning Man on your blog, you should be expected to pay for other peoples’ art projects from your own pocket, and you must never criticize the founders.

All of the founders made millions of dollars from the corporatization of Burning Man, and I don’t begrudge them that. I’ve never criticized them for that. They chose to sell it for the lowest possible value to the Burning Man project, which did have the effect of increasing the size of the tax breaks they all received for donating the Org to the 501(c)3 – an organization controlled by themselves, with public reporting requirements, which never pays tax. That’s just a fact. There’s no need to doxx the founders’ financial situations, this was all information publicly discussed on their web site and in the newspapers at the time.

Did they earn a lot of money previously to that transaction, that they needed a tax break to cover? We may never know, but A Balanced Perspective has provided evidence to support his analysis that the annual salaries suddenly leaped from about 2 million a year in 2009 to about 8 million a year in 2010, where it stayed for a few years before the transition was “complete”. Where did all that money go? The workers? It definitely did not go to the artists.

We exposed in Decommodification, Inc and Clarification of Decommodification that what really went on with Burning Man’s “transition to a non-profit” was not entirely altruistic. Less well publicized was the creation of a private company in 2010 called Decommodifcation, LLC that held all the actual value of Burning Man. There were various statements made by various founders around the time. Here’s what Larry said. First:

I will address two lingering perplexities. It has been asked if we intend to reveal the financial records of Black Rock City LLC. The answer is yes; that too will happen at about the same time as the Burning Man Project reveals its information—these two entities will then become a clean well-lighted suite of rooms thrown open for inspection. But I cannot guaranty that even this amount of disclosure will satisfy everyone. Even then, I suppose that some will look for skeletons in closets, or search for sliding walls that might conceal a dungeon.

[Source: burningman.org]

This did not in fact happen. Black Rock LLC’s financial records are still secret. The new organization, The Burning Man Project, is required to disclose their IRS Form 990, which is a publicly available document. They revealed what they are required to by law, and very little more. They arranged a story in Philanthropy magazine that they then pointed to as “proof” that they became more transparent. See 2014 Afterburn Report: The Death of Transparency and A Balanced Perspective’s guest post Unlikely Leader in Transparency.

The public information reveals not so much a dungeon as a giant treasure chest. Enormous amounts of cash that are being kept in the coffers. The financial reports in prior years disclosed more to the community. And the reason they were public in the first place? Because the community makes Burning Man. We The People have a right to know, because our money creates the Org to deal with the cops and the road signs and the lighting of The Man. We want to be sure our money is well spent, and not wasted on international junkets to festivals by the year round staff. The new reporting format does not deliver this, at all. There appears to be absolutely zero oversight of these matters.

As A Balanced Perspective pointed out, in an interview with Scribe in the SF Bay Guardian at the time the transition was first announced in 2011 they mentioned a second payout:

Yet Harvey and the other board members, such as Michael Mikel and Marian Goodell, insist that the board plays an important role in shepherding the event and the culture that has grown up around it, which is why they plan on waiting three years to turn control of the event over to the new nonprofit, the Burning Man Project, and another three years after that until they liquidate their ownership of the name and associated trademarks and are paid for their value.

This certainly suggests a further payout is due, one based on the value of the trademarks (very high) rather than the operating business (quite low). Control of the event was handed over to the non-profit The three years mentioned coincides with the planned dissolution of Decommodification, LLC. Which should be now. I couldn’t find any mention of it at all in the 2017 Annual Report.

Back to Larry:

So let me make one last comment regarding Decommodification LLC, which is viewed by some as a sort of sinister outbuilding that is separate from both the event organization and the Burning Man Project. My fellow founders and I are the sole members of this entity whose chief property is the name “Burning Man”. This too will be transferred to the non-profit in three years time, unless the partners elect “not” to do so by a unanimous vote. This arrangement is designed to force our hand.

The Burning Man event organization has used this trademark power to protect our community’s culture from being exploited. We have done this very diligently over several years (it is a right of ownership that must exercised, or it will perish). Furthermore, we have not relied on licensing this intellectual property as a source of revenue. The reason for this 3-year interval is that even we do not invest blind faith in the new non-profit’s workings, and we want to be perfectly sure that it can be relied upon, in the face of temptations that arise within any organization when dealing with power or money, to pursue the policies that we have practiced.

[Source: burningman.org]

Larry is saying that unless the partners vote unanimously to stop it, the intellectual property held by Decommodification LLC transfers to the Burning Man Project this year – presumably triggering a large payout. Who are the partners? The story at the time was that this was the “6 Founders” of Burning Man. Who is it today? According to Corporation Wiki, something different.

Without Larry (may he Rest in Peace), that leaves Marian and Harley as managing members, along with Crimson Rose and Director of Finance Doug Robertson who seems to have been engineering this corporate restructure since he joined in 2009. Will they vote to pass all the intellectual property back to the Burning Man Project? Or will they vote to keep it where it is, in a private company with no oversight that owns assets worth (at least) tens of millions of dollars that they completely control? We know that Decommodification LLC earns royalties from the Burning Man Project for the use of the trademarks. As best we can tell, it’s $75,000 per year. How much do museums pay? How much gets earned from documentaries, soundtracks, calendars, and other users of the brand? This information is a closely guarded secret.

We have already seen the legal resources of The Burning Man Project being employed to protect the value of the intellectual property owned by Decommodification, LLC.

Time flies. “It’s already been a few years, what’s a few more”? From the 2014 thread discussing the transition at Burning Man’s site; my opinions have not changed in the past 4 years:

A great comment along these lines from Dave:

[Source: burningman.org]

One of the things mentioned at the time of the transition was the concept of a “Dead Man’s Switch”. Danger Ranger was rather proud of having inserted this:

The sole purpose of Decommodification LLC is to protect the Burning Man name and I’ve programmed it to automatically dissolve after its mission is completed. Larry has the last word on the Transition discussion. (But I am pleased to note that I am the one who programmed the deadman switch into Decommodification LLC.)

[Source: Danger Ranger Facebook post, 2014]

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? “Don’t worry about anything because I programmed it to automatically dissolve”. It is easy for these people to say things, but you have to use logic, not just listen to the words. Organizations that deal in the truth don’t employ Ministers of Propaganda. From the Bylaws of the Burning Man Project:

The clause above says “nobody can make any money off Burning Man”, which is the argument One Who Doesn’t Know This Dude has been making. But…there’s a but. It also says “except the Founders”.

Here’s what Larry said at the BJ:

The truth is that the Burning Man Project now employs all but one of the former owners of Black Rock City LLC.

This means we have surrendered all rights of ownership.

But that wasn’t the truth. The truth is they didn’t surrender all rights of ownership. It’s there in black and white in the bylaws.

If the “sole purpose” of Decommodification LLC was to dissolve itself once the transition to a non-profit was complete, there would be no reason for this exception clause to be in the bylaws that constitute the organization. It could be covered as part of the sale agreement, or the contract that the “three year dissolution” clause is in (if that is a different document). Instead, it appears that it was extremely important for the founders to put that in the bylaws. Their right to profit from the IP cannot be taken away, ever. I can’t find any mention in the bylaws of this Dead Man’s Switch, which is strange because the bylaws describe many other situations that require unanimous consent of the directors.

Likewise, if Decommodification LLC is designed to self-destruct as soon as the org has adjusted to being a non-profit, why did they amend the ticket terms and conditions with this?

Here’s what the Org said in their 2013 Afterburn Report

Burning Man is much bigger today than when the new Burning Man Project entity was announced in 2011 then announced as complete in 2014.

More than 4 years later, and the true value of Burning Man is still in a private company, not the non-profit. So how can the “transition to a non-profit” be complete?

IP = Intellectual Property = Intangible Assets. It is the brand of Burning Man that lets them charge $1200 a ticket to create Black Rock City. It is the brand that sells out the Smithsonian with lines around the block. And it is the brand that does a licensing deal with Intel and Second Life.

This exhibit is just the start. They can take that on the road, and with so much Burner art sitting in warehouses, they can curate multiple exhibits. When a museum hosts a Burning Man exhibit, is that gifted? If Intel makes promotional videos about virtual reality there, is that gifted? Do these corporations make a donation to the Burning Man Project? Or do they pay a royalty to Decommodification, LLC? Or both?

From the 2017 Annual Report:

Museums and Public Art

This feels like a new chapter in Burning Man’s history for multiple reasons. The fact that traditional arts and culture institutions are interested in curating Burning Man exhibitions is remarkable, but it’s important to note that these institutions came to us seeking a collaboration because they recognize Burning Man as an important arts and cultural movement (something we’ve all known for a long time). Not only are the work and stories produced by our culture seen as legitimate, they’re relevant, perhaps even necessary.

And it’s a healthy creative challenge to figure out how best to create a Burning Man experience for museum goers and participants outside of the great “tabula rasa” in the desert, while protecting and celebrating the things that make Burning Man so decidedly special and different. It has always been interesting to ask what the outside world finds meaningful about Burning Man, but given this new level of interest, there’s a new, more interesting question: What is it about this moment in history that makes Burning Man so relevant?

I hope that Larry’s vision as he originally explained it is realized, but that hasn’t happened yet. Instead it seems like the Burning Man experience is being packaged up for consumers in museums. Commodified.

If the year-round philosophy center at Fly Ranch gets built as it has been described to us for many years, awesome. If the road gets upgraded and local community concerns get addressed, awesome. If we can deal with the trash and environmental damage of 100,000 people, awesome. If everything owned by “Decommodification LLC” gets handed back from that private and secretive company to the registered non-profit, as was promised for 2018, awesome.

Until we see those things, the idea that “everything will be awesome!” is a LEGO kids movie. You have to consider the track record here. My opinions are formed carefully and backed with supporting evidence. Many of them have already proven true over the years. As for the ones above, I am hoping for “awesome”. Even after everything we have seen and discovered since my involvement began in the 90’s, I still hold out hope. Because Black Rock City is built by THE PEOPLE, not the fucking Org. It is the amazing artists who should be sharing in the spoils, not living year-round on the poverty line in dangerous fire trap warehouses, committing suicide in despair, etc. while a select few reap the rewards and the glory.

Larry Harvey said many times “Burning Man is a model for the future of civilization”. Synarchy is the wrong model.