Saturday, May 31, 2014

Racist School Closings Are The Fruit Of Pentagon Greed

Infographic by Katie Falkenberg, CODEPINK Denver
Do school closings disproportionately affect children in African American communities?

Activists who filed three civil rights complaints with the federal government think so. 

Lyndsey Layton reporting on May 13, 2014 for the Washington Post wrote:
...complaints, sent to the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights and the Justice Department, charge that students of color from Newark, Chicago and New Orleans have been disproportionately affected by school closures and charter-school expansions. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the use of federal funds by schools and other institutions [emphasis mine].

In Newark, 13 public schools have closed since 2009. In Chicago, 111 schools have closed since 2001. In New Orleans, all the traditional public schools except five have shut down since 2003. The District of Columbia has closed 39 traditional public schools since 2008. Those shuttered schools have been replaced by public charter schools, which are funded by taxpayers but are privately operated.

Since the federal government continues to squander more than half of its annual allowance from taxpayers on the Pentagon budget, subsidies to states and municipalities continue to decline. Rich communities make up the shortfall in their local school budget with local property tax revenues. Poor communities cannot do the same

The fact that U.S. schools and neighborhoods continue to be segregated along color lines, while the income gap between people of color and whites is growing not shrinking, is another problem. So is the fact that charter schools are essentially union busting with a pretty face.

We need to close these failing schools which are disempowering students forced to attend them, say neoliberal Obama administration officials and city bosses like Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago. That's the essence of the No Child Left Behind Act which is often credited to George W. Bush but passed Congress with major bipartisan support.

But that claim is an enormous lie, around $600.7 billion worth of falsehood if the Fiscal Year 2015 National "Defense" Authorization Act passes the Senate as handily as it passed the House.

In order to enact Title VI we need to defund the Pentagon and its parasites, and use the money to adequately fund schools in EVERY neighborhood.

Our continued failure to do so in the U.S. contains within it the seeds of our demise as a society.

Other wealthy countries have zoomed ahead of us for years in adequately feeding, housing and educating their youth. They can afford to do so because they do not overspend their tax revenues on "defense" contracts for super wealthy weapons manufacturers and surveillance corporations.

Fiscal Year 2012 data Source: Arms Control

Bring our war dollars home to provide every child in the U.S. with A+ access to education right in their neighborhood schools. Because segregated access to education isn't just illegal -- it's disgusting.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Turn Over That Rock And See What Crawls Out: #NSA & #AuditPentagon

Two events in truth revelation are dominating the news this week. The news Glenn Greenwald has promised from the Edward Snowden leaks will reveal who (could it be you?) the NSA has been spying upon. That one will happen, because it is citizen journalists like Laura Poitras and Greenwald who have been making NSA revelations happen all along.

The other attempt to turn over a rock and see what's crawling around under it will be a long haul: the call to audit the Pentagon. Never mind that it's supposed to be happening already since all government agencies that exist on the taxpayers' dime are supposed to account for their use of those funds. Never mind that hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake, well over half the budget Congress decides how to spend each year. 

The Burgess-Lee amendment to the whopping $600.7 billion FY15 Pentagon budget bill called for an audit; the amendment passed in the House, but it still must face the U.S. Senate, that billionaire's club of fat cats who take massive campaign donations from Pentagon contractors.

President Obama said in his annual speech at the West Point graduation ceremony for the empire's future warlords, "I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being."

Word to Obama: the exceptionalism is all in the minds of your neoliberal speech writers. Every empire on this planet faltered and declined, mostly due to hubris, and largely due to overspending on wars. There is nothing exceptional about losing the consent of the governed, or about experiencing the karmic backlash from your own bad decisions.

Meanwhile, here's a longitudinal study that turned up some truth: boosting public school funding by 20% (pocket change to the Pentagon) appears to make a dramatic difference in outcomes for students from low income communities. Libby Nelson at reported:
Additional money spent educating a child from a poor family made that child more likely to graduate high school, less likely to fall into poverty as an adult and more likely to complete an additional year of education, public policy researchers from Northwestern University and the University of California-Berkeley found.
The fact that the wealthiest country in the world spends so meagerly on children and education is what makes the U.S. truly exceptional. And not in a good way. 

Our child development index does not even place in the top ten. Japan, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Canada, Switzerland, Norway, the U.K. and Netherlands do, while spending a mere fraction of their national revenue funding a military. How's that for some truth?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Fascists Rising: Letter From An #Odessa Teacher

"Some of the 46 who were burned alive inside the Odessa Trade Union hall"
Source: Bruce Gagnon's Organizing Notes blog post "Evidence is There"
From: Agneta Norberg Sent: Sunday, May 18, 2014 8:45 AM
To: Bruce Gagnon Subject: Fwd: a letter from Odessa

Bruce. I met two women in the street in front of the parliament here in Stockholm. They handed out leaflets and I approached them  and started a conversation.They were from Ukraine and wanted us to understand what was going on and look trough media distortions. I gave her my card  and helped them to formultate their leaflet for us to better understand what they wanted to say. Today I received a mail from one of the women´s cousins in Ukraine, which I forward to you to spread if you like.  Agneta

How do you do, Mrs.Norberg! This letter is from a cousin of Olga who was picketing in Stockholm in support of people in Ukraine. Olga redirected me your letter where you say you are interested in any information from Ukraine  to "help us to see through the media falsifications of the truth". So I decided to write what I think about the situation in Odessa where i live. As I am afraid of "undesired consequences", I am using this e-mail box instead of my own.   

I have lived in Odessa since my early childhood and adore this sunny south city with its hospitable and witty people.  Odessa is a multinational city which is reflected in the names of its streets: French and Italian Boulevards, Greek and Bulgarian Streets, Moldavian district, etc.  Odessa was built according to a decree issued by the Russian empress Catherine the Great over 200 years ago as a Russian port city on the Black Sea. And it was constructed by French and Italian architects and engineers invited by Catherine. That is why it is said to resemble Paris …
During the Soviet period Odessa was a part of the Ukrainian SSR – one of the 15 republics comprising the USSR at the time, though it was Russian, both by its population and the language it spoke. But it was not of principal importance for the numerous nations and nationalities living there, as all of them had equal rights and comprised one and the same Soviet people. When I studied at school there were Russians, Ukrainians, Jews and Bulgarians in my class, and it didn’t matter – we were the citizens of one and the same country. 

After the USSR collapsed, the Ukrainian Republic became Ukraine and started building its own independent state seeking to prove its self-sufficiency and ability to become a powerful and prosperous state. But it failed. Instead the state succeeded in splitting and embroiling the two people inhabiting it – Ukrainians and Russians. Being a teacher I can definitely state that in 23 years of independence there appeared a generation of young people brought up in a Russophobic spirit. It was made possible due to the anti-Russian policy of the state which tried to shift the discontent of its citizens from itself onto its external neighbour-state – Russia (the so-called “younger-brother syndrome”). But to make hatred to one’s fraternal people a country’s national idea is, to my mind, absurd and a crime against its own people. 

Ukraine could be called “an artificial state”. If one takes interest in its history, it will turn out that the state has existed in its present form not so long ago, and consists of heterogeneous parts. [My note: This website is in Russian. I used Google translator to render it in English.] 
One of the major reasons of the present crisis in Ukraine is that the neo-nazi and Russophobic ideology of one of these parts, Galicia, is imposed upon the entire Ukraine. The slogans of the Kiev “Maidan” like “Glory to Ukraine! – Glory to heroes!”, “Nation is above all!”, “Death to enemies!” are the slogan of the nationalists and Bandera-followers from the west of Ukraine. Their enemies are Russians, and their heroes are Bandera, Shukhevich and the like, who were fascists’ henchmen during the last war, and who became notorious for their flagrant atrocities against peaceful population in the west of Ukraine. And for Odessa, which heroically fought with [against Hitler] the fascist invaders, for Crimea (which “returned back home to Russia”), as well as for the whole southern and eastern Ukraine, such an ideology is unacceptable and arouses rebuff. There are lots of ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking  people here who are traditionally strongly attached by Russia. So in many cities, Odessa inclusive, people started participating in peaceful protest marches demanding, in particular, a referendum as to the future state structure arrangement.   
They  do not want to be second-rate people, they want to stay on the land where they belong, to speak their native tongue, and to live in peace with their Russian neighbours-brothers, as well as with the whole world. But the Western-backed (US first and foremost) unelected fascist regime in Kiev does not want to take into account their inalienable right to their culture and national identity, so confrontation and repressions started. The propaganda of the Ukrainian media is stirring up the information war, the journalists trying to tell the truth have to leave the country. The Russian TV channels are cut off. A parliamentary deputy, Oleg Tsaryov, the only presidential candidate who tried to  inform the government and the world public about the opinion of the people living in the south-east, is now subject to criminal prosecution and is being relieved from inviolability of a deputy.   
On the Internet there has recently been promulgated the telephone talk between Tsaryov and the second-richest Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoysky (the latter is said to stay behind and pay for organizing the flagrant provocation and massacre in Odessa, as well as for organizing punitive squads for fighting the people’s volunteer corps in the eastern regions of Ukraine), in which Kolomoysky  was threatening Tsaryov and his family. As a result, millions of people in the south-east do not feel themselves protected, fear about their future and seek protection and salvation from their brothers-Slavs living in Russia. That’s why the slogans “Russia!”, “No to junta”, “No to fascism!” and “Putin!” were sounding during their peaceful protest marches. These thousands of people are neither "separatists", nor "terrorists" as they are often called by the pro-Kiev media, they are just peaceful citizens wishing to be heard. 

Now the split in Ukraine has turned into a real war against its own people, with a great number of victims. The horrible massacre and the succeeding burning of dozens of people in Odessa is, to my mind, a peak in the fratricidal war. I am neither a politician, an expert, nor an investigator, so I am not to judge exactly what  forces are behind these events. But having read lots of information and opinions on the Internet I understand that it is definitely a provocation in the dirty game of big politicians and oligarchs in their struggle for redivision of the world, power and money. Now only children do not understand that the West does not want to see the truth about the events in Ukraine because the stakes in this game are geopolitical. The fight is for hegemony in the world between Russia and the USA, and Ukraine just happens to be the battlefield between these two “great powers”. It is quite natural that Russia does not want to have NATO “at its door”, and a US naval base deployed in Odessa. Neither do the Russians living here. 

Whether the crime in Odessa  will be investigated or not, is a big question. I personally am not at all sure of it. But it is impossible to put up with the fact that 48 Odessites (and, by the grapevine, much more) have been burned alive, as in Byelorussian village of Khatyn. We have been seeing their charred bodies while sleeping and have cried our eyes out imagining their sufferings. There has never been such a horrible crime against humanity in Odessa since the war of 1941-1945. My parents were fighting then against Hitler invaders, my father was awarded to many orders and medals, my mother had two medals too – one “For the Defense of Stalingrad”, and another one “For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War”. So I cannot accept the fact that neo-nazism and fascism as represented by the current junta (and there is no other name for this unlawful and criminal government) is established in Ukraine. After the Odessa Khatyn there will never be a single and united Ukraine. Fascism/nazism is a terrible evil, and if it is not immediately stopped, it will keep growing and sprawling like cancer. 

I was so glad when, thanks to Olga, I got an opportunity to contact you: now we have some hope to bring the truth about Odessa and Ukraine to the people all over the world.  I would be happy if my letter could at least a little helpful for you in your noble and important activity, that of struggle  for peace. 
Yours truly,T., a teacher from Odessa

"Odessa squad headed - flags Crimea, Russia and Ukraine. 
People are chanting "Fascism will not pass", "Russia", "referendum", etc."

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How Much Food Would The FY15 Pentagon Budget Buy?

The endless cycle of draining U.S. pocketbooks to enrich military contractors is underway for Fiscal Year 2015. Thanks to Katie Falkenberg of CODEPINK Denver, we know how many years of school lunches for children living in poverty the current "defense" budget would fund. (It's roughly equal to the life expectancy of someone born under our decade long occupation of Afghanistan.)

Thanks to the Council for a Livable World via the New Priorities Network, we know this about the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):
The House Armed Services Committee approved the bill 61-0 early the morning of May 8 after a marathon session. The bill is expected on the House floor the week of May 19, with the House Rules Committee to determine which amendments the GOP will permit to be offered and which they don’t want to allow. The Senate Armed Services has scheduled its writing of the bill to begin on May 20.

Consistent with the Murray (D-WA)-Ryan (R-WI) budget agreement, the bill authorizes $521.3 billion in spending for national defense and an additional $79.4 billion as a placeholder for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), for a total of $600.7 billion.  That total includes $17.9 billion for nuclear weapons and environmental cleanup activities at the Department of Energy.

Hey, isn't NDAA the acronym that brought us the right to be indefinitely detained by the U.S. military anytime they think we might be a threat to "security"? Yup, and this gargantuan amount of money also funds the NSA, which is part of the Pentagon, enabling it to spy on all the people all the time.

Those powers, coupled with the move to bring the Internet within the fold of mainstream media by allowing $$$$ to control access to online information, consolidate the ability of corporations that profit from killing to do it at the taxpayers' expense. Because the taxpayers are too busy watching the latest active shooter news, or celebrity scandal, to pay attention to the arcane and highly complicated Pentagon budgeting process.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Here's my state's entire congressional delegation -- Collins, King, Michaud & Pingree -- in April at the "christening" of one weapon of mass destruction, a Zumwalt destroyer warship, which cost $4 billion to develop and build. That's a lot of school lunches that could have been provided instead of helping General Dynamics doing business as Bath Iron Works continue to rake in profits.

Should I call all four of my "representatives" and demand they vote no on another $600.7 billion for the Pentagon next year? 

I've had both Mike Michaud (D) and Chellie Pingree (D) tell me repeatedly to my face that they agree we need to redirect military spending to domestic needs, yet here they are paying homage to General Dynamics for the umpteenth time. Will the Democratic Party bosses allow them to vote no on the FY15 NDAA bill when it comes to the floor of the House of Representatives? Probably, as long as there are already enough votes in hand to make sure it passes. 

That's they way our "democracy" works.

I'll call anyway. Even though "Independent" Angus King just endorsed Susan Collins (R) for the U.S. Senate again, and Collins has long been the darling of military-industrial corporations doing business in Maine. 

Why will I call? To hold those in power accountable. And because most of my fellow citizens are either too distracted or too scared to do it. And because I still can.
Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121