Saturday, January 31, 2015

Education A Political Football In The Scramble For Pentagon Contracts #SuperBowl

What could be more shameful than underfunding public education for an entire generation that is slipping into poverty a little deeper with each passing year?

How about using widespread support for public education as a political football in the battle to make sure Pentagon contracts keep rolling in.

Here's what the federal budget looks like under sequestration, a fiscal responsibility measure allegedly choking the life out of Pentagon fat cats aka big campaign donors.

The National Priorities Project has helpfully colored the 6% for Education slice of the pie bright orange to assist you in finding it. Realists know that quite a bit of federal spending on the military is also hidden in some of the other slices: nuclear weapons research and development is under Energy, for instance. Perhaps as much as 2/3 of the federal discretionary budget each year goes to military-related costs.

Now comes faux progressive President Obama with his latest budget proposing that the Pentagon get its sequestration funding back. But (here comes the smoke and mirrors) Education and other "non-defense" budget lines should also get their funding back, dollar for dollar.

In the Punch and Judy show that constitutes bi-partisan politics in our day, this gives the red state bad guys a chance to bloviate thus:

The above is a quote from a National Education Association email insisting that all good educators must rally round and defend President Obama's fine plan. As educated people you would think they could figure out where the potential funding for public education is going: to corporations. The lion's share goes to corporations who build weapons, or in the form of tax breaks to corporations who control the food supply, pollute the planet extracting oil or frack for "natural" gas. A small share goes, not to children themselves or teachers or school districts, but to corporations who profit from testing children and to other education-based money making schemes.

No stone is left unturned in the quest to make support for education pay off in massive campaign donations to people like Sen. Susan Collins. Here's a brag from the email newsletter she sent me this week:
Because releasing all that extra carbon into the atmosphere via the KXL will do so much to improve the future health and wealth of children attending school in more energy-efficient buildings.

The U.S. slips farther behind other nations in education investment and in learning attained with each passing year. How this bodes for our #1 national priority, which is supposedly SECURITY, seems not to trouble the educated middle class players who have clawed their way to being insiders in Washington DC. They are wealthy now, and the Koch brothers will keep them that way as long as they don't make the mistake of listening to constituents when voting on the federal budget. 

Because that budget would look like the piles of copper pennies in this chart (data is from 2011):

One in five children in the U.S. suffer from food insecurity while the rich -- especially those who build weapons -- keep getting much, much richer. Growing up in poverty adversely affects the ability to learn for life. Wasting the potential of at least 20% of your population is a recipe for a disastrous future. So is bankrupting the national treasury keeping General Dynamics and pals happy.
Source: Organizing Notes
Join the Spring Rising March 18-21 national mobilization to push back against endless wars and war spending. Because all our grandchildren deserve a better future than the one we're heading toward.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Essay For The King #Abdullah "Man Of Peace" Contest #Satire

Dept. of Defense news: Gen. Dempsey Sponsors Essay Competition to Honor Saudi King

This is my essay on the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and his legacy of peace. Legacy means what you leave behind. King Abdullah left peace behind in so many ways. Now I will tell you about it.

King Abdullah did not have an easy job. He was in charge of world oil prices and if you think that is easy think again. When he died, President Barack Obama talked about King Abdullah’s "steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of U.S.-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security." But what do these words really mean? By keeping the oil flowing even when prices were going down in 2014, King Abdullah was doing his part for the economic recovery that President Obama talked about in his State of the Union speech in January, 2015. This may help people understand the President’s speech better since most of them at least in my family were wondering, “What economic recovery?”

But the hardest part of King Abdullah’s job has been his friendship with Israel. When one country is another country’s best friend, like the U.S. and Israel are, it is hard to be the third friend in the triangle. Sometimes it even leads to becoming frenemies. But King Abdullah always kept in mind that there is one country that is not even a frenemy, but just an enemy: Iran. By keeping in mind that Arabs and Israel can be friends as long as they remember that their real common enemy is Iran, King Abdullah played an important part. A U.S. State Department cable on April 20, 2008 tells that Prince “Al-Jubeir recalled the King's frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program. ‘He told you to cut off the head of the snake.’” And that is the kind of leadership that makes you America’s friend.

King Abdullah also played an important part in the mission accomplished in Iraq, for example. He refused to put an embassy there because there was too much influence from Iran. Iraq was not acting Arab enough and the King thought that if Saudi Arabia sent an ambassador to Iraq, "He would immediately become a target for the terrorists and the militias.” He should know since so many of the terrorists like al-Qaeda and the Taliban were grown in Saudi Arabia and especially ISIS which gets a lot of funding from there and also learned about beheading as a form of punishment. Once you have your head chopped off, you are done making trouble. Unless you had a blog because people can keep reading it even if you are put in jail for blogging, or beaten with a whip. Of course they might get in trouble for even having your blog on their computer and the government finding out. So it is probably better not to read blogs like that, if you want to keep your head.

Finally, King Abdullah was a big player in the Arab Spring which never seemed to reach Saudi Arabia for some reason. According to the Intercept article “Saudi Arabia’s King Misremembered As Man Of Peace,”
In Bahrain, Saudi forces intervened to crush a popular uprising which had threatened the rule of the ruling al-Khalifa monarchy, while in Syria Saudi-backed factions have helped turn what was once a popular democratic uprising into a bloody, intractable proxy war between regional rivals which is now a main driver of extremism in the Middle East.

So that is my essay for General Dempsey’s contest. Gen. Dempsey actually met King Abdullah and he said, "I found the king to be a man of remarkable character and courage.” The general created this contest to support “writing efforts on relevant issues at the intersection of U.S. security interests and the Arab-Muslim world,” and this is my effort. I hope you liked it.

"Don't Lecture Me About #Gaza" Says @SenAngusKing, Interrupting News That Kids Are Freezing To Death

Source: Mondoweiss  You can watch the video here.
Under fierce questioning by Mainer Ridgely Fuller at a university appearance last week, Senator Angus King's defense of U.S. foreign policy in Israel and Palestine amounted to a Fox news talking point.

Ridgely probably hit a nerve by mentioning that five children have frozen to death in Gaza so far this winter following Israel's relentless bombing last summer, a campaign fully supported by U.S. tax dollars and the U.S. Senate. She shared this news in the context of her disappointment that King's foreign policy analysis was "very simplistic." That was the first time he interrupted her, pointing out that he had talked for an hour.

Her point, which she went on to make, was that his discussion of the threat of Muslim extremists ignored the radicalizing effects of U.S. foreign policy in the region: drone strikes, invasions, and destruction of human lives.

King won no points with this debating teacher for interrupting or for his disingenuous reply to Ridgely's concerns: "My son was in Israel last summer and was under rocket attack from Gaza, so don't lecture me about Gaza." (Cue the applause.)

This is what amounts to foreign policy debate in our day: an opportunity to manufacture consent, promote false dichotomy (Israeli and U.S. aggression = good, Muslim extremist aggression = bad) and, whenever possible, personify.

Because there is no need to debate or discuss decisions that are not for taxpayers and other regular folks to make. My husband Mark Roman noted when he returned from the event that King was at pains to make the point that important people such as himself and other senators fly around the world to gather information and be the deciders.

King had harsh words for "people who send rocket attacks indiscriminately into civilian territories" but don't worry, he did not mean Israel. That country has dropped thousands of tons of bombs on "civilian territories" including hospitals and schools being used as refugee shelters. Our own country bombs civilians regularly. But see, we're on the correct side of the dichotomy, so it's all good.

When King was elected no one was sure where his loyalties lay other than with his own self-made millions via industrial wind projects. He is neither Democrat nor Republican, but it's becoming increasingly clear he is anything but Independent when it comes to Israel and its U.S. strongarm AIPAC.

Another clue to King's affiliation with AIPAC were his repeated assurances of a close, close relationship with the senior senator from Maine, Susan Collins. Collins is AIPAC's darling and deeply in debt to the Pentagon contractors who supply campaign funds to members of Congress with one hand and deadly ordnance (funded by me and thee) to Israel.

Contact Congress to say you don't want Israeli Prime Minister and warmonger Benjamin Netanyahu to address them in March when AIPAC is in town for its annual convention.
King's defense of drones as a more humane weapon in the war "we didn't want...we didn't start" at the World Trade Center? I'm overwhelmed by bullshit at the moment, so I'll save that analysis for another day.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Peace Activists Aging As Manufactured Consent For Endless Wars Rolls On

At times the aging activists, mostly baby boomers, who still turn out to protest the endless, endless wars of empire get a bit discouraged. We look around at the handful of white-haired peace demonstrators (ok, I color my hair but you get the idea) and wonder: What happens to the antiwar movement when we're all gone?

Sure, there are a handful of young people who are passionate about this issue. Youth Rise Up, a manifesto was issued in 2014 by young people expressing their sense that There Is No Future In War. It's a strong statement and I encourage you to read it.

Plus I know that there are millions of young people who are passionate about important issues that tug at their heart strings. 
Source: Portland Press Herald, "Huge crowd turns out to denounce possible transport of tar sands in region"
Saving humanity from environmental disaster is a big one. 
Standing up to racist police brutality and the savage inequalities that spring from white privilege has also attracted many generations to its urgent truths.

Reproductive freedom and other issues of feminism also stir many of the younger activists I admire. Ditto access to quality affordable education without incurring a lifetime of debt.

So I'm not putting down younger generations or saying they don't care about important things. Still, I continue to wonder why we oldsters join their march of thousands against tar sands but youngsters don't join our march of lucky-if-we-get-into-double-digits-sometimes-in-Maine against the war machine. (Yes, we use social networking to get the word out.)

This morning I was reading my personal digest of news recommended by people, not corporations, and saw a review of a book about how waging wars via robots has been and will continue to be a game changer. From Neve Gordon in Counterpunch, "Drones And The New Ethics Of War": Grégoire Chamayou argues in his new book, A Theory of the Drone... drones are a technological solution for the inability of politicians to mobilize support for war.   
In the future, politicians might not need to rally citizens because once armies begin deploying only drones and robots there will be no need for the public to even know that a war is being waged.
"No need for the public to even know that a war is being waged." That phrase fairly leapt off the page at me. 

Indeed, high school and college students today barely know where myriad wars are waged in their name with the money we should have spent on their tuition. War in Afghanistan -- Obama ended that, didn't he? War in Iraq and Syria -- but Obama's State of the Union address assured us there were no more U.S. grounds wars in the Middle East, right? Troops to Ukraine? Hundreds of U.S. bases in the continent of Africa, what? Jeju Island, where?

But younger generations should care. And in the end, like all civilian populations in empires that run out of resources waging endless wars of expansion, they will care. Because the consequences will be so far reaching for their planet, their families and their health that they will be forced to care.

A nationwide mobilization against endless U.S. wars is being called for spring. In Maine we will observe Saturday, March 21 at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard where nuclear-equipped Zumwalt destroyers and other battle weapons are manufactured. (More info here.)

Whatever your age, join us! Come to the microphone and tell us why you care that more than half the federal budget goes to the Pentagon and nuclear weapons each year. Sing us a song, read us a poem, paint us a banner. We need your intelligent heart. You're welcome.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why @SenAngusKing Voted For The Keystone XL Pipeline But Pretended He Didn't

Source: Daily Kos
Senator Angus King put on quite a show at the University of Maine in Farmington Jan. 23 where he was speaking on foreign policy at a Fulbright Association event.

Angus used to hang with the hippies in my neighborhood back in the day, smoking pot and railing against the system. Now Angus has become the system, making millions off of industrial wind and serving in the U.S. Senate with his new BFF Susan Collins (a point he saw fit to make several times in the course of his remarks).

After a sycophant stroked the great man's ego by noting that media pundits refer to him as "King of Maine" my husband Mark Roman led off his question with a reference to another King of Maine, the best selling author who lives in Bangor. This got a laugh and helped Mark in his quest not to sound angry, a goal he had for communicating with the audience feeling so warmly toward their senator.

What my husband asked Sen. King was, why did you vote in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline project? King's disingenuous reply was the he didn't vote to move the Keystone XL pipeline project forward, he voted for open debate in the Senate.

Right. As if none of us understood parliamentary procedure and the fact that moving to bring an item to the floor is a more significant "yes" vote than the promised vote against the project at the end of the process.

I was reminded of how Mike Michaud used to tell us when we'd visit him to complain about the Pentagon budget that, if Chellie Pingree really wanted to kill the defense spending bill like she said she did, she wouldn't vote yes in committee to move it to the floor.

King's most significant performance of the day was establishing once and for all that he, like Collins, is in AIPAC's back pocket. (CODEPINK's Ridgely Fuller demanded that King let a woman ask a question following two men, and her question on U.S. support for Israel's war machine created the opportunity for a performance by King that is sure to have Netanyahu beaming. More on that later.) Note King's reference to being a talking head guest of Bill Maher, notorious Zionist hack, in this video clip of his looooong answer to the question of whether he would vote no on the Keystone XL pipeline in the future:

Because, really, why settle for being King of Maine when you could be the next Al Gore?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Lift Up Your Voice! Even When It Is Met By Insidious Repression

RIP Aaron Swartz, hounded to death by federal prosecutors in the U.S. for the crime of  information sharing.
Source: Wikipedia
Bloggers everywhere find an outlet by self-publishing in cyberspace. Some muse about food or cosmetics, parenthood or gardening, music or art -- the list is endless. Several of us nerdy types pour out our thoughts on social injustice in these violent times. Dr. Alice Rothchild told me she blogs to stay sane after trips to confront Israeli racism and oppression. Bruce Gagnon blogs to stay sane as he confronts the behemoth of military spending. Falguni Sheth blogs between academic duties on "a range of topics: contemporary politics, race, terrorism, miscegenation, feminism, philosophy, and whatever else captivates my attention."  Shay Stewart-Bouley blogs to reflect on her experience as a black woman in (very white) Maine. William Hessian blogs to spread the subversive message that creativity is life and spreads contagiously wherever he and one or more friends find themselves.

Then comes blogger Raif Badawi, publicly beaten for blogging by officials in Saudi Arabia, brutal dictators who are U.S. allies and very good buddies of our own ruling class for decades now.

If, like me, you would have to read his blog in translation, here is a digest from The Guardian of some of his more controversial posts (with links to the original posts in Arabic). For instance:
As soon as a thinker starts to reveal his ideas, you will find hundreds of fatwas that accused him of being an infidel just because he had the courage to discuss some sacred topics. I’m really worried that Arab thinkers will migrate in search of fresh air and to escape the sword of the religious authorities.
Badawi's second round of public punishment has apparently been delayed due to the international outcry. Westerners have taken him up as a cause célèbre and indeed it is absurd to think the man deserves to be brutally punished for simply promoting his ideas via blogging.

Because it is so satisfying and so convenient to be indignant when Muslim countries suppress human rights. And no one seems to notice when bastions of "freedom" like the U.S. imprison Muslims who have harmed no one but are kept incommunicado even from their young children and families in special Communications Management Units (CMUs) that are part of the modern day gulag of the planet's last mighty empire.

Besides, the Saudis behead people! A woman, just the other day! Like ISIS -- what barbarians! Who would do such a ghastly thing and seem to brag about it to the world?

Also, it is extremely important to focus debate about free speech in the West on instances of brutal suppression rather than addressing the radical topic of information control by ruling elites.

As long as I can post to my blog I must have free speech, right? 

Never mind that if I post about, say, my objection to military recruiting among children, I'm up against a $2 billion annual budget drawn from my taxes that recruiters use to flood children with messages, freebies, and presence that is ubiquitous on "entertainment" channels where kids presumably just want to be kids. Add to that Hollywood's endless funds to promote and glamorize U.S. warmongering -- as for instance in heavily advertised and promoted box office blockbuster American Sniper, and you can see why my blog isn't much of a threat to the powers that be.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrate when it is convenient to create a three day weekend in the U.S., was famous for his words. Information control has cherry picked his speeches for decades now to present a sanitized and safely historical version of the civil rights movement. But you can find MLK's real words for yourself:

"Beyond Vietnam--A Time to Break Silence," Riverside Church, New York. Delivered April 4, 1967.
"I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."
But denial of justice in extrajudicial killing of young men of color and the #BlackLivesMatter movement that has risen up in response are calling on folks to stop using just words and start disrupting business as usual. 

From the website Popular Resistance, "Reclaim MLK Protests Begin On Rev. King's Real Birthday."

Write all the blogs posts you like, say the Western powers, as long as you don't disrupt commerce. 

Here's part of the statement released by the group that shut down Interstate 93 last week:
And so, for four and a half hours, we disrupt access from the predominantly white, wealthy suburbs to Boston’s city center. “Why do we do it this way? We do it this way because it is our experience that the nation doesn’t move around questions of genuine equality for the poor and for black people until it is confronted massively, dramatically in terms of direct action.” – Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Charlie Hebdo Massacre Smells Like A False Flag Event To Me

I wrote this post before dawn and scheduled it to publish mid-Saturday but that never happened. A lucky accident, since today my inbox brought me this excellent piece, "Moral Clarity" by Adam Schatz for the London Review of Books, on the "context of no context" in liberal interpretations of the French tragedy. 

Also in my inbox: "Je Suis Ahmed Merabet" by Mazin Qumsiyeh which points out that the policeman killed outside Charlie Hebdo was a French Muslim and observes: "These terrorists seemed like professionally trained maybe by a state intelligence service and yet “conveniently” forgot an identity card in the get-away car and are killed not apprehended."  So now, here's my original post:

Even before two of the extremists who were suspects in the Charlie Hebdo massacre took hostages in a Kosher grocery store in a Jewish environ of Paris, the whole thing smelled fishy.

How do you get liberals in Western countries to turn on Islamists with the same fury and panic that right wingers have displayed since even before 9/11? Staging a highly theatrical attack on a journalism outlet that symbolizes "free speech" is a start.

But make sure the target doesn't have an Arabic name.

I see this strategy as similar to the use of attacks on girls' education to whip up leftist support for NATO intervention in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Muslim countries. The West is always quick to raise a clarion call for human rights to be respected -- by other regimes and other cultures. Torture by our own government or its murderous allies? Yeah,  we're good with that.

Sarah Roche-Mahdi, a political thinker I admire, observed when the Charlie Hebdo news first surfaced: Mossad couldn't have done better. (My note: Israeli intelligence agency Mossad specializes in assassinations.)
SOURCE: International Business Times "French police and police investigators inspect the scene after an attack at a kebab restaurant near el Houda mosque in Villefrance-Sur-Saone."(Reuters)
What will be the outcome of the Charlie Hebdo affair? Strengthening of the rising racist, xenophobic, proto-fascist elements in France and Ukraine and the rest of Europe, certainly. An upsurge in Islamophobia throughout the West, definitely. More "Patriot" Act-style legislation and policies to clamp down on freedoms so vaunted in the U.S. and Europe, very likely.

Ironic that the target was itself often racist, and that it reportedly fired writer Maurice Sinet in 2009 in response to charges charges that he was anti-Semitic. 

As Jordan Weissmann of Slate observed of the context for Charlie Hebdo's covers repeatedly mocking the prophet of Islam: 
This, in a country where Muslims are a poor and harassed minority, maligned by a growing nationalist movement that has used liberal values like secularism and free speech to cloak garden-variety xenophobia. France is the place, remember, where the concept of free expression has failed to stop politicians from banning headscarves and burqas.
 Translation: Love is stronger than hate.
SOURCE: Luke Lewis and Alan White on Buzzfeed "12 Striking Charlie Hebdo Front Covers"
While many of Charlie Hebdo's covers are offensive to my taste, they also took on sacred cows that are worthy of satire. The cover depicted above makes reference to another cartoon cover that caused controversy back in the day, this one by Art Spiegelman for Valentine's Day 20+ years ago:

And, the Catholic Church has sued the magazine numerous times for insulting references to everything from the Pope to child sex abuse cover ups.

But having Orthodox Jews or Black women burst into magazine offices with automatic weapons to massacre cartoonists wouldn't serve much purpose in the ever more theatrical "war on terror," now would it?

In these times, when the most well-funded propagandists produce events and communiques apparently against their own side, what's a thinking person to do?