Tuesday, September 28, 2010

LOUD whining

Jon Stewart says we're too loud & we should get a life. CODEPINK in particular was singled out, using a fairly well known image of bloody (painted) red hands confronting a lying war criminal in a congressional hearing. Click here to support getting Medea Benjamin invited on the Daily Show.

Then the vice president claimed today that people just need to stop whining. He followed it up with a whopper about how much the president has changed things since taking office. Or maybe he meant to say how much the president has changed since taking office. Oh, wait, he said only Democrats need to stop whining. Phew.

Minimizing the informed voice of concerned citizens is all in a day's work for these clowns.

Meanwhile Ethan McCord is in Europe answering journalists who wonder why no major news outlet in the U.S. interviewed him to corroborate the "Collateral Murder" leaked video. I've heard Ethan speak, and he speaks softly but with a powerful truth.

The mass media's job these days is to drown truth in a flood of meaningless information.

There are things to be very concerned about. Here is my LOUD WHINE list:

Israel has boarded yet another humanitarian ship bound for Gaza, the Irene, and confiscated relief materials carried by its international Jewish aid workers. The U.S. says and does nothing. Israel could board a ship in international waters and kill people, and taxpayers would continue sending them billions in credits to buy U.S. made weapons each year.

Drones continue bombing civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and are now patrolling the border of the U.S. & Mexico (and soon the Canadian border as well). My neighbors do not appear concerned about robot killers filling the skies at their expense.

There is no jobs program other than the military for low income youth. Immigrant youth are pressured into enlisting in order to earn a green card. Legislation to pour more billions into the war industry sails forward year after year, creating a sea of red ink for decades to come. The deficit, however, is blamed on programs like social security that fund themselves.

Public education is ever more unequal, underfunded, and under attack. Those in charge of dismantling local control of education demand more rigor while withholding more funds from schools in low income areas. For rigor read more standardized testing.

The FBI kicks down doors and confiscates digital resources from peace activists. The people in power make no mention of it, so it must be ok. Ditto the unlawful detention of Muslims on the grounds of crimes they might have commited, in special prisons where they are incommunicado.

Hate radio sounds more and more like Rwanda before the genocide. The concept of freedom of religion guaranteed by the 1st amendment to the Constitution is held especially cheap. Racism and sexism are rampant and unabashed. Death threats against “liberals” are commonplace and viewed as entertainment. Financiers and corporate interests fund media outlets that exploit the angry, broke, confused masses by deflecting their anger onto scapegoats.

Ok I am done whining. For the moment.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fear Factor & the personification of everything

Activists and organizers wonder why their fellow citizens sit home in front of inane television shows instead of hitting the streets to demand the government stop pouring tax revenues into the pockets of war profiteers.

Many say it's apathy. Others think it's greed ("I've got mine, screw the rest of you.") If I ask someone I have enough rapport with to pose such a question, I usually get an answer along the lines of: I am following my bliss and it's so much more fun to (garden, make quilts, spend time with my grandchildren, go to concerts -- fill in the blank).

But I don't believe them. I think they're actually afraid.

When the FBI comes to kick down doors in the dawn's early light, they don't want that door to be theirs.

This is a reasonable fear, and one which must be faced in order to be politically active.

Whistleblower Bradley Manning is still in solitary confinement while his fellow citizens turn away from the video called "Collateral Murder" and go about their business. 

I once worked with a nice woman, grandmother to one of my students, an ed tech without much education herself who had been a reading tutor for years under Title I funding programs. She admired a letter to the editor I'd had published about the shrub's plan to privatize social security. Her mother had raised her and her siblings on social security payments after their father died.

When I suggested that people needed to hear her story, and that she write a letter to the editor herself, she was visibly frightened. "Oh no, I don't think Dr. ______ would appreciate that!" she said with alarm, referring to the superintendent who was our common boss. So much for the 1st amendment, a lofty set of rights you study in school but don't dare exercise. (And don't think about building a mosque to exercise your right to worship as you see fit either.)

But people know something is wrong when their kids can't find jobs despite expensive educations and the concomittant student loan debts. They know their neighbor who defaulted on a mortgage and faced foreclosure wasn't lazy. Everybody knows somebody without health insurance because they can't afford the high premiums.

So what do people do? Many channel their concern into the charade of electoral politics. It's officially sanctioned activism, and probably won't result in the FBI confiscating your computer, cell phone and digital camera.

The issue of which celebrity spokesperson for the interests of the ruling class will be elevated to a bully pulpit doesn't affect much. But it conveniently creates even more fear.

When you vote out the guy everybody loved to hate and replace him with an articulate person of color with a glamorous wife and darling children, what do you get? The same rep for the Pentagon stays on board as Secretary of "Defense" and successive war supplemental funding bills keep pouring more dollars down the same rat hole. The annual military funding bill gets bigger, too. But you, the voter, now hold what you believe is a "Get-out-of-racism-free" card that they will have to pry from your cold, dead hands to get it away from you.

Fear the former vice presidential candidate for the G.O.P.! Fear her ignorance and her even more agressively stupid doppelgangers! Spend time on the internet sending insulting jokes about her to your friends. Then go shopping.

Some say the cult of celebrity is a modern phenomenon, fueled by mass communications, focus group research, and elocution coaching.

But Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar is believed to have been written in 1599. It opens with a scene where two patricians query commoners about why they are idling in festive garb. Turns out they the people are waiting for Caesar's parade to pass by so they can cheer for him. Weren't you standing here last time to cheer Pompey? Don't you know Caesar killed Pompey, you bunch of blockheads? say the patricians before shooing them away.

Later at the funeral oration the playwright has some more fun with this. When Brutus speaks, the rabble calls out their admiration. Then it's Mark Antony's turn, he trashes Brutus, and suddenly the mob is all for crowning him.

So this tendency is nothing new.

And pouring energy into electing a talking head isn't activism.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"We will not kill innocent people in exchange for Green Cards"

Camilo Mejía is a Nicaraguan American who was the first public Iraq war resister.

I just read a bracing indictment of the DREAM act, which I didn't realize used to contain a provision for 2 years of community service, or military enlistment, or college. The community service option was stripped away before Congress stuck the act on to the great rotting corpse of the national Pentagon budget.

Don'tAsk, Don't Tell repeal was used in a similar fashion.
Rep. Chellie Pingree told a group of us back in May that she had voted ought to pass for the "defense" funding bill both on the House Armed Services Committee and in a preliminary floor vote because DADT was appended to it, and she would have plenty of time to vote "no" on it later. I pray that she does so.

This prostituting of worthy legislation to pass military funding is what we are all about these days. Among other things, it provides a pretext to mobilize supporters of equal rights for all, or supporters of immigration reform, to lobby their reps and senators to vote yes on an even bigger slice of the federal budget pie for weapons and wars.

Here's more from VAMOS Unidos Youth on the feasibility of an undocumented migrant youth being able to exercise the education option in the DREAM act:
..the cost of each year in school without the aid of PellGrants or Financial Aid for attending two years of a four years University; our calculations were the following for a university in Ohio, which does not allow in-state tuition for undocumented students: Cleveland State University: Out of State

* 12 Credit Hours – $7,884.00 X 2 = 1 Year = $15,768.00 X 2 years = $31,536.00

* Expenses for Students Living at Home with their Parents = $6,568.00 X 2 years = 13,136.00

* GRAND TOTAL = $44,672.00

Only 10 states allow for undocumented students to pay for in-state tuition...

Young people in the U.S. are struggling and will struggle under the enormous weight of unsustainable military spending, and unsustainable environmental destruction. Undocumented youth have the additional burden of being non-persons with limited rights dangled only when they sign on the recruiter's dotted line.

Shame on us for treating them with such disrespect. Shame on the richest country in the world for not providing everyone with the right to a decent, affordable education.

These are the conditions that scholars and the Army's own handbook on counter insurgency would identify as breeding violence and terrorism, by the way.

The best thing we could do on behalf of the world's children, grandchildren, and beyond would be to bring our war dollars home.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What's that overhead?

I saw an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or drone in the sky over Washington DC last March 20 when I was there, a brief glimpse before it disappeared from sight behind a tall building. I knew what one looked like because I'd checked out some photos in order to draw posters. It caught my eye because its movement was odd; it seemed to float more than an ordinary small airplane.

Drones that fly over Central Asia or Africa (story on CIA using them in Yemen here) dropping bombs and spying on people are far away, invisible to citizens of the U.S. Except when said citizens check their empty pocketbooks. Most people try hard not to think about them.

But now drones have come to the Mexico-U.S. border.

AlJazeera reported on 9/14 "...US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to deploy drones to monitor the entire border since September 1, along with a further deployment of 1,200 troops and other measures, as part of a $600m package for "enhanced security." Full article here .

There could be a drone in your future. Keep your eyes peeled.

Meanwhile, if you're are scared as I am, consider talking to your neighbors about the need to Bring Our War $$ Home.

Friday, September 17, 2010

DREAM workhorse for military funding??

I see where the DREAM act has become attached to the FY11 "defense" funding bill in the senate.

Just like the congress had education funding attached to the last war supplemental funding bill a few months ago. So orgs like my union could send out bulletins pushing members to call their rep or senator urging passage of the bill. Many members click without knowing much about the piece of legislation and certainly without being told that they are urging passage of the largest "defense" funding bill in history. Deception is a complicated game.

Respecting the educational needs of young undocumented immigrants is the aim of DREAM and this is a wonderful goal, but it's a tiny part of all that doesn't work about our immigration policies.

It makes me sick when ideals -- like not interrupting the education of undocumented youth -- are twisted for the profit of death dealers. But this is what our country has become.

And under DREAM service in the military would be equivalent to education as a path to citizenship.

I remember the fact that immigrants are offered a path to citizenship by enlisting came to light during the Winter Soldier hearings. We were in a local cafe screening the hearings and the young hometown waitresses were amazed by that fact.

DREAM is already a band-aid applied to a gaping wound and doesn't need this odious association to further weaken it. Real immigration reform is one of the many things that were supposed to change. Challenging AZ over SB1070 was a good gesture, but delivery on real change would have meant fixing large portions of the dysfunction of U.S. immigration policies.

Now immigration is brought in as a workhorse as congress labors to pass two war bills each year. One bill is hardly behind us before another bills begins the dark dance of committees and cloture and arcane rules. The chief executive of the nation renews the national "emergency" caused by 9/11. A constant state of war requires a constant flow of (borrowed to be paid back later) dollars gushing forth from our taxes and other revenues.

Private corporations are mercenaries paid for by public funds. Knowing this does not make me feel safer at all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Youth librarian calls us to march with her

School closed June, 2010

Just when I was reeling from this "value added" chart for a teacher, showing what scores his students received on standardized tests last year, and published
in the LA Times with the teacher's name and his amazing rant, I got this righteous clarion call for literacy and our children. Check it out -- my PINK sister Des lays down why we would want to be in Wash DC on Oct 2 demanding equal education for all.

Politicians, public schools and public libraries

by Desiree Fairooz, Youth Services Librarian in Arlington, VA

As state after state chips away at our nation's public school programs and public libraries, especially those in communities already underserved I wonder what the future holds for our children. Do a simple google search for school or kindergarten funding cuts, and you'll see just how drastically our public education system is suffering. The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University reports that across the country state pre-k programs are being cut by up to 50% this year (in Arizona). Libraries fare little better, and officials in the city of Camden, NJ, are talking about closing their entire library system altogether due to lack of funds. (http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/08/06/129037510/camden-nj-to-close-libraries-citing-money-woes)

Politicians love to kiss babies, hug their mothers while on the campaign trail, bellowing pro-education and pro-library rhetoric. Yet back in their offices and on the Capitol floor our representatives quietly fasttrack those same communities' tax dollars to the bank executives in the form of bailouts and to the war profiteers in no-bid contracts.
For example, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) recently spoke at an ALA rally in DC and admitted to me right after his speech at the library rally that he indeed voted for the last war supplemental. Politicians know that once in office the public does not pay attention to their voting record.

I challenge teachers, librarians and other advocates for children to organize, mobilize and join us on October 2 in the One Nation rally and march in Washington, DC. On Saturday, October 2 we will come together with labor unions, peace advocates, students, civil rights leaders, and concerned Americans from all corners of the country to rally for jobs, education, and peace. There will also be a special march Saturday morning specifically for funding for education. Arrive by Friday or stay until Monday or Tuesday and march into your Senator's and Congresspeople's offices demanding an end to war funding, the bloated Pentagon budget, billionaire tax breaks, and demand our money back from those bank bailouts who gave their execs bonuses. Take off one day for kids and STAND UP AND SPEAK OUT while schools and libraries are still PUBLIC.

You can find out more about One Nation at www.onenationworkingtogether.org and sign up to join me at www.codepink.org/onenation.

Desiree Fairooz is a Youth Services Librarian in Arlington, VA.

STATE PRE-K PROGRAM CUTS FY10 & PROPOSED CUTS FY11 Arizona 50% ($6,119,959) 100% ($6,119,959) California 0.40% ($1,755,600) Colorado 2.3% ($950,391) 3.5% ($2,565,500) Connecticut 5.8% ($4,187,275) Florida 1% ($3,672,000) Illinois 10% ($32,702,446) 15.9% ($48,431,400) Kansas (At-Risk Program) 6.8% ($1,356,767) 5.2% ($1,716,000) Kentucky 2% ($1,502,000) Louisiana (LA4) 7% ($5,499,000) 0.8% ($797,600) Massachusetts 27% ($17,474,398) Michigan 7.3% ($7,537,250) New Mexico 3% ($549,400) 10.4% ($2,007,200) New York 8% ($30,014,097) 3.5% ($14,493,500) North Carolina 3% ($5,114,157) 3% ($5,000,000) Ohio 33% ECE ($11,473,552) 100% ELI ($116,874,161) Pennsylvania (Pre-K Counts & state HdSt investments) 0.9% ($1,300,500) South Carolina (4K and CDEPP) 16% ($6,542,810) Washington 3% ($1,678,289) 19% ($10,431,000) Wisconsin (HdSt supplement) 3.5% ($252,438) National Institute for Early Education Research, Rutgers University, 2010

Additional related sites:




Desiree Fairooz

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Building WMDs: bad jobs program

This Thursday I am invited to participate in a forum in Brunswick called "Where Do Our Dollars Go?" As a public school employee I'll comment on the effects of budget cuts to education, and how this plays out in the actual schools in our communities. Many people have viewed the slideshow that my husband Mark Roman and I created this summer using photographs we took at several closed primary and elementary schools in Maine.

Brunswick is a special case because its school district lost thousands of students, and thousand of dollars in subsidies, when the naval air base closed and military families moved out of the area. This also caused a local toy store to go out of business, and probably many others I don't know about.

In the U.S. we are trained to think that military = prosperity. The Congress has carefully spread funding for weapons manufacturing and installations like military air bases in every state of the nation. That way everyone's ox is gored when military expenditures are cut. As Rep. Chellie Pingree explained this to me last year, "They say 'Do you want to put three thousand people out of work your first term in office?" She was referring to the workforce at Bath Iron Works and a question from me about cutting military spending and converting that industrial capacity to building wind turbines, as an enlightened group of workers at BIW has been calling for.

As you can see from the chart above, conversion would generate far more jobs at BIW than building Aegis destroyers does. Weapons manufacturing generates fewer full time jobs with benefits than does a similar investment. This model by economists at UMass Amherst crunches the numbers to find out what a $1 billion investiment in various sectors of the economy generates in terms of jobs. The model is based on actual data from past investments.

Building components for a light rail system -- one that could be used to provide low carbon transport for Americans, such as citizens of all the developed countries except ours enjoy -- generates more than twice as many jobs as building weapons. Putting the $1 billion into education generates a bit more than twice as many jobs. Investing in either health care or construction of components to make energy efficient housing would generate thousands more jobs than military contracting.

Even just giving money away in the form of tax cuts to you and me has stimulated the economy to generate more jobs than building weapons does. Of course, this model used data from more robust times, before the Great Recession. With just released census data for 2009 showing one in seven now living in poverty (make that one in five children), a tax break nowadays might mean getting caught up on the rent, or saving your house from foreclosure, rather than consumer behavior that generates jobs.

People used to ridicule teachers for being paid so poorly vis a vis others with their level of education. But being a school teacher in central Maine is a solid job these days -- unless you get laid off when they cut teaching positions due to budget cuts, as happened to a French teacher, several elementary teachers, and half a math teacher at my high school. (How can you cut workers in half? The math teacher found a full time position elsewhere and resigned.) My sister in California told me a junior high school math teacher she knows has 44 students in one class this year. Somebody who used to teach 22 of those kids is on the unemployment line today.

Well, how much math does a kid need to know to operate a joystick and kill people by remote control?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 manufactured consent anniversary

How did you observe the manufactured consent anniversary of 9/11?

Here's what I did. I posted my skepticism about 9/11 origins. I read about one of the freshly dead soldiers on Military Resistance 817 by Thomas F. Barton (This is an email newsletter I get. I am not sure where to read it in full online but it is great and compiles news you see nowhere else.)

New Jersey-Born Army Spec. Pedro Millet Meletiche Killed On Third Day At Afghanistan Front

Army Spec. Pedro Millet Meletiche

Spec. Pedro Millet Meletiche: Defense Dept./AP

August 25th 2010 BY Kerry Wills and Bill Hutchinson, DAILY NEWS WRITERS

A New Jersey soldier was killed on his third day on the front lines in Afghanistan, blown up by an explosive hurled at him by the enemy, officials and relatives said Tuesday.

Army Spec. Pedro Millet Meletiche, 20, of Elizabeth, was killed Sunday in the Arghandab River Valley when his unit was attacked as he was sweeping for mines.

“They sent him to the most dangerous part of the war,” his heartbroken mother, Denise, told the Daily News yesterday.

Her son was deployed to Afghanistan Aug. 1 and sent to the Arghandab River Valley on Friday.

Millet Meletiche joined the Army at the age of 17.

“He called me from the airport and said, ‘Mom, I’m leaving. I’m going in the Army,’” his mother said. “I didn’t know he was going. I said, ‘I don’t want you to go in the Army.’ He said, ‘I’m already on the airplane.’”

I read some of the Onion's 9/11 coverage for the last decade. My favorite:
  • On TV Tonight

    9:00 10:00
    ABC Attack On America America Attacked America In Crisis America Still In Crisis
    NBC A Nation Looks Around For Someone To Hit America On The Verge Of Flying Off The Handle America's Time Of Trial: Who Fucking Wants Some? You? Do You? How 'Bout You?
    CBS Dan Rather's 83rd Straight Hour On The Air Dan Rather Seriously Loses His Shit Medicating Dan Rather
    BET Wartime At The Apollow Tavis Smiley Presents: Terrorists Strike America—The White Man Finds Somebody Else To Fear And Demonize For A Change
    MTV The 100 Greatest, But, In Light Of Recent Events, Not As Important As Being Good To Our Loved Ones, Videos Of All Time You! MTV Extends Its Condolences Talking To Blink 182 About The Tragedy Carson Daly In Way Over His Head
    Lifetime Golden Girls Golden Girls Golden Girls Golden Girls Golden Girls Golden Girls
    History Last Tuesday In History Two Weeks Ago, As Told By Those Who Lived It Last Tuesday In History (rerun)
    Nickelodeon Clarissa Explains The Attack On America SpongeJohn SquareAshcroft Rugrats Rising
    Sharks: Terrorists Of The Sea The Noble American Eagle: Long May She Fly Fuck Everything, Here's Some Zebra Footage
    Patriotism How-To With Rainbow Steve Oh, Shit, Man... Oh, Shit Attack On America: Live Drum-Circle Coverage From Peace Park Extremely Uninformed Debate

I read Ten Reasons Not to Burn the Qur'an and then shared it on facebook.

I complained about a local public school having the kids put thousands of U.S. flags on the lawn every year. Because it "teaches kids to think." Yeah, I bet the ones riding by in the backseat of their mom's car while she picks up big brother have to think real hard to figure out what cemetery rows of the stars & stripes are supposed to stand for.

I had just heard from a girl in the first week of 9th grade that she is joining the Army because "they are going to send me to the Rhode Island School of Design. The recruiter promised." I wonder if she was even in double digits when the recruiters started talking to her.

I wrote to my Afghan-American friend about her Samsortya project regenerating trees in eastern Afghanistan. When I feel discouraged, I think about the last picture she sent me of those saplings thriving.

Then I watched this video made by Veterans for Peace member Jeanette McDermott of a bunch of us marching and talking about how the war economy (isn't) working for U.S. It has a lot of PINK in it plus VFP, IVAW, MFSO, and more, and a rousing rendition by emma's revolution of their song "Who Lies? Who Dies? Who Pays? Who Profits?" It lifted my spirits almost as much as the actual march itself. Thank you, peace friends, for being there.

Monday, September 6, 2010

How to fix the economy

by Kayla Starr, CODEPINK Local Coordinator North Bay (Marin & Sonoma Counties), California

Two years after the economic crisis began, 25 million Americans are jobless or under-employed. Unknown numbers have stopped looking for jobs and are not accounted for in this number. And the numbers are growing, not shrinking.

This is a negative multiplier on the economy. If families can't pay their bills, their mortgages become delinquent; mortgage delinquencies keep rising), their credit card bills go unpaid (we're seeing a notable rise in credit card defaults), and they can't afford to buy anything other than necessities (hence auto sales have plummeted, new homes sales are down, and retail sales are in the pits).

As a result, more and more businesses lay off workers (or refrain from adding them) because they can't sell the goods and services they produce.

The last time we saw anything on this scale was in the 1930s. The last time we did anything about this on the scale necessary to reverse the trend was in the 1930s and 1940s.

It is not that America is out of ideas. We know what to do. We need massive public spending on jobs (infrastructure, schools, parks, a new WPA) along with measures to widen the circle of prosperity so more Americans can share in the gains of growth (exempting the first $20K of income from payroll taxes and applying the payroll tax to incomes over $250K, for example).

What would happen if we cut the military budget by half, or even one-third? The US would still be spending more that all other nations combined on "defense".

And this money could be used to create projects and jobs in public transportation. health care, renewable energy, public education, refinancing homes facing foreclosure, job training programs, construction, forest restoration and local farming. (Oh, and some side effects would include less killing of innocents in our illegal and brutal occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a reduction of greenhouse gasses spewed into the atmosphere!)

This can be done. We must demand this of our legislators loudly and in massive numbers now.

When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

CLOSED a photo essay

Mark and I went around documenting elementary schools that had been closed at the end of last school year due to budget cuts. We also photographed some closed businesses that failed recently.

Bring Our War $$ Home!

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