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4 Arguments That Scream "Save Public Education!"

March 30, 2014 in Blogs

By Paul Buchheit, AlterNet

A vibrant society makes great individuals, not the other way around.


 

The education privatizers are trying to convince us that parental 'choice' will solve all the problems in our schools. But the choice they have in mind is to dismantle a once-proud system of education that was nurtured and funded by a society of Americans willing to work together.

The wealthiest among us seem to have forgotten how important it is to cooperate, as most Americans did in the post-WW2 years, in order to forge new paths of productivity and inventiveness. A vibrant society makes great individuals, not the other way around. Education must be at the forefront of such cooperative thinking. Here are four good arguments for it.

1. Equal Opportunity is an American Mandate

In the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown vs. the Board of Education, Chief Justice Earl Warren said that education “is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” Equally eminent future Justice Thurgood Marshall insisted on “the right of every American to an equal start in life.”

But now, as The Economist points out, “Whereas most OECD countries spend more on the education of poor children than rich ones, in America the opposite is true.” Poverty, of course, is of all colors, but it's disproportionately black. The Civil Rights Project at UCLA shows that “segregated schools are systematically linked to unequal educational opportunities,” while theEconomic Policy Institute tells us that “African American students are more isolated than they were 40 years ago.” New York City is the best example of that.

Charters and vouchers are the 'choice' of the free market. But the National Education Policy Center notes that “Charter schools…can shape their student enrollment in surprising ways,” through practices that often exclude “students with special needs, those with low test scores, English learners, or students in poverty.” Stanford's updated CREDO study found that fewer special education students and fewer English language learners are served in charters than in traditional public schools.

2. Charter Advocate Michelle Rhee Is Wrong


She said, “I think that we are doing the wrong thing in our society when …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why the US Turned Vladimir Putin into a Villain

March 30, 2014 in Blogs

By Tariq Ali, The Guardian

If you don't play ball with the West, they'll turn you into a villain in no time flat.


 

Once again, it seems that Russia and the United States are finding it difficult to agree on how to deal with their respective ambitions. This clash of interests is highlighted by the Ukrainian crisis. The provocation in this particular instance, as the leaked recording of a US diplomat, Victoria Nuland, saying “Fuck the EU” suggests, came from Washington.

Several decades ago, at the height of the cold war, George Kennan, a leading American foreign policy strategist invited to give the Reith Lectures, informed his audience: “There is, let me assure you, nothing in nature more egocentric than embattled democracy. It soon becomes the victim of its own propaganda. It then tends to attach to its own cause an absolute value which distorts its own vision … Its enemy becomes the embodiment of all evil. Its own side is the centre of all virtue.”

And so it continues. Washington knows that Ukraine has always been a delicate issue for Moscow. The ultra-nationalists who fought with the Third Reich during the second world war killed 30,000 Russian soldiers and communists. They were still conducting a covert war with CIA backing as late as 1951. Pavel Sudoplatov, a Soviet intelligence chief, wrote in 1994: “The origins of the cold war are closely interwoven with western support for nationalist unrest in the Baltic areas and western Ukraine.”

When Gorbachev agreed the deal on German reunification, the cornerstone of which was that united Germany could remain in Nato, US secretary of state Baker assured him that “there would be no extension of Nato's jurisdiction one inch to the east”. Gorbachev repeated: “Any extension of the zone of Nato is unacceptable.” Baker's response: “I agree.” One reason Gorbachev has publicly supported Putin on theCrimea is that his trust in the west was so cruelly betrayed.

As long as Washington believed that Russian leaders would blindly do its bidding (which Yeltsin did blind drunk) it …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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My Dad, the Pot Smuggler

March 30, 2014 in Blogs

By Laura Miller, Salon.com

A writer investigates his father's outlaw life during the Golden Age of marijuana runners.


 

“If you smoked Colombian weed in the 1970s and 1980s,” writes Tony Dokoupil in his new book, “I owe you a thank-you card. You paid for my swim lessons, bought me my first baseball glove and kept me in the best private school in south Florida, alongside President George H.W. Bush’s grandkids, at least for a little while.” That “little while” matters, because Dokoupil, whose father smuggled tens of thousands of tons of marijuana into the United States during those decades, would, by the 1990s, be living a hand-to-mouth existence just one step above a trailer park with his mother.

“The Last Pirate: A Father, His Son and the Golden Age of Marijuana” is a book with a double identity and a double conscience. The major part of it recounts Dokoupil’s father’s adult life, a rakish saga of small planes, sailboats and RVs loaded with contraband worming their way past authorities whose commitment to cutting off the flow of pot from Latin America fluctuated almost as dramatically as the Dokoupil family finances. The book is fascinating, as procedurals often are, and highlights a few truly ingenious gambits, such as arranging the influx of small, marijuana-laden watercraft into New York Harbor to coincide with the national bicentennial celebration known as the Parade of Ships; the smugglers went unnoticed among the tourist boats that turned out to welcome a fleet of antique schooners, brigantines, brigs and barques.

On the other hand, a lot of the so-called action in this line of work involved sitting around in bars for hours with mustached guys, juggling the fistfuls of quarters that pot “pirates” spent on the pay phones they used to checked in on various stages of a deal. Whether you find any of this “romantic” (a favorite word of the author’s) or not is largely a matter of taste and disposition. Dokoupil’s father did, and “The Last Pirate” at times reads like the son’s ambivalent tribute to the way of life for which he and his mother were abandoned. He …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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New Film 'Cesar Chavez' Showcases the Power of Union Organizing and Immigrant Labor

March 30, 2014 in Blogs

By Sonali Kolhatkar, Truthdig

Director Diego Luna's biopic dramatizes roots of Chavez and Dolores Huerta's then-National Farm Workers Association.


When Ronald Reagan famously ate grapes on television as governor of California in 1969, he was thumbing his nose at a growing movement for the rights of farmworkers. The grape boycott that Reagan proudly defied put him on the wrong side of history. Today, the leader of that boycott, Cesar Chavez, who died more than 20 years ago at the age of 66, not only has his March 31 birthday commemorated each year, but he now has a feature film dramatizing his life.

The 1960s struggle of migrant farmworkers in California played out alongside many other political movements of the time. Long hours, brutal conditions and lower-than-minimum wages provided the impetus for the great grape strike and boycott, centered in Delano, Calif. The campaign, led by Chavez and Dolores Huerta, the co-founders of the National Farm Workers Association (today known as United Farm Workers of America), lasted more than five years and involved hundreds of miles-long marches, nearly month-long hunger strikes and brutal police violence.

That story and Chavez’s central role in it are depicted in a new biopic by Mexican actor and director Diego Luna. The film, named simply “Cesar Chavez,” opens in theaters Friday, just days before what would have been the labor organizer’s 87th birthday. Starring Michael Peña as Chavez, America Ferrera as Chavez’s wife Helen and Rosario Dawson as Huerta, the film is Luna’s directorial debut.

Thirty-five-year-old Luna is no stranger to politics and political filmmaking. He has spoken out about Mexico’s brutal drug war, lending his support to family members of the war’s victims who traveled across the U.S. in a caravan from Mexico. He has also supported drug legalization to undermine cartels. And he co-founded Ambulante, the largest documentary film festival in Mexico, to “support and spread documentary film as a tool of social and cultural transformation.”

Best known for his role in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Y Tu Mamá También,” Luna has also appeared in Hollywood films such as “Criminal,” “Casa de mi Padre” and most recently “Elysium.” In an …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Political Means and Economic Means

March 30, 2014 in Economics

By Gary Galles

March 30 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of someone who introduced a crucial distinction in understanding political reality–sociologist Franz Oppenheimer. In The State (my English translation of which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year), he contrasted the “political means” and the “economic means.”

There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man…is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others…I propose…to call one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the “economic means”…while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the “political means.”

Oppenheimer directed his distinction toward developing the conquest theory of the state.

All world history…presents…a contest…between the economic and the political means…The state is an organization of the political means…forced by a victorious group of men on a defeated group, with the sole purpose of regulating the dominion of the victorious group over the vanquished.

Oppenheimer drew some very important conclusions about the relationship between the nature of society and the nature of the State.

[A]lways, in its essence, is the “State” the same. Its purpose…the political means… Its form…dominion.

Wherever opportunity offers, and man possesses the power, he prefers political to economic means…

By the “State,” I do not mean the human aggregation…as it properly should be. I mean…that summation of privileges and dominating positions which are brought in to being by extra economic power…I mean by Society…all purely natural relations and institutions between man and man…

The “state” is the fully developed political means, society the fully developed economic means…in the “freemen’s citizenship,” there will be no “state” but only “society.”

The “state” of the future will be “society” guided by self-government.

Franz Oppenheimer’s insights were particularly influential on Albert Jay Nock. Particularly in Our Enemy the State, Nock expanded on them, arguing that the State (in contrast with the voluntary arrangements people make to live together, which he called government) was based on theft, so that “the State is fundamentally anti-social.”

The State has said to society…I shall confiscate your power, and exercise it to suit myself.

[T]he interests of the State and the interests of society…are directly opposed…

The State…has invariably, as Madison said, turned every contingency into a resource for depleting social power and enhancing State power…

There are two methods…whereby man’s needs and desires can be satisfied. One is the …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE