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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


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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


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My Dad, the Pot Smuggler

March 30, 2014 in Blogs

By Laura Miller,

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


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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


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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


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8 Appalling Moments by the Right Wing This Week: Gay Marriage Wedding Cakes Edition

March 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

Known unknown: Donald Rumsfeld should be replaced by a trained ape.

The parade of right-wing morons and lunatics marched on this week. Some highlights:

1. Donald Rumsfeld: A “trained ape” would be better at foreign policy than Obama

Donald Rumsfeld continues to both shock and awe us with his arrogance and his psychopathic inability to admit he was completely wrong about every aspect of the Iraq war. Being a psychopath, he still has the audacity to hold forth on questions of foreign policy. That he recently included a dollop of racism to his unwanted commentary on President Obama’s conduct as Commander-in-Chief, is just par for the course for good ol' Rummy.

In an interview with Fox’s Greta Van Susteren this week, Rummy railed against Obama’s dealings with Afghanistan, and with characteristic colorfulness said that relations with Afghan president Hamid Karzai had gone “downhill like a toboggan,” under Obama whereas all had been rosy under Bush.

“Take for example that we have status of forces agreements probably with 100, 125 countries in the world,” Rumsfeld said, amping up the technical jargon to confuse the audience and make himself look smart, no doubt. “This administration, the White House and the State Department, have failed to get a status of forces agreement.”

He added: “A trained ape could get a status of forces agreement. It does not take a genius.”

Hmm, no racism there.

It is either a known unknown (or an unknown known—we’re never quite sure) that Rumsfeld likes to use these kinds of metaphors, but no, we don’t believe it was an accident. As bad as that is, perhaps worse is his perpetuating the lie that the Bush administration was not a catastrophe for foreign relations, and that he was not hugely responsible for the biggest fuckup, lie and war crimes of all Bush’s merry band of jackals.

2. Pat Robertson: Rape causes atheism.

What planet is Pat Robertson on? Planet crazy, that’s what. On Monday, the “700 Club” host talked about a letter he had received from a confused Christian viewer named Sandra. Sandra was flummoxed as to why a coworker was “hostile at the mere mention …read more


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Court Finds Georgia Militia Leader Guilty of Murdering Pregnant Wife

March 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Bill Morlin, Southern Poverty Law Center

Investigators say man's militia group was planning bombings, kidnappings and political assassinations.

The leader of a secret, murderous militia group, already serving life in prison for murder, today was found guilty in an Army court of the earlier murder of his wife and their unborn child.

Immediately after finding U.S. Army Private Isaac Aguigui guilty of the murder of his pregnant wife, the military judge who heard the case began the penalty phase in a military courtroom at Fort Stewart, Ga.

Sgt. Deirdre Wetzker Aguigui, an Army linguist, was found dead in her home on the Georgia Army base on July 17, 2011, about the time her husband began forming a militia he named FEAR – Forever Enduring, Always Ready. An autopsy concluded the woman was either choked or smothered.

Investigators determined Aguigui used the $500,000 proceeds from his wife’s life insurance to buy weapons for the video-game inspired militia. Many of the weapons were purchased from a firearms store in Washington state, near where Aguigui was raised.

Before arrests were made, investigators say Aguigui and members of his FEAR militia – all with ties to the military – discussed bombings, kidnappings and political assassinations.

Aguiguipleaded guilty last July in a civilian courtroom for his involvement in the murders of Tiffany York, 17, and her boyfriend, Michael Roark, 19, a former soldier who served with Aguigui. They were shot to death, execution style, in a wooded area just beyond the federal boundaries of the sprawling military base.

Roark was killed “to be silenced,” investigators said, because Aguigui believed the militia group had been betrayed by Roark, who left the military two days before the murders on Dec. 5, 2011.

Five days later, authorities arrested Aguigui and three of his Army buddies and fellow FEAR members – Pfc. Michael Burnett, Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon. Ultimately, Army and civilian investigators identified seven other current or former military members who were affiliated with the secret militia group.

Last August, the families of the murdered teenagers filed a $30 million wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. Army. The plaintiffs alleged the Army failed to correctly …read more


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'Anita: Speaking Truth to Power' Reignites Fury Over Sexual Harassment and Political Might

March 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Thomas Delapa, AlterNet

Two decades after Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Freida Mock documents the confirmation of Clarence Thomas.

There she was, polite and poised in her smart, turquoise dress suit, facing off against a murderers' row of aging, not entirely august, white men, an ebony Joan of Arc versus a court of incredulous grand inquisitors. To a bitterly divided 1991 America, University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill was either witch, scorned woman, martyr or feminist heroine. In any case, when the smoke cleared it was Hill who was burned at the Senate stake.

Twenty-plus years after the most incendiary and indecent Supreme Court confirmation hearings in U.S. history, filmmaker Freida Mock flips through the sensationally lurid pages of Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas in Anita: Speaking Truth to Power, a documentary sure to re-fan the flames of righteous indignation among anyone, man or woman, sitting to the left of Strom Thurmond.

If, as legendary attorney Clarence Darrow argued, “almost every case has been won and lost when the jury is sworn,” Anita Hill was toast as soon as she sat down to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee that steamy October weekend in 1991. Chaired by now-Veep Joe Biden of Delaware, the all-white, all-male committee wasn’t quite a kangaroo court, but it resembled something from Down Under the Mason-Dixon Line, circa 1930. Rather than hostile witnesses, this was an open-and-shut case of hostile politicos, aghast and appalled that a Supreme Court nominee and “pornography,” “pubic hair” and “penis size” could be publicly uttered in the same sentence.

For investigative reporter Jane Mayer (then with the Wall Street Journal), the televised hearings—“Judge Judy” crossed with the Playboy Channel—were just a smokescreen for Democratic and Republican senators alike: “It wasn’t about the truth … it was about winning.” Despite a majority of Democrats on the committee, Hill was largely led to the dogs alone. Ted Kennedy sat mostly sullen and stone-faced as a bit player.

An Oscar winner for the superior documentary, Maya Lin: A Strong Vision, Mock may not win votes from the pro-Thomas minority, but she pointedly sets …read more


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12 Hints It’s Time to Call It Quits in Your Relationship

March 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Mark Goulston, AlterNet

Here's a list of looming trouble. And if it hits too close to home, you might be in a dead-end romance.

1. You can’t stand the sight of them and they make your skin crawl

2. You are afraid of them

3. Friends keep telling you to get out

4. They are mean to the children

5. The children are afraid of them

6. You can’t remember anything good about them

7. You no longer enjoy anything with them or look forward to doing anything with them

8. They come in the door and your heart sinks

9. You don’t want to go out with them with friends or family because they are too embarrassing

10. They keep making promises they don’t keep

11. You’re no longer proud of them

12. Quirks you originally found amusing are now embarrassing to you

Bonus hint:

They keep violating the restraining order you put on them.

There’s good and bad news about this list:

The good news, you’re not alone if this applies to your relationship and there probably are people who would want to help you make the break when you decide to do it.

The bad newsfor you – if any of the list applies, it is probably not going to get any better by itself.

The bad news for me – my wife came up with the list.


Related Stories

…read more


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When Charters Try to Crowd Out Marginalized Public School Kids

March 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Molly Knefel, Salon

A battle in NYC shows what happens when corporate-backed schools fight special needs public school kids for space.

In the national debate over education, corporate education reformers are arguing that charter schools are just another option for parents who deserve to have an array of choices on where to send their children. This framing purports to situate charter schools alongside public schools in coexistence rather than competition. But this is false. The harmonious vision falls apart when charters literally push out public schools, as illustrated by the current battle between charter chain Success Academy and several public schools in New York City’s Harlem.

A close look at the seemingly local dispute also shatters the fundamental premise that charters are as “public” as public schools, serving all children. With the charter movement in 42 states and stronger than ever, the struggle for space in Harlem is shedding light on some of the sector’s most dubious practices.

At the center of the dispute in Harlem, between Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, are a group of students for whom the stakes of the debate — not just in Harlem but across the country — are quite high. Special education students are largely underrepresented in the charter sector, and if Success Academy had expanded the way it had hoped, it would have reduced space for a public school serving some of the city’s highest need students. That school is in District 75, a non-geographic district that serves students with disabilities across all of New York City, including children with autism, emotional or behavioral disorders, and multiple disabilities. Nationally, children with these types of high need disabilities are even more underserved by the charter sector than special needs childrenin general.

What’s going on in Harlem, then, may be unique to New York in terms of co-locations — when several schools are housed in the same building — but taps into the much broader issue of access and exclusion in the education “reform” movement. The territory dispute over limited space in New York City …read more