Friday, October 29, 2010

The Mid East's only democracy on the march

http://www.redress.cc/palestine/jcook20101029

Israeli police shoot “hated” Arab legislator in back
Protest met with rubber bullets

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

29 October 2010

Jonathan Cook reports on the shooting in the back of Israeli Arab MP Haneen Zoubi by Israel police who used special paramilitary forces against an Arab demonstration provoked by ultra-right-wing Jewish extremists staging a march through an Arab town in northern Israel.

Israeli police on 27 October injured two Arab legislators in violent clashes provoked by Jewish right-wing extremists staging a march through the northern Arab town of Umm al-Fahm.

Haneen Zoubi, a parliament member who has become a national hate figure in Israel and received hundreds of death threats since her participation in an aid flotilla to Gaza in the summer, was among those hurt.

Ms Zoubi reported being hit in the back and neck by rubber bullets as she fled the area when police opened fire. In an interview, she said she believed she had been specifically targeted by police snipers after they identified her.

Police denied her claims, saying they had used only tear gas and stun grenades.

Some 1,500 police were reported to have faced off with hundreds of Arab and Jewish demonstrators in the town yesterday.

Shimon Koren, the northern police commander, admitted special paramilitary forces had been used against the Arab counter-demonstration, as well as an undercover unit more usually deployed at Palestinian protests in the West Bank.

An officer disguised as an Arab demonstrator, from the so-called mistarvim unit, was among the injured, apparently after police fired a stun grenade at him by mistake.

“The police proved that they are a far more dangerous threat to me and other Arab citizens than the fascist group that came to Umm al-Fahm.”

Haneen Zoubi, Israeli Arab MP

Ms Zoubi harshly criticized the police violence. “The police proved that they are a far more dangerous threat to me and other Arab citizens than the fascist group that came to Umm al-Fahm,” she said.

The march was organized by far-right settlers allied to Kach, a movement that demands the expulsion of Palestinians from both Israel and the occupied territories. The movement was formally outlawed in 1994, but has continued to flourish openly among some settler groups.

The organizers said they were demanding the banning of the Islamic Movement, which has its headquarters in Umm al-Fahm.

The Islamic Movement’s leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, has angered Israeli officials by heading a campaign in Jerusalem’s Old City to highlight what he says is an attempted Israeli takeover of the Haram al-Sharif compound that includes the al-Aqsa mosque.

He was also on the Mavi Marmara aid ship to Gaza in May, and claimed at the time that Israeli commandos had tried to assassinate him. Nine passengers were killed, some of them by close-range shots to their heads.

The sheikh is currently serving a three-month jail sentence over clashes with the Israeli security forces close to the al-Aqsa mosque.

Michael Ben Ari, a former Kach member and now an MP with the rightwing National Union party, who attended the march, said Israel must not be a “stupid democracy and let people who want to destroy us have a voice”.

Baruch Marzel, one of the march organizers, told Israel Radio: “If the Kach Party was outlawed, then the Islamic Movement deserves to be outlawed 1,000 times over.”

On hearing of Ms Zoubi’s injuries, he added: “It was worth going to Umm el-Fahm. She is our enemy.”

Afu Aghbaria, an Arab MP with the joint Jewish-Arab Communist party, was also hurt. He said he had been hit in the leg.

“... the clash had been triggered by undercover police who began thowing stones from among the demonstrators – a tactic that the unit has been caught on film...”

Arab leaders said the clash had been triggered by undercover police who began thowing stones from among the demonstrators – a tactic that the unit has been caught on film using at protests in the West Bank.

Mohammed Zeidan, head of the Higher Follow-Up Committee, the main political body for Israel’s Arab citizens, who comprise a fifth of the total population, condemned the police actions.

“Racism is no longer found only in documents or on the margins, like with Marzel, but has become a phenomenon among decision-makers and carried out on the ground. What happened today in Umm al-Fahm is a menacing escalation.”

The committee demanded a state investigation into what it called “exaggerated violence” by the police.

Police said nine Arab demonstrators had been arrested for stone-throwing.

Four police officers were reported to be lightly injured. The far-right marchers were escorted away by police, unharmed.

Ms Zoubi, a first-term MP, shot to notoriety this summer after she was among the first passengers to be released following Israel’s violent takeover of the Mavi Marmara.

Ms Zoubi contradicted the Israeli account that the nine passengers had been killed by commandos defending themselves, accusing the navy of opening fire on the ship before any commandos had boarded. She also claimed several passengers had been allowed to bleed to death.

She was provided with a body guard for several weeks after receiving a spate of deaths threats and general vilification in the parliament.

The Israeli police have been criticized in the past for lying about the strong-arm methods used to quell protests by the country’s Arab citizens.

A state commission of inquiry found in 2003 that the police had used live ammunition and rubber bullets, in violation of its own regulations, to suppress solidarity demonstrations inside Israel at the start of the second intifada.

Thirteen Arab citizens were killed and hundreds injured in a few days of clashes in 2000. Police had falsely claimed that the deaths had been caused by “friendly fire” from among the demonstrators.

A recently parliamentary report revealed that there were only 382 Muslims in Israel’s 21,000-strong national police force – or less than 2 per cent.

The establishment of the undercover mistarvim unit against the country’s Arab population caused outrage among civil rights groups when it was first revealed last year.

The far-right march in Umm al-Fahm was timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary this week of the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded Kach. At a commemoration service in Jerusalem on 26 October, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel told hundreds who attended that the government was allowing the Palestinians to “establish an Ishmael state in Israel”.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Saturday Oct. 30 Random Chance Records/Liftoff Records CD Release GIG at the Blue Note

MIDNIGHT SHOW SAT. OCT 30 $10 AT THE BLUE NOTE (3rd Street & 6th Avenue)

JAZZ AND NORTH INDIAN FUSION

SNEHASHISH MOZUMDER & SOM

with Jason Lindner, Vin Scialla, Nick Gianni, and other great NY jazz musicians




Truth in Advertising

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New developments on FBI attack on democratic rights

From duruknet

Subpoenas rescinded for antiwar activists raided by FBI
By Tom Eley

WSWS, October 14, 2010

Federal investigators have rescinded grand jury subpoenas issued to the 14 antiwar activists whose homes and offices the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided on September 24 in Minneapolis and Chicago.

Whether or not the cancellation of the subpoenas signals that the government is dropping its case is not yet clear.

All of the activists―members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) and various antiwar and international solidarity groups―had earlier announced publicly their decision to refuse compliance with the grand jury subpoenas, most of which were issued for hearings on October 5 and October 12. This decision potentially put them in contempt of court and subject to possible arrest.

According to the Twin Cities newspaper City Pages, the raid victims also made clear to the Justice Department, through their attorneys, that even had they attended the grand jury they would have invoked their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

The dropping of the current subpoenas therefore might presage the government issuing grand jury immunity to the 14. If they are assigned immunity and again subpoenaed, their responses to the grand jury cannot be used against them. However, if they again refuse to testify, they can be held in contempt of court and imprisoned for the life of the grand jury, which could be many months.

Federal grand juries are notoriously anti-democratic. In the late 1960s and 1970s, for example, the FBI’s Cointelpro operation against radical groups such as the Black Panthers relied heavily on grand jury testimony.

The victims of the FBI raids in Minneapolis and Chicago said they feared that the proceedings would be used to gather information to use against other opponents of American imperialism both in the US and in other countries.

"I was given a subpoena to testify to a grand jury today, and that subpoena explicitly states that the prosecutor wants me to testify about the meetings I had with activists in Colombia and Palestine," raid victim and Minneapolis resident Meredith Aby told a protest in Minneapolis two weeks ago. "I don't know how, in good conscience, I can betray the trust that was shared with me on those human rights delegations."

The activists do not believe that the FBI has dropped its case. "No one knows what will happen. That's sort of the problem with all this," said Thistly Parker-Hartog, who did not attend her scheduled grand jury appearance last week. "The net is definitely getting wider. We are hearing from more of our brothers and sisters around the country that they, too, are being looked at."

"It's a waiting period," said raid victim Mick Kelly. "We're all waiting to see if the other shoe drops."

The September 24 raids were carried out in police-state fashion―simultaneously, in the early morning, and without warning. At least seven houses were raided―five in Minneapolis and two in Chicago. An antiwar office in the Twin Cities was also raided. Over the course of several hours, the FBI took thousands of documents―books, newspapers, financial records, personal memorabilia―as well as cell phones and computers.

No arrests were made, but grand jury subpoenas were issued. In other states the FBI reportedly approached antiwar activists for information, including Wisconsin, Michigan, California, and North Carolina.

The raids were carried out under the auspices of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, even though the FBI quickly declared they did not believe the victims to be dangerous. It claimed instead to be searching for evidence "concerning the material support of terrorism." The claim is based on a law known as the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, passed under the Clinton administration, which essentially proscribes political speech in support of organizations the US president defines as "terrorist."

The law, which prohibits "knowingly provid[ing] material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization," even if the "support" consists only of "expert advice or assistance" for "lawful, non-violent purposes," was upheld in June by the US Supreme Court in the case Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.

What Washington defines as "terrorism," however, has everything to do with the interests of US imperialism. In the 1980s, for example, the African National Congress (ANC) was officially labeled a terrorist operation for its struggle against apartheid in South Africa. But the Contras in Nicaragua, who murdered and tortured tens of thousands of civilians in the dirty wars of the 1980s, were "freedom fighters" that received the support of the Reagan administration.

US Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, whose charge is the Northern District of Illinois, would prosecute any grand jury investigation. Fitzgerald is famous for investigating the Valerie Plame affair, which led to the indictment and conviction of Scooter Libby, former aid to Vice President Dick Cheney. He also oversaw the prosecutions of former Illinois governors Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan.

The Obama administration’s aim with the raids and possible grand jury hearings is to intimidate opponents of its policies and to test the waters for more widespread suppression.

They have doubtless been encouraged by the banishment of the story from most of the news media and the indifference of liberal and ex-radical groupings.

While numerous small protests have been held on behalf of the victims of the FBI raids, the clear threat posed to democratic rights was not mentioned by a single speaker at the "One Nation" rally held October 2, which was organized and endorsed by over 400 groups, including unions, liberal organizations, antiwar groups, and organizations calling themselves "socialist." Discussion of the raids would have clashed with the event’s purpose―drumming up support for Obama and the Democrats in the upcoming elections.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Jim Crow meets Moshe Crow

Settler-style thugs operating inside Israel (from JVP website "the only democracy in the Mideast")

October 14th, 2010 | by Jesse Bacon | Add a Comment

by Jesse Bacon

One after another, the parallels to fascism pile up in Israel, like the sticks (which is what the root of Fascism means) on a fire. Now a town in Israel has adopted perhaps the most visible feature of many a dictatorship: paramilitary police. The settlers have long functioned in this role in the Occupied Territories, but in the borderless Israeli occupation such methods do not stay contained. What’s more the mission of the militia sounds uncomfortably like the thousands of “sundown towns” of American racism, keep ethnically-defined “outsiders” out of a town with the threat of violence.

Gush Shalom sounds the alarm.

Carmiel Deputy Mayor Oren Milstein, who was elected to the municipal council on the basis of a fiery anti-Arab campaign, candidly revealed the City Guard’s true aims.

Milstein has recently published an interview [in Hebew] in the ultra-right-wing publication “Be’Sheva”, where he said: “Carmiel is a Jewish city, plain and simple. It was founded for the purpose of Judaizing the Galilee. In my opinion it is not proper for Arab families to live here. In recent years, there are attempts by our [Arab] neighbors in the Western Galilee villages to migrate into Carmiel, and we must not ignore this phenomenon.”

According to Milstein, since being appointed deputy mayor two years ago, he had been striving ‘to do something real in order to change the situation’. To this end he founded the City Guard, in cooperation with the Carmiel police. Milstein proudly told the extreme right paper that members of the ‘City Guard’ are ‘monitoring every evening the entrances to the city and demand the I.D. of anyone seeking to enter the city. Thus, they reduce the number of neighbors seeking to just enter the city for no special reason.’”

While unlike Republican congressional candidates, this militia presumably does not wear Nazi uniforms, at what point will Israel’s defenders start to become concerned at what they are sticking up for? Hopefully they already are, and this band of thugs will lead more to speak out.

Tales of the "most moral army in the world."

the IDF kills 1 Palestinian civilian every 2 days, on average, with impunity
Oct 15, 2010 01:43 pm | Philip Weiss


Every other day, the IDF kills a Palestinian civilian with impunity in the occupied territories. And the Israelis have treated these killings as "combat action," reports B'Tselem in a report on Israeli military killings in the occupied territories, 2006-2009, not including the Gaza war.

From 2006 to 2009, the IDF killed 1,510 Palestinians, not including Palestinians killed in Operation Cast Lead. Of these 1,510 deaths, 617 were of persons who were not taking part in hostilities.

Regarding these 617 fatalities, B╩╣Tselem demanded an MPIU [Military Police Investigation Unit] investigation into the deaths of 288 of them, who were killed in 148 incidents. Ninety‐five of these incidents occurred in the Gaza Strip, accounting for 230 of the deaths. The other 53 incidents took place in the West Bank and resulted in the killing of 58 Palestinians. One hundred and four of the fatalities were minors under age 18, 23 were persons 50 and above, and 52 were women. One hundred of the Palestinians whose deaths B’Tselem demanded to investigate were killed in 2006, 86 in 2007, 93 in 2008, and 9 in 2009.

Stephen Lendman's comment:

Most are witnessed by bystanders whose testimonies are crucial to achieve justice. Yet Israel won't use them, clearly hiding the truth and obstructing justice.

Further, since September 2000, B'Tselem received no response from the Judge Advocate General's Office for " the vast majority" of cases warranting investigation, civilians killed in cold blood, responsible soldiers unpunished.

More from the B'Tselem release:

From the beginning of the first intifada, in December 1987, to the outbreak of the second intifada, in September 2000, the Military Police Investigation Unit (MPIU) investigated almost every case in which Palestinians not taking part in hostilities were killed. At the beginning of the second intifada, the Judge Advocate General’s Office announced that it was defining the situation in the Occupied Territories an “armed conflict,” and that investigations would be opened only in exceptional cases, in which there was a suspicion that a criminal offense had been committed..

B'Tselem protests the sweeping classification of the situation in the Occupied Territories as an “armed conflict,” which effectively grants immunity to soldiers and officers, with the result that soldiers who kill Palestinians not taking part in hostilities are almost never held accountable for their misdeeds. By acting in this way, the army fails to meet its obligation to take all feasible measures to reduce injury to civilians, allows soldiers and officers to violate the law, encourages a trigger-happy attitude, and shows gross disregard for human life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Legalizing a Jewish Theocracy

The Jewish Republic of Israel – Gideon Levy

11. Oct, 2010
From Haaretz

By Gideon Levy

Swearing an oath to a Jewish state will decide its fate. It is liable to turn the country into a theocracy like Saudi Arabia.

Remember this day. It’s the day Israel changes its character. As a result, it can also change its name to the Jewish Republic of Israel, like the Islamic Republic of Iran. Granted, the loyalty oath bill that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to have passed purportedly only deals with new citizens who are not Jewish, but it affects the fate of all of us.

From now on, we will be living in a new, officially approved, ethnocratic, theocratic, nationalistic and racist country. Anyone who thinks it doesn’t affect him is mistaken. There is a silent majority that is accepting this with worrying apathy, as if to say: “I don’t care what country I live in.” Also anyone who thinks the world will continue to relate to Israel as a democracy after this law doesn’t understand what it is about. It’s another step that seriously harms Israel’s image.

Prime Minister Netanyahu will prove today that he is actually Yisrael Beinteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman will prove he is really a loyal member of Yisrael Beiteinu. The Labor party will prove it is nothing more than a doormat. And Israel today will prove that it doesn’t care about anything. Today the loyalty oath bill, soon the loyalty oath law. The dam will overflow today, threatening to drown the remnants of democracy until we are left perhaps with a Jewish state of a character that no one really understands, but it certainly won’t be a democracy. Those demanding this loyalty oath are the ones misappropriating loyalty to the state.

At its next session, the Knesset is to debate close to 20 other anti-democratic bills. Over the weekend, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel issued a blacklist of legislation: a loyalty law for Knesset members; a loyalty law for film production; a loyalty law for non-profits; putting the Palestinian catastrophe, the Nakba, beyond the scope of the law; a ban on calls for a boycott; and a bill for the revocation of citizenship. It’s a dangerous McCarthyist dance on the part of ignorant legislators who haven’t begun to understand what democracy is all about. It’s dangerous even if only a portion of the bills become law, because our fate and our essence will change.

It’s not hard to understand the Netanyahu-Lieberman duo. As sworn nationalists, they are not expected to understand that democracy doesn’t only mean the rule of the majority, but rather first and foremost that minorities have rights. It’s much harder to comprehend the complacency of the masses. Town squares should have been filled today with citizens who do not wish to live in a country where the minority is oppressed by draconian laws such as the one that forces them to swear a false oath to a Jewish state, but amazingly almost no one seems to feel affected.

For decades, we have futilely dealt with the question of who is a Jew. Now the question of what is Jewish will not go away. What is the “state of the Jewish nation”? Does it belong more to Jews in the Diaspora than to its Arab citizens? Will they decide its fate and will this be called a democracy? Will the ultra-Orthodox Neturei Karta sect, which opposes the state’s existence, along with hundreds of thousands of Jews who have avoided coming do whatever they want with it? What is Jewish? Jewish holidays? Kosher dietary laws? The increased grip of the religious establishment, as if there is not enough of it now to distort democracy? Swearing an oath to a Jewish state will decide its fate. It is liable to turn the country into a theocracy like Saudi Arabia.

True, for the time being, it’s a matter of an empty, ridiculous slogan. There aren’t three Jews who could agree what a Jewish state looks like, but history has taught us that empty slogans, too, can pave the path to hell. In the meantime, the new proposed legislation will only increase Israeli Arabs’ alienation and ultimately result in the alienation of much wider segments of the public.

That’s what happens when the fire is still smoldering under the rug, the fire of the basic lack of faith in the justice of our path. Only such a lack of confidence can produce such distorted proposed legislation as that which will be approved today, and clearly approval will be forthcoming. Canada doesn’t need its citizens to swear an oath to the Canadian state, nor do other countries require similar acts. Only Israel. And it is being done either to provoke the Arab minority more and push them into a greater lack of loyalty so one day the time will come to finally get rid of them, or it is designed to scuttle the prospect of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. One way or another, in Basel at the First Zionist Congress in 1897, the Jewish state was founded, as Theodor Herzl said, and today the unenlightened Jewish Republic of Israel will be founded.

Monday, October 11, 2010

From projectcensored web site: # 20 of the year's most censored stories

20. Obama’s Charter School Policies Spread Segregation and Undermine Unions
Top 25 of 2011

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Sources:

E. Frankenberg, G. Siegel-Hawley, and J. Wang, “Choice without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards,” Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, University of California–Los Angeles, http://www.civilrightsproject .ucla.edu/news/pressreleases/pressrelease20100204-report.html.

Danny Weil, “Obama and Duncan’s Education Policy: Like Bush’s, Only Worse,” CounterPunch, August 24, 2009, http://counterpunch.org/weil08242009.html.

Michelle Chen, “Equity and Access in Charter School Systems,” Race Wire, August 19, 2009, http://www.racewire.org/archives/2009/08/special_education_equity_and_a_1.html.

Paul Abowd, “Teacher Reformers Prepare for Battle Over Public Education,” Labor Notes, October 13, 2009, http://www.labornotes.org/node/2472.

Student Researchers:

Kelsey Harris and Gina R. Sarpy (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluators:

Laura Watt and Sheila Katz (Sonoma State University)

Charter schools continue to stratify students by race, class, and sometimes language, and are more racially isolated than traditional public schools in virtually every state and large metropolitan area in the country.

Charter schools are often marketed as incubators of educational innovation, and they form a key feature of the Obama administration’s school reform agenda. But in some urban communities, they may be fueling de facto school segregation and undermining public education.

A University of California–Los Angeles (UCLA) Civil Rights Project study, “Choice without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards,” reported that charter schools, particularly those in the western United States, are havens for white re-segregation from public schools. “The charter movement has flourished in a period of retreat on civil rights,” stated UCLA professor Gary Orfield, co-director of the project.

In many charter schools, 90 to 100 percent of the population is minority students, close to twice the rate of traditional public schools. But even a charter school with a social mission of promoting economic and racial equity still runs up against the limits posed by selectivity and exclusion.

Obama’s national education policy supports the expansion of charter schools to undermine public education and schoolteacher labor unions. Obama wants to tie teachers’ pay to student performance, which would be measured through test scores. Merit pay based on performance is strongly opposed by teachers’ unions nationwide. Teachers want equal pay for equal work and assurances that funding for low-income schools will be fair. Charters are known for resisting teacher unions, which means they drive segregation not only in the student population but in the school workforce as well.

As a junior senator from Illinois, Obama doubled the number of charter schools in his state, despite reservations from teachers, community leaders, and unions. Obama seems to have latched onto the ideological rhetoric that charter schools are somehow engines of innovation that promise to raise all public schools performance, even though, in actuality, the expansion of charter schools is a process of privatizing public schools. Some argue that this is not improving schools but rather replacing public schools with non-union for-profit and nonprofit private institutions. Charter schools are often accused of “cherry picking students” to build higher test scores, leaving low-income and difficult-to-teach students in inadequately funded public systems. Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan, closed seventy neighborhood schools while he was Superintendent of Schools in Chicago, resulting in a loss of six thousand Chicago teachers’ union members.

On July 30, 2009, the US Senate Appropriations Committee voted for a $40 million increase in federal charter school program (CSP) funding, bringing the total to $256 million for fiscal year 2010. Also included in the bill were significant educational reform investments strongly aligned with the Obama administration’s priorities. The unprecedented payout takes a bead on the teachers unions: money will flow to districts that alter pay and seniority provisions in union contracts and states that roll out the carpet for (mostly non-union) charter schools.

Public schools will now be forced to choose stimulus money over policy, a form of economic extortion and increased federal and corporate control over decision making, especially at a time when many of these states are financial insolvent. Nonprofit and private charter school operators stand to make big gains from the federal incentive package. Several states have already amended their laws to expand charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately managed.

The Obama administration’s actions, in tandem with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, is part and parcel of typical neoliberal policy making: wielding federal stimulus funds as a financial weapon to force all states to increase the number of charter schools they host, as well as to force states that do not have them to pass legislation authorizing their creation. Through financial arm-twisting at a time of disastrous economic crisis, the Obama administration plans to use the power of the federal government to create a much larger national market for charter school providers, be they for profit or nonprofit, virtual charters, educational management organizations (EMOs), or single operators.

Using government to create market opportunities for business interests is at the heart of neoliberal economic policies; as a result, market adherents both need and relish government for its role in legislating and unleashing favorable public policies that benefit businesses’ ability to maximize private capital while charging private costs to the public.

The real story and prospects for the nation’s future education policy can be best revealed by Arne Duncan’s historical involvement in support of neoliberal policies created in Chicago under the Renaissance 2010 project. Renaissance 2010 is a corporate project to reform both the city and its public schools, with the intent of creating schools and geographical spaces that serve to attract the professionals believed to be needed in a twenty-first-century global city. Renaissance 2010 places public schooling under the control of corporate leaders who aim to convert public schools to charter and contract schools, breaking the power of unions and handing over the administration of the newly created charter schools to “providers” beholden to corporations, philanthropists, and business interests. Duncan, as the former CEO of the Chicago public schools (CPS), was an efficient manager for the neoliberal policies and legislative necessities dictated by the corporate elite corporations and their political representatives.

Duncan personally oversaw the attempted closure of twenty Chicago public schools in low-income neighborhoods of color in 2004. He did so with little or no community input—managing, at least for a time, to snub the meddlesome outsiders, like parents and their children, who might have raised objections to the CEO’s plans for the schools, or at the very least offer suggestions in the spirit of community decision making.

In fact, rapid increases in military programs in Chicago public schools actually did occur largely under Duncan’s tenure as CEO of CPS. The Chicago public school system has five military high schools, more than any city in the nation, and twenty-one “middle school cadet corps” programs. The military high schools teach military history and have military-style discipline. Students wear military uniforms, perform military drills, and participate in summer boot camps. The hierarchical authority structure mirrors the army, navy, and marines, with new students (“cadets”) under the command of senior students who had worked their way up and require obedience from those in “lower ranks.” All but one of the military high schools are in African-American communities, and all the middle school cadet programs are in overwhelmingly black or Latino schools. (See the honorable mentions in chapter 1, Censored 2010.)

The charter school takeover has been achieved quietly in Detroit and Washington DC, where around half the school kids in each city are now enrolled in charters. Under the emergency control of a state-appointed manager, Detroit opened twenty-nine fewer schools in fall 2009 and put many high schools under the control of private management groups. The next target is the teachers’ contract. In late August 2009, thousands of Detroit teachers protested proposed 10 percent wage cuts, elimination of step increases, and increased fines for work stoppages from $250 to $7,500 per day.

The Obama education policy hardly differs from the Bush administration’s policy of hitching student and teacher performance to what many in the educational community and beyond call inauthentic assessments, which force teachers to teach to the test and do little to encourage critical thinking or collaborative problem solving. The Obama policy is also quite similar to Bush’s in its goals for the rapid expansion of charter school networks and nonprofit with for-profit providers to run them.

Update by Danny Weil

When I wrote “Obama and Duncan’s Education Policy: Like Bush’s, Only Worse” for CounterPunch back in August of 2009, it was obvious that a corporate takeover of education was ginned up, triggered, and in process. The insidious experiment was initially fully launched in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, under the tutelage of Paul T. Hill’s “Diverse Strategies” model. Since the publication of the CounterPunch article, the corporatization of education has continued at rapid speeds, with public school closures occurring daily and student and teacher dislocation becoming the norm.

“Race to the Top,” the new brand name for No Child Left Behind conjured up by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, is now cannibalizing urban areas in the same way venture capitalists descended on New Orleans and privatized the educational system after the hurricane. Arne Duncan—along with his philanthropic friends who make up the Department of Education (DOE) and the business entrepreneurs who are anxious to get their greedy hands on the 5.6 percent of the national economy that education represents—is simply mouthing the same themes enunciated more than twenty-five years ago in the Reagan administration’s 1983 report, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, and for many of the same reasons.

They say the US cannot compete globally without an educated workforce; they tell us that America is falling behind in the economic global race to the top; they say US competition is failing and thus the entire enterprise of America stands held hostage to the unforgiving failures of American public education that can be pinned on the teacher’s unions.

The American public is now witnessing the wholesale privatization of education as cities, municipalities, and states are suffering from budget woes caused by the pillage and social failures of financial monopoly capitalism and its devastating policies that are intent on privatizing everything public, from schools, to the military, to health care, to public housing. With the public sector virtually bankrupt, Race to the Top is now forcing states to bend their knees and adopt the “four assurances” that underlie the radical new program Duncan is proposing, or close to their public schools and face massive losses of revenues and the denial of public services to children and decent, livable wages to teachers.

For states to be eligible for the $4.3 billion that Duncan has pocketed in federal funds to dole out to states that meet his criteria, they must show they are progressing toward meeting the four assurances. If they do not, then the states will not qualify for the funds and their political representatives will be forced to tell their constituencies that there are no monies for education and face the wrath of voters. As a result, many states are clamoring to meet Duncan’s “standards” and are doing all they can to become victims of Duncan’s extortion demands.

To begin with, teachers and schools must accept and “assure” what are called “high quality standards and assessments,” as explained by the International Center for Leadership and Education.

These standards and assessments are not the product of teachers’ collaborative thinking, but are instead the progeny of the well-heeled Wall Street bankers and their “turnaround” artists who have decided what our children should learn and how teachers must teach. The standards are inauthentic and laced to the vicious No Child Left Behind law inherited from the bipartisan Congress, signed into law by the Bush administration, and now chest held by the Obama administration. Although Obama blasted the tests as no way to measure student performance, as I indicated in the piece for CounterPunch, this was mere rhetoric designed to fool the public, as the standards and assessments are now the providence of private companies who work with the DOE.

Certainly charter chains would prefer national standards; that is why they look to the government to assure they have a highly profitable landscape to scrape up the contracts. This would allow them to use prepackaged curricula across their charter outlets no matter the location—it’s highly conducive to expanding their “market share,” for dummied down, standardized curricula keep costs down, and the dispensation is formulaic and repetitive. This is the Wal-Mart model of education.

The second assurance that states must meet to qualify for the federal monies is to tie teaching to material incentives for the purposes of what Duncan calls “teaching effectiveness.” Nowhere can this be seen more clearly and directly than in the merit pay schemes being flown as trial balloons in many cities in an effort to destroy teacher unions and collective bargaining.

The third assurance is “turning around low performing schools,” which means opening up the floodgate for charter schools, state by state, by forcing states to either initiate charter legislation and/or to raise the caps on the number of charter schools that can be opened in their states without being in violation of state law. In other words, using government legislation as a fulcrum to assure that the financial monopoly class has the ability to start “charter retail chains” without any blockage by meddlesome state laws or unions limiting their opening and expansion.

It also means closing public schools, city by city. According to a survey conducted last fall by the school administrators’ association, nationally 6 percent of districts closed or consolidated schools for the 2009–10 school year, double the number from the 2008–09 school year. The ranks of public school closures are expected to grow to 11 percent for the 2010–11 school year.

Closing schools is good news for privatizers looking to make a buck, for it actually increases the school system’s ability to qualify for state construction dollars that can be turned over to private corporations. As a result, the contracts to build new schools are given to Wall Street corporate financial interests and developers who profit off the devastation left by the Wall Street crash and theft of public funds. This sordid “assurance” is all bundled up as “school choice,” the favored language of the educational prevaricators.

It is important to understand that Arne Duncan and the Obama administration have bought the notion of public school choice and corporate education as a panacea for what ails public education. Like his predecessor under George W. Bush, former secretary of education Margaret Spellings, Arne Duncan and President Obama espouse the common rationale given for neoliberal educational reforms: competition provides the best or most efficient motor for change and reform. The contention is similar to the private voucher argument that traditional public schools (TPS) can be best improved by competitive market mechanisms.

Like private choice, the public choice rationale maintains that all public schools, and student learning in general, improve when schools have to compete for students, when students and their parents have the right to choose. Such an environment sends the message to teachers that they too need to compete, and then values such as solidarity, diversity appreciation, equity and equal opportunity, and participatory democracy all go out the window. They are not valued in the new “scheme of things.”

Race to the Top embraces a new but old business language, the language of competition rather than the language of collaboration, until what is posited is a scarcity environment: of winners and losers, no one in between.

Finally, the fourth assurance is to adopt “data systems to inform instruction.” These data systems come in the form of longitudinal testing and tracking systems for students, from kindergarten to workforce. This assurance is now moving rapidly, galloping across the educational terrain as testing companies see a virtual bonanza in preparing and selling tests, training teachers and students for the state tests with privatized for-profit test prep kits, as well as using the tests as Wall Street rating devices pointing to exciting new privatized educational opportunities and “best practices.”

Sadly, the results of the new national and state testing regime will be fed into an expanded data system used to evaluate teachers, to see if they are meeting the “measured outcomes,” the free-market “targets” they have been hired to accomplish. Reduced to “clerks in the classroom,” teachers could expect to devote themselves to “professional development” days, to be told by corporate spokespeople how to use the data kits, computer-generated graphs, tables, and more to figure out if their students are meeting the mandatory measured outcomes under No Child Left Behind.

It is now time to resist this regimented individualism through as combination of understanding, solidarity among working people, critical dialogue, and direct collective action. Otherwise, we will look to a society inhabited by more war, militarism, regimentation, authoritarianism, competition, penalty, and social decline. We will hollow out the moral body of our citizenry by forcing them to feed at the trough of illegitimate learning—a body blow to the body politic. It is time to stand up for public education, no matter the level of the educator, for as solidarity tells us, we are all in this together, and if the bridge goes down we all go down. The good news is that the responses to my article and many more like it are having a compelling effect.

Public schools in Detroit, Washington, DC, throughout New Jersey, and many other diverse cities and states across the nation are struggling back with high school and middle school student walkouts—16,000 in New Jersey alone. Student leaders are emerging, and their presence will no doubt increase as shown in the occupation of Governor Jennifer Granholm’s office in Detroit.

Also in Detroit, students defeated a plan by Wal-Mart; the retailer attempted to worm its way into four high schools by offering “internships” for course credit. Students will be at the forefront of the battles that will take place as the unfavorable policies go forward and the economy continues to affect the population, especially Latinos and Blacks in urban centers throughout the nation.

Corporate news coverage of the events is virtually nonexistent. Surreptitiously each day, Arne Duncan and his close allies on Wall Street continue to collect tax dollars under the radar of most citizens who are too busy trying to cope with a deracinated economic and social landscape that has left them bereft of any public safety net during a time of economic meltdown and job loss. Reportage of the carnage caused by Race to the Top and the new corporate model for education has been left to progressive reporting online or through organizational organizing and efforts by such groups as By Any Means Necessary, and any others who are fighting privatization and the destruction of educational opportunities for our nation’s youth.

We can only hope further education regarding the new corporate educational model will lead to stiff resistance and block the plans of the “turnaround” artists, venture capitalists, and Wall Street money makers. If not, then education will be reduced to training and teachers reorganized as “at-will” associates in the long march toward corporatocracy and the Walmartization of Education.

References:

By Any Means Necessary Web site, www.bamn.com.

A. Duncan, “Elevating the Teaching Profession,” American Educator 33, no. 4 (Winter 2009–10).

A. Greenblatt, “Schools Across US Grapple With Closures,” National Public Radio, March 11, 2010, http://www.kpbs.org/news/2010/mar/11/schools-across-us-grapple-closures.

Barbara Martinez, “D.C. Deal Puts Merit Pay for Teachers on the Syllabus,” Wall Street Journal, April 8, 2010, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303 591204575170280501458008.html?mod=WSJ_newsreel_us.

D. Simmons, “DC Teacher Contract Includes Merit Pay,” Washington Times, April 8, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/08/merit-pay-deal-included-in-dc-teacher-contract.

K. Spak, “D.C. Teacher’s Union Agrees to Merit Pay,” April 9, 2010, http://www.newser.com/story/85502/dc-teachers-union-agrees-to-merit-pay.html.

International Center for Leadership in Education, “The Impact of the Four Assurances on Classrooms and Schools, Getting to the finish line in Race to the Top,” April 2, 2010, www.leadered.com/pdf/Race to theTop4.2.10.pdf.

D. Weil, “On the Future of Education if Bill Gates and Arne Duncan Get Their Way,” CounterPunch, January 1, 2009.

D. Weil, “Tenure, Merit Pay and Teachers: Washington D.C. and Florida Set to Lose Tenure, Adopt Merit Pay and Create At-will Employees Just Like Wal-Mart’s Greeters,” April 10, 2010, http://dailycensored.com/2010/04/10/tneure-merit-pay-washington-d-c-and-forida.

D. Weil, “New Jersey Students Walk Out of Public Schools,” April 29, 2010, http://dailycensored.com/2010/04/29/new-jersey-students-walk-out-of-public-schools.

D. Weil, “Pass It On! Students and Activists Arrested at Governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm’s Office Over the Decimation of Public Education in Detroit,” May 12, 2010, http://dailycensored.com/2010/05/12/students-and-activists-arrested-at-governor-of-michigan-jennifer-granholms-office-over-the-decimation-of-public-education.

D. Weil, “Yvette Felarca Must Replace the Current American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten,” June 5, 2010, http://dailycensored.com/2010/ 06/05/yvette-felarca-must-replace-the-current-american-federation-of-teachers-aft-president-randi-weingarten.

Update by Paul Abowd

President Obama has made good on another one of those campaign promises that many progressives had wishfully chalked up to an electoral strategy of “playing to the center.” It turns out that Obama’s vision for public education goes way beyond electioneering, and has turned into an aggressive federal schools initiative revealing the administration’s abiding faith in market principles to resolve issues of public concern.

Obama’s Race to the Top contest has awarded only two states thus far, but has compelled nearly every state to alter its education code in anticipation of winning a piece of the several billion dollar federal aid package.

While the federal plan proceeds apace, resistance to it has grown—most notably in Chicago. A progressive slate of teachers is poised to take over the third largest teachers’ union in the country this summer. In an effort to connect the union with a broader community movement to revitalize public education, the Chicago teachers are putting up perhaps the most promising opposition to the privatization of public education—in the city where Obama’s education plan was hatched.

In Detroit, a foundation-funded schools manager appointed by the governor is finding community resistance and a legal challenge to his school closure plan, while DC teacher reformers are knocking on the door in union elections. In Los Angeles, teachers won their first battle against the city’s attempt to put public schools up for bid. Parents’ and teachers’ proposals for union-run schools beat out charter operators for control of dozens of contested campuses.

The summer 2009 national meeting of teacher reformers in Los Angeles was important in coalescing a national strategy for opposing Obama’s schools plan—and it has produced significant victories along the way. However, unions are still scrambling to find a unified response to attacks from a president they wholeheartedly supported. Because now, the work of saving public schools is not only about resisting and reacting, but proactively putting forth an alternative—lest teachers’ unions face charges of obstructing progress that the mainstream media is all too ready to level against them.

Luckily, the blogosphere is becoming a valuable resource as battles over public education continue. Current and former teachers themselves are broadcasting their experiences, their insider knowledge, and the dirty tricks of administrators and corrupt union officials alike. Some recommended blogs and independent news outlets on education include the Web sites for NYC Educator, Education Notes, Substance News, the Washington Teacher, and the Caucus of Rank and File Educators.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

October 16, come to the Brecht Forum and hear North Indian/Jazz Fusion, a great sound!

Random Chance Records new release, Snehasish Mozumder and SOM (Sound of Mandolin) come hear the musicians and pick up the new CD. Mozumder, a native of Calcutta, is a virtuoso classical Indian musician who has turned his attention to jazz. He plays a self-designed double necked mandolin and is accompanied by a great line up of New York jazz musicians.

Oct. 16 at the Brecht Forum SOM will join two other bands in a night of music. Mozumder and his band will play at 10pm

ALSO: this is my record label. support it and all musicians --Rick Congress



SNEHASISH MOZUMDER & SOM
Sat 16th - Brecht Forum

Music Now! At The Brecht Forum

10pm
Snehasish Mozumder & Som
w/ Snehasish Mozumder -doubleneck mandolin, Nick Gianni -sax/flute, Vin Scialla -drums,
Lars Potteiger -piano, Dan Asher -bass, Deep Singh -tabla/dhol

$10
The Brecht Forum
451 West St (West Side Highway Btwn Bank & Bethune sts)
NYC
212-242-4201
www.brechtforum.org

&
Sat Oct 30th - Blue Note, NYC midnight
Album Release show / Random Chance Records

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8-pHs8BhVc&p=DC4C287CB3F70F6E&playnext=1&index=15

Friday, October 8, 2010

Resisting FBI attacks on democratic rights

from WBEZ, Chicago

Antiwar Activists Refuse to Appear in Court
Produced by Chip Mitchell on Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Some Midwest antiwar activists say they’ll refuse a federal order to testify this month before a grand jury in Chicago.

The FBI served the subpoenas and raided several homes 11 days ago.

Attorney Jim Fennerty of Chicago is representing many of the activists. He says 14 have told the government they won’t appear. Now, he says, the ball is in the prosecutors’ court.

FENNERTY: They take you before a judge. They get the judge to order you to answer the question. If you don’t answer the question, you can be put in jail and held in civil contempt for the duration of the grand jury. There’s also a possibility later on they could charge you with criminal contempt.

Subpoenas suggest the investigation relates to foreign groups the federal government calls terrorists.

Activists say the feds are trying to silence criticism of U.S. foreign policy.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago on Tuesday said officials can’t comment on grand jury proceedings.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

What a shock!!!! USA did bad thing in Guatemala!

From distributing smallpox infected blankets to American Indians in the 19th century, to feeding Plutonium to US soldiers and also giving LSD to soldiers in the 1950s, to dropping tons of Agent Orange on Vietnam in the 1960s, to (maybe we're skipping a few things, but you get the point...) giving Israel new weapons to test out in Gaza in 2008/9....an unbroken record of the USA's leaders shouldering the imperial burden and generously allowing inferior people to participate in the advancement of scientific progress!

Who knows,maybe depleted uranium will one day prove to be a good fertilizer for crops? Brother can you spare a DIME bomb?

Yesterday,the new media revealed that from 1946 to 1948 the US government via the National Institutes of Health intentionally infected 700 Guatemalans with syphilis in order to use them as guinea pigs for testing penicillin. Prison inmates, mental health patients and soldiers were used in the experiments.

(1948 was also the year that the US supported military dictatorship in Guatemala fell and a democratically elected government took over. the CIA engineered a military coup that overthrew that government in 1954. (This coup had been pretested by a previous experiment in which the CIA overthrew a democratic government in Iran a bit earlier in 1953.)

The existence of the 64 year-old program in Guatemala was unearthed by Susan Reverby, a professor at Wellsley College, who was doing research for her writings on medical history.

The doctor in charge of the Guatemalan program, John C. Cutler also played a part in the Tuskeegee, Alabama study begun in 1932, where a group of black men who had syphilis were not told they had the disease, were not treated, but were studied for years to see how the disease progressed.

It's tough being the leading nation of the free world. Your good intentions are always being misinterpreted.

--R. Congress

Friday, October 1, 2010

From Bush to Obama the beat goes on: more attacks on democratic rights

From The Electric Intifada Sept 30,2010


Activists are planning new actions after rallies took place in dozens of cities across the United States to protest raids by the FBI on homes of anti-war and Palestine and Colombia solidarity activists in Minneapolis and Chicago last week. The FBI also subpoenaed at least 14 activists in Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan to testify at a grand jury.

Hundreds of protestors gathered outside FBI offices in Chicago and Minneapolis on Monday, 27 September and media reported on similar rallies in other cities including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Kalamazoo and Dallas. Organizers have announced a national call-in day to the US president and attorney general on 4 October and day of action on 5 October in order to maintain pressure on the US government to end the raids and grand jury proceedings.

"Those targeted [by the FBI raids] are well-known leaders in the anti-war movement and many helped to organize the huge protest against the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota in September 2008," the newly-formed Committee to Stop FBI Repression said in a statement. It added that the targeted activists "are involved with many groups, including the Palestine Solidarity Group, Students for a Democratic Society, the Twin-Cities Anti-War Committee, the Colombia Action Network, Fight Back! newspaper, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera" ("Support Anti-war and International Solidarity Activists" leaflet [PDF])

No arrests or charges were made in the raids and the FBI has described there to be "no imminent threat" to the public, leading the targets of the raids and supporters to describe the FBI's investigation as a "giant fishing expedition" intended to intimidate the anti-war and solidarity movements.

Just days before the raids, the US Justice Department Inspector General released a 289-page report in which it criticized the FBI for spying on activists between 2002 and 2006. The report found that "The FBI improperly spied on American activists involved in First Amendment-protected activities and mischaracterized nonviolent civil disobedience as terrorism which improperly placed activists on terrorist watch lists" ("FBI improperly spied on activists, says Justice Department Inspector General," American Civil Liberties Union, 20 September 2010).

The Justice Department's investigation, undertaken after a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union, "uncovered evidence that the FBI was chilling political association and improperly investigating peaceful advocacy groups."

The FBI claims that its latest raids in Chicago and Minneapolis are related to an investigation concerning "material support of terrorism," and demands in the subpoenas any information the targets might hold related to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and Hizballah, all considered "terrorist organizations" by the US State Department.

In June of this year, the Supreme Court expanded the definition of "material support" to include "expert advice," "training," "service" and "personnel," terms criticized by law groups as being vague, and threatening the constitutional right to free speech. This broad definition of "material support" could even include such activities as specifically advising a group considered "terrorist" by the US to abandon violence and use strictly nonviolent means to achieve its goals.

During a Minneapolis rally against the raids, National Lawyers Guild member Bruce Nestor illustrated the sweeping scope of the material support law. Nestor said that had the law been in effect during the South Africa anti-apartheid movement, when US President Ronald Reagan had declared Nelson Mandela's African National Congress a "terrorist organization," "the entire anti-apartheid movement would have been guilty of providing material support for terrorism" (Video available on YouTube).

Minnesota activist Tracy Molm, whose home was raided, told Al-Jazeera English that the FBI is "trying to intimidate us who are standing in solidarity with the people of Palestine and Colombia" ("FBI targets US Palestine activists," 29 September 2010). Protesters in several cities carried signs reading, "From Colombia to Palestine, Solidarity is not a Crime."

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression is calling for a national call-in day on Monday, 4 October to US President Barack Obama and US Attorney General Eric Holder. They are asking supporters to demand that the government stop the repression against anti-war and international solidarity activists, return all confiscated materials and call for an end the grand jury proceedings against the activists. The national committee is also calling for solidarity actions at FBI and federal buildings throughout the US on Tuesday, 5 October, the first federal grand jury court date. Activists in Chicago, where the first of the subpoenaed activists are to report to a grand jury, are planning a day-long vigil starting at 8:30am that day.


Related Links

* Committee to Stop FBI Repression