Friday, April 4, 2014

The Return of That Damned Liberal Media

Wow. If true, it's another unbelievable, yet at the same time entirely predictable, report from the good folks at TalkingPointsMemo.com . The corporate traditional media took up every shriek of "death panels," and every prognostication of Inevitable DOOOOOOM as though it were literal, scientific fact.

TV Networks Denied Obama Airtime To Tout Obamacare Enrollment

Dylan Scott – April 3, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

The White House reportedly wanted to put President Barack Obama on primetime television Tuesday to tout Obamacare's 7 million enrollees -- but network TV officials denied him the airtime.

BuzzFeed had the scoop, citing three sources with knowledge of the request. Details of the request are unclear from the report, but it appears that the White House was seeking primetime space on broadcast TV networks.

The White House did not comment directly to BuzzFeed.

Words fail. It's just absolutely infuriating.

The ACA / Obamacare law - for all its flaws - is doing what all these jokers confidently predicted it wouldn't . . . working the way it was supposed to. A month ago they were saying it would never make it to 6 million, now it appears to have MET THE CBO PROJECTION of 7 MILLION.

You think CNN or ABC will report on it when rates start falling next fall? -and large swaths of the insured start getting CHECKS CUT to them?

I mean let's get this straight: death panels are a story. Law working and health care rates stabilizing? - Not a story.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Coke Ad and Reverse Political Correctness: "We Won't Call Them Frothing Racists."

The American wrong wing has been screeching about so-called "political correctness" since that fateful day in the early 1990's, when, between tooth-spitting fists to the jaw, a gay man had the temerity to tell the skinheads who were beating him: "You know, I prefer not to be called a faggot." Ever since then, the long-running 'political correctness' cultural meme has infected our media, our college campuses, and certainly every neuron duet of a meeting of conservative "think tanks."

Most of us know the score on this by now, but to those who need a reminder as to how the wrong wing quote "thinks" unquote, the basic jist is this:

"It's utterly appalling that some of those others (wink, wink, you who I mean) don't like it when we call gay people faggots and dykes, refer to black people as niggers, Spanish-speakers as wetbacks, Asians as chinks and ching-chongs, and so on. Our God-given right, nay duty, to refer to "those people" by the most denigrating and humiliating names we can think of - as opposed to difficult, syllable-y, less pejorative $10 words like African American, Hispanic, Asian American, or gay - is the most important thing in the sphere of all human existence. And to even hear one peep of complaint that perhaps we ought to call "those people" (wink wink) . . . you know . . . "what it is they like to be called," or even "something less crudely insulting," is itself he greatest affront that has ever come about in the history of humanity; because THAT smacks of 'political correctness,' which is naturally worse than Hitler. And importantly, by the way, don't you dare call us racist, because we have a black friend."

Of course, even the best efforts of these mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, hairy-backed, Neanderthal GOoPers ultimately trend towards the predictable stench of failure. Thinking people have mostly moved towards the more accommodating practice of referring to folks in terms that aren't inherently insulting; and - thank you Universe - most Americans have at least come to the realization that being a fucking racist or homophobe makes you a Capital-B Big Capital-A Asshole. Most.

Yet the pushback against so-called 'political correctness' has been real, and in particular, our corporate traditional media has been receptive to the complaints of those who prefer living in the 1800's; very receptive. It has gotten to the point, now, that now matter how obviously despicably racist someone acts, the traditional media Will. Not. Call. Them. Racist.

My most recent reminder of this phenomenon was in the predictable and depressing online backlash to the Coca Cola's Super Bowl Ad. If you're an American reader of this, you probably saw the ad, because as the folks at my beloved Gawker put it: "to not watch the Super Bowl will cause friends and coworkers to look upon you with suspicion." I could care less for the sugary soft drink, and thought the ad itself was rather saccharine and schlocky, but the overall message was nice enough. "America the Beautiful" is sung in seven different languages, and features the glowy visages of a broad array of "not-typically-thought-of-as-All-American" people, thus representing the increasing diversity of the American nation in our globally interconnected world, and oh by the way drink our sugar water. Nice enough right? Harmless enough, one might think.

One would be wrong.

The Wrong Wing's "Don't You Dare Call Us Racist" set was predictably apoplectic at the dystopian images of non-whites singing what entirely-to-many of these . . . let's be clear . . . FUCKING MORONS referred to as "the national anthem," in languages . . . gulp . . . "other than 'American.' These "No I'm not a Racist" hairy-backed Neanderthals went absolutely apeshit all over Twitter, making #SpeakAmerican a hotly trending hashtag, as though 'American' were an actual language that people spoke. #boycottcoke became another trending hashtag, and why? Why? These assholes were more pissed-off than Denver fans, because the sugar-water company had the gall to suggest, through a series of glowy images and a familiar song sung in unfamiliar languages, that perhaps America isn't comprised 100% of white people who speak, I shit you not, "American," thus mildly suggesting that a diverse nation might just be broadly categorized as: "good thing."

Nevermind the simple fact that America ISN'T comprised 100% of white people speaking "American." Nevermind the fact that it's 2014. These fucking assholes just couldn't deal with it. It was the proverbial "bridge too far." And by the way, don't you dare call us racist.

And this? This my friends, is what really galls me about the whole thing. You know, my feelings over the frothing racism of the so-called "Right Wing," empowered by online anonymity, has achieved outrage-burnout. My anger-ometer is just broken, on that score. The turd-throwing racism of the American RepubliCons has become so predictable, so banal, so normal, that I tend to just tune it out. But what really gets me, is that these hateful bigots have been screeching about 'political correctness' for so long; they have been shrieking in an all-caps "DON'T YOU DARE CALL US RACIST" for so many years; they have been pathetically glowing about their black friend for so many decades now, that our lapdog corporate media, will NEVER call these bigots what they are: racists!

Just yesterday, I was listening to NPR's . . . and I'm going to use this term VERY loosely . . . quote "coverage" unquote of the Coca Cola ad backlash, and wanted to slam my head into the steering wheel, repeatedly. On the subject at hand, Steve Inskeep interviewed Code Switch's Gene Demby, the latter of whom is an African American whose very job it is to explore matters of race in America on NPR, and what they did they come up with? Did they castigate these racist assholes for being the big fucking racists they are? Did Demby, about whom one might reasonably suspect had some flicker of deep disdain for this racist behavior, righteously take the mic and expose these pathetic neanderthals for exactly the bigots they showed themselves to be? Did the words prejudice, racism, racist, or bigot even show up ONE TIME IN THE FUCKING INTERVIEW?

The answer to all of the above, is the same. No.

Demby made an oblique reference to "Every time something happens in popular culture, in which a brown person does something kind of unexpected, there's this apoplexy on Twitter," without once pointing out that said apoplexy, was . . . you know . . . deeply fucking racist, to Inskeep's golly-gee hemming and hawing. There was a then a brief allusion to some similar backlashes i.e. the Indian-American Miss America, but the remaining 75-80% of the interview focused on the entirely-more-important (apparently) question of "Is this a good way to sell sugar-water, or isn't it now?" And this is NPR, the supposedly "liberal" "people-powered" news outlet!

Are you fucking kidding me?

Naturally, other news outlets couldn't even pretend to slightly address how racist these responses were. ABC's miserable treatment of the story just noted that "Some" [giant bigots were] "objecting" to the advertisement, and that Coca Cola stood by the message, as if the "some" to which they were referring were no more objectionable than "some teachers," "some Illinoisans," or "some White Sox fans." The omission of the VERY BASIC TRUTH that those objecting are RACISTS AND BIGOTS, gives these assholes total cover for their pathetic responses to the ad. And this is simply par for the course.

When the rabid right says: "Don't you dare call us racist," the corporate media just lays down, and says: "Ok we won't." This is reverse political correctness at its worst. No matter how racist some GOoPer acts, the traditional media cannot call it out as such. In case you hadn't noticed, I'm sick of it.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Banksters to Urban Centers: "Down with jobs. Up with prisons!"

This important article from Les Leopold at Alternet really connects the dots.

How Wall Street Turned America Into Incarceration Nation

Transforming poorer neighborhoods into desirable real estate for the new elites often requires getting rid of the poor: jail becomes the new home for many.

November 25, 2013 | The U.S. leads the world in prisoners with 2.27 million in jail and more than 4.8 million on parole. Minorities have been especially hard hit, forming 39.4% of the prison population, with one in three black men expected to serve time during their lifetimes. How is it that our land, supposedly the beacon of freedom and democracy for the rest of the world, puts so many of its own people into prison? . . .

'Unleashing' Wall Street destroys manufacturing, older urban areas and black America's upward mobility

By the end of the 1970s, our policy establishment embarked upon a new experiment to shock the nation out of stagflation (the crushing combination of high unemployment and high inflation). To do so, neo-liberal economists successfully argued that Wall Street should be deregulated and that taxes on the wealthy should be cut to spur new entrepreneurial activity that would enrich us all. Entrepreneurial activity certainly increased, and with a vengeance. Rather than create new jobs and industries that would promote shared prosperity, a new and invigorated Wall Street set about to devastate American manufacturing. Its goal was, and still is, to make money from money, not to make money by producing tangible goods and services. Wall Street's main product for America is debt. And its profits derive from loading up the country with it, and then collecting compound interest.

Wave after wave of financial corporate raiders (now politely called private equity firms) swooped in to suck the cash flow out of healthy manufacturing facilities. Wall Street, freed from its New Deal shackles, loaded companies up with debt, cut R&D, raided pension funds, slashed wages and benefits, and decimated well-paying jobs in the U.S. while shipping many abroad. The released cash flow was used to pay back the financiers, buy up stock to drive up its price, and pay out dividends. Nearly half the raided companies failed as America's heartland in a few short years turned into the Rust Belt.

Living on the south side of Chicago, and working near Gary, Indiana, I have become intimately familiar with the devastation of the Rust Belt's urban core, and it ain't pretty. Basically, the neo-liberal scumf**x who call the shots in Washington D.C., Springfield, IL, the Mayor's office here in Chicago, etc., have a created an interesting little third-world experiment, right here in the good ol' U.S. of Awesome.

I teach English, not science, but I believe the experimental hypothesis the banksters are operating under is this: "If we wipe out an entire sector of the U.S. economy, and replace it with predatory capitalism specifically designed to bloat our bank accounts to the exclusion of all else, everything will be just peachy, and those newly-jobless urban cores will become like elysian fields of happy, contented, unemployed."

We all know how well THAT'S worked out. You can just ask the good people of Gary, Indiana; Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; or the southside of Chicago, etc. Of course, once they'd shuttered the main engines of the manufacturing sector through sheer, rapine greed, the question for our jaunty neo-liberal overlords became: "What do we do with all these people disposables who have no jobs?"

After all, that real estate still had some residual value, and it's not like they were going to go back on the whole experiment and invest in something to replace the manufacturing sector. Investing costs money, and takes time. The return is so much slower than creating a mega-trillion dollar pseudo-economy based on gambling with derivatives, and other finance-capital parlor tricks. No, they'd already hacked away those jobs like so many overzealous tree-pruners, lopping off barrels-full of apples so they can burn the fragrant wood. No amount of glue can fix those trees, and replanting? I refer you to my earlier remarks regarding the time and money involved in investing. Those jobs were gone forever, so what to do? What to do?

I suppose it must have been a real conundrum for the neo-liberal ha ha "private equity" scumfucks who call the shots. What do you with a whole bunch of unnecessary people disposables who are living eeking out an existence on the land that occupies your next condominium development? Luckily for the ha ha "private equity" vultures, at some point the heavens parted, the light dawned, and that last bump of cocaine brought clarity for a change. Some insightful bankster had a moment of brilliance: "I know what we can do with all those unemployed folks, whose lives, families, and neighborhoods we just served up and gorged upon like succulent marrow. Let's LOCK THEM THE FUCK UP!"

Y voila! Thus were born the mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the War on Drugs, the disparity between sentencing guidelines for crack versus "regular" cocaine, stop-and-frisk . . . . why a whole LITTER of incarceration innovations were veritably shat out the asshole of our asexual, protozoan overlords. Thus was born a New-merica; one in which we proudly boast not only the highest per capita rate of incarceration, (which is quite a feat for the "Land of the Free") but the highest raw NUMBER of people disposables incarcerated; more than much-larger nations like India, and the wonder-tastically freeish nation of CHINA!

Congratulations to our Neoliberal Bankster Overlords. We truly are number one.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

'Bama RepubliCon Out-Assholes the Rest: "No overtime pay for you."

Why we can't have nice things. Reason #9,201,123

I've started to really enjoy the show Face Off, so I'll give Alabama Tea Party Republican Representative Martha Roby (R - Zombiefield Estates) this . . . at least she's got her vapid, creepy stare plastered perfectly to her skull.

But that's about all the credit I can give her, because beyond her amazingly winched and riveted death glare from Jack Nicholson as the Joker, she's definitely the Asshole of the Week, in a week that really was chock full of assholes. Well-played, Rep. Roby. You are truly a frightening, frightening person.

From Janet Allon of Alternet

Alabama Rep. introduces bill to eliminate overtime pay

This is nice. And just in time for the holiday season. Meet U.S. Representative Martha Roby, a.k.a. Cruella DeVille. While the Tea Partying 37-year-old is not fighting tooth and nail against people getting affordable healthcare, she’s coming up with ways to deprive employees and workers of their hard-won rights and protections.

This week she introduced a resolution euphemistically called “Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013,″ which would end the requirement of the Fair Labor Standards Act for employers to pay Time-and-a-Half to employees for every hour worked over 40 in one week. It’s called H.R. 1406, and here’s what the Congressional Budget Office has to say about it:

“H.R. 1406 would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide compensatory time for employees in the private sector. In lieu of overtime pay, employees could receive compensatory time off at a rate not less than one and one-half hours for each hour of employment for which overtime pay would otherwise have been required. Such compensatory time could be provided only in accordance with a collective bargaining agreement or with the consent of affected employees. The changes would be effective for five years after enactment of the bill.”

So, this bill is just so many different types of buckets of puke, it's hard to figure out which to dump into the contractor bag first.

For starters, let's be clear, this bill would basically repeal the portion of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act which mandates that you get time-and-a-half pay for overtime. Representative Roby, if ever those beady little snake-eyes of yours were ever to glance across these humble lines, I just want you to know, that you have left me dumbfounded, speechless as it were. I mean, I just to I have to admit it here: I am awe-struck by what a horrible, horrible person you are. You have authored a bill that removes a 75-year precedent, and even more importantly, would literally give corporate managers the ability to screw over their employees even more. I salute you for displaying to me new depths of sheer ill-will and malice.

But wait, this pit ain't deep enough for ya?

Why don't you throw in some classic Rovian doublespeak gobbledygook? It's been a good couple of news cycles since the GOoPers opened up that playbook. Could you give the bill a wonderfully innocuous sounding name that makes it seem like it does the opposite of what it actually does? Oh wait, YOU ALREADY DID! The "Working Families Flexibility Act." So now working families have the . . . . ya know . . ."flexibility" or whatever . . . to not get overtime pay. So that's neat.

Now let's be clear, Representative Roby, most people outside of your sleepy little Prozac outhouse of a town, have never heard of you. But this? This just may be your moment to enter the hallowed halls of lexicon. Dare we call naming bills after the opposite of what they actually do Robyan irony? It's a question for posterity, but bream big, you creepy, snake-like creature, and you may just have a type of irony named after you!

Ms. Roby has already wowed me with sheer malice, and potentially entered history's dictionary, which are no small feats. But even these don't hold a candle to the coup de grace.

You know, as a teacher, I don't really get much "overtime pay," as it were. So I could be wrong on this. But I thought the UPSIDE on overtime - from a worker's perspective - was that if you WERE able to put in some extra time, you would get paid a hefty amount more - "time-and-a-half." Now that Rep. Roby, with her welded-on face and robotic smile have done away with that requirement, and made things nice and "flexible," she has gone a step further, and flexibly upended the entire CONCEPT of overtime.

Here's how it works right? So you put in 55 hours one week at work. And no, you're not going to get time-and-a-half. That's gone now. Frowny Face! :-(

But you can turn that frown upside-down, because your time-and-a-half MONEY been replaced by something super-double-plus JUST AS GOOD, which is "time-OFF-and-a-half." Of course, a great majority of American workers do not enjoy paid time off. So that extra 15 hours that was accrued last week? You'll just be staying home for 15 hours next week and not getting paid for that. But don't worry, we'll only dock you ten hours next week, instead of fifteen.

Speaking as someone familiar with Rovian New World order doublespeak, I'd say that sounds highly double-plus flexi-tastical to me, Representative Roby! My working family's bank account will be so much more flexible without that extra money in it. Robyan irony has worked for me.

Unfortunately for Rep. Roby, and fortunately for everyone else in America, this skunk of a bill wouldn't pass the smell test in the U.S. Senate. But then who knows what the future will bring? After all, we live in interesting times. Bills that would have been politically unthinkable just a few years back are now finding their way on to the House floor, thanks to the Tea Party radicals from the extremist right wing. Maybe someday we can ALL enjoy the "flexibility" of not getting paid time-and-a-half for overtime work!

Only thus could a zombie's dream come true.

Monday, September 2, 2013

On Teach For America, Anti-Unionization, and Corporatization of Education

A very happy Labor Day to all.

This day is about recognizing the daily, unglamorous hard work and sacrifice made by millions of ordinary Americans, on behalf of each other, and posterity. We tend to take an eight-hour workday and the weekend for granted, but people literally DIED fighting for a decent wage, and a better quality of life for everyone. If anyone has any doubts about the importance of the union movement, of workers having a say in the conditions and the wages that define their own livelihood, just take a quick look at this graph, and then read this article by the indispensable Laura Clawson.

Go here to learn more about the extremely interesting origins of Labor Day, and a strike that killed 30 and wounded 57.

This post isn't intended as any kind of attack or depreciation of the thousands of hard-working Teach For America participants, many of whom are well-meaning folks who understandably want a quicker way into the profession, and see TFA as a viable option for them to fast-track their journey towards teaching.

Yesterday, I was perusing the interwebs, and came across not one, but two separate articles that focused on Teach For America, the well-known 'alternative path to teaching,' whose stated mission is to: "eliminate educational inequity by enlisting high-achieving recent college graduates and professionals to teach" for at least two years in low-income communities throughout the United States. As opposed to the two years of classes in instruction, Literature and Reading Comprehension, Educational Psychology and pedagogical theory that I received while I was training to become a teacher (in addition to a fourteen-week stint as a student teacher), Teach For America tries to cut through all the supposed "extras" of a traditional teacher-education model in five weeks, without student teaching or standard certification and licensure, landing TFA corps participants in full-time teaching jobs at an accelerated pace.

Corps-members commit to two years of teaching.

While the goals of TFA certainly seem laudable, one immediately has to wonder about an organization whose own program requires participants to commit to two years in a profession which, according to MOST of the seasoned veterans already so-involved, takes at least three to five years to achieve basic competency. (For full disclosure, I'm a fifth-year veteran classroom teacher and proud union member, although I am not acting under and union-backed program in writing this; and I FULLY endorse the notion that it takes at least three-to-five years in the classroom to gain competency.) It's from this angle that Steve Singiser, a veteran teacher himself, launches his article on the front page of DailyKos.

The renewed war on the veteran teacher

. . . The "reform" crowd has long addressed the issue of veteran teachers as a battle between "youth and optimism" and "calcification and resentment." Not only is the argument offensive, it is also wrong. There have been multiple studies that confirm that teacher effectiveness is enhanced through experience. What's more, a 2012 study showed that teacher turnover (a built-in feature of charter schools, as we read earlier) does appear to have a negative impact on student performance.

But there are other, more obvious reasons for the "reform" crowd to diminish the value of experienced teachers. The most obvious one is money. Experienced teachers simply cost more than their less experienced colleagues. But of equal importance is that experienced teachers are often the most vocal and impassioned voices for the rights of professional teachers.

Do not underestimate how much the "reform" community loathes the role veteran teachers play in acting as the guardians of the professional rights of teachers. Much of the intellectual heft, and virtually all of the money, in the "reform" crowd comes from the financial and business elite. For example, when Wendy Kopp founded TFA, she did so by pitching her plan to Fortune 500 execs. That netted her the seed money needed ($2.5 million) to get her plan off the ground. So the "reform" movement (and the charter school movement) is fueled by corporate cash and wealthy donors. This is a shock to precisely no one. Now, ponder for a moment how that crowd typically conceives of its workforce, and then see the obvious translation to "education reform."

One undeniable component of that corporate mindset in education "reform" (and the charter school movement) is an ingrained hatred of workers' rights in the classroom. Even in their own propaganda, the charter school lobby admits that less than one-in-eight charter schools are unionized. There is no chance of that being an accident.

This article REALLY needs to be processed in full in order to get whole story, but I won't break copyright by posting it all. Go and read the whole thing. The basic jist is that corporate-backed educational quote "reform" unquote entities like Teach For America are hurting the quality of students' education by implicitly devaluing the importance of EXPERIENCE in the classroom. Furthermore, Teach for America is placing huge quantities of its participants in charter schools, which are unionized at much lower rates than other public schools. As Singiser tells us:

Charter schools need a weakened workforce, dependent upon the goodwill of the bosses, in order to insist on things like demanding that employees offer up to 30 additional hours a week of uncompensated labor. In short, they need a bunch of temp workers, who would never dare challenge the authority structure, because they are more interested in getting a decent recommendation letter to the MBA program in their future than they are to upholding some minimal rights for the profession, since it is a profession that is viewed merely as an attractive line on their bio for whatever is next in their future.

In contrast, veteran teachers are confident enough in their convictions, and have a broad enough depth of experiences, to question the inherent value of "reforms," especially when said reforms are coming from people with scant, if any, classroom experience. What's more, they are fiercely protective of the profession, because they know that they are in it for the long haul. The part-timers will not fight, because either (a) they don't care because they're looking at the next rung of the ladder or (b) they're afraid. Neither of those things apply to veteran teachers, which is why they will fight.

Thus are Teach For America participants the advance guard for a de-professionalized, short-timers' teaching field, where experience isn't needed, and may in fact be an impediment to the agenda of corporate-backed educators.

But that was just the start of my education about Teach for America, as I stumbled across this important article from Max Blumenthal at Alternet.org, just an hour or so later.

Wealthy Widow Is Pouring Millions into Teach for America, Promoting a Pro-Israel Agenda to Needy and Impressionable Children

Lynn Schusterman, the wealthy widow of the oil and gas tycoon and major Israel booster, has begun injecting millions into TFA, the advance guard of the education privatization movement.

. . . Since TFA requires only a two-year commitment from its teachers, more than half of TFA members leave their positions after a brief stint in the classroom. Some take advantage of a TFA partnership with Goldman Sachs to seek jobs at the investment firm, which recently paid much of a $247 million settlement with homeowners victimized by foreclosure abuse.

As a revolving cast of inexperienced, culturally uninitiated teachers drift in and out of inner city classrooms, many schools have been thrown into chaos. Dissent is building within the ranks of TFA, with some veterans openly conceding that they were used as foot soldiers in a concerted assault on unions and public schooling.

But the organization’s recruitment efforts remain strong; over 10,000 members hold TFA jobs across the country, taking advantage of opportunities for personal advancement not available to their certified colleagues. Among the most coveted perks available to TFA members is Reality Israel, an all-expenses-paid, ten-day tour of the Holy Land. Unfortunately, not every teacher has what it takes to qualify. Though a few gentiles have been accepted to Reality Israel, its application process clearly offers preferential consideration to Jews. According to Reality Israel’s website, participants are required to “have affiliations with or interests in Jewish life.” Such language is likely to deter non-Jews, especially Muslim and Arab TFA members.

This is another must-read article, that shows us how, in times of tough budget crunches, school districts can cuts costs and eliminate those troublesome, empowered, experienced, and more-likely unionized teachers, and replace them with cheaper, less empowered, less experienced teachers from programs like Teach For America; which, in a back-door way, encourage idealistic young people to "get in and get out" of the teaching profession before they become the type of veteran teachers that do a better job for our students, and stand up for our profession.

Further on, this article gives important details as to how this whole thing works . . .

the destructive impact of Hurricane Katrina prompted the firing of 7,500 education workers in New Orleans, the conversion of most of the city’s schools to charters, and a nearly 20 percent decline in the share of black teachers working in the district. Meanwhile, TFA expanded its operations in the city, moving about 300 new members into teaching positions.

“I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina,” US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan remarked.

In Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel has shuttered nearly fifty public schools, mostly in predominately African-American neighborhoods, approximately 850 teachers and staffers have lost their jobs. The man-made disaster has been a boon to TFA, which is pouring into Chicago with hundreds of non-union replacement teachers. “The added influx of TFA corps in the city means they now compete head-to-head for jobs with traditional teachers,” noted journalist Emily Brosious.

This style of de-professionalization is troubling even BEFORE you get the major thrust of Blumenthal's article, concerning the Pro-Israel ideology promoted by one of TFA's largest individual donors, Lynn Shusterman; whose right-leaning "Pro-Israel-can-do-no-wrong-and-all-who-question-this-are-to-be-smeared-as-anti-Semitic" agenda is problematic to itself.

Again, this is not to say that many TFA folks aren't sincere people, who want to become excellent life-long teachers . . . but the pro-corporate, anti-professional agenda of TFA's philosophical background is enough to give any educator pause.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Engelhardt: Edward Snowden (whistleblower) v. Robert Seldon Lady (torturer)

I'm re-posting this must-read article essentially for its must-be-readacy.

This CIA Operative Indicted for Extraordinary Renditions Vanished from the Map—Twice

After years in absentia, poof! Robert Seldon Lady, convicted of kidnapping by Italy, reappeared out of nowhere. Then he was gone again.

Recently, [retired CIA operative . . . and convicted kidnapper . . . Robert Seldon] Lady proved a one-day wonder. After years in absentia — poof! He reappeared out of nowhere on the border between Panama and Costa Rica, and made the news when Panamanian officials took him into custody on an Interpol warrant. The CIA's station chief in Milan back in 2003, he had achieved brief notoriety for overseeing a la dolce vita version of extraordinary rendition as part of Washington’s Global War on Terror. His colleagues kidnapped Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, a radical Muslim cleric and terror suspect, off the streets of Milan, and rendered him via U.S. airbases in Italy and Germany to the torture chambers of Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt. Lady evidently rode shotgun on that transfer. . .

. . . Last week, the Panamanians picked him up. It was the real world equivalent of a magician’s trick. He was nowhere, then suddenly in custody and in the news, and then — poof again! He wasn’t. Just 24 hours after the retired CIA official found himself under lock and key, he was flown out of Panama, evidently under the protection of Washington, and in mid-air, heading back to the United States, vanished a second time. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters on July 19th, “It's my understanding that he is in fact either en route or back in the United States." So there he was, possibly in mid-air heading for the homeland and, as far as we know, as far as reporting goes, nothing more. Consider it the CIA version of a miracle. Instead of landing, he just evaporated. And that was that. . .

. . . This version of how it all works is so much the norm in Washington that few there are likely to see any contradiction at all between the Obama administration’s approaches to Snowden and Lady, nor evidently does the Washington media. Its particular blind spots, when it comes to Washington’s actions, remain striking — as when the U.S. effectively downed the Bolivian president and his plane. Although it was an act of seemingly self-evident illegality, there was no serious reporting, no digging when it came to the behind-the-scenes acts of the U.S. government, which clearly pressured four or five European governments (one of which may have been Italy) to collude in the act. Nor, weeks later, has there been any follow-up by the Washington media. In other words, an act unique in recent history, which left European powers disgruntled and left much of Latin America up in arms, has disappeared without explanation, analysis, punditry, or editorial comment here. Undoubtedly, given the lack of substantial coverage, few Americans even know it happened . . . This, then, is our world: a single megapower has, since September 2001, been in a financing and construction frenzy to create the first global surveillance state; its torturers run free; its kidnappers serve time at liberty in this country and are rescued if they venture abroad; and its whistleblowers -- those who would let the rest of us know what “our” government is doing in our name — are pilloried. And so it goes.

Thank you Tom Englehardt

This article stunningly sums up the cognitive dissonance, the sheer banality and mind-blowing obtuseness of the GovCo here in the good ol' United Security States of America; and the massive levels of complete lap-dog co-operation the mainstream Media Complex offers up; the cowards. Make no mistake, it matters nothing if the Top Dog at the Top is a local guy, who spouts the particular brand of lies I want to hear. When it comes to advancing the Security and Surveillance machines, and protecting the interests of a few elite sons-of-bitches who were born rich and thus get to fuck everybody over, it's always a race to the bottom, to see who's willing to sink the lowest into that swamp of authoritarianism.

My personal savior, Bill Hicks, had a riotous bit about what happens when you win the Presidency. I'll let him do the honors:

My new theory on becoming the President is similar to my personal savior's, but not exactly the same. I also envision a meeting of all the old military/industrialist/banking scumfucks calling the President into their lair. But, rather than the classic Video of the Grassy Knoll From a Different Angle scenario, I see the top two candidates coming in BEFORE they get elected, and then the interview starts:

BANKSTER: So, you wanna be President?

POL: Oh yeah!

BANKSTER: How badly?

POL: Like, really, really fuckin badly, man. I mean excuse my french and all but-!

BANKSTER: Ok, we get it. Would you bomb wedding parties?

POL: Oh yeah!

BANKSTER: Enthusiastically?

POL: Oh totally, man, totally. I can't wait! Light 'em up, a ha ha ha!

BANKSTER: Great. Order the extra-judicial murder of U.S. Citizens?

POL: Extra? . . . what now?

BANKSTER: Judicial - no trial. Hit list. Dead. Light 'em up.

POL: Well . . .

CEO/GENERAL: Yes or no question chief, yes or no.

POL: Yes. Yes I would.

BANKSTER: Hunt down people who tell the truth about our activities to the ends of the Earth, and then lock them in solitary confinement for 20 months?

POL: . . . I'm sorry could you repeat that?

BANKSTER: Whistleblowers. Hunt them to the ends of the earth. Throw them in solitary for years at a time.

POL: . . . Oh, whistleblowers? Yes. I mean yeah, light 'em up.

BANKSTER: Great. Would you move mountains and dig oceans to allow torturers and convicted kidnappers to go unpunished?

POL: Yes.

MEDIA MOGUL: Congratulations, Governor. It looks like Florida might go your way next month.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Appalling: Zimmerman will walk free.

I guess I can't say that I'm shocked by this ruling, but the banality of evil is making a real comeback here in this summer in 2013. Gary Younge, a Chicagoan writing for the Guardian, pretty much nails it:

Open season on black boys after a verdict like this

Calls for calm after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin are empty words for black families

Let it be noted that on this day, Saturday 13 July 2013, it was still deemed legal in the US to chase and then shoot dead an unarmed young black man on his way home from the store because you didn't like the look of him.

The killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year was tragic. But in the age of Obama the acquittal of George Zimmerman offers at least that clarity. For the salient facts in this case were not in dispute. On 26 February 2012 Martin was on his way home, minding his own business armed only with a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. Zimmerman pursued him, armed with a 9mm handgun, believing him to be a criminal. Martin resisted. They fought. Zimmerman shot him dead.

Who screamed. Who was stronger. Who called whom what and when and why are all details to warm the heart of a cable news producer with 24 hours to fill. Strip them all away and the truth remains that Martin's heart would still be beating if Zimmerman had not chased him down and shot him.

I'm finding the immediate commentaries after this appalling ruling to be outrageous, if darkly humorous: "If you have happen to a black man in Florida, I mean sure, a white guy can shoot you because he doesn't like the way you look. But hey, let's stay calm, and be cool about it."

I've no love for violence, whatsoever, but wouldn't be too surprised if appeals for "calm" in the face of this extraordinarily antagonistic ruling fall on deaf ears. You don't stick a fork in someone's eye and then ask them to be cool about and calm about it. That is exactly what local officials and the media are forced to do here.

This ruling is a travesty. I'm 800 miles away, and was not immediately impacted by this whole sad episode, but in the words of Marcellus Wallace in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, I'm feeling: "pretty fucking far from okay."

National Geographic POD