Friday, March 30, 2007

The Right to Return

Edud Olmert rejects out of hand the right of Palestinians to return to their land but his state allows any person with a drop of Jewish blood to live where the Palestinians lived. His position on the pre-1967 borders also contradicts United Nations Resolution 242 which states that "Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict [1967]" Where is the outrage? Where are the sanctions? Where are the press conferences demanding immediate action to stop the blatant flaunting of the United Nations legitimacy?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Liberal Democracy is not Enough!

Young African-American Boys Are In Crisis - And Nation Is Silent
by Jesse Jackson

Dr. James A. Williams is on a mission. “We have a crisis in this country,” he says, “and no one is talking sense about it.” Williams is not a rebel. He is the superintendent of the Buffalo Public School System. But, he says, “We’re all part of the problem.

*Yes, we are all part of the problem but some of us: heads of corporations, office holders, Hedge and Pension Fund managers, bankers, IMF administrators, etc... have a lot more power than others and they need to be identified if we are seriously going to manipulate the levers of power. If we don't then we come to conclusions, implicit in the above statement, that the local janitor is as culpable in the predicament of young black youth as George Bush.

There’s too much business as usual, too much bureaucracy and not enough action.”

*I hear lots about excessive bureaucracy and lack of action, and I spout my share, but to put forward an unpopular idea in both left and right circles I think we need MORE bureaucracy, and the right kind, at this moment. To take the example of the Public School System in which I dwell, the Milwaukee Public Schools, the bureaucracy is not the primary culprit in the crisis of Milwaukee. It actually has served millions with an amazing array of support, at times inconsistent, for the teaching of all subjects enabling teachers and students, if they are willing or able to take advantage of professional development, access to technology, after school activities, breakfast and lunch programs, health care just to name a tiny part of their service to the community. The primary culprit is the de-industrialization of the city which has left entire parts of the city toxic waste dumps void of any economic activity and a corresponding flight of not just whites but also people of all stripes with skills leaving the rest of us holding the chemical soaked bag.

The crisis? Young American men who are African American and born into poor and working class households. These young boys are not making it. According to figures developed by the Schott Foundation, in an economy that requires more and more education, only 42 percent who enter ninth grade graduate from high school. The old blue-collar jobs that used to provide a family income, secure employment, health care and pensions are disappearing.

*Here, here!

These are children increasingly raised by a single parent. Too often they are starved from the start — of adequate nutrition, adequate health care, adequate learning stimulants that are vital for young minds. They go to overcrowded schools stocked with inexperienced teachers. In school, they face discrimination in discipline and in being slated for special-ed courses. They are underrepresented in advanced-placement courses that are key for college. Some will overcome these odds and make it out. Most will not. They are headed toward jail, not toward Yale.

*Right on sister!

Williams argues we have to change what we’re doing if we want to offer them any hope. The schools — even the schools that he leads — are failing them. “Their No. 1 problem,” he says, “is that they cannot read. If you can’t read, you cannot succeed.”

*For the last two days I have worked out with my school's tennis team. There are some pretty good players on the team but a significant number of the players are just learning the basic skills of positioning, backhand, slice, forehand, etc... In the neighborhood that I grew up in most kids played lots of sports all of the time. Most excelled at one and by high school played at a pretty high level. When in comes to sports the city schools, on the whole, rarely compete with the suburban schools. They also have a hard time competing with the suburban schools academically. The introduction about sports, and our tennis team, is an apt analogy to the problem with blaming teachers and the school system for low academic achievement. Many of that suburban students are learning constantly with their family and community in parts of the country where economic stability is wanting and where parents have to work two or three jobs to pay the bills "organic" learning is not taking place. So to blame the school system for students not being able to read is like blaming mock chicken soup for not tasting real.

Congress is gearing up for the debate about the No Child Left Behind Act. The debate is virtually irrelevant. The act mandates testing that inadequately measures school performance. But measuring failure doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have a reform plan to fix what isn’t working.

*What's the reform plan Jesse?

For Williams, any plan like that requires reforms that simply aren’t on the table. “Look at our school year,” he says. “We’ve got a school year that is still based on an 18th century agrarian model. In 1962, I went to school for 180 days per year, and algebra was the requirement for getting into college. Today, these kids go to school for 180 days per year, but we require calculus to get into school. We add more and more units, but not more and more time.” So schools cut art, music, physical education.

*So, the problem is that we are not teaching kids because of the bureacracy and failing schools and teachers? So, the solution is to have students stay in the school for a longer time peiod so they can not learn more?

Worse, Williams says, we’ve got a school day that doesn’t make much sense. Between lunch and breaks between classes, we have one of the shortest school days of effective learning in the industrial world.

We need longer school years and far better teachers, and teacher education. We need less discrimination in spending, in discipline, in advanced placement. Some of this costs money. But, Williams says, we’re not spending the money we currently have well. For example, our broken health-care system is killing school budgets. Health-care costs are going up 10 to 15 percent a year, far outstripping normal increases in public funding.

*More teacher education? If you mean more classes on how to teach I would say this would be a tremendous waste of time. Most teaching classes do very little for the realities of the everyday classroom, particularly in an urban setting. If he means more apprenticeship and mentoring programs for teachers I say full steam ahead. But most of the plans that adminstrators and education "reformers" advocate are putting student teachers in the classroom for no pay or relaxing standards for teachers which actually lowers the quality of the teachers that enter the field. The Charter, privatization and voucher crowds all see teachers' unions and their allies as the problem within the educational system and as a way to cut costs they see weakening the NEA and AFT as the way out.
On the AP front, I teach in a school that has more students take AP exams than any other school in a very white state, Wisconsin, and our school is overwhelmingly African-American, Latino and Hmong. Our philosphy is to have as many students as possible take the AP classes and even though they may not pass the test take the exam. This approach causes many a suburban teacher and elitist teacher snear but it does give many students an opportunity to get an insight into how a a college like class might function and how they compare to their counterparts across the country in a high stakes way. If anything many schools, like ours, are begging students to take higher level classes and trying to get them to take AP tests not the opposite. I know that this is anecdotal but I have been to many AP conferences and having graded the AP exam for a number of years I can attest to Herculian efforts to get more and more young black males and other under-represented groups into the program. To claim that discrimination in the school system is at the heart of why young black males are not represented in AP or other upper level classes is wrong headed.

My own sense is that we can’t simply load the blame on the schools. These kids face long odds from day one. In the crucial early years — from the time of conception to age 3 — when the mind is largely forged, they are shackled. One in five children is raised in poverty in this rich country, with no systematic program to ensure prenatal care, health care, day care, parental education. We’ve got too many babies raising babies who don’t have the resources or the knowledge of how to take care of their children. We should be mobilizing intervention on the front side of these lives. Instead, we spend more on police, crime and prisons on the back end.


This is a national crisis — a tragedy of terrible and costly consequence, in lost hope, lost lives, a lost sense of our own decency. And yet virtually no one is talking about it. To his credit, John Edwards has used his presidential campaign to call attention to the working poor in America. But generally, candidates are told to focus on the middle class that votes, not the plight of poor young boys who don’t. We hear a lot more about rescuing middle class homeowners in bad mortgages than we will about giving poor inner-city children a fair start. Congress is more concerned about retaining the tax breaks for the middle class than about extending the child tax credit to the children of working poor people. Williams says it is time for an end to the silence. This country desperately needs to heed his call.

*A child tax credit is the answer? I think not. Over $400 billion has now been spent on the war in Iraq. Congress, including a significant section of the Democratic Party, John Edwards included, thought this a perfectly reasonable adventure while the crisis of the young black male was omnipresent. Edwards and company are not the answer and Jesse Jackson knows better. Sure we applaud Edward's glance to the working poor and staright talk when it comes to the costs of such an undertaking but if Edwards and his liberal ilk are so easily buffaloed by arguments like "weapons of mass destruction" when many knew this to be a smoke screen then we have to question his sincerity in an elction cycle where he needs to position himself within a primary where his right flank (Hillary) and moderate flank (Barack) are in question.

How about questioning the "industrial policy" of this country where finance capital seems to run the show allowing capital to flow where it will without questioning the human costs of such policies.
More later.

Social Democracy is not Enough!

Simmering just below France's welfare state is the racial/ethnic question that the dominant French society is not willing to tackle. Free health care and education, strong labor laws, modest vacation laws and generous unemployment will not solve all of your problems if the market still divides and ideologically the society is not willing to take head on issues of underdevelopment within. If for decades whole populations are discarded, segregated and neglected it is more expensive to educate, re-train and bring up to speed these groups not less. A lesson for the liberals in this country indeed. Just getting more funding for schools, by the way not a demand in this state, is not enough. Just asking politely for a single payer system, not on the platform of any of the Democratic contenders, is not going to solve the health care crisis given that private interests will still control production. Just asking the state to re-train workers, some Democrats tread in these murky waters of Bolshevism, will make no difference if the industry people are trained for have skedaddled to the South , West or Far East. Social democracy is only the beginning, certainly not the end.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

David Stockman


How the Stones Avoid Paying Taxes

Gimme Shelter! And the generous liberal Bono too!

A Liberal Response to the Palestinian Question

Or is it? Read this article and try to determine what is proposed by the Zionist set. Nothing. Really a quite amazing article. Matt Yglesias talks about the problem by putting forward not one solution, like let's say, a Palestinian state. The author implicitly acts as if the conflict is caused by Iran and Hezbollah.

MIchael Berube's Response to AC

The war of the left pundits.

Gaza: Apartheid Like?

Earthen damn collapses killing at least 4. Constant invasion, bombings, surveillance, embargo and cutting off of resources, this from the country that the US has the most in common with in the Mid East? Sounds about right.

The New Hessians

Blackwater and the privatization of the US military.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Swap-a-Rama is having an event on the south side this weekend. Bring $5 and a bag of clothes and you can leave with whatever you like. Seamstresses will be there to fix up or fix down for the shabby chic set. Seems like a good idea for re-using old clothes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Utah Gov Wants "Universal" Vouchers

"Professor Ladd co-wrote a book about education in New Zealand, where money follows a student to whatever school he or she attends. The hope was the system would revitalize the most challenged schools. But instead, Ladd says, those schools "were even worse off than they were before, because motivated parents took advantage of the opportunity to move their children ... and left behind in the traditional public schools even greater concentrations of disadvantaged students.""

The entire article.

The Nanny State

The Conservative Nanny State that is. The Red and the Black has argued this point for a long time; conservatives actually need the state. They need it to keep the rabble in line and they use it to re-distribute wealth upward. The government has never been bigger and it will get larger and larger with both parties because the liberals have a similar ideology; they use the state to re-distribute wealth by helping private corporations accumulate and hope some trickles down. It's just that liberals are just a little less greedy.

UPS and the Teamsters Open Early Talks

"The 1997 Teamsters strike against UPS was one of the biggest events for U.S. labor in the 1990s. Relying on rank-and-file member mobilization, innovative tactics, and a campaign that captured public support, the Teamsters (IBT) won a victory that buoyed union morale far and wide."

The entire story from Labor Notes.

The Business of March

The NCAA and the Final Four. Who wins from all the, yes, hoopla?

Iraq 4 Years After the Second Invasion

Patrick Cockburn on the US occupation and the impact on the people.

Modern Mukrakers

Here's the headline from yesterday's Milwaukee Jenitel: Sick Day Perk Found Locally. This ground breaking story from their crack "watchdog" department, which depended on 3 journalists, exposed how the bloated public sector is once again bilking the taxpayer, how? by getting paid for not taking sick days and in lieu of this taking less than the pay they would have received for working that day. Now let's think of a few ways the story could have been pitched differently? Here's a few ideas for headlines that might have been more appropriate:

Local Public Employees Save Taxpayer Monies By Taking Fewer Sick Days

Most Workers in Area Lack Sick Pay Benefits

Local Employers Fall Behind Public Sector in Sick Leave

Unions Needed as Private Sector Falls Behind Public Sector Once Again

Are Private Employers Forcing Workers to Work When They Are Sick?

Editor of Journal Sentinel Once Again Pitches Anti-Union/Anti-Public Sector Position to Curry Favor with Suburban Rush Limbaugh Set

Monday, March 19, 2007

Chiquita Revisited

Back in 1998 there was a shit storm over an investigative report in the Cincinnati Enquirer over the activities of Chiquita Banana in Latin America.

What was interesting beyond the story of corporate malfeasance was how power was actually yielded internationally and within US political and circles. I have been watching the program the Wire of late and it reminded of the story because when you have a bevy of cash and thus a bevy of lawyers you can figure out lots of ways to work the system; not just political channels but also through the criminal justice system (at many levels-police, prosecuters, judges, federal offices) and the media.

Chiquita was able to work all aspects of the system including the President's office to get the US trade representative to pitch their case internationally.

And if all else fails, hire a death squad!

Slavery Today

The current state of forced labor.

Anti-War Rallies Across the Planet

Lots of folks in the streets across the globe but many news outfits decided to lead with the "upbeat on the surge" message from the generals.

Remittances Now Top "Foreign" Investment to Latin America

Monies sent back home from Latin American workers now is the top form of overseas investment. Globalization for sure.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Prize

It's about oil!

The Ides of March

No zero for the Romans: the implications for 100 bottles of beer on the wall.


What is it? The Monthly Review/Harry Magdoff perspective.

Trojan Horse?

Appeals court upholds medical marijuana ban. Legalization is the right policy but I think the medical uses that many dope activists is somewhat disingenuous. There are other ways to ingest THC, like a pill, so smoking Mary is not the only way to "cure" yourself of your malady thus no need for the plant itself. If it works as a tactic for legalization great, but I doubt it will work given the above argument.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Milwaukee's Social Crisis

"There is no greater economic challenge facing Milwaukee than the crisis of joblessness among black males in the city. This study presents the most up-to-date analysis available of recent trends, examining racial disparities in the city and regional labor markets, and placing Milwaukee's record in comparative and historical context. Our chief finding is that Milwaukee's 30-year trend of near-linear growth in black male joblessness peaked in the city in 2003 at 51.3 percent and declined to 44.1 percent by 2005. In addition, by 2005, racial disparities narrowed somewhat in the city and region, and Milwaukee's black-white employment gap moved closer to the average of other Northeast-Midwest cities and metropolitan areas. Nevertheless, the black male jobless rate remains unacceptably high in Milwaukee, with black male joblessness here ranking second highest among comparable Northeast-Midwest metropolitan areas in 2005. Civic leadership in Milwaukee, we contend, continues to lack the vision, policies, and institutions to comprehensively attack and meaningfully alleviate the crisis of race and jobs in the city and region."

UW-Milwaukee's Center for Economic Development lays out the crisis of black unemployment and its causes.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Bush LA Trip: It's All About PR?

Again and again we hear from the Bush Administration, the pundit class and others of the illuminati that the problem with the rest of the world is that they really don’t know about all the good things that the United States does in the world and all they need to do is dig a little, listen to the Voice of America, a Karen Hughes press conference and all the hate against the US would go away. I think some of the liberal folk over at NPR actually believe this line.

Here’s how National Public Radio reported President Bush’s trip to Latin America this week. According to Adam Davidson, NPR's crack All Things Considered reporter (March 8, 2007), the US has a public relations problem in Latin America, why?, because after 9/11 all "we" ever want to talk about in relation to Latin America is trade and democracy, and when Latin Americans hear these words they hear oligarchy and imperialism. So far so good right?, well no, because that's where Davidson leaves it, no discussion of whether or not Latin American fears are justified, no discussion of the actual policies of the US or the Bush Administration or even a cursory look at US, uh, imperialism and support for oligarchs, just the statement that the US has a public relations problem and a quote from Bush to this affect.

After identifying the problem for "us" Davidson, with expert in tow, then explores the "real" issue, for the Bush trip to Latin America, Hugo Chavez. And boy is that Hugo a PR juggernaut, convincing the easily led masses of the South and beyond with his silver tongue and easy money. Analysis of Chavez’s understanding of the economic and political problems of Latin American literally gets a belly laugh from our expert. We then are given an interpretation of the belly laugh by our Muckraker Davidson-Chavez has lots of money because of the high price of oil and he is spreading that money around giving "colorful speeches" and Bush has been nowhere to counter the well hued spendthrift. Because of this the Latin American street has decidedly moved into the Hugo camp. But no need to fret, according to our expert, because international relations are like a Risk game and Columbia, Mexico, Central America and the Latin American elite are still in "our" camp. Now, I have no beef against jazzing up the news a bit but belly laughs, Risk analogies and talk of dazzling speechifying are what pass for analysis on the nation's news channel? And there is nothing to say about the actual policies of the revolution in Venezuela where oil revenues, land and power are actually being re-distributed by the state? Where the state is actually being re-organized so that power is no longer solely in the hands of the white and mestizo capitalist elite? Is it really only about public relations?

Just a few reasons why the Latin American street might be a little irritated with the US and Bush:
bUSh supports the IMF and World Bank which have engineered the neo-liberal regime that has accelerated the already unequal distribution of wealth and power that exists across the region and which also then subscribes the "cure" of privatization and liberalization of trade which exacerbate inequality even more.

bUSh supports democracy when the democracy returns the desired result-more political and economic power to the oligarchs, liberalization and privatization-and if the desired result is not obtained the heavy hand, of yes, imperialism, will emerge in the form of funding for propaganda campaigns, liberal parties, sometimes populist challenges, death squads, coups, brutal counter-insurgency campaigns that kill thousands of innocents, military dictatorship, and outright invasion on too many occasions to count.

bUSh thinks of the region as a "backyard," a place that has historically been a provider of slave labor, wage-slave labor, natural resources, strategic outposts, toxic waste dumps and markets (financial and otherwise) for the elites of the North.

People in Latin America don't need Hugo Chavez to tell them that they have been screwed over by the US and international capital. The indigenous people of Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Columbia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil know that the US has consistently sided with the white elite to use them as vassals on the plantation that was/is their country. The African people of the Caribbean, Central America, Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and Brazil don't need Hugo Chavez to tell them that they were chattel for at least 400 years and that they have been systematically left out of the meager pie that has been created by capitalism in the region. The campesinos, workers, trade unionists, teachers, radical priests and sisters, socialists, social democrats, liberals, communists, populists and other progressives don't need Hugo Chavez to tell them that they have gone through the meat grinder of torture, disappearance, wholesale slaughter, and counter-insurgency at the hands of the militaries of their countries that get most of their training, supplies and guidance from the Pentagon and the School of the Americas.

Davidson's report is just a symptom of the larger problem of how most get our information about Latin America or any other issue for that matter. The liberal folk at NPR really like this type of report because it has a facade of irreverence and criticism but actually it does little but re-iterate the message that, fill in the blank Administration, want out there. No historical analysis, no explanation of how power is actually wielded, no larger economic context, really not much of anything but clever banter that in the end serves power well.

Adam Davidson's report.

Columbia-Death Squad democracy.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Independence of the Court

Federal prosecutors and the political process. Separation of powers?

Unemployment in the Urban US

"Though New York City is experiencing its lowest unemployment rate in recent memory, the recovery has bypassed youth. While there was a steep rise in jobholding among older New Yorkers age 55 to 64, and an increase among seniors 65 and older, young people experienced just the opposite. According to the report, not only has there not been a decline in the teen unemployment rate since a high of 28.7 percent during the recent recession, just 34.6 percent of 16 to 24 year old city residents were holding a job in 2006. The job gains among city residents above age 55 were offset by a 9.5 percentage point plunge in the share of young people age 16 to 24 that are employed."

Access the full report.

So how do we deal with this? Certainly there is a social and cultural crisis here. There are jobs but the young, particularly Black and Latino, have given up or are unwilling to enter the workforce. It's really not something that we are discussing accept in the most vile ways on AM radio with horror stories of urban youth (re Black, Latino and sometimes Asian) marauding in the mall. The Red and the Black suggests socialism, a planned economy where strategic industries are publicly held and we collectively decide what our priorities are when it comes to capital investment.

The market system does not allocate resources to the despised and wretched because humans make the final decisions about where we invest, young and dark are usually not near the top of the list. So this means that we need to make extra efforts to overcome our desires to dismiss or ignore the people we find repulsive and exotic. It costs more to educate, train and cajole groups that have historically been forcibly excluded from sharing the wealth.

And people like Hillary and Barack are certainly not up to the task on this one. Have you heard of their jobs plan?

Music in the Air

Check this out. Sister Rosetta rocks!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Libby Case

This case is extremely important. Here's why:

1) It shows how highly respected journalists are stooges for power.

2) It shows how the US government will blantantly lie (nothing new here but it's a very visible case) to further its bloody imperial aims and then sacrifice their best friends and colleagues to save their own asses (Bush, Rove and Cheney).

3) The nationalist pose of the powers that be is just that a pose. Why? Because even CIA agents will be outed and sacrificed, along with their fellow spooks, if they are seen as in the way of a partisan or imperial aim.

Inside the Libby jury.

The Mass Niche Market

One of the Gallo brothers died yesterday. The Gallo's were important in that they helped shape the tastes of the world market for California wines, particularly in the United States. In the late seventies and early eighties, in particular, they got their cheap jug wines into the glasses of working class people, some who had ethnic ties to the grape, who were used to having a beer with dinner or lunch. They played a role in the transition from a WASP dominated mass market culture dominated by supermarkets and white bread products-easily transported/bland-to formerly products of niche markets. Now all classes of folk have access to products that were once only consumed by the boobwasee. You can now get Lindt chocolates, Tiffany lamps, Bonsai trees, and other "elite" products at Walmart. The Gallo's represent this trend in niche marketing and globalization because they were able to take an ethnic product, use the local conditions and mass market it at time when distribution systems began to be able to present ethnic or exclusive product that once was the realm of a few.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Free Sami Al-Arian

This case is a sham. If one believes in the 1st Amendment this cat must be supported.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Dylan Does Dr. Suess

Dr. Zimmerman.

Independence 50 Years On: Ghana

Kwame Nkrumah and the legacy of one of the most important African anti-colonial struggles. A series on the BBC.

Partial Victory

In an important first step the House has voted for card check elections for workers who want to organize unions in the US. Card check, a right that most workers in industrialized have, gives workers the ability to vote for the union by signing a card and if a majority sign the card the union is in. In the US the law makes the process of organizing the union very difficult because once workers sign a card they then have to have an election after a set period of time. During the set period of time the boss, and his league of well healed anti-union consultants, always intimidate, cajole, fire, bribe, terrify, etc...the workers with the intent of defeating the union drive. Common arguments used, and they hone them to individual workers after doing extensive research/intelligence are strikes, union dues, "we don't need a third party or new boss," and the perennial favorite "we made mistakes in the past but now that we have this wake-up call things will get better."

The anti-union campaign works. I've seen the toughest steelworker reduced to tears over the threats from the boss or pressure from his wife/friends, workers fired the day after the campaign, workers re-assigned to shitty jobs they didn't want, others who were leaders in the drive promoted the day before the vote to send a message that they had flipped, etc...

Bush will veto the bill. Congress will not over-ride.

Google (News) card check to see how the rulers and their lackeys in the media think how important this issue is.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

White Folk

The White Stripes have a new record coming out, sounds pretty tough.