Archive for May, 2012

The Devolving American State

Why isn’t the Tea Party up in arms over the emerging American Police State? For all their tri-corner hats, knickers, white knee socks and tub thumping about freedom how is it that they are tolerating the pervasive surveillance being conducted against, most ostensibly, the occupy protesters. Are they being cowardly in the face of blatant Fascist government behavior, are they convinced they are not being watched, or perhaps they are a party to the crackdown being more in line with mainstream government policy than they are willing to admit to? In any case, as long as it’s happening to someone else perhaps the Tea Party feels safe and secure. The Tea Party activists have no understanding of the original Tea Party whose protest was against taxation without representation. This isn’t about costumes, however fetching, but about principles and a rudimentary understanding of history: it’s about community and basic humanity.

In case you aren’t aware there is in place a comprehensive system of coordinated police activity across the country via the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) compliments of the Obama administration. The DHS maintains what they call a National Operations Center which according to the agency is, “the primary national-level hub for domestic situational awareness, common operational picture, information fusion, information sharing, communications, and coordination pertaining to the prevention of terrorist attacks and domestic incident management.” The information gathered through local police departments, the FBI, the CIA, the US military, and other law enforcement agencies exists to monitor what you do when you exercise your rights as an American to protest. That is to say every American’s constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully for social justice without being tracked on the “domestic situational awareness” radar.

One must ask if the folks who brought this into being and run it are actually Americans or are they some sort of uber-agents, beyond the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Have these agents ever taken a civics class in high school. Might it be that they have modeled their agencies and their methods after the Gestapo, Stasi, and the KGB. These were state sponsored organizations designed for the same purposes concerned mainly with social control of a country’s own citizens exercising their rights and were, in their time, highly effective in controlling the public via “domestic situational management”. In Russia today there is resurgence of KGB behavior, now called the FSB but essentially the same organization – a rose by any other name is still a rose – in the past month has harassed and arrested Russian citizens for – Guess what? – protesting unfair and corrupt elections and a lack of social justice; in American terms, “domestic incident management”.

The arc of social evolution is like an old LP that stuck in a couple of grooves playing the same few notes over and over again until the needle is lifted and placed somewhere else. Socially we seem to ratchet from 1950s McCarthyism in one form or another to democracy in one form or another to plutocracy in one form or another and then back again. What is consistent is that people slide into and away from freedom to bondage. Today’s bondage consists of debt and unemployment. The debt represented by student loans is by far the most cynical trapping of an entire generation in a modern Dickensian debtor’s prison of limited possibilities and dystopian future. Young people and their families invested in a future that was taken away from them by big banks and big business. The banking and mortgage industry colossus just recently demonstrated how little was learned from the financial crisis we all bailed them out of a short while ago. How much was learned by J. P. Morgan from that financial collapse one wonders when their CEO, Jamie Dimon recently announced a $2 billion “mistake”. You’ll remember Jamie, he’s the guy who personally gave the New York City cops a couple of million bucks last winter as a tip presumably for keeping the #occupy people away from his high-rise condo. Great guy! Great city! Great cops – New York’s finest they say.

On May 18th, 35,948 American citizens around the US were arrested  45 of which were for protesting American NATO membership.  Takes me back to the “good old days” of the Vietnam and Selma protests. Did we really think things were going to be changed, that the social contract as expressed in the Constitution had been reaffirmed and enforced especially now by a president whose presidency rests on protestors who endured the beatings and killings of the civil rights era? In the current May 28th, 2012 issue of Newsweek magazine is a story on American veterans who are committing suicide at the rate of 18 a day. That’s right, 18 American veterans are taking their own lives every day. If some deranged individuals were roaming the United States killing 18 people a day it would be in headlines across the country and reported as carnage. Where is the Tea Party Patriot’s outrage over the matter of 18 American veterans taking their own lives daily, where is their opprobrium or is it just the taxes they must pay to be members of the society that matters to them? Where is the American conscience? Do we still have one or are we devolving into country without a conscience?

This essay first appeared at: The Light of New Mexico

NOT TIME YET FOR HIGH-FIVES

Yes, there seems to be a run from ALEC and while not wanting to rain on anyone’s parade the question I’m asking here is: So what? This is not the time for high-fives and victory laps. Karl Rove, the Koch Boys, the other corporate donors to ALEC, and the dozens of their front organizations will not loosen their grip on the political narrative. According to the April 21, 2012 Rolling Stone, the Koch Boys alone have invested over $100 million over the past 30 years building an empire of foundations, think tanks, advocacy groups and the like. They aren’t going to walk away from this class war. What they will do, however, is become ever more clever in hiding their agenda. They aren’t going to retreat because there is too much at stake; there is still enough money left in the public till to be sucked into their bank accounts. The billionaire warriors against American social democracy and vital public interests like education and health care will continue to polarize the country using even more surreptitious means. These people have unlimited amounts of money and their own media networks to further their agenda and will do whatever it takes to shove that agenda down the public’s throat. They are relentless and that is exactly how they got to where they are today. We too must be relentless in uncovering their fronts, exposing their agendas and their sycophants, and educating the public about the dangerous consequences to a democratic society that this kind of sociopathic destruction represents.

The most important question to ask right now, as we enter the 2012 election season nationally and in the races for the New Mexico legislature, is how do we elect better, more honorable people whose allegiance is to the electorate first? One place we can start is by naming names and telling voters the truth. Ask the public if they voted for ALEC or for their Senator or Representative. Ask if they are aware that their legislators have been acting on behalf of ALEC to pass laws that originated in a Washington DC conservative think tank sponsored by the largest corporations in the world – corporations which have nothing to do with New Mexico. It needs to be pointed out how some legislators were bought with campaign contributions, a free meal, or a trip to a “seminar” at a fancy resort that just happened to have a great golf course. Voters need to understand what motivates politicians to pass laws and make policies that are antithetical to their constituents – money. Money in the form of campaign contributions from innocuous sounding foundations – that’s the grease.

In a pointed example of the ALEC agenda at work here in New Mexico, the Governor and her Secretary-designate of Education, after having been turned down by the Legislature, continue to relentlessly pursue their discredited education reform agenda to privatize public education, humiliate teachers with Gestapo-like classroom raids, grade schools, teachers, and children, and enable out-of-state corporate for-profit charter schools. In other words, the Legislature and the voice of the public be damned – these agents of big political money have a debt to pay back. In spite of the governor’s campaign shuck and jive about ensuring New Mexico tax dollars are spent in New Mexico, her NMPED outsourced nearly $6.5 million of taxpayer money for services that could have been easily sourced here. Did the PED really need to hire a Texan to advise them on hiring what they call “key people” to assist in formulating policies on Hispanic and Native American education? We don’t have that expertise in-state? Really? Next there is SB 9, which would have put out-of-state businesses on an equal tax footing with in-state businesses – the Governor vetoed that one. When you get to the bottom line, the best interests of New Mexico and New Mexicans are being vetoed as well.

The public information/education campaign must reach out to voters and engage them in dialog before they cast their ballots. Wren Abbot’s excellent reporting in SFR this past week exposing the PED spending mentioned above is exactly what is needed and more of it. We need much more good and accurate information put out there if the public is going to grasp what is being done to their schools specifically and the public trust in general. The public needs to know how differential tax policies hurt them, their neighbors, and local businesses. Patent disregard and disrespect for public opinion and legislative intent must be countered with good reporting, good facts, good dialog, and a good statement of consequences. There’s a lot of work to be done in the weeks and months ahead. We can have our high-fives when better and  more honorable people are elected to public office.

This article first appeared in: The Light of New Mexico

A Response to Joe Teacher

Joe Teacher’s editorial in the May 5-15 Santa Fe Reporter, “Evaluating The Evaluating” was a plea for reasonableness on the part of those who will be evaluating teachers in the coming school year. The evaluations will be in accordance with the requirements of Arne Duncan, President Obama’s hoops buddy cum Secretary of Education, and the New Mexico Secretary Designate of Education. Mr. Teacher, a non de plume one must imagine, makes an excellent and logically irrefutable case on behalf of teachers, teaching, and learning. But, sad to say, logic and reasonableness have nothing to do with logical irrefutability and the impending collision of private interests and public education.

In his essay Teacher gamely holds Governor Martinez harmless for the plans now about to unfold for New Mexico’s teachers. This, like much of his essay, is based on a false premise. In the first case this is not at all about Susana Martinez, who knows nothing about the process of teaching and learning and wouldn’t give a fig, except her political future is harnessed to it. What the Governor knows is how to get ahead in today’s Republican political milieu, how to toe the party line, and climb the ladder of success. What Mr. Teacher seems not to understand is that the Secretary Designate of Education is not really subordinate to the Governor but only to those who pushed her into that office by way of significant campaign donations with the ultimate mission of privatizing public education.

What Mr. Teacher seems not to grasp is that his personal experience with and caring about students is not part of the privatization big picture. Eventually, Mr. Teacher, all classroom teachers will be deemed ineffective as they have been and are so deemed in states across the country where Republican governors are paying off their campaign debts by putting working-class labor unions out of business, and putting private school operators like Rupert Murdoch into business. Mr. Teacher is correct, however, in saying “New Mexico teachers are in for some big changes. ” You bet they are, my friend, and so are parents when they discover they have been locked out of the schooling process, and so too are students who will be treated like Skinnerian pigeons and pawns in a game of education Monopoly.

In Wisconsin the proletariat are pushing back against the Koch boys’ puppet, Gov. Scott Walker. A recall election is being held to dump Mr. Walker and a few Republican legislators by gathering several times the required number of signatures needed to call for the new election. Democracy in action, folks! Wisconsin Democrats have just settled, via a primary, on their candidate, and the Koch brothers are sparing nothing to fund their boy Walker. Walker has been on the road for weeks recently, speaking around the country to Republican loyalists about his short career as Wisconsin governor, no doubt pocketing hefty speaking fees to help pay for his re-election efforts. I suppose this could be construed as a contemporary version of American Democracy, the People vs. the Money.

In his essay, Mr. Teacher points out the unreasonableness of the pending teacher evaluations, and all of his points are  well taken. No evaluation will take into account kids from homes with one or no parents, kids from homes where parents don’t give a damn about learning and schooling, except as a place to hold kids for part of the day. No account is taken in the teacher evaluations of kids from homes where three square meals a day are not the norm, where parents have drug habits, and the evaluation approach thus punishes teachers for these realities over which they have no control. As I have pointed out earlier, Mr. Teacher, this is not about you, pal. This is not about kids. This is not about teaching and learning. This is about profit and political ambition on both sides of the political aisle. This is the ALEC assault on public education and what’s left of American democracy.

This post first appeared at: Light of New Mexico


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