31 August 2011

Jay D. Jurie : The Return of ROTC

Navy ROTC cadets from Florida's Jacksonville University. U.S.Navy photo by Spc. 2nd Class Gary Granger Jr. / 4GWar.

ROTC resurgent
Part II: ROTC's history and return to campus
When the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy was dropped in 2010, some institutions began to consider reestablishing their relationship with ROTC.
By Jay D. Jurie / The Rag Blog / August 18, 2011

[This is the second of a two-part series on ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) -- dealing with the militant opposition to ROTC during the Vietnam War era, and with the program's recent resurgence on college campuses. In Part I , Jurie described an escalating series of demonstrations against ROTC in 1969-1970 at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was a student. Part II covers the history of the ROTC program, the issue of discrimination against gays, and the recent return of ROTC to a number of U.S. campuses.]

While the concerted and militant campaign against ROTC in Boulder may have been unique, it was far from the only protest against ROTC during the anti-Vietnam war era, and, in fact, there had been substantial opposition to the program prior to the War in Vietnam. Since its inception, ROTC has proven controversial.

Part of the original purpose of ROTC was found in the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, which gave states federal land that included a stipulation for military coursework. In 1898 the War Department attempted to clarify this by proposing military instruction be provided by officers assigned as faculty, that students in those courses be required to wear uniforms, and that this instruction be made mandatory. Enactment of the National Defense Act of 1916 formally established ROTC and extended it to private as well as public colleges.

Some have argued ROTC played an essential role in keeping the military grounded in civil society. According to Michael S. Neiberg, unlike officers trained in elite military academies,
civilian educated officers would bring to military service a wider and more rounded background. They would also bring to the military a value system more consistent with American society by virtue of having lived in a civilian environment.
On the other hand,others have argued that ROTC desensitizes the civilian population to the militarization of society and the inimical purposes that may be served by the military. According to Neiberg, the University of Washington SDS in 1969 contended that,
If the university's role in cooperating with ROTC is the production of officers, our universities have become, in part, mere extension schools of our government's military establishment... The university continues to produce the tools to make possible policies such as those which led the U.S. into war in Asia.
ROTC had become so well-established by the 1920s that John Dewey and others became sufficiently alarmed to create a Committee on Militarism and Education. Concerns over its growing presence by the 1930s caused a few educational institutions to either drop the program or change its status from mandatory to voluntary.

However, most schools that had the program retained it, usually with the requirement that two years of participation in the program were obligatory for all male students.

ROTC received a boost during World War II, but after the war the controversy returned. Motivated by the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation in the late 1950s and early 1960s, ROTC sparked protest. In May 1960, protestors at Boston University picketed, leafleted, petitioned, and placed a table with a protest sign in a ROTC parade route.

As the Vietnam war heated up in the mid- and late-1960s, so did protests against ROTC. In addition to demonstrations, ROTC facilities were set on fire at Stanford, Michigan, Kent State, and the University of Colorado. There was a perception held by a number in the anti-war movement that this violence paled in comparison with, and was justified by, the widespread use of napalm and the tonnage of bombs dropped in Vietnam.

Some schools, in response to these protests, removed the mandatory requirement. Others, like the Colorado School of Mines, kept it in place into the 1970s.

Even where ROTC was no longer compulsory, such as the University of Colorado, the program became a focal point of the anti-war movement. During the late 1960s and into the early 1970s over 80 ROTC programs were dropped, mostly from the elite universities where ROTC had drawn the most opposition. While ROTC was dropped from some schools, it was established in less "controversial," mostly public university locations.

Women's ROTC in the Sixties. Photo from Fortune City / Broad Recognition (Yale).

It should be pointed out that ROTC programs were never formally banned by host institutions. In most cases, either academic credit was withdrawn, or regular faculty status was not accorded ROTC instructors. In these cases, ROTC decided to withdraw its own program. Responding to the changes that occurred during that decade, women's programs were created in ROTC beginning in 1969.

Nonetheless, a rough status quo was maintained for decades after the Vietnam war ended. During that time frame many colleges and universities enacted policies banning discrimination against gays. Because the military engaged in such discrimination, this effectively kept ROTC off campus at those schools.

Nearly two and half decades later, renewed support for ROTC grew with the passage of the Solomon Amendment. Named after Gerald Solomon (R-NY) who initially introduced the legislation in 1994, this legislation prohibited colleges and universities that received federal funding from prohibiting military recruitment on campus or dropping ROTC programs.

Several law schools combined to file a lawsuit against this prohibition. In the 2006 Rumsfeld v. FAIR decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed an appeals court ruling and upheld the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment

When the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy was dropped in 2010, some institutions began to consider reestablishing their relationship with ROTC.

For at least two institutions of higher education, reinstatement was not seamless. At Stanford, a women's group objected that while discrimination in the military against gays had been lifted, it continued against transgender individuals. Nonetheless, on April 28, 2011, the Stanford Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly to invite ROTC back to campus.

At Yale, a representative of a women's group wrote that discrimination and harassment against women in the military was a problem of such significance that it ought to be addressed before welcoming a return of ROTC to that campus.

Another concern has cropped up even more recently. An August 9, 2011 CNN report revealed that Air Force ROTC training has included a slide show that violates the separation of church and state. According to reporter Jennifer Rizzo, "many of the slides in the 43 page production use a Christian justification for war."

Both the ROTC and military launch officer training were developed by the Air Force's Air Education and Training Command (AETC). After 31 Air Force missile launch officers objected to this training, Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Foundation is quoted as saying, "they're trying to teach that, under fundamentalist Christian doctrine, war is a good thing."

Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, are among those that have brought ROTC back, and Brown has been considering the matter. ROTC has regained a certain popularity among students. Not only have the draft and the memory of Vietnam faded, but military service is seen as patriotic in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and an employment option in a tough economy.

University of Florida ROTC cadets participate in leadership exercise April 25, 2010 at Camp Blanding, Fla. Photo by Cadet Scott Stallings / USAF / Fox News.

While the military may no longer be engaged in overt discrimination against gays, there are unresolved issues involving ROTC. Among these, the objections raised during the Vietnam eara largely remain in place. So long as the U.S. maintains an interventionist foreign policy based on resource exploitation and the containment of those at odds with elite interests, it is evident that ROTC will provide officers to serve that policy.

Sources: Allan Brick, "The Campus Protest Against ROTC," Southern Student Organizing Committee, no date; Chuck Colbert, Stanford Faculty OK ROTC Proposal, Bay Area Report, June 5, 2011; Editorial: "Reconsidering ROTC,"
The Brown Daily Herald; "Larry Gordon, Once a Campus Outcast, ROTC is Booming at Universities," Los Angeles Times, June 1, 2011; Tim Lange & Carol Lease, "ROTC: An Analysis," Boulder, CO: Student Peace Union, 1969; Diane H. Mazur, "The Myth of the ROTC Ban," The New York Times, October 24, 2010; Tara W. Merrigan & Zoe A.Y. Weinberg, "Harvard to Officially Recognize Naval ROTC," Harvard Crimson, March 3, 2011; Michael S. Neiberg, Making Citizen-Soldiers: ROTC and the Ideology of American Military Service, Cambridge: Harvard, 2000; Fahmida Y. Rashid, "The Return of ROTC to Columbia," The Village Voice, April 6, 2011; Emily Rappoport, "Should Yale Allow ROTC to Return to Campus?" Yale: Broad Recognition, May 3, 1011; Otis Reid, "Women's Coalition Rejects ROTC's Return to Campus," Stanford Review, March 14, 2011; Jennifer Rizzo, "Air Force's Use of Christian Messages Extends to ROTC," CNN.com, August 9, 2011.

[Jay D. Jurie was a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a member of SDS, and one of the "Boulder 18" arrested as a result of the ROTC demonstrations. Jay now teaches public administration and urban planning and lives near Orlando, Florida. Read more articles by Jay D. Jurie on The Rag Blog.]

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Carl Davidson : Why Neoliberals Have Trouble Telling the Truth

Newt on Fox. Image from Keep on Keepin' On.

Media wars and manufacturing consent:
Getting people to vote against themselves
Why neoliberals have trouble telling the truth.
By Carl Davidson / The Rag Blog / August 31, 2011
The Rag Blog will present noted writer and political activist Carl Davidson with a multi-media presentation on "The Mondragon Corporation and the Workers Cooperative Movement," on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011, 7-10 p.m., at 5604 Manor Community Center, 5604 Manor Road, Austin, Texas. For more information, go here. Carl will also be Thorne Dreyer's guest on Rag Radio, Friday, Sept. 9, from 2-3 p.m. (CST), on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin, and streamed live here.
"Newt Gingrich: Obama's 'Bureaucratic Socialism' Kills Jobs" is one of many similar headlines appearing on dozens of web-based news portals in this 2012 election season. This one keeps popping up, and I'm getting sick of seeing it.

The reason? It manages to pack several major lies, each of which you could write a book about, into just five words -- and hardly an editor anywhere takes a blue pencil to it.

Don't get me wrong. I've got no problem with "socialism." My shoot-from-the hip response when someone spits the "S" word out in a political argument is, "Socialism? I've been a socialist all my life, and proud of it. We should be so lucky as to have some socialism around here. Unfortunately, we're not even close."

First of all, Barack Obama is not a socialist. Even back in his more youthful years in Illinois, at best on a good day, he was simply a neo-Keynesian liberal with a few high tech green ideas. Keynesians believe, among other things, that when markets fail, government has the task of being the consumer of last resort, even hiring people directly to build infrastructure and put people to work,

But these days, surrounded by a "Team of Rivals" largely from Wall Street, Obama has set aside any earlier Keynesian policies he held and has been, wittingly or not, sucked into the black hole of the prevailing neoliberal hegemony.

What's a "neoliberal hegemony?" That's a shorthand phrase for the current domination of our government by Wall Street finance capital. It simply wants to diminish any government initiatives or programs, except for those that line their own pockets.

Keynesians and others, in and out of government, have opposed the neoliberals. They've advocated a range of reasonable proposals for getting us out of the current crisis -- ending the wars, Employee Free Choice Act, Medicare for All, the People's Budget submitted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. John Conyer's HR 870 Full Employment Bill -- but these proposals all keep getting declared "off the table" by the neoliberals.

On Gingrich's second charge, far from being "bureaucratic," Obama, wisely or not, has actually reduced the number of federal employees, and made other cuts that will cause the states to do likewise.

On the third charge, far from "killing jobs," Obama's initial proposals regarding employment have actually created a few jobs, but not nearly enough. Why? Because of the real job-killing votes of Gingrich's Republican allies in the House.

It doesn't take a chess champion to figure any of this out. Any decent checker player could make an honest call of the false moves in the "socialist job killer" gambit of Gingrich and other GOP presidential pretenders running the same rap.

But why distort the truth this way? Newt Gingrich is a smart man. He knows that Keynesianism is designed to keep capitalism going, and that socialism is something quite different and has very little to do with this debate. So why does he keep this "big lie" business up?

It's a smokescreen. At bottom, Gingrich, the GOP and the far right are promoting a grand neoliberal project to repeal the New Deal and the Great Society, the primary past examples of liberal government dealing with market failure.

The right's problem is that too many things that came out of those periods had some success and are still popular with a majority of voters -- the elderly like Medicare and Social Security, labor likes the Wagner Act and the right to bargain collectively, Blacks and other minorities like the Voting Rights Act, and women like Title Seven.

To take them all down, which is what the neoliberal-far right alliance wants, means you have to attack them indirectly, rather than directly.

So how does it work? You have to start with what most people fear most -- losing their jobs -- and then combine it with the darker demons of our past, such as anti-communism, racism, and sexism. Next you mush all your potential adversaries -- the socialist left, the liberals and progressives, and the FDR-loving moderates -- into one huge combined bogey man. You make it into a hideous package that's going to scare voters into casting ballots against themselves.

To put a fancier term on it, it's called manufacturing consent to combine with outright coercive force in getting you to submit to a renewed hegemonic bloc.

That's what Newt is doing here. In short, it's when they get you to think all your neighbors and co-workers are your enemies, while all the guys on Wall Street are your friends. You're going to hear a lot of it over the next year. Don't fall for it.

[Carl Davidson is a national co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a national board member of Solidarity Economy Network, and a local Beaver County, PA member of Steelworkers Associates. In the 1960s, he was a national leader of SDS and a writer and editor for the Guardian newsweekly. He is also the co-author, with Jerry Harris, of CyberRadicalism: A New Left for a Global Age. He serves as webmaster for SolidarityEconomy.net and Beaver County Blue. This article was first published on Carl's blog, Keep On Keepin' On. Read more articles by Carl Davidson on The Rag Blog.]

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30 August 2011

VERSE / Mariann G. Wizard : I'm Not Down With Jesus Anymore

"Republican Jesus." Painting by Brett Bretterson / Uncyclomedia Commons.

I'm Not Down With Jesus Anymore

a response to "The Response"

O I'm Not Down With Jesus Anymore –
They say He votes Republican and leads us into war,
and He will not heal anyone if they've been sick before –
No, I'm Not Down With Jesus Anymore!

I thought that I knew Jesus as a child –
He said he was a friend to all, so gentle and so mild,
and He held out His hand to me when I got kind of wild,
but that was before Jesus got so riled!

Now Jesus just seems angry all the time –
He hangs out with the big shots and overlooks their crimes,
and for the old and helpless, He hasn't got a dime –
it's their own fault if they're not in their prime!

Yeah, Jesus changed on his way to the top –
some say because his Daddy thought He was a flop,
He started acting less laid back and way more like a cop,
and now He's grown up, He's just like his Pop!

Jesus Christ no longer loves his brother –
can you imagine how that hurts His Mother?
And forget that Golden Rule of treating others
as you would like to be – that's just for losers, you schmuck!

I remember all the good times that we had –
like back when wearin' sandals was considered really rad,
or turnin' water into wine, man, that was super-bad!
But I'm not gonna let it make me sad.

We'll still be here if Jesus's new friends
decide that they don't need Him when they win –
when He sees them fill their bank accounts and commit their mortal sins –
He can join us at the barricades we tend!

But I'm Not Down With Jesus Anymore –
not if He votes Republican and still supports the war,
not if He won't heal anyone who has been sick before –
No, I'm Not Down With Jesus Anymore!

© mgw 8/25/11

Mariann G. Wizard / The Rag Blog

[Mariann G. Wizard, a Sixties radical activist and contributor to
The Rag, Austin's underground newspaper from the 60s and 70s, is a poet, a professional science writer specializing in natural health therapies, and a regular contributor to The Rag Blog. Read more poetry and articles by Mariann G. Wizard on The Rag Blog.]

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Ed Felien : The Consecration of Rick Perry

Warrior for Christ. Image from The Crazy Crusades.

A warrior for Christ:
The consecration of Rick Perry

By Ed Felien / The Rag Blog / August 30, 2011

Governor Rick Perry concluded his prayer in Houston on Saturday, Aug. 7:
You call us to repent, Lord, and this is our response. We give it all to You. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen and amen.
Why do we need to repent? What is our sin? Earlier, he had said,
As a nation we have forgotten Who made us. Who protects us. Who blesses us, and for that we cry out for Your forgiveness.
Perry has accepted our sin of forgetfulness, and he has assumed our repentance, and he has offered it up to God. It is the sin of the Israelites who lived wantonly and forgot God when they were chastised by the prophets. He has cleansed us in the blood of the sacrificial lamb. He is the minister, the priest, the substitute sacrifice.

How do we know we have offended God? “We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government.” According to Perry, these signs are proof that we have sinned against God, that our government has angered God and incurred his wrath.

But let us look at this “discord at home,” this “fear in the marketplace” and this “anger in the halls of government.” Who has caused it? The most disruptive faction in American politics today is the Tea Party, Perry’s own group. It was their antics with the debt ceiling legislation that caused fear in the marketplace. It is their anger that has poisoned government.

By offering to quiet this discord, calm this fear, and soothe this anger, Perry’s offer to intercede for us seems a lot like Hitler’s offer to restore order after his Storm Troopers burned the Reichstag.
Father, our heart breaks for America.
He remembers the 30 U.S. soldiers killed the day before in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan:
We pray for our military and the families who love them. Father, especially for those special operators who lost their life yesterday in defending our freedoms.
One of the women whose husband had been killed told CNN that her husband “was a man with a deep Christian faith. A wonderful husband, and fabulous father to two wonderful children. He was a warrior for Christ.” A warrior in the Christian crusade against Islam? Is that why no Muslims were invited to the prayer rally?

Perry quotes extensively in the earlier part of his short speech from Chapter 2 of the Book of Joel from the Old Testament. He ends with verse 17:
Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?
Are we at war with the heathen? Is this a crusade?

Just before, in verses 15 and 16, Perry read:
Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts [he actually cut this last part -- clearly he didn’t want to offend his audience by mentioning a woman’s breast]: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
Perry is calling for the congregation to gather and ordain him as their minister, a warrior for Christ on a crusade to smite the heathen.

Perry read only the part from Joel that speaks of the consecration of the warrior. In all fairness, he should have also read Joel’s description of the upcoming battle. Joel begins:
1 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand;

2 A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.

3 A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
Joel is speaking of a holocaust, a scorched earth and total annihilation of the enemies of Israel.

Is this the God that Perry offers us -- the Old Testament Jehovah who cheerfully murders women and children?

Is the lesson of Jesus Christ and the New Testament too radical for Rick Perry? The story of Jesus is very simple, very plain. He preached in the countryside and after three years he marched into Jerusalem and with his followers drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. For this he was arrested and crucified as an enemy of Rome.

The four gospels differ on many details of the life of Christ, but they agree unequivocally that Jesus marched into Jerusalem, drove the moneychangers out of the Temple, and was executed by Rome.

Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann wear their Christianity on their shirtsleeves. They are quite public in professing their Christian faith. Do they believe in driving the moneychangers out of the Temple? They are both protectors of the rich, and they both advocate policies that would crush the poor. The rich are bankrolling their campaigns. They would bring down the Temple before they would tax the rich.

Bachmann thinks the best way to create jobs would be to eliminate the minimum wage. Perry has created jobs in Texas by driving down wages. The Texas Independent has said, “the median hourly earnings for all Texas workers was $11.20 per hour in 2010 compared to the national median of $12.50 per hour.” Texas tied with Mississippi for the greatest percentage of minimum wage workers.

Do they believe that Jesus drove the moneychangers from the Temple as a chauffeur in their limo, because that’s clearly what they’re doing?

Jesus didn’t want people to feel sorry for the poor. He didn’t want charity and second hand clothes. He said, “I am the poor,” “I am the hungry,” “ I am the naked,” “I am the prisoner:”
35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. (Matthew 25)
Why are Perry and Bachmann not the cursed, damned into everlasting fire? Why are they not the antichrist, the whitened sepulcher that hides corruption?

If they are going to trumpet themselves as Christians, then don’t we have the right and the responsibility to hold them accountable?

[Ed Felien is publisher and editor of Southside Pride, a South Minneapolis monthly. Read more articles by Ed Felien on The Rag Blog]

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Lamar W. Hankins : Football for Jesus

Image from The Gospel According to Hate.

They're at it again:
Football for Jesus

By Lamar W. Hankins / The Rag Blog / August 30, 2911

I can’t quite smell football in the air, probably because of our wilting temperatures and prolonged drought, but a look at the calendar tells me that it’s time for the high school football season to begin. In many, if not most, Texas public schools, this means that the names of God and Jesus will be invoked to show that football is a divinely-approved activity and that all the players will be watched over so they don’t get hurt.

Of course, that last statement is complete nonsense. Data from five years ago shows that we have more than a half-million high school football injuries each year. Either God doesn’t care about football injuries or those injured must not be living righteous lives. I don’t actually believe either conclusion, but the only other reasonable conclusion is that prayer doesn’t work the way many mortals seem to believe.

Aside from that discussion, which usually goes nowhere, there is the question of the appropriateness of prayers at public high school football games, both prayers over the public address system as well as prayers uttered by the football players themselves in a group either in the locker room or before or after the game on the field.

Most people seem unaware that this issue has been settled law for over a decade. In summary, in 2000, the U.S. Supreme court decided whether the Santa Fe ISD (located between Houston and Galveston) could have prayer before each football game. The court ruled against prayer by a chaplain and prayer by someone chosen by the students. It decided that having “nonsectarian, nonproselytizing” prayer is also prohibited by the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. This decision came nine years after the court had found that prayer at public high school graduations is a violation of that same provision in the constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

To explain the court’s reasoning, it might help to refer to a few lines of the opinion in Santa Fe, which was adopted by six of the nine Supreme Court Justices. Pregame prayer delivered
on school property, at school-sponsored events, over the school's public address system, by a speaker representing the student body, under the supervision of school faculty, and pursuant to a school policy that explicitly and implicitly encourages public prayer
is not private, but public speech.
Regardless of the listener's support for, or objection to, the message, an objective Santa Fe High School student will unquestionably perceive the inevitable pregame prayer as stamped with her school's seal of approval.
Under the Constitution, governments in the U.S., and that includes public schools, are not free to promote religion, especially when school-aged children are involved.

I have tried to understand the arguments of those who favor such prayers. Some of them want the acknowledgement of their religious views in a public forum. Such acknowledgement is certainly permissible if the forum is not a government-sponsored activity. If the Lion’s Club sponsors a junior rodeo, they can pray before, after, and during every event at will. The Lion’s Club is not a government entity. It is a private organization. But when the government sponsors religious activity, which prayer is, the Court has other concerns.

It considers school-sponsored prayer a
serious constitutional injury that occurs when a student is forced to participate in an act of religious worship because she chooses to attend a school event. But the Constitution also requires that the Court keep in mind the myriad, subtle ways in which Establishment Clause values can be eroded, ... and guard against other different, yet equally important, constitutional injuries. One is the mere passage by the District of a policy that has the purpose and perception of government establishment of religion.
Those who believe in the efficacy of prayer to protect players against injury can pray along the entire game if they choose. Is prayer effective only if it is uttered over the loudspeaker system at the beginning of the game? The group Americans United for Separation of Church and State has explained the important distinction between the right to pray and the prohibition against government sponsorship of prayer:
There is a critical difference between private individual speech and speech promoted by the government. Consider this analogy: A group of people can go to a public park and exercise their free speech. They can even get on "soapboxes" and share their speech with others. But once the state decides to help broadcast one person's speech to everyone in the park because it is popular, it becomes state-sponsored speech.

Whether a student chooses to pray at a football game is entirely up to him or her, as it should be. But it becomes state-sponsored when the school broadcasts the popular prayer to an entire audience in attendance for a football game. Public schools must be neutral on religion to protect the rights of everyone. Students should not be pressured to pray, whether it's at football games, in the classroom or anywhere else.
I not only oppose government-sponsored prayer, but I also have a different view of football than others may have. I played six years in junior high and high school in what was referred to as a “football town” -- Port Arthur, Texas. I was an above-average athlete, but not exceptional. I was well-coordinated and muscular, weighing about 205-210 during high school, and standing six feet, one-and-one-half inches tall.

My coaches believed that what prevented me from being exceptional was that I was not mean enough. We were encouraged to take off the heads of our opponents, to tackle and hit hard, and punish those we played against. In those days, we were taught to use our helmets as a weapon, something that is not permitted today because of the great chance of injury.

I remember one game in 1961 against a team whose star player was a small, but fast, halfback. One of our assistant coaches offered a reward to any lineman who could take him out of the game. That occurred in the second quarter when one of our tackles had an opportunity to tackle the halfback in a way that hurt him. The halfback did not play for the rest of the game and our team won easily.

That assistant coach went on to coach in college, including a stint as an assistant at the University of Texas. I told my parents about this incident, but they were not ones to make waves, especially against the football program in a place where football was a second religion.

Often, football was coached in junior high and high school in the 1950s and 1960s as a brutal game, the purpose of which was to hurt and punish opponents and make them not want to get up off the ground after they were put there by a ferocious hit. I’m not sure where prayer fit into this scheme, except to make people feel good about themselves for enjoying the violent spectacle that is football, though it could and can be enjoyed for its occasional choreographed precision.

Another related use of prayer is by the team itself. Almost always initiated by coaches, whether directly or indirectly, football team prayer is meant to create solidarity, camaraderie, and team cohesiveness. As a psychological tool, it may achieve these results. Of course, for Jewish players or atheists or agnostics, prayers offered in Jesus’ name may have the opposite effect.

Prayer at football games and by football teams has been going on perhaps as long as we have had football, though I suspect it may have had its origin during the McCarthy era when most of U.S. society reacted to "godless communism" by promoting religious activity by adding “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance and adopting “In God We Trust” as our national motto.

Nevertheless, school-sponsored prayer at football games is prevalent today. In recent weeks, I have read about complaints against such practices raised in schools in DeSoto County in Mississippi and Bell County in Kentucky. In both cases, interventions by the Freedom From Religion Foundation have stopped such unconstitutional practices.

Nearly 250 years into our constitutional republic experiment is as good a time as any to honor our Constitution by following its clear prohibitions against government sponsorship and promotion of religion. As both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison reminded us, the intermingling of government and religion harms both institutions.

[Lamar W. Hankins, a former San Marcos, Texas, city attorney, is also a columnist for the San Marcos Mercury. This article © Freethought San Marcos, Lamar W. Hankins. Read more articles by Lamar W. Hankins on The Rag Blog.]

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29 August 2011

Jordan Flaherty : The Battle for New Orleans Continues

New Orleans after Katrina. Image from Slate.

Six years after Katrina:
The battle for New Orleans continues
Political power has shifted to whites, but blacks have not given up their struggle for a voice -- and justice.
By Jordan Flaherty / The Rag Blog / August 29, 2011

NEW ORLEANS -- As this weekend’s storm has reminded us, hurricanes can be a threat to U.S. cities on the East Coast as well the Gulf. But the vast changes that have taken place in New Orleans since Katrina have had little to do with weather, and everything to do with political struggles.

Six years after the federal levees failed and 80 percent of the city was flooded, New Orleans has lost 80,000 jobs and 110,000 residents. It is a whiter and wealthier city, with tourist areas well maintained while communities like the Lower Ninth Ward remain devastated. Beyond the statistics, it is still a much contested city.

Politics continues to shape how the changes to New Orleans are viewed. For some, the city is a crime scene of corporate profiteering and the mass displacement of African Americans and working poor; but for others it’s an example of bold public sector reforms, taken in the aftermath of a natural disaster, that have led the way for other cities.

In the wake of Katrina, New Orleans saw the rise of a new class of citizens. They self-identify as YURPs -- Young Urban Rebuilding Professionals -- and they work in architecture, urban planning, education, and related fields.

While the city was still mostly empty, they spoke of a freedom to experiment, unfettered by the barriers of bureaucratic red tape and public comment. Working with local and national political and business leaders, they made rapid changes in the city’s education system, public housing, health care, and nonprofit sector.

Along the way, the face of elected government changed in the city and state. Among the offices that switched from black to white were mayor, police chief, district attorney, and representatives on the school board and city council, which both switched to white majorities for the first time in a generation. Louisiana also transformed from a state with several statewide elected Democrats, to having only one -- Senator Mary Landrieu.

While black community leaders have said that the displacement after the storm has robbed African Americans of their civic representation, another narrative has also taken shape. Many in the media and business elite have said that a new political class -- which happens to be mostly white -- is reshaping the politics of the city into a post-racial era.

“Our efforts are changing old ways of thinking,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu, shortly after he was elected in 2010. After accusing his critics of being stuck in the past, Landrieu -- who was the first mayor in modern memory elected with the support of a majority of both black and white voters -- added that "We're going to rediscipline ourselves in this city."

The changes in the public sector have been widespread. Shortly after the storm, the entire staff of the public school system was fired. Their union, which had been the largest union in the city, ceased to be recognized. With many parents, students and teachers driven out of the city by Katrina and unable to have a say in the decision, the state took over the city’s schools and began shifting them over to charters.

“The reorganization of the public schools has created a separate but unequal tiered system of schools that steers a minority of students, including virtually all of the city’s white students, into a set of selective, higher-performing schools and most of the city’s students of color into a set of lower-performing schools,” writes lawyer and activist Bill Quigley, in a report prepared with fellow Loyola law professor Davida Finger.

Photo from Getty Images / The Root.

In many ways, the changes in New Orleans' school system, initiated almost six years ago, foreshadowed a battle that has played out more conspicuously this year in Wisconsin, Indiana, New Jersey, and other states where teachers and their unions were assailed by both Republican governors and liberal reformers such as the filmmakers behind Waiting for Superman.

Similarly, the battle of New Orleans public housing -- which was torn down and replaced by new units built in public-private partnerships that house a small percentage of the former residents -- prefigured national battles over government’s role in solving problems related to poverty.

The anger at the changes in New Orleans’ black community is palpable. It comes out at city council meetings, on local black talk radio station WBOK , and in protests. “Since New Orleans was declared a blank slate, we are the social experimental lab of the world,” says Endesha Juakali, a housing rights activist. However, despite the changes, grassroots resistance continues. “For those of us that lived and are still living the disaster, moving on is not an option,” adds Juakali.

Resistance to the dominant agenda has also led to reform of the city’s criminal justice system. But this reform is very different from the others, with leadership coming from African-American residents at the grassroots, including those most affected by both crime and policing.

In the aftermath of Katrina, media images famously depicted poor New Orleanians as criminal and dangerous. In fact, at one point it was announced that rescue efforts were put on hold because of the violence. In response, the second-in-charge of the New Orleans Police Department reportedly told officers to shoot looters, and the governor announced that she had given the National Guard orders to shoot to kill.

Over the following days, police shot and killed several civilians. A police sniper wounded a young African American named Henry Glover, and other officers took and burned his body behind a levee. A 45-year-old grandfather named Danny Brumfield, Sr. was shot in the back in front of his family outside the New Orleans convention center. Two black families -- the Madisons and Bartholomews -- walking across New Orleans’ Danziger Bridge fell under a hail of gunfire from a group of officers.

“We had more incidents of police misconduct than civilian misconduct,” says former District Attorney Eddie Jordan, who pursued charges against officers but had the charges thrown out by a judge. “All these stories of looting, it pales next to what the police did.”

District Attorney Jordan, who angered many in the political establishment when he brought charges against officers and was forced to resign soon after, was not the only one who failed to bring accountability for the post-Katrina violence. In fact, every check and balance in the city’s criminal justice system failed.

For years, family members of the victims pressured the media, the U.S. Attorney’s office, and Eddie Jordan’s replacement in the DA’s office, Leon Cannizzaro. “The media didn’t want to give me the time of day,” says William Tanner, who saw officers take away Glover’s body. “They called me a raving idiot.”

Finally after more than three years of protests, press conferences, and lobbying, the Justice Department launched aggressive investigations of the Glover, Brumfield, and Danziger cases in early 2009. In recent months, three officers were convicted in the Glover killing (although one conviction was overturned), two were convicted in beating a man to death just before the storm, and 10 officers either plead guilty or were convicted in the Danziger killing and cover-up.

In the Danziger case, the jury found that officers had not only killed two civilians and wounded four, but also engaged in a wide-ranging conspiracy that involved planted evidence, invented witnesses, and secret meetings.

The Justice Department has at least seven more open investigations on New Orleans police killings, and has indicated its plans for more formal oversight of the NOPD, as well as the city jail. In this area, New Orleans is also leading the way -- in a remarkable change from Justice Department policy during the Bush Administration, the DOJ is also looking at oversight of police departments in Newark, Denver, and Seattle.

In the national struggle against law enforcement violence, there is much to be learned from the victims of New Orleans police violence who led a remarkable struggle against a wall of official silence, and now have begun to win justice. “This is an opening,” explains New Orleans police accountability activist Malcolm Suber. “We have to push for a much more democratic system of policing in the city.”

In the closing arguments of the Danziger trial, DOJ prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein fought back against the defense claim that the officers were heroes, saying the family members of those killed deserved the title more. Noting that the official cover-up had “perverted” the system, she said, “The real heroes are the victims who stayed with an imperfect justice system that initially betrayed them.”

The jury apparently agreed with her, convicting the officers on all 25 counts.

[Jordan Flaherty is a journalist and staffer with the Louisiana Justice Institute. His award-winning reporting from the Gulf Coast has been featured in a range of outlets including The New York Times, Al Jazeera, and Argentina's Clarin newspaper. His new book is FLOODLINES: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six. He can be reached at neworleans@leftturn.org, and more information about Floodlines can be found at floodlines.org. This article was first published at The Root. Find more articles by Jordan Flaherty on The Rag Blog.]

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28 August 2011

Michael Winship : Rick Perry's Texas Tall Tales

Pecos Perry? Art from vintage childrens book via saltycotton / Flickr.

'Emperor in a fig leaf':
Rick Perry's tall tales of Texas

By Michael Winship / Truthout / August 28, 2011

Although born and raised in a small town in the Finger Lakes region of New York, I'm the hybrid child of an upstate New York father and a mother from Texas -- they met at Fort Hood (then Camp Hood) during World War II. And you thought different species couldn't mate.

As a result, we were the only kids on the block who said, "Y'all," or had relatives named Bubba, Vade, Hoyt, and Cleburne.

My mother's father was known in our family as Granddaddy Lloyd. CARE packages of unshelled pecans and Frito-Lay products (then largely unknown above the Mason-Dixon Line) would arrive at Christmastime. And among the books in our house was a buff-covered, dog-eared paperback titled Tall Tales of Texas.

I flipped through it over and over. Inside were wild and woolly stories of the outlaw Sam Bass, frontiersman and Texas Ranger Bigfoot Wallace, Davy Crockett at the Alamo. Even taller were tales of Pecos Bill, with his lasso made from a live rattlesnake, the toughest cowboy in the world; and his wife Slue-Foot Sue, riding down the Rio Grande on the back of a giant catfish.

So, courtesy of some Lone Star DNA and basic reading comprehension skills, I think I know a Texas tall tale when I hear one, and presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry's tales of "the Texas miracle" are as tall as they come.

Between December 2000 and December 2010, the state did have a net gain of 907,000 jobs, more than half the 1.6 million new jobs nationwide during that same period. But a lot of the state's success in job creation looks more like dumb luck than evidence of ole Pecos Perry's political prowess or expertise in governance.

"It's not that the emperor has no clothes," Dan Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas, told the website AOL Jobs. "But he's got little more than a fig leaf over his crotch. It is a true fact, but he had nothing to do with it."

Perry points to deregulation and low taxes, including an incentive program called the Texas Enterprise Fund, said to have created 58,000 jobs, but there were many factors largely beyond his control, including increased trade between the United States and Mexico and the high price of gasoline that pumped revenue into the state, accompanied by new technologies for oil and gas extraction.

In the August 15 New York Times, Clifford Krauss reported,
The oil and gas industry now delivers roughly $325 billion a year to the state, directly and indirectly. It brings in $13 billion in state tax receipts, or roughly 40 percent of the total, financing up to 20 percent of the state budget.
What's more, a lot of the increase has been funded -- say it ain't so, Pecos! -- by federal largesse, including President Obama's economic stimulus. In the last 10 years, federal spending in the state has more than doubled to over $200 billion a year (thanks in large part to NASA and the many military installations in the state, including the aforementioned Fort Hood, one of the world's largest military bases and the biggest single employer in Texas).

Of all the U.S. government jobs added in this country between 2007 and 2010, 47 percent of them were in Texas. According to Jared Bernstein, former economic adviser to Joe Biden,
Texas employment wasn't down much at all in these years, as the state lost only 53,000 jobs. But looming behind that number are large losses in the private sector (down 178,000) and large gains (up 125,000) in government jobs.
Which shows, Bernstein goes on, that Texas has followed "a traditional Keynesian game plan: as the private sector contracts, turn to the public sector to temporarily make up part of the difference."

In 2009, Governor Perry made a show of rejecting $556 million in federal funds for unemployment, saying there were too many strings attached. In fact, that money was equal to only 2 percent of the more than $20 billion in stimulus money Texas did accept, including cash used to cover 97 percent of the state budget's shortfall for 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

This, in spite of GOP attacks on the public sector, Perry's claim that the stimulus was failed and misguided, and the pledge in the announcement of his presidential candidacy that he would "work every day to make Washington, DC, as inconsequential in your lives as I can."

As the August 20 Washington Post noted,
The significant role of government in Texas' relative prosperity stands in stark contrast to the "go-it-alone" image cultivated by Perry, who credits a lack of government interference for fostering a business-friendly environment in Texas.
For those like Governor Perry who brag about being no-nonsense, freedom-loving cowpokes, it's a delusion that goes all the way back to the early settlement of the American West.

As Patricia Nelson Limerick writes in her seminal history, The Legacy of Conquest: "At any period in Western history, the rhetoric of Western independence was best taken with many grains of salt." Whether it was fighting Indians or gaining access to public grazing lands, the federal government has always been integral. "Nothing so undermines the Western claim to a tradition of independence," she writes, "as this matter of federal support to Western development...
And yet humans have a well-established capacity to meet facts of life with disbelief. In a region where human interdependence has been self-evident, Westerners have woven a net of denial.
Sounds familiar.

Accompanying Governor Perry's denial is cronyism and patronage, both good ole boy-style and corporate. (Of the $102 million in campaign contributions raised for his gubernatorial races, Katrina vanden Heuvel wrote, half came "from just 204 sources," and the Los Angeles Times reports, "Nearly half of those mega-donors received hefty business contracts, tax breaks, or appointments under Perry.")

So, too, with greed comes hubris and shortsightedness. The Times' Krauss reported that
critics, among them Democrats... have long complained that the state's economic health came at a steep price: a long-term hollowing out of its prospects because of deep cuts to education spending, low rates of investment in research and development, and a disparity in the job market that confines many blacks and Hispanics to minimum-wage jobs without health insurance.
A report from the policy research and advocacy group Demos and the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities notes that
27 percent of Texas workers lack health insurance compared to 17 percent nationally. The ranks of the uninsured have grown steadily as access to employer-sponsored health insurance has declined... Fewer than half (48 percent) of the state's workers have access to a retirement plan at work, a figure that has plummeted since reaching a high of 61 percent in 2000.
Over the past 20 years, college costs in Texas have quadrupled, with the steepest jump occurring since tuition was deregulated by the state in 2003. Former first lady Barbara Bush observed in a February op-ed that the state ranks 49th in verbal SAT scores, 47th in literacy, and 46th in average math SAT scores:
We rank 36th in the nation in high school graduation rates. An estimated 3.8 million Texans do not have a high school diploma... the United Way estimates that the price tag for dropouts to Texas taxpayers is $9.6 billion every year.
But the state's latest budget cut $4 billion from public schools.

A recent, four part series on Perry's Texas from a team at the Houston Chronicle reports:
After a decade of Perry-style frugality the Texas welcome mat is growing increasingly threadbare as the state struggles to accommodate a booming, young populace hoping to travel its roads, get educated in its schools, drink its water, and access its health care system. During Perry's tenure the state has postponed investment or turned to debt to finance crucial infrastructure needs, experts say.
The average urban Texan loses a week a year to traffic delays on the state's "overburdened" highway system. While Perry boasts of luring thousands of doctors to the state, "lawmakers this year cut $805 million from doctors serving Medicaid patients" and "postponed $4 billion in Medicaid costs for payment in the next payment cycle." Texas is 48th out of 50 states in the number of physicians per 100,000 residents.

Perry doubts climate change is real, yet,
As Texas endures its most severe one-year drought in its history, state leaders have identified $53 billion in state investments needed to expand water capacity by 2060 but have not resolved how to pay for it. Unless Texas increases its water resources, experts say 83 percent of Texans will not have an adequate supply of water in times of drought.
Perry issued a proclamation urging Texans to pray for rain.

With more bad news ahead, stagnant wages, and an explosion in population and the labor force that now has unemployment advancing much faster than Perry's touted job growth, "the Texas miracle" is heading into a ditch.

Which brings to mind another tall tale, the old joke about the Texan who says to an Eastern visitor, "Yessir, I can drive across my ranch all day and all night and still not get to the other end." To which the visitor replies, "I know what you mean. I have a car like that, too."

[Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and former senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS. This article was originally published at Truthout.

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25 August 2011

Glenn W. Smith : Is Rick Perry a Person?

That goes for all of us! Image of Wile E. Coyote from Three Fingers of Politics.

Is Rick Perry a person?

By Glenn W. Smith / The Rag Blog / August 25, 2011
Glenn W. Smith will discuss "Rick Perry and the 'Texas Miracle'" with Thorne Dreyer on Rag Radio, Friday, Aug. 26, from 2-3 p.m. (CST), on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin, and streamed live here. Find podcasts of all Rag Radio shows at the Internet Archive.
Rick Perry and I go back a ways. As a reporter in the 1980s, I covered his undistinguished years in the Texas House. As a staffer to a Democratic lieutenant governor, I sat in meetings with him and watched him getting teased by his colleagues for his vanity. He clearly loves him some Rick Perry. He’s reported to shave his legs. Something about jogging speed. It’s earned him the name, “Nair Do Well,” but maybe shaved legs are de rigueur among the coyote-whacking-while-jogging set.

Here’s an odd fact: Rick Perry loves to criticize the federal stimulus package. But without the billions in federal money Texas received in 2009, Perry would have had to raise taxes to cover Texas’ budget deficit. Had he raised taxes, he would now be dead in the water in the GOP primary. President Obama, in a sense, paid for the campaign viability of his most likely 2012 opponent.

Still, if Rick Perry can be president, I can play center field for the New York Yankees. But I try to reassure myself. The universe simply can’t be this upside down. Nonetheless, Perry is likely to win the Republican nomination for president.

The Perry candidacy would pit a secessionist Southern governor against the nation’s first African-American president. Just pause and think about that a moment.

Perry tries to distance himself from his public flirtations with secession. A recently uncovered video, however, shows he was thinking about secession even before he mentioned it at a Tea Party rally in April 2009. Perry is using racist code when he speaks of secession. Anybody who thinks it is about the size of government or economic populism is kidding themselves. With his secession remarks, Perry is calling the Klan.

When Perry announced in South Carolina, he criticized governments “that elevated rulers at the expense of the people.” Odd, because after knowing Perry since the 1980s, I’m pretty sure that elevating rulers above the people is his first principle.

Perry’s religious cult fest in Houston a week ago was neatly summed up by writer Sarah Posner:
"command" and "obedience" were the day’s chief buzzwords for many speakers...
One preacher, Mike Bickle, was explicit, recommending not liberty but “ a life of obedience.”

It remains a mystery that so many libertarian-leaning Americans overlook the authoritarian ambitions of America’s Right. Perry talks about obedience to Jesus, but he really means obedience to Rupert Moloch, I mean Murdoch, and other transcendent, unreachable corporate gods.

Perry’s allegiance is not to other people, but to global Corporate Olympians. Just like Zeus, the new Corporate Olympians disguise themselves as persons so they can screw us. The disguise is called “corporate personhood,” though it should be called “corporate superpersonhood.” (The organization, Move to Amend, campaigning to end corporate personhood and “legalize democracy,” is worth your support).

The headline above is meant in jest, of course. Rick Perry is an all-too-human person, a human who has turned Texas into a third-world region that is the nation’s most polluted environment populated by the least healthy, most poorly educated, and most poorly paid humans in the nation. Maybe Perry’s running for president to improve Texas’ standing, not by pulling it up but by pulling the rest of the nation down.

Molly Ivins called him “Governor Goodhair” in reference to his Marvel comic book hairdo. He’s learned to speak in short, clipped sentence fragments like George W. Bush did, a practice that guards against “wordrobe malfunction” that would graphically display a rather flat-brained intellect.

Nonetheless, Perry has never lost an election. He’s been lucky. But he’s ruthless, disciplined, and quite willing to step outside the law. Just look at the suspicious network of Super PACs created to spend millions on Perry’s campaign while claiming, outrageously, that they will not spend millions on Perry’s campaign.

Twice now Perry has won elections by running ads that call his opponents cop-killers. I’m not making that up. In 2002, Perry accused Democrat Tony Sanchez of complicity in the murder of a DEA agent. In 2010, Perry accused Democrat Bill White of complicity in the murder of a Houston policeman. We don’t know yet what cops were killed by Mitt Romney or Michelle Bachmann, but Perry’s team will find them. It’s only a matter of time.

Perry’s campaign themes -- no regulation or oversight over corporations, low taxes on corporations, no legal accountability for corporations -- are the themes of a dangerous corporate authoritarianism. They are meant to complete the transformation of democracy into Democracy, Inc., to use Sheldon Wolin’s fine term. Perry’s is a frontal assault on individual liberty.

Perry is all about obedience to authority, his authority and the authority of corporations to run our lives without interference or oversight. Libertarians -- and the rest of America -- had better wake up to the place Perry’s ruthlessness and discipline will take us.

Here’s a video some Texans put together to give the nation a look at Perry. I hope they look hard.

[Austin's Glenn W. Smith, according to Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, is a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” A former newspaper reporter, Smith managed Ann Richards' successful campaign for governor of Texas and worked for Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. His excellent blog on politics and culture is DogCanyon. This article was first published at Firedoglake. Read more articles by Glenn W. Smith on The Rag Blog.]

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Richard Raznikov : Libya Falls (Or Was it Pushed?)

Which side are you on, boys...? Anti-Khadafy protesters pray in front of an American flag at Court Square in Benghazi, Libya. Photo by Hassan Ammar / AP.

(Or was it pushed?)
Libya falls...
The worst sin Moammar Khadafy committed was his refusal to accept dollars in payment for oil and his refusal to take the 'loans' proffered by the banks.
By Richard Raznikov / The Rag Blog / August 25, 2011

If you believe the western media, Khadafy has been taken down by a popular uprising not unlike those which have toppled other oppressive regimes such as Mubarak's in Egypt. Of course, if you believe the western media you are thick as a brick.

Uprisings, movements, rebels, insurgents, terrorists... people with weaponry and an interest in dislodging whatever government is holding power at the moment. If they are "pro-western" they are "democratic." If they are anti-colonial, indigenous, and nationalistic, we have decided that they are terrorists.

Terminology. Not so long ago, there was nothing wrong with being an insurgent. It meant you were taking on the powers-that-be. Now it means you have an unhealthy interest in roadside bombs
Western media is vague when it comes to the type of government Khadafy was running and the system in place in Libya. This is because the Libyan standard of living was among the highest in the region, its health care excellent and free, its education progressive.

During Khadafy’s presidency, Libya developed the world’s greatest water project, provided universal health care, and used the nation’s oil wealth to give every newlywed couple an interest-free loan of $50,000.00. Khadafy was the region’s most progressive leader on the matter of women’s rights.

Libya has been a secular state, unlike some of the more radical religious nations which nonetheless support the U.S., such as Saudi Arabia. In fact, some elements of Al Qaeda are reportedly involved in the Libyan "revolution," a fact about which the U.S. media and the U.S. government are not anxious to inform people. Too confusing, I guess.

As you may know, the Libyan "uprising" was stirred into being by the Central Intelligence Agency, armed by the U.S., and brought to power by the use of overwhelming air power, including drone missile attacks on a civilian population.

I don’t know very much about the claims being made against Khadafy in western media and by western politicians. I’ve heard these “he’s been killing his own people” charges before about every other leader America wanted removed. Doesn’t mean none of it’s true, of course, but much of what was said about Saddam Hussein, for example, turned out to be lies.

Also, what’s the deal with this “killing his own people” thing? Is that somehow worse than killing someone else's people? Is it better if a Libyan child is killed by an Apache helicopter gunship than if she is killed by a stray bullet from a Libyan machine gun? Ask the child.

The Libyan story was clear from the outset. In early spring, a "rebel" force began attacking towns in the eastern part of the country. Khadafy responded by hitting them with rockets. This then provided the pretext for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970, which authorized air power against the Libyan military “in order to protect civilians.”

Of course, the point was to prevent Khadafy from stopping the rebellion, specifically in the area of Libyan oil fields, and to give cover for the "insurgency." In no time at all, the "rebels" concluded a deal for the sale of the nation’s oil, effectively privatizing the country’s most valuable resource which heretofore had belonged to the State. The oil deal was praised by Hillary Clinton even before the ink was dry, and probably before it was even written.

Based on the oil contracts, the "rebels" suddenly had financial resources which could be used to purchase weapons, mostly of American manufacture, although they took sometimes circuitous routes. Oddly, at the time the "rebels" sold these rights, they did not exactly own or control them; they were selling the prospect of them. But the purchasers evidently had reason to trust the deal because the real sponsors were not going to let the "rebellion" fail.

In the months which followed, Khadafy’s forces kept turning the "rebels" back, only to be hit with tremendous firepower. The “protect civilians” excuse was paper thin by then and nobody believed it. There were grumblings from putative western allies. But the U.S. was going to run this war and nobody was going to stop us.

It may be that this engineered "rebellion" was not just a matter of Libyan oil reserves. Prior to the "rebellion," Libya’s production ranked it 17th in the world at approximately 1.1 to 1.6 million barrels per day, roughly 2 percent. It was of a particularly good, light quality, making it easier to refine and thus more valuable. Foreign operators who wanted to participate were required to work with the National Oil Corp., the nation’s own company. This kept control in the hands of Libyan nationals. But that’s not the only thing which troubled the U.S.

Libya had no debt.

To understand debt and the central role it plays in international affairs, spend some time investigating the banking industry and its toxic interconnection with international politics. Debt is the most important element in putting a nation and its people in the hands of corporations. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund want you to owe them money; when you do, they can leverage control over your national resources, your political system, and your entire population. They can feed you or starve you, and they are quite ruthless about it.

The worst sin Moammar Khadafy committed was not his alleged human rights violations but his refusal to accept dollars in payment for oil and his refusal to take the "loans" proffered by the banks. This, coincidentally, was also the worst sin committed by Saddam Hussein, who had been America’s friend for many years -- until he wasn’t.

It was of greater importance that the "rebels" borrow money to buy American weapons than the sale of the weapons themselves and whatever profit the arms manufacturers might get.

Want to see how the system really works? Check out the film The International, with Clive Owen and Naomi Watts. Or study the history of Argentina. Under Peron, Argentina declared itself bankrupt, shed its debts, and borrowed no more.

Consequently, its economy grew. It evolved a vibrant middle class, growing literacy, political independence. Then came the "reformers." They threw the Peronistas out and privatized everything, proclaiming something the new regime called “the model.” The model borrowed money from the IMF for the great expansion which enriched the few at the top and screwed everyone else.

Let’s not get too carried away with the joy of "liberating" Libya. What we are witnessing may be its imprisonment. While Obama burbles about freedom, what he’s really celebrating is the victory of capitalism, and capitalism, though its propaganda conflates it with freedom, is in fact the enemy of freedom. It separates people from their own labor and indentures them forever to the corporations and banks, backed by the military and the civilian "authorities."

I was so naive. I recall wondering why credit card companies kept sending cards to people who had no jobs, no cash, and no likely way of paying back what they were certain to borrow. I don’t wonder that anymore.

In The International, Owen and Watts are trying to stop a criminal syndicate involved in the arms trade with a major bank. An insider says to them that they can never succeed. Why? Because everyone’s in on it: the bankers, the governments, the syndicates, everyone.

I guess you can be on the outside of that system for a while, but if so you will probably end up like Khadafy.

[Richard Raznikov is an attorney practicing in San Rafael, California. He blogs at News from a Parallel World. Find more articles by Richard Raznikov on The Rag Blog.]

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24 August 2011

VIDEO / Jeff Zavala and Thorne Dreyer : Anarchist Organizer and Author Scott Crow on Rag Radio

Anarchist, community organizer,
and author Scott Crow on Rag Radio

Video by Jeff Zavala / Interview by Thorne Dreyer / The Rag Blog / August 24, 2011

Scott Crow, an Austin-based anarchist, community organizer, political activist, and writer, was Thorne Dreyer's guest on Rag Radio on August 5, 2011, and Austin documentary videographer Jeff Zavala produced a lively video of the show.

Crow, who has been labeled a "domestic terrorist" by the FBI, was the subject of a May 29 New York Times front page article about FBI surveillance of political activists in this country.

Scott's organizing projects include the post-Katrina Common Ground Collective in New Orleans, which has been called the largest anarchist-influenced organization in modern U.S. history, and his book about that experience, Black Flags and Windmills: Hope, Anarchy and the Common Ground Collective, will be published by PM Press in September, 2011.

Scott has worked with groups like Greenpeace, ACORN, and the Rainforest Action Network, and currently works at an anarchist recycling center cooperative in Austin

The Rag Blog has posted videos by Jeff Zavala of two earlier Rag Radio interviews -- with journalism professor and widely-published author Robert Jensen on July 8, 2011, and with Texas shrimper, environmental activist, and "Eco-Outlaw" Diane Wilson on June 24, 2011. Zavala is the creator of ZGraphix Productions and posts videos at zgraphix.blip.tv and at Austin Indymedia. Zavala is also the founder of the Austin Activist Archive, a virtual collective dedicated to broadcasting citizen journalism.

Rag Radio -- hosted and produced by Rag Blog editor Thorne Dreyer -- is broadcast every Friday from 2-3 p.m. (CDT) on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin, and streamed live on the web. The show, which has been aired since September 2009, features hour-long in-depth interviews and discussion about issues of progressive politics, culture, and history. After broadcast, all episodes are posted as podcasts and can be downloaded at the Internet Archive. Rag Radio is also rebroadcast on Sundays at 10 a.m. (Eastern) on WFTE, 90.3-FM in Mt. Cobb, PA, and 105.7-FM in Scranton, PA.

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Bob Feldman : Hidden History: Slavery in 'Coahuila y Tejas'

Mexico in 1825, including the state of Coahuila y Tejas. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The hidden history of Texas
Part 3: The 1827-1836 years under Mexican rule
By Bob Feldman / The Rag Blog / August 24, 2011

[This is the third installment of Bob Feldman's new Rag Blog series on the hidden history of Texas.]

By 1830 legalized slavery was prohibited in most states of Mexico and in some northern states in the United States. Yet legalized slavery in Texas was not permanently abolished until the middle of the 1860s.

Between 1827 and 1829, both state and federal government authorities in Mexico continued their efforts to end the enslavement of African-Americans in Mexico many years before the enslavement of African-Americans was finally ended in either the United States or Texas, following the U.S. Civil War of the early 1860s.

Article 15 of the Coahuila y Tejas State Constitution of 1827 stated that “No one shall be born a slave, and after six months the introduction of slaves under any pretext” in Texas “shall not be permitted.” And on Sept. 15, 1829, Mexican President Vicente Guerrero issued a decree that emancipated all slaves within the Republic of Mexico.

On Dec. 2, 1829, however, the Anglo settlers who lived in the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas and owned more than 1,000 African-American slaves, were then legally allowed to ignore Mexican President Guerrero’s Sept. 15, 1829 emancipation decree and to continue to redefine their imported slaves as “indentured servants,” in order to evade the 1824 Mexican law that prohibited the further importation of slaves into Mexico.

But on April 6, 1830 Mexico’s Congress passed another law which more strictly prohibited importation of more slaves into Texas under any guise by the Anglo settlers.

In 1830 the number of Spanish-speaking Mexicans who lived in Texas (and mostly earned their living as ranchers and small farmers) numbered 4,000, while the number of English-speaking Anglo settlers who lived in Texas (usually as either slave-owning cotton plantation owners or non-slave-owning white farmers) numbered 10,000.

So the Mexican government decided it would no longer allow more Anglo settler-colonists -- who were mostly into establishing an economic system in Texas based on slave labor and exporting cotton -- to immigrate to Mexico. As a result, the Mexican Congress’s Law of April 6, 1830 also prohibited any further immigration into Mexico’s Coahuila y Tejas state by settlers from U.S. territory. In addition, this law also imposed new customs duties on imports and exports from Mexico that financially hurt the Anglo settlers who were involved in exporting cotton from Texas and importing other goods to Texas.

Since the border between the United States and the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas was too long for the Mexican Army to guard completely and secure effectively, Anglo settlers continued to enter Mexico in the early 1830s, as “illegal aliens,” and by 1834, the number of white Anglo settlers in Texas had jumped to 20,700, while the number of Spanish-speaking “Tejano” residents within the Texas region of Coahuila y Tejas was still only 4,000.

After some of the Anglo settlers in Coahuila y Tejas held a convention in 1833 -- which asked for both repeal of the Mexican Congress’s Law of April 6, 1830 (that prohibited further immigration of settlers from the United States) and for Texas to become a separate Mexican state and no longer just a region of the predominantly Spanish-speaking state of Coahuila y Tejas -- the 1830 law was repealed by the Mexican government in late 1834.

In addition, the Mexican government then “offered considerable self-government at the local level” to the Anglo settlers in Coahuila y Tejas, and “during the early 1830s Anglos in Texas received important concessions such as trial by jury and use of the English language” from the Mexican federal government, according to Randolph Campbell’s Gone To Texas.

Yet when the demand for a separate, predominantly white Anglo state of Texas within the federal republic of Mexico was rejected by the Mexican government after Stephen F. Austin presented it in Mexico City, Austin apparently then wrote an inflammatory letter in which he advised the Anglo settlers in Texas to form a separate state “even though the general government” of Mexico “refuses to consent.” This inflammatory letter, however, was intercepted by Mexican government authorities; and Austin was then imprisoned by the Mexican authorities for a year.

According to Gone To Texas, among the reasons the predominantly white Anglo settlers in Coahuila y Tejas wanted a separate state for themselves within Mexico was that “most Anglos definitely thought themselves inherently superior to Mexicans” and “most Anglos at least accepted slavery, whereas Mexican officials threatened to destroy the institution.” In his 1996 book Black Texans: A History of African Americans in Texas, Texas Tech University Professor of History Alwyn Barr also observed:
Mexicans generally accepted black people, especially mulattos, more readily than did the... Anglo population... Because of the favorable legal and social conditions, Benjamin Lundy, a white abolitionist, and Nicholas Drouett, a mulatto who had retired as an officer in the Mexican army, sought permission to establish a colony of free blacks from the United States during the 1830s. The Mexican government reacted favorably, but most whites in the United States and Texas opposed the project as an impediment to their westward movement...

White Texans, overwhelmingly southern in background, brought with them favorable views of slavery and unfavorable views of black people... Mexican opposition to the importation of slaves did slow Anglo immigration and act as a major source of discontent prior to the Texas Revolution in 1836...
So in 1835 the predominantly white Anglo settlers armed themselves and began organizing for an armed rebellion against Mexican government rule in Texas. A number of Spanish-speaking Mexican settlers in Texas (like a land speculator with the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company named Lorenzo de Zavala) supported the armed rebel Anglos.

And, according to the Texas State Historical Association’s Texas Almanac website, an East Texas merchant of Jewish background (and a friend of former Tennessee Governor Sam Houston) named Adolphus Sterne “became a principal source of financial backing for the Texas Revolution” of 1835-1836.

[Bob Feldman is an East Coast-based writer-activist and a former member of the Columbia SDS Steering Committee of the late 1960s. Read more articles by Bob Feldman on The Rag Blog.]

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