28 August 2013

Tom Hayden : Egypt is the Liberals' Slaughterhouse

Egyptian military chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks to the people after the coup. Photo from AP. Image from The Telegraph.
Post-coup Egypt:
The liberals’ slaughterhouse
The Egyptian coup, for now, marks a dead end for political Islam, and a vindication of those like Al Qaeda who reject the path of democratic elections as a deadly trap.
By Tom Hayden / The Rag Blog / August 28, 2013

When Secretary of State John Kerry described Egypt’s military coup as restoring democracy, it was a classic example of the periodic bond that exists between liberals and military dictators against those they perceive to be the dangerous classes. Their reasoning is that their version of democracy can only be restored when their enemies are eliminated, even if the enemy has won an election.

Think of the CIA overthrows of Iran’s Mohammad Mossadegh (1953) and Guatemala’s Jacobo Arbenz (1954), or the clandestine U.S. overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile (1973) and of Algeria’s slaughter of Islamists in the nineties when they were on the brink of electoral victory.

Think of the persistent discrediting and attempted coup against the elected Chavistas in Venezuela, the coup against Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, and the U.S. ouster of Jean-Bertrande Aristide in Haiti.

These are not isolated instances, but a pattern that has lead to the bloodshed in Cairo today. Movements inimical to Western interests cannot be allowed to peacefully come to power through elections. If they do, they will be targeted for destabilization or worse.

The Egyptian coup, for now, marks a dead end for political Islam, and a vindication of those like Al Qaeda who reject the path of democratic elections as a deadly trap. It also pleases Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad, who was strongly opposed by Morsi. Assad said that the Brotherhood is unfit to rule. (New York Times, July 5, 2013) The Israelis were "quietly pleased" with the coup too [New York Times, Aug. 17] The monarchs of Saudi Arabia and the Emirate are deeply satisfied.

In Egypt, thousands are being slaughtered by a military fully funded and trained by the United States government. The Egyptian generals’ coup -- which, shamefully, has not been named a coup by our government or mainstream media -- was welcomed with joy, even delirium, by many in Egypt who failed to win the elections, in particular by Egypt’s secular liberals and progressives. Did they think that tanks and bayonets could construct a liberal society?

The generals clearly used the liberals -- and a mass popular base of frustration -- while planning to proceed with the mass slaughter.

Mohamed Morsi and the Brotherhood are authoritarian in nature because of 80 years of brutal prosecution by Egyptians rulers with U.S. support. But they cannot be faulted for playing by the rules of Egypt’s electoral system, one in which Morsi won nearly 52 percent of the vote.

Morsi’s worst excess was his failed attempt to circumvent the Hosni Mubarak judiciary and place his constitutional reforms on the ballot. That was a power grab away from Mubarak’s judges in the direction of a democratic election. The history of Chicago politics is littered with far worse.

Morsi represented a shift toward the Palestinians diplomatically and politically, but not militarily, and a softer policy toward Sinai's tribal insurgents. He supported jihad against Syria's Assad, but avoided prosecuting the Egyptian generals, even protected the military's budget from parliamentary oversight.

In losing the election to Morsi, the secular liberals were to blame for their own divisions and marginal electoral status. The Facebook Generation wildly overestimated their support. They confused a media strategy with a political one, believing that the spectacle of bravely occupying Tahrir Square would not only appeal to CNN viewers but Egypt’s millions of voters who lived and worked far from the Square.

Their radical strategy of "occupying space," copied by many around the world, galvanized media attention to the spectacle, but led to a deeper polarization while draining resources and attention away from broad-based organizing to explain and protect the cause. Their implicit critique of Mubarak and the Brotherhood as being essentially the same has proven to be a disastrous mistake in judgment.

President Barack Obama could have sent a clear and immediate signal to the generals through Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: we will not support you. This is a coup and, under American law, our $1.5 billion in military aid will be suspended. Period.

Had Obama done so, perhaps the generals would have blinked, or delayed their intended massacre. Or perhaps they would have gone ahead with their slaughter funded by the monarchs of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who recently gave the military junta $8 billion in emergency aid.

U.S. officials argue that Egypt's military is a strategic ally for reasons that deserve congressional hearings and urgent reexamination. First, defenders of the coup say that the Egyptian military, from Mubarak to the present, has been a cornerstone of the War on Terror and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Egyptians permitted air space and the the expedited use of the Suez Canal as conduits for American troops and equipment.

Unmentioned is Egypt's willing collaboration in U.S. rendition and torture programs. Those are good reasons to re-examine the US-Egyptian partnership because torture turned into a global scandal and the wars themselves into trillion-dollar quagmires. Those in the American national security establishment who concocted these follies should take responsibility for their disastrous thinking but remain protected and immune from personal consequences -- which only guarantees that the folly will be perpetuated.

An Egyptian man walks between lines of bodies wrapped in shrouds at a mosque in Cairo. Photo by Khaled Desouki.
The other rationale for supporting Mubarak and the current coup is that a repressive crushing of the Brotherhood is good for Israel. Since the 1979 Camp David Treaty between Israel and Egypt, the Egyptian military has been paid $1.5 billion annually to abandon any military support for the Palestinians.

The Israelis lobbied Obama and Congress to keep propping up the Mubarak dictatorship, which Obama resisted. But the Israelis also are closely tied to Gen. Sisi from his previous role in charge of Egypt's intelligence services. In recent days, according to The New York Times [Aug. 18], Sisi "appeared to be in heavy communication with Israeli colleagues, and [U.S.] diplomats believed the Israelis were also undercutting the Western message by reassuring the Egyptians not to worry about American threats to cut off aid."

That's because Tel Aviv believes that AIPAC controls the UC Congress. [When Sen. Rand Paul offered an amendment on July 31 opposing U.S. aid to the coup generals, the Senate turned it down on an 86-13 vote, with leading senators echoing an AIPAC letter, the Times noted.

Israel may think its security interests are protected by the coup and the violent demise of the Brotherhood. But that is short-term thinking at best. If the Arabs are killing each others, goes the neocon refrain, it's good for Israel.

Now, however, Israel faces a civil war which might spill over the border, including an insurrection in Sinai. The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks seem only to be a public relations gesture designed to prevent the Palestinians from taking their quest for sovereignty to the United Nations in September. With wars flooding through the Middle East, and with the Palestinians themselves divided, progress towards a Palestinian state seems blocked.

The future is completely unpredictable for now. The generals will continue their war to exterminate the Brotherhood, unless checked by internal resistance and outside pressure. Instead of an avenue forward for political Islam, the future appears to be Algeria where only military massacres prevented Islamists from taking power through democratic elections.

Algeria today, like Egypt, is a mainstay of the most extreme repression, including torture, in the arsenal of the War on Terrorism.

How long can this go on? No one knows, but it can be a very long time, a surge of renewal for the sagging War on Terrorism. Much depends on liberalism rethinking itself. Mohammad el-Baradai, the liberal who became Sisi's vice president with American support, has resigned after the latest army massacre of Brotherhood members. Perhaps more defections will follow, though the damage has been done.

The Brotherhood, which survived underground for 80 years, is likely to regroup and resist. Widespread sabotage, assassination of police and army officers, and rural guerrilla warfare are probable scenarios, unless the U.S. acts quickly to suspend military aid, which is required under American law.

A suspension of aid -- coupled with warnings to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates -- seems the only way to stop the generals. Instead of the failed liberal strategy of "working from within" to reform the military dictatorship, only the opposite course offers possibilities: a suspension of U.S. aid coupled with the release of Brotherhood prisoners and a UN-sponsored conference aimed at reviving a constitutional process.

Obama is more likely to continue ignoring American law than pursue a showdown with the Egyptian military. His Cairo speech, call for Mubarak's resignation, and acceptance of Morsi's election indicates that the president believes in a political role for Islam, contrary to many of his close advisers and allies.

For now he is described by the establishment as being in a "no win" situation [New York Times, Aug. 18] . Events still might force his hand, but not if liberal voices continue believing that democracy still lies just ahead beyond the mountain of bodies.

[Tom Hayden is a former California state senator and leader of Sixties peace, justice, and environmental movements. He currently teaches at Pitzer College in Los Angeles. His latest book is The Long Sixties. Hayden is director of the Peace and Justice Resource center and editor of The Peace Exchange Bulletin. Read more of Tom Hayden's writing on The Rag Blog.]

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Paul Krassner : My Brother's Keeper

The mad scientist as a young man. (Not George Krassner but, hey, it could have been.) Image from Beveled.
Rocket science:
My brother's keeper
"At age 29, as head of the Astro-Electronics Division, I had the civilian rank equal to a colonel, but I looked like a young kid. It was embarrassing to take them to lunch and be carded by the waiter." -- George Krassner
By Paul Krassner / The Rag Blog / August 28, 2013

When my brother George and I were kids, I could recite the alphabet backwards, whereas he read the entire dictionary. We both played the violin, and when he was nine and I was six, we performed at Carnegie Hall. (I was the youngest concert artist in any field to perform there.)

Our younger sister Marge took piano lessons and became a legendary figure at Boys & Girls High School in Brooklyn, teaching music and running the chorus. Now retired, she and two women -- one plays the cello, the other a flute -- have been booked to perform at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, playing music connected to various phases of Dali’s life.

Marge was the only one who stuck with classical music. Although I was considered a child prodigy, I merely had a technique for playing the violin, but I had a real passion for making people laugh. I put my violin in the closet when I was 12, and several years later I used it essentially as a prop when I began performing stand-up comedy.

George went to the High School of Music & Art, and was offered a four-year scholarship at the Juilliard School’s renowned Music Division, but he really preferred Math and Science. He surprised our family, announcing his decision to be an electrical engineer.

He turned down the scholarship and instead attended CCNY. “Because,” he says, “I thought then that the violin was good for my avocation, not my vocation. With so many brilliant musicians then, you really had to know somebody to get anywhere in that world. It’s not like YouTube today.”

While at CCNY, he played with a square dance group and became Official Fiddler for the New York/New Jersey Square Dance Callers Association. He learned that a caller earned twice as much as he did, so he put down his fiddle and took up calling square dances. He was also captain of the varsity boxing team.

George went to the University of Michigan for his Master’s Degree. Our mother insisted -- and to please her -- he mailed his laundry home in a light aluminum case she had purchased for that specific purpose. To pay for his tuition, basement apartment and other expenses, he got a teaching fellowship, was a research assistant, sold programs at football games, and bussed tables at a local restaurant, which he quit when the table he cleared was occupied by fellow students.

He won the all-campus boxing championship, but had to fight in a heavier weight class since no one else weighed as little as he did.

“Being a violinist, I was worried about my hands. But my opponent in the semifinal match was an oboe player with a concert scheduled for the next day, and he asked me to take it easy on his mouth.”

In October 1957, Russia sent Sputnik into space. It was the first orbiting satellite, circling the earth in 96 minutes, and making 1,440 orbits in three months. This astounding technical feat was totally unanticipated by the United States and ignited the era of the space race.

At the time, George was working as a civilian scientist for the Army Signal Corps in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, in charge of the radio relay program. He had been recruited by their senior executive of Research & Development, an alumnus of the University of Michigan.

A week after Sputnik, George sent a proposal to the Commanding General, urging a space communication program. The response:Do it! “So,” George recalls, “I created the first Space Electronics organization in the country. It was very strange making presentations to generals and top government officials. At age 29, as head of the Astro-Electronics Division, I had the civilian rank equal to a colonel, but I looked like a young kid. It was embarrassing to take them to lunch and be carded by the waiter.”

That wasn’t his only embarrassment: “At the Signal Corps, I accidentally flushed my top secret badge down the toilet. It took a lot of official paperwork and the notation "irretrievably lost" to finally get a new badge. Also, in 1954, the McCarthy paranoia was paramount. I, and fellow civilians -- and military personnel, I assume -- had to empty our lunchboxes and briefcases for inspection every time we entered the building.”

Five months after he had begun as a civilian scientist, George was drafted. In the army, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He was a “leg,” though. Instead of jumping out of an airplane, his job was to maintain all radios, phones, and electrical equipment. He also started the U.S. Helicopter Square Dance Team to demonstrate the mobility of helicopters. When assigned KP (Kitchen Police), rather than peel potatoes, he scheduled helicopter square dance practice.

Eight months after Sputnik, his team began working on the design of the world’s first communication satellite, SCORE (Signal Communications Orbit Relay Equipment). “There were no reference books, precedents, or Google for information. We were the pioneers. It’s interesting that the first known reference to communication satellites was in a 1945 science-fiction story by the British author, Arthur C. Clarke.” It took the team only six months to design and build the satellite, which was launched in December 1958 by an Atlas rocket that weighed 9,000 pounds.

“The satellite payload became famous for the tape-recorded message from President Dwight Eisenhower, who insisted that this project remain top secret,” George tells me. “He said the launch would be aborted if any word leaked out, because he didn’t want a chance of failure to tarnish our image. As it turned out, one of the two tape recorders did fail, but his Christmas message to the world was the very first transmitted message from space.”

Eisenhower stated: “This is the president of the United States speaking. Through the marvels of scientific advance, my voice is coming to you via a satellite circling in outer space. My message is a simple one. Through this unique means, I convey to you and all mankind America’s wish for peace on earth and good will toward men everywhere.”

The SCORE satellite carried Ike's Christmas message.

 In 1945, in the wake of World War II, the victors launched Operation Paperclip, recruiting a variety of 600 scientists from Nazi Germany to work in the United States. President Harry Truman ordered the exclusion of any “member of the Nazi Party or an active supporter of Nazi militarism,” but the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency created false employment and political biographies to circumvent Truman’s command.

Those scientists were then granted security clearance and infiltrated into hospitals, universities, and the aerospace industry, further developing their techniques in propaganda, mind control, and behavior modification. Among them was Wernher von Braun, who had been a member of the Nazi Party and an SS officer who could be linked to the deaths of thousands of concentration camp prisoners. (Fun fact: He married his cousin.) He came to America in 1945 and became a citizen in 1955. He was called the “Father of the U.S. space program.”

In June 1958, by the time those German importees had become entrenched in a slew of American niche communities, I published the first issue of my satirical magazine, The Realist, including a cartoon that depicted the U.S. Army Guided Missile Research Center with a sign in the window, Help Wanted. A couple of scientists are standing in front of that building, and one is saying to the other, “They would have hired me only I don't speak German.”

Exactly one year later, Wernher von Braun recruited 13 scientists to work with him on an ultra-top-secret program, Project Horizon, to build a communication station on the moon. Its purpose was a study to determine the feasibility of constructing a scientific/military base. “I was one of the lucky 13,” George remembers. “In fact, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a rocket scientist. Von Braun told me that many of his ideas came from science-fiction magazines.

“The project was so secret that the 13 of us could not even tell our bosses -- they didn’t have what was called ‘need to know.’ I would tell [my wife] Judith that I was going to Washington, D.C., and then I would change planes to go to Huntsville, Alabama, where much of the work was done. I made up stories about Washington for her, while I really was in Huntsville, which also was the watercress capital of the world. Unfortunately, when I left the government after nine years (two in the army), I lost my own security rating and need-to-know, so I had no idea if the station was ever built on the moon, and I no longer got cheap watercress.”

According to Wikipedia, “The permanent outpost was predicted to cost $6 billion and become operational in December 1966. A lunar landing-and-return vehicle would have shuttled up to 16 astronauts at a time to the base and back. Horizon never progressed past the feasibility stage in an official capacity.”

“When I was assigned to work on top secret military and satellite work,” George tells me, “the FBI did routine checks. One of our neighbors told Judith that the FBI visited them but were told not to let us know of their inquiries. Apparently, you were on their ‘watch list’ -- based on your ‘radical’ writings, I assume. I learned from my boss at the Signal Corps that my top-secret clearance was in jeopardy. Granting my clearance took about a month longer than normal, but eventually it was granted.”

Meanwhile, I was placed on the FBI’s RI (Round-up Index), though I had broken no law. Who knows, maybe it was because I published a cartoon depicting a man sitting at a desk, speaking on the phone: “I'm very sorry, but we of the FBI are powerless to act in a case of oral-genital intimacy unless it has in some way obstructed interstate commerce.”

When Life magazine ran a favorable profile of me, an FBI agent sent a poison-pen letter to the editor: “To classify Krassner as some sort of ‘social rebel’ is far too cute. He's a nut, a raving, unconfined nut.” But in 1969, the FBI's previous attempt at mere character assassination escalated to a more literal approach. This was not included in my own COINTELPRO (Counter-Intelligence Program) files but, rather, a separate FBI project calculated to cause rifts between the black and Jewish communities.

The FBI had produced a WANTED poster featuring a large swastika. In the four square spaces of the swastika were photos of Yippie (Youth International Party) founders Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and me, and SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) leader Mark Rudd. Underneath the swastika was this headline -- LAMPSHADES! LAMPSHADES! LAMPSHADES! -- and this message:
The only solution to Negro problems in America would be the elimination of the Jews. May we suggest the following order of elimination? (After all, we've been this way before.) *All Jews connected with the Establishment. *All Jews connected with Jews connected with the Establishment. *All Jews connected with those immediately above. *All Jews except those in the Movement. *All Jews in the Movement except those who dye their skins black. *All Jews. Look out, Abbie, Jerry, Paul and Mark!
(Shades of Wernher von Braun.)

It was approved by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's top two aides: “Authority is granted to prepare and distribute on an anonymous basis to selected individuals and organizations in the New Left the leaflet submitted. Assure that all necessary precautions are taken to protect the Bureau as the source of these leaflets. This leaflet suggests facetiously the elimination of these leaders.”

And, of course, if a black militant obtained that flyer and eliminated one of those “New Left leaders who are Jewish,” the FBI's bureaucratic ass would be covered: “We said it was a facetious suggestion, didn't we?”

On top of that, my name was on a list of 65 “radical” campus speakers, released by the House Internal Security Committee. The blacklist was published in The New York Times, and picked up by newspapers across the country. It might have been a coincidence, but my campus speaking engagements stopped abruptly.

When I wrote a piece for the Los Angeles Times, I titled it “I Was a Comedian for the FBI” because I had recognized a pair of FBI agents taking notes while I was performing at the Community Church in New York. (My FBI files later stated that I “purported to be humorous about the government.”)

The banner headline on the cover of the L.A. Times Sunday Calendar section blared out: Paul Krassner -- “I Was a Communist for the FBI!” In the San Francisco Chronicle, columnist Herb Caen wrote, “Fearing Krassner would sue, the Times recalled and destroyed some 300,000 copies at a cost of about $100,000. Krassner would have laughed, not sued.” Or maybe I would've sued and laughed my ass off.

Dad ate Gordon Cooper's cookie.

By 1963, George had risen to Chief Scientist, Astro-Electronics Division at the Signal Corps, and McGraw-Hill contacted him, asking if he would write a book. And indeed, he began working on Introduction to Space Communication, which became the world’s first book on that subject.

“The problem was the incredible pace of technology,” he says. “While I was writing Chapter 5, the nuggets of wisdom in Chapter 2 were becoming obsolete. The last chapter was called ‘Ad Astra’ (Latin for ‘to the stars’), where I tried to forecast future technology. When the book was published in 1964, most of my future projections were already obsolete. Darwin had no idea about the speed of evolution when applied to technology. By the way, more copies of the book were sold in Russia than in the United States.”

On George’s last active project, he worked with the original seven astronauts. He was program manager at Simmonds Precision, responsible for the design of the fuel gauging system on the command module where the astronauts were housed.

In 1972, Apollo 17, the 11th manned mission, was the sixth and final lunar landing in the Apollo program. “We were on an extremely tight schedule, and my team worked nearly 80 hours with virtually no sleep to finish on time. We received a rare commendation and bonus from NASA for superior performance ahead of schedule and below budget.”

Gordon Cooper -- one of those seven original astronauts -- had piloted the longest and final Mercury space flight in 1963, becoming the first American to sleep in orbit. “He gave me a rare souvenir,” George now reminds me, “a dehydrated oatmeal cookie the size of a large dice that he had on a space mission.

During a family dinner, I passed around the cookie for everyone to see. Dad was hard of hearing and didn’t hear the story, so he popped the space cookie into his mouth, and it was gone before I could get any words out of my mouth. It was pure grief when it happened, but funny now.”

This article was first published at AlterNet and was cross-posted to The Rag Blog by the author.

[Paul Krassner edited The Realist, America's premier satirical rag and was an original Yippie. Krassner’s latest book is an expanded and updated edition of his autobiography, Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counterculture, available at paulkrassner.com. Read more articles by Paul Krassner on The Rag Blog.]

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27 August 2013

Johnny Hazard : Militant Teachers Block Mexico City Airport

Teachers shut down airport in Mexico City. Photos by Jesús Villaseca for The Rag Blog
Protesting radical education 'reforms':
Militant teachers block Mexico City airport
The action was part of a series of escalating protests against the passage, without discussion, of an education 'reform' package in the Congress in the first day of the term of new president Enrique Peña Nieto.
By Johnny Hazard / The Rag Blog / August 28, 2013

MEXICO CITY -- Thousands of teachers (7,000, according to detractors, more according to organizers), members of a dissident caucus within the dominant Mexican teachers union, blocked access to the Mexico City airport for about 11 hours on Friday, July 23.

The action was part of a series of escalating protests against the passage, without discussion, of an education "reform" package in the Congress in the first day of the term of new president Enrique Peña Nieto, inaugurated in December amid charges of electoral fraud.

News reports have focused more on passengers' and airline employees' lamentations about inconvenience than about the teachers' demands. One newspaper carried the complaints of a flight attendant who hurt her feet because she had to walk a mile or two to the airport in high heels, as if her unfortunate choice of footwear were the teachers' fault.

Teachers were about to enter and shut down the airport when some of their leaders paused, negotiated with authorities, and decided to limit the action to a blockade of all roads that lead to the airport (a highway and several major thoroughfares). This, while disappointing some of the more avid participants, still had the effect of forcing the delay or cancellation of most flights.

Protesters at airport.
The week of intense protests started when the Congress was to begin a special session to pass legislation that would enable the reform measures, which include more standardized testing for students and teachers and a fast-track route to fire teachers in violation of collective bargaining agreements.

Media, business, and government leaders here tend to blame teachers for the low academic achievement of students who attend school only a few hours every day in schools with peeling paint, crumbling walls, no running water, soap, toilet paper, or nutritious food, and a teacher shortage (not for lack of applicants) that creates class sizes of 40 or 50 in the early grades. In rural areas it is common for teachers to appear only via closed circuit television.

Teachers surrounded the lower house of the Congress and forced the legislators to try to meet in the senate chambers. When that didn't work, legislators went to a business conference center in a distant suburb. The Congress has yet to vote these proposals which, if not for the protests, the dissidents believe would have been voted immediately and without discussion.

Manuel Pérez Rocha, education critic and retired university administrator, wrote recently in La Jornada newspaper about the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), the dissident caucus:
The CNTE is not perfect, but it is a reality that is separate from the vice-ridden Mexican political system: It is not a party, nor a sect, nor an economic interest group. It is a "movement" with two basic objectives: the democratization of the SNTE (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, the mainstream teachers' union) and education reform. The latter is not possible without the former.
Francisco Nicolás Bravo is general secretary of Section 9 of the SNTE. Located in Mexico City, Section 9 has always been a hotbed of the dissidents, so much so that the national leadership doesn't recognize the local's officials and stages mock elections to put more loyal leaders in office. Bravo, therefore, doesn't benefit from the reduction of class load that logically is granted to teachers' union leaders everywhere. His work in Section 9 and in the CNTE is in addition to his full-time school assignment.

National police gather.
He speaks of a campaign, complete with a movie that imitates Waiting for Superman ("De panzazo"), to convince the public that recalcitrant teachers are against being evaluated. "The question," he says, "is what kind of evaluation are we talking about? Because we're in favor of an evaluation that is holistic, not partial -- formative evaluations, not punitive evaluations."

He calls the government's project "labor and administrative reform, not education reform" and notes that it eliminates all possibility for a fired teacher to appeal his or her dismissal: "Even a delinquent -- we need only look at the case of Caro Quintero -- has the right to legal defense." (Caro Quintero is an accused drug trafficker convicted of the murder of a DEA agent who was unexpectedly freed from prison a few weeks ago.)

This week, teachers continue to occupy the Zócalo, the central square of Mexico City, and decide whether to participate in the negotiations agreed to during the blockade of the airport. Many rank and file members are opposed because they believe the government will not dialogue in good faith.

[A former Minneapolis teacher, Johnny Hazard now lives in Mexico City where he is a professor at the Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México and author of Con estos estudiantes: La vivencia en la UACM, a book about that alternative university.]

Also see Shirley Youxjeste's earlier Rag Blog reports from Guerrero on the Mexican teachers' protests.

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Mike Klonsky : Drive-By Teachers and the Great Charter School Scam

Drive-by teachers: The Wal-Mart model. Image from Gawker.
Drive-by teachers:
The great TFA/charter school scam
'Short careers by choice' translates into teachers being reduced to low-wage information-age delivery clerks while most 'learning' is done by students sitting in front of a computer screen.
By Mike Klonsky / The Rag Blog / August 27, 2013
Educator, activist, former SDS leader, and "Small Schools" advocate Mike Klonsky will be Thorne Dreyer's guest on Rag Radio, Friday, August 30, 2013, from 2-3 p.m. (CDT) on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin, and streamed live to the world. Rag Radio is rebroadcast on WFTE-FM in Mt. Cobb and Scranton, PA, Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. (EDT), and on Houston's KPFT HD-3 90.1 (Pacifica radio) Wednesdays at 1 p.m. (CDT). Podcasts of all shows are posted at the Internet Archive.
The August 27 New York Times carries a piece, "At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice," by Mokoto Rich. The notion that young, inexperienced short-timers, many with only five weeks of Teach for America (TFA) training, should form the backbone of the nation's teaching core, has become one of the lynchpins of corporate-style school reform.

The drive-by teacher strategy is being pushed heavily by the power philanthropists in the Gates, Broad, and Walton Foundations. It actually is based on the Wal-Mart model where about 70% of its poorly-paid workforce turns over within a year. This is what the reformers mean by 21st Century jobs.
At Success Academy Charter Schools, a chain run by Eva Moskowitz, a former New York City councilwoman, the average is about four years in the classroom. KIPP, one of the country’s best known and largest charter operators, with 141 schools in 20 states, also keeps teachers in classrooms for an average of about four years.
"Short careers by choice" translates into teachers being reduced to low-wage information-age delivery clerks while most "learning" is done by students sitting in front of a computer screen. The benefits to the charter operators include the elimination of pensions, tenure, salary increases, and union protection. This means more money going into the pockets of the charter operators. Moskowitz for example, pulls down about $400,000/year.

Rich says the notion of a foreshortened teaching career was largely introduced by Teach for America, which places high-achieving college graduates into low-income schools for two years. Today, Teach for America places about a third of its recruits in charter schools.
"Strong schools can withstand the turnover of their teachers,” said Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America. “The strongest schools develop their teachers tremendously so they become great in the classroom even in their first and second years.”
But studies have shown that on average, teacher turnover diminishes student achievement, writes Rich. Advocates who argue that teaching should become more like medicine or law say that while programs like Teach for America fill a need in the short term, educational leaders should be focused on improving training and working environments so that teachers will invest in long careers.

Reformers claim that this is all a generational thing where today's young teachers are "restless" and don't like to stay in one job too long. One young teacher, "who is already thinking beyond the classroom," is quoted, saying, “I feel like our generation is always moving onto the next thing, and always moving onto something bigger and better.”

I wonder, especially, with a shrinking job market and devastated middle class, what a real teacher would feel is "bigger and better" than teaching children?

This article was also posted by the author to Schooling in the Ownership Society.

[Mike Klonsky is a long-time education activist who teaches in the College of Education at DePaul University and is director of the Small Schools Workshop. He has spoken and written extensively on education issues and is active in the struggles in Chicago to save and transform public schools. A veteran of the civil rights and anti-war movements, Klonsky is a former National Secretary of SDS. He blogs at his SmallTalk Blog and you can follow him on twitter here.]

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INTERVIEW / Jonah Raskin : The Quest of Cannabis King Jorge Cervantes

Jorge Cervantes with some of his queenly Cannabis plants. Photos special to The Rag Blog.
An Interview with Jorge Cervantes:
The king of marijuana cultivators and
his quest for the 'Queens of Cannabis'
Marijuana will keep its underground character for a while, but it will eventually become legal. The wind is blowing in that direction. Politicians like to be on the winning side and cannabis is slowly winning.
By Jonah Raskin / The Rag Blog / August 27, 2013

Call him the counterculture godfather of cannabis cultivation. He’s the go-to guy who can tell you -- in nearly every media, new and old -- when to plant a crop, when to harvest it and what to do in-between. His YouTube channel -- has had nearly 5 million hits since it started in 2010.

Or, better yet, just call him Mr. God. He’s the author of the best-selling bible on both indoor and outdoor marijuana cultivation first published in 1983, and with hundreds of thousands of copies in print. Unlike God, who rested on the seventh day, Jorge Cervantes hardly takes a day off. Over the last five years he’s worked -- with time out for a joint or two -- on a new book that offers nearly all the cannabis information you could want. Out January 2014, it’s entitled Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower's Bible and it’s a labor of love.

An editor, publisher, photographer, researcher, and the writer of all his books, Jorge Cervantes, 59 years old, was born George Van Patten in Ontario, Oregon, near the Idaho border. (His alias is hardy a secret. Jorge is George in Spanish. Miguel Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, is his favorite writer.)

George smoked his first joint -- rolled from “dirt weed,” he says -- in 1968, when Mexican pounds sold for $100. Not long afterwards, George morphed into Jorge. Ever since then, his journey has taken him to California and to Spain, where he lives much of the year, writing, making videos, and appearing at cannabis fairs where he’s become an iconic figure, nearly as recognizable as Don Quixote himself.

Jorge Cervantes wasn’t the first cannabis aficionado to write how-to-books for cultivators. Mel Frank and Ed Rosenthal preceded him. Their Marijuana Grower’s Guide, first published in 1980, became perhaps the most popular how-to-grow-sinsemilla book during the Reagan era War on Drugs.

Cervantes quickly caught up -- and along the way never got arrested. No one in the global cannabis world is more visible than he, and yet no icon in the cannabis world is more invisible. Like Frank and Rosenthal, he’s been a long-time High Times columnist and as devoted a HT reader as anyone around.

“He’s tenacious,” HT editor Chris Simunek says. “He’s a real horticulturist who loves all kinds of plants.” Cervantes began the interview by speaking in Spanish, then changed to English. He’s fluent in both languages.

Jonah Raskin: What’s it like there now in Barcelona?

Jorge Cervantes: It’s raining buckets of water and as they say, rain makes the flowers grow.

In Spain is there a shift from hash to cannabis?

It took a long time before cannabis became popular in Spain. We‘re across the Straits of Gibraltar and Moroccan hash is relatively inexpensive and abundant here. Domestically grown cannabis has come down in price; it’s nearly the same as hash. Now, in Spain, people are cultivating cannabis for less money than it takes to buy hash. There’s also so much cannabis here that people are making hash and concentrated oils.

In my part of California, growers are "sitting on” their medicine. What’s the supply/demand story in your world?

Unemployment in Spain is 27%. The number is double for those under 30. Growing cannabis is a way to survive. Few Spanish growers have the luxury of holding out for a higher price. Moreover, the 27 countries in the European Union provide a large market. The price of cannabis will remain less volatile than in the U.S where growers produce much more than can be consumed and where oversupply drives down the price. In Europe, the cost of production and transportation have remained surprisingly stable.

In what ways have the Spanish learned from U.S. farmers?

Spanish growers have taken information from the best cannabis cultivators in the world. They’re adapting it to their conditions. Then, too, over the last 20 years, growers from all over Europe, especially the Netherlands, have moved to Spain. American and Canadian cannabis companies have a major presence through huge trade fairs (www.cannabis.com, www.growmed.es, www.expocannabis.com, and www.expogrow.net). They’re the biggest in the world.

Some guerrilla growers in the States go into forests and damage the environment. What’s the Spanish awareness about the environment?

Until Spain entered the EU, their track record on environmental responsibility was low. Today attitude has improved. Guerilla growers tend to be messy, but most of them remove trash because it attracts unwanted attention.

Are growers growing organically? Do companies make soil mixes and "teas"?

Organic gardening is around but it is not as developed as it is in the U.S or Germany. There’s a basic knowledge about composting and growers use compost teas. But, I have not seen activated aerated compost teas (AACT) in use. The U.S. is more innovative in this respect, but the technology is moving to Spain. I recently gave two lectures at GrowMed in Valencia where I talked about AACT. Growers want to try it.

Has greed crept into the cannabis culture in Spain? Have Spaniards becoming wealthy, as has happened in California?

When money is involved there’s bound to be greed. But greed and getting rich don’t drive the bulk of Spanish growers. Most start off wanting to grow their own cannabis so that they don’t have to buy it. Some overproduce. When they do, they give to friends or make hash for personal consumption.

What about cannabis clubs?

They started to surface a few years ago. Their location is not advertised and they’re behind secure doors. Members are charged a modest annual fee. When they belong they can purchase small amounts of cannabis. But the legality of the clubs is up in the air and so the situation is unstable.

Spain has come a long way since the days of the dictator, Franco, hasn’t it?

The funny thing about Spain under Franco is that hashish was a common commodity. Many soldiers and fishermen, too, smoked it. Smuggling hash into the country was commonplace. I smoked it in Spain when Franco was still alive. In fact, the military controlled many of the hash smuggling operations.

In the 1980s, I remember people smoking joints in Spanish resort towns. During the 1990s, when there were squats around Barcelona, everybody smoked Moroccan hash. Today, the biggest cannabis fairs in the world are in Spain. Spannabis in Barcelona is by far the biggest of all. Spain is a natural for cannabis: sunny, relatively inexpensive and tolerated when cultivation is on a small scale.

So, the police are not a heavy presence?

In Spain there is a big respect for personal space and individual sovereignty. The police don’t have the same kinds of power in Spain they do in the States. They’re not real heavy or overbearing. They would not, for example, stop someone and search a backpack.

Why do you think the DEA is so against cannabis?

I think they want to keep their jobs and get paid. They also really believe it’s bad for you.

Are doctors recommending or prescribing cannabis?

Spain legalized medical cannabis in 2006. The province of Cataluña -- where I live -- also legalized distribution through pharmacies, but the current financial crisis has prevented the creation of a distribution network.

At the recent GrowMed Fair in Valencia, several doctors talked about the medical benefits. They prescribe it for many ailments. Several medical studies have been completed in Spain, including Dr. Guzman’s 2000 “Pot Shrinks Tumors,” and there’s an organization, Fundación CANNA, that studies the medical properties of cannabis.

Are there regions where there’s more of it grown? Are there urban gardens?

More cannabis is grown in the Basque country, Cataluña, and on the Mediterranean Coast than in the interior. But other regions are growing their fair share of cannabis, so much so that cannabis theft is a problem. Outdoor cultivation is bigger than indoor cultivation. Greenhouse cultivation is also popular. In Galicia, where it rains more in than in Seattle, growing outdoors is difficult. Growing in a greenhouse works well there and hydroponic stores have opened.

The magazine, Soft Secrets, published in seven languages, is the biggest in Europe and is widely read by indoor and outdoor growers. All editions, except for the Spanish one, show a country flag on top of the front page. Spain is a group of distinct zones. We speak five different languages: Gallego, Basco, Catalan, Asturiano, and Castellano (Spanish) and every region differs geographically, climatically, and culturally.

If you walk around Barcelona in the summertime, cannabis growing on balconies is a relatively common sight. Indoor urban gardens are also commonplace. They’re generally small because of the limited space and electrical service.

In California, there are neighborhoods where you smell cannabis at harvest because there’s so much of it. Is it similar in Spain?

Yes! It’s a problem! But a bigger one is rogue male pollen in the air. Many people grow from seed here and male plants are common. I have attended neighborhood meetings where residents bring photos of male plants and ask neighbors to pull them. Fragrance is a problem only with large stands of cannabis outdoors, which is not common.

What is the legal status of cannabis in Spain?

It’s legal to grow for personal consumption and it isn’t a crime to consume cannabis. But the legal situation is still unclear because the law is interpreted differently and enforced inconsistently. Of course, it’s illegal to sell cannabis, but the clubs are all doing it. In the Basque and Cataluña, laws appear to be more lax.

Are there “stoners" In Spain?

In Spain there never was a “stoner hippie” stereotype. But in Spanish there’s lots of cannabis slang. A stoner might be a “fumeta” in Spain or a “voludo” in Latin America, but those words are more common in South America. Spanish is a very rich language that lends itself to innovation. However, unlike English, cannabis terms evolve around describing an object or the effect of a substance.

Spain has a long history of hashish smoking so there’s a rich vocabulary to describe hash. “China’ is the word for a small piece of hash, “pedazo” the word for a larger piece of hash, and “taco” for a still larger piece of hash.

I like the notion that we ought not to separate and distinguish between the "recreational" user and the "medicinal" user. What thought do you have about that?

I believe that recreational users can be classified as medicinal users. Consuming cannabis lowers pressure in the body. It’s relaxing and therapeutic.

How is the Spanish cannabis world different than Holland?

For one thing, we have five big cannabis fairs and the Dutch have just one, the Cannabis Cup. We have sunshine and they have rain. The Dutch coffee shop industry has ground to a halt. We have more than 200 cannabis clubs and the number is growing rapidly.

In Holland, as in Spain, a right-wing government is in power. Here, unemployment is high and the government is scrambling to solve social problems. Here, people are thrown out of their homes if they can’t pay the mortgage, and that’s a bigger issue than cannabis.

Where I live in California there are at least three generations of cannabis smokers -- people from 15 to 75. What is the generational picture in Spain?

I have a couple of friends that grew up growing cannabis. They have baby photos in which they’re watering cannabis. Industrial hemp. Then in the late 1970s after Franco, the country had many rural areas that were abandoned. Some of these areas were planted with cannabis.

It depends upon age, one’s profession and geographic location here. Many young people consume cannabis, but it also depends on geography, profession, and actual age. It is common in the society as is reflected in the program Malviviendo. The YouTube series is hilarious! It reflects life today in Seville, Andalucía.

Is smoking the preferred method, or edibles, or tinctures?

Virtually everybody mixes tobacco with cannabis. The habit comes from mixing hashish with tobacco. Edibles and tinctures are few and far between, but concentrates are becoming popular

I think of California’s Proposition 215, the Compassionate Care Act of 1996 as a real game-changer. Do you?

Prop. 215 was huge, a breakthrough, and the momentum it unleashed is still building. It hasn’t come to a head yet. Before 215, people were afraid. They’re less afraid now, though they’re still anxious about paying fines, going to jail, losing their rights, having their name in the paper and being shamed. Those are all big penalties for someone who hasn’t stolen anything or hurt anyone. For the most part, it’s victimless crime. Throughout history, fear is the biggest controller. It works.

What do you hope will happen vis-a-vis cannabis in the next year or two?

I hope that the UN repeals the Single Convention Treaty of 1961 when they meet in Vienna, Austria, in March of 2014. The treaty, signed by member nations, classifies cannabis as having absolutely no medicinal use. The treaty lumps cannabis into the same group as heroin. Next, I think we’ll see more and more states in the U.S. adopt both medical and recreational cannabis laws.

A tipping point will be reached with about 30-35 states -- a situation similar to the repeal of prohibition. Scientific research on cannabis will also become popular. Wall Street will invest in the medicinal cannabis industry. Seed sales and information dissemination will continue on the Internet worldwide. Cannabis gardeners around the world will continue to plant more cannabis. It is virtually impossible to stop the life cycle of this ancient plant.

Marijuana will keep its underground character for a while, but it will eventually become legal. The wind is blowing in that direction. Politicians like to be on the winning side and cannabis is slowly winning.

You’ve had a long, close connection to HT haven’t you?

High Times is the first and longest-lived cannabis/drug magazine in the world. It’s had an amazing run; it has lived through drug czars, crackdowns, wild times and very serious times. High Times goes on and on! The High Times website is packed with the latest, vital information. The future is with the Internet. Of course, everyone at High Times knows this.

What’s in your future?

I´m finishing a new cultivation book. It’s been five years in the making and it’s twice as big as Marijuana Horticulture – with both text and images. It’ll be released January 1, 2014. My sites -- www.youtube.com/user/jorgecervantesmj and www.marijuanagrowing.com -- are growing very quickly and I continue to write for more than 20 magazines in 10 languages.

Hadn't you said everything that you wanted to say already?

No, not even close. There was so much left out of the “Bible” and so much has changed over the last seven years. For example, we now have much more information about ultraviolet light and its effect on plants. LED (Light Emitting Diode) lamps, HEP (High-Efficiency Plasma) lamps and Induction lamps were not covered in the bible.

What's new and different to say? 

The problem with the new book is there’s not enough paper to include all the new information. I had to cut many subjects down and refer readers to our website forum for more information. Cannabis is a never-ending subject and always changing. It’s universal and certainly one of the most fascinating plants on the face of the earth. Go to Google earth and you can see marijuana everywhere. It’s here to stay.

[Jonah Raskin, a frequent contributor to The Rag Blog, is a professor emeritus at Sonoma State University and the author of Marijuanaland: Dispatches from an American War. Read more articles by Jonah Raskin on The Rag Blog.]

The Rag Blog

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26 August 2013

Ron Jacobs : Autumn in America, 1973

Lines at New York City gas station, 1973. AP photo. Image from SeattlePI.
Fall 1973:
Autumn in America
Tempers were heating up. The nightly news on WABC usually featured at least one story per broadcast of a fight or sometimes a shooting at a gas station.
By Ron Jacobs / The Rag Blog / August 26, 2013

Autumn 1973 was quite the autumn. Personally, I had just moved to New York City to attend college at the Bronx campus of Fordham University. I vaguely recall my first full weekend in New York, checking out the Village and attending a showing of National Lampoon’s production Lemmings at the Village Gate.

Some of the cast members would be household names by 1980: John Belushi, Christopher Guest, and Chevy Chase. I smoked a joint during the show and afterwards took the D Train back to the Grand Concourse. The next weekend I met an older woman who invited a fellow dorm resident and me back to her apartment. We drank whiskey and danced.

Perhaps a week after we danced, the Chilean military overthrew the elected government of Salvador Allende and his Popular Unity party. This is exactly what the international Left had feared. Articles regarding the subversion of the socialist Allende government by U.S. corporations IT&T and Anaconda Copper had been running in the Left and underground press for a while. Of course, these corporations were generously assisted by the CIA and the Nixon White House.

I followed the news with an expectant horror. After the generals attacked the palace, I knew it was over. There was a protest outside the UN building in Manhattan where Angela Davis spoke. The numbers attending were pitifully small. Elsewhere in the world tens of thousands protested. Meanwhile, the junta in Chile continued to round up leftists, journalists and others opposed to the coup.

Copper futures rose sharply. On September 25, the great poet Pablo Neruda was buried by his friends after the authorities refused a state funeral and made it illegal for mourners to attend. Thousands did anyhow. His last poem had been smuggled out of the country to Argentina where it was published. The poem lashed out at the authors of the coup in Washington and Santiago, calling the latter “prostitute merchants/of bread and American air,/deadly seneschals,/ a herd of whorish bosses/with no other law but torture/and the lashing hunger of the people.”

Meanwhile, in the football stadium in Santiago, soldiers and other authorities tortured thousands and killed hundreds, including the popular folksinger Victor Jara. Other detainees were held on an island off the Chilean coast. On September 28, the Weather Underground bombed the ITT offices in Manhattan in protest of the coup. Six days earlier, coup architect Henry Kissinger was appointed Secretary of State.

It seemed like only days later that Egypt, Syria, and a couple other Arab armies attacked Israeli military positions. Within days the television was saying that the Soviet Union was threatening to join the fray while Washington was sending an emergency shipment of arms to Israel. Like most wars, this wasn’t exactly a surprise, but the fact that Israel had not pre-empted the attack was at least unusual.

To add to the sense of crisis, the oil-producing nations instituted an oil embargo against the United States and other nations providing arms to Israel (European nations quickly ended their shipments). Even in Manhattan, there were long lines of cars with their drivers waiting to buy their ration of gasoline at every service station.

Like always, the energy industry would profit no matter what happened. So would Henry Kissinger, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with northern Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho. Mr. Tho refused the prize because there was no peace in Vietnam.

In the United States, the situation known as Watergate continued to expand in the way it affected the White House, Congress, and the relationship of the U.S. citizenry to the government. To stave off his critics, Nixon had appointed a special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, whose job was to investigate the possibility that crimes had been committed (even though most of the U.S. already knew the answer) and what those crimes might be.

On September 11, 1973, a brutal military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet swept Chile's socialist President Salvador Allende from power. Photo by AFP. Image from BBC.
On October 10, Nixon ordered his Attorney General to fire the special prosecutor. Elliott Richardson, the Attorney General, resigned instead, as did his assistant. However, the man who was third in line at the Justice Department, Robert Bork, carried out Nixon’s order and fired Cox. The shit had barely begun to hit the fan as far as Watergate was concerned.

Thanks to my perusal of several leftist and underground newspapers, I was somewhat aware that students opposed to the military dictatorship of General Papodopoulos in Greece had taken over Athens Polytechnic University. This had followed a series of protests and the conviction of 17 protesters for resistance to authority. The convictions provoked more, larger protests.

After a couple weeks, the army sent tanks through the gates of the university and police chased students off the campus. Around 400 young people died that night and the next day, killed by the authorities. Students continued the protest, while the dictators outlawed numerous student organizations and arrested dozens. Papadopoulos made some efforts to appeal to the students and others opposed to the dictatorship. In response, he was overthrown by another set of military officers opposed to what they saw as a liberalization of Greek society and the protests continued.

A friend from Teaneck, New Jersey, skipped class for a week while he hired himself out to commuters needing gas but not having the time to sit in the growing lines. The price at the pump was slowly creeping up to 59 cents a gallon and rumors of rationing were growing.

Tempers were heating up, too. The nightly news on WABC usually featured at least one story per broadcast of a fight or sometimes a shooting at a gas station. Usually, the incident was provoked because someone jumped in line. Back then, Geraldo Rivera was a local reporter and still had somewhat liberal political leanings. So did a lot of people who would eventually swallow the poison pill offered by Ronald Reagan less than a decade later.

There was an Attica Brigade chapter on my campus. This was a leftist anti-imperialist youth organization connected to the Revolutionary Union, which was one of many organizations arising from the 1969-1970 dissolution of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They were primary sponsors of the first Impeach Nixon rally in New York that fall and inspired a fair number of protesters to attempt a takeover of the Justice Department at another impeachment protest in DC the following April.

Their battle cry was “Throw the Bum Out!” We all know that the bum was eventually thrown out, only to be succeeded by a procession of more bums, some worse but none much better. This is what so-called democracy looks like, although objectively it doesn’t seem much different from the aforementioned colonels’ junta in Greece or the revolving dictatorship in Egypt. We fool ourselves when we pretend that it is.

[Rag Blog contributor Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. He recently released a collection of essays and musings titled Tripping Through the American Night. His novels, The Co-Conspirator's Tale, and Short Order Frame Up will be republished by Fomite in April 2013 along with the third novel in the series All the Sinners Saints. Ron Jacobs can be reached at ronj1955@gmail.com. Find more articles by Ron Jacobs on The Rag Blog.]

The Rag Blog

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RAG RADIO / Thorne Dreyer : Sociologist Todd Gitlin on the State of American Mass Media

Todd Gitlin. Image from Pew Forum.
Rag Radio podcast:
Sociologist and author Todd Gitlin on 
the state of mass media in America
We discuss the so-called 'Golden Age' of journalism highlighted by the distinguished coverage of the Watergate scandal, as well as American journalism's more recent major failures.
By Rag Radio / The Rag Blog / August 26, 2013

Noted sociologist, author, and mass media scholar Todd Gitlin joined host Thorne Dreyer, Friday, August 16, 2013, for the second of two Rag Radio interviews.

Our conversation with Gitlin centered on the history of American mass media, including the so-called "Golden Age" of journalism highlighted by the distinguished coverage of the Watergate scandal, as well as American journalism's more recent major failures in its handling of Bush's War in Iraq, the financial crisis, and the continuing issue of climate change.

We also discussed the recent purchase of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos, and the projected effect of the Internet on journalism's future.

Rag Radio is a syndicated radio program produced at the studios of KOOP 91.7-FM, a cooperatively-run all-volunteer community radio station in Austin, Texas.

Listen to or download our August 16 interview with Todd Gitlin here:

Todd Gitlin played a pioneering role in the '60s student and anti-war movements, and in our first interview, originally broadcast on July 19, 2013, we focused on the lasting legacy of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Port Huron Statement -- including Gitlin's critique of the late '60s New Left -- and on the Occupy Wall Street movement.

You can listen to the earlier show here:

Todd Gitlin is the author of 15 books, including the recent Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street. He is a professor of journalism and sociology and chair of the Ph. D. program in Communications at Columbia University.

Gitlin is on the editorial board of Dissent and is a contributing writer to Mother Jones. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and countless other mainstream and alternative publications.

In 1963-64, Todd Gitlin was the third president of Students for a Democratic Society, and he helped organize the first national demonstration against the Vietnam War and the first American demonstrations against corporate aid to the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Gitlin was an editor and writer for the underground newspaper, the San Francisco Express Times, and wrote widely for the underground press in the late '60s. In 2003-06, he was a member of the Board of Directors of Greenpeace USA.

Gitlin's other books, several of which have won major awards, include the novel, Undying; The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election (with Liel Leibovitz); The Bulldozer and the Big Tent: Blind Republicans, Lame Democrats, and the Recovery of American Ideals; and The Intellectuals and the Flag.

He is also the author of Letters to a Young Activist; Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives; The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked by Culture Wars; The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage; Inside Prime Time; and The Whole World Is Watching.

Rag Radio is hosted and produced by Rag Blog editor and long-time alternative journalist Thorne Dreyer, a pioneer of the Sixties underground press movement. Tracey Schulz is the show's engineer and co-producer.

Rag Radio has aired since September 2009 on KOOP 91.7-FM, an all-volunteer cooperatively-run community radio station in Austin, Texas. Rag Radio is broadcast live every Friday from 2-3 p.m. (CDT) on KOOP and is rebroadcast on Sundays at 10 a.m. (EDT) on WFTE, 90.3-FM in Mt. Cobb, PA, and 105.7-FM in Scranton, PA. Rag Radio is now also aired and streamed on KPFT-HD3 90.1 -- Pacifica radio in Houston -- on Wednesdays at 1 p.m.

The show is streamed live on the web and, after broadcast, all Rag Radio shows are posted as podcasts at the Internet Archive.

Rag Radio is produced in association with The Rag Blog, a progressive Internet newsmagazine, and the New Journalism Project, a Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

Rag Radio can be contacted at ragradio@koop.org.

Coming up on Rag Radio:
Friday, August 30, 2013:
Educator and "Small Schools" advocate Michael Klonsky, former National Secretary of SDS.
Friday, September 6, 2013: Award-winning novelist and screenwriter Stephen Harrigan, author of The Gates of the Alamo and Challenger Park.

The Rag Blog

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24 August 2013

Lamar W. Hankins : The March for Jobs and Freedom After 50 Years

50 years later:
The March for Jobs and Freedom
While King's 'I Have a Dream' speech is clearly worthy of distinction, our memories of the event have shunted aside one of the primary purposes of the March: to push for a $2-per-hour minimum wage.
By Lamar W. Hankins / The Rag Blog / August 24, 2013

[A series of events marking the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedem is being held Saturday, August 24-Wednesday, August 28, in Washington, D.C., highlighted by a Realize the Dream March and Rally on Saturday, 8 a.m-4 p.m., and a March for Jobs and Justice on Wednesday, 11:30-4 p.m., led by veterans of the '63 event and featuring speeches by President Obama and former presidents Clinton and Carter.]

August 28, 2013, will mark the 50th anniversary of what is now called “The March on Washington,” but was officially named “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” I was unable to go to Washington, D.C., 50 years ago, but I remember where I was, and the March was certainly on my mind. A friend and I were on a trip through Houston. We stopped at a Foley’s store and spent some time in the appliance section watching the March on the televisions displayed.

Another friend I had known in high school was working for a federal agency in D.C. at the time. He and his fellow employees were sent home for the day (a Wednesday) because the government feared violence, clear evidence of the state of race relations at the time. My traveling companion and I were pleased to see that the March was as peaceful as its organizers had hoped it would be.

There were stirring speeches by John Lewis, now a Congressman from Georgia, as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. Others well-known in public life were in attendance or sent their remarks to be read by others. James Farmer, head of the Congress of Racial Equality, was in jail in Louisiana. His remarks were read by Floyd McKissick. Author James Baldwin’s remarks were read by Sidney Poitier.

Others, including labor leader Walter Reuther and actor and singer Josephine Baker gave brief speeches. A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin played key roles in organizing the March, which was supported by the major civil rights organizations active at that time, as well as the AFL-CIO, and other union and religious groups.

Many musicians and singers performed, including Marian Anderson; Joan Baez; Bob Dylan; Mahalia Jackson; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Odetta; and Josh White. Actors present included Charlton Heston, Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando, Diahann Carroll, Ossie Davis, Sammy Davis, Jr., Lena Horne, and Paul Newman, along with comedian Dick Gregory.

March on Washington, 2013.
What we hear most about the March was the famous “I Have a Dream” speech of Dr. King. While the speech is clearly worthy of distinction, our memories of the event have shunted aside one of the primary purposes of the March: to push for a $2-per-hour minimum wage.

Had that goal been achieved and a $2 minimum wage been passed and indexed for inflation, the minimum wage today would be $15.26 based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator.

It happens that $15.26 is less than what a living wage in San Marcos-Austin-Georgetown would be today for one adult supporting one child. That figure, according to the Living Wage Calculator maintained by MIT, is $19.56 for those living in San Marcos/Hays County, Austin/Travis County, and Georgetown/Williamson County. The Living Wage Calculator takes into account the following costs:
  • It uses the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2010 low-cost food plan, with regional adjustments. A family of four with two adults and two young children is expected to spend about $650 on food, less than $22 a day for the four.
  • Child care costs are determined from a report, “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care - 2011 Update” published by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies.
  • The cost of health care is derived from the “2010 Consumer Expenditure Survey” prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the “2010 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey” published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
  • Housing costs are from “2010 Fair Market Rents” produced by U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • Transportation expenses are from the “2010 Consumer Expenditure Survey.”
  • Other necessities are derived using regional adjustment factors from the “2010 Consumer Expenditure Survey.”
  • Tax figures include estimated Federal payroll taxes as well as Federal and State income taxes for the 2011 tax year.
These Living Wage calculations show that we are nowhere close to what an inflation-adjusted minimum wage would be had it been $2 an hour in 1963. In fact, we are at less than half that amount with a current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. And President Obama earlier this year, in the face of strong opposition, requested an increase in the federal minimum wage to a pitifully inadequate $9 per hour.

These facts about what income can provide a minimal standard of living in the U.S. demonstrates that we have an economic system unwilling to provide Americans with a living wage when left to its own devices. But, as we are learning from current efforts by workers at fast food restaurants to be paid adequate wages, the companies that own these businesses are raking in plenty of profits from the labor of workers.

These companies could both thrive and allow their workers to live decently. An undergraduate student at the University of Kansas who researched McDonald’s company-owned stores found that the fast food giant could double all employee salaries by increasing the cost of a Big Mac by 68 cents, without giving up one penny of profits. And Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, believes that McDonald’s is so large, vast, and lucrative that the company could easily manage a major wage increase for its employees without damaging its profits.

Recently, fast food workers in New York City, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Flint, Michigan, have been demanding that they be paid something closer to a living wage and that they be allowed to have the chance to form a union without intimidation by management. They ask to be paid $15 an hour, just under what the 1963 $2 per hour minimum wage demand would be if adjusted for inflation.

As a result of these recent efforts to obtain fairer pay, work stoppages and walkouts have occurred in fast food restaurants in several cities. Their efforts are being aided by the Service Employees International Union and could be advanced further if those of us who consume fast food support them.

If consumers respond to the moral issues related to fast food businesses by refusing to patronize fast food restaurants that won’t pay a living wage to their employees, this movement could finally realize a part of King’s dream and a primary objective of the 1963 March on Washington.

Nothing could be a more fitting memorial to the man who was killed while supporting sanitation workers in Memphis, who sought better wages, than for minimum wage workers throughout the country finally to be paid a fair wage that allows them and their families to live adequately.

[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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David McReynolds : Reflections on the '63 March on Washington

A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin on the cover of Life Magazine, September 6, 1963.
A socialist remembers:
Reflections on the March on Washington
The climate in Washington, D.C. that day was timorous. White Washingtonians feared some riotous upheaval.
By David McReynolds / The Rag Blog / August 24, 2013

August 28th will be the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedem.

Increasingly I realize, at 83, that there just aren't that many of us around who were there that August day 50 years ago. I knew Bayard Rustin -- chief organizer of the March -- (and will return to his name in a moment) and like many of us in the War Resisters League, the Socialist Party, and virtually all left organizations, was involved in the organizing for the event.

The decision to hold the March in mid-week rather than on a Saturday was very deliberate: Saturday marches are fairly easy to build, since few have to take time off from work, but a demonstration in the middle of the week means real commitment.

The climate in Washington, D.C. that day was timorous. White Washingtonians feared some riotous upheaval. It was then (and still is) easy for tourists to be unaware that the bulk of the population of the city is black. And what, the white minority wondered, would happen with thousands of angry Blacks coming to town.

Many businesses closed down. President Kennedy had made serious efforts to persuade Dr. King and the March organizers to call off the event. For a weekday the city was remarkably quiet. One must keep in mind the political climate of 1963.

The Civil Rights Revolution (it was nothing less than that) had only begun in December of 1955 in Montgomery. Ahead lay the bloodshed, the murders, the police violence, all of which had brought the leadership of the Black community into agreement on the need for some powerful symbolic action -- and that action was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

It's important, first, to look at the slogan: Jobs and Freedom. The link was very deliberate -- for what was freedom without a job?

I remember three things about the day.

One was the sound of thousands of souls, black and white, marching together toward the Lincoln Memorial, with the chant "Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!" It was truly black and white together. "White Washington" may have been fearful, but the trade unions were out in full force, and church and social justice groups had turned out their congregations and members.

The second thing I remember -- and I suspect few saw it -- was the failed effort of the American Nazi, George Lincoln Rockwell, to stir up a riot. I give him credit for raw courage: he stood up on a park bench and began an oration against "Kikes, Niggers and Communists." What happened next was a testament to careful planning on the part of the March organizers. Several dozen young Black youth formed a large circle around Rockwell and his followers, and, with their backs facing Rockwell, linked arms to make it clear that no one would be able to get through to the man and give him the violence he had sought to provoke.

The third thing I remember was King's speech. Sometimes at these marches and demonstrations -- and over the years I've attended many -- I simply made sure I got to the rallying point so the "count" would be maximized, and then I drifted away for a drink (those being the days when I drank) or a hamburger. There are so many speeches, and they are so boring. But this time I stayed -- and remember as if it were yesterday the cadence of King as he spoke, "I have a dream".

There were, I was aware, compromises; John Lewis, the courageous young Black civil rights leader, had had to to modify his comments a bit. (I suspect Lewis, looking back today, might realize the compromises in his language were much less important than the March itself.)

For Bayard Rustin the March was a great triumph. Life magazine carried a cover with A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin standing together on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

I've been invited to take part in a forum at a "Celebration of the Life of Quaker Bayard Rustin " on Sunday, August 25, at the Friends Meeting in Washington. They will show the film, Brother Outsider, followed by a panel with Mandy Carter, Bennett Singer, and myself.

I'm reluctant to take part, since, while Bayard was a deeply important part of my life -- he and A.J. Muste were the two mentors for my politics. I knew him well, and had under him at Liberation magazine and the War Resisters League. But I feel that the political path Bayard took after the March was a disturbing shift to the right, and that this must be discussed if we are to confront his life honestly.

As I said, I'm reluctant to do this since Bayard was one of the most courageous men I ever knew.

In connection with the events this month there is a new book out by Paul Le Blanc and Michael D. Yates, A Freedom Budget for All Americans. Published by Monthly Review Press, the book is due for print in September. (I have the uncorrected proof, which Paul Le Blanc was kind enough to send me.) Bayard had been very concerned that the March would not lead to the next steps, which he felt should be an effort to put forward a political and economic program to give the civil rights movement a "floor," a program for full employment.

The original Freedom Budget foundered because the authors sought to sell it to the publilc without realizing the need to take on the military budget. From Bayard's point of view, such an approach would "politicize" the budget and sink it, but in the real world of politics, which somehow Bayard failed to grasp, it was impossible to advance such a radical proposal at a time when the Vietnam War was so soon to absorb the attention of the nation.

It is good to have two socialist thinkers sketch out not only the history of the original Freedom Budget, but also give us an updated look at what such a budget might look like today.

[David McReynolds was the Socialist Party's candidate for President in 1980 and 2000, and for 39 years on the staff of the War Resisters League. He also served a term as Chair of the War Resisters International. He is retired and lives with his two cats on New York's lower east side. He can be reached at davidmcreynolds7@gmail.com. Read more articles by David McReynolds on The Rag Blog.

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