Tomgram: Andy Kroll, Will Public Education Be Militarized?

January 19, 2009

January 18, 2009
Tomgram: Andy Kroll, Will Public Education Be Militarized?

In two days, we enter a new Bush and Cheney-less era, though we’ll be living with their nightmarish legacy forever and a day. In response to change, all of us have to adapt — TomDispatch included. This site certainly won’t lose its focus on the world out there, the ongoing militarization of our country, the way we continue to garrison the planet, or the new military and civilian team of custodians and bureaucrats of empire just now being put in place to manage our ongoing wars. This coming week and next, for instance, the site will turn to the nightmare in Gaza, well covered indeed by the political blogosphere, while considering what, in the new Obama era, the future may hold in the Middle East; but TomDispatch will also (as today) aim to expand its domestic focus, while keeping a steady eye upon the economic devastation now roiling our country and planet. (By the way, on some Saturdays, including the next one, I’ll be having a surprise or two for TD readers, so keep your eyes peeled.)

Just as the Bush administration is handing off a host of foreign policy debacles to Barack Obama (including seemingly endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), a woefully mismanaged economic bailout, and possibly a second Great Depression, so the outgoing president is leaving the new administration with a public education mess. There’s the much maligned and underfunded No Child Left Behind Act which is up for reauthorization this year. The cost of going to college is also rapidly spiraling out of control, as evidenced in a recent report in which every state except California received an “F” for college affordability. And at the same time, student loans are drying up as lenders, fearing economic disaster, scale back their programs.

With this in mind, the stakes are high for the incoming Secretary of Education and Obama pal Arne Duncan, who was received with striking warmth during his Senate confirmation hearings this week. As Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) put it, “Mr. Duncan, there is no question that schools across America can benefit from the same kind of fresh thinking that you brought to Chicago public schools. As you know very well, perhaps our greatest educational challenge is to improve the performance of urban and rural public schools serving high-poverty communities.”

Today, Andy Kroll skips the “applause” and the “warm reception.” Instead, he puts Duncan’s “fresh thinking” in Chicago under the microscope. The results may surprise. (To catch a TomDispatch audio interview with Kroll on the new Secretary of Education, click here.) Tom

The Duncan Doctrine
The Military-Corporate Legacy of the New Secretary of Education
By Andy Kroll

On December 16th, a friendship forged nearly two decades ago on the hardwood of the basketball court culminated in a press conference at the Dodge Renaissance Academy, an elementary school located on the west side of Chicago. In a glowing introduction to the media, President-elect Barack Obama named Arne Duncan, the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools system (CPS), as his nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education. “When it comes to school reform,” the President-elect said, “Arne is the most hands-on of hands-on practitioners. For Arne, school reform isn’t just a theory in a book — it’s the cause of his life. And the results aren’t just about test scores or statistics, but about whether our children are developing the skills they need to compete with any worker in the world for any job.”

Though the announcement came amidst a deluge of other Obama nominations — he had unveiled key members of his energy and environment teams the day before and would add his picks for the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior the next day — Duncan’s selection was eagerly anticipated, and garnered mostly favorable reactions in education circles and in the media. He was described as the compromise candidate between powerful teachers’ unions and the advocates of charter schools and merit pay. He was also regularly hailed as a “reformer,” fearless when it came to challenging the educational status quo and more than willing to shake up hidebound, moribund public school systems.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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Tomgram: Transition Mania

December 11, 2008

December 7, 2008
Tomgram: Transition Mania

[Note to TomDispatch readers: Here we are nearing the end of the year. Just a reminder: If you’re getting ready for a little pre-2009 giving in tough times, why not hit the “Resist Empire. Support TomDispatch” button to the right of the site’s main screen and consider bulking up TD a little. Every dollar is appreciated.

And while you’re at it, if you’re in the mood for holiday book gifts, another way to support the site and its authors is to check out the list of TomDispatch-inspired books to the left of the main screen (scroll down). They range from this year’s The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire, a best-of collection that will help make sense of this moment, to Michael Schwartz’s superb just-published War Without End, which capatures the hell Bush & Co. drove Iraq (and the U.S.) into, Nick Turse’s The Complex, a groundbreaking book on how our daily lives have been militarized, and — for a dash of pure hope — Rebecca Solnit’s classic volume, Hope in the Dark. Or if you want to know a little more about American triumphalism and how it crashed and burned twice in a matter of decades, check out my own recently updated The End of Victory Culture. Tom]

The Imperial Transition
44, The Prequel
By Tom Engelhardt

Did you know that the IBM Center for the Business of Government hosts a “Presidential Transition” blog; that the Council on Foreign Relations has its own “Transition Blog: The New Administration”; and that the American University School of Communication has a “Transition Tracker” website? The National Journal offers its online readers a comprehensive “Lost in Transition” site to help them “navigate the presidential handover,” including a “short list,” offering not only the president-elect’s key recent appointments, but also a series of not-so-short lists of those still believed to be in contention for as-yet-unfilled jobs. Think of all this as Entertainment Weekly married to People Magazine for post-election political junkies.

Newsweek features “powering up” (“blogging the transition”); the policy-wonk website Politico.com offers Politico 44 (“a living diary of the Obama presidency”); and Public Citizen has “Becoming 44,” with the usual lists of appointees, possible appointees, but — for the junkie who wants everything — “bundler transition team members” and “lobbyist and bundler appointees” as well. (For those who want to know, for instance, White House Social Secretary-designate Desiree Roberts bundled at least $200,000 for the Obama campaign.)

The New York Times has gone whole hog at “The New Team” section of its website, where there are scads of little bios of appointees, as well as prospective appointees — including what each individual will “bring to the job,” how each is “linked to Mr. Obama,” and what negatives each carries as “baggage.” Think of it as a scorecard for transition junkies. The Washington Post, whose official beat is, of course, Washington D.C. über alles, has its “44: The Obama Presidency, A Transition to Power,” where, in case you’re planning to make a night of it on January 20th, you can keep up to date on that seasonal must-subject, the upcoming inaugural balls. And not to be outdone, the transitioning Obama transition crew has its own mega-transition site, Change.gov.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


Watch John McCain’s Rage

October 8, 2008

The piece below was sent to me by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films.  The video is very worthwhile to watch.

“I have a temper, to state the obvious, which I have tried to control with varying degrees of success because it does not always serve my interest or the public’s.” – John McCain

Dear Annamarie,

During last night’s debate, John McCain said we need “a cool hand at the tiller,” but McCain has proven to be a loose cannon. He has accosted his Congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle on everything from the federal budget to diplomatic relations. He is known for hurling profanities rather than settling disagreements calmly. His belligerence is legendary. Even conservative Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi has said, “He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.”

When someone earns the nickname “Senator Hothead,” the public ought to call his character into question. McCain’s propensity to explode undermines his abilities as a rational decision maker, particularly on national security issues — which could prove disastrous considering our country is already involved in two wars.

Watch the video and send it to friends: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAyK-enrF1g

With the election less than four weeks away, here’s a chance for you to take concrete action:

  1. Alert your friends to McCain’s rage. Send them this video and ask them to pass it on.
  2. Post this video on all your blogs and networking sites like Digg — critical tools for reaching those outside the choir. Make sure it gets viewed so many times it ends up on YouTube’s homepage, so undecided swing state voters can see it easily.
  3. Get the latest on McCain with a free video subscription from Brave New PAC, and encourage others to sign up too.

McCain’s temper is critical to his decision-making abilities, and his character must be discussed. As Drew Westen writes, “The political brain is an emotional brain. It is not a dispassionate calculating machine, objectively searching for the right facts, figures and policies to make a reasoned decision.” That why it’s so crucial people know the real Senator Hothead.

Yours,
Robert Greenwald
and the Brave New PAC team

Watch the video


Tomgram: Chip Ward, Sarah Palin’s Holy War on Nature

September 23, 2008

Way back in September 2005, not so long after Katrina hit New Orleans and Americans discovered just what the Bush administration was — and wasn’t — capable of, environmental activist and author Chip Ward wrote a piece for TomDispatch, “Left Behind,” on “Bush’s holy war on nature.” In it he outlined just what that administration was, in fact, quite skilled at doing. He wrote, in part:

“During their time in power, Bush’s officials have worked systematically and energetically to undo half a century of environmental law and policy based on hard-learned lessons about how to sustain healthy environments. Strikingly, they have failed to protect the environment even when they could have done so without repercussions from special-interest campaign contributors. Something more is going on.”

While the administration’s “holy war on nature” has certainly gotten some real attention, issue by issue, in the mainstream media, its totality, its enormity has seldom been fully assessed. Now, John McCain has picked a vice presidential candidate who, as Ward, reminds us, is guaranteed to continue that same holy war — in her case, with special fervor. The media and Internet feeding frenzy on Sarah Palin has been… well, frenzied beyond belief. This piece, however, goes to the heart of what matters when it comes to the Alaskan governor. Tom

The Evolution of John McCain

Why He Picked Sarah Palin, Carbon Queen

By Chip Ward
Despite the media feeding frenzy, we still may be asking ourselves, “Just who exactly is Sarah Palin?” Mixed in with the Davy-Crockett-meets-SuperMom vignettes — all those moose hunting, ice fishing, snowmobiling, baby-juggling, and hockey-momming moments — we’ve also learned that she doesn’t care much for her former brother-in-law and wasn’t afraid to use her office to go after his job as a state trooper; that she was for the “bridge to nowhere” before she was against it; that she’s against earmarks unless they benefit her constituents; that she can deliver a snappy wisecracking speech, thinks banning books in libraries is okay, considers herself a pit bull with lipstick, and above all else, wants to drill the ever-lovin’ daylights out of every corner of her home state (which John McCain’s handlers have somehow translated into being against Big Oil, since she insisted on a marginally bigger cut of the profits for Alaskans).

Oh, and — not that this is very important to Americans or the planet — she now thinks that global warming might possibly be human-made… sorta… though she didn’t before, despite the fact that the state she governs is on the frontline of climate change. And, of course, she’s a classic right-wing, fundamentalist Christian: against abortion — check; against same-sex marriage — check; against stem-cell research — check; favors teaching Creationism in public schools — check.

It’s that last item, her willingness to put Creationism up against the teaching of evolutionary science in the classroom on a he-says-she-says basis, that’s far more revealing of just who our new Republican vice presidential candidate is than we generally assume. It deserves the long, hard look that it hasn’t yet gotten. Most Democrats and progressives tend to think of the teaching of Creationism as a mere sidebar item on their agenda of political don’t-likes, but it’s not. Sarah Palin’s bias towards Creationism is a window into her political soul and a measure of John McCain’s hypocrisy.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


Fresh Air Interview with CCR Attorney Maria LaHood and Maher Arar (Thursday)

September 17, 2008

Please tune in this Wednesday, September 17, 2008 to hear an interview with Canadian rendition survivor Maher Arar and CCR attorney Maria LaHood on Fresh Air from WHYY.

Hear Arar and LaHood speak to Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about how U.S. officials sent Arar to Syria to be tortured, his struggle for justice, and the Second Circuit Appellate Court’s extremely rare order last month that approximately 12 judges will rehear Arar’s case on December 9, 2008. To find out the broadcast schedule for your town or city, click here.

Mr. Arar and CCR seek to hold accountable the high-level administration officials responsible for sending him to be tortured and detained in Syria for a year – a practice known as extraordinary rendition. For more information on Maher Arar’s case, click here. In 2002, Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, was detained at a New York airport on his way home from a family trip. He was interrogated by U.S. officials about alleged links to al-Qaeda and was prevented from getting assistance from a lawyer. He was then delivered to Syria, a country renowned for torture. Mr. Arar was interrogated, brutally tortured and held in a grave-like cell in Syria for over ten months. No country, including the U.S., has ever charged him with any crime.

CCR originally filed the case in the Eastern District of New York in January 2004; the first ruling, in February 2006, dismissed the case because letting it proceed might harm national security and foreign relations. CCR appealed the decision, arguing before a three-judge panel in November 2007, but the Court of Appeals issued a 2-1 decision in June 2008 along similar lines. The dissenting judge found that the majority decision gives federal officials the license to “violate constitutional rights with virtual impunity.”

In stark contrast to the response of the U.S. government, the Canadian government conducted an exhaustive inquiry in response to public outcry, found that Mr. Arar had no connection to terrorism, and, in January 2007, apologized to him for its role in what happened and awarded him $10 million compensation. For more information on Maher Arar’s case, click here.


On the Air with WHYY’s Fresh Air – Major Cities
Thursday, September 18, 2008

CITY STATION TIME
Chicago WBEZ 91.5 FM 11 AM – 12 PM
Los Angeles KPCC 89.3 FM 7-8 PM
New York WNYC 93.9 FM 3-4 PM
Washington, DC WAMU 88.FM 3-4 PM

To find out the broadcast schedule for your town or city, click here

Or, listen live online at NPR’s Fresh Air website.


Tariq Ali: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power (VIDEO)

September 17, 2008

Watch this two-part Tom Dispatch VIDEO by Pakistani-born journalist and writer Tariq Ali and you will better understand the US-Pakistani relationship and its consequences in Afghanistan:

Part 1: The Tangled U.S.-Pakistani relationship on the edge of war
Part 2: Barack Obama’s disastrous plans for Afghanistan and Pakistan


Afghanistan Transforms Canada

August 12, 2008

Afghanistan Transforms Canada

To play junior partner to empire, we’ve militarized our identity.
http://thetyee.ca/Views/2008/08/11/AfghanCan/

Some government policy decisions are so profound in their impact that they can actually change the nature of the country. Medicare was one such policy decision and so was the signing of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

It could be argued that the decision to take on an explicitly war-fighting role in Afghanistan will turn out to be another watershed decision, this one at odds with Canadian values and Canadians’ convictions about the military’s role in the world and society.

It also is having the effect of transforming both our foreign policy and our foreign aid policy. Our role in the war is dominating our international reputation and integrating us into the U.S. and its imperial designs on Middle East oil. In order to justify this colonial occupation, Canada now spends so much of its (paltry) aid budget on Afghanistan (much of it finding its way into the pockets of corrupt officials) that there is barely any financing left over for other developing countries’ needs.

Meanwhile, the conflict and its “war on terror” rationale are being used to justify massive increases in military spending, completely distorting the role of government and the spending priorities of Canadians.

Lastly, the military’s role in Canadian politics and culture is being rapidly Americanized. Canadian military spokespersons now openly promote their war-fighting role and take part in cultural events, and the media (most notably the CBC) promotes this new expansive role.

Why we fight

Read more of Murray Dobbin’s viewpoint here. (The Tyee.ca)