I’m just taking it all in

All around the left blogosphere, there is a sudden realization.  It’s like, what the hell did we get ourselves into?  There’s panic about the Grand Bargain Obama almost struck last summer, about the imminent death of Medicare, about the austerity measures in Florida.  We in the research industry could have told you all about that.  The idea is to shed as many in-house positions as possible, offshore them or hire people back as contractors, and vastly reduce the employer’s responsibility for health care and other benefits.  By the way, contractors do not have any labor protections and no unemployment insurance.  They sometimes don’t get paid or not in time to pay their own bills.  Your only right is the right to walk away.  It’s cruel and it’s brutal and it’s happening to people who have degrees in STEM fields, do hard, mental work and have ZERO union protections.

This happened on Obama’s watch.

Not Bill Clinton’s watch.

I have to say that I’m a little disappointed with Bruce Dixon’s appraisal of the Obama vs Republicans situation.  For the most part, he is right.  Obama is so far right that it drives Republicans crazy and leaves Democrats no where else to go, theoretically.  There’s always a place to go.  You just might be too chicken to go there.

What pisses me off is the way he dumps all over Bill Clinton- again.  This tendency to blame Clinton parallels what we see on the right when it dumps all over the unemployed.  It’s all *their* fault.  The attention is always directed elsewhere, away from the true culprits.  Bill Clinton is like a frustration ball.

I hate to have to climb the water tower with a bucket of paint to defend Bill Clinton yet again but it seems necessary because the left seems to be completely unmoored.

When Bill Clinton said he wanted to “end welfare as we know it”, he didn’t say “end welfare period, now and forever”.  He meant transitioning people from a lifetime of poverty with no skills or hope to one where they would be able to get training and a job. Who here thinks it is preferable to collect a subsistence check than a real paycheck?  Raise your hands.  The Clinton plan was to provide health care, housing vouchers and child care while people made that transition.  The Republicans seized an opportunity to provide quite a different plan.  I supported Clinton’s plan wholeheartedly because I don’t like the idea of generational poverty.  It’s not liberal.  YOUR mileage may vary but then YOU might not be a liberal.

Bill Clinton nominated Lani Guinier, an out of the box thinker on voting rights, as Assistant Attorney General in 1993.  The Republicans had a holy shit fit.  How quickly we forget.

Bill Clinton was the one who wanted to allow gay soldiers to serve openly.  The Republicans had another fit about that.  We ended up with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Bill Clinton appointed Hillary to reform health care.  She couldn’t get it through due to forces in the Republican party and her own party (ever wonder why?) but she vigorously championed SCHIP for children.  Anyone remember what Rush Limbaugh did to that kid who was severely injured in a car accident with his sister?  Disgusting.  That’s what SCHIP brings out in Republicans.

Bill Clinton appointed the last two liberals to the Supreme Court.  I’m sorry but I don’t see Sotomayor or Kagan as being champions of liberal philosophy.  They only look liberal in comparison.

Yes, Bill Clinton made some mistakes.  He appointed Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Robert Rubin.  They turned out to be an axis of money induced evil.  I’m assuming he had a reason for this, like the Democrats before Clinton were notorious for being anti-business and maybe he wanted to change that image.  Maybe he thought he could manage it.  Balance competing interests. Rely on an intact regulatory system and Al Gore’s election.  But that evil triumvirate was an unknown quantity when he hired them.  In 2008, they had a paper trail, which is presumably why Hillary kept her distance. What was Obama’s excuse?

Over and over again, the president who left us with a surplus and nearly full employment throughout his two terms, who held off a punitive budget deal during a government shut down and who was pursued by some pretty batshit crazy Republican Javerts throughout his terms in office, is pointed to by the left as some kind of Republican mole.

I know the left is going through a crisis of conscience but don’t lose your heads and try to rewrite history.  When you need the Clinton Democrats to help you, they’re going to remember how you turned Bill Clinton into a scapegoat or let other more savvy operators turn you against his legacy.

And let’s not forget where Bill falls on the left-right spectrum of recent former presidents and where Obama is in comparison.  Here’s the graph from Krugman’s blog post on the subject:

Back in 1992, the “center” was much farther left than it is now.  People tend to forget this because we’ve been stuck firmly in the right since George Bush usurped the presidency.  If Clinton was a centrist, he was a pretty fricking liberal one, which is what drove the Republicans nuts in the first place.  They were foaming at the mouth before he took the oath of office the first time.  He hadn’t even done anything yet.  There was no triangulating and they already wanted to lynch him and make sure he didn’t succeed.  But he did anyway.

Obama is a totally different story.  He is the appointed president of the independents, moderate Republicans and financial class.  He didn’t win the nomination.  It was given to him.  THAT’S why he’s so insensitive to the Democratic base and the liberals.  It’s because he didn’t have to earn it with the voters.

Don’t blame Clinton for what the party has brought on itself.  Blaming Clinton is about as effective as blaming the unemployed for having no money.  It changes nothing.

What I want to know is where are women’s advocacy groups?  Why is Occupy the face of labor?  Why are the left bloggers keeping conspicuously mum over the massive loss of STEM jobs?  Why is it that the atheists are the ones who have to organize for knocking some sense into the country’s dialogue?  Whatever happened to reason?

All I see is gratuitous hits on Sarah Palin, jabs at Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum and a whole lot of hand wringing.  The left blogosphere looks like it’s afraid of it’s own shadow, terrified that challenging the Democrats and Obama to actually *do* something will bring on Armageddon.  It’s too late for that.  It’s already here.  If you don’t challenge the Democrats, then you are part of the problem and maybe even complicit.  And if that’s the case, you are going to lose all credibility and any power you have left.

So, stop doing it.  Focus on putting pressure on the Democrats.  Ignore the Republicans.  They aren’t going to change.  You can only make progress by pressuring your own side to do something.  And that something does not include introducing a measure in the blogosphere to condemn Bill Clinton.  Get a grip.

Uncle Barack Wants Your Kids

uncle-barack-wants-you1It’s not often that I agree with unrepentant terrorist, and Obabuddy, William Ayers, but when the man is right he’s right.  Seems Ayers’ neighbor, the Obapresident-elect, and his partners in government crime, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and newly appointed Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “haf plans” for your children.

Black Agenda Report‘s Bruce Dixon interviewed “Chicago educator and activist, George Schmidt,” who calls Obama’s education secretary and basketball buddy Duncan “an underqualified stooge and privatizer” of education, and is highly critical of the job Duncan has done with the Chicago Public School System, and dropped this interesting tidbit of information:

Beginning in the first days of the 21st century, literally Chicago instituted military high schools. And we’re not talking about high schools that have ROTC programs, we’re talking about high schools that are run by and for the military. The first of those was established in the heart of Bronzeville, the south side community at 35th and Giles, in the old armory there. It’s now the Chicago Military Academy. Since then they’ve set up two more army high schools. Carver and Phoenix, a Marine high school and a naval academy which is named the Hyman Rickover Naval Academy inside Senn High School.

Since I was totally unaware of this program, I decided to do a little research, and yes, the military runs 5 inner city schools:

Today, Chicago has the most militarized public school system in the nation, with Cadet Corps for students in middle-school, over 10,000 students participating in JROTC programs, over 1,000 students enrolled in one of the five, soon-to-be six autonomous military high schools, and hundreds more attending one of the nine military high schools that are called “schools within a school.” Chicago now has a Marine Military Academy, a Naval Academy, and three army high schools. When an air force high school opens next year, Chicago will be the only city in the nation to have academies representing all of these branches of the military. But Chicago is not the only city moving in this direction: The public school systems of other urban centers with largely Black and brown low income students of color, including Philadelphia, Atlanta and Oakland, are being similarly reshaped.

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley is very proud of the military program.  In the fall of 2001, he had this to say:

Congratulations to Oakland mayor Jerry Brown on his plan to open a military academy (see “A Few Good Schools,” Summer 2001). Chicago’s experience with military academies has been overwhelmingly positive. I hope Oakland’s is equally successful.

In 1999 Chicago opened its first public military high school, the Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville, in a historic African-American neighborhood. Last year the city began converting Carver High School on the Far South Side into its second military school. Both schools are part of the Chicago Public Schools system, not charter schools like Mayor Brown’s academy.

We started these academies because of the success of our Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program, the nation’s largest. JROTC provides students with the order and discipline that is too often lacking at home. It teaches them time management, responsibility, goal setting, and teamwork, and it builds leadership and self-confidence.

Not surprisingly, the high-school graduation rate for JROTC students in the Chicago Public Schools is 20 percent greater than the citywide average. It’s a little early to measure the success of our academies, but the first class at Bronzeville scored 40 percent better than the citywide average in reading and 30 percent better than the average in math. Perhaps a clearer sign of success is that 1,300 students applied for 110 openings in Bronzeville’s next entering class.

Though a military academy isn’t for everyone, for some it is just what they need in order to make something of their lives.

While proponents claim that the schools do not recruit, and that their ultimate goal is prepare students for college, there’s some evidence that those people are full of hooey.  For one thing, these schools call their students “cadets,” require them to wear uniforms, stress discipline, and teach them to shoot guns.  From AFP:

Dozens of teens dressed in uniforms provided by the US Marines stand at attention in the gym of a Chicago public high school as a drill sergeant goes through a list of the day’s do’s and don’ts.

Bring your books to class. Come for extra help if you need it. And wear your uniform with pride.

“Young men, you think you can get a haircut and say I’m done for two or three weeks. WRONG,” Sgt. Major Thomas Smith Jr. intones.

“Young ladies. There’s been no problem with your uniforms but there is a problem with your ties. Again, I will go through it again. Wear your ties when you come to my class.”

One in 10 public high school students in Chicago wears a military uniform to school and takes classes — including how to shoot a gun properly — from retired veterans.

Also, the webpage of Chicago Military Academy-Bronzeville stresses it’s military curriculum:

Chicago Military Academy (CMAB) is the city’s first comprehensive military academy for high school students. The multicultural school, accepts both male and female students citywide. CMAB has a four-year college prep curriculum in addition to a mandatory Army Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) component. Our last two graduating classes earned over $1.5 million in scholarships and grants. Two of our graduates have been accepted to West Point, and four candidates were accepted to the Citadel. Advanced Placement (AP) classes are offered in four subjects. Honors classes are offered in all core subjects. Virtual courses are also offered.

A student, Natassa Bourkas, had this to say about the advantage of military prep education:

“When people see that we went to a military school, they know we’re obedient, we follow directions, we’re disciplined,” Natassa Bourkas, 16, a student at the Naval academy, told the Tribune.

Needless to say, these schools are not without controversy.  The transcript of a PBS Newshour discussion contains this exchange:

ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Minorities make up 92 percent of the cadet population. Only 4 percent are white, compared to 8 percent of the general Chicago public schools population.There are no public school military academies in Chicago’s suburbs. That disturbs Pauline Lipman, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Education.

PAULINE LIPMAN, University of Illinois at Chicago: When we talk about how these are good schools for these kids, one of the things we want to think about is, why are they not in upper-middle-class white communities? Why are they good schools for low-income African-American and Latino students and not good schools for affluent white kids?


And are we saying that those students need a different kind of discipline, a different kind of regulation, a different kind of option? And I think that’s a form of racial discrimination, and that’s really concerning to me.

It concerns Bill Ayers, too.  On his web page, Ayers, Therese Quinn, and Erica Meiners make the case against the militarization of the school system, summarizing his “radical” ideas on the subject this way:

We live in a city awash in the randomly, tragically spilled blood of our children. We live, all of us, in a violent nation that is regularly spilling the blood of other children, elsewhere. It sickens us to think of students marching and growing comfortable with guns.

In an October, 2007 Chicago Tribune article featuring the dedication of a new Marine Academy, Arne Duncan weighed in:

The dedication of the Marine Military Academy on the Near West Side comesa few days after Chicago officials announced plans to open an Air Forceacademy high school in 2009. If that happens, Chicago will become the onlypublic school district in the nation to have academies dedicated to the Army,Navy, Air Force and Marines.
District officials say the military-themed schools give students morechoices and provide an opportunity to enroll in schools that providestructure, discipline and a focus on leadership. They say the schoolsemphasize academics, not recruitment.
“We have to think outside the box, and what existed before simply did notwork for far too many students,” said Chicago Public Schools Chief ArneDuncan. “These schools are popular and have waiting lists, so that tells meparents want more of them.”

Rahm Emanuel thinks the program is a very good idea too. From his Congressional website, Oct. 15, 2007:

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives joined Mayor Daley and CEO of Chicago Public Schools Arne Duncan at the Marine Military Academy, to officially Commission the launch of the new school.  Chicago Public School’s Marine Military Academy provides Chicago’s young men and women with a college prep education that focuses on Math and Science. Emanuel secured $300,000 in federal funding for the Military Academy in the Fiscal Year 2007 Department of Defense Appropriations Act.

“Our Nation’s success depends on the quality of our children’s education. Chicago Public School’s Marine Military Academy is a pioneer of educational excellence and will become a model for public education across the country.”

Not all of Arne’s plans for privatizing the school system include the military, of course:

Chicago teacher Jesse Sharkey writes, “In the past couple years, Arne Duncan [Obama's pick for Secretary of Education who hails from Chicago] has been turning public schools over to private operators–mainly in the form of charter and contract schools — at a rate of about 20 per year. Duncan has also resuscitated some of the worst ‘school reform’ ideas of the 1990s, like firing all the teachers in low-performing schools (called ‘turnarounds’). At the same time, he’s eliminated many Local School Councils and made crucial decisions without public input.”

On this website, the effectiveness of Duncan’s efforts is debated, here, the JROTC makes its own case, and here, in a 2003 National Catholic Reporter article, the genesis of the military push is traced to Colin Powell:

The four-year course, offered as an elective in lieu of physical education at a traditional high school or as a requirement at a military academy, comes with its own curricula and instructors, who are retired military officers certified by the branch of the armed services they represent. Army JROTC instructors receive their certification at Fort Knox, Ky., which is also headquarters for Army recruiting.

According to the military, impetus for JROTC’s growth in the last decade came from Gen. Colin Powell, now secretary of state, after the Los Angeles race riots in 1992. Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, surveyed the ruins of southern Los Angeles and decided that what the nation’s youth needed was the discipline and structure of the military. Critics say JROTC expanded substantially in the early ’90s because the military needed more skilled recruits and youth interest in enlistment had declined. As a recruiting tool, JROTC is undeniably effective. According to defense department estimates 40 percent of all JROTC graduates enlist after high school.

While I haven’t yet had the time to process all the information, I have to admit to being outraged.  Considering that both Obama and Emanuel are advocates of mandatory volunteer service, and “civilian defense,” my initial reaction to the notion that children are being militarily indoctrinated at the high school level is WTF!?!

What say you?

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