Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bring the Troops Home and Implement a Culture of Peace

‎Let's bring our troops home. Then, let's build a culture of peace, in which we honor the peacemakers above those who are behind the waging of war for profit. Let's build monuments to peace, rather than war. Let's require the addition of conflict resolution, mediation and negotiation to school curricula...worldwide. If you build it, they will come. When the perceived and real monetary value of peace and peacemakers becomes higher than that of war and warriors (no offense to veterans), peace will prevail over war in society. Conflict resolution, mediation and negotiation will prevail over violence, because those who follow non-violence will be the heroes, the most valued members of society, rather than just be considered misguided idealists.

What's Behind this Mess in the US...and Beyond? (or Feel Like You're Talking to a Wall?)

I really think what's behind all of this mess in the US and the rest of the world is a corporate cartel that includes the Koch brothers, ALEC, Big Oil and Gas, and many other corporate cronies who are using shock, fear and prejudice to sell their propaganda. It's the "it's all THEIR fault (the poor, the African-Americans, the teachers, the ____)" we work hard for our money, they just want entitlements" approach that they're using. They dangle their wealth and the (false) possibility of acceptance into their fold to their followers like a carrot on a stick. It's like what Hitler did to rise to, and increase his power, except this bloodless coup is by the extreme right.

They're playing their well-planned chess game perfectly, making certain they gut labor unions, worker's rights, repeal minimum wage and child labor laws, and cut the social safety net and other funding, while making certain they've stacked the courts in their favor by pushing tort reform, etc. This reduces people's access to the courts, and economically and politically represses the majority of the population. They've also blind-sided education with unfunded mandates that push ineffective reforms that require teachers to teach to the test, which research has shown reduces critical-thinking skills. Of course they want an uneducated populace that can't question what they're doing. All this is only part of what's been happening.

I knew there was something really weird going down when I spoke with lots of Republican state legislators this past Spring Break up in my state capital, and they all answered my budget question with the same, exact, rehearsed, canned reply...down to the dead expressions on their faces. I could have videotaped one, and the rest would have been as identical as the verbatum bills attacking education and labor that they and their colleagues submitted across multiple states at once. Yes, the bills were exactly the same. That did not happen by chance, nor were their Stepford Republican replies. It was really freaky and unnatural. There have been multiple bills submitted across multiple states in this same way, all in some way reducing our rights, including our right to vote.

Another hint is their unwillingness to compromise. They keep pushing and pushing until the Dems give in, then they take more steps back and force the Dems to compromise more. There has been no Rep. compromise. They are close to getting what they want, and that really scares me. They've also timed this well. In an era of abject, unaware voter apathy, we've let them take away our rights and our power (Citizens United).
The most telling clue about the existence of a corporate cartel is the revolving door through which those in the upper echelons of corporations move between their jobs and jobs in government. First, they have in-house corporate meetings, during which they determine the policies, laws, and regulations or deregulations that will most benefit their company. Then, they slide on through that door to whatever particular job they need to acquire in or to make those policies, laws, and regulations or deregulations happens. Of course, they don't recuse themselves, either. After that, they just slip right on back around into the corporate world, in which they are often rewarded with a more lucrative and powerful position or higher compensation and benefits. This is what happened with Dick Cheney's son-in-law Philip Perry.

The American public wonders why the financial market is deregulated or the environmental and consumer protections have evaporated. How could the financial meltdown have possibly "just" happened? It's all happened as planned! All because "we the people" have been apathetic and bought into the lies, propaganda and product defense of the corporate cartel. We're too "busy" to read between the 'lyings' to save our own Democratic Republic, and ourselves.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Would the Founding Fathers be Considered Liberals Today?

The Conservative economic and political plan has been to take from the middle class and the poor and give to the rich and the corporations. It's rather like anti-socialism. If the right-wing Conservatives give their full support to the rich and the corporations, they're certainly not representing the majority of "we the people." Funny, but I thought our Constitution was about the United States of America, a Democratic Republic founded of (all) the people, by (all) the people, and FOR (ALL) THE PEOPLE, not a small minority with a lot of $$$. If that's what the Conservatives now misdefine and misrepresent as socialism, then you'll find me standing firmly behind those liberal, socialist (Conservative's misdefinition) Founding Fathers of this country, thank you. What do you think?

Isn't mischaracterizing and mislabeling interesting? Sure beats rational thinking and facts.

Non-Violent Resistance: It's Time to Join the Ranks of Activists

Suffice it to say that our democratic republic becomes less democratic every day. If you want your constitutional rights to remain; if you still want access to the courts and fairness when you get there; if you want free and fair elections despite the Citizens United decision; if you want your government to actually represent you, rather than corporations, it is imperative that you become an activist.

What happened to Tim DeChristopher is one good reason. I won't waste your time or insult your reading skills by repeating Tim DeChristopher's story. This article will fill you in on the details: Here's a link to his statement to the court at his sentencing.

Ready to join the non-violent activist ranks? Start reading Gandhi's "Satyagraha." and other books like it, learn about and start training people in non-violent resistance, start organizing rallies and demonstrations, write letters to the editor, write/call/e-mail/visit your representatives in government, start educating the public with facts about who's behind our government (and this corporate-backed political and justice system is not just happening in America). I've only just begun, myself.

What I see here in the USA, with my own eyes, are attacks on organized labor, education (Corporate "Reform" that demonizes and scapegoats teachers, while promoting NON-FUNDED change that results in students less capable of critical thinking - AKA teaching to the test. They want an unthinking, uneducated populace. Remember that those behind most government takeovers attack the educated and education, first?), and attempts across our country to repeal minimum wage and child labor laws. I know that the education reform laws were actually bent on taking down the National Education Association (one of the largest unions in the country) in multiple states (remember what happened in Wisconsin?) and that ALL the bills were submitted with EXACTLY the same words to get rid of collective bargaining, and the union along with it. Most importantly, I see those in power trying to pit us against each other in order to diffuse our collective power.

Economic and political repression are just two of the means by which those in power attempt to maintain the status quo. They have the deep pockets and media outlet ownership with which to control government and produce the public relations, propaganda and product defense with which they can sway unsuspecting citizens. They control the courts (Citizens United decision) and, now through that decision, election results. They control our access to the courts through recent tort reform laws. People need to make some serious choices - NOW! Are you for humanity or for power and profit? If you're for humanity, remove the wool from in front of the sheep's eyes and uncloak the wolves in sheep's clothing! Caveat - do this all non-violently.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Be a Light That Won't Be Dimmed - RIP Amy Winehouse

Rebelling against authority by drugging and drinking yourself to death is an oxymoron.

On the other hand, I've experienced hurt and pain so deep and dark that I've wondered if I could possibly survive. There were a few times when I really didn't want to survive, but knew I must...
...and I'm not alone in any of this.

I'm so sad that someone as intelligent, creative and talented as Amy Winehouse went down that well-traveled, self-destructive path. Better to use your creative energy and intelligence to find positive ways to heal yourself. It's not easy, but is worthwhile. Then, be successful, stay healthy, and live a long life during which you can rebel unceasingly against authority. Be a light that won't be dimmed. My deepest condolences go out to her family and friends. Hopefully, others will learn to not follow her self-destructive path. We can't afford to lose anyone in this way because all people are beautiful and valuable. If only we were unafraid to love and hold each other in the light of that love. If only we loved ourselves enough to reach out to others through the pain...
Another bright light has dimmed and extinguished itself.

Teachers in the Trenches!

When good teachers get tired of being demonized and scapegoated, their collective bargaining rights attacked or shredded, and are so adversely impacted by salary, benefit and retirement cuts they leave the profession, that negatively impacts education. Teachers can't pay their bills or live on their goodwill towards their students.

Lots of teachers in my district have retired or quit in the past few years. Many of them have left the state. Even more teachers are thinking about retiring or quitting, and many of them want to leave Nevada. Teachers have been surplused, RIF'd. The Clark County, Nevada unemployement rate is about 14%, and we are #1 in the nation in foreclosures. Teachers are a part of these statistics, too. There are teachers living on food stamps. Teachers are also now homeless.

After our salaries were frozen for the past couple of years, my school district has now decided to unilaterally cut our salaries beginning this month, going against our negotiated contract. They also want to get rid of our health trust in favor of a less-expensive (for them), lower quality of care provider. This will increase my monthly premiums to almost match my mortgage payment! I'm unable to afford this, so if they get away with this, I'll be joining the ranks of the tens of millions of medically uninsured Americans.

Teachers have to pay back tens of thousands of dollars in school loans for our education degrees. We also pay thousands of dollars to acquire the additional education credits mandated by our state in order to maintain our licenses. In addition, we pay thousands of dollars out of our own pockets for additional education in order to meet the non-funded No Child Left Behind federally-mandated requirements in order to reach Highly Qualified status. We pay thousands of our own dollars in education to move over in salary scale so that we can finally attain a living wage. We supplement the education of our state's children out of our own pockets when we buy classroom supplies, and books for our classroom libraries. Food, energy and other prices have skyrocketed around us. Yet, we found we had no choice in good conscience but to agree to freeze our own pay for the past two years, due to State and District budget constraints, so that WE could save other teachers' jobs in order to keep our students' class sizes lower. Oh, and we also pay for our students' education with our own tax dollars. Then, we get asked to "share the sacrifice?" Really?!!!

If Nevada's Governor Sandoval and state legislators really want to attract new business to our state in order to diversify and improve our economy, look at how you're negatively impacting educators and education. Your bottom line shouldn't include cutting our children's education and their future by slashing their education funds and attacking their educators.

To all educators:
When people get pushed up against a wall, and they want to survive, they'll find any way they can to get around, under, or over the wall. Hopefully, they'll be smart enough to join together, help each other, and lift each other up to find a way to survive. When we all work together, we can accomplish miracles. When we fight each other, only a few win, and we create a lot of losers. It is when there are too many losers that organizations, societies and governments fall. History tends to repeat itself. Let's work to lift each other up for ourselves, our families, and our students.