Monthly Archives: November 2011

They’re selling out our public schools

Letter, Daily Local News, 11/25/11

At a time when the Republican controlled Legislature in Harrisburg just cut hundreds of millions of dollars from our public schools, Harrisburg should not spend taxpayer dollars on a voucher program that gives up to $1 billion in taxpayer money to private schools. These schools are responsible to no one, as they are not held accountable to standardized testing results. This voucher program leaves too many children behind in underfunded public schools.

Unfortunately, Sen. Andy Dinniman (D, Chester County) did just that in voting “yes” on Senate Bill 1!

Vouchers do not provide “savings” to public schools, since they maintain the same overhead costs of maintaining buildings, transporting and feeding students, providing support services, and can’t reduce staff or other costs if a few students across different grade levels transfer to private schools.

If state funding for K-12 education is cut, and vouchers drain dollars from public schools, the likely result is higher property taxes and cuts to public school programs that are proven to work, as districts struggle to fill the gap to provide a quality education to their students….

Jane Bowen
West Grove

read the whole letter at Daily Local News

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Filed under Economy, Labor, Tax, Education and schools, PA govt & politics

Two Scandals, One Connection: The FBI link between Penn State and UC Davis

by Dave Zirin, The Nation, 11/23/11

Two shocking scandals. Two esteemed universities. Two disgraced university leaders. One stunning connection. Over the last month, we’ve seen Penn State University President Graham Spanier dismissed from his duties and we’ve seen UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi pushed to the brink of resignation. Spanier was jettisoned because of what appears to be a systematic cover-up of assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s serial child rape. Katehi has faced calls to resign after the she sent campus police to blast pepper spray in the faces of her peaceably assembled students, an act for which she claims “full responsibility.” The university’s Faculty Association has since voted for her ouster citing a “gross failure of leadership.” The names Spanier and Katehi are now synonymous with the worst abuses of institutional power. But their connection didn’t begin there. In 2010, Spanier chose Katehi to join an elite team of twenty college presidents on what’s called the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board, which “promotes discussion and outreach between research universities and the FBI.”

Spanier said upon the group’s founding in 2005, “The National Security Higher Education Advisory Board promises to help universities and government work toward a balanced and rational approach that will allow scientific research and education to progress and our nation to remain safe.” He also said that the partnership could help provide “internships” to faculty and students interested in “National Security issues.”

FBI chief Robert Mueller said at a press conference with Spanier, “We knew it would not be necessarily an easy sell because of the perceived tension between law enforcement and academia. But once we’ve briefed President Spanier on the national security threats that impact all of you here at Penn State and at other universities, it became clear to all of us why this partnership is so important. “

But the reality of this partnership is far different. Its original mandate was about protecting schools from “cyber theft” and “intellectual property issues.” As has been true with the FBI since Hoover, give them a foothold, and they’ll take off their shoes and get cozy. Their classified mandate has since expanded to such euphemisms as “counter-terrorism” and “public safety.” It also expanded federal anti-terrorism task forces to include the dark-helmeted pepper-spray brigades, otherwise known as the campus police….

As for the actual meetings between the presidents of academic institutions and the FBI, those discussions are classified. If you are a rabble-rousing faculty member or a student group stepping out of line, your school records can become the FBI’s business and you’d be none the wiser.

Chris Ott, from the Massachusetts ACLU, said of the NSHEA, “The FBI is asking university faculty, staff, and students to create a form of neighborhood watch against anything that is so called ‘suspicious.’ What kinds of things are they going to report on? Who has the right to be snitching? One of the scary things is who [on the campuses] will take it upon themselves to root out spies?”…

As for Spanier, how much of Sandusky’s actions at Penn State, which were documented on campus but never shared with the local police, was the FBI privy to? Why did the school hire former FBI director Louis Freeh to head up their internal investigation? Does that in fact represent a conflict of interest? And most critically, did the “chilling effect” of a sanctioned FBI presence at Penn State actually prevent people from coming forward?…

read the whole article at The Nation

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Filed under Education and schools, Rights, Justice, Law

America Has Become a Fascist Police State

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News, 11/26/11

…Today, in the Land of the Free, nonviolent political protesters using their First Amendment rights to speak out against all of the above can be beaten, tasered, and maced by heavily-militarized police forces, using military-grade equipment, without any provocation.

from “Battlefield Tampa: Police roll out a giant tank to deal with a few dozen Occupy protesters,” The Daily, 11/19/11

* Students sitting down in the quad at UC Davis were covered with military-grade pepper spray, before cops in riot gear knelt on them and sprayed indiscriminately down student’s throats according to Professor Nathan Brown of UC Davis.

scene from video at UC Davis following pepper spray use against sitting demonstrators

* At UC Berkeley, Robert Hass, a former poet laureate, was clubbed by police while nonviolently protesting with students.

* In Seattle, cops clad in riot gear pepper-sprayed an 84-year-old woman and an expectant mother.

* In Oakland, veterans who served overseas to allegedly protect the rights we hold dear come home and get aggressively beaten without warning, and shot in the face with tear-gas canisters. Oakland police even threw a flash-bang grenade at people rushing to give medical attention to the wounded vet….

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has openly admitted that the recent police crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street solidarity encampments were the result of careful coordination between mayors on a series of conference calls. There are also reports that the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI gave advice on the crackdowns, encouraging municipalities to deploy large numbers of police, equip them with riot gear, and break up encampments when the media were least likely to be present. Reports from New York allege that reporters were asked to raise their hand if they had press credentials, before being penned in an area far from the protests. Those trying to get through were arrested, and told that it was illegal to “take pictures on the sidewalk.”

Mussolini said, “Fascism should be more accurately called corporatism, because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” It is Orwellian doublespeak to call this country “free” while freedom is actively suppressed with aid from a corporate-owned government. The people are not free if their leaders are actively making war with them.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina, from, 11/13/11

read the whole article, with more links, at Reader Supported News


Filed under National govt & politics, Rights, Justice, Law

Senate Bill: America Is Now Part of the Battlefield

By Chris Anders, ACLU, Reader Supported News, 11/26/11

RSN editors’ comment: “Quietly, the Senate is pushing through a bill that would radically redefine the extrajudicial powers of the military and, apparently, allow for the indefinite detention of US citizens. — JPS/RSN”

Senators demand the military lock up American Citizens in a “Battlefield” they define as being right outside your window.

While nearly all Americans head to family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, the Senate is gearing up for a vote on Monday or Tuesday that goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans. The Senate will be voting on a bill that will direct American military resources not at an enemy shooting at our military in a war zone, but at American citizens and other civilians far from any battlefield – even people in the United States itself.

Senators need to hear from you, on whether you think your front yard is part of a “battlefield” and if any president can send the military anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial.

The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president – and every future president – the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. Even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) raised his concerns about the NDAA detention provisions during last night’s Republican debate. The power is so broad that even US citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself.

The worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial provision is in S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which will be on the Senate floor on Monday. The bill was drafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing….

continue reading at Reader Supported News

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Filed under Peace, Security, Terrorism, War, Rights, Justice, Law, US Senate