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Privatization of Public Education: This Changes Everything

By Morna McDermott - Educational Alchemy, January 16, 2016

“The process of taking on the corporate-state power nexus that underpins the extractive economy is leading a great many people to face up to the underlying democratic crisis that has allowed multinationals to be the authors of the laws under which they operate …. What is a democracy if it doesn’t encompass the capacity to decide, collectively, to protect something that no one can live without” (Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything, p. 361)

I recently read Naomi Klein’s new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate. I was struck by how many similarities there were between the struggle to abate massive climate disaster and the current fight for public education. I think this is a good analogy because like climate change, education “reform” (aka privatization) is everywhere and nowhere. While the issues are clearly related to human and civil rights, there are no lunch counters to sit at, no visible or tangible signs of du-jure segregation. Rather … like the emissions, fracking and melting of ice caps, the erosion of public education is slow, insidious, and difficult to pin point by location or single origin. The problem feels just “too big” to tackle on some days.

I noted many marked parallels in both the nature/cause of the problem (between Klein’s book and education reform), as well as visions for a solution to both. They (ed reform and the capitalist/big oil co’s) are both “extrationist” in nature: We are mining the earth for coal, oil, natural gas, and other resources just as we are mining children’s data for profit, mining our children’s bodies as “human capital,” and mining schools of our tax dollars to line the pockets of corporations. They share an ideology of money, and the money to fund the ideology.

Fast forward to the conclusion: In order to 1) wrest public education from the hands of privatizers/corporate control ….and 2) to create PUBLIC schools that are sustainable, equitable and meaningful for all children (something we have never done before), we must be willing to completely revolutionize the way in which we think about, and act, in the world. Simple. But a tall order.

Naomi Klein says as much; that in order to truly address climate change, we must critically re-examine the entirety of the socio political and economic values embedded within a deregulated, global free- market paradigm. Ecological justice is social justice, just as education justice is tied to ecological and economic and cultural justice.

Think … lead in water in Flint MI and the effects on educational opportunities for those children.

IT’S ALL CONNECTED: The corporate interests that are driving privatization and global control of health services, access to food and water, and management of other public institutions (i.e. prisons) are the SAME corporations, using the same playbook, to dismantle public education.  And this issue is GLOBAL.

Capital Blight News #122

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 20, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Green is the New Red:

Capital Blight News #121

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 13, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Capital Blight News #120

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 7, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Green is the New Red:

Greenwashers:

Disaster Capitalism:

Capital Blight News #119

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 31, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Greenwashers:

Disaster Capitalism:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

Capital Blight News #118

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 24, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Green is the New Red:

As Flint Water Crisis "Emergency" Ends, Bigger Heads Need to Roll

By Michele Oberholtzer - Occupy.Com, August 18, 2016

This week, the emergency is officially over following the Flint Water Crisis. One year ago, the city of Flint, Mich., joined the ranks of Sandy Hook, Ferguson and other previously obscure cities that became a metaphor for man-made tragedy. In Flint the trauma came not at the barrel of a gun but through the faucet of a sink, as the infrastructure that was meant to provide life-sustaining water was made toxic through a negligent cost-cutting measure that altered water sources and treatment procedures. Flint entered a Federal State of Emergency to respond to the crisis, and that emergency expired this week.

First, the good news. Reports have showed significant improvements to water quality in a large number of Flint homes. State money amounting to $25 million and additional federal money is under consideration to address the temporary and long-term needs of residents, while charges have been brought against nine past and current state employees for their involvement in the crisis.

However satisfying one's reaction to this might be, the reality is that the water emergency in Flint continues. The ending of the state of emergency and the felony charges have a mollifying effect on the accumulated outrage, but no amount of federal appropriations or scape-goated employees can begin to address the root of the crimes that transgressed human rights in Flint.

Before considering the charges now being brought again Michigan employees, consider the true crimes of the Flint Water Crisis. First, there was the poisoning of the water itself, which involved switching from treated Detroit water to improperly treated water taken out of the industrial and highly polluted Flint River. Second, there was the failure of local and state governments to identify the problem or heed the immediate vocal outcries coming from residents and local businesses for over a year. Third, there was the capitalization of government that started with “emergency management” and ended with single-bottom-line decisions like the water conversion.

The charges brought against these individuals address a small aspect of issue number two: specifically, that government officials destroyed emails with incriminating evidence of lead level tests. Those emails revealed that the information about the low water quality was known and not acted on. According to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, “Each of these individuals attempted to bury … information that contradicted their own narrative… and their narrative was ‘there’s nothing wrong with Flint water.'”

There appears to be convincing evidence of a coordinated effort between Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) employees (those who received the lead reports) and Department of Environmental Quality employees (those who issued the lead reports) to delete emails that contained alarming and actionable data showing high levels of lead in the blood of Flint residents.

What reason could these people have for deleting emails that contained such alarming information? A person is not guilty of neglect unless s/he fails to act, yet these emails contained new and vital information that the recipients could have conceivably acted on and avoided any need for burying information. The destruction of the emails suggests that either the employees already considered that they had previously ignored information, or knew that they would be unable to correct the problem (since that would involve acknowledging the city's failed water system). Righting this kind of wrong would be terribly expensive, and the whole premise of Flint’s new water system was to cut costs. Delete.

As offensive as the willful neglect of these individuals has been, the fact is that the charges against those people refer to events that took place in July 2015, when the water crisis had already been ongoing for more than a year.

Conspicuously absent are charges against the engineers of the water switchover plan – including Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, the architect of Flint's subverted democracy, and Gov. Rick Snyder – not to mention the premise that these individuals represent government-as-business and profit-over-people. Those pillars will go unshaken regardless of whether a few middlemen take the heat. A recent report by the Water Advisory Task Force placed the responsibility for the crisis on the state (specifically the DHHS). Note: This task force was appointed by Gov. Snyder.

Michigan can lock up the guys who buried the dirt, but people should not be distracted from the individuals who created the mess in the first place. The cognitive leap here, for the Attorney General’s investigation, is not to necessarily uncover hidden actions but to consider the crimes that took place in broad daylight. The decision of Flint leadership to switch from Detroit to Flint water sources was a financial one, made under the guardianship of emergency management. (“Emergency” in this case refers to a financial emergency, not a human one, which only came later). In this crisis, it is clear that decisions to prioritize money over people were not incidental, but rather inherent in the emergency management process.

Much has been said about the destruction to the physical infrastructure of Flint in recent years. But just as important was the destruction to the political infrastructure that began deteriorating not when the water sources were switched, but when emergency management was declared. The checks and balances between government and constituents were dismantled across cities in Michigan, with a direct hierarchy that led all the way to the governor. While a total of nine former state employees spend time awaiting trial, the architects of democratic deconstruction rest easy. Meanwhile, the rest of Michigan dreams of a world where “emergency management” is only used for human crises, not financial ones – in which case it may be about time find an Emergency Governor.

Chilcot inquiry: don’t mention the oil

By Greg Muttitt and David Whyte - Red Pepper, August 2016

The anti-war demonstration in London on 15 February 2003 was the biggest protest in British history. And probably the most popular slogan on the placards and banners that day was ‘No blood for oil’. It was a connection that seemed obvious to many on the march but was repeatedly ridiculed by supporters of the invasion of Iraq. Tony Blair said that ‘the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it.’

Why is it so easy to dismiss the idea that access to oil and the interests of those who profit from it may be part of the motive for war? Why, given our experience of wars though the ages, is this not the first question we ask? After all, as the celebrated General Smedley Butler famously observed after completing numerous military campaigns on behalf of the nascent US empire: ‘War is a racket. It always has been.’

By the standards of an official inquiry, Chilcot’s was utterly damning of a government that took the country to war without justification. But compared to the evidence Chilcot had, his conclusions were mild, because the questions he asked were limited. In particular, while noting that there was no convincing case for WMD, even at the time, Chilcot failed to ask how other political and economic motivations affected decisions.

Was it a war for oil?

A year after the February 2003 demonstration, an international opinion poll conducted by US think tank, the Pew Research Centre, asked sample populations from nine countries (the US, Britain, Russia, France, Germany, Pakistan, Turkey, Morocco and Jordan) about the ‘war on terrorism’. The majority in all but two countries (the US and Britain) thought it was ‘to control Mideast oil’. It is worth underlining that the question was not just asking about the invasion of Iraq, but about the motive for a war on terrorism full stop.

When it comes to the Iraq war, they were right. Evidence released with the report shows unequivocally that using Iraqi oil to boost British energy supplies was a central pre-war aim. A February 2002 Cabinet Office paper described the UK’s objectives as ‘preserving peace and stability in the Gulf and ensuring energy security‘. Right up to the withdrawal of British troops in 2009, successive British strategy documents, also released by Chilcot, maintain two consistent objectives: transfer the oil sector from public ownership to multinationals, and ensure that BP and Shell get a large share. Sometimes a third oil objective appears: to make Iraq an advocate of low oil prices within OPEC.

Capital Blight News #117

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 17, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Green is the New Red:

Greenwashers:

Disaster Capitalism:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

Capital Blight News #116

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 10, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Green is the New Red:

Greenwashers:

Disaster Capitalism:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

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