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Showdown in Chicago

Why the Teachers Must Prevail

By ANDREW LEVINE | CounterPunch | September 13, 2012

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the pesky little ankle-nipper charged in the first years of the Obama administration with dissing the left (“f…ing retards”), empowering Blue Dog Democrats and killing the public option in the Affordable Care Act, is Barack Obama writ obnoxious.   It is of the utmost importance that teachers in Chicago win their strike against his administration.

Theirs is the first battle in what will be a protracted war, during the second Obama administration, to save public institutions, public education especially, from the anti-worker, pro-corporate, privatizing predations of Democratic presidents.

To be sure, it is Republicans who prattle on about Ronald Reagan and advocate the retrograde policies associated with his name.    But while they are relentless in praising that villainous old actor, they are terrible at implementing the Reaganite agenda. This is understandable: when they are in the White House, their efforts inspire Democrats to fight back — not so much from conviction but because it plays well with the base and therefore pays off at election time.

Democratic presidents, on the other hand, are good at implementing the Reaganite agenda, whether their hearts are in it or not.  No one, so far, has been better at it than Bill Clinton.  This is because, as we saw again in Charlotte, he is adept at winning Democratic hearts and minds, and therefore at neutralizing potential opposition and even bringing it along.

This is how that old horn dog was able to win more for the Gipper than either Bush.  He did more even than Reagan himself to end the New Deal and Great Society “as we know it,” and to give Wall Street free rein.

Obama might have bested him had he not been stymied by Republican obduracy.  Now that obduracy is coming back to haunt the GOP.  By pandering to God-fearing, ignorant and stupid white men – and the women who stand by them — they have made themselves scary enough to assure a second Obama term.

Barring unforeseeable developments, therefore, it will be Obama, not Romney, who will be wielding the Reaganite cudgel in the next four years; and therefore Obama, the lesser but more effective evil, whom we will have to fight.

Obama is poised to leave the Clintons standing in the dust.  Hizzoner Da Mare is showing the way.  Workers be damned, and let the Grand Bargains begin!

*  *  *

Even before the Occupy movements of last fall, public workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere were beginning to fight back.  In Wisconsin, their efforts were unsuccessful, thanks in part to the indifference or connivance of the national Democratic Party and the Obama administration.

It isn’t just that Obama was AWOL throughout the winter and spring of 2011, when workers and their allies occupied the state Capitol in Madison, mobilizing tens of thousands of supporters.   When it came down just to a recall election a year later, the hope and change President couldn’t even be bothered to campaign for Tom Barrett, the anodyne Democratic rival to the execrable, Koch-funded, Republican governor Scott Walker.  All he could muster was a tweet at the final hour.

With the election less than two months away, Team Obama must realize that it will cost the President to betray the Chicago Teachers’ Union similarly.  But count on him to give it his best shot – the Obama-Emanuel tie is tight, and Emanuel’s anti-union, pro-corporate “reforms” are in line with Arne Duncan’s, Obama’s Secretary of Education.

Expect him therefore to remain aloof for as long as he can.  After all, who will stop him?  Not organized labor.  They’ve pledged their troth unconditionally to Democratic presidents so many times that they’ve forgotten how to do anything else, even when the object of their servility poses an “existential threat.”

For a long time, it seemed that the problem with Obama, and the Democratic Party, was their almost pathological “reasonableness,” their preference for compromising over winning.  But the real situation was becoming clear even before Emanuel became the face of militant Obamaism.

The problem is not just that Obama is inept at governance or that caution sometimes gets the better of him.  It is that he is on the wrong side.

Romney is scarier by orders of magnitude and more onerous by far.  But, like Clinton, Obama can deliver, especially nowadays when liberals are hell bent on cutting the man slack.  This is why he is, arguably, more dangerous even than his Republican rival.  Romney is unabashed class warrior for the one-percent; Obama is a more complicated figure.  But by their deeds, ye shall know them.

What Emanuel and Duncan and Obama want is what George Bush wanted: to despoil public education.  Of course, this is not what they say.  But it is hardly concern for kids, much less poor kids or for their families, that drives Bush-Obama efforts at reforming public education to ruin or that makes “market solutions” and privatization the order of the day.  Only hapless Republicans and market theologians (to the extent there is a difference) could believe that.

The Obamaites want to privatize public education, to the extent they can, for the same reason they want to privatize so much else:  because there is a lot of money – local, state and federal – involved, and the corporate interests Obama and his basketball buddies work for want to get their hands on it.

Obama and Duncan, and maybe even Emanuel, the “f-ing retard,” are too smart to be taken in by the meretricious charms of corporate bean counting.  They surely understand how detrimental teaching to tests can be, and how it serves no one other than corporate managers, or those who have internalized their values, to undermine educators’ morale by imposing impossible working conditions and assaulting workers’ dignity.

It is telling that Obama sent his own kids to the Chicago Lab School and then to Sidwell Friends.  Expensive private schools have always been about reproducing social elites – and, in recent years, coopting a few others for diversity’s sake — but Obama’s children, reared in the White House, have nothing to gain on that account.

The Obamas, like the Duncans and Emanuels of the world, just want their own children to get decent educations.  No doubt, they’d like that for working peoples’ children too, other things being equal.  But other things are not equal; the oligarchy has a different plan in mind.

They want a work force that is trained, not educated; workers ready to do what capitalist firms nowadays require — on the off-chance that capitalists find it more profitable, in certain circumstances, to exploit domestic labor instead of workers abroad.

Not long ago, the children of rich and poor alike were formed in the same schools, taught by dedicated teachers who, though underpaid, were treated with dignity and respect.  Not long ago, public higher education was cheap enough to be broadly accessible and good enough to rival or out perform even the richest private universities.

This is all inimical to the Reaganite agenda but, even now, public education, at all levels, is holding up tolerably well, notwithstanding chronic underfunding and increasingly vitriolic opposition from the minions of the one percent.  If Emanuel prevails, it will be harder, much harder, to hold the line.

This is a real danger.  Emanuel has the austerity mongers in the Obama administration, and Obama himself, at his back.  In an election year, he has the support of most Democrats.  And, of course, he has the implicit support of Mitt Romney, who at least has the decency to be more forthrightly anti-union and anti-(small-d) democratic than his rival.

Emanuel also has the “liberal” media doing its best to keep the Reaganite tide from receding.

Now that the New York Times has priced itself so much higher than it is worth and made itself, or at least its print edition, scarce, NPR has become perhaps the main source for conventional wisdom and pro-regime propaganda.

As the Chicago strike began, it was almost comical to listen to them struggle to find voices willing to berate the teachers for the inconvenience they are causing parents and students.  Evidently, Chicagoans, so far anyway, are behind the teachers because they realize that, in combatting Obama-style Reaganism – in taking on Rahm Emanuel — they are fighting for them.

They are absolutely right.  The Chicago teachers’ strike is the successor of last year’s demonstrations in Wisconsin and other states in the grip of reactionary Republican governors; it is the successor of the Occupy movements.  Its outcome matters more than the November election.  Chicago teachers must prevail!

ANDREW LEVINE is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

September 13, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Comments Off on Showdown in Chicago

Upon Israel’s Request, Germany To Void Submarines Deal With Egypt

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies | September 13, 2012

Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, personally vowed to Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to void a submarines deal its country signed with Egypt, and said that her government will not approve this deal with the Egyptian Army, Germany’s Der Spiegel reported.

Der Spiegel said that the German government granted a green light to this deal last February, and then Israel was informed on details of the deal as Merkel personally spoke to Netanyahu while German Defense Minister, Thomas de Maziere, kept in touch with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, to update him on the latest information.

Der Spiegel said that, at first, Israel did not express any reservations about the deal, but senior German political leaders were surprised to hear serious statements made by Israeli officials, who expressed their objection to the deal, after the Egyptian navy announced it.

The deal will likely now be presented to the special German Ministerial Council as the legal body in charge of weapons deal, in order to reconsider it, while several German officials said that the deal will be voided due to Israeli objections.

Furthermore, the Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that the government of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has demanded Berlin not sign any weapons deals with Arab countries without prior consultation and coordination with Tel Aviv.

The Israeli Government said that such coordination with Tel Aviv, prior to any weapons deal with the Arab states, is essential to ensuring Israel’s military supremacy in the Middle East.

It is worth mentioning that Germany recently signed several agreements for the sale of tanks and submarines to Egypt, Algeria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Haaretz reported that Israel wants to reach new understandings with Germany regarding the sale of weapons to Arab states in order to ensure that the Israeli Army remains the most powerful army in the region. The deals signed with Saudi Arabia and Qatar include the sale of Leopard Tanks, submarines to Egypt and other military equipment to Algeria.

It is worth mentioning that the Israeli Defense Ministry Diplomatic and Security Bureau Head, Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilad, recently visited Berlin and asked Germany to coordinate with Tel Aviv all of its weapons sales with all Arab states. Israel said that Germany’s weapons sales to the Arab world have increased last year, and that several deals regarding the sales of tanks and submarines were singed.

Both Israel and the United States want to ensure that armies in Arab countries do not obtain weapons and technology that could pose a risk to the supremacy of the Israeli military, as they want Israel to remain, at all times, the most militarily powerful state in the region.

Also, a senior Israeli official told the Bild German Newspaper, Wednesday, that Israel is seriously concerned about the sale of the submarines to Egypt, and added that “Egypt today is not the same as Egypt during the rule of former President, Hosni Mubarak”.

The official was referring to the fact that that after the Egyptian revolution managed to overturn the rule of Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood garnered an overwhelming victory in the legislative elections, and due to the fact that the newly elected Egyptian President, Mohammad Morsi, is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Yet, several Israeli security and political leaders recently stated that the security coordination between Tel Aviv and Cairo is now at its best since the signing of the Camp David peace accords between the two countries in 1978 and 1979.

September 13, 2012 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , | Comments Off on Upon Israel’s Request, Germany To Void Submarines Deal With Egypt

Staff and Crew of Film that Ridiculed Muslims Say They were “Grossly Misled”

Al-Manar | September 13, 2012

The 80 cast and crew members involved in the making of the movie that has roiled much of the Islamic world said Wednesday they were “grossly misled” about its intent and expressed sorrow over the resulting violence.

“The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer,” they said in a statement to CNN about the movie, “Innocence of Muslims.”

“We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose,” continued the statement, which was sent to CNN by a member of the production staff who asked not to be identified for security reasons. “We are shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred.”

Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed Tuesday in Libya amid a regional furor over the film, which mocks Islam’s prophet.

A casting call published in July 2011 in Backstage magazine and in other publications for actors identifies the working title of the movie as “Desert Warrior” and describes it as an “historical Arabian Desert adventure film.”

An actress in the film who asked not to be identified said the original script did not include a Prophet Muhammed character. She added that she and other actors complained that their lines had been changed.

The actress said she spoke Wednesday with the producer, who is identified in the advertisement as Sam Bassiel. “He said he wrote the script because he wants the Muslims to quit killing,” she said. “I had no idea he was doing all this.”

“I would never be involved in a film to ever hurt or bring harm to anybody,” she told CNN. “This makes me sick to my stomach to think that I was involved in that movie that brought death to somebody else.”

The actress said the character of Muhammed in the movie was identified as George when it was shot, and that she returned afterward and read other lines that may have been dubbed into the piece.

A member of the production staff who worked directly on the film and has a copy of the original script corroborated the actor’s account, adding that it mentions neither Muhammed nor Islam.

September 13, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Islamophobia, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Comments Off on Staff and Crew of Film that Ridiculed Muslims Say They were “Grossly Misled”

Toronto International Film Festival’s Cozying up to Israeli Propaganda

By Eric Walberg | Palestine Chronicle | September 12, 2012

The empire requires a nice juicy enemy to keep people’s minds off its own sins. During the Cold War, Hollywood responded admirably to the challenge, churning out anti-communist thrillers with Russian bad guys, most memorably during Reagan’s surreal presidency, when “Red Dawn” and “Rocky IV” reduced international politics to a comic book parody.

Given who the official enemy is these days, it is no surprise that the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which boasts of 72 participating countries, did not include a ‘Spotlight on Iranian cinema’ this year. On the contrary, it showcased the latest serving of propaganda against Iran with the premiere of “Argo”, a docudrama depicting the escape of six US diplomats from Iran following the November 1979 seizure of the US embassy in Tehran, when 52 Americans were held hostage, and Iranian student protesters dumped US diplomatic correspondence on the street in a spectacular premodern WikiLeak.

“Argo” is based on then-Canadian ambassador Kenneth Taylor, who indeed hid the six Americans who showed up at the Canadian embassy during the 1979 hostage crisis and issued them fake Canadian passports. Taylor was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1981 for his help.

As if scripted in Hollywood, the Friday evening TIFF premier began just hours after the announcement that Canada was closing its embassy in Tehran, adding extra spice.

“Argo” was produced by George Clooney and directed by Ben Affleck, who also plays the lead role of the CIA agent Tony Mendez, posing as director of a fake Canadian science-fiction film (appropriately entitled “Argo”). Mendez convinces Iranian officials that Iran’s stark desert panoramas would make a convincing extraterrestrial terrain (the Hollywood subtext being that Islamic Iran is loony and Iranian officials are easily duped).

Clooney and Affleck are not Zionist zealots. They are even criticized for being ‘pro-Palestinian’ (though that means very little in the case of Hollywood), and both are identified with opposition to US neocon wars. So their production of this blatant propaganda potboiler is a sad commentary on just how obsessed America is with the one country to successfully stand up to it and Israel today. It’s as if a muted critique of US government crimes must be balanced by fawning displays of patriotism. Affleck even entertained US troops aboard the USS Enterprise on a USO-sponsored tour of the Persian Gulf in December 2003, despite his reservations about US warmongering (no doubt mock-firing a missile at Iran from the US naval base in Bahrain).

The CIA-cum-Hollywood producer of the movie-within-the-movie is another icon of anti-war liberals, Alan Arkin, who starred in “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming” (1966), directed by Norman Jewison, and the screen version of the satirical anti-war Catch-22 (1970). However, he also did an HBO TV movie “Doomsday Gun” (1994) about a Canadian weapons builder whom helped Israel ‘defend’ the Golan Heights, but then cynically decides to sell his talents to the highest bidder — Saddam Hussein, who wants to build the eponymous weapon-of-mass-deception (excuse me, ‘destruction’). Arkin plays an Israeli intelligence officer who politely changes the misguided Canadian’s mind. No doubt Bush junior saw this nuanced bit of hasbara, prompting him to invade Iraq in search of WMDs.

“Argo” was received with raves and calls for an Oscar for Arkin. His past displays of anti-war liberalism should not be a problem, given his devotion to Israel as shown in “Doomsday Gun” and now this latest sop to America’s Israel-firsters.

The timing of this screening of the fantasy Canadian embassy intrigue must have been coordinated with the real-life Canadian embassy closing. There’s no other explanation. Worthy of an Oscar in itself. In sharp contrast to the scandal at the 2009 Toronto festival. Despite Israel’s invasion of Gaza just months earlier, it featured a ‘City to city Spotlight on Tel Aviv’, funded by the Israeli Embassy and the Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation, the centre-piece of Israeli Consul Amir Gissin’s “Brand Israel” campaign. At the time, Gissin unashamedly was calling Toronto “an arena for Israel from a PR, cultural and commercial point of view”. The idea was “to promote Tel Aviv as a city of peace”, even after killing more than a thousand Gazans in Operation Cast Lead a few short months earlier.

TIFF’s cozying up to the Israeli propaganda machine blew up into a global scandal, as a spontaneous movement of protest among a few filmmakers turned into an international incident, bringing 1,500 signatures from prominent Israeli public figures and the likes of Jane Fonda, Julie Christie, Alice Walker, Naomi Klein, Guy Maddin, and Harry Belafonte to the “Toronto Declaration” criticizing Israel and TIFF. It was a huge embarrassment, a sign that Israel propaganda is becoming harder to swallow, even by devotees of Hollywood.

Since then, no more tributes to Tel Aviv. Now, to show how open-minded it is, TIFF even shows Arab films tsk-tsking Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians, but all safely within the bounds of North American discourse on Palestine, Syria etc. This year’s include:

*”After the Battle”, by Egyptian Yousry Nasrallah, about Mahmoud, who makes a paltry living taking tourists on horseback rides at the pyramids but was conned into participating in the “battle of the camels” during the Egyptian revolution last year. He is now unemployed and ostracized, and has a fateful encounter with a liberal rich divorcee from Zamalek.

*”As if We Were Catching a Cobra”, by Hala Alabdalla, about the tradition of caricature drawing in Egypt and Syria, filmed before, during and after the uprisings of 2011–12.

*Inescapable”, by Arab-Canadian director Ruba Nadda, about a former officer in the Syrian military police who is forced to return to Damascus when his globe-trotting daughter goes missing.

*”Fidai” and “Zabana!”, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Algeria’s independence, the former reminiscences of a combatant, the latter a biopic about the legendary freedom fighter guillotined by the French in 1956 who inspired the Battle of Algiers.

*”The Attack”, by Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri, about a Palestinian doctor in Israel who faces discrimination and whose wife is involved in a suicide bombing.

“”When I Saw You”, by Palestinian Annemarie Jacir, produced by Ossama Bawardi, who produced “Paradise Now”.

*”A World Not Ours”, by Mahdi Fleifel, about life in the Ain al-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.

*”State 194″, a documentary by Dan Setton, on Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plans for a Palestinian state, with Fayyad in attendance.

*”Inch’ Allah”, by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, about a Quebec doctor who works in a women’s health clinic on the Palestinian side of the barrier but resides in an apartment on the Israeli side.

Uprisings against Arab dictators, celebration of Algerian independence, Palestinian angst balanced by a paean to the chief Palestinian sellout.

As another sign of the times, there is now an annual Toronto Palestine Film Festival (TPFF) following TIFF at the beginning of October, where more probing films are shown and where Palestinian filmmakers invited to TIFF (this year — Jacir, Bawardi and Fleifel) can meet with local activists fighting Israeli apartheid.

This year’s line-up includes some hard-hitting documentaries:

*”The War Around Us”, by Abdallah Omeish, about the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2008.

*”Road Map to Apartheid”, by Ana Nogueira.

*”This Is My Land…Hebron”, by Giulia Amati and Stephen Natanson, about Hebron, where 160,000 Palestinians are confronted by an Israeli settlement of 600 settlers, guarded by 2,000 Israeli soldiers, intent on expelling the indigenous population and occupying their homes.

If patrons of TPFF have their way, Toronto may not be Gissin’s “arena for Israeli PR” much longer.

September 13, 2012 Posted by | Islamophobia, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Comments Off on Toronto International Film Festival’s Cozying up to Israeli Propaganda