When Pesach Breaks My Heart

This Föhrenwald Displaced Person (DP) camp sedar plate (1948) from Holocaust Museum kind of breaks by heart. 

The Hebrew says in part "עבדות לחירות " (from slavery to freedom) and the camp stayed open until 1957. Worse, the DP's were living in facilities built in 1939 to house the construction workers for the IG Farben chemical conglomerate which then held laborers during WWII.

It's from the museum's exhibit which I found on twitter from NPR's Scott Simon (twitter, website, email ), who had first attracted my attention with a lighter message:

Happy Passover. Gonna hide the afikomen (matzoh hidden for children to find) where they'll never find it--in their homework.

Many of the camps had the horrible slogan "arbeit macht frei"  (labor makes you free) but the only freedom was death, often in the death chambers after workers were too sick to be of use to the Nazi war machine.

And now the chilling phrase is being used again on a bridge overlooking the decaying industrial complex of the Packard Plant in a dying city  "lord[ing] over the hulking plant that once created luxury cars and now serves as a decrepit 40-acre squatting grounds for the homeless..." as reported by CBS news on 2/5/13.

To read about Föhrenwald at Remember.org here's a Shoah lecture from the late Henry Cohen who managed the DP camp and went on to become an urban planner,  a prominent New York City official in the Wagner and Lindsay administrations and a dean at a retired dean at the New School for Social Research (bio from Cohen's NYT obituary.)


How to be a Warrior for Community: Meg Wheatley

Image: Screen shot from Meg Wheatley's slide on how those in charge want to force us to do more with less from a video of her talk, "Whatever the Problem, Community is the Answer."

Community Voices will host her followers Kathie deNobriga and Melanie Hammet speaking on :The art of (small) Government & the (small) art of governance" at Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg on March 28 from 7 to 8.  Both are elected officials in Pine Lake Georgia.

I've admired Kathie deNobriga's work since her founding of AlternateROOTS , which artist Margo Miller-- who also heads up the Appalachian Community Fund--participates.

Here's a short essay deNobriga wrote on her thoughts.  I love the idea that Pine Lake,  pop 700+,  has these two as elected officials! I might not be able to attend, but have invited my friends who are fans of @AlternateROOTs, as well as folks nearby, who are involved in making Princeton, WV a better town...


Paul Corbit Brown: WV's Enduring Conspiracy

Photo by Paul Corbit Brown (bio, website), copyrighted and used by permission.


I've asked Paul Corbit  if he wants to add a note about the background of how he took this picture, which he used as an illustration for the following essay, found at the bottom of this post, which he published on facebook on Sunday, after attending  the 40th Annual West Virginia Mining Symposium at the Civic Center in Charleston, WV March 7-8.  .

According to the sponsor, the West Virginia Coal Association, the event provides:
 an opportunity for the industry to discuss current domestic and international marketing and production trends and to showcase new mining and mine safety technologies. Attendees will participate in mine safety and environmental workshops and state mining companies will be honored for mine safety performance and environmental quality

Paul Corbit says that the Congress members, who were there as featured speakers, told him they hadn't heard of the studies about the health effects of mountaintop removal.  They are:
*Nick Rahall (D-WV3, elected 1976--website, email for his chief of staff, David McMaster)
*Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV2 elected 2000--website, , email for her chief of staff, Joel Brubaker )
*David McKinley (R-WV1, elected 2010--website, email for his chief of staff, Mike Hamilton).

Also speaking were  Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, and Attorney General Patrick Morrissey.  Wonder if Jay Rockefeller who has now chastised the coal industry spoke in the past and if he was dis-invited this year.

As I write this  Alpha Natural Resources is holding a legislative reception at the Marriot in Charleston WV.  You know, Alpha--the folks who bought out Massey, of the Upper Big Branch mining disaster fame and are still defending selenium pollution.  Wonder if it was one of the companies honored for "environmental quality?" 

Here's Paul Corbit's essay from March 10, 10:33 am:

Before Halliburton, before pharmacuticals, before tobacco, and before the bank crisis; The story of WV remains as one of our nation's oldest and most enduring conspiracies perpetrated by an industry and the government against its citizenry.

This is a conspiracy so broad and so deep it could only be hidden in plain sight. The history of WV, our true identity as a resource colony, is literally a story as black as coal.

Here is the home of a people fierce enough to carve out a birthplace for organized labor and a mere four generations later to become a people fearful enough to quite likely lay that one hope for the working individual to rest.

Here are the people who have come to live in the shadow of a scarcity mentality while abiding in a land that is the second most bio-diverse ecosystem on the planet and a state that has exporting untold billions of dollars in natural resources such as coal and natural gas.

For the entire 150 year history of our state we have struggled against the delusion of Democracy, the rule of law and equal protection under that law. Never understanding, until now, that the government that was promised to protect us, was in fact created to control and enslave us.

By the end of the Civil War it was clear that we could not be bound by ropes and chains so the coal industry created an even more devious means of subjugation: dependency. Just as one who is kidnapped depends on their captor for survival, we have been lured by promises into a dead end dark alley of dependency on the coal industry. After generations of brilliant propaganda we have become the largest mass case study of Stockholm's Syndrome in the history of our nation.

The evidence has been abundantly clear all along that the industry is only here for its own need - profit- and when that need has been met, we have consistently been left with nothing more than hollow promises, an environmental disaster of epic proportions and the broken pieces of our illusions of freedom, democracy and prosperity.

While the politicians and corporations that own and control WV roam freely and profit from the blood on their hands, we who have been asked to give all, will not be free until we make our final sacrifice and once again leave our Blood on the Mountain.


Sunshine Week 2013 For Real?

This is a preliminary post.  I'll finish tomorrow.


When the White House posts in celebration of Sunshine Week,  you've got to wonder whether the event has gone the way of Earth Day.  Is Sunshine Week is now an occasion for yellow-washing, or whatever the analogous term is for greenwashing.  As Jack Gillum (twitter, email, ) and Ted Bridis (twitter, email ) of AP's Washington investigative team note,

In a year of intense public interest over deadly U.S. drones, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, terror threats and more, the government cited national security to withhold information at least 5,223 times - a jump over 4,243 such cases in 2011 and 3,805 cases in Obama's first year in office. The secretive CIA last year became even more secretive: Nearly 60 percent of 3,586 requests for files were withheld or censored for that reason last year, compared with 49 percent a year earlier. Other federal agencies that invoked the national security exception included the Pentagon, Director of National Intelligence, NASA, Office of Management and Budget, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Communications Commission and the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs.
The photograph accompanying the article cites Cryptome.org cofounder John Young as saying regarding government secrecy, "The scale is tipped so far the other way that I'm willing to stick my neck out and say there should be none."

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/11/3279060_p2/us-citing-security-to-censor-more.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/11/3279060_p2/us-citing-security-to-censor-more.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/11/3279060/us-citing-security-to-censor-more.html#storylink=cpy
Obama is even more secretive than George Bush, despite criticizing his predecessor and promising transparency.  He has also invoked the Espionage Act against whistle blowers.  As Chris Hedges wrote March 3 in "We Are Bradley Manning," the trial (Manning's redacted statement released March 11 by his attorney, analysis of trial by cryptome.org) represents
a concerted effort by the security and surveillance state to extinguish what is left of a free press, one that has the constitutional right to expose crimes by those in power. The lonely individuals who take personal risks so that the public can know the truth—the Daniel Ellsbergs, the Ron Ridenhours, the Deep Throats and the Bradley Mannings—are from now on to be charged with “aiding the enemy.” All those within the system who publicly reveal facts that challenge the official narrative will be imprisoned, as was John Kiriakou, the former CIA analyst who for exposing the U.S. government’s use of torture began serving a 30-month prison term the day Manning read his statement. There is a word for states that create these kinds of information vacuums: totalitarian.
And just as I'm concerned about the environment all year long, I'm concerned about government secrecy and domestic surveillance.  Despite the recent spate of stones on Rand Paul's filibuster about domestic drones illing of American citizens a, how much attention was paid to the hasty renewal of FISA, for instance?   Here's a video that I came across today from Julian Sanchez (twitter, email) of the Cato Institute.

And by the way, here's a  letter today from House liberal Democrats to Obama complaining about the partial release even to Congress of information about justification for the targeted killing of American citizen.


Sunshine Week is a project of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Bloomberg, the  American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.


Why ACTA May BE Fanning the Flames at UVA

 Photo composite from left to right:  Anne Neal, Teresa Sullivan, Helen Dragas.


The University of Virginia (UVA) Board  of Visitors (BOV) received widespread--and I'd guess unwanted--attention  when Regent Helen Dragas seemingly forced the resignation of UVA  President Teresa Sullivan on June 10, 2012 without a vote.  The conflict centered on money and mission.  Dragas criticized Sullivan for not moving quickly enough on reforms Sullivan said involved deep cuts in education.   Siva Vaidhyanathan (email, bio), a cultural historian and media scholar at the University described the events for Slate as "robber barons try[ing] to usurp control of established public universities to impose their will via comical management jargon and massive application of ego and hubris."
Attention might have faded after June 26, when the BOV voted unanimously to reinstate Sullivan. But UVA's accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) found that the BOV failed to include the faculty and issued  a warning on December 11.  On December 31, Anne Neal,  American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA),  complained to the Department of Education (DOE) that SACS acted without authority.  The Governor and General Assembly reappointed Dragas over protests.  Continuing tension surfaced March 1 when the Washington Post 's Jenna Johnson (email, blog, twitter) published a February email by Sullivan, ("made public without [her] consent or knowledge”) protesting that Dragas had issued goals which " set [her] up to fail."  The Faculty Senate responded that Dragas appears to have “not yet learned the governance lessons from last summer’s crisis. This kind of behavior must end.”

Giving new life to the controversy March 8,  ACTA wrote Education Secretary Arne Duncan appealing DOE's   February 11, 2013 determination that  SAC did not violate any federal laws.  ACTA promotes core courses in composition, U.S.  government or  history, economics, literature, college-level math, science and  intermediate-level foreign language.  It claims to support academic freedom, academic, greater transparency and accountability.  Not not exactly ends achieved by the UVA BOV in the forced resignation. Why, I wondered, is ACTA going to such lengths against SACS and, by extension, the UVA faculty?

One answer may lie in ACTA's founder, its funders and their political agenda. ACTA got its start 1995 from Lynn Cheney, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. One major funder is the conservative  Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Another,  before it zeroed out its endowment in 2005, was the John M. Olin Foundation, which disbursed over $370 million, primarily to conservative think tanks, media outlets, and law programs at influential universities.

ACTA has a long-going war with accreditation organizations   Doug Lederman (email), founding editor of Inside Higher Education described it as advocating for "more or less junking the current federal system of academic quality review," when writing about the Bush adminstration's appointment of ACTA co-founder Anne D. Neal to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity.  While the current DOE letter to ACTA limits its oversight of SAC to matters of law, under Bush, according to Lederman,

Department officials have come to view accreditation, higher education's system of self-regulation and quality control, as an important pressure point for carrying out many of the recommendations of the Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education. That's because accrediting agencies have influence over the vast majority of colleges and programs, and because the department, through the NACIQI panel, has the ability to judge the performance of accreditors. That approval is crucial, because without it, an accreditor’s stamp of approval of a college does not carry with it the all-important right for the institution’s students to receive federal financial aid...
 [At] a federal negotiating session... political leaders in the Education Department...sought to give NACIQI significantly more power to investigate accreditors, and to do so more regularly.
But there's a wider political agenda.  Emily Eakin (email), at the New York Times  wrote about  ACTA's November 23, 2001 publication  "Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It," a report no long available on the ACTA's website.  In the guise of protecting free speech for students and faculty, ACTA , criticized other faculty for being "''the weak link in America's response to the (9/11 attack.'' Eakin described ACTA as "a conservative nonprofit group devoted to curbing liberal tendencies in academia." 

 One of those criticized, Joel Beinin (email, bio), Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History and Professor of Middle East History at Stanford University wrote about his experience in "The New American McCarthyism: policing thought about the Middle East," published in 2004:

"The first post-September 11 expression of the link between the neo-conservative political agenda and the attack on critical thinking about the Middle East was a report...maintain[ing] that criticism of the Bush administration’s war on Afghanistan on campuses across the country was tantamount to negligence in ‘defending civilization’ and proof that ‘our universities are failing America’. ACTA alleged that American universities were brought to this sorry state by inadequate teaching of western culture and American history. Consequently, students and faculty did not understand what was at stake in the fight against terrorism and were undermining the defence of civilization by asking too many questions...

"The original version of ‘Defending civilization’ named and quoted comments by 117 university faculty members, staff and students in reaction to the September 11 attacks. ACTA’s ire was aroused by my statement that, ‘If Usama bin Laden is confirmed to be behind the attacks, the United States should bring him before an international tribunal on charges of crimes against humanity.’ Other remarks in the report’s list of unacceptable speech included ‘Ignorance breeds hate’ and ‘[T]here needs to be an understanding of why this kind of suicidal violence could be undertaken against our country’."

And lest you think it stops there, Craig Smith (email), Director of Higher Education at American Federation of Teachers, critiqued ACTA's legislative agenda in 2007, saying its  “Intellectual Diversity” agenda advocated censorship.  The 2005  report on that agenda IS available on ACTA's site, as is a 2007 report on accreditation "reform."