(LAST MONTH - September 27, 2011) Texas
Climate - Reaping what we sow
It's hot, I mean really hot. How hot
is it in Texas? Just yesterday in Waxahachie I saw two trees fighting
over a dog.
Texas, is experiencing a scorching
summer and set to break all-time historic heat and drought records
cities throughout the state. Worse than in 1925-26, 1936.
1950-57, 2005-6. Worse even than the Dustbowl.
And, there are some forecast that the drought could continue through
We've seen less than an inch of rain
statewide in July and August. Stock tanks have run dry, urban
reservoirs are being depleted and water tables have fallen...threatening
to dry up sacred springs. With
more than 98 percent of the state is in the two most extreme stages
of drought, cattle are sickening and dying. City water
lines are breaking as the ground shifts, corn and wheat crops
are destroyed, and many businesses are going under.
According to David Anderson, a livestock
economist with Texas A&M's Agrilife Extension Service, the
current drought is likely to be the costliest ever. Losses to
farmers and ranchers have already passed
an estimated $5.2 billion and continue to rise.
As my grandpappy would say whenever
things got really bad, or we'd done something wrong, Perhaps it's
"come-to-Jesus time" for we Texans who have continued
our wasteful ways and our contribution to the drought.
For too long, we have been relying
on natural benevolence while degrading the earth. Some would even
say that we are now reaping what we sowed - burning oil in an
extravagant way that has led to a greenhouse effect that is now
burning us in return. And, no amount of prayin' is going to solve
the problem of dissipated use of resources and the needs of a
Texas has long been proud to be the
leading crude oil and natural gas-producing state in the nation.
We are home to nearly all of the world's major oil companies and
have reaped the financial benefits to the tune of trillions of
dollars from energy and its movement around the globe.
But, we also produce and consume more
electricity than any other state in the nation. Our 25 million
people use nearly as much as California and Florida combined (56
million). At 11,552
..that's a lot of coldbeer (in
Texas cold beer is one word).
Business and industry account for half
of all energy use in the Lone Star State, and our residential
use of electricity is significantly higher than anyplace in the
world. This creates a situation where the smokestacks of coal
and oil-burning plants ring the state belching millions of tons
of pollution into the air. Texas produces a significant portion
of all greenhouse gas emissions throughout the globe.
Added to the emissions that come from electrical
generation, Texans drive lots of cars and produce tons of additional
greenhouse gas emissions. Each Texas resident produces approximately
32 tons of carbon dioxide each year. This makes us #1 in the U.S
and #4 in the world in terms of air pollution that every Texas
man, woman and child helps generate.
Texans are also some of the most extravagant users
of water in the world and second only to California in the amount
of water consumed. We use if for everything from electric power
generation, watering our lawns, livestock, manufacturing, and
farming. More recently, "fracking" of oil shale to release
natural gas is also a big contributor to water usage.
In 2004, Texas consumed 15.5 million acre-feet of
both ground and surface water, but our thirst is unquenchable.
In 2010, natural gas companies used 13.5 billion gallons of fresh
water for hydraulic fracturing, and that could more than double
by 2020. The Texas Water
Development Board (TWDB) has projected that total Texas
water demand could rise to 21.6 million acre-feet by 2060 and
no one knows where it's going to come from-the current plans for
water reservoirs won't help; they will just provide more shallow
pools of evaporation, much like Canyon Lake or Lake Buchanan.
Fracking alone may soon consume thirty to thirty-five percent
of total water usage-and don't forget, that's not water that will
be returned to the hydrological cycle---polluted by hundreds of
toxic chemicals, and often by radioactive elements, it is gone
forever. No wonder that a group of anxious farmers and ranchers
recently met with the TWDB to ask for relief. They're afraid that
their regions will join those which are already running dry.
Scientists like Dr. Richard Seager of the Lamont
Doherty Center at Columbia University tell us that Texas
is moving into a state of perpetual drought, with desertification,
the process of literally becoming a desert, moving into Texas
from Mexico at the rate of several miles per year. State climatologist
John Neilson Gammon tells us that this particular drought could
last through next spring, or even later-but like other scientists,
he can't predict the frequency or intensity of drought periods.
Calling it a "Pee
Water Plan", the cities of Big Springs, Midland,
Odessa and Stanton, are recycling waste water for drinking. In
usually-wet Houston residents have been told to stop watering
their lawns as the metropolis drains Lake Conroe. League City
has closed the public pool due to the drought. San Antonio has
asked well-users to reduce their pumping by 30% and may soon move
into Stage Three water restrictions, which are considered draconian
by many. But even in the most severe of droughts, Texans are still
using forty to sixty percent of available water for landscape
irrigation. Perhaps they should start planning landscapes that
are appropriate to the desert that Texas will become. El Paso,
once facing water shortages, ripped
up the urban turf.
Despite the clear evidence that we are using up
national resources faster than they can be replenished and the
fact of our contribution to global climate change, too many Texans
continue to put their heads in the sand.
Governor-would-be-president Rick Perry calls for
rain dances while denying global warming. His sentiment
holds true with many Texans who willfully choose scientific illiteracy
and ignorance over personal and social responsibility.
They are sowing a path of destruction that may end
up burning - quite literally - through their homes, businesses
and communities, unless they help to bring about change.
These are the "science stoopid" members
of our community who stand in the way of governmental policies
and community projects to deal with the issue.
The Future Rests With Us
The impacts of our energy and water use is coming
home to Texans, but it's also affecting the citizens of the world.
We must all become good stewards of our Earth.
Time is short for us to address our current drought
and plan for the perpetual drought that scientists say will come.
Incentivization programs targeting water use must be common in
every municipality-traditional lawns should be abandoned, water-saving
devices should be mandatory. As we look for better ways to grow
drought-tolerant crops, we also need to be making long-range water
plans for the state. Experts say that we won't be able to sustain
electricity production at our state's plants should this drought
continue and should the overall situation worsen. The time for
conservation, of both water and energy, is now.
Resources for Water Wisdom and Energy Intelligence
There are several organizations which address water
scarcity in Texas and throughout the United States. One of the
best is Food and Water
Watch. In Texas, we have the work done by the Hill
Country Alliance and the Helotes
Creek Nature Center. The San Antonio region benefits from
the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance.
The Texas Water Conservation Association
is helpful in finding a group in your region.
Many other organizations in Texas address the underlying
problems that have brought us to the brink. The Clean
Economy Coalition of Corpus Christi is a prime example
of a citizens' group that fights for better lives for Texans.
Others include the SEED Coalition,
the Texas office of Public
Citizen and the Texas office of the Sierra
Additionally, watch this space as Texans for Peace
increases its involvement in these problems that so intrinsically
affect Texans' lives. We hope to have a full-scale environmental
effort, encompassing both environmental justice issues and energy
and water issues before the end of the year. Together, we can
make the changes that are needed in this world.
Dirty Oil Pipeline Coming
During the past week, scores
of people have been arrested in Washington, DC while protesting
the decision of the Obama Administration to o.k. the building
massive pipeline that would carry oil slurry from the tar sands
of Mexico to Texas for refining.
The plan, first concieved under the Bush Administration
has recently been championed by Hillary Clinton. Representative
Henry Waxman, said the pipeline will carry oil from Canadas
tar-sands region, the dirtiest source of transportation
fuel currently available.
Michael Brune, president of the Sierra Club, urged
to veto the project, but final approval of the $7 billion,
1,711-mile, project continues to move forward in Washington. More
arrests are expected this week.
$20 Billion for AC ... in Afghanistan
Operation Enduring Disaster continues in Afghanistan
and has become America's longest, and second costliest, war in
the nation's history. Congress has approves hundreds of billions
of dollars that has been wasted, including $20
Billion spent just on airconditioning for the troops -
at a time when Afghan and American children go hungry and without.
While the pampered soldiers play videogames in front
of wide-screen televisions in airconditioned bases, grunts sweat
at forward operating bases (FOBs) in the field, wondering why
they are there and when they will be allowed to come home. A few
(very few) think about what else could be done with the $1.36
Trillion that has already been spent.
Texas schools not measuring up
The number of Texas schools that failed federal No Child Left
Behind standards last year continues
to rise. Texas schools failing to make adequate
yearly progress increased to 2,233 from 368 last year, according
to preliminary results released by the Texas Education Agency.
Math and Science education levels are particularly troubling.
In related news, Governor Rick Perry apparently
doesn't believe in science education. Perry, now running for U.S.
president, told a boy that evolution
is just a theory with gaps and
that in Texas they teach both creationism and evolution.
State borrows $9.8 billion
The mismanagement of state finances continues as
the "no taxes" Legislature fails to address the costs
of education. The state issued
$9.8 billion of general-obligation notes, the states
largest short-term debt offering, to fund public schools.
Texas increased its annual top-rated tax and revenue
anticipation note sale from last year by $2 billion to cover payments
to school districts until the bulk of tax revenue receipts next
year. The additional borrowing will compensate for the end of
federal stimulus funding and property-tax collections that are
below what was budgeted...meaning that Texas taxpayers are rewarding
bankers and investors for the Legislature's failures.
(ARCHIVES - June 25, 2011) Only YOU can prevent
endless U.S.-led war
It is easy to a person to become disgusted,
irate or even cynical at our nation's endless war and militarism.
Particularly in view that we have a "peace" president
who has escalated wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, refused to
withdraw from Iraq and launched new wars of aggression in Libya
and Yemen (and perhaps Syria and Iran during his second term).
Likewise, we have a Congress - with
members from 'liberal' to 'conservative' who seem to delight at
seeing who can outdo each other with wasteful and unneeded military
spending (The "Defense" budget more than doubled since
2000 from $311 billion to $690 billion for 2012). This doesn't
even take into account the "low level" wars, conflicts
and military campaigns that the U.S. continues in Colombia, Israel/Palestine,
Balkan states, Venezuela, Haiti, Mexico and elsewhere.
Sadly, too, are a majority of Americans
who put partisanship above policy, believe the propaganda on the
Pengaton and U.S. media and are unwilling to challenge their own
assumptions of the efficacy of military strategies to achieve
goals of peace and security.
And, those opposed to endless warmaking
have taught, marched, protested and been imprisoned while trying
to prevent and stop war - but with limited success. Some even
say that the peace movement has "failed". Perhaps it's
because the nonviolent revolution doesn't get much press in a
nation where revolutions "will
not be televised".
Instead, peace advocates and activists
continue to work for effective approaches to social change in
efforts to bring about peace and justice for the long term. We
know that U.S.-led war will continue until American citizens bring
it to halt and transform our nation into one where peace, nonviolence
and justice prevails. Like the Smokey Bear slogan, only YOU can
prevent endless war.
In order to effect social change and
transform society into one that is peaceful and justice, proponents
are committed to the principles of active nonviolence - and the
use of means that are consistent with the ends. This is something
that is lost on those who desire to end human suffering - such
as in Libya or Darfur - by using the military. They don't get
that military projection of violence only leads to further death
and destruction and is the wrong strategy. Peacemakers, on the
other hand, understand that "There
is no way to peace. Peace is the way," in the words
of A.J. Muste.
Taking a page from spiritual and moral
leaders of the past, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped articulate
the following Principles
of Nonviolence that guided actions during U.S. civil rights
and has been adopted around the world by nonviolent "revolutionaries".
1. Must be a way of life - it requires
resistance to "evil", assertive spiritual, mental and
emotionally actions, and continually seeks to persuade persons
to the justice of the cause.
2. Must seek to win friends and understanding - it seeks an end
where all are reconciled into a "Beloved Community".
3. Must focus on deeds, not people - it holds that all people
have worth and that even those who commit evil are also its victims.
4. Seeks demonstration through action - it requires a willingness
for actions that demonstrate commitment, accepts suffering without
retaliation and, in doing so, convent someone when even reason
5. Chooses love over hate - it rejects violence,
in all of its many forms, and gives love willingly even n the
face of hostility.
6. Is for the long term - it requires patience and a commitment
to a vision that peace and justice will eventually triumph over
violence and injustice.
In examining the scores of nonviolent revolutions
of the past century - from the overthrowing of dictators around
the world and the liberation of nations - Gene Sharp researched
and catalogued 198
methods of organized nonviolent strategies that continue
to be used today, such as in the "Arab Spring" and anti-war
movements. They list is quite extensive but is grouped into several
areas that, if enacted, can bring about necessary change.
Methods of Nonviolent Protest and Persuasion
The first set of methods involves bringing attention
and publicizing issues and to articulate the principles and arguments
for the desired change. They include: Formal Statements - Declarations
of position, letters, positions of organizations, petitions, and
public speeches. Gandhi famously insisted that before taken action,
one should always first notify the "opposition" of the
action, the reasons for it and the escalations that would ensue
should the response not be achieved.
Communications With A Wide Audience - Sloganeering,
leafleting, articles, media campaigns and communications of all
types should be employed to spread the message of the desired
For years now, the peace community has created websites,
bumperstickers, billboard, editorials and other information to
dispel the myths war even in the face the hundreds of millions
of dollars that the Pentagon spends on military propaganda throughout
every segment of U.S. society. However, more resources are needed
in this area, if only to counteract the tremendous psychological
operations (PSY OPS) perpetrated by those who favor war and the
military's $300+ million annual propaganda budgets.
Group Representations - Lobbying, deputations, picketing
and other actions by small and large groups are always required
to communicate the message of nonviolence or "speak
Truth to Power" to those from whom change is required.
Symbolic Public Acts - Clothing, yard signs, graffiti,
public protests, praying, disrobings and other symbolic acts are
used publically to draw attention to the cause and to serve a
reminders of the issue in ways that often shock and startle.
Pressure on Individuals - These actions range from
the "haunting" of public officials wherever they go
to vigils and protests in their offices. Children's
shoes, representing those of Iraqi children, have been
delivered in person to members of Congress to help articulate
the destruction of war. Congressmembers are challenged on their
war positions when they go into the community as well.
Drama and Music - The use of humor, skits singing
and other arts to amuse while pushing forward on a peace and justice
issue. Last week, peace activists in Washington D.C. were
arrested for "dancing" at the Jefferson Memorial.
Processions - Peace marches, parades, protest, motorcades
and religious pilgrimages have long been used. Gandhi's
Salt March was particularly effective in rallying people
in India to the cause of the overthrow of British imperialism.
Honoring the Dead - Political mourning, mock funerals,
and homage at burial places is sometimes used. The
"Boots on the Ground - Eyes Wide Open" exhibits
of the combat boots representing soldiers who have died, has been
effective where it is displayed.
One of the first principles of "change"
is to quit cooperating with the thing that one desires changed.
For example, if a person is against war then not joining the military
is an essential part of non-cooperation. Some noncooperation is
personal, while others - such as in the tactics used to overthrow
apartheid South Africa - is enjoined by large groups.
Ostracism of Persons - Selective or entire boycotts,
excommunication, interdiction and Lysistratic
nonactions have been used to "cut off" persons, groups
or oncooperation with Institutions - Suspension of sports and
social activities, strikes, sitdowns,
social disobedience and withdrawal of funds are used to increase
pressure on institutions.
Withdrawal Entirely - "Sick outs", fleeing
to sanctuaries, collective "disappearing", and individual
refusal to participate - from elections to work - as a way to
send a message and disrupt the social system.
Since most of society rests on underpinning economic
frameworks, forcing economic change can often lead to social change.
Consumer Actions - Consumer boycotts, refusal to
pay rent or taxes and international financial boycotts have been
effective in bringing about changes, particularly of big corporations.
Actions by Workers - Workers' and producers' boycotts
disrupt "business as usual". Strikes, slowdowns and
other actions by workers have long been employed as effective
tools. Most recently, dock workers in Seattle have refused to
load military ordinance heading to Afghanistan.
Actions by Owners and Financiers - Refusals to trade,
employ, buy and sell, withdrawing deposits, refusing to pay depts.,
etc. can also have an impact on the economy.
Actions by Governments - Embargos, blacklisting
and other punitive measures can have an effect on a neighboring
When the problem is political, such as laws that
are unjust, noncooperation with those laws or institutions often
comes to the forefront. This includes refusal to elect leaders
who have proven records of warmaking....even if they are friends
or political partisans.
Outright Rejection of Authority - Withholding of
allegiance, refusal to obey government edicts, non-assistance
with investigators, boycotting schools and institutions and refusal
to accept election outcomes demonstrates a lack of support for
a particular authority.
Citizens' Actions - Nonobedience in the face of
direct orders, refusal to assemble or disperse, noncooperation
with conscription, hiding, false identities and other breaking
of "illegitimate" laws.
Government & International Actions - Selective
refusal of assistance by government workers, blocking of lines
of communication, obstruction and "throwing a wrench in the
machine" and outright mutiny. Diplomatic severance, withdrawal
from international organizations, expulsions.
Direct, nonviolent intervention in the path of violence
is a method that is generally used when all other methods have
failed or where the costs of nonintervention - such in a massacre
- are too great to wait. They include:
Psychological Intervention - Fasts, mock trials,
hunger strikes and others measures to bring moral pressure.
Physical Intervention - Sit-downs, stand-ins, freedom
rides, flash mobs, raids, interjections, human chains, obstruction
and occupations are all methods where a person's body is used
directly in an action. A flotilla of international peace activist
currently sailing to Israel/Palestine to break the siege of Gaza
, despite Israeli threats to kill participants and U.S. threats
to arrest them as "terrorists".
Social Intervention - Teach-ins, guerilla street
theatre, creation of alternative social institutions, overloading
public facilities (i.e. filling the jails), and alternative communication
are also used.
Economic Intervention - Land seizure, defiance of
economic blockades, seizure of assets, alternative markets, and
setting up alternative financial institutions have been used at
Political Intervention - Overwhelming administrative
government information, seeking imprisonment, rejection
of sovereignty and direct undermining of governments.
NEXT STEPS FOR USA
After exhausting many of the steps above, it is
now time for Americans who are opposed to the endless warmaking
of the U.S. to escalate our actions, too - much as the military,
political and corporate establishment has escalated theirs. In
order to bring an end to overseas wars, the bankrupting of our
nation and the possibility of widening global war, we must seek
to employ the methods of nonviolence in even more creative ways,
place more energy into these actions and, if needed, be willing
to commit so-called "treasonous" acts. We
demand "Jobs, Peace, Justice" for all!
The White House, Pentagon, President, Congress,
federal agencies and the Supreme Court have demonstrated that
they are willing to let such wars continue endlessly, along with
the bankrupting of the nation. Arrests of peaceful citizens and
unlawful detainment and torture have become acceptable norms in
the eyes of Washington leaders and their enforcement agencies.
War profiteers fill their coffers with the nation's treasure while
parents cry over the graves that hold the bodies of their children.
The insanely destructive are aided by the fearful
many and the sanctimonious few. They used the Big Lie that they
are "protecting" America from "enemies", when
in fact it is they that are bringing America to the edge of moral
and financial bankruptcy and weakening our security.
The challenge for peace activists isn't just to
be willing to undergo the difficulties that come with sometimes
taking a stand in opposition to our government and its willing
followers, but to do so in ways that are constructive and "win"
over the other side.
It is not enough to stop the military from being
deployed overseas, but we must enact laws that reduce its power
and influence. We need to make sure that the military is subservient
to The People and is only used in a proper manner and isn't large
enough to be an aggressive force that dominates every part of
society (i.e. militarism). We need to retool the soldiers into
teachers, doctors and other profession that build and heal the
world and quit telling youth that soldiers "serve the nation"
when they are being sent off to fight unjust wars.
If Washington continues to deploy the same global
strategies with bureaucrats in the Pentagon and elsewhere remaining
in charge of domestic and foreign policy, we need to change the
political guard in Congress and the presidency and constrain corporate
influence over elected officials and the courts. Corrupt officials
must be removed and sent to jail. Unjust laws must be rewritten.
Unjust laws and rulings that come from the courts
need to be tested and infringements on personal freedom and liberties
demand challenges if they are to be changed. You and I must repare
to violate unjust laws and rulings, in ways small and large while
clearing articulating alternative visions.
This October 7 will mark the 10th anniversary of
America's longest war. For the past decade, the U.S. has warred
on and occupied Afghanistan, then Iraq and now expanding into
Pakistan, Libya and elsewhere. That symbolic date, on the heal
of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, is an opportunity for America
to reflect upon, and be challenged, to turn away from its chosen
path of war and militarism. It will also be a time to focus on
"Jobs, Peace, Justice".
But, change in the U.S.A. won't come about without
Many tools and tactics are available to the nonviolent
strategists who seek change. 'Arm' yourselves with these and develop
your own. Study Gandhi, MLK, Sharp and others to learn how nonviolent
movements, and even handfuls of small groups, have changed the
world through that 'force
more powerful'. Activate your local community, house of
worship, school or business to stand for good.
And, when the wars are over, as indeed they will
one day be, celebrate knowing that you became the change you desired
to see in the world - YOU helped stop the war machine.
Dallas Summer Peace Series "Moving Forward"
Peace Center has an exciting lineup for the 7th Annual
Summer Dinner Lecture Series. Highlighting this year's event is
Rinku Sen, author of Colorlines, who will speak on racial justice
and Matthew Hoh, Director of the Afghan study group and an advocate
for a change in policy.
If you plan to be in the Dallas-Fort Worth area
this summer, take advantage of this series and get to know the
folks at the Dallas
Houston gays celebrate NY vote
On the eve of the Houston
Gay Pride parade and festival, LGBT Houstonians and their
allies in celebrated the decision by the state of New York to
leagalize same-sex marriage. The legislation passed by a bi-partisan
vote and makes
New York the largest state to allow gay marriage. Texas,
larger than NY, is home to more gay couples.
New York now joins Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut,
Massachusetts, Iowa and Washington, D.C. and countries - from
Canada to Argentina - that allow gay marriage.
Billions missing in Iraq
The Iraq Parliament wants to know where $18.7 Billion
spent by the U.S. in Iraq has gone unaccounted for. The
Federal Reserve Bank of New York is refusing to tell U.S. government
investigators how much money it sent to Iraq during the
first years of the American invasion as a top Iraqi official suggested
the missing and possibly stolen funds from that era is more than
$18 billion nearly three times the previously reported
The Bush Administration, already
accused of war crimes, now stands with the most corrupt
dictators in the world in the scale of financial theft.
Wrongly jailed man get $1.4M
A Texas man imprisoned for nearly two decades for the killings
of a grandmother and five children that he didn't commit will
receive $1.4 million in compensation after the Texas Legislature
added a provision specifically addressing his case. Anthony
Graves had been declared innocent by a special prosecutor
last year in the 1992 killings of the six family members outside
Houston. However, because of the wording of the order exonerating
45-year-old former inmate had been unable to collect under
a 2009 Texas law that gives exonerees $80,000 for every year they
spent in prison. State
Comptroller, Susan Combs refused to make payment.
Graves now says he's grateful that things have been
cleared up, but that the money "doesn't even come close"
to making up for the time he spent in prison. "I lost 18
years of my life," he said. "It wasn't like I hit the
Ready for another Texan in the White House?
Congressman Ron Paul of Texas and governor Rick
Perry have both been touted as possible Republican nominees for
U.S. president. Both have been on the campaign trail and speaking
before Republican crowds - although each has a different message.
touts fiscal and social conservatism but is also associated
with the George W. Bush tax cuts that left state coffers bare
and have created a financial crisis for Texas schools. Paul
focuses on libertarian principles of antiwar isolationism and
reducing the size of government. Both Perry and Paul have
pledged to eleminate the healthcare reforms that were enacted
into law by Congress under president Obama. It should be an interesting
race to watch.
(ARCHIVES - March 28, 2011) If You Can Read
This - Thank a Teacher
(or: How the Texas Legislature is Intent
on Driving the School Wagon Into the Ditch)
One can only presume that members of
the Texas Legislature possess a modicum of basic language and
computational literacy. After all, most are products of Texas
However, many apparently failed their
civics, economic and business classes - as indicated by their
approach to education funding. While the population and economy
grows, legislators are poised to slash funding for schools, create
a wave of teacher layoffs and reverse decades of educational reforms
Basic Lesson in Civics: A Growing
Texas Needs More Schools, Not Fewer
Nearly two hundred years ago, early
Texas settlers were
so concerned about the lack of public education that they listed
this item as one of their grievances in the Texas Declaration
of Independence from Mexico. And, one of the first things
that Texas parents and community members voted on was to set aside
public lands to support public schools in every county and allocate
land for a state university.
The "cultivated mind is the guardian
genius of Democracy" challenged President
Mirabeau B. Lamar in his first address to the Texas Congress.
Lamar envisioned a state where the children of a rough and hardscrabble
population would attend public schools and universities. He saw
a rich land that could be put to use to create wealth and education
for a growing citizenry.
Texas' population grew more rapidly
that that of the U.s. as a whole in every decade since Lamar's
time and increased from 20.8 million in 2003 to 25.1 million today
- a tremendous rate. Growth had traditional come from an influx
of working families who immigrated from across the country and
from overseas, but it continues to expand by natural births.
The number of children enrolled in
Texas public schools (Pre-K through 12th grade) grew from 4 million
to 4.3 million in the 10 years since 2000. These young Texans
primarily receive their education through a network of more than
8,000 schools from the tiniest rural towns to large suburban high
schools. Hundreds of thousands more attend junior colleges and
public and private universities from El Paso to Beaumont.
More workers. Young families. Lots
of kids. This equals the need for more schools. For Texas to remain
a vibrant and democratic state, all of our citizens and residents
must have access to the best education has to offer. As the kids
say, "do the math".
Basic Lesson in Economics: As Our
Competition Becomes Smarter, So Must Our Kids
As parents, business and community
leaders we are proud of our students and want them to have access
to a broad-based education system that allows anyone to succeed.
We know that Texas operates in a global economy - much of it information
and knowledge based - and that the future of our state rests on
the ability of these young people to compete.
Texas has grown to become one of the
top 10 economies in the world and our per capita gross income
is even higher than the U.K. From the natural energy wealth and
rich farms to computer chips, tourism and medical technologies,
the Texas economic engine is going strong. Texas is the largest
exporter of goods in the U.S. and has the second largest workforce.
Our state should continue to grow if
we invest more, not less, in education. Otherwise, we face the
challenge of not being able to compete in a rapidly advancing
world. The "rules of the household" don't change in
our global neighborhood. Our kids need quality education now more
than ever before to we risk losing all
test scores in Texas are still ahead of Mexico and Russia but
have fallen behind countries like Poland and Hungary.
Texas ranks particularly low in educational performance among
the industrialized world due to high drop-out rates and low numbers
of college graduates.
While the number of students attending college is
increasing, only 27% of Texas adults have even a 2-year associate's
degree or higher compared to a U.S. average of 40%. At least twelve
countries are ahead of even that.
Basic Lesson in Business: An Educated Workforce
is Essential to Texas
Concerned about the state of the Texas workforce,
during the past three decades educators, administrators, legislators
and business leaders collaborated in reforms that produced dramatic
gains in elementary and middle schools and helped to reduce achievement
gaps between student populations. Texas established standards
and frameworks for accountability that became a model for the
This partnership between business and government
was tested during the most recent recession and business leaders
know how essential education is for the future.
Association of Business, which touts itself as "taxpayers,"
"job creators," and "defenders of freedom,"
states that "good jobs, good wages and good benefits should
be bountiful; and a job is a solution to most every social problem."
These business support education and preparing students for post-secondary
education and to enter the workforce and concur that more education
is necessary to keep pace with the demands of employers.
The greatest obstacle Texas faces is preparing students
to graduate with a degree that prepares them for postsecondary
education or to enter the workforce. With more education necessary
to keep pace with the demands of employers, Texas must have a
rich supply of workers on hand to fill jobs.
To make sure that Texas has a rich supply of workers
on hand to fill jobs we, as citizens, invest much in our young
people. Per pupil spending on Texas students grew from approximately
$8,500 in 2000 to around $10,000 today according to the National
Center for Education Statistics (NCES) but
still lags the nation as a whole. Data that shows that
states with higher per pupil expenditures tend to have higher
Texas doesn't spend as much as some other states, more
students are graduating high school and attending college than
ever before and the Texas labor force has continued to become
more skilled and better educated. This has helped Texas employers
to remain strong during tough economic times and offer new entrepreneurial
opportunities across the state.
But it could all come to a grinding halt as the
Legislature drives Texas education into a ditch.
The Wheels May Come Off
The Legislature's most recent draft budget calls
for $4.5 billion in cuts to public education funding over the
next two years (and
$23 billion in overall state cuts). School boards and
administrators are bracing for cuts of as much as 10% of their
budgets, already hit by declining property values, as the state's
share of education possibly gets reduced.
Various estimates are that state and local school
budget costs could result in as many as 100,000 employees statewide
- a blow to the Texas economy. Many school districts and universities
have already begun cutting staffs while others are planning their
2011-12 budgets with dramatic contingencies. Some examples from
around the state:
Corpus Christi - Texas A&M University-Corpus
Christi would could lose about $11 million over the next two years.
"If they [cuts] stand, they will be very devastating to the
school," President Flavius Killebrew said. Local officials
may be have to increase class sizes, freeze positions vacated
by retirees or implement an early retirement plan for employees.
Austin - Austin ISD, worried that they might face
a $140 million shortfall, is contemplating closing 9 schools -
some "exemplary" elementary campuses and
laying off 1,153 employees even as district enrollment
continues to grow. Round Rock ISD expects to lose up to $73 in
state funding and "Everything is on the table now,"
said the district's superintendent while
cutting 280 employees. Hutto ISD is considering closing
one of its new elementary schools and splitting the students between
another elementary and middle school. Leander ISD is cutting 250
Lubbock - Texas Tech's Paul L. Foster School of
Medicine, with only 100 students, estimates that it
could get $13 million less from the state over the next two years
and could even face closure.
San Antonio - San Antonio ISD is is eliminating
125 positions in an effort to save $50 million. Northside ISD
expects to need to
cut $52 million, and eleminate 1,300 jobs even as it projects
its enrollment to grow by 10,000 students during the next four
years. South San Antonio ISD plans to increase class sizes in
high school and eliminate some teaching positions.
Dallas - Dallas ISD is talking up
to $150 million in cuts and laying off 4,000 employees.
Denton schools could receive $27 million to $44 million less.
Arlington is contemplating upping class sizes in Kindergarten
and elementary grades. "We are now at the point where educational
programming is pushed by the need to deal with every mounting
budget reduction and not necessarily by mounting requirements
of a 21st century education of our boys and girls," Stratton
School Principal Alan Brown said.
El Paso - El Paso Community College students would
get nearly $1.6 million less in state financial aid, officials
estimate. "Community colleges are growing at such a fast
rate that these reductions and the lack of funding for growth
are going to negatively impact the ability for us to keep our
doors open for all students," College President Richard Rhodes
Houston - Houston ISD, the 2nd largest school district
in the nation, might
have to slash between $203 million and $348 million -
up to a fifth of its budget, according to estimates from a leading
school-finance firm. HISD serves about 204,000 students with a
$1.6 billion budget, and faces the biggest reductions. HISD's
chief financial officer, Melinda Garrett, says, "You could
cut out the entire central administration - every department -
and you'd still be $120 million short."
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD could face up t $116 million
in cuts, while Fort Bend ISD could lose up to $74 million. Aldine
ISD is looking at $30-60 million in cuts. Humble
Abilene could lose anywhere from $9 to $16 million.
Even small rural districts would be hit hard. Almost
half of the state's 1,000 school districts have fewer than 500
students, but they educate a very small portion of the state's
4.5 million students and have to fight for every penny they receive
from the Capitol.
Tiny Miles ISD (425 students) would lost about 15%
of its budget in 2012-13. Marathon (56 students) just finished
paying off a $248,000 loan to cover its debt and is worried about
closing altogether. Lumberton, north of Beaumont, says
the cuts will be like a hurricane.
None of These Cuts, is Pre-ordained or Even Required.
Even as the Legislature ensconces itself in the
Capitol, the Texas economy continues to grow.
Texas gross domestic product (GDP) grow surged during
the 2000s, and Texas' private sector growth
is an estimated $1.2 Trillion annually. To put this in
a global perspective: Texas, with only 25 million people, has
an economy is nearly as great as India with its population of
over 1 billion. Texas is home to 44 Billionaires and some of the
world's most prosperous companies. We are a state that is wealthier
than ever before and there is no reason to be cutting school budgets.
At the same time, many home owners are fed up with
high cost of school finance. As the state's share of school budgets
has gone down their local property taxes have gone up. There has
been a redistribution of the tax burden away from traditional
sources such as energy, agriculture and industry to the individual
middle-class family. People on all sides of the budget debate
acknowledge that the system of school finance is terrible and
needs to be overhauled, but the Legislature continues to punt
on the issue year after year.
Their solution for 2012? Cuts. Cuts, and more cuts.
Rather than deal responsibly with the need for better
schools, legislators are in Austin telling parents, educators,
businesses and community leaders that it's not their problem.
The lack of leadership, from the governor on down, is threatening
to make Texas a laughingstock once again. Even worse, if schools
do end up having to make dramatic cutbacks in 2011-12 it could
take years to education in Texas to recover.
Coalitions of groups, like Save
Texas Schools, have descended upon Austin to implore legislators
to fund schools, but their message has fallen on deaf ears so
far. While politicians dine at The Four Seasons and the Driskill
Hotel, their pens are poised to slash funding for education.
It is up to us, as parents, business leaders and
citizens, to make sure that our schools aren't gutted and to remind
politicians that they are sent to Austin to provide basic services
and tackle hard issues to the betterment of Texas.
If you can read this, thank a teacher - but not
today's Texas Legislature.
Houston Peacemakers will network April 3
Houston peacemakers will feast and network together
at the Houston Peace & Justice Center's annual Peace Potluck
on April 3. This annual event include activities for children,
tabling by various groups and great entertainment.
If you are in the Houston area, plan to network
with other like-minded folks at
St. Stephen's Church (Woodhead @ 1800 Sul Ross Houston 77098).
HPJCs centrality to peace and justice work is in its ability
to call upon the resources of the appropriate organizations, institutions,
and individuals and to execute its projects across the city and
Dallas congresswoman leads peace
Congresswoman, Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas,
was recently lauded for a new program that she has begun, lead
by women, to spread non-violent conflict resolution around the
Called "A World of Women for World Peace,"
the program includes a curriculum of conflict resolution for girls
of all ages. Johnson said the program is based on respect for
those who have different beliefs. "That
is kind of our approach, is to respect those differences, allow
people to have their space to have those differences, and I have
worked with people in war-torn areas, from Bosnia to Afghanistan,
Bahrain, throughout Africa, Sudan women, Palestinian and Israeli
women, and also Iraqi women as well."
Texans celebrate Chávez legacy
Thousands of Texas celebrated the enduring life
and legacy of civil rights leader César Chávez last
week - from Lubbock to Laredo. Students
in Lubbock marched on Saturday. Laredens too.
There were big rallies in Austin,
Antonio and Houston
A more become aware of the rich Hispanic legacy
of Texas, and the contributions of Chávez to the dignity
of all peoples, people young and old are turning out in greater
numbers at local events.
"Save Our State" Rally April 6th in Austin
A coalition of groups from across Texas will call
on the state government to prioritize education, health care,
public safety, the environment, and jobs with
a mass rally and events on April 6.
Building on the spirit and energy of rallies around
the country calling on state governments to prioritize education,
health care, public safety, the environment, and jobs, these proud
Texans believe io a balanced approach to the state budget and
moving Texas forward (instead of backwards as the current Legislature
seems to be going). Families, individuals and groups are invited
to the State Capitol in Austin throughtout the day to visit legislators
and affect how their government is run
(ARCHIVE: December 22, 2010) 'Peace on Earth'
through superior firepower?
"Be polite, be professional, but
have a plan to kill everybody you meet," says General James
Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command at the Pentagon. Our Warrior-in-Chief
is part of a generation of Americans who believe in peace through
superior firepower and uphold the military way. General
Mattis has Pentagon operational responsibility for the
Middle East and Central Asia and, as such, he carries out the
U.S. 'War on Terror' by occupying large chunks of Iraq and Afghanistan,
sending drones on the homes of Pakistanis and unleashing terror
on millions of people on behalf of the President and Congress.
What a nice "Christmas" present.
Imagine if General James Mattis, were
in charge of writing the nativity scene in the New Testament of
the Bible: "And for U.S.A. child is born, to U.S.A. a Future
Soldier is given, and He will protect the government. And He will
be called Warrior, America's Hope, Everlasting Protector, Prince
of War." None of this namby-pamby "love one another"
'Mad Dog' Mattis has also been quoted
widely for his enthusiastic approach towards violence and warmaking.
"It's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it's
quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's
fun to shoot some people," the grinchy Commandant said while
speaking about Afghans before he was appointed to his post in
early 2010 by President Obama.
But Mattis can't take all of the credit.
He is only emblematic of the long list of American commanders
who live for war and violence and who illumine the dark the halls
of what has become the new center of U.S. government - the
Notwithstanding your old civics class
that described the U.S. government in the context of three branches
- the White House, Congress and Supreme Court - the Pentagon and
defense establishment has emerged as a fourth. This hallowed star
of federal government has become single greatest entity in Washington,
with the grandest building, largest discretionary budget and real
"troops" of personnel that today dominates much of domestic
policy and virtually all foreign policy. It has become, in essence,
an enormous beast clothed in the crisp uniform of "service
" to the most militarized nation on earth. So you'd better
watch out, you Pinkos.
Since the end of WWII the Pentagon,
along with the alphabet-soup agencies that make up Homeland Security,
has grown to become such a hefty entity that it virtually controls
large chunks of land and commerce in every part of the U.S. and
in many nations around the world. Governments from Israel to Colombia
are direct vassals dependent on Pentagon largesse and even nations
whose citizens oppose many U.S. policies,
from Cuba to New Zealand, nevertheless have American military
bases on their shores. The
sun never sets on the U.S. military empire. Surely, God-Blesses-The-USA!
But despite the lofty goals, and throwing
tens of trillions of dollars around since the end of WWII, the
Pentagon just can't seem to achieve a benevolent society or peaceful
relations among nations. Perhaps it's because that as an institution,
it is made up on men and women who essentially believe - as do
most Americans - in the efficacy of violence, the virtue of "the
state" and the sanctity of military "sacrifice"?
Cheezus on a cracker.
While they swear allegiance to the
Constitution, it often appears that most Pentagon leaders believe
more in the duty of serve and protect the institution of the federal
government and their masters in Washington. There is little talk
about how to
"promote the general Welfare" (Communist!) or
ensure the "domestic Tranquility" (Hippy!) in their
emphasis on "defense". The lore, ceremonies and creeds
that the Pentagon have constructed to ensu compliance,
discipline and order - even under the threat of human death -
would make an offer-the-other-cheek messiah blush. These certainly
aren't the kind of sanctity for life nurturing principles that
the world's religious peoples affirm. Thank the generals.
Soldier's Creed (Warrior's Ethos), a standard that the
U.S. Army teaches to all enlisted personnel during basic training,
provides a glimpse into the aggressive mindset of those who run
I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit
Thank goodness that there is nothing in this creed
regarding the concepts of 'goodwill to all'
and it appears
that "peace" was overlooked as well. Otherwise all of
that military ordinance might have been wasted.
The Warrior's Creed certainly wasn't written by
any of Jesus' followers. Nor does it even come close to Jewish
concepts of "shalom" or the peace of Islam. There is
no lamb lying down with the lion in the Pentagon view of earth
asymmetrical combat against endless enemies of the state and continual
dominance by the "projection of force". Who needs an
angry "God" when you have the mightiest army on earth?
In recent decades the Pentagon has turned America's
plowshares into swords,
sickles into spears. They sure train well for war. Blessed are
their landmines and nukes.
Through its propaganda, colossal budgets and marching
armies of millions of war advocates (active duty, contractors,
think tanks and veterans) the U.S. military has become enshrined
the czar of domestic societal priorities and the arbiter of foreign
efficacy. No problem is too large or small that someone
in the Pentagon can't fix.
We did so well in Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq and Afghanistan,
It looks like Martin Luther King was wrong when
he observed, "returning violence for violence multiplies
violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of
stars... Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
He couldn't find "love" in the warrior's lexicon.
Those who witness
the continuous wars of the Pentagon and other armies around
the world think that the military might may just be a greater
curse than a friend. While asking for "security" they
have trouble recognizing a peace that comes from a gun.
Joya , an Afghan leader who has stared down numerous assassination
attempts since 2003 and was suspended from parliament in 2007
for comparing the body to a "barn full of animals",
fights against corruption in her own country and the war that
has come to her land. "Afghans face three enemies,"
she said recently, "the occupying forces, the Taliban, and
the warlords." Joya got her start as a humanitarian during
the Taliban regime, establishing underground health clinics and
orphanages to spite the country's fundamentalist rulers. Now she
is sceptical of Kabul's current powers, NATO and the Taliban.
"Democracy without independence has no meaning," she
Other Afghans echo her view. Tired of living with
three decades of war and worsening conditions.
you think we like to live this way?" an Afghan man
asked as he led a peaceworker towards a primitive tent encampment
on the outskirts of Kabul. "Do you see how we live? The cold
and the rain are coming. How will we protect our children?"
He flicked his forefinger on a weather-beaten blanket covering
a tent. The blanket immediately ripped.
Standing next to him is a man who quietly handed
her three crumpled photos, never lifting his eyes from the ground.
An interpreter identified the man as his cousin. The first picture
showed his cousin's ruined home. A U.S. aerial bombardment had
destroyed the dwelling. The next pictures were of two bloodied
children. "All of his children were killed," the spokesperson
his family, his wife, his five children, by an attack from the
Another young man, 14-year-old Abdulai, had a father
killed by the "Taliban". Like every other human being
he now copes with sorrow, hate, fear and anger simultaneously.
He wakes up to the chronic war days in his land sensing that 'something
is very wrong with the world he's caught up in. "these elders
of the world are not getting it," he says.
More and more Afghans, like Joya and Abdulai, are
rusubg against the Pentagon's plans on their country. They are
literate enough to know that the U.S. has spent hundreds of billions
of dollars on war while their friends and neighbors go hungry.
They can also see that the war is no closer to being resolved
in 2011 that it was when the U.S. invaded a decade ago. They are
saying "Get Out!"
"Love is how we firmly take our stand,"
say the Afghan Children of another local organization - Our
Journey to Smile. "To every group that is waging
war in Afghanistan: We want you out!" How can these people
be so ungrateful after Americans have nearly bankrupted their
own country with bigger and bigger military budgets, dropped thousands
of tons of munitions on them and traveled all of the way to their
homes in the most remote reaches of the earth to deliver "Freedom"?
Holy Himmler; Don't these people realize that without
the good-ole U.S.A.they wouldn't stand a chance?
The voices of Afghans are mixed with those of Iraqis,
Palestinians, Colombians and others around the world who have
become victim of the U.S. military war machine. Their cries of
anguish are joined with the prophetic noise of peace and antiwar
activists in every nation. Together they say "Not in Our
Name". Perhaps they should all just be rounded up, like that
Wikileaks guy, for daring to speak Truth.
We seem to have a similar problem at home with a
minority of people, often described as "loving" or "peace-filled"
and who seem to feel the pain of distant childred made motherless
by war. They complain about the terror of watchmen raiding homes
in the night, taking fathers and sons away. And, they argue that
good ends don't come about by bad means. They chant "There
is no way to peace. Peace is the way." Old news.
According to an
ancient tale, two thousand years ago a woman living in
a nation occupied by a foreign army gave birth to a child in humble
circumstances. She dreamed of a better life for her children,
a world in which people were kind and loving, there was food and
shelter enough for all and where widows and the poor would be
taken care of. She sang to her little boy about rulers being removed
from their thrones so that the humble could be lifted up; the
hungry being filled and the rich sent away empty. (Instigator!)
However, her country was occupied by a foreign military and its
vassal governor that feared anyone who might pose a threat to
their rule. This governor even ordered his soldiers to massacre
all boy babies under the age of two in the capital - and his soldiers
obeyed ("just following orders").
To escape the terror of such violence against their
new family, she and her husband fled to a foreign land. They raised
their children in a camp, along with other war refugees, but continued
to teach them stories of peace, justice and nonviolence. With
the guidance of his parents and local community, their youngest
son became a lover of peace and returned to his native country.
They say he would enter stranger's homes with "peace
be upon this house", praying that a 'kindom' would be created
on earth much as heaven, and that he preached that a person would
be 'blessed' if they could show others how to cooperate peaceably
instead of fighting.
But, eventually the army caught up with him one
evening and put their investments in the latest military technology
and their swords to good use. He didn't last long.
However, followers of this man continue to
go around the world, even in the face of imperial power and repeat
santimonious sentiments long after the death of the one they called
"Prince of Peace". To this day they are ridiculed by
generals and their foot soldiers wherever they take their message
The Pentagon and warmongers like to call them "left
wing fringe" even as these "peaceniks" brush aside
those epithets and continue to work towards creative ways to resolve
conflict and witness for social justice. Far from the seats of
power they can be found feeding the hungry, ministering to citizens
held captive and speaking out on behalf of the poor and preyed
upon but they don't even appreciate the red-white-and-blue Christmas
ornaments (Made in China).
They are also the first to question the violence,
torture and (especially) war. These "peacemakers" seem
to resent that the Pentagon is the best corporate killing machine
on the planet whose ideology of dominance by force and awesome
tools of destruction are to be envied. They don't realize that
without a strong military, Al-Qaeda or Taliban warships might
one day be docking at Corpus Christi on the Texas coast.
These anti-war, punk peace activists don't understand
how dangerous the world is that we live in today. They think that
no amount of military tactics or operational brilliance can overcome
bellicose attitudes towards fellow humans. They have unrealistic
ideals, and should all probably be sent to Gitmo.
After all, they think that when Jesus commanded
his followers to "love your enemies" he probably meant
don't kill them.
NAACP and LULAC seek review of Texas schools
Two Texas civil rights groups, the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the United League
of Latin American Citizens (LULAC) have teamed together to challenge
curriculum changes approved by the Texas Education Agency (TEA)
earlier in the year.
The request to the U.S. Department of Education
contends that the curriculum changes passed in May "were
made with the intention to discriminate" and would have a
"stigmatizing impact" on African-American and
Latino students. The groups have asked that implementation of
the curriculum changes and new standardized tests be stopped for
being racially or ethnically offensive or historically inaccurate.
Their request for a federal review also pointed
to "high stakes" state assessment tests "that do
not adequately test for all relevant and important educational
information," contending the standardized tests given to
students "disproportionately fail minority students and ultimately
are important factors in causing large numbers of minority students
to drop out of Texas public schools."
Environmental groups sue over TX air permits
environmental groups sent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
a notice of intent to sue if the federal agency does not resolve
Texas air-permitting issues that it has objected to in
a timely matter. The Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra
Club, Public Citizen, Environment Texas, Air Alliance Houston,
and Texas Campaign for the Environment accuse the EPA of "failing
to issue or deny" permits for 43 facilities after raising
objections to them. The groups intend to file a suit in 60 days
after the EPA receives the notice to compel the agency into action.
Under federal law, Texas had 90 days to submit revised
permits after the federal agency issued its objections, but it
failed to do so, and the "EPA has a duty" to take over
that task, the letter said. The groups want the EPA to intercede
and deny permits that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
(TCEQ) has approved on a "flexible" basis.
Senators fail Texas Dream Act students
It was meant to provide a path to citizenship for
students brought here illegally as children, but on Capitol hill,
the bill known as "The DREAM Act" failed to make it
past the Senate with
both Texas senators Cornyn and Hutchison voting against the bill.
College students around the state had worked on
passage of the bill, including a group in San Antonio that went
on a hunger strike and
were arrested in Hutchinson's office when she refused
to meet with them.
Act would have provided a way that hundreds of thousands
of undocumented young Texans could become citizens by performing
public service. Now these students - many who have lived in Texas
for virtually their entire lives - face possible deportating from
Gay soldiers now allowed
rescinded the Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy, paving
the way for gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces
without fear of being fired. The repeal of don't ask, don't
tell marks the end of a 17-year battle over gay equality
in the DoD and shores up the fight for gay marriage.
Despite the calls for equality, most peace groups
are appalled that the Pentagon will now have a new tool to recruit
youngesters. Many colleges, which previously had not allowed ROTC
on their campuses because of discrimination by the military, will
now be open to military recruiting.
TX Peace vets arrested in DC
Several Texans were among 131 Veterans for Peace
who were arrested in Washington this week while protesting the
ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. War veterans and peace activists
locked themselves to the gates outside the White House in
an act of civil disobedience.
(ARCHIVES: November 20, 2010) Food Banks
and Bank Food
"No citizen should be so
wealthy as to buy another, and none so poor as to be forced to
sell himself" -- Jean-Jacques Rousseau (The
The proverb "If you give a man
a fish, he will be hungry tomorrow. Teach a man to fish and you
feed him for a lifetime" seems like a reasonable proposition
if taken on its face. Afterall, it implies self-reliance as a
virtue and societal goal. Who can argue that persons would be
better off if each had the ability to supply all of his or her
At the same time, we live in a nation
where each person is expected to contribute in some way to the
common good and to help "secure the Blessings of Liberty
to ourselves and our Posterity." But, something has gone
The economic system that has evolved
in the U.S. has become a free-for-all stacked against in favor
of idle wealth and against those who work for a living. A financial
class has come to rule our economy, politics and communications
and connives to enrich themselves at the expense of others
us all poorer as a result. Many people have simply become canapés
for Bankers to munch on.
Back to the proverb: The banker would
extend it, "
then you can sell the fisherman the bait,
hooks and fishing gear and charge him for access to your private
lake." "Even better - don't teach him to fish and require
him to purchase all of his food from you at global marketplace
rates." With parting advice, they would suggest, "Pay
him the lowest wages possible while charging inflated rates for
housing, energy, clothing and medicine." In such a way you
will ensure his continued dependency upon you and guarantee recurring
Such is the nature of the modern laissez-faire
economy where, on one hand, we produce mountains of food - enough
to feed half the world - yet Americans go hungry every day. Even
the $1 "value" menu at local fast food chains isn't
enough to offset the nearly-empty pockets of some families. Appeals
by food banks are evidence enough.
A 2009 Feeding America survey found
of food pantries reported an increase in demand for emergency
food assistance during the past year. "Despite the
fact that the nation's food banks delivered approximately 2.63
billion pounds of food between July 2008 and June 2009 - an increase
of 21.4% over the prior year - many are struggling to meet the
increase in client demand," reads the report.
Across the United States, more than
35 million families (14.6%
of U.S. households) experience food insecurity and millions
of children go hungry each day. According to the Bread for the
World Institute, at least 3.5% of households experience severe
hunger. Some people in these households frequently skip meals
or eat too little, often going without food for a whole day. An
estimated 9.6 million people, including 3 million children, live
in these homes.
U.S. poverty rates in 2010 have risen
levels not seen since the 1960's - before the programs
of the "Great Society", before Reaganomics and "supply-side"
theories, before the financial swindling, the dismantling of industry,
the treachery and collapse of trade unions, NAFTA and endless
overseas wars. With the rollback of social spending in recent
decades, it's as if all of the worker gains for the past 50 years
has been wiped out - except for the tremendous growth in profits
of the investor class.
In relatively prosperous Texas - home to many of
the world's richest people and corporations - local food banks
raise the alarm of running out of food.
"We're seeing people unemployed or underemployed
and they're having to make tough choices like rather or not they
should pay the rent that month or go without food," Becky
Landes, the vice president of program services at Northwest
Assistance Ministries in Houston. According to a 2010
study by the Houston
Food Bank, approximately 137,000 individuals are fed by
the food bank organization each week.
"We're having to cut back on the amounts we're
ordering because we have a budget crunch," said the Rev.
Jay Cole, Crossroads'
(Dallas) executive director. That means nearly half as many bags
of groceries for the 7,500 people who come to the charity each
month for food.
"We've been turning people away, which just
breaks our hearts," Cole said. Most area food pantries stock
their shelves through the North
Texas Food Bank. The food bank had to cut the amount of
food it could provide to agencies by 13 percent despite increased
"The number of people that go to one of our food pantries
would fill Cowboys Stadium two times," says Jan Pruitt of
the North Texas Food Bank. At the Cedar
Hill Food Pantry, Gene Sims has been scrambling to feed
the 1,300 people - half of them children - who rely on the charity
for groceries each month.
Antonio Food Bank says that it is seeing a "huge"
increase in first-time families coming to them for help. During
this year's food drive, they hope to collect one million pounds
of food. Local food pantries aren't able to purchase food from
the Food Bank because is running low on food. "The shelves
are bare," says Alamo College Catholic Student Center recruiter
Audrey Grams. "We
have money in our account, but there isn't food to buy."
Texas Food Bank (Odessa, El Paso, Alpine) says for the
first time in over a decade they cannot afford to purchase turkeys
to hand out for thanksgiving meals. "In the past USDA has
made turkeys available to us, that is something that did not happen
this year," said Wade Kuehler, Board President of the West
Texas Food Bank. Without free turkeys from the USDA, Kuehler says
the Food Bank is left to purchase thousands of turkeys themselves.
looking at about $.99 a lb. and we made a decision that we couldn't
afford to spend our limited resources to bring in turkeys for
Even as restaurants in Austin are filled with prosperous
patrons, a shortage of food has the volunteers who run the Shepherd's
Heart Food Pantry in Taylor asking the community for more donations.
The food pantry is sponsored by the Taylor Area Ministerial Alliance
but purchases food from the Capital
Area Food Bank of Texas. During the past few months, however,
the food bank has not had as much food to share. "[The Capital
Area Food Bank's]
inventory is reduced and so all the pantries that order from them
are experiencing a shortage," says JoLynne Williams,
Shepherd's Heart manager. Williams says the pantry was not able
to order enough food for November to fill the approximately 325
bags of groceries the pantry distributes weekly. In September,
the pantry cut its hours on Wednesday and Friday because of the
food shortage and to accommodate workers' schedules.
Yet, grocery stores shelves are fully stocked and
U.S. farmers are reporting record crop surpluses.
as the broader economy falters amid signs of a weakening recovery,
the nation's agriculture sector is going strong, bolstered
in part by a surge in exports, according to federal estimates
of farm trade and income," crows the New York Times. estimates
show that American farmers will ship $107.5 billion in agricultural
products abroad in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. That is
the second-highest amount ever, behind the record $115.3 billion
in exports logged in 2008, when commodity prices soared as the
global demand for agricultural products was helped by fast-growing
economies in the developing world.
The investor-class, led by global bankers, is thrilled.
They see future profits where others see hunger. Their vaults
are filled with lucre and they encourage people to "buy more
gold" (even to eat it, as had become popular among the rich).
We are still a wealthy nation, despite the economic downturn.
Americans are some of the most productive people
on earth and have made U.S. corporations - and the investor class
of this nation - rich enough to live like kings. The
United States - with 27.8% of the world's largest corporations
- is a financial giant, followed by Japan and then China.
Since 1980 the U.S. economy has expanded greatly and American
corporations have become global in scope, often gobbling up their
And yet, this isn't enough for the insatiable appetite
of bankers. They use their corporate media spread falsehoods about
the economy while leveraging political power to fill their coffers
even more with financial "bailouts" and tax cuts. They
confuse the working poor and ignorant about the economic system
and why we have hunger.
The problem isn't 1. The supply of food and 2. Overall
U.S. economic health. It also won't be won't be solved by taking
a few more canned goods down to the food pantry or increasing
government programs that subsidize food (although please by
all means, DO donate to your food pantry today!).
The primary reason why American families can't afford
to purchase the inexpensive food that fills America's warehouse
is that they have too little income. Their wages are too low.
The record profits of corporations is testament to the toil of
those same families who are seeking help at food banks.
The real problem is that the too much of wealth
of these corporations has come out of the pockets of working men
and women. The rising income inequality of this country is due
to a minority of Americans who would rather "get theirs"
than pay livable wages to their fellows.
Americans go hungry every day because they have become food for
banks to consume.
The U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that while
U.S. wealth (GDP) per capita has increased 67% since 1980, while
median household income only increased 15% during that same period.
During 2009, median household income actually fell to $49,777.
This was down from $50,122 in 2008, and $50,233 in 2007.
"Trickle down" economics didn't. Instead
it created such inequality that the
wealthiest 25% of households now hold 87% ($54.2 trillion in 2009)
of all wealth the United States (forget "income"
and focus on "assets" for a change). At the same time,
the poorest quarter of Americans pay higher tax rates than they
did before WWII, after which they were asked to bear the burden
of paying for war debt. Those in the highest tax brackets learned
how to game the system, profit from government, while getting
A tiny minority of these same Americans are the
ones charging such high rents that their fellow citizens have
to choose between paying their utilities or buying food. The super
wealthy own the credit card companies and banks and charge usurious
interest rates on people who must finance their car to get to
work, their child's education or to pay medical bills. They dine
at sumptuous banquets while the man on the street begs for bread.
They manage to spend billions of dollars each election cycle and
purchase lobbyists to gain federal contracts while the shelves
of local food pantries are bare.
Hunger in American won't be solved without restructuring
our economic system: Providing ways in which men and women can
earn the wages needed to provide the basic necessities for their
families, Creating an economy that rewards the worker as much
as the investor, and Taxing the wage earner less, and the asset
owner more. Economic change is essential. It will help fulfill
the American ideal of a nation that promotes the general Welfare
of The People.
FREEDOM IS MORE THAN A PAPER PROMISE
Right after the Great Depression - when millions
of Americans found themselves without food, homes or jobs - President
Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation and proposed Four
Freedoms people "everywhere in the world" ought
1. Freedom of speech and expression
2. Freedom of worship
3. Freedom from want
4. Freedom from fear
Norman Rockwell's famous depiction of "Freedom
from Want", aptly illustrates the image for today
- a full Thanksgiving buffet. It's part of an ideal that continues
to draw people to this rich land of milk and honey. However, we
aren't living up to the ideal when so many need handouts to survive
while plutocrats and oligarchs focus on stock dividends.
We need more human development as part of the general
welfare of this nation. Empty words and promises don't suffice
for those who starve. To paraphrase M.K. Gandhi, It matters little
to the hungry child whether they live in a dictatorship or a "democracy"
and now is the time to fix the system of government and commerce
that has led to the sitution of poverty in the midst of enormous
We must restructure our economy to bring human needs
to the forefront while creating an economy that provides better
wages and economic development, particularly for small businesses.
An increase in wages and reduction in interest rates and overtaxing
of the poor is essential to setting things right. The time is
now, during the economic downturn, to take power away from those
who have led us into this morass and return it to "The
Otherwise we'll continue to need food banks throughout
the U.S. A. - and Americans will remain a food for bankers.
"No Taxes" Texas Legislature may trash
As the new Legislative session gets ready to come
to Austin, there is fears that the Legislature may slash funding
for essential programs - such as Texas education. Instead of coming
up with creative ways to fund needed budgets, the "no taxes"
crowd has raised the spectre of downsizing education in order
the $25 budget gap.
Governor Rick Perry, House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Governor
David Dewhurst all
reaffirmed their pledge against new or increased taxes
and deep cuts in services. In related news, a new national education
assessment shows that American 12th grade students are
still below '92 reading scores and the U.S. now
ranks 48th out of 133 nations in math and science.
Texas roles in new GOP House
Texans will have significant clout in the new Congress
with members playing a big role in the GOP's new House leadership
team. Three Lone Star conservatives Reps. Jeb Hensarling
and Pete Sessions of Dallas and John Carter of Round Rock
will help incoming Speaker John Boehner of Ohio set
policy and strategy over the next two years.
It has been a rapid rise for Hensarling, 53, who
served as a top aide to former Sen. Phil
Gramm before winning a House seat just eight years ago.
He has led the party's conservative bloc and has emerged as a
leading deficit hawk and budget expert. Another Texan, Sen. John
Cornyn, leads the party's Senate campaign effort. Texas is no
stranger to congressional influence. In the 1990s, Republicans
Armey and Tom
DeLay served in the Nos. 2 and 3 House slots. Three Texas
Democrats have served as speaker: John Nance Garner, Sam Rayburn
and Jim Wright.
In somewhat related news, the
corruption trial of former House Speaker Tom Delay continues
Dallas to recognize peace leaders
On December 2, North Texans will celebrate peace
leaders in the area. The annual Dallas Peace Center Peacemaker
Awards dinner will honor Rev. Bill Matthews (Lifetime Achievement),
Larry James (Peacemaker of the Year), and the Texas Muslim Women's
Foundation (Organization of the Year).
Matthews has been a cornerstone in the Dallas peace and
justice community for more than two decades and is currently working
on a proposal to bring the Parliament of World Religions to Dallas
for a 2014 conference. Larry
James, CEO of Central Dallas Ministries (CDM), has guided
his organization for 16 years, fighting poverty through housing,
hunger relief and health care. The
Texas Muslim Womens Foundation was founded in 2005
in order to empower, promote, and support women and families through
educational, outreach, philanthropic, and social services.
Tickets are still available, and can be purchased
the Dallas Peace Center.
Bush library met with protests
Former President George W. Bush's presidential library
groundbreaking at SMU in Dallas was slightly marred by peace and
justice groups - including Texans for Peace - who continue to
draw attention to the outright fabrication of lies and historical
dissembling of that administration's effects on the U.S. and the
Calling for "War Crimes Trials" for the
former president and his regime, activists continue to protest
both Bush's new book and the library in the name of peace and
social justice. They draw especial attention to the millions of
Iraqis and Afghans who have either been killed, injured or made
homeless as a result of Bush's invasion of those countries.
(ARCHIVES: August 14, 2010)
Reduce the Military Beast
Between 1774 and 1776 the British Parliament
enacted laws and taxes on American colonists to help retire the
debt of the French and Indian War. Colonist's opposition to the
Stamp Act and Townshend
Revenue Act led to the Boston
Massacre and, eventually, to the war for independence.
The cost of fighting the British in the Revolutionary War left
the newly formed government of with
a national debt of $80 million and near bankruptcy.
The United States was born from war
and military deficits, and continues that same path of destruction.
As the U.S. expanded westward, killing the First
People on their way, the debt obligations of the Federal government
increased but it wasn't until the Civil War that the nation found
itself plunged into absolute war debt as federal spending increased
from $65 million to nearly $3 billion. It has been estimated that
that war - the first "modern" war - expended 1.5 times
the total gross national product of the United States for 1860.
During the U.S. Civil War, President Lincoln instituted
income tax. Wartime finance also prompted a significant
change in the banking system. In 1863 Congress passed legislation
National Banking System to purchase government bonds while
the Confederacy issue its own currency to pay for the war. By
mid-1864 the costs of paying interest on outstanding government
bonds absorbed more than half all government expenditures.
On a per capita basis, the costs to the North population were
about $150 -- or roughly equal to one year's income. The Southern
burden was two and a half times that amount -- $376 per man, woman
The costs of that war created widespread economic
depression throughout the U.S. and it took generations to pay
the debt. However, that didn't stop the warmongers in Congress
from starting a new conflict. The Spanish-American War was costly
and Congress instituted new taxes to pay for it in addition to
going further into debt. Debt rose 50% between 1893 and 1899 to
pay for that war and
some of those taxes existed until modern times
During the 20th Century, the United States first
faced the overseas costs of participating in "The Great War"
in Europe. Debt for the war and the costs of relief and reconstruction
totaled $10 billion in addition to war reparations of more than
$44 billion that debtors - like Germany - owed the U.S. WWI also
led to a global Great Depression and influenced Germany's decision
to start new hostilities. The
economic problems that the payments brought, and German resentment
at their imposition, are usually cited as one of the more significant
factors that led to the end of the Weimar Republic and the beginning
of the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler.
World War II was the costliest war, so far, in human
history. Between 1941 and 1946, U.S. Treasury debt exploded from
$42.97 Billion to $269.42 Billion while the nations of the world
spent hundreds of billions more and were left owing for generations.
Britain didn't pay of its debt to the U.S. until 2006.
By 1950 the military-industrial-complex (MIC) was
fully in charge of the U.S. economy. Even though U.S. Treasury
debt already stood at $257.36 billion, there was no stopping the
militarists who now dominated Washington with their new seat of
government - the Pentagon - as evidenced by its size and location
in the heart of the District of Columbia. Even though the world
was weary of war, military advocates - aided by both political
parties - pushed through large expenditures, year after year.
During the period of the "Cold
War" the United States spent an estimated $13.1 Trillion
on military and war. By 1971, the debt had increased to
$423.13 billion largely due to "wars" in Korea and
but also due to conflicts in Dominica, Lebanon, Iran, Grenada,
Panama, El Salvador, Cuba, Laos, Honduras, Cambodia, Libya, Bolivia,
Dominican Republic, Colombia, Israel/Palestine (and USS Liberty)
and the Persian Gulf. The
list of conflicts that the United States has been involved in
is very long. Between 1971 and 1999, Treasury debt had
grown to $5.638 trillion.
Then the old canard - COMMUNISM - was suddenly gone
the collapse of the USSR. Citizens everywhere rejoiced
expecting peace and prosperity and the benefits of the "peace
dividend". However, the MIC and ongoing U.S.-led wars and
military expenditures continued unabated.
U.S. foreign policy was now in the hands of neoconservatives
- like the Project for a New American Century - who advocated
the "project of force" of U.S. military might throughout
the world and who saw "terrorists" behind every tree
and every baby born to a "foreigner". The military was
happy to comply with false intelligence while missing a handful
of terrorsts who were able to strike the Pentagon and NY with
A "new war" was on - the "global
war on terrorism" or GWOT.
America launched its longest and second-costliest
war in Afghanistan
and Iraq. By some estimates this war has already cost
$1 trillion and could eventually cost more than $3 trillion by
the time it ends, in addition to trillions of dollars in "regular"
While estimates of the actual costs of that war
continues to be debated, what is clear is that the U.S. is suffering
from a major economic recession, the size of the federal government
and debt have ballooned to outrageous proportions, and military
expenditures are at an all-time high.
To paraphrase President Eisenhower, every
dollar that has been spent has been taken out of the mouths of
families who could have been housed, students who could have gone
to college and Americans who could have had free medical care.
The capital expenditures of the military do little to
fix roads, build bridges, fund teachers or otherwise improve the
infrastructure of the United States. Instead, it is largely a
colossal waste that will take generations to pay off. Too many
opportunities for good have been sacrified on the altar of war.
Annual direct expenditures for "defense"
have reached $722 billion per year, and indirect expenditures
are several billions more. At the current rate, the United States
can expect to spend upwards of $8 Trillion more on the military
by 2020. As we've seen during the past decade this is a bi-partisan
problem with Democrats in Congress falling all over Republicans
to spend "like drunken sailors".
The Pentagon's expenditures have become so large
that they subordinate the public's needs and make it nearly impossible
for politicians to resist giving more - afterall, military jobs
and the millions of soldiers and non-uniformed people employed
by the MIC are the largest single source of socialized employment
by the federal government. Additionally, the long-term claims
- from pensions to healthcare - of
soldiers will need to continue to be paid for decades even if
all wars cease today.
of War Bill Gates recommended cutting $100 billion from military
budgets over the next five years - out of an estimated
$4 TRILLION expenditures. While $100 billion might seem a lot,
his "cutbacks" would only represent 2.5% and leave budgets
still higher than they were during the Bush Admininstration. Even
that modest amount in reductions immediately came under attack
by the entrenched military lobby the dominates Washington.
Such expenditures are not only dysfunctional but
unsustainable as well. The military apparatus encourages waste,
corruption, exaggerated risk taking, social instability (at home
and abroad) and lost opportunities to find peaceful and less violent
solutions to global problems. Ultimately, the costs of U.S. militarism
are too large to bear and must be significantly reduced. The war
in Iraq and Afghanistan needs to come to a swift end and steps
taken to not involve the U.S. in any new wars.
The only way that this will happen is if U.S. voters
are willing to support dramatic cuts in the military, and the
politicians who will have to do it. For the good of the nation,
both Republicans and Democrats will need to cut military budgets
and change foreign policy by rejecting the "projection of
The United States was born from war and military
deficits. In the end, it will lead to the dissolution of this
nation. Change is needed. If the Obama Administration won't make
the needed changes then it needs to be replaced.
Texans arrested during Obama visit
Just as people were arbitrarily arrested while
excercising their free speech when Bush as president, so too they
were arrested when Obama came to Texas last week.
Schnieder, of Austin, was arrested while gathering signatures
on a petition for the Texas Campaign for the Environment on the
UT campus while Obama visited. Dan
McCarthy was arrested for carrying signs on a sidewalk.
with Texans for Accountable Government (TAG) and antiwar
activist Chandra Seymor were
arrested while having a peaceful debate. They hoped to
receive apologies from the Democratic Party.
Instead, White House Press Secretary launched
an attack on critics of Obama policies calling them "crazy"
and saying they should all be drug tested.
SA mosque avoids controvery
The building of mosque has recently caused controversy
in other states. However, Muslims in San Antonio broke ground
on a new mosque this week with the excitement that generally accompanies
a new house of worship - and was celebrated during Ramadan.
One Muslim community in San Antonio plans to move
new 17,000 worship facility on the city's northside. The
Al-Madinah Mosque will costs about $4 million and take a year
to build. It is one of nine in San Antonio, which Islamic leaders
estimate has 25,000 to 30,000 Muslims. San Antonio is home to
many diverse faith communities who live together in peace. Let's
hear it for Texans who remember the state motto: "Friendship".
Hightower at Dallas Peace Center
Humorist, author and populist Jim Hightower will
speak at the Dallas Peace Center on August 19 as
part of the Center's Summer Speaker Series.
Hightower, has spent three decades battling
the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be
- consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses,
and just-plain-folks. Twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner,
Hightower believes that the true political spectrum
is not right to left but top to bottom, and he has become a leading
national voice for the the public who no longer find themselves
within shouting distance of the Washington and Wall Street powers
at the top.
Get your tickets while they're still available and
learn more about the Peace
Center actiivities in Dallas.
Dumbest Texan of the Year
Louie Gohmert of Tyler is perhaps the dumbest person in
elected office, and the entire state of Texas. This East Texas
congressman was part of the original "birther" groups
and conspiracy theorists that questioned President Obama's citizenship.
Then, during the president's address to the nation he held up
handmade signs saying "What Bill?".
Now, he claims that terrorists from the middle east
are sending women to the U.S. to have children to create a
generation of American-citizen spies and terrorists. He
wants to remove the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Not only is Gohmert ignorant enough to hold such
views, but he revels in going on national television to expouse
was recently on CNN embarassing himself, and Texas, before
an international audience.
Texas responds to floods in Pakistan
Millions of Pakistanis have lost everything they
have - homes, crops, entire towns - during the worst floods in
size of the disaster has swamped international agencies and governments.
While the world watches the disaster unfold, Texans are
reponding in places large and small.
James' Episcopal church of Taylor, is raising money to
help Christians in Peshawar. Global
Aid Network (GAiN) of Dallas has already sent an emergency
relief team to Pakistan and is appealing for dollars to fund their
efforts. The Raindrop
Turkish House of Houston is raising aid money to be sent
through partner agencies in Turkey, while the American-Pakistani
Physicians Association has several ways to become involved.
The Islamic Society
of Great Houston (ISGH) has set up a fund to help flood
victims and the Southern
Baptist World Hunger Fund is calling for Texas Baptist
to contribute to helping feed the hungry. Consider how you and
your organization can help. China
and Mexico have also been victims of recent majors floods and
still need help, too.
Militarization of Texas Border
Falling prey to the neocons "terrorist behind
every tree" mentality, the Obama Administration continues
to build upon the militarization of the Texas border started by
George W. Bush.
Last week Obama signed
$600 million measure to increase militarization of the US-Mexico
border. The spending will fund around 1,500 new border
agents and law enforcement officials and additional unmanned military
drones like the ones used in Afghanistan. The bill was sponsored
by arch-conservatives in the Senate, who despite their pledges
for no new spending, find plenty of excuses for more military
and war funding. Immigration reform supporters are disappointed
that these same Senators are blocking any solution to the issue
of immigration reform.
(ARCHIVES: June 22, 2010) BP
and the wages of selfishness
The chickens (or oil-soaked herons)
are certainly coming home to roost for us after a generation of
greed, corruption and selfishness in American life. Even the "Drill
Baby Drill" and "Attack
Iraq" crowd are beginning to realize that in their
rush to selfish profitization they may end up destroying their
own land, livelihood and families.
The ecocide and fratricide that occurs in front of our very eyes
almost beggars incredulity. To our children it must seem something
new and novel, but as parents we know it is an ongoing self-destructive
pattern of irresponsible behavior that we have been engaged in
for too long. We have only ourselves to blame.
The BP oil disaster, like mining collapses and the
thousands of young Americans in overseas wars, is emblematic
of payments due coming for the wages of selfishness.
For too long, disciples of Reaganomics and Ayn Rand
have preached a gospel of "free-market rational
selfishness" which eschewed social cooperation and
interdependency in favor of unbridled individual capitalism. In
this world view, mountains are to be mined, oceans to be harvested,
nations to be abused and intellectual thoughts and creations to
be privately owned. We forget that John Galt was a fictional character.
Even experts among us now admit the error of fundamental
assumptions about our economic system (the glimmer of wealth apparently
blinded even rigorous examiners). Bankers, policymakers and federal
reserve chiefs acknowledge that the strategies that have
previously been employed created much of our current disaster.
Yet, so ingrained is the paradigm of private ownership
in today's world that there is little serious discuss of alternatives.
We have become so accustomed to the concept of private property
"rights" and exploitation of one another that we scarcely
notice that this artificial economy we have created is collapsing
all around us. We pray to the golden
bull of Wall Street for answers and
elevate Global 500 corporations as our gods.
We know that selfish interests get in the way of
our common humanity, but then, greed and fear takes over.
Even as fishermen complain about the death of waters
in the Gulf, politicians
and the public quickly decries the six-month moratorium on more
deep-water drilling. American economic insecurity and
the lack of a social safety net leaves us desperately worried
that we won't be able to pay our mortgages (to the bankers), buy
food (from private corporations) or see a doctor when we are sick
(where's public healthcare?). So, we choose instead to risk destroying
the world further instead of seeking ways to make sure our neighbor
is housed, fed, and healed.
In the case of British Petroleum and the Deepwater
Horizon explosion, we see how a drive for quick profits leads
to millions of gallons of poisonous goo covering our waters and
land. Overseas, young Texas boys and girls are dying to ensure
that oil and gas pipelines can be built and secured across the
lands of Iraqi and Afghan farmers - fully supported by even "liberal"
members of Congress. The political establishment along with taxpayer-funded
military act as chief enforcer of this privatized venture. The
profits will end up in the pockets of politicians and investors
in Kabul, Baghdad, New York, London Berlin, Amsterdam, Canberra
and Washington, DC.
Tough luck for the generations of Grand
Isle shrimpers, Gulfport bait
shop owners and Laguna Beach leasing agents.
Those who proselytize for profit could care less,
so long as their vacation homes in Hawaii, Martha's Vineyard ,
Beach and the Bahamas aren't affected. You see their self-satisfied
faces on the Sunday morning t.v. commentary, hear their siren
voices on the radio and read their words spilled across the paper
each day. They seductively promise, "you can rise above your
fellow man". "You too can become like a King."
Shut 'em off. There is another way: One that requires
courage, instead of fear; compassion in place of selfishness.
Instead of letting ourselves being pitted against one another
in a zero-sum game of economic selfishness, we can rise to the
banner that "there is enough for all". There is plenty
of food to ensure that no one goes hungry. No one need go without
a roof over their head. Our healthcare system has the capacity
to serve everyone. Even our power needs can be supplied through
existing available resource, conservation and investments in green
energy. We don't have to accept nuclear
waste dumps in West Texas, nor oil spills in the Gulf.
What right do we have to sell, slice and dice our
shared planet for the profits of a handful of individuals? Why
do we let private energy investors obtain leases to shared public
lands? Why are we so willing to pimp ourselves and the world humanity?
Does "God" have a contract with Texaco?
Similar inquiries are raised whenever there is a
disaster or challenge of global significance: Chernobyl,
global warming, SE Asia Tsunami, etc. Even the most hardened capitalists
are beginning to ask more questions as they witness the devastation
of wetlands and public beaches taking place on a global scale.
presenters in Toronto to US
Social Forum activists in Detroit, the plans for the future
are being discussed and planned.
Will it be a future where we continue to kill one
another - with words and deeds - or can we rise above this dystopia?
Will our children inherit our folly or enjoy peace, prosperity
and ecology? Another world is possible. Another US is necessary.
What we dream and envision, we can achieve. The
choice is ours.
In the words of Henry David Thoreau, "If one
advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors
to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success
unexpected in common hours."
The only thing standing in the way of creating a
better world is our own lack of imagination and willingness to
work together for our community good. Meanwhile, coral reefs die
underwater and heron chicks die in blackened estuaries. Not by
of God", but at the hand of men - exceeding selfish
Greening Amarillo, Dallas & Houston
Texans of all persuasions, from liberals to conservative,
are doing more to help steward a green and sustainable environment
than ever before. One Amarillo housing project plans
to build 310 homes completely off of the electrical grid - powered
entirely by solar. The new community will also let residents
grow their own food.
City Council members are considering a three-year "electricity"
purchase that includes $750,00 s for green energy. Dallas
is the second highest renewable energy user in the nation at 40%,
next to Houston, but knows it needs to do more.
Houston will be the location of the new Toshiba
electric car factory. The Houston plant is expected to
produce Toshiba's first overseas automotive propulsion motors
in 2012 and is an example of green jobs for the future of the
Poster boys for polluters
Joe Barton became the poster boy for Texas oil polluters
when, instead of recognizing the threat to Texas of BP's oil disaster,
he choose to focus on their setting aside of $20 billion to compensate
victims. Calling it a presidential "shakedown" of an
oil company, Barton and other neocons continue to top the pinnacle
And, showing the same level of ignorance (or support
of their business friends), Texas Attorney General Greg
Abbot and the Texas
Commission on Evironmental Quality [sic] (TECQ) has
decided to fight stronger federal rules and controls on air pollution.
The AG is asking courts to
rule against the EPA when it comes to permitting pollution
from oil refineries. The EPA says the state's permitting process
allows industry to emit too many pollutants.
Saving the golden goose
The current high school drop out rate threatens
Texas' economic future unless it receives more attention and better
funding, according to demographers and economists. Unless
the dropout issue is successfully confronted, the potential asset
of a burgeoning young population could become a lead weight dragging
down median incomes and the ability to attract new business enterprises.
Instead of threatening to cut education funding,
the Texas Legislature needs to change the law allowing 16-year-olds
to drop out of school. Texan's need to invest in and encourage
EVERY student to obtain and high school degree and go on to college
if possible. If not, Texans can expect a slow decline in household
incomes and greater social inequality. Texas also needs
to invest more in pre-K to set the stage for success in
students' later years. "Every kid deserves to be educated,
and we're going to figure out what it takes and do it," says
Bill Hammond, president and CEO of the Texas
Association of Business.
No haters for Texas
Arizona's recent law targeting undocumented residents
- SB1070 - could become law in Texas if a few legislators get
their way. There are move afoot to use legislation to divide Texas
and support the racist actions that promoted the problems in Arizona.
However, real Texans are coming forward and saying
"not here". The cities of Austin
Antonio have already taken up the call to rebuke Arizona.
Texans for Peace is planning a legislative "education"
campaign for the coming year on this issue. Together, we can stop
the tide of hate and keep Texas "friendly". Todos somos
(ARCHIVES: May 25, 2010) Somos
Desde chicos aprendimos, a querernos
El futball y las canicas,
A los buenos y a los malos
Muchas veces nos peleamos, otras veces ni hablamos,
Pero aun sigo siendo amigo del que es como mi hermano
En momentos presentimos
Que solos nos encontramos
Es alli donde aparecen los que son mas que hermanos
Los regalos que no dimos, las palabras que callamos
Los abrazos que negamos al que hoy no estan a tu lado
Pero aun afuera hay muchos
Esperando de un abrazo
Necesitan de aquel que se ha de llamar hermano
Amigo tu, Amigo yo
Perdoname si te he fallado
Lo se muy bien, lo sabes tu
Siempre estare cerca, a tu lado.
Quiero estar y compartir, momentos buenos y los malos;
Quiero reir, tal vez llorar
Amigos que... nunca olvidamos
de Alex Campos
Texas is more than a place. It's also
'state of mind' where everything is bigger, brasher...and friendlier.
Perhaps our immigrant foreparents were looking ahead when they
adopted "friendship" (Tejas) as
our state motto. from the first people living here.
Living in this "little bit of
heaven on earth", we know that being Texan is more than just
citizenship in this great state. Who is a Texan? A "Texan"
is anyone who lives, or has ever lived (or even so much as traveled)
to Texas and holds that bond of friendship in their heart. This
includes tourists, former-residents and the entire currently population.
Here in the Lone Star State, we are all neighbors and friends.
We are all "Texans".
However, apparently our neighbors in
Arizona think a little differently when it comes to those living
in their state.
Led by former residents from Midwestern states,
the newest emigrés of Arizona seem intent on rejecting
the language, culture and diversity that has enriched that land
for generations. Their thinly-veiled racist ideology and
recent legislation against undocumented residents in the name
of "the law" has created a scandalous issue
from what has never been a problem in the first place.
For decades, citizens and "illegal" residents
have lived and worked side by side in Arizona, as they have in
Texas and many other states. Millions of undocumented workers
have obtained false social security documents (and pay federal
taxes without any hope of getting a refund) in an attempt to better
Countless families have overstayed their legal visas
or crossed the borders illegally in order to ensure that their
children could live a better life - access to quality schools,
good community water and health, and the hope that they would
have a better - and longer - life. Others came here to escape
terrible political and economic conditions in their native land
with the hope that their descendents would enjoy the blessings
of liberty that attracts so many around the world to the
To all, Texans say you are welcome here.
The modern state of Texas was born from Mexico and
the cultures, traditions and economic relationship of our nearest
foreign neighbor have helped
to make Texans wealthy beyond dreams (The per capita .GDP
of Texas - greater than Germany's - is due in no small part due
the to commerce and workforce that comes from the south) e
all Texans ....(continued from Page 1)
Businesses in Texas willingly hire hundreds of thousands
of foreign workers - many knowing that their papers may be false
- and bring their families into their occupation. Immigration
has been a boon to our state.
While Arizona has a lsizeable border with Mexico,
it does not have the tremendous
amount of trade and interaction that Texas does. Only
states that border Canada have a foreign experience similar to
Texas' - and you don't see them trying to restrict "illegal"
Many illegal immigrant families, using the same
process of obtaining false social security cards, have also purchased
autos, homes, insurance and everything else that a "legal"
citizen may do. They pay local property taxes, start business
and otherwise contribute to the social fabric of the community
putting in their own fair share.
try to claim that illegal immigrants are stealing "American"
jobs or pose a threat to national security. However, Wall Street
and Washington D.C. politicians have been more responsible for
weakening the U.S. economy and the economic downturn - through
the creation of unregulated "financial instruments"
and reckless military spending - than any other force.
Security? When is the last time that a Canadian,
Guatemalan, Colombian or Salvadorian killed masses of people in
this country? Many of the families who come here from those countries
are fleeing violence and want peace. Others come so that they
won't starve. Security isn't an issue, with the exception of drug
cartels and their (legal citizen) U.S. partners who have created
a multi-billion dollar industry.
Besides the obvious economic benefits of a porous
border with Mexico and Canada, the issue of illegal immigration
is one of justice.
Children who are born in America automatically become
U.S. citizens (thanks
to the 14th Amendment to the Constitution!). However,
they may not have legal papers due to a variety of reasons. Also,
many of their siblings, parents or grandparents may be living
with the fear that they can someday be repatriated back to another
country. For this reason, no school would want to take their students
on a field trip to Arizona - one never knows if their star athlete
is such an "undocumented" American .
Likewise, no one wants to be uprooted from a community
in which they have lived for years (or decades) because of some
change in the "law". It's neither right nor just - and
defies common sense. Why would any state want to suddenly create
turmoil and fear among its residents?
To be blunt, many of those who oppose "illegal
immigration" are simply racist - despite their claims. Having
lived in Arizona I have heard to many caustic remarks about the
"brown-skinned" and still remember how people - many
citizens for generations - are treated there.
In one instance, after giving a speech to a local
fraternal organization, an elderly woman came up to me and spoke
to me in heavily-accented English. "Shouldn't we do something
about the millions of illegal aliens pouring across the border?"
she asked. She said that she had arrived in the U.S. as a child
after fleeing Germany. I gently reminded her that once she too
was a stranger in a new land
only to see her march off in
Thank goodness I live in Texas where a person is
more likely to be judged on how well he or she works or helps
his neighbors than where she comes from.
Here, we will NOT allow the creation of laws like
in Arizona - we're the friendly state.
We've spent decades trying to rid our state of racist,
reactionary hate-mongers and the parties to which they belong.
While the struggle isn't over, the ranks of kind, friendly and
tolerant Texans hold the majority across the political spectrum.
Ant-immigration sentiment has no place in a state
free men [sic], when they form a social compact, have equal rights...."
Just as Texans have come to aid the struggle for human rights
in the South in the past, so too can you expect to see us getting
involved in the Southwest. We know that an injustice anywhere
is a threat to us everywhere.
From El Paso to Texarkana we welcome our new neighbors
from the west with open arms. Arizona's loss is our gain. When
you arrive, know that we expect continued hard work, contributions
to your local community, kindness to your neighbors and activities
to make our state and world a better place in which to live and
We are all together in this in Texas. Somos todos
Time to abolish the SBOE
State Board of Education (SBOE) has become such am embarrassment
to the state - recently
allowing evangelicals to rewrite history - that it no
longer serves a useful purpose. Texans for Peace has joined others
in callling for the Texas Legislature to eliminate this elected
Slave trade? No longer part of the curriculum. It's
now been renamed "the
Atlantic triangular trade". Susan B. Anthony, Upton
Sinclair, Civil Rights...minimized.
The same neocons who want to eliminate government
altogether apparently also want to thwart the study of America's
history as well. Join the FB
Cause to Abolish the SBOE.
British Petroleum (BP)'s U.S. headquarters was
the scene of recent protest by Americans fed up with deregulated
oil drilling and ecocide at the hands of companies in Texas. Along
with BP, Halliburton
are also culpable in the recent disaster in the Gulf.
The "naked truth" protests are a "crude
awakening that our country is on the wrong track, that we need
an energy system that doesn't kill workers, that doesn't destroy
our ocean and that works with nature, not against nature,"
say Code Pink co-founder Madea Benjamin
Texas peacemakers honored
Texas State Representative Lon Burnam recently
retired after serving 10 years as Executive Director of the Dallas
Peace Center. He was honored by his fellowsfor his bold dedication
in standing up for Texans - in DFW and around throughout the state.
The Fort Worth Democrat was also co-founder of the Crawford Peace
House and plans to remain active in peace issues for a long time
Margret Hofmann was recently honored by the City
of Austin with
a small park named in her honor. Margret, a former Austin
City Council member, and a founder of the Fellowship
of Reconciliation (FOR) of Central Texas. A member of
the Friends Meeting
(Quaker) of Austin, Margret
also writes regularly.
Both Lon and Margret are active members of Texans
for Peace and we look forward to their continuing contributions
to peace and justice throughout Texas.
Alto Arizona May 29
Civil rights activists from throughout the U.S.
will converge on Phoenix on May 29 for the Alto
Arizona march against SB1070. A Festival of Human Rights
is scheduled on Friday May 28, the day before the march. Marches
are also planned throughout Mexico and in other countries.
Mexican President, in a visit to Washington last
upon President Obama and Congress to pass comprehensive immigration
(ARCHIVES: March 9, 2010) Healing
the Hurts: Addressing the Human Toll of War
The U.S. has been at constant war for
the past nine years and the human toll continues to grow. Even
as these overseas wars continue, it is time to consider how we
as peacemakers will help to heal the personal, family and global
injuries that war have caused.
At least 1 million Americans have been
to Iraq and Afghanistan as soldiers or contractors. More than
5,300 have already died
there. In addition to those who have been killed, there are about
soldiers wounded for each who dies.
Within those countries 62 million local
citizens have also been directly exposed to combat, and millions
killed, injured and made homeless as well.
Untold numbers of people, both soldiers
andcivilians, have torn limbs and troubled minds. The impacts
from these injuries will ripple throughout a generation or more,
just as those from WWII, Korea and Vietnam altered the social
fabric of America and the war-torn nations.
Throughout Texas, on street corners
and in homeless shelters, veterans of wars - past and present
- live in desperation and insanity. Many once had families and
people who loved them, now they struggle just to get the next
meal. Others wonder -
like Timothy Pridey and his wife - how to support their
family in a down economy.
In low-rent apartments in our biggest
cities, a few thousand "lucky" refugees from Iraq try
to rebuild their lives. Facing a strange new society, they try
to help their children adjust to a world much different than the
one they left. The Dallas Metroplex even now has its own fledgling
Baghdad". Among Iraqis in their own country, the
psychological scars of war run particularly deep.
was sitting on the couch the other day, and all I could do was
cry and wish that I was dead," says Senaa Tahir Abid,
after seeing her husband and sister's husband killed.
Thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands
of civilians have been killed in the past nine years. Their only
legacy is the tragic faces and broken hearts of those left behind
even more victims to the cost of war.
Those military veterans who are fortunate to still
be alive and with no physical injuries, often carry the psychological
scars of war throughout their lives. War is a debilitating experience
where the brain is constantly occupied with fear and death. Combat
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the current term given
to a traumatized psyche and tortured "soul". Their
parents ask "why?"
England Journal of Medicine studied four combat units
and found that 17% of Iraq war veterans and 11% of Afghanistan
war veterans suffered Hurts from PTSD
while a similar study by the RAND
Corporation put the number at 20%. The Pentagon has acknowledged
that the suicide rate for soldiers is growing and far exceeds
the suicide rate in the general population.
Mick, a 20-year-old GI in Killeen says that part
of the problem is due to trying to struggle with the mental images
of war while integrating back into "normal" society.
"They expect you to be the perfect soldier and the perfect
civilian," he said. "The
government expects us to be bipolar, to separate work life from
The medical costs of treating PTSD, even though
they are only part of the social costs, are expected to grow dramatically
in coming years. According to the Washington Post, "about
300,000 U.S. military personnel who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan
are suffering from post-traumatic stress or major depression,
a mental toll that may
cost the nation as much as $6.2 billion over two years."
Like the returning soldiers, the millions of men,
women and children of Afghanistan and Iraq are likely to suffer
even more in coming decades. They've seen their cities and towns
ripped apart, destruction and dead bodies littering streets. At
least 8 million have had to flee and become refugees - many living
in camps - at some point during the past decade. There are at
million who still live as refugees or internally displaced persons
(IDPs) in the two nations. Families without the comfort and safety
of homes. Children without schools and the security of normal
life. Neighborhoods and social life fragmented. The effects of
munitions, like depleted
uranium (DU) and other WMDs left behind by U.S. troops,
will scar the landscape and generations to come.
Unlike many Iraqi mothers, Um Haider, who fled Baghdad
to Houston, is one of the fortunate ones. Her children are all
well and without injury, but she worries for the cousins left
behind. "The situation in Iraq is terrible," she says.
"Everywhere there is destruction, walls, burned buildings
and ruined lives." Um Haider doesn't know if she'll ever
be able to return, but unsure how she will support her family
in their new home of Texas.
While Americans watch movies like The
Hurt Locker, most real
images of war are sanitized and removed from view. The
victims of war are forgotten, even when they walk among us. Do
not look away.
However, we have a civic and moral obligation to
help to heal the wounds and hearts of this human tragedy. Even
more so since, as a nation, we are the ones directly responsible
for their injuries in the first place. We must accept responsibility
for the returning troops and for the civilian victims left in
their wake. They shouldn't have to do it alone.
Even more, as Texans who believe in peace and social
justice, we have an even greater challenge to salve war's wounds.
Peacemakers are directed not only to help end, or prevent, wars
but are also called to be healers. Some,
like Peggy Kelsey, are in Afghanistan right now.
In Texas, we have a particular need to be involved.
Not only has this state sent the largest groups of soldiers off
to war, who are now returning as veterans, but we are
also becoming home to tens of thousands of Iraqis and
Afghans. These neighbors will need to get along and, as in Vietnam,
soldiers of conscience will want to revisit and rebuild the countries
they destroyed. Even when the war is over, the work of peace won't
be "done". As peacemakers we not only need to empathize
with both victims and perpetrators we have to help "mend
the pieces". It is our way. And, afterall, these are your
sons and daughters.
There are many resources and organizations that
focus on the aftermath of war: Veteran's groups, support organizations,
Iraq and Afghan societies, and humanitarian organizations. All
could use volunteers and financial resources. At the same time,
peace and social justice organizations - some working directly
in the "red" zones - also need your support.
Listed below is a small selection of organizations
that you can become involved with. Together, we can help heal
Iraq and Afghan Veterans of America
Iraq Veterans Against War
Injured Marines Fund
Laptops for the
Our Military Kids
Swords to Plowshares
Tragedy Assistance Program for
Under the Hood
Veterans for Peace
Help the Afghan
Help the Refugees in San Antonio (FB Group)
Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston
Rescue Committee (IRC)
of North Texas Iraqi
Women for Women International
Neocons on their way out of SBOE?
Conservative and Liberal Texans alike have had
their fill of know-nothing members of the State Board of Education
who have been trying water down the curriculum and textbooks by
watering down evolution and other scientific principles.
concerned parents have been urging that "sanity" be
returned to the SBOE. These elected officeholders don't generally
receive much review at election time, but this year, might be
near the top of the "issues" that will bring voters
to the polls as they say "don't mess with Texas education".
Border violence growing
There are concerns that recent battles between rival
drug cartels in Mexico will spill over into Texas. There have
been recent increases in border violence in towns from Juarez
The most recent escalation in drug wars appears to be around Nuevo
Laredo and Reynosa. In some cases, Mexican parents have
had to keep their children out of school for fear of almost-daily
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) provided
an unusual warning to college students to stay away from the border
during Spring Break. Hildalgo's
Border Festival has been shortened. Tourism, already down
because of the economy and H1N1 flu, is expected to suffer
from the ongoing threat of violence as the U.S. State
Department issues travel warnings. Journalists have been targeted,
some news blackouts.
However, citizens in those same border communities
are standing up to the violence. Some are turning
to online activism, others are taking to the streets to
protest both the violence and the militarization of their
End the War Protests Continue
Even as Operation Enduring Disaster in Afghanistan
continues into its 9th year and the war in Iraq into its 7th,
peace activists and antiwar protesters continue to demonstrate
against the war and call for peaceful solutions.
On March 20, there will be a Million
Musicians for Peace march in Austin from the Capitol to
City Hall. In Houston, a National
Day of Protest rally at Mason Park. In the Valley (McAllen)
a Special Protest Against the War 11am-noon, McAllen, right in
front of Bentsen Tower at Bus. 83 & Bicentennial. In Arlington,
on the 19th, an "I
Stand for Peace" gathering. There will also planned
large demonstrations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington,
DC. and other towns and cities around the world. Denton
will have a "Funk
the War" march on March 28.
Celebrate César Chávez
Texans everywhere will be celebrating the legacy
of civil rights activist and founder of the United
Farm Workers, César Chávez, on March 26-27.
There's a special reason for those in the Metroplex to celebrate
renamed a major street to honor Chavez. In San Antonio,
largest march will be held on the 27th.
The Willacy County Processing Center is the largest
immigrant detention center in the U.S. and harkens back to the
days during WWII when Japanese-Americans were locked up in South
Texas. Owned by the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation
(MTC), Tent City is one of many detention centers run for profit
and with little federal oversight.
Close Texas prison camps April 10
A broad coaltion of organizations is calling for
the closure of the Texas prison camp in Raymondville and
planing an April 10th demonstration at the site.
The Willacy County Processing Center is the largest
immigrant detention center in the U.S. and harkens back to the
days during WWII when Japanese-Americans were locked up in South
Texas. Owned by the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation
(MTC), Tent City is one of many detention centers run for profit
and with little federal oversight.
(LAST MONTH: January 3, 2010)
Light a candle in 2010
The analogies are many: Children of
Light, Candle in the Darkness, Keepers of the Flame, Warm Hearts
Torch Bearers are the individuals who lead the way down the path
of peace and social justice, as they have done since time immemorial.
They can be found in the darkest recesses, unflaggingly daring
to illumine the truth at any cost. Indeed, in the words of Robert
Altinger "the darkness of the whole world cannot swallow
the glowing of a [their] candle."
During the past year, we have seen
many examples of such Pillars of Fire working on issues ranging
from immigrant rights to working to end the death penalty. I hope
you take inspiration from their stories.
Principled Leadership - Lucy Davila Hakemack
School leadership takes more than just understanding
of curriculum, pedagogy and learning philosophy. It also takes
compassion and willingness to "go the extra mile" to
help children succeed. Lucy Davila Hakemack, Principal of H.
Grady Spruce High School in Dallas ISD know this all too
scores are up, and students feel like they can have a positive
high school experience. Through her leadership Dr. Hakemack
has helped transform a troubled school to one where teachers,
staff and students have come to believe in their own success and
education in Texas is one step better.
Transforming Homelessness - Ron Hall and Denver
Denver Moore was a homeless man
from Louisiana living on the streets of Fort Worth. Ron Hall was
a successful local millionaire. Then, both of their lives were
changed by a chance meeting. While volunteering at the Union Gospel
Mission in 1998, Hall and his wife Debbie met Moore and curious
about his circumstances got to know him better. Ron and Denver
ended up collaborating on a book "Same
Kinda Different As Me," and
since have raise more than $31 million to help end homelessness
in their community.
Confronting Presidents' Wars - Walter Cronkite
Walter Cronkite was a luminary in American life
and letters. One of the best loved broadcasters for decades, Cronkite
was well known for speaking the truth - including his 1968 opinion
on Vietnam. "With each escalation, the world comes closer
to the brink of cosmic disaster. To say that we are closer to
victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the
optimists who have been wrong in the past." Several weeks
later following this report candle....(continued
from Page 1)
President Johnson announced that
he would not seek re-election. Texan Cronkite continued to speak
out against war - and another Texas president - prior to his death
in 2009. "Our
Troops Must Leave Iraq," he wrote and he urged the
American people to "make their voices heard with unmistakable
People's Magistrate - Ernie
San Antonio is known for having judges who both
understand the law, but rule with compassion. Such is the case
for Judges Ernine L. Glenn. Glen, of the Bexar County Drug Court,
tries to help those who come before his court to overcome their
addictions and realize that their lives could be better. Such
was the case with Cassie LaVernia who
went from living under a freeway bridge as homeless drug addict
to living responsibly and helping others. Because Judge
Glen was willing to see beyond her problems and get Cassie involved
in drug education she now is a hope, not a burden to others in
Workplace Dignity - Proyecto Defensa Laboral
(Workers Defense Project)
Undocumented workers have trying circumstances.
Willing to work, they often are taken advantage of by their employers
and frequently unpaid for their services. Few are willing to speak
out. The Workers Defense
Project empowers low-wage workers to act collectively
for racial and economic justice in the workplace through leadership
development, education, organizing and collaborating with strategic
allies. Last year they were successful in getting thousands of
dollars that was stolen in wage thefts back into the hands of
workers and changes in building inspections in Austin after the
death of a worker. Now they have embarked to open a community/cultural
center which will have Spanish-English literacy classes, low-income
work assistance and cooperative business development.
Freeing the Neighborhood - Lenwood E. Johnson
Lenwood E. Johnson has helped to preserve the historic
nature of the Freedman's Town, one of the oldest neighborhoods
in Houston. When the City of Houston wanted to tear up historic
brick streets laid by freed slaves in order to install new sewer
and water lines, he went to work. Johnson
rallied the neighborhood and media - and won! The City
agreed not to tear up the streets and help bring attention to
local - and often forgotten - stories of early Houston. Freedmen's
Town, established after news of the Emancipation Proclamation
reached Texas in 1865, became a thriving center of jazz, arts,
and business, hailed by many as the "Harlem of the South"
and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Coming Forward for GLBT Rights - Jon Nelson
Last June, on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall
Rebellion in NY, a Fort Worth gay bar was raided by local
police and the TABC. The incident sparked outrage across Texas
and the nation, as patrons were injured and jailed. Attorney John
Nelson came forward to ensure that to speak out that in his city
"discrimination is wrong, and would not be tolerated here."
also helped found a new group - Fairness Fort Worth -
to "to help facilitate the process for witnesses to the Rainbow
Lounge raid to come forward and give testimony." Although
investigations are still ongoing, the raid has already resulted
in the suspensions of a sergeant and two police officers and admission
and disciplinary actions and acknowledgement of violations by
the TABC Chief.
No Borders - Jay Johnson-Castro
Along the Texas-Mexico border, a vocal group of
activists have been challenging the building of the "Wall".
These Texas "border
ambassadors" work with local officials and community
activists to build opposition to the "ugly
and acrimonious barrier" that will divide the two nations.
Johnson-Castro turned from running a bed-and-breakfast
to leading walks from city to city along the border, organizing
rallies, and helping to bring attention to Washington about this
"Concrete Curtain" that is being built. Jay has also
been instrumental in actions against the Texas prison camps where
immigrant families are held for months.
Writing and Publishing to Succeed - Melanie Moore
Several years ago, weary of layoffs in high-tech,
Moore decided to pursue her dream of helping children
with literacy while "amplifying the voices of the disenfranchised,
the marginalized, the international" writers who may be ignored
by market-driven publishing.
The result was the creation of Badgerdog, a place where
young writers are cultivated and published. During the past year,
Badgerdog worked with students in several Central Texas school
districts to be confident - and published - authors. This "organization
run by poets and fiction writers" has become instrumental
in the resurgence of print works and helping others to "find
Cleansing Coal - Clean Economy Coalition of Corpus
When Las Brisas Energy (Chase Power) proposed to
build a $3 billion 1200 MW petroleum coke-fired power plant in
Corpus Christi, local citizens organized. They formed Clean
Energy Corpus to advocate for cleaner and more economically
sound energy for the city. With the help of National organizations
(Environmental Defense Fund , Sierra Club) they have argued against
permitting by the Texas
Commission on Environmental Quality. In December the TECQ
found, "the applicant has not proven that the emissions from
the permit will not cause adverse impacts to human health,"
in large part to testimony from local doctors concerned about
the already high levels of asthmas in the area and the data that
shows Corpus already has the highest level of birth defects in
Texas. Local leaders plan to continue to try to stop the plant
Hope for Texas - Kid's Against the Death Penalty
University students have long been active in the
push to eliminate the death penalty in Texas. But, now they've
been joined by their younger siblings - Kids
Against the Death Penalty (KADP). KADP kids have been
organizing online, attending rallies and helping to educate their
peers about Texas executions. Several members of KADP are relatives
of Jeff Wood,
currently on death row even though he never killed anyone. KADP
members have marched for miles along Texas streets holding anti-death
penalty signs, visited the Legislature and Rick Perry, and continue
to press for justice. They courageously speak out on an issue
in which too few Texans, whether adults or children, have found
the time or the courage to address. They are even inspiring kids
in other states to join the anti-death penalty movement.
International Action for Freedom
- Diane Baker
Rev. Diane Baker, a Dallas hospice chaplain, has
aided the souls and spirits of peacemakers in struggles for peace
and justice. The 62-year-old grandmother has been a strong advocate
of human rights throughout Texas and the globe and has taken stands
for freedom in Cuba, farm workers in California and victims of
violence in Mexico. She is currently part
of the 8-person Texas delegation participating in the
Freedom March in Egypt and joined the fast to force the
to allow their march to proceed and not be penned in by riot police.
As one year ends and a new one begins, we can
take heart in knowing that there will be even more inspiring stories
in the weeks and months ahead. But, you don't need to wait to read
get out there and write your own.
Light a candle. Better yet, start a
Interfaith vigil to close Texas prison camp - Jan
Faith leaders, churches and peace and justice activists
gather at the Willacy County Processing Center in Raymondville
on Jan. 9 to vigil and continue to demand that the Obama
Administration shut down this prison camp and let these non-criminal
families go home to await their immigration hearings.
Holding 3,000 detainees, the "for-profit"
Willacy Center is the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's
(ICE) largest immigrant detention center. Since "Ritmo"
opened, detainees have suffered sexual abuse, negligence in medical
care, unhygienic facilities, spoiled and rotten food, inappropriate
use of solitary confinement, and inadequate access to representation
and services. Immigration detention separates families and stands
between noncitizens and the communities that provide them emotional,
spiritual, and legal
support. In Florida, detainees' families are fasting in non-violent
opposition to ICE's inhumane immigration enforcement system.
National student peace conference coming to Texas
2010 Student Peace Alliance National Conference will be held February
26-28 at Southwestern University in Georgetown. The conference,
whose theme is "Extreme Makeover: Peace in the 21st Century"
will bring together youth peace leaders from throughout the nation
to "focus on evidence-based programs that are effectively
reducing and preventing violence both at an international and
The three days of conference speakers and attendee
collaboration will highlight effective domestic and international
peacebuilding programs; provide grassroots organizing, community
peacebuilding, and lobbying training; and empower young people
to be citizen peacebuilders and advocates. Your help, and donations
are needed. Encourage students in your community to attend. Sponsor
scholarships and show students of the nation a true Texas welcome.
Texans for Peace has signed on as a sponsor of this
conference. Rob Atkinson, a member of Texans for Peace, was instrumental
in getting SPA organized before his tragic death in December 2008.
New Ways of Looking at Water
Peace, social justice and environmental activists
in San Antonio will hold a "New
Ways of Looking at Water" conference February 14-16
at Trinity University. The conference is for the entire community
to "explore The science, politics, law, history, poetry,
music, art, spirituality, architecture, fashion, use, misuse,
past, present, future, here, there and everywhere of water."
It is free and open to the public.
Iraqi refugees in Texas
The first wave of Iraqi refugees, like war refugees
before them, has come to Texas. As
many as 100 Iraqi families have already relocated to Texas, most
to big cities and are struggling to make a new life here.
They generally find themselves living in low-rent apartments competing
for jobs with immigrants from other countries.
They are generally ignored by the media, and those
who wreaked havoc on their country. However, social service agencies
and non-profits work to assist them, as they do to support anyone
in need. More to come.
FB for Texas News
More and more, those interested in peace and social
justice are turning to social media - particularly Facebook -
to keep up with activities and the latest information. Texans
for Peace invites you to join one of several FB pages used to
communicate throughout the state:
for Peace FB Main
for Peace - Austin Area
for Peace - Corpus Christi and the Valley
for Peace - DFW and North Texas
for Peace - Houston Area
for Peace - San Antonio Area
You can also keep up with news via
(ARCHIVES: December 1, 2009)
Citizen Future: Demolishing Fantasy USA
Last week 83-year-old
Sister Anne Montgomery, along
with a group of 4 others, was arrested at the Kitsap-Bangor
Naval Base near Seattle, after cutting through fences, entering
the base and scattering sunflower seeds to
protest nuclear weapons and help demolish the current
US fantasy of empire.
Fantasy USA, like Fantasy
Football, is a game in which adults daydream about being
"owners" along with their made-up "teams"
and virtual players. Like popular computer games, Bingo parlors,
Texas hold'em and "reality" t.v., Fantasy USA has become
a widespread and popular phenomena. Many Americans have joined
the ranks of the "fantasy world" in attempts to feel
more in control of their personal lives and external world events.
While there's nothing wrong with diversions, amusements and entertainment,
it can get out of hand when an entire nation embarks on a fantasy
Such is the state of the USA
today - including government, politics and economics - where Americans
have placed their hope into
"Empires of Illusion", American "exceptionalism"
and electroal "hope" with as little basis in reality
as the "fantasy points" in a fantasy football league.
The very concept of the United
States as an autonomous political entity, self-contained "American"
business markets and individual political exercise mean little
when the "World
is Flat" and we are interconnected with every other
society on the planet. Nevertheless, millions of Americans continue
to fall prey to the illusions of tricksters who make promises
that are neither meaningful nor permanent - we can "win"
in Afghanistan, America will always be the "land of the free",
Meanwhile, thoughtful citizens work
towards sensible progress based on the realities of the world
in which we live today. Some cut through the mirages and hallucinations
to "wake up" their fellows from the dreams in which
they have become increasingly ensnared. Others put their bodies
on the line to physically challenge and help tear down the walls
Anne Montgomery is part of a growing movement of
faith leaders and secular activists who are willing to challenge
the empire directly.
In addition to her recent Ploughshares
action in Bangor, she has gone to Guantanamo
to demand the release of prisoners and traveled extensively throughout
Iraq and Israel/Palestine to work with the people who have been
victimized by war. These citizens know that "Fantasy USA"
and its manufacture, deployment and use of weapons of mass destruction
is both "immoral and criminal" and that as citizens
we are responsible to resist. Unlike the real principles upon
which the nation was founded, this "Fantasy USA" along
with its destructive empire is "a blasphemy against the Creator
of life, imaged in each human being."
Gandhi and his followers in India, early in the 20th century,
destroyed the "Fantasy UK" when they threw off the yoke
of British empire and colonialism. Other fantasy regimes were
changed throughout the world - from the Ottoman Empire to dictatorships
in the Philippines and elsewhere. This week, millions will celebrate
the end of "Fantasy USSR" with the symbolic fall of
the Berlin Wall.
Meanwhile in the U.S., the empire of illusion -
political, military and economic - continues to be as a threat
to free citizens at home and abroad. The charlatans of Wall Street
and Washington openly plunder the public treasury for their own
interests, escalate the destruction of countries overseas and
- along with their media counterparts - provide only pablum and
promises. The puppet masters who control politics and politicians
say, "wait until the next election (or candidate)".
"Change" is their mantra but support of empire is their
Even the most ardent supporters of the Our-Way-of-Life-Free-Market-Capitalism
and American "superiority" have come to understand that
something is fundamentally wrong. How can the largest corporations
go from making record profits to near collapse? How does racking
up trillions of dollars in dept fighting overseas wars add to
the long-term security and "common defense"? Does the
winner-take-all ethos of the current political process really
"establish justice", "insure domestic tranquility",
"promote the general welfare" and secure "blessings
of liberty"? How long will we allow those who have shown
themselves willing to follow dreams of dominance and hegemony
no matter how high the risks to remain in power? Not forever,
our very survival is at stake.
Many citizens are beginning to see through the illusion
of empire and are speaking out, and working directly, to replace
Fantasy USA with a nation that is more just and rewarding for
Bennis notes, "we are at a moment when this movement
is rising" and people are demanding social and economic rights
and defying US power. We need to challenge the empire. Indeed,
if no US citizens, who? If not now, when?
In late November, thousands
of citizens will converge on Ft. Benning in Georgia in continuing
vigils and civil disobedience actions to close the School of the
Assassins (SOA) and stop US military interventions in
Latin America. Among the crowds will be Texans
from around the state. They know that democracy can't
be spread through the "barrel of a gun" and are willing
to nonviolently challenge the policies of the Pentagon, Congress
and the President. "It is up to us to hold those responsible
accountable and to push for to closing of the School of the Americas
and a change in US foreign policy" says Father
Roy Bourgeois. "Too many have died and continue to
suffer at the hands of graduates of this notorious institute."
Others, from peace groups to anti-tax protestors,
will march on Washington next year to bring about needed change
- from increasing civil rights to shutting down the war machine.
As their numbers grow, politicians and pundits may find that their
patronage is at risk and that "The People" - not the
empire - come first.
of A Citizen, author Paul Rogat Loeb discusses how
people of conviction can continue to work towards peace and social
justice by inspiring one another and working to build human bonds.
"There are elements of the road that we build as we go. Even
in the most difficult situations, we can construct such self-made
routes towards freedom and justice." He recalls the leadership
Merton and others and how peacemakers can take advantage
of the "fullness of time", "radical patience",
"Power of stubbornness", "slow-burning fires"
to bring about change. While acknowledging that "cynics will
continue to smirk, insisting that our efforts are futile,"
he reminds us that "we're never truly alone when we act with
courage and vision."
Bringing an end to Fantasy USA, and replacing it
with a "more
perfect union" won't be easy, but we never know what
we might create unless we try. This is the future of citizenship
and patriotism in our nation.
Sr. Anne is one citizen who is trying. So should
Texans mourn Ft. Hood tragedy
Texans, and non-Texans alike,
are mourning the recent massacre at Fort Hood
in Killeen. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, stands
accused of shooting to death 13 people and wounding
38 more when he began shooting on his own base
The dead include: Michael Grant
Cahill, 62, of Cameron, TX was a physician's
assistant and retired CWO who was working on
the post as a contracted civilian. The soldiers
Major L. Eduardo Caraveo, 52,
of Woodbridge, VA
Staff Sgt. Justin M. DeCrow, 32, of Plymouth,
Capt. John P. Gaffaney, 54, of San Diego, CA
Spc. Frederick Greene, 29, of Mountain City,
Spc. Jason Dean Hunt, 22, of Tillman, OK
Sgt. Amy Krueger, 29, of Kiel, WS
Pfc. Aaron Thomas Nemelka, 19, of W. Jordan,
Pfc. Michael Pearson, 22, of Bolingbrook, IL
Capt. Russell Seager, 41, of Racine, WS
Pvt. Francheska Velez, 21, of Chicago. She was
Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, 55, of Havre de Grace,
Spc. Kham Xiong, 23, of St. Paul, MN
Because the attacker, who was
injured, was Muslim, some attention has been
drawn to the 20,000 other Muslim-Americans who
serve in the U.S. military. However, many soldiers
say that the stress of this shooting can be
directly tied to the stress that multiple deployments
to Iraq and Afghanistan have generated throughout
the military and the determination of the Obama
administration to continue the war and occupation
without an endpoint.
Exxon inks "oil-for-blood"
Dallas based Exxon-Mobil remains
the world's largest publicly traded oil company
profits of $45.2 billion and has been
an active player in Washington's foreign policy
decisions. Last week the multi-national corporation
signed its first contract to develop Iraq's
West Qurna oil fields since they were nationalized
by Saddam Hussein more than 30 years ago.
With reserves of 8.7 billion barrels,
West Qurna is among the prized Iraqi fields
eyed by Western oil majors who are thankful
that Western soldiers were able to secure after
the invasion of 2003. The pact comes after British
oil major BP and China's CNPC signed Iraq's
first major new oil deal since the 2003 U.S.
invasion for the Rumaila field.
Houston based Shell is a partner
with Exxon in the Qurna deal that beat out a
consortium of Russia's LUKOIL, ConocoPhillips,
France's Total and China's CNPC. The Exxon-Shell
group plans to raise the field's output nearly
five-fold to 2.325 million barrels per day (bpd)
from less than 500,000 bpd at present. The consortium
will receive a remuneration of $1.90 per barrel
through the life of the 20-year contract.
500,000 war forces in Afghanistan
Hey, Hey, Obama man
We want out of Afhanistan
The Pentagon has announced plans
to increase U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan
to 100,000 by the end of 2012 and has requested
NATO partners to provide up to 150,000 additional
soldiers. Along with 250,000 "defense"
contractors and paramilitary personnel, this
would be largest military escalation since Vietnam
Both President Obama and the Democratic-controlled
Congress are not only expected to support this
dramatic escalation in the war, but also to
poney up additional hundreds of billions of
dollars to finance it, making "Operation
Enduring Disaster" the longest war and
second most costly in U.S. history, despite
the public who want the war ended.
Dallas Peacemaker Awards Dinner
North Texans will celebrate peace
during Peacemaker Awards dinner in Dallas on
December 3 at the DoubleTree Hotel at Midway
This year's dinner will honor
Crabtree Donovan, KinderUSA and Rita Clarke
and is an annual event to help fund the Dallas
Peace Center. Reserve
your tickets today.
Act to continue
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
and Congress want to extend key provisions of
the Patriot Act, originally passed after 9-11,
which was set to expire this year. Holder wrote
to Senate Judiciary Committee members that he
offers strong support extending
theAct, which would reauthorize the lone
wolf, records and roving wiretap
Lone wolf: Allows government
to track a target without any discernible affiliation
to a foreign power, such as an international
Business records: Allows investigators
to compel third parties, including financial
services and travel and telephone companies,
to provide them access to a suspects records
without the suspects knowledge.
Roving wiretaps: Allows the government
to monitor phone lines or Internet accounts
that a terrorism suspect may be using, whether
or not others who are not suspects also regularly