December 16, 2007

Where Are All the Heroes?

"Where are the heroes of today?" a radio talk show host thundered.

He blames society's shortcomings on education. Too many people are looking for heroes in all the wrong places. Movie stars and rock musicians, athletes, and models aren't heroes; they're celebrities.

Heroes abound in public schools, a fact that doesn't make the news. There is no precedent for the level of violence, drugs, broken homes, child abuse, and crime in today's America. Education didn't create these problems but deals with them every day.

You want heroes?

Consider Dave Sanders, the schoolteacher shot to death while trying to shield his students from two youths on a shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Sanders gave his life, along with 12 students, and other less heralded heroes survived the Colorado blood bath.

You want heroes?

Jane Smith, a Fayetteville, NC teacher, was moved by the plight of one of her students, a boy dying for want of a kidney transplant. So this woman told the family of a 14 year old boy that she would give him one of her kidneys. And she did. When they subsequently appeared together hugging on the Today Show, even Katie Couric was near tears.

You want heroes?

Doris Dillon dreamed all her life of being a teacher. She not only made it, she was one of those wondrous teachers who could bring the best out of every single child. One of her fellow teachers in San Jose, Calif said, "She could teach a rock to read. " Suddenly she was stricken with Lou Gehrig's Disease which is always fatal, usually within five years. She asked to stay on job...and did. When her voice was affected she communicated by computer. Did she go home? Absolutely not! She is running two elementary school libraries! When the disease was diagnosed, she wrote the staff and all the families that she had one last lesson to teach .... that dying is part of living. Her colleagues named her Teacher of the Year.

You want heroes?

Bob House, a teacher in Gay, Georgia, tried out for Who Wants to be a Millionaire. After he won the million dollars, a network film crew wanted to follow up to see how it had impacted his life. New cars? Big new house? Instead, they found both Bob House and his wife still teaching. They explained that it was what they had always wanted to do with their lives and that would not change. The community was both stunned and gratified.

You want heroes?

Last year the average school teacher spent $468 of their own money for student necessities...workbooks, pencils-supplies kids had to have but could not afford. That's a lot of money from the pockets of the most poorly paid teachers in the industrial world.

Schools don't teach values? The critics are dead wrong.

Public education provides more Sunday School teachers than any other profession. The average teacher works more hours in nine months than the average 40-hour employee does in a year.

You want heroes?

For millions of kids, the hug they get from a teacher is the only hug they will get that day because the nation is living through the worst parenting in history. An Argyle, Texas kindergarten teacher hugs her little 5 and 6 year-olds so much that both the boys and the girls run up and hug her when they see her in the hall, at the football games, or in the malls years later.

A Michigan principal moved me to tears with the story of her attempt to rescue a badly abused little boy who doted on a stuffed animal on her desk-one that said "I love you!" He said he'd never been that at home. This is a constant in today's society... two million unwanted, unloved, abused children in the public schools, the only institution that takes them all in.

You want heroes?

Visit any special education class and watch the miracle of personal interaction, a job so difficult that fellow teachers are awed by the dedication they witness. There is a sentence from an unnamed source which says: "We have been so eager to give our children what we didn't have that we have neglected to give them what we did."

What is it that our kids really need? What do they really want?

Math, science, history and social studies are important, but children need love, confidence, encouragement, someone to talk to, someone to listen, standards to live by. Teachers provide upright examples, the faith and assurance of responsible people.

You want heroes? Then go down to your local school and see our real live heroes, the ones changing lives for the better each and every day!


Now, if you want to pass this on, send it to someone you know who's a teacher, or to someone who should thank a teacher today. I'd like to see this sent to all those who cut down the importance of teachers. They have no idea who a public school teacher is or what they do.

December 15, 2007

A Chiapas Miracle

Haz click para español

Dear friends,

Holiday greetings from the misty mountains and steamy jungles of the Mexican southeast. As 2007 ends there are finally more Zapatista education promoters than there are autonomous, indigenous schools ~ this human miracle must now be matched with a renewed burst of school constructions!

Your help TODAY will make all the difference!

For over a decade autonomous Mayan communities have assigned the best and brightest of their young men and women to be trained as "promoters" - teachers of literacy, health, and ecological agriculture. These volunteers work completely without salary and make great sacrifices on behalf of the Mayan communities. Now in this holiday season they deserve our love, our prayers, and our support.

Please lend a hand in building new Mayan schools and training centers throughout Chiapas. Your support is helping construct a new world - one child at a time. Make your donation now to receive a 2007 tax deduction!

Por y para los niños y las niñas,
Peter BrownSchools for Chiapas ps.

Volunteer opportunity: Dig foundations, mix cement, nail boards, paint classrooms, and hang blackboards for autonomous, indigenous schools in Chiapas, Mexico. Join a Schools for Chiapas educational and / or working delegation in Chiapas during 2008 ~ or design your own trip!

In Contempt of Congress

Dear Friends,

It should never have had to come to this.

Yesterday, on a bipartisan vote of 12-7, the Senate Judiciary Committee ruled that White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove are in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas issued in the U.S. Attorneys investigation. As Chairman of the Committee, I have gone to real lengths to avoid this sort of legal confrontation, but after many months the White House has yet to cooperate with these requests from our investigation -- and the American people deserve the truth.

The President denies any involvement in the political firings of Justice Department officials. Yet he and his staff continue to hide behind the veil of "executive privilege." They have essentially asserted that this privilege -- historically applied very narrowly -- covers all documents and information in their possession. It's a dramatic departure from precedent, and the Bush-Cheney administration's blanket claim of immunity from congressional subpoenas flies in the face of our system of checks and balances.

This is not about pulling a partisan "gotcha" or scoring political points. After all, Committee members of both parties supported yesterday's ruling. No, this is about defending Congress's oversight function and protecting the right of the American people to know the whole truth about the mass firings of attorneys at the Justice Department. Withholding critical evidence requested by a subpoena is a serious crime, and it's time we reminded the President and his staff that they are not above the law.

The White House's refusal to cooperate with our investigation casts further doubt on its contention that it had nothing to do with the political firings of Justice Department officials. In fact, it's now quite clear that political officials in the White House pressured federal prosecutors to bring partisan cases and sought retribution against those who refused.

Since World War II, presidential advisers have testified before Congress 74 times, either voluntarily or compelled by subpoenas -- never once refusing to comply. Executive privilege should not be invoked to prevent investigations into wrongdoing, and certainly should not prevail.

Thank you for your support for holding the Bush-Cheney Administration accountable as we get

to the bottom of the mass firings of U.S. attorneys.


Patrick Leahy

November 27, 2007

An Open Letter from Your Regional Director

(originally posted 11/23/2007)

Dear Midwest P&J members,

Our P&J Executive Board met for its annual fall meeting over Veterans Day Weekend and decided to focus on just two issues from now through next summer's RA. They are ending the war fast and radically improving or eliminating the NCLB language from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I urge everyone to concentrate your efforts on those items this year.

We have also decided to concentrate our Chiapas efforts on the soon to be built Paul Mann Teacher Training Center. For those who don't know, Paul Mann was a tireless teacher peace advocate, and P&J member from Des Moines who died suddenly in September of '06, leaving a host of friends and acquaintances missing him greatly.

Tom Wolfe
Midwest P&J Director

November 23, 2007

Brazil: Prison rape exposes increasing abuse of women

Women in Brazil are the hidden victims of a crumbling detention system that exposes them to rape and other ill treatment, said Tim Cahill, Amnesty International's researcher on Brazil.

The statement came as reports emerged of the case of a young woman in the state of Pará -- northern Brazil -- who was left in a police cell with 20 men for a month and repeatedly sexually abused.

"We receive extensive reports of women in detention who suffer sexual abuse, torture, substandard healthcare and inhuman conditions, showing that this case is far from isolated but continues to be hidden from the public," said Tim Cahill.

Even though women in Brazil make up a small percentage of the overall prison population, their numbers in detention are rising. There is a desperate need for the Government to address their needs, which are rarely if ever met.

The case also highlights concerns around the treatment of juveniles illegally held with adults around Brazil.

"At a time when some authorities and the media are consistently calling for a reduction of the age of criminal responsibility, this case shows how far Brazil is from ensuring the necessary minimum protections for its youth," said Tim Cahill.

While Amnesty International recognises that the federal and state authorities have responded rapidly to this case, many others go unreported or uninvestigated. It is essential that the authorities act in all such cases - not only those which receive extensive national and international media coverage.

Amnesty International calls on State Governor Ana Julia Carepa and on the federal authorities to:
• investigate the allegations and bring those responsible to justice, ensuring that the victim and her family receive effective protection
• urgently review the whole of the detention system to ensure women are not exposed to human rights abuses and that juveniles are not illegally held with adults.

November 16, 2007

Take Part in the Iraq Moratorium TODAY!November 16th, 2007

November 16th, 2007

Today, as part of the third Iraq Moratorium Day, thousands of concerned individuals like you, from Auburn, Alabama, to Madison, Wisconsin, from Mesa, Arizona, to Boston, Massachusetts, are taking action in their communities to make opposition to the war and occupation in Iraq visible, and to say no to a new war in Iran. We urge you to participate in this simple yet powerful initiative. It's not too late to take part. Here are some things you can do today:

(1) Wear an anti-war button, armband, or t-shirt -- something visible expressing your opposition to the war. Encourage others to do so as well.

(2) Check to see if there is an activity happening in your city. If there is, join in and bring a friend.

(3) Put an anti-war sign in your house or apartment window, on your lawn, or in your car window.

(4) Call into radio talk shows. Talk about why you oppose the war in Iraq, why you want to stop a new war in Iran, and why you want all of the troops to be brought home now.

(5) Download and distribute our ­"Want to Do More?" flyer in your community, where you work, at the school you attend, or anyplace where people gather.

(6) Sign the Iraq Moratorium pledge: "I hereby make a commitment that on the Third Friday of each and every month, I will break my daily routine and take some action, by myself or with others, to end the War in Iraq." Then forward it to others and encourage them to sign and take action as well.

(7) Click here to find other ways you can take action as an individual, and help build this effort.At the end of the day, check the Iraq Moratorium blog to read reports from actions around the country, and be sure to post a report on what you did as well. (You must register for an account and login at It's got to stop -- we've got to stop it.

October 25, 2007

A REQUEST FOR YOUR HELP Iowa Marches for Peace

In less than a week, on Saturday, October 27, Iowans will have opportunity to join in a significant rally for peace and for ending the Iraq war that will take place in downtown Des Moines. A lot of people have already said they'll be there.

Many people have committed themselves to helping out with specific tasks in conducting the rally, but we still need more volunteers. Would you please consider helping in one or more of the following ways next Saturday? If so, please email me soon to let me know which item or items you can give us a hand with.

1. Help to arrange caskets around the Nollen Plaza perimeter at 3:00 p.m.

2. Help to attach flags to the caskets at approximately 3:15 p.m.

3. Serve as ushers at Nollen Plaza from 4 to 5:15 p.m. to distribute song sheets and circulate decorated collection boxes for donations. All ushers will wear identification arm bands. (Free will, voluntary donations will be collected in order to help defray the financial costs of the rally).

4. Help carry a very light weight symbolic casket in the eleven block procession. We need 200 casket carriers all together. Many people have already volunteered. We need many more. There will be parade marshals directing the procession, and we will have police escort.

5. Be one of a team of two carrying the lead banner in the parade.

6. Be one of a team of two carrying a banner at the rear of the casket procession.

7. Be a flag bearer in the procession (carrying a 4' x 6' flag on flag pole). We need five people for this.

8. Serve as ushers at the capitol west terrace from about 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. to assist people and circulate small, decorated collection boxes for donations. Some of you who help in this way during the Nollen Plaza portion of the rally might be willingto do this also at the west terrace. Ushers will wear identification arm bands.

9. Be a candle lighter at the start of the candle lighting ceremony on the west terrace. The ceremony will start at about 6:45 p.m. Again, some who serve as ushers might be willing to serve as candle lighters as well.

10. For some of the physically stronger, help load the caskets into a truck following the conclusion of the candle lighting ceremony at about 7:15 p.m.

YOUR HELP IS MUCH APPRECIATED. Email me at or phone at (515) 964-1353 . THANK YOU.


(with Iowa NEA P & J Caucus menber JP Claussen)

But donations are welcome!

November 3rd
7:00 – 10:00
at Uptown Bill’s Small Mall
401 S Gilbert St, Iowa City
(319) 339-0401

For More
Call Marv at

September 26, 2007


Provisions allow search warrants issued without probable cause, she says

PORTLAND, Ore. - Two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, "now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment."

Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield sought the ruling in a lawsuit against the federal government after he was mistakenly linked by the FBI to the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people in 2004.

The federal government apologized and settled part of the lawsuit for $2 million after admitting a fingerprint was misread. But as part of the settlement, Mayfield retained the right to challenge parts of the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the authority of law enforcers to investigate suspected acts of terrorism.

Mayfield claimed that secret searches of his house and office under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act violated the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. Aiken agreed with Mayfield, repeatedly criticizing the government.

"For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law — with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised," she wrote.

By asking her to dismiss Mayfield's lawsuit, the judge said, the U.S. attorney general's office was "asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so."

Elden Rosenthal, an attorney for Mayfield, issued a statement on his behalf praising the judge, saying she "has upheld both the tradition of judicial independence, and our nation's most cherished principle of the right to be secure in one's own home."

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said the agency was reviewing the decision, and he declined to comment further.

Received apology from FBI

Mayfield, a Muslim convert, was taken into custody on May 6, 2004, because of a fingerprint found on a detonator at the scene of the Madrid bombing. The FBI said the print matched Mayfield's. He was released about two weeks later, and the FBI admitted it had erred in saying the fingerprints were his and later apologized to him.

Before his arrest, the FBI put Mayfield under 24-hour surveillance, listened to his phone calls and surreptitiously searched his home and law office.

The Mayfield case has been an embarrassment for the federal government. Last year, the Justice Department's internal watchdog faulted the FBI for sloppy work in mistakenly linking Mayfield to the Madrid bombings. That report said federal prosecutors and FBI agents had made inaccurate and ambiguous statements to a federal judge to get arrest and criminal search warrants against Mayfield.

September 23, 2007

Iran’s Ahmadinejad arrives in U.S.

President to talk at Columbia University; denied visit to WTC site

TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in New York to protests Sunday and said in a television interview that Iran was neither building a nuclear bomb nor headed to war with the United States.

The president’s motorcade pulled up to the midtown hotel where he will be staying while he appears at a series of events including the U.N. General Assembly and a forum at Columbia University, where about 40 elected officials and civic leaders decried his visit.

Ahmadinejad’s public-relations push appears aimed at presenting his views directly to a U.S. audience amid rising strains and talk of war between the two nations.

VIEW AN NBC ESSAY Mystical populist: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Watch an in-depth profile of the Iranian president: firebrand, soccer fan and true believer in Khomeini's Islamic Revolution.

Tensions are high between Washington and Tehran over U.S. accusations that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, as well as helping Shiite militias in Iraq that target U.S. troops — claims Iran denies.

“Well, you have to appreciate we don’t need a nuclear bomb. We don’t need that. What need do we have for a bomb?” Ahmadinejad said in the “60 Minutes” interview taped in Iran on Thursday. “In political relations right now, the nuclear bomb is of no use. If it was useful it would have prevented the downfall of the Soviet Union.”

‘There is no war in the offing’

He also said that: “It’s wrong to think that Iran and the U.S. are walking toward war. Who says so? Why should we go to war? There is no war in the offing.”

Before leaving Iran, Ahmadinejad said the American people have been denied “correct information,” and his visit will give them a chance to hear a different voice, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Washington has said it is addressing the Iran situation diplomatically, rather than militarily, but U.S. officials also say that all options are open. The commander of the U.S. military forces in the Middle East said he did not believe tensions will lead to war.

“This constant drum beat of conflict is what strikes me, which is not helpful and not useful,” Adm. William Fallon, head of U.S. Central Command, said in an interview with Al-Jazeera television, which made a partial transcript available Sunday.

Controversial visit
VIEW A VIDEO NBC ESSAY Sept. 23: President Amadinejad’s visit to New York has generated a wave of controversy. NBC’s Lester Holt reports

Ahmadinejad’s scheduled address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday will be his third time attending the New York meeting in three years.

But his request to lay a wreath at ground zero was denied by city officials and condemned by politicians who said a visit to the site of the 2001 terror attacks would violate sacred ground.

Police cited construction and security concerns in denying Ahmadinejad’s request. Ahmadinejad told 60 Minutes he would not press the issue but expressed disbelief that the visit would offend Americans.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, hundreds of young Iranians held a series of candlelight vigils in Tehran.

“Usually you go to these sites to pay your respects. And also to perhaps air your views about the root causes of such incidents,” Ahmadinejad told the network.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini also appeared dismayed that the request was rejected.

“What kind of damage will the U.S. face (by Ahmadinejad visiting the site)?” Hosseini said at his weekly press conference Sunday.

Columbia canceled a planned visit by the Iranian president last year, also citing security and logistical reasons.

Tough questions

University President Lee Bollinger has resisted requests to cancel Ahmadinejad’s speech this year but promised to introduce the talk himself with a series of tough questions on topics including the Iranian leader’s views on the Holocaust, his call for the destruction of the state of Israel and his government’s alleged support of terrorism.

Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust “a myth” and called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

At the protests, New York state Assemblyman Dov Hikind said Ahmadinejad “should be arrested when he comes to Columbia University, not invited to speak for God’s sake.”

Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York is also being debated back home. Some in Iran think his trip is a publicity stunt that hurts Iran’s image in the world.

Click for related content
U.S. military chief foresees 'no war' with Iran
Israel's raid on Syria: Prelude to nuke crisis?

Political analyst Iraj Jamshidi said Ahmadinejad looks at the General Assembly as a publicity forum simply to surprise world leaders with his harsh rhetoric.

“The world has not welcomed Ahmadinejad’s hardline approach. His previous address to the assembly didn’t resolve any of Iran’s foreign policy issues. And no one expects anything better this time,” he said.

But conservative lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi said it was a good chance for Iran to air its position.

“This trip gives the president a good chance to meet world leaders and inform them of Iran’s rightful position,” IRNA quoted Boroujerdi as saying.

Keith Olbermann Special Commentary on the MOVEON.ORG Advertisement and President Bush's Response

On September 20, 2007, Keith Olbermann makes a rare commentary on the hypocrisy of George W. Bush.

It looks like Reagan had Bush's number back in 1986!

Ronald Reagan writing about Dubya:

"A moment I've been dreading. George brought his
ne'er-do-well son around
this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not
the political one who lives in Florida. The one who hangs around here all
the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40
and has never had a real job. Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The New
Republic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That
looks like easy work."

From the just published REAGAN DIARIES. The entry is
dated May 17, 1986.


Spidelblog: Back to the Future - Race Relations In America

September 23rd, 2007

A few days ago we saw in the news a white college student being escorted out of a political event being eventually tasered. This man (Andrew Meyer) was simply asking questions to Senator John Kerry. He was escorted out. He (to some accounts) resisted and was subsequently tasered. For the sake of this blog post, let’s not get to into the details of this case. Free speech, resisting or not resisting, soap box speech versus a question during a Q & A session, abuse of force, etc. - there are many aspects of this case to discuss. But let’s just simply focus on one thing: the media’s response. Read More

Support the Jena 6

September 20th, 2007

A major injustice is unfolding in Jena, LA as six black young men are railroaded in a case that reads like one straight from the era of Jim Crow. Read up and take action, now.

National Day of Action: Sept. 20th

This Thursday, as thousands descend on Jena to press for justice, you can take action in your own community to support the Jena 6. You can attend a vigil or rally near you, start one of your own, pass out flyers to spread the word, or make a few phone calls to increase pressure on public officials.

Sign the Petition at
Read the article ” Racism and Resistance:The Struggle to Free The Jena Six”,

The ACLU Urges Congress to Be Skeptical of Administration Claims on FISA

McConnell Tries to Scare America in to Giving Up Fourth Amendment

WASHINGTON – Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and President George W. Bush have launched their version of a charm offensive to try to get controversial wiretapping legislation passed. Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the Washington Legislative Office of the ACLU said, “As part of the PR effort to gut the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act the Bush Administration has pulled out every scare tactic in the book including exaggeration and outright fibbing. This goes hand-in-hand with the usual fear-mongering, all designed to get Congress to vote to suspend the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans.”

The ACLU offers this guide to myths and facts around the administration’s efforts to undermine the civil liberties protections in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Myth: FISA needs to be expanded based on new technology.

Reality: FISA was specifically written to be technology neutral. There is absolutely no new technology that cannot be intercepted with a warrant under FISA. None. Even the man responsible for prepping and filing all FISA applications, James Baker, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, has said that, “There’s no type of collection that’s prohibited by the statute.”

Myth: The so-called “Protect America Act” permits the collection of foreign-to-foreign calls and doesn’t implicate Americans.

Reality: No. What McConnell isn’t saying, is that the new law also allows the government to collect foreign to domestic calls and, quite possibly, domestic to domestic calls. Any communications that are “directed at” or even “concerning” someone overseas may be collected, even when one party to the communication is an American. That means that Americans will have our calls and emails swept up in this newly legalized dragnet.

Myth: McConnell said that it takes 200 “man” hours to get a court order to access a telephone number.

Reality: The math, courtesy of “In 2006, the government filed 2,181 such applications with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. The court approved 2,176 2006 FISA Warrant Applications. That means government employees spent 436,200 hours writing out foreign intelligence wiretaps in 2006. That's 53,275 workdays.” The numbers have been greatly exaggerated. Also, in a June 2007 article in the Washington Post, Royce C. Lamberth, the presiding judge of FISC on 9-11 said he approved FISA warrants in minutes with only an oral briefing.

Even if it is merely a resource issue, there were and are bipartisan bills that would streamline the application process and grant more resources.

Besides, there is no “too-much-paperwork” exception to the Fourth Amendment.

Myth: Only 100 people in the U.S. are being surveilled.

Reality: Before this program was in place, maybe, but we don’t know. However, after passage of the “Protect America Act,” intelligence authorities are allowed to pick up all communications as long as one party is outside of the U.S. It’s a game of semantics – they may not technically be the “target” but it doesn’t matter because Americans’ phone calls are monitored and American’s emails are collected.

Myth: The “Protect America Act” requires a warrant for U.S. persons.

Reality: Again – not really. The government only needs a warrant if it is intentionally targeting a specific U.S. individual. It can, however, conduct mass untargeted surveillance of all communications coming into or out of the U.S. In other words, the Fourth Amendment has been turned on its head and suspected terrorists will have more protections than innocent Americans.
Myth: Retroactive amnesty for telecommunications companies’ involvement must be addressed.

Reality: These companies broke the law, and now they want Congress to completely absolve them of any accountability. The only thing more disturbing than the phone companies violating our rights is that members of Congress are now discussing whether to foot the bill for the fines with your tax dollars. They want to absolve the telecoms from pending lawsuits filed by citizens who have had their privacy violated, and instead have the government stand on trial in place of the companies.

What incentive will companies have to protect our information in the future if there are absolutely no consequences for violating our privacy?

Myth: Americans will die because of the public debate.

Reality: Years before the NSA’s wiretapping program was disclosed in the pages of the New York Times, the Bush Administration had been making it quite clear that terrorism suspects were being monitored. Terrorists are well aware that their communications are being scrutinized – that’s why they use code words. Having a frank and open discussion in the public square about the rights of Americans is the very essence of our democracy. To suggest that having a public debate about surveillance would cost American lives is one of the most sinister and manipulative claims to come out of this dialogue.

Myth: The so called “Protect America Act” helped thwart a terror attack in Germany.

Reality: No. That’s not true. In fact, after making this statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, McConnell had to retract it.

Coalition Sign-On Letter to Democratic Congressional Leaders Outlining Basic Privacy Principles Needed in the Wake of Changes to FISA

What's Wrong with the Military Commissions Act &


You've heard of Where's Waldo? How about FIND HABEAS? CLICK HERE join the ACLU in protecting our Civil Liberties."

What you can do:


AUDIO: Poets Steve Connell and Sekou (tha misfit) on the absence of Habeas Corpus

BLOG: The Road to Closure (Ben Wizner on Guantánamo:)

PHOTOS: Messages of Support for Habeas, On Flickr

AD CAMPAIGN: Restore the Constitution

LETTER: Urging Opposition to the Military Commissions Act of 2006

LEARN MORE: The ACLU's Work Against Torture


Harvard Memo Reviewing the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007

ACLU Letter to Congress Outlining Priorities for 110th Congress

The 2007 State of Civil Liberties in America


AUDIO: Rory Kennedy and the ACLU Discuss "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib"

LEARN MORE: Ali v. Rumsfeld and the Fight Against Unlawful Detention

AUDIO: ACLU's Legal Director on Guantanamo's Fifth Anniversary (1/10/2007)

LETTER: Urging Opposition to the Military Commissions Act of 2006


Memo Reviewing the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007 by the Harvard Law School National Security Research Group (2/19/2007)

ACLU Letter to Congress Outlining Priorities for 110th Congress (1/25/2007)

The 2007 State of Civil Liberties in America (1/22/2007)

ACLU Letter to Congress Outlining Its Legislative Priorities for the 110th Congress (1/9/2007)

Washington Legislative Director, Caroline Fredrickson's Remarks Regarding the ACLU's Priorities for the 110th Congress

Executive Director Anthony D. Romero's Remarks Regarding the ACLU's Priorities for the 110th Congress (1/9/2007)

ACLU Letter to the Senate Strongly Urging Senators to Block the Construction of a Courthouse on Guantanamo Bay (12/5/2006)

ACLU Washington Post Advertisement on Military Commissions Act (10/17/2006)

Coalition Letter to the House or Representatives Strongly Urging Rejection of the Military
Commissions Act of 2006 Compromise

ACLU Letter to the Senate Strongly Urging Opposition to S. 3930, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (9/25/2006)

Coalition Letter to the Senate Opposing Bush Military Commissions Bill (9/11/2006)

Coalition Letter to the House of Representatives Opposing Bush Military Commissions Bill (9/11/2006)

Keep the Pressure On Congress To Take the Time To Get ESEA Right

September 21, 2007

A special alert to NEA Cyberlobbyists earlier this week told you that every e-mail message you send to your Member of Congress—urging him or her to slow down the process of reauthorizing ESEA so Congress can get it right this time—will be copied to House Education Committee Chairman George Miller of California.

Please continue to send those emails.

Urge Senators to Cosponsor Bill On Common-Sense Assessment Systems
Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) has introduced the Improving Student Testing Act of 2007 (S. 2053). The NEA-supported bill would

Allow states to use growth models and multiple measures to assess student learning and school success, ending the over-reliance upon two standardized tests given one day out of the year;
Allow states to return to the pre-NCLB requirement of statewide annual testing once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school; and

Provide grants to states to significantly improve the quality of their assessments and place far greater emphasis on higher order and critical thinking skills, instead of rote memorization.
Contact Your Senators Today!

Tell your Senators to cosponsor Senator Feingold's Improving Student Testing Act of 2007.

September 22, 2007

NPR: The Effects of Segretation in Our Schools

African Americans and Education
Inside Teaching and Learning in Black America in this Series

What's the Impact of School Segregation?
September 20, 2007 · Annie Wimbish, a school superintendent in Hattiesburg, Miss., and educator Jonathan Kozol are both long-time educators who work with children in public schools. They talk with Farai Chideya about the current trend of re-segregation in public schools.

Segregation Growing in American Schools
September 20, 2007 · Regardless of the racial tensions, Jena High School was — by definition — integrated. Other schools across America desegregated during the Civil Rights-era, but now they're unofficially re-segregating. The Civil Rights Project at the University of California Los Angeles is tracking this modern crisis in our classrooms.

Desperate for a Grade-A Education
September 17, 2007 · What won't parents do to get their children into the "right" school? Farai Chideya talks with education experts about how to get your kids the best education possible. She's joined by Andrew Rotherham, co-director of Education Sector; Lana Brody, an education consultant who helps families with private school selection; and Mikelle Willis, founder and director of the KIPP Academy of Opportunity in Los Angeles.

Education Roundtable
September 3, 2007 · Today we kick off a new, month-long series on education. While public school may be free, the price of making sure kids are equipped to learn is out of reach for some parents.

When Schools and Parents Collaborate
September 6, 2007 · News & Notes continues the monthlong education series with a look at what happens when parents and teachers approach education as a team effort.

Taking Teaching into New Territory
September 13, 2007 · Farai Chideya talks with a group of educators who have made an impact in the lives of countless young people in a big way — by breaking the rules.

Blacks and Education
What's the Impact of School Segregation?

September 21, 2007

Chile: Supreme Court Extradites Fujimori

Former Peruvian President to Face Charges for Role in Massacres

(Santiago, September 21, 2007) – The Chilean Supreme Court’s decision to extradite former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori to Peru to face trial for human rights abuses is welcome and unprecedented, said Human Rights Watch today.

Human Rights Watch noted that this is the first time that a court has ordered the extradition of a former head of state to be tried for gross human rights violations in his home country.

“After years of evading justice, Fujimori will finally have to respond to the charges and evidence against him in the country he used to run like a mafia boss,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, who was in Santiago for the announcement.

Human Rights Watch said that the decision had special significance in light of Chile’s own history.
“This landmark ruling is a huge step forward for Chile,” said Vivanco. “After years of wrestling with Pinochet’s legacy of atrocities, Chile is now building a positive record on human rights and justice.”

Today’s landmark decision fits within a global trend started when the British House of Lords ruled that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet could be extradited to Spain to face charges of torture.

In two other cases in recent years, former heads of state have been turned over by governments to international tribunals. Slobodan Milosevic was turned over by the Serbian government to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for prosecution. Charles Taylor, the former dictator of Liberia, was turned over by the Nigerian government to face trial by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. However, both of these were cases in which the executive branch of government took the political decision to turn over the former rulers.

In contrast to these cases, Fujimori is not facing trial in an international court, and it is the Chilean Supreme Court that has decided that he can be handed over to Peruvian authorities pursuant to an extradition request filed by prosecutors during the administration of then-President of Peru Alejandro Toledo.

The Supreme Court’s ruling also sets an important precedent for other countries that are faced with the question of what to do with former heads of state wanted for atrocities. For example, in the case of Hissène Habré, the former dictator of Chad who is in detention in Senegal, Senegal has formally agreed to an African Union request to prosecute Habré.

“This decision is a remarkable example of the role that domestic institutions of justice can play in enforcing international standards and furthering accountability, even in highly sensitive cases,” said Vivanco. “It will now be up to Peru’s courts to show that they are up to the task of trying Fujimori and guaranteeing him a fair trial.”

Human Rights Watch said that it would be closely watching the proceedings in Peru to ensure a thorough and independent investigation and trial, in accordance with international standards of justice and due process.

The Supreme Court ruling authorizes Fujimori’s extradition to face prosecution and trial in Peru for the killings of 25 people in two separate massacres in 1991 and 1992. The massacres were allegedly carried out by the Colina Group, a specialized squad of military intelligence officers.

In the “Barrios Altos” massacre, Colina Group members broke into a party, shooting machine guns and killing 15 civilians, including an 8-year-old boy. In the “Cantuta” massacre, which happened within months after Fujimori had carried out a “self-coup” with the support of the armed forces, Colina Group members arrested nine students and a professor at La Cantuta University. They later shot and killed them, hiding the bodies.

In its 2005 report, Probable Cause: Evidence Implicating Fujimori, Human Rights Watch detailed the substantial evidence linking Fujimori to the Barrios Altos and Cantuta massacres. The evidence includes a videotaped interview in which the operational head of the Colina Group states that the group was created pursuant to an official government policy, specifically approved by Fujimori, of physical “elimination” of suspects. There is also extensive official documentation as well as testimony showing that the Colina Group was not independent, but rather existed as a formal structure within the Army Intelligence Service and received official support at the highest levels. Fujimori in fact signed two memos in which he recommended that several Colina Group members be given promotions and raises. And even once the Colina Group’s crimes had been made public, Fujimori pushed a law through the Peruvian Congress giving the group’s members an amnesty for their crimes.

September 20, 2007

A Letter from Senator Leahy

Your Letters to Congress on Restoration of Habeas Corpus are Appreciated. Leahy Vows to Not Back Down on Habeas Corpus

Dear friends,

I want to thank all 17,000 of you who signed on as citizen co-sponsors of the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act and lobbied your Senators by phone and email -- as well as the millions of other Americans who share our commitment to this critical issue. Yesterday's 56-43 vote clearly showed that a majority of the Senate -- and a majority of Americans -- favor the restoration of our basic civil liberties.

Congress made a mistake of historical proportions when it suspended habeas rights a few years ago -- and unfortunately Senate Republicans made another mistake yesterday by mounting a filibuster and failing to allow us to restore it. The good news is we've picked up 8 more votes since the Senate voted to suspend habeas corpus last fall, but we still need 4 more Senators to reach a filibuster-proof 60 vote margin.

I am disappointed that we did not succeed yesterday -- but we're not giving up, not by a long shot. Defending the Constitution is not always politically easy, especially in a time of war. But our nation is at its greatest when it stands up for the Constitution, during the best of times and the worst of times. That's why I believe in the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act, and why my colleagues and I are still working hard to pass it.

I am proud to have led the bipartisan effort to restore our fundamental rights along with my colleagues, including Senator Chris Dodd, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Arlen Specter, and many others. Our bill had widespread support from conservatives, liberals, and independents alike.

With hard work and with the strength of our Constitution, I am confident that we will ultimately prevail. I thank you and my fellow Senators who stood up for an America that upholds its basic values and rights. I'm not backing down and will keep you posted on how you can help us restore habeas corpus rights in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your continued support.


Patrick Leahy

Patrick Leahy
U.S. Senator

September 19, 2007

Amnesty International Responds to the Senate's Failure to Close Debate and Vote on Habeas Amendment

(Washington, DC) - Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA's executive director, issued the following statement in response to today's failed vote on cloture on the Specter-Leahy-Dodd amendment to the U.S. Department of Defense authorization bill to restore habeas corpus:

"The United States Senate missed a major opportunity to demonstrate leadership by failing to provide Senators the opportunity to help re-establish a cornerstone of the U.S. justice system - the right to habeas corpus. By not voting for cloture, the Senate gave up an important chance to help restore the United States' reputation as a nation that respects and adheres to the rule of law.

Amnesty International praises Senators Specter, Leahy and Dodd for their work and all the Senators who voted to reinstate a basic civil right.

Amnesty International encourages the U.S. House of Representatives to allow the question of habeas corpus to be debated in an open forum as a step forward in fixing the disaster Congress created last year by the passage of the Military Commissions Act."

September 18, 2007

Iraq Moratorium Begins Friday September 21: Words are Good, Action is Better!

September 18th, 2007

UFP&J Update Save the date! Saturday, October 27th National Mobilization to End the Iraq War! 11 Massive Demonstrations for Peace!

The Iraq Moratorium is about to begin. Initiated by antiwar activists from several groups around the country, it calls for local, decentralized, personal action or statements against the ongoing war and occupation of Iraq on the 3rd Friday of every month. This Friday, Sept. 21st, is the first of what promises to be a growing movement in the coming months.

United for Peace and Justice is enthusiastically supporting this effort. The delegates at our National Assembly a few months ago agreed: It is critically important to offer as many opportunities for a wide range of people to express their opposition to this horrendous, criminal war.

The idea is simple: Everyone, wherever you are, should try to do something that publicly says, "I am against this war -- and I want it to end now!" The Iraq Moratorium is something everyone can get involved with, either as an individual or as part of a group. Here are just a few ideas for what you can do:

1) Wear an antiwar button or sticker to work or school.

2) Wear a black armband to let people know you mourn the overwhelming loss of life in this war.
3) Hang an antiwar sign in your window, or put one on your lawn.

4) Call a local radio talk show and explain why you want this war to end.

5) Today, or tomorrow, write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper and let people know about the Iraq Moratorium and how they can get involved.

6) With just a few people, you can make a large antiwar sign or banner and hang it from a busy overpass where people traveling to or from work will see it, or from some other highly visible location.

7) Put together a small group to stand vigil in front of a military recruiting station, your local federal building, or the office of your senator or representative in Congress.

8) Call the Washington, DC, offices of your senators and your representative.

For more information about the Iraq Moratorium, visit:

And remember, if you are planning anything that others are welcome to join, please be sure to post it on UFPJ's online calendar. We encourage each of you getting this message to do something as part of the first day of the Iraq Moratorium this Friday, Sept. 21st!

And don't forget: United for Peace and Justice has initiated a call for a massive national mobilization against the war on Saturday, October 27th. This mobilization will be different from others -- instead if everyone going to Washington, DC, there will be 11 regional actions spread out across the country.

In the coming weeks we will be sending you more details, and we encourage you to check for updates.

Save the date! Saturday, October 27th National Mobilization to End the Iraq War! 11 Massive Demonstrations for Peace!

September 17, 2007

NEA's Work on ESEA/NCLB Drafts a First Step--WE NEED YOU!

ESEA/NCLB Reauthorization Drafts Needs Member Action!

Take Action


This is NOT a Political Endorsement
This is a Post Informing Our Members About this Very Important Senate Vote Aimed to Restore Habeas Corpus Rights
to the US Rule of Law--Please Help US!

This week, we have a critical opportunity to restore habeas corpus -- that most fundamental of Constitutional rights which guarantees every person the right to challenge government detention before a fair and independent court. With it, we have the chance to help restore our diminished standing in the world and better secure America.

Many of you may recall the hasty passage of the Military Commissions Act in the weeks leading up to last year's election. The passage of this bill was a profound mistake, and its elimination of habeas corpus review was its worst error. The elimination of habeas review was a reflex driven by fear and is another stain on America's reputation in the world, further engendering ill will to our country and making it harder to fight global terrorism.

That's why, today, we have re-introduced the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill currently being debated on the floor of the Senate -- and we need your help to convince our colleagues to support this critical amendment.

Watch the video of Senator Dodd talking about the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act and become a citizen co-sponsor of this vital piece of legislation right now!

Please sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of the Specter-Leahy-Dodd Habeas Corpus amendment now -- and help us show our colleagues the strong support for this critical amendment!

The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act enjoys widespread Democratic support and some Republican support as well, including Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA). But we need many more Senators to join us to ensure its passage.

In July, Republican Senators filibustered Democratic amendments to change course in Iraq, bottling up the Defense Authorization bill and stymieing our efforts to restore habeas corpus. Now, with the Defense bill back on the floor of the Senate, our colleagues have another chance to do the right thing.

Will you join us as citizen co-sponsors of this critical legislation?

Please sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of the Specter-Leahy-Dodd Habeas Corpus amendment now -- and help us show our colleagues the strong support for this critical amendment!

The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act gives us a chance to reverse one of the Bush Administration's many assaults on our civil liberties, help restore our place in the world, and better secure our nation.

We all want to make America safe from terrorism, but becoming a nation that sanctions the unlawful detention of its own residents -- detaining and jailing them without the chance to appear before a judge -- does not make us safe. It endangers the values we have held dear for centuries, and by diminishing our standing in the world, endangers our security.

Watch Senator Leahy speak at the
"Restore Law and Justice" rally in June.

The elimination of basic legal rights undermines, not strengthens, our ability to defeat terrorists. It is from strength that America should defend our values and our way of life. It is from the strength of our freedoms, our Constitution, and the rule of law that we can prevail. We can ensure our security without giving up our liberty.

By joining us as citizen co-sponsors, you will help us show our colleagues -- both Democrats and Republicans -- the strong support that exists for the restoration of habeas corpus rights.

Please sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of the Specter-Leahy-Dodd Habeas Corpus amendment now -- and help us show our colleagues the strong support for this critical amendment!

Thank you so much for your support. We'll keep you updated in the coming days as this critical legislation is debated on the floor of the Senate.

Patrick LeahyU.S. Senator
Chris DoddU.S. Senator

P.S. We can't overemphasize the importance of your support, right now, as our Habeas Corpus Restoration Act is being considered on the floor of the Senate.

Please sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of the Specter-Leahy-Dodd Habeas Corpus amendment now -- and help us show our colleagues the strong support for this critical amendment!

September 12, 2007

Chairman Miller on NCLB: Maintain Accountability in Schools and Make the Law Fair, Flexible, and Funded

Major Flaws in New Reauthorization Language
Cause Much Concern for Educators as Miller
Fails to Consider All of His Constituents

On July 30, in a speech at the National Press Club, Chairman George Miller said that, while the nation must maintain its commitment to the goals of the No Child Left Behind law of closing the academic achievement gap and helping all children learn by holding states and schools accountable for students’ academic progress, we must also make significant changes to the law in order to reach those goals. Miller highlighted six features he will focus on during reauthorization, including fairness and flexibility for schools, a rich and challenging curriculum, support for teachers and principals, school accountability, steps to turn around low-performing middle and high schools, and greater investments to achieve the law's goals.

Watch Video »
More on the six key features»
Read Chairman Miller's speech »

If Not Us Who? If Not Now, When?

ESEA/NCLB Draft Flying Off the Presses with Plenty of Bad News from Our Friends

Word from the D.C. caucus of NEA and State leaders is that there are major problems in the Title II Re-Authorization. As education has fallen off the radar as a top-three issue with almost all of the presidential campaigns, we MUST be on the front-line in this issue. Please forward this post to members in your unit, local and building. We need our people to be informed.

Read our September 8th post on the Title II Reauthorization titled Tell Congress to Respect Educators.

Vicki Goldsmith, Alan Young and Dave O'Connor represented our profession well in this article in the September 2, Des Moines Register titled Iowa Should Lead in Learning Not Follow.

Our Iowa state leadership--which represented us well on the national stage--has delivered reports back to constituents that says the draft is going from bad to worse. Please read Reg Weaver's letters to the players on the House side of this issue. Our friends aren't behaving that way with the flawed idea of Merit Pay.

President Weaver's August 16th, 2007 Letter to the House Committee on Education and Labor

President Weaver's September 11th Letter to Speaker Pelosi on Merit Pay

President Weaver's letter to Chair Miller on Merit Pay.doc

Check out this great site by Wisconsin teachers on Merit Pay. Some good work here.

September 11, 2007

Why I am Fasting: An Explanation to My Friends

Posted September 10, 2007 | 09:58 AM (EST)
by Jonathon Kozol from the Huffington Post

This morning, I am entering the 67th day of a partial fast that I began early in the summer as my personal act of protest at the vicious damage being done to inner-city children by the federal education law No Child Left Behind, a racially punitive piece of legislation that Congress will either renew, abolish, or, as thousands of teachers pray, radically revise in the weeks immediately ahead.

The poisonous essence of this law lies in the mania of obsessive testing it has forced upon our nation's schools and, in the case of underfunded, overcrowded inner-city schools, the miserable drill-and-kill curriculum of robotic "teaching to the test" it has imposed on teachers, the best of whom are fleeing from these schools because they know that this debased curriculum would never have been tolerated in the good suburban schools that they, themselves, attended.

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The justification for this law was the presumptuous and ignorant determination by the White House that our urban schools are, for the most part, staffed by mediocre drones who will suddenly become terrific teachers if we place a sword of terror just above their heads and threaten them with penalties if they do not pump their students' scores by using proto-military methods of instruction -- scripted texts and hand-held timers -- that will rescue them from doing any thinking of their own. There are some mediocre teachers in our schools (there are mediocre lawyers, mediocre senators, and mediocre presidents as well), but hopelessly dull and unimaginative teachers do not suddenly turn into classroom wizards under a regimen that transforms their classrooms into test-prep factories.

The real effect of No Child Left Behind is to drive away the tens of thousands of exciting and high-spirited, superbly educated teachers whom our urban districts struggle to attract into these schools. There are more remarkable young teachers like this coming into inner-city education than at any time I've seen in more than 40 years. The challenge isn't to recruit them; it's to keep them. But 50 percent of the glowing young idealists I have been recruiting from the nation's most respected colleges and universities are throwing up their hands and giving up their jobs within three years.

When I ask them why they've grown demoralized, they routinely tell me it's the feeling of continual anxiety, the sense of being in a kind of "state of siege," as well as the pressure to conform to teaching methods that drain every bit of joy out of the hours that their children spend with them in school.

"I didn't study all these years," a highly principled and effective first-grade teacher told me -- she had studied literature and anthropology in college while also having been immersed in education courses -- "in order to turn black babies into mindless little robots, denied the normal breadth of learning, all the arts and sciences, all the joy in reading literary classics, all the spontaneity and power to ask interesting questions, that kids are getting in the middle-class white systems."

At a moment when black and Hispanic students are more segregated than at any time since 1968 (in the typical inner-city school I visit, out of an enrollment that may range from 800 to 4,000 students, there are seldom more than five or six white children), NCLB adds yet another factor of division between children of minorities and those in the mainstream of society. In good suburban classrooms, children master the essential skills not from terror but from exhilaration, inspired in them by their teachers, in the act of learning in itself. They're also given critical capacities that they will need if they're to succeed in college and to function as discerning citizens who have the power to interrogate reality. They learn to ask the questions that will shape the nation's future, while inner-city kids are being trained to give prescripted answers and to acquiesce in their subordinate position in society.

In the wake of the calamitous Supreme Court ruling in the end of June that prohibited not only state-enforced but even voluntary programs of school integration, No Child Left Behind -- unless it is dramatically transformed -- will drive an even deeper wedge between two utterly divided sectors of American society. This, then, is the reason I've been fasting, taking only small amounts of mostly liquid foods each day, and, when I have stomach pains, other forms of nourishment at times, a stipulation that my doctor has insisted on in order to avert the risk of doing longterm damage to my heart. Twenty-nine pounds lighter than I was when I began, I've been dreaming about big delicious dinners.

Still, I feel an obligation to those many teachers who have told me, not as an accusation but respectfully, that it was one of my books that diverted them from easier, more lucrative careers and brought them into teaching in the first place. Some call me in the evenings, on the verge of tears, to tell me of the maddening frustration that they feel at being forced to teach in ways that make them hate themselves.

I don't want them to quit their jobs. I give them whatever good survival strategies I can. I tell them that the best defense is to be extremely good at what they do: Deliver the skills! Don't let your classroom grow chaotic! A teacher who can keep a reasonable sense of calm within her room, particularly in a school in which disorder has been common, renders herself almost inexpendable.

At the same time, I always recommend a healthy dose of sly irreverence and a sense of playful and ironical detachment from the criticisms of those clipboard bureaucrats who come around to check on them. (Teachers call them "the curriculum cops" or "NCLB overseers.") I urge them to develop mischievous and inventive ways to convince these gloomy-looking people that whatever they are teaching at that moment, no matter how delectably subversive it may be, is, in fact, directly geared to one of those little chunks of amputated knowledge, known as "state proficiencies," they are supposed to be "delivering" at that specific minute of the day.

But I've also felt the obligation to bring this battle to its source in Washington. I've tried very hard to convince a number of the more enlightened Democrats who serve on the Senate education panel to introduce amendments that will drastically reduce our government's reliance upon standardized exams in judgment of a child, school, or teacher, and attribute greater weight to factors that are not so simple-mindedly reducible to numbers.

Sophisticated as opposed to low-grade methods of assessment would not only tell us whether little Oscar or Shaniqua started out their essays with "a topic sentence" but would also tell us whether they wrote something with the slightest hint of authenticity and charm or simply stamped out insincere placebos. (A child gets no credit for originality or authenticity under No Child Left Behind. Sincerity gets no rewards. Endearing stylistic eccentricity, needless to say, is not rewarded either. That which can't be measured is not valued by the technocrats of uniformity who have designed this miserable piece of legislation.)

On a separate battlefront, I've also tried to win support for an amendment to the law that will take advantage of one of the loop-holes in the recent segregation ruling, an opening that Justice Kennedy has offered us by his insistence that criteria that are not race-specific may be used in order to advance diversity in public schools.

There is a provision in No Child Left Behind that permits a child in a chronically low-performing school to transfer to a more successful school. Up to now, it hasn't worked because there aren't enough successful schools in inner-city districts to which kids can transfer. The Democrats, I've argued, have the opportunity to make this option workable if they are sufficiently audacious to require states to authorize a child's right to transfer across district lines, and provide financial means to make this possible, so that children trapped in truly hopeless schools could, if their parents so desired, go to school in one of the high-spending suburbs that are often a mere 20-minute ride from their front door.

I was surprised that none of the senators with whom I spoke rejected this proposal as too controversial or politically unthinkable. More than one made clear that they enjoyed the notion of helping to "improve" a flawed provision that the White House had included in the law for reasons that most certainly were not intended to enable inner-city kids to go to beautiful suburban schools with 16 or 18 children in a room, instead of 29, or 35, or 40, as in many urban systems.

It was, however, on the testing issue that I received the most explicitly unqualified and positive response. Several of the senators made a lot of time available to think aloud about the ways in which to get rid of that sense of siege so many teachers had described and to be certain that we do not keep on driving out these talented young people from our schools.

The only member of the Democratic leadership I have been unable to get through to is the influential chairman of the education panel, Senator Ted Kennedy, who, one of his colleagues told me flatly, will ultimately "call the shots" on this decision. I've asked the senator three times if he'll talk with me. Each time, I have run into a cold stone wall. This has disappointed me, and startled me, because the senator has been a friend to me in years gone by and has asked for my ideas on education on a number of occasions in the decades since I was a youthful teacher and he was a youthful politician.

Senator Kennedy is, of course, a very busy man and has many other issues of importance he must deal with. But it's also possible, aides to other senators suggest, that he does not wish to contemplate dramatic changes in the law because he co-sponsored the initial bill in a deal with the Republicans. He is also renowned as a gifted builder of consensus in the legislative process. Lending his support to either of the two proposals I have made would almost surely guarantee a knockdown battle with conservative Republicans and, perhaps, with some of the Democratic neoliberals as well.

Still, Senator Kennedy has displayed a genuine nobility of vision in defense of elemental fair play for low-income children many times before. Is it possible that he may rise to the occasion once again? If he does, I may finally listen to the worries of my friends and decide it's time to bring this episode of fasting to an end. If not, I'll keep slogging on. It's a tiny price to pay compared to what so many of our children and their teachers have to go through every single day.

September 9, 2007

We Did It!

Thanks you very much for making our site a hit. We're proud to announce that we're 200 posts strong this month. All of us who've contributed posts are proud of our contribution to our on-line community in the last 32 weeks since the "New and Improved" Midwest Peace and Justice Caucus was relaunched.


Our blog is growing to be a team vs. an individual job.
We're looking for one or two folks from each state in the Midwest Region to help us every two weeks as we work to keep our blog up and running. We're just asking that folks help us cover the news-cycles a little more closely. Please join us by emaling us at our Midwest Peace and Justice Blog Spot Email Account.

Some Statistics

We've had 2,587 page loads (three more since we've designed the graphic above); 1,282 Unique Visitors-- this is the total of the returning visitors and first time visitors - all your visitors; 1,056
First Time Visitors and 266 Returning Visitors. That works out to 10 page loads a day, 5 Unique Visitors a Day, 4 First Time Vistitors a Day and 1 Returning Visitor a Day.

Visitors from Around the US and Globe

With visitors this week alone from Harjumaa, Tallinn, Estonia; England, Bristol, United Kingdom; England, London, United Kingdom; Oslo, Oslo, Norway; Singapore, Queenstown, Singapore; Jawa Barat (djawa Barat), Bogor, Indonesia; Fundacion Universidad Del Norte, Columbia; Comite Gestor Da Internet No Brasil, Brazil folks are reading about our issues around the world.

In the US this week alone we've had hits from
Midway City California; Houston, Aledo, and Dallas, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; District Of Columbia, Washington DC; Glassboro & Edison, New Jersey; Kansas Cty & Ozark, Missouri; Carmel, Indiana; Madison, Wisconsin, lots of cities in Illinois, Michigan & Iowa we're excited that folks from around the U.S.A. are reading the Midwest Peace and Justice Blog.

Midwest Peace and Justice On-Line Meeting

Join Us in Our First Ever Midwest Peace and Justice On-Line Meeting to Discuss Election 2008

On Wednesday September 12, 2007 at 7:00-8:00 p.m. The Midwest Peace and Justice Caucus will hold an on-line meeting to discuss Election 2008. With an agenda available for download, some specific instructions on how well make this happen and some excitement, we’re excited to host our first on-line meeting right here on our site. Go to the sidebar and scroll down to our chat box. That's were the meeting will occur.

It appears after carefully studying the major campaigns, that education has dropped off the candidate's radar as a top three issue.

With the problems that we've seen in the reauthorization of NCLB, it is high time that we--the practitioners in the Midwest Region--touched base to discuss our feelings about how this issue impacts our students, our schools, our colleagues and our profession. At last count there were 93 pieces of legislation written for the ESEA Reauthorization process.

More than that, the candidates and thier positions on War in Iraq, healthcare, renewable energy, the environment and other issues are of paramount importance to us, our students, our school's families, our colleagues and more. As several of us have been talking to the campaigns, working with the campaigns and helping as leaders in the campaign, it's time for us to have a healthy discussion about the campaign. Please invite your presidential candidate or his/her designee to attend to visit with our members.



TIME: 7:00-8:00 PM CST


Please click here for an agenda for this meeting.

Please feel free to send suggestions for the agenda that you feel are important or other advice to our official caucus email address.

Prepare for a Quick Log-In

Take the time to create a user name and a password below. If you forget your password, the chat has a function to resend it to you. Avoid hitting the little luggage tag...not cool. Everything else works great.

Please contact us at our official caucus email address to let us know if you plan on attending and also provide us your email address so that we can provide you with a log/minutes of our meeting. We would love to have a nice group gathered to test-drive this type of meeting. We're excited to give this a try. We hope you can join us.