Category Archives: Education

Pennsylvania: Charter School Money Heist

For some time now, public school superintendents in Pennsylvania, as well as the governor of that state and many others, have been striving to restrict the charter school money grab that has been allowed to run amok in that state for years.

Cyber charter schools in particular, notorious for consistently abysmal academic results and for being even more corrupt than brick-and-mortar charter schools, have come under fire because they receive large sums of public funds that are vastly disproportionate to their needs, functions, and claims. Overhead costs in cyber charter schools, it should be noted, are much lower than overhead costs in brick-and-mortar public schools and brick-and-mortar charter schools, but the flawed funding system essentially treats cyber charter schools like brick-and-mortar schools. Virtual charter schools also provide fewer services and resources than brick-and-mortar public schools, which can be especially problematic for students with special needs. All of this is beside the fact that charter schools have no legitimate claim to public money in the first place because they are not public entities in the proper sense of the word. Charter schools are privatized deregulated schools run by unelected private persons. Unlike public schools, charter schools are not agencies of the state and differ from public schools in profound ways. Charter school promoters, moreover, openly espouse “free market” ideology.

At a recent press conference addressing the siphoning of large sums of public funds from public schools to privately-operated charter schools, Christopher Dormer, superintendent of the Norristown school district, said that, “today is an attack on a law that is broken, with skewed formulas that have resulted in drastic overpayments to charters, with little or no oversight on how those tax dollars are being spent” (emphasis added). Dormer added:

I’ll tell you, it does not cost $14,000 per year to educate a child in a fully virtual environment’, referring to what Norristown pays per student attending cyber charters. In contrast, he said, it costs the district $5,500 to educate a student fully online.

In the Perkiomen Valley school district:

costs for sending students to charters have grown by more than 55% since 2015, said Superintendent Barbara Russell. ‘That takes money away from the students attending in our school district’, Russell said. While the district has its own virtual learning programs, the money it must pay for students to attend cyber charter schools where the accountability looks very different … raises lots of questions’. (emphasis added)

Virtual charter schools in Pennsylvania also exploit the public by self-servingly reclassifying many students as “special education” students just to seize more public funds from public schools that are chronically under-funded. For example:

Bill Harner, the Quakertown Community School District superintendent, said one-third of students in his district who enroll in cyber charters are classified by their new schools as having a disability. “Why are they being reclassified? Because it’s a cash cow,” Harner said. “It’s a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Larry Feinberg, a veteran school board member and director of the Keystone Center for Charter Change, points out that the existing charter school funding system means “fewer resources to pay for things like math coaches, reading coaches, nurses, counselors” in public schools. “The impact is palpable, and it’s real.”

Charter school funding arrangements (in Pennsylvania and elsewhere) are so dysfunctional that they also often force higher property taxes on communities where they exist. Equally worrisome, charter schools also impose huge “stranded costs” on public schools, which are “expenses that school districts can’t recoup when students leave for a charter, because they can’t evenly reduce teachers or building expenses, for instance.”

It thus comes as no surprise that:

More than 430 of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts have passed a resolution calling for charter funding changes, according to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Many other examples of antisocial funding arrangements can be given. The issue though is not to determine a “more fair” way to funnel public money to privately-operated charter schools, but rather to discuss and analyze in a serious manner why these outsourced deregulated schools exist in the first place and how to untether them from public funds, assets, facilities, and resources that legitimately belong only to public schools.

Within this, what also needs to be discussed is the neoliberal “starve it—test it—punish it—privatize it” (STPP) formula, whereby thousands of public schools in Pennsylvania and elsewhere have been deliberately set up by neoliberals to fail and close in an unconscionable manner so as to make way for thousands of poor-performing charter schools constantly mired in scandal and controversy.

Two other key points are worth considering. First, like private businesses, cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania collectively spend millions of public dollars every year on marketing and advertising instead of spending this public money directly in the classroom. Secondly, why do charter schools need to advertise at all if so many parents supposedly want to enroll their kids in them and there are said to be long waiting lists to get into them? The neoliberal narrative about school-choice has never computed.

Not surprisingly, while superintendents and public interest advocates in Pennsylvania are seeking broad reforms to the current defective school funding set-up, advocates of privately-operated charter schools are fighting tooth and nail for every single public cent they can seize. They have little sympathy for public schools and their students.

To be sure, major problems caused by funneling public funds to privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools is a national problem and not unique to Pennsylvania. For more than 30 years, public schools in America have been undermined by these crisis-prone contract schools run by unelected private persons.

“Free market” schools do not advance people, society, or the economy; they mainly enrich a handful of individuals and groups. The commodification of education in a modern society based on mass industrial production is profoundly counterproductive.

See here for a detailed article on the unbreakable connection between government and charter school millionaires and lobbyists. Preventing charter schools from privately expropriating public property is doable and necessary. No one has to settle for such theft of public wealth by narrow private interests.

There are 179 charter schools in Pennsylvania. Cyber charter schools serve the entire state.

The post Pennsylvania: Charter School Money Heist first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Out with the Old, In with the New

The shifting baseline syndrome requires today’s people disavowing things written 10 years ago, even five years ago, but those books, articles, whitepapers and radio broadcasts are actually ahead of their time . . .

And what is that expiration date for good, sound, righteous news and writing and broadcasting?

I see more and more young people, and older ones, relying on up-to-the-minute news and up-to-the-minute authors to set the stage of their own personal collapse. Who do you need to hear, watch and rarely debate to help frame collapse?

Analysis paralysis, climate change fatigue, and, alas, the insanity of echo chambers and the constrant high pitched whine of the mainstream news, the mainstream thinkers and all the handlers of us, including the gatekeepers, those are today’s diseases, much more than mental malaise.

This is the groundhog day show, when people today think they are in the know because of some piece of ProPublica, investigative new or news feature, because of another hundredth documentary consumed in a year, and all the noise coming from these script readers and yellers and scammers we call the mainstream media.

For instance, how do we feed out kids, get our roads fixed, live healthy, and pull down the system, end the system, with stories like this?

Meet the Billionaire and Rising GOP Mega-Donor Who’s Gaming the Tax System

Susquehanna founder and TikTok investor Jeff Yass has avoided $1 billion in taxes while largely escaping public scrutiny. He’s now pouring his money into campaigns to cut taxes and support election deniers.

by Justin Elliott, Jesse Eisinger, Paul Kiel, Jeff Ernsthausen and Doris Burke

There is no difference between Tucker or Rachel. They are in it for the money, the accumulation of power, and the attention. Narcissim, and neglecting context and history and mutliple points of view, definitely defining characteristics of this day and age.

And so many wagons are circling, so many lobbies running the America citizen into the ground. So much is broken and wrong about the way the USA operates, that we are at the point of living in a world of thirty five adult, full-grown clowns coming out of the VW Bug or compact car.

I have these conversations daily about how much the average person has abandoned sanity or any faith or confidence in systems meant for The People, meant as entitlements for WE The People. That the pigs of commerce are gouging Americans on every leveL, that the housing crisis is more crises, that all those bombs and bullets and balistics are shipping to the Zionist Zelensky, that all of that is happening, but, oh, my, what to do about it?

We have insane people in positions of power, positions of middling influence, and then, of course, policy makers are in the pockets of the millionaires and billionaires, and then, we are at a point where, say, the community where I reside, Waldport and Newport, the dam holding our water source is crumbling and any action on it has to wait until the lottery numbers come in. Casino capitalism. Money for infrastructure gained through gaming the system, through gambling addiction.

Newport City Council approved $600,000 from federal relief funds for design tasks to replace the Big Creek dams, keeping the project moving while the city awaits state lottery bond funds and hopes for a much larger contribution from the federal government.

Last year, the Oregon Legislature approved a budget with $14 million appropriated for design and replacement of the earthen Big Creek dams, which are vulnerable to failure from relatively minor seismic event and showing signs of internal seepage. Those funds would bring the city through the design process and might contribute some to initial construction. (Source)

The incredible darkness of their lies, all of them, until here we are, stuck in a loop with Pig Trump and Pig Biden and all the Pigs of Politics.

How much money is funneled into the so-called Pentagon?

Really, how dependent is this country, USA, on the military machines? Military is everything — logistics, air, water, land, space, burgers  and buttons, and trillions of dollars spent to prop up the welfare queens and kings of profiteering. War mercenaries, and profit players.

And what is this new green economy? What is this divestment from hydrocarbons? Americans and many in the Woke UK and EU, they live in a make-believe world, fully Disneyfied. Absolutely stupid greenies in terms of how things are made — think steel and aluminum and concrete and, well, embedded energy and life-cycles of products all embedded in oil!

Oh the headlines:

Tryzub: The National Revolution Fantasized by Ukranian Nationalists

‘Ukraine Fatigue’ Intensifies as Sanctions Boomerang Ravages Western Economies

Western Media and Politicians Prefer to Ignore the Truth about Civilians Killed in Donetsk Shelling

Southern Ukraine is the Priority in NATO’s Planning

Most African Countries Support Russia

The Ukraine Crisis Will Be the END of NATO

I have no mercy or compassion in me for a society that will crush people, and then penalize them for not being able to stand up under the weight.

— Malcolm X, , 1925-1965

So here we are: young people have no idea how the old days were the days of now, where solutions to the many problems were in the hands of communities, with farming, arts, communitarian spirit, sharing economy, mutual aid, rebuffing all those powers, all those instruments of suppression and oppression. The good old days were never put into play to the point of mass movements to oust the purveyors of pain, from militaries, to the government, to the corporation.

The good old ways, that is, those that embodied a spirit of honor and sharing, what the the Iroquois Great Law of Peace was about: a constitution that established a democracy between five Iroquois-speaking tribes—the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, and Mohawk. This group of five nations, called the Iroquois Confederacy, was established around 1450.

Making decisions now that will affect seven generations out originated with the Iroquois – Great Law of the Iroquois – which holds appropriate to think seven generations ahead (about 525 years into the future, which is counted by multiplying the 75 years of an average human lifespan by 7) and decide whether the decisions they make today would benefit those unborn generations.

In 1744, the Onondaga leader Canassatego gave a speech urging the contentious 13 colonies to unite, as the Iroquois had at the signing of the Treaty of Lancaster. This cultural exchange inspired the English colonist Benjamin Franklin to print Canassatego’s speech.

“We heartily recommend Union and a good Agreement between you our Brethren,” Canassatego had said. “Never disagree, but preserve a strict Friendship for one another, and thereby you, as well as we, will become the stronger. Our wise Forefathers established Union and Amity between the Five Nations; this has made us formidable; this has given us great Weight and Authority with our neighboring Nations. We are a powerful Confederacy; and, by your observing the same Methods our wise Forefathers have taken, you will acquire fresh Strength and Power; therefore whatever befalls you, never fall out one with another.”

He used a metaphor that many arrows cannot be broken as easily as one. This inspired the bundle of 13 arrows held by an eagle in the Great Seal of the United States. (source)

The Great Seal of the United States ca. 1917 - 1919

Their constitution, recorded and kept alive on a two row wampum belt, held many concepts familiar to United States citizens today.

Iroquois Confederacy and the Great Law of Peace United States Constitution
Restricts members from holding more than one office in the Confederacy. Article I, Section 6, Clause 2, also known as the Ineligibility Clause or the Emoluments Clause bars members of serving members of Congress from holding offices established by the federal government, while also baring members of the executive branch or judicial branch from serving in the U.S. House or Senate.
Outlines processes to remove leaders within the Confederacy Article II, Section 4 reads “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and the conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Designates two branches of legislature with procedures for passing laws Article I, Section 1, or the Vesting Clauses, read “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” It goes on to outline their legislative powers.
Delineates who has the power to declare war Article I, Section 8, Clause 11, also known as the War Powers Clause, gives Congress the power, “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;”
Creates a balance of power between the Iroquois Confederacy and individual tribes The differing duties assigned to the three branches of the U.S. Government: Legislative (Congress), Executive (President), and Judicial (Supreme Court) act to balance and separate power in government.

Oh, those old ways, no? Ignored: Native American democratic principles focus on the creation of strong kinship bonds that promote leadership in which honor is not earned by material gain but by service to others. Read again — honor not earned by material gain but service to others.

Imagine that tattoo on the foreheads of these evil politicians.

Check out my old stuff, long form interviews, over the radio. Here, on my Word Press site:

Yes, old stuff I uploaded, and, who the hell listens to old radio shows in this day and age? Who would care about my own education during these 56 minute episodes? People like authors, scientists, food experts, activists, etc.?

Check it out — Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge, Spokane, low power community radio! Here, my preamble. Note that I am not a greenie weenie, and I have always doubted the sustainability arena, the New Urbanism crap, all of that, really, since all of what I have learned in courses and certifications and degrees is that CAPITALISM is the bulldozer and the media manipulator of any possible bottom up way to solve myriad of problems, not just tied to resource piracy, biopiray, land grabs, resource thefts, pollution-pollution-pollution, toxicity-toxicity-toxicity.

Podcast list — Paul’s radio show from the mid-2000s. Ironically, poets, thinkers, scientists, community engagement experts, and book authors talked to me with an open mind. I engaged in exchanges of ideas. I was not a stenographer, and yes, I do jump in and have my own spin or take on things. I, of course, have changed my way toward enlightenment compared to the period of 2001 – 2011 I was in Spokane, writing, creating columns, teaching, and involved in activism. I am more grounded in my socialism and my communism. Working anywhere in the USA, Amerikkka, means covering up or masking one’s true self. Capitalism is a form of totalitarianism, and fascism in its own way. I have witnessed colonization of formerly independent thinkers, then a hive mentality take over and then just Plain Jane Stockholm Syndrome seeping into the collective, at large, especially within Democratic Party supporters. Academics. Woke folk. Et al. Enjoy these people, these historic and cutting edge long-form radio conversations!

Note: Realize that the greenie weenies, the Green New Deal (not for nature and people) proponents, the end of fossil fuel folk, all those liberals in the liberal managerial class, please, realize, that I was up against them. For this radio station, this low power community radio station, I had back-stabbers and retrogrades. If you realize the value of this body of work, in a span of two years (and I did work for a living, since this was a gratis gig), then you might understand where I am now, listening to and observing the rot, smelling the putridity, and all the monetizing of some really bad show. Good ones, too, thank goodness, supported me, but I was already deeply victimized by cancel culture. Some of the worse are the compliant ones, the herd, those that call themselves green and organic. However, many of those types hated my show, hated my work, and, well, many loved the work, but those are not the pied piper types. It’s the haters who come out from their dirty sheets at night like an army of bedbugs.

The post Out with the Old, In with the New first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What do you REALLY know about student loan forgiveness?

The debate [sic] related to student loan forgiveness is almost always based on media lies and carved-in-stone ideological identities. For example, if you see yourself as left or liberal, you salivate each time Bernie Sanders evokes the specter of 100 percent forgiveness. Conservatives reflexively grumble about “big government” and/or “work ethic” without doing any real investigation.

Hey, who needs facts when we have our [sic] manufactured opinions?

As is my style, I’m here to fill in a few of the blanks. Once again, the goal is not to change your mind. I’m just trying to increase the likelihood of having discussions founded on accuracy.

How Big is the Problem?

Never would I downplay the holistic stress of being in debt. I get it. But, for this specific issue: 18 percent of borrowers owe less than $5,000 in student loan debt. Only 6 percent of those with student debt owe more than $100,000. They make up one-third of the outstanding $1.5 trillion of debt.

It’s a problem, sure, but what about all those with medical debt or mortgages or credit card debt accrued due to the conscious destruction of our economy over the past two years?

For context:

  • Student debt has risen in the U.S. for two main reasons: more people attend college now than ever before and college tuition has increased by 169 percent since 1980. As a result, about 14 percent of all American adults report they have outstanding undergraduate student debt.
  • Although the total is much lower than student debt, roughly 50 percent of Americans carry medical debt
  • 43 million U.S. borrowers owe nearly $1.6 trillion altogether in federal student loans
  • The total home mortgage debt is about (wait for it) $10 trillion

Who decides which issues make headlines and which issues get buried by algorithms? .

Who Pays For This Gesture? 

Fourteen percent of Americans carry student loan debt. Then there’s the top 5 percent that pays ZERO taxes. That leaves about 80 percent of Americans to foot the bill while also trying to manage their finances and do more than “just get by.”

Translation: Lower- and middle-class taxpayers will bear the brunt of the student loan forgiveness stunt. Sure, it’s better than paying taxes to fund arms shipments to Neo-Nazi transhumanists in Ukraine but we don’t get to make that choice. Plus, why should we be forced to pay for either?

Side note: People who have already paid off their student debt would now be helping to pay off the student debt of others who didn’t. Where’s the “social justice” in that?

Who Does It Help?

The yearly median income of households with student loans is $76,400. Remind me: Why is this the issue that “progressives” swoon over?

Food stamps serve households with a median income of about $19,000 a year. Half of the recipients live below the poverty but the government only provides $2,300 annually for the average household.

Even if student debt forgiveness was capped at $50,000, that would send an average of $26,000 to eligible households. Meanwhile, families on food stamps would need 11 years to receive that much support. Where’s the #woke crowd on this issue?

Another group that will be helped by student loan forgiveness is colleges and universities. They can raise tuition even more now because they know the taxpayers will assume the financial burden through higher taxes. You might even call it the Academic-Industrial Complex.

This dynamic will result in fewer students being able to go to college in the future and if they try, the debt burden returns so the cycle can start again.

Why Does This Make No Sense?

It made no sense when mom-and-pop stores were shuttered while Target and Wal-Mart stayed open in 2020. It made no sense when you had to wear a mask to enter a restaurant but could take it off once you sat down.

I could go on but remember: It all makes sense to the powers that (shouldn’t) be. Everything being pushed on us is another step toward the Great Reset and other World Economic Forum goals.

In a nutshell: Their goal is to forgive all debt (especially their own, of course) and force us into a digital, cashless, social credit society in which we “own nothing” but “will be happy.”

So, please stop delegating all your energy to media-generated “debates” like student debt, guns, abortion, etc. Use some of that time to instead focus on self-education. Then, armed with knowledge, connect with others who are also dedicated to stopping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

But if you really, really can’t stop yourself from posting about how you do or don’t support student loan forgiveness, can you please at least do a little homework to understand the damn issue? (Scroll up and re-read, for starters.)

The post What do you REALLY know about student loan forgiveness? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Purpose-Driven Life

Once upon a time over the portals of the fabled Library of Alexandria were chiseled these words: “The Hospital for the Soul.” This majestic phrase captured for all times the eternal dream of the pure and unfettered pursuit of knowledge and our need for quiet places like schools and libraries to find repose in renewing the spirit.

Amidst the confusions of this distracted world, the Greeks never lost sight of thinking about the larger issues of life and its ultimate meaning. We must not lose our way amidst the obsessions of the moment, they warn us, for in turning a blind eye to the concerns of our humanity, we court our destruction.

The school and all that it stands for are now under siege for its very soul. 

Paideia, that noble dream of classical antiquity in the transformative power of education, the belief in self-enhancement through knowledge, the single-mindedness in promoting the common good, and an aware citizenry about political charlatans, this enduring legacy is struggling for survival in these darkest of times.

The 19th-century Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt referred to a coming age of “terrible simplifiers” that would crush these ideals. We are now in that age, with the school especially vulnerable in being taken over by the toxic mentality of those with no understanding of a school’s meaning and purpose in liberating the mind from all forms of hatred and bigotry.

They reject the search for truth and the things of the spirit and would replace them with the ignorance and intolerance of White supremacist dogma, a betrayal of what education has always embodied since the Greeks.

The truth will make you free, but it may not always make you happy, and it may even make you uncomfortable, which is always the sign of growth and abandoning the delusion of “possessing the truth.” 

Is there any hope for the moral regeneration of our nation when some Congressional GOP leaders, state legislators, and governors institutionalize a national amnesia about historical truth in avoiding a long-overdue reckoning with our national racism? 

Rather than denial, what we need from these leaders is honestly confronting this sickness in providing moral leadership as apartheid South Africa did in the 1990s. Their bellowing silence, however, speaks volumes about these leaders in high office. 

Many are disappointed but not surprised that these “profiles in courage” have not already offered a strategic vision for lasting peace and reconciliation between our two races by having not at least tried to convince their followers to confront our national demons to seek moral rebirth. Instead, they have rejected the only lasting solution to this tragic malady — a national examination of conscience. 

This dismissal of the brutal treatment of the Black race in American history from being taught in the classroom must also be seen within the framework of that other GOP outrage of voter suppression, the very embodiment of its disdain for Black voters, minorities, and democracy itself. 

These politicians would rather that their party steal its way to power because they know that cheating is the only way they will win.  It used to be called “losing with honor” rather than “winning with disgrace,” but that was a long, long time ago.

Suppressing the historical truth in schools and the votes of Blacks and other people of color are two different forms of the same censorship in the cause of enshrining a White racist supremacy in a nation that was once a welcoming beacon of hope to all of humanity.

When Whites think about race, they think as Whites because they have never endured racial hatred and discrimination. But if they had suffered the same enormities as Blacks at the hands of a non-White population, they would see the country that enslaved them in a much different light.

A little role-play, however, evokes compassion and empathy, magical elixirs that are good for the soul and can transform one forever! As the ancients well knew, it is not logic that softens the heart, but pity.    

Fortunately, many Whites today do understand what Blacks have endured in this country for centuries to the extent that any White person can understand this. They deeply sympathize with their Black citizens and are appalled at their fellow Whites, who even to this day are still consumed with such unaccountable hatred. 

They realize that it doesn’t matter what color a person’s skin is because we are all human beings with a common destiny when we all, indeed, shall be equal in very fact. They affirm our common humanity, no matter one’s race or ethnicity.

What is hard for them to comprehend, however, is why all Whites cannot see this. They feel a moral obligation to promote peace and good will between the races, while living in a country where, almost 160 years after the Civil War, Black Americans still find it impossible to vote in many parts of our country or even to have their story told to America’s schoolchildren, as it is routinely told about the Jewish Holocaust.

One hundred and sixty years, and the hatred and bigotry continue among those who take enormous pride in being God-fearing, righteous, church-going people!

I am reminded of those words in the Good Book: If a man says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (1 John 4:20)

There is a psychologically astute observation by the Roman historian Tacitus about hating those whom one has injured because of the guilt one feels at having injured them, which, naturally, makes one feel “uncomfortable”!

Tacitus was characteristically much more laconic, Proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem laeseris. It is human nature to hate someone you’ve injured (Tacitus, Agricola, 42).

All of us are here today and gone tomorrow, and we sometimes forget what we are doing and what it all means. What will be our legacy? When the final curtain falls and we are resting in our graves, would some be exultant to have these words on their gravestones: Here lies one who tried his best to make America a Hell for Non-Whites?

Image: History of Yesteryear

The post A Purpose-Driven Life first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Even the Fatherless Become Fathers

See the source image

These Op-Ed’s I pen in Newport News Times are my reckoning with loads of travel, plethora of spiritual work, and in-the-trenches journalistic forays dredging unimaginable but potent “land.”

I muck around with smalltown newspapers, even when the gig pays zero shekels, because I have a thing for smalltown newspapers staying in business. REALLY. So here you go:

I ended up in Spokane, years ago, near or around Father’s Day, 2001. Lo and behold, the story of the celebration is rooted there. A Spokane woman, Sonora Smart Dodd (man, I spent a lot of time in the Sonora – as diver, hiker, journalist), wanted to honor her Civil War vet father, who ended up raising her and five siblings after their mother died in childbirth.

June 19, 1910 was the “first” father’s day (Spokane, WA). The official national holiday designation came from a very odd father indeed, Richard Nixon, as the third Sunday in June (1972).

Much philosophical, political, sociological, and psychological territory has been traversed covering what it means to be a father, a son, an uncle, and a man. Oh, the dissertations that have been festooned dissecting intersections of American life with “the father.” We even have a bifurcation in politics around the father figure.–

I had my college students look at narrative framing around Democrats and Republicans when it comes to the strict father ideology (conservatives) and the nurturing father (progressives).

Two worldviews clash, as the strict father assumes that the world is inherently dangerous and difficult so children, who are born bad, must be made good. Whereas, the progressives see children born good, and parents can make them better.

Lessons in right versus wrong and a moral authority – George H W Bush and Ronald Reagan – define the conservative father. Contrastingly,  nurturing empathy and responsibility for oneself and taking care of others – Jimmy Carter or Barak Obama – are characteristics of the liberal father. George Lakoff looked at this, as well as how conservatives use language to dominate politics.

Here I was teaching at a university and community college in El Paso and adult professionals in Juarez, guiding them to consider the many sides of the male coin: Texas, a macho state governed by George W. Bush, and then for one term, Ann White. The town was more than 85 percent Latino, and my students (parents or grandparents from Mexico) were navigating what it means to be not just a college-educated person, but a high school graduate.

I also had many artist friends, and others, like masons and auto body guys, on both sides of the border, who were products of gangs. Many an out-of-town intellectual or journalist has ventured to this bi-national area to study gangs.

Many of my homies in and out of gang-life inked giant images of the Virgin de Guadalupe tattoos on their skin.

Many of the gangs in LA were rooted first in El Paso. I worked in Segundo Barrio, with youth who were in gangs like Los Aztecas and Los Fatherless.  I worked in prisons as a college teacher where gangs influenced each writing session.

I worked on military compounds – Fort Bliss, White Sands, even at the United Sergeants Major Academy.  Back then, very few women came through the Academy to get their last stripe, E-9. Many units were men’s clubs. Gangs, or sort.

Even in that setting, I pushed combat-toughened students to think about the role of fathers now (1986 to 2000) and back in their grandfathers’ days.

What is it to be a man in America? What is it to be a son or daughter in America? We went into the how’s and why’s of deadly violence in gang life, and we talked about the deadlier violence perpetrated by US military.

Men are from Mars (Roman god of war, Ares) and women are from Venus (beauty, love and relationships, as it represents the sentimental, affective and sensitive side of the heart).  Right? Hard versus soft, right?  Should we allow females in combat? And, then shelves of books on rape culture and toxic masculinity.

The landscape was mined with explosive topics from the get-go for me, as I got my classes rolling on debates and research projects around those controversial topics.

What does it mean to be father? Definitions have morphed foundationally since I started journalism and teaching at age 21.

I taught poet Robert Bly’s Iron John, and I had to defend that action since teaching “men to be men” in English departments seemed anathema to the “woke world.”

In ordinary life, a mentor can guide a young man through various disciplines, helping to bring him out of boyhood into manhood; and that in turn is associated not with body building, but with building an emotional body capable of containing more than one sort of ecstasy.

― Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men

I taught the Fight Club, too, and had to defend that book choice as well. However, my reading list included Alice Walker (The Color Purple), Sapphire (Black Wings & Blind Angels), Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale) and so many others.

I worked into syllabi Charles Bowden’s Juarez: The Laboratory of Our Future and Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder, and Family to some consternation from female faculty in El Paso and Spokane.

As a case manager for the houseless, just-out-of-prison, struggling with addiction, I found many a male figure, for sure, was either absent from the men and women’s lives, or that father was someone who’d easily occupy Dante’s Seventh circle of hell.

There are many good men. Last month, I met a fellow who lives and works in Waldport. Eight years in the Marine Corps. He’s forty-five, and has 9 “kids” living with him: His own biological children, and those he has taken in from family members who have run away from their duties, to include mothers and fathers.

He’s a living lesson for any man – he teaches respect for all people, including those living in vans or tents. He gives back to Waldport community with free clothes and furniture. He is navigating all the attention needed from those 9 youth, ranging from toddlers to 18 years old.

Happy Father’s Day!

In ordinary life, a mentor can guide a young man through various disciplines, helping to bring him out of boyhood into manhood; and that in turn is associated not with body building, but with building and emotional body capable of containing more than one sort of ecstasy.

The Wild Man doesn’t come to full life through being “natural,” going with the flow, smoking weed, reading nothing, and being generally groovy. Ecstasy amounts to living within reach of the high voltage of the golden gifts. The ecstasy comes after thought, after discipline imposed on ourselves, after grief.

― Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men

The post Even the Fatherless Become Fathers first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Letters from Moscow: Education, Health Care, Unions, and Political Parties Across the Class Divide

What follows is a series of emails from a comrade, HCE. He is a Russian citizen and has lived and worked in Moscow for many years. He is a Marxist-Leninist. The questions we asked him are in bold.

Dear Bruce:

Before I start answering more of your questions, I would like to make a comment on the very complicated situation concerning access to data which affects both my three previous letters and as well as any future letters.

Rocky times in the political economy and computerized and digital world

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia embarked on an extremely complicated process of switching from one political economy to another. This coincided with another drastic change, the computerization, digitization, and data organization of the whole state apparatus. This includes administration, health, education, defense, and industry. This process was difficult. We went through what I would call a “hybrid” stage in the late 1990s and up to the early 2000s.

A large number of the technical, medical, and administrative state employees were new to computers then and there was an urgent need to digitize a huge amount of data. At the same time, state facilities still had to function. The state cadres by the 1990s – 2000 were no spring chickens. They were around 45 years of age and were slower to learn about the computerized, digital world. I remember the problems of the customs. It was a real headache.  Older doctors had to learn to use computers and databases, and all this did not come easily. Computers had become a necessity that accompanied a person everywhere. Nevertheless, Russia made a leap forward and covered a lot of ground rapidly in the digital world. This was true especially in programming due to the solid mathematical background offered in schools and universities established during Soviet times.

How much does each social class pay to go to grammar school, high school and college in the public and private sector?

The constitution of the Russian Federation clearly states that preschool, primary, high school or vocational schools are free of charge and compulsory. Higher education is also free of charge, and acceptance is on a competitive basis. Parallel to state sponsored education, there is private education that is available from kindergarten until university. The classes that have the luxury to pay for their children’s education are the upper middle-class and the upper-class. Many of the children of the upper-class study abroad in the US and European countries.

In spite of all the advantages and benefits of n facilities and equipment in private schools, their performance is not better than state budget schools. This is because there are still traditions and quality remaining from Soviet times in state budget schools. There is a feature in Russian cultural history that defies elite education. Occasionally from the far regions come working-class nuggets that with their talent and persistence are able to reach the heights of the academic and artistic world.

What about the cost of healthcare for each social class?

The Soviet Union had an immense health care system that included general hospitals, specialized hospitals, hospitals for children and babies, and clinics tied to factories and universities. All this was inherited by Russia. Every Moscow resident is tied to a hospital in his administrative district. There are children’s hospitals, too. According to the constitution, everyone has a right to health protection so medical care in state and municipal health care institutions is free of charge. The cost of healthcare if the patient goes to a state-owned hospital will be one and the same for all classes.

The private health care system is much smaller and cannot be compared to the state system. In my opinion, the private system has carved themselves a niche for upper-middle class and upper-class people. This is because there are no queues, accommodations are better, and for your money the doctor is willing to listen to your complaints not for 10 minutes but for 30 minutes. Otherwise, the doctors are the same.

The problems of the state health care system are more organizational than anything else (as mentioned at the beginning of my letter). There were some attempts to make changes according to western management practices. These were failures and much disliked by the majority of the people trying to innovate, digitize the data base, and streamline the administrative apparatus. Instead of having innovation that would serve the healthcare system you have innovation for its own sake. Gradually the system already in place is adjusting.

Let me give a human face to these dry facts:

“Two months ago, my wife fell ill and was feeling very bad and since we are both elderly (80+ years of age), I called for an ambulance.  It arrived in 10 minutes. Two young men arrived who checked my wife’s blood pressure. They had a portable device for checking her heart after placing sensors on her. They received the result on graph paper. The doctor checked her and called the hospital telling me that tomorrow a specialist would arrive to check her again, but for now she was ok. The next day we got a call from the doctor and asked if that time was ok to come over. When the doctor arrived she carefully checked my wife over and wrote a lengthy prescription.  We declined hospitalization, and I promised the doctor that I would take care of my wife. She agreed but warned me that if my wife did not feel better in two days, they would want to hospitalize her.”  

All of this was free of charge.

What is the status of unions? How militant or not are they? What percentage of working-class people join them?

A couple of words regarding the history of the unions in Russia are necessary in order to understand their present status. Very briefly, unions began to appear with the rise of capitalism in Russia. They were dynamic and revolutionary, and played a big role in the February and Great October revolutions of 1917. After the formation of the USSR, the employers and the employees were both working-class and the unions became part of the state serving the working-class in health, education, recreation, and many other functions. It was called the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions (AUCCTU) – the central body of trade unions, it functioned from 1918 until 1990.

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the switch from socialism back to capitalism, this entity remained in the same role although politically much weakened, but still had significant assets, organizational ties, and funds. The working-class did not have a militant organization. They were not created for organizing and fighting the capitalist employers. The name of this organization is The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR).

To date, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia is still the largest public association in Russia. As of January 1, 2020, the FNPR had 122 member organizations, including 40 all-Russian (interregional) trade unions. This included 5 trade unions cooperating with the FNPR on the basis of agreements. It also included 82 territorial associations of trade union organizations. The FNPR unites 19.9 million trade union members.  It has its relations with the government and its party, United Russia, capitalist employers, as well as having its members in the State Duma (Russian Parliament).

The second trade union of importance is The Confederation of Labor of Russia (KTR)  (English version available). It was formed in 1995 and has about 2 million members. It is militant. It has to be said that it faces immense difficulties, and its victories are few and far between. Still, they are developing and learning. The Confederation of Labor of Russia is an independent trade union and does not follow the official government line. Its struggle is not only for purely economic benefits. It has an agreement with the Communist Party since 2008.

Besides the above-mentioned trade unions there are many others, but these two are the most prominent

How many political parties are there? How strong are they? What about the Communist Party there?  

There are fifteen parties in Russia. The results of the last State Duma (Russian Parliament) elections in 2021 resulted in the following top five parties.

United Russia (the government party) – 49.2%

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) – 18.93%

Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) – 7.55%

A Just Russia – Patriots – For Truth – 7.46%

New People – 5.32%

The Communists (CPRF) in Russia came in a very strong second in spite of the harassment, arm twisting, slander, and cheating. The Communists (CPRF) in Russia are not like the communist parties in most parts of Europe and the US.  They are not on the fringes of society. Of all the parties mentioned above, they are the oldest and have deep roots in the people. This was clearly demonstrated in the conflict in the Ukraine, where many soldiers and people raised the red banner besides the official government flag. The parties at the lower end are mainly those that have a strong pro-western ideology and are closer to social democrats and liberals.

I often remember the American saying “When the going gets tough the tough get going”. As soon as the conflict in the Ukraine started the Russian government quickly found out that the baggage they had picked up from the West was useless. It could not consolidate the people, and a big number of the so-called celebrities left Russia. They found out that the Soviet culture, films, and song was what brought the people together and lay in their collective memory. The official media was forced to somewhat change its tune in its negative portrayal of nearly everything related to the Soviet period.

The Communists have a strong presence, and the people see that they have a clear and comprehensive program for the economic development of the country. The Communist ideology has a solution for the problems related to nationalism. In any TV talk show, were they invited (this is not often), they dominate simply by their logic. I find especially encouraging the fact that young people (not older than 45) are occupying important positions in the party’s hierarchy and being given the responsibility to become Duma members and governors. The CPRF has three governors out of the 85. Please note that I am using an approximation here, since the administrative configuration is not one but of several types.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) is a nationalist, right-wing party. Their charismatic leader, Zhirinovsky, on whom the party depended, passed away recently. In my opinion there could be a decline in their influence depending on how the party deals with their loss. A Just Russia – Patriots – For Truth is a coalition of three parties, the biggest is A Just Russia, with socialist-democratic views.

The New People party was formed and is still headed by a businessman, Alexei Nechayev, owner of the cosmetics company Faberlic. This is a party oriented towards the young managerial type. It has a right leaning capitalist ideology that reminds one of Ayn Rand ideas.

In reply to your inquiry of whether there are parties backed by the US, my opinion is that parties that are influenced or backed by the US are not on the right. The right in Russia is most probably nationalistic. The parties that are more likely to be on the “democratic liberal” side, are those that began their career with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and actively participated in the economic upheavals that created the oligarchy. Since those times of the 1990s, they have been steadily declining until in our times they cannot meet the quota for getting in the Duma. They still are present on the political stage due to the support from the West and the way the West exaggerates their presence and influence and the noise they make. By carefully observing the representatives of this phenomenon we notice that they were rubber-stamped by the same hand, from Venezuela, throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic States, Ukraine, Georgia, and Russia. What gathers the right and the ‘liberal democrats” together is their hatred of socialism, communists and anything related to the Soviet Union. The US and the West directly and aggressively have backed parties or their representatives through NGOs. However, a law has been passed recently declaring any NGO receiving financial or other kind of support from a foreign country to be a foreign agent and will be treated accordingly.

How do each of the social classes line up in terms of religious affiliation?

Dear Bruce,

Allow me to begin this part of my letter with a quotation from no less an authority than historian Edward Gibbon:

“…but so intimate is the connection between the throne and the altar, that the banner of the church has very seldom been seen on the side of the people.”

Orthodox Christianity is the prevailing branch of Christianity and does not depend on class. It is the religion for all classes from the upper-class to the working-class.

There are other religions as well. According to the Levada Centre (not official source):

Christian Orthodox believers — 63%

Atheists — 26%

Muslims — 7%

Protestants — less than 1%

Jews — less than 1%

Catholics — less than 1%

The overwhelming number of Christians are orthodox. Religion had an intensely strong comeback after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. This is manifested not only by the number of believers, but by the wealth, opulence, and the close ties between the state and the church. The official point of view is trying to bring back some of the ideology of tsarist Russia, of tying nationalism and religion to the state. The church now is ubiquitous, imposing its presence in education, the army and general public. Churches are built everywhere. However, if immediately after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, religion had a certain appeal to the Russian population, it is now rapidly declining. All of what I have said about Christianity is true for the Muslim regions and republics where Islam schools and mosques are present in large numbers. Laws have been passed to guard the church and religion.

With affection and respect


The post Letters from Moscow: Education, Health Care, Unions, and Political Parties Across the Class Divide first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Do We Have a Failure to Communicate!

Ted Rall gets it right here: The Left Must Continue to Avoid the Ukraine Trap

“Find a way to be against the war in Ukraine, please.” That was the subject line of one of my recent hate emails. “If you look through Mr. Rall’s cartoons for the past month, there isn’t a single one condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” an anonymous online commenter chided. “There’s plenty of ones based around whataboutism condemning us for condemning them but not a single one that just comes right out and says what Russia is doing now is wrong.”

The Right — in the U.S. that includes Republicans, Democrats and corporate media — has set a clever trap for the anti-war Left. The rhetoric in this essay’s first paragraph is an example. If the Left were to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Right would portray us as Russia-loving hypocrites who only oppose wars when the United States starts them. If the Left backed Ukraine, they’d be joining an unholy alliance with a government installed in a CIA-backed coup that pointlessly provoked Russia by asking to join NATO and is so tolerant of neo-Nazism that it allows soldiers wearing Nazi insignia in its military and seems to be trying to set some sort of record for building statues to World War II Nazi collaborators and antisemites. Plus, they’d be helping the Right distract people from the murderous sins of American imperialism, which are ongoing.

So, again, the offensive weapons industry, from the grenade to the guzzling B-1 bomber, from the pant zipper to the propelled hand-held rockets, from the Meals Ready to Eat to the Missiles from the Drones’ Mouth, all of those shell casings and depleted uranium bullet heads, all of that, including Burger Kings for Troops to the Experimental Anthrax Vaccines, all of that, and all the paper-mouse pushers, all the middlewomen and middlemen, all the folks in this military everything industrial complex, that is what the Russian Right to Stop Extremists/Murderers/ Nazis in Ukraine is all about. USA/UK/EU can take out wedding parties, but Russia can’t take out Nazi’s.

So, we have Angela Davis (throw away your blackness black panther card) and Chomsky and Sean Penn and every manner of woke and wise idiot calling Putin a dictator, a thug, an authoritarian leader. Oh, the authoritarian BlackRock and Raytheon and Biden Administration and USA Lobbying Network, and on and on, so, again, tenured professors with book contracts and speaking (paid big bucks) engagements, forget about them.

This is the American Way — Making Money on/off of WAR. The Racket that General Butler talked about is so so more complicated than his experiences in the 1890s through 1940s. These times are filled with buckets of DNA we might think have zero to do with war, but are so attached to the inbreeding of the war machines that every nanosecond of business and every transaction in this society is all tied to WAR. Like embedded energy and life cycle analysis, the military complex, if we really did the true cost of war/warring, the one or six trillion dollars that Brown University comes up with would be factored up by 10 or more.

The 2022 spending bill, which passed both chambers with gleeful bipartisan support last week, included billions of dollars for ships and planes that the Pentagon didn’t ask for, a common occurrence in Congress. Then, here it is — just one angle. Congress authorized $27 billion for Navy ships, including $4 billion for several vessels the Navy didn’t ask for, and $900 million for additional Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets the Navy had hoped to phase out. The bill also provides billions to purchase 20 more Lockheed Martin C-130J transport planes than the Pentagon requested.

And, the details are in the sausage making, from scarred land for corn, to the poisons to grow the corn, to the ponds of pig blood and guts, to the butchering of antibiotic-filled and toxin-laden pigs, to the transportation of poisoned meat, to sausage warehouses, to all of the packaging and happy meal advertisements, and then, of course, the cost of clogged arteries and obesity and colon cancers, all of that, well, figure in a similar cost analysis for every Hellfire missile produced for the profits of the offensive weapons Mafia.

Since the start of the new year, Lockheed Martin’s stock has soared nearly 25 percent, while Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman each saw their stock prices rise by around 12 percent.

In a January earnings call, Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet said that the “renewed great power competition” would lead to inflated defense budgets and additional sales. On the same day, Raytheon Technologies CEO Greg Hayes told investors that the company expected to see “opportunities for international sales” amid the Russian threat.

“The tensions in Eastern Europe, the tensions in the South China Sea, all of those things are putting pressure on some of the defense spending over there,” Hayes said. “So I fully expect we’re going to see some benefit from it.”

The defense lobbyist also predicted a major gain for U.S. defense firms thanks to increased European defense spending.

“As much as many countries have their own defense industrial base, they don’t make everything they need themselves. So they are going to rely on us in many cases for missiles, for aircraft, for ground vehicles,” they said. (source)

These are sociopaths. Read it again and again if you are dense. “…. thanks to increased EU spending . . . .” Or, “. . . . fully expect we’re going to see … benefit from it (wars) . . . ” These are golf course dealing misanthropes. Their kids go to Yale, and they have two or four homes around the country. They attend $500 a ticket Hamilton galas. They are the Titans of Terror.

Alas, the offensive weapons-equipment-PSYOPS-marketing-financing INDUSTRY is the gift (poison, PTSD, maiming, mauling, murdering) that keeps on giving. The sacking of our own personal and collective agency, that is, where is the fight for our poor, for our huddled masses, for our general anxiety disordered citizens? Where are those bandaids and nurses staffing those free drop-in clinics? Where are those hefty checks for clean water systems, R & R-ing lead pipes? Where are those insulating old homes programs? Where are those funds for aging in place programs? Where are the deals for the poor and struggling to get into national parks free? Where are those used tires for aging cars that take mother and daughter to their fast-food/child care/adult care jobs? Where are those food vouchers even the French are handing out? Where is all that help, uh?

Over decades of brainwashing and history scrubbing and agnotology and consumerism and propaganda and plain bad PK12 education. After years of mediocre college degrees, and after throwing money at computer engineers, the AI Hole in the Autism Wall Gang, and after so much celebrity pimping, the American public will pull out a yellow and blue hanky and smear their crocodile tears for a billionaire lying comic ZioLenskyy and wax nostalgic for those Nazi-loving Ukrainians, but never a word for fellow human beings in, well, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Russia.

We wonder about Word Press — a non-profit (sic) that takes $100 a year just for this little shit show? Will the site be hacked, cut, or disengaged because of Russia’s flag above and the UkiNazi image below?


Oh, the stories over at Grayzone or Consortium News or Mint Press or Covert Action Magazine, or . . . .

‘Gods of War’: How the US weaponized Ukraine against Russia TJ COLES

And the evil is the shutdown of discourse. True evil. Makes Mossad and CIA and Stasi and KGB look like Keystone Cops:

And, so, Zelenskyy wants hundreds and hundreds of billions in weapons and aid and for his padded luxurious life. Yep, a failure to communicate — the US of A! But there is still some sanity — Black Agenda Report:

Left Voices are Censored

Censorship is supposed to happen in other places, not in the U.S. But big tech, in alliance with the state, is silencing Black and other left voices in the media. The war in Ukraine is bringing this process into high relief and making a mockery of claims of freedom of expression. Jacqueline Luqman, co-host of the Sputnik program, By Any Means Necessary , explains.

The U.S. Crisis Plays Out in Ukraine

Joe Biden travelled to Europe for NATO and G7 meetings one month after Russian troops entered Ukraine. Biden predictably condemned Russia but also suggested he was seeking regime change against Vladimir Putin. Dr. Gerald Horne , author and historian who currently holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, analyses US policy in Ukraine.

The end game is lies, all the spin, the tens of thousands of outlets, the social media monsters, all of the PSYOPS, all the roots of Edward Bernays, Milton Friedman, Madmen, the entire suite of propaganda tools. A failure to communicate is now an avalanche of lies, as in the Empire of Lies. Russia loses that war — information 5.0 USA style, is Russia 1.0. Honesty is a crutch.

We’ve studied this system of propaganda, and it is sophisticated, way before Goebbels, but still, he is the master 2.0. Israel is a killer of a liar. Britain. USA.

Russia’s approach to the Ukraine question is remarkably different from the West’s. As far as Russia is concerned Ukraine is not a pawn on the chessboard but rather a member of the family with whom communication has become impossible due to protracted foreign interference and influence operations. According to Andrei Ilnitsky, an advisor to the Russian Ministry of Defence, Ukraine is the territory where the Russian world lost one of the strategic battles in the cognitive war. Having lost the battle, Russia feels all the more obliged to win the war — a war to undo the damage to a country that historically has always been part of the Russian world and to prevent the same damage at home. It is rather telling that what US-NATO call an “information war” is referred to as “mental’naya voina”, that is cognitive war, by this prominent Russian strategist. Being mainly on the receiving end of information/influence operations, Russia has been studying their deleterious effects. (source)

Marketing 101 is now hyperspace marketing, and the tools of bots, AI, algorithms, etc., they are like neutron info bombs.

  1.  Bandwagon propaganda
  2.  Card Stacking propaganda
  3.  Plain Folk Propaganda
  4.  Testimonial Propaganda
  5.  Glittering Generality Propaganda
  6.  Name Calling Propaganda
  7.  Transfer Propaganda
  8.  Ad nauseam propaganda
  9.  Stereotyping propaganda
  10.  Appeal to prejudice propaganda
  11.  Appeal to fear propaganda

So therefore, this relentless manipulation of people’s emotions and coginitive disassociation and associative thinking has unleashed a dangerous whirlwind of mass insanity.

The most dangerous purveyor of it:

US Propaganda 100 Years ago and how the Media was influenced (3) | by Melmac Politics | Medium


The New Age of Propaganda: Understanding Influence Operations in the Digital Age

World Economic Forum Blasted for 'Insane Pro-CRT Propaganda' Video - Miami Standard

Putin's digital aggression is backfiring in Ukraine - The Hill Times

The post Do We Have a Failure to Communicate! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Everyone Can be a Poet Under Just the Right Moment of Epiphany: April is Poetry Month

I could write a book on why I believe poetry can heal, engage our inner soul and give young and old a voice from which to sing ourselves into being.  Even out here on the coast, we have poets gathering at dawn after a long day and night catching fish.

It’s not just another month. National Poetry Month (first organized in 1996) celebrates poetry to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry.

2022 National Poetry Month Poster

It’s not just a Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman or Maya Angelou time of remembrance of past laureates. Poetry is for the masses, and written by the working class.

For example, since 2013 Astoria has organized the FisherPoets gathering celebrating poetry, stories, song and art of fishermen and fisherwomen.

There’s even an anthology titled, Anchored in Deep Water.

One of my students in the memoir class I teach reminded me of his own walkabout on earth as a man, a father, husband and someone who has survived many a travail. “We all can’t live large and do great important things, but . . . .” He then quoted Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver:

May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful. May I stay forever in the stream. May I look down upon the windflower and the bull thistle and the coreopsis with the greatest respect.

Mary Oliver in The New Yorker | The New Yorker

A great illustration of this simplicity of observation and self reflection is seen in Patrick Dixon’s poem, “Boat Puller.” Again, a tiny nail in the universe, but he’s harvesting wisdom as he’s taught by a Norwegian how to fish in Alaska:

While I was picking fish with you,
stunned at the sight of the sea so near
and the mountains filling the western sky,
I thought of dry midwestern cornfields,
and of lost, empty days filled with a wish to leave
…..but nowhere to go.

You bent over a red to show me how to use a fish pick,
never realizing what was happening to me,
how you were stripping away the web of my past life,
pulling me through to solid ground.

Fisher poet publishes memoir about his years in Cook Inlet

I walked aged stones over a bridge made famous by an 18th Century poet.

Brig o' Doon - Wikipedia

One side of my family came from Ayr, where Robert Burns was born. Scotland’s National Poet immortalized the bridge in his poem “Tam O’Shanter“. Tam and Meg (his horse) escape the clutches of the witch Nannie by galloping over the Brig O’Doon. This escapade left Nannie with nothing more than Meg’s tail.

I was a kid then, crossing the river Doon many times, and I am so old I saw plenty of salmon run the currents. I have since graduated into a panoply of world poets. One big thing for me as a poet was running my gift of gab in front of a crowd at a Poetry Slam in El Paso.

Purely fun, as we were lubricated with tequila and mescal, the poets went head to head to claim the loudest crowd applause. It’s a literary ruckus; in the parlance of my literary world, those folk are called performance artists.

The Undressing”: Poetry of Passion Laid Bare | The New Yorker

One of my favorite poets, Li-Young Lee, was born in Djakarta, Indonesia, in 1957 to Chinese political exiles. I’ve heard him read twice live. Here, a slice of his poem, “Immigrant Blues”:

People have been trying to kill me since I was born,
a man tells his son, trying to explain
the wisdom of learning a second tongue.

It’s an old story from the previous century
about my father and me.

The same old story from yesterday morning
about me and my son.

It’s called “Survival Strategies
and the Melancholy of Racial Assimilation.”

It’s called “Psychological Paradigms of Displaced Persons,”

called “The Child Who’d Rather Play than Study.”

Practice until you feel
the language inside you, says the man.

For Lee, his work is acclaimed for its use of silence and “near mysticism” which is nonetheless “fully engaged in life and memory while building and shaping the self from words.”

That is the universality of poetry, really, to become tied to life and construct oneself through words, as if the power of poetry is an electrical cord of life pulsating through the artist to be read and celebrated by an audience. We should always find a universal connection to a poet’s lamentations.

Teaching poetry in El Paso and in Spokane, I’ve found even the most hardened souls can lift light or soft shadow from scabbed-over souls and hardscrabble lives.

One of my teachers, Tucson poet Richard Shelton, took us undergraduate and graduate students to the Arizona State prison to help facilitate writing workshops with men behind bars. He ended up doing it for 30 years, and wrote the book, Crossing the Yard.

Crossing the Yard: Thirty Years as a Prison Volunteer: Shelton, Richard: 9780816525959: Books

I’ve taught poetry and photography to gang-influenced youth in El Paso. We’re talking about some students who were huffers, that is, they sniffed gas and glue to get high. The summer session pulled from these young men and women the stories of their neighborhood, El Segundo Barrio. The old people and merchants were captured in film, essays and poems.

We held a huge event with youth showing snapshots and others reading poems. Eighty-year-old grannies (abuelas) were bawling their eyes out. Some told me, Nadie piensa que vale nada, pero escúchalo ahora.

The hardened youth gave luminescence to their families. Translated above: “No one thinks he is worth anything but look at him now.”

Pablo Neruda | Poetry Foundation

Heck, we see my favorite poet, Chilean Pablo Neruda, depicted in the 1994 film, l Postino (The Postman). Even recently, Adam Driver played a bus driver-poet in Jim Jarmusch’s film, Patterson, inspired in part by William Carlos Williams.

William Carlos Williams | Poetry Foundation

Teaching poetry and encouraging anyone to learn to listen to their own songs, I believe a great healing could take place if we all stopped our social media-fueled lives and lend pause to our inner voices. And to harvest life and nature around us: the simple things, which in poetry are that tiny nail we all should pound into our collective creative home. William Carlos Williams:

4th of July

The ship moves
but its smoke
moves with the wind
faster than the ship

— thick coils of it
through leafy trees
upon the river

The heat makes
this place of the woods
a room
in which two robins pain

over the plight of
their unhappy young

During the explosions
at dawn, the celebrations
I could hear
a native cuckoo

in the distance
as at dusk, before
I’d heard
a night hawk calling


The post Everyone Can be a Poet Under Just the Right Moment of Epiphany: April is Poetry Month first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why is the Nicaraguan Government Demonized by both Liberals and Conservatives …


Women Have Made Particularly Significant Gains Under the Second Sandinista Government Since 2006

Women, particularly those in the Third World, often find themselves with limited ability to participate in community organizations and political life because of the poverty and their traditional sex role imposes on them.

On them falls sole responsibility to care for their children and other family members, especially when sick; they maintain the home, cook the meals, wash the dishes, the clothes, bathe the children, clean the house, mend the clothes. This labor becomes unending manual labor when households have no electricity (consequently, no lights, no refrigerator, no labor-saving electrical devices), and no running water.

The burden of this work impedes the social participation, self-expectations, and education of the female population.

Women in the Third World (and increasingly in the imperial First World) face problems of violence at home and in public, problems of food and water for the family, of proper shelter, and lack of health care for the family, and their own lack of access to education and, thus, work opportunities.

In Nicaragua, before the 1979 Sandinista revolution, men typically fulfilled few obligations for their children; men often abandoned the family, leaving the care to women. It was not uncommon to hear the abuse that men inflicted on women, to see women running to a neighbor for refuge.

It was not uncommon to encounter orphaned children whose mothers died in childbirth, since maternal mortality was high. Common illnesses were aggravated because there were few hospitals and, if there were, cash payment was demanded.

After the 1979 Sandinista victory, living conditions for women dramatically improved, achievements the period of neoliberal rule (1990-2006) did not completely overturn. Throughout the second Sandinista period (2007- today), the material and social position of women again made giant steps forward.

The greatest advances have been made by poor women in the rural areas and barrios, historically without safety, electricity, water and sanitation services, health care, or paved roads.

The liberation women have attained during the Sandinista era cannot be measured only by what we apply in North America: equal pay for equal work, the right to abortion, the right to affordable childcare, freedom from sexual discrimination.

Women’s liberation in Third World countries involves matters that may not appear on the surface as women’s rights issues. These include the paving of roads, improving housing, legalized land tenure, school meal programs, new clinics and hospitals, electrification, plumbing, literacy campaigns, potable water, aid programs to campesinos and crime reduction programs.

Because half of Nicaraguan families are headed by single mothers, this infrastructure development promotes the liberation and well-being of women.

Government programs that directly or indirectly shorten the hours of household drudgery free women to participate more in community life and increase their self-confidence and leadership. A country can have no greater democratic achievement than bringing about full and equal participation of women.

Women participating in 1979 Sandinista revolution. [Source:]

Women’s Liberation Boosted with the FSLN’s Zero Hunger and Zero Usury Programs

These programs, launched in 2007, raise the socio-economic position of women. Zero Hunger furnishes pigs, a pregnant cow, chickens, plants, seeds, fertilizers, and building materials to women in rural areas to diversify their production, upgrade the family diet, and strengthen women-run household economies.

The agricultural assets provided are put in the woman’s name, equipping women to become more self-sufficient producers; it gives them more direct control and security over food for their children.

This breaks women’s historic dependency on male breadwinners and encourages their self-confidence. The program has aided 275,000 poor families, more than one million people (of a total of 6.6 million Nicaraguans) and has increased both their own food security and the nation’s food sovereignty.

Nicaragua now produces close to 90% of its own food, with most coming from small and medium farmers, many of them women. As Fausto Torrez of the Nicaraguan Rural Workers Association (ATC) correctly noted, “A nation that cannot feed itself is not free.”

Market in Managua selling locally produced food. [Source:]

The Zero Usury program is a microcredit mechanism that now charges 0.5% annual interest, not the world microcredit average of 35%. More than 445,000 women have received these low-interest loans, typically three loans each.

The program not only empowers women but is a key factor reducing poverty, unlocking pools of talent, and driving diversified and sustainable growth. Many women receiving loans have turned their businesses into cooperatives, providing jobs to other women. Since 2007, about 5,900 cooperatives have formed, with 300 being women’s cooperatives.

Poverty has been reduced from 48% in 2007 to 25% and extreme poverty from 17.5% to 7%. This benefited women in particular, since single mother households suffered more from poverty. The Zero Hunger and Zero Usury programs have lessened the traditional domestic violence, given that women in poverty suffer greater risk of violence and abuse than others.

Giving Women Titles to Property Is a Step Toward Women’s Liberation

Since most Nicaraguans live by small-scale farming or by small business, possessing the title of legal ownership is a major concern. Between 2007 and 2021, the FSLN government has given out 451,250 land titles in the countryside and the city, with women making up 55% of the property-owners who benefited. Providing women with the legal title to their own land was a great step toward their economic independence.

Infrastructure Programs Expand Women’s Freedom

The Sandinista government has funded the building or renovation of 290,000 homes since 2007, free of charge for those in extreme poverty, or with interest-free long-term loans. This aided more than one million Nicaraguans, particularly single mothers, who head half of all Nicaraguan families.

In 2006 only 65% of the urban population had potable drinking water; now 92% do. Access to potable water in rural areas has doubled, from 28% to 55%. This frees women from the toilsome daily walk to the village well to carry buckets of water home to cook every meal, wash the dishes and clothes, and bathe the children. Homes connected to sewage disposal systems have grown from 30% in 2007 to 57% in 2021.

Now 99% of the population has electricity compared to 54% in 2006. As we know from experiencing electrical blackouts, electricity significantly frees our lives from time-consuming tasks. Street lighting has more than doubled, increasing security for all. Reliable home electricity enables the use of electrical labor-saving devices, such as a refrigerator.

Today, high-speed internet connects and unites most of the country, reducing people’s isolation and lack of access to information. Virtually everyone has a cell phone, and free internet is now available in many public parks.

Nicaragua’s road system is now among the best in Latin America and the Caribbean, given it has built more roads in the last 15 years than were built in the previous 200 years. Outlying towns are now connected to the national network. Now women in rural areas can travel elsewhere to work, sell their products in nearby markets, attend events in other towns, and take themselves or their children to the hospital. This contributes to the fight against poverty and the fight for women’s liberation.

New roads on the outskirts of Ésteli, Nicaragua’s third-largest city. [Source:]

Better roads and housing, almost universal electrical and internet access, as well as indoor plumbing, greatly lessens the burdens placed on women homemakers and provide them with greater freedom to participate in the world they live in.

The Sandinista Educational System Emancipates Women

The humanitarian nature of the FSLN governments, as opposed to the disregard by previous neoliberal regimes, is revealed by statistics on illiteracy. When the FSLN revolution triumphed in 1979, illiteracy topped 56%.

Within ten years they reduced it to 12%. Yet by the end of the 16-year neoliberal period in 2006, which dismantled the free education system, illiteracy had again risen to 23%. Today the FSLN government has cut illiteracy to under 4%.


The FSLN made education completely free, eliminating school fees. This, combined with the aid programs for poor women, has allowed 100,000 children to return to school. The government began a school lunch program, a meal of beans and rice, to 1.5 million school and pre-school children every day.

Pre-school, primary and secondary students are supplied with backpacks, glasses when needed, and low-income students receive uniforms at no cost. Now a much higher proportion of children are able to attend school, which provides more opportunities for mothers to work outside the home.


Nicaragua has established a nationwide free day-care system, now numbering 265 centers. Mothers can take their young children to day care, freeing them from another of the major hurdles to entering the workforce.

Due to the vastly expanded and free medical system, the  Zero Hunger, Zero Usury and other programs, chronic malnutrition in children under five has been cut in half, with chronic malnutrition in children six to twelve cut by two-thirds. Now it is rare to see kids with visible malnutrition, removing another preoccupation from mothers.

Schools and businesses never closed during the Covid pandemic, and Nicaragua’s health system has been among the most successful in the world addressing Covid. The country has the lowest number of Covid deaths per million inhabitants among all the countries of the Americas.

Nicaragua has also built a system of parks, playgrounds, and other free recreation where mothers can take their children.

Throughout the school system, the Ministry of Education promotes a culture of equal rights and non-discrimination. It has implemented the new subject “Women’s Rights and Dignities,” which teaches students about women’s right to a life without harassment and abuse and the injustices of the patriarchal system. Campaigns were launched to promote the participation of both mom and dad in a child’s education, such as emphasizing that attending school meetings or performances are shared responsibilities of both parents.

Women receive their diplomas from the National Technology Institute INATEC, where 62% of those enrolled are women.  []

Sandinistas’ Free Health Care System Liberates Women 

In stark contrast to Nicaragua’s neoliberal years, with its destruction of the medical system, and in contrast to other Central American countries and the United States with their privatized health care for profit, the Sandinistas have established community-based, free, preventive public health care. Accordingly, life expectancy has risen from 72 years in 2006 to 77 years today, now equal to the U.S. level.

Health care units number more than 1,700, including 1,259 health posts and 192 health centers, with one-third built since 2007. The country has 77 hospitals, with 21 new hospitals built, and 46 existing hospitals remodeled and modernized. Nicaragua provides 178 maternity homes near medical centers for expectant mothers with high-risk pregnancies or from rural areas to stay during the last weeks of pregnancy.

The United States is the richest country in the Americas, while Nicaragua is the third-poorest. Yet in the U.S. since 2010, more than 100 rural hospitals have closed, and fewer than 50% of rural women have access to pre-natal services within a 30-mile drive from their homes. This has disproportionately affected low-income women, particularly Black and Latino women.

Nicaragua has equipped 66 mobile clinics, which gave nearly 1.9 million consultations in 2020. These include cervical and breast cancer screenings, helping to cut the cervical cancer mortality rate by 34% since 2007. The number of women receiving Pap tests has increased almost five-fold, from 181,491 in 2007 to 880,907 in 2020.

In the pre-Sandinista era, one-fourth of pregnant women gave birth at home, with no doctor. There were few hospitals and pregnant women often had to travel rough dirt roads to reach a clinic or hospital. Now women need not worry about reaching a distant hospital while in labor because they can reside in a local maternity home for the last two weeks of their pregnancies and be monitored by doctors.

In 2020, 67,222 pregnant women roomed in one of these homes, and could be accompanied by their mothers or sisters. As a result, 99% of births today are in medical centers, and maternal mortality fell from 115 deaths per 100,000 births in 2006 to 36 in 2020. These are giant steps forward in the liberation of women.

Contrary to the indifference to women in the U.S., Nicaraguan mothers receive one month off work before their baby is born, and two months off after; even men get five days off work when their baby is born. Mothers also receive free milk for six months. Men and women get five paid days off work when they marry.

The Question of Abortion Rights

The law making abortion illegal, removing the “life and health of the mother” exception, was passed in the National Assembly under President Enrique Bolaños in 2006. There had been a well-organized and funded campaign by Catholics all over Latin America as well as large marches over the previous two years in Nicaragua in favor of this law.

Enrique Bolaños in 2002. [Source:]

The law, supported by 80% of the people, was proposed immediately before the presidential election as a vote-getting ploy by Bolaños. The Sandinistas were a minority in the National Assembly at the time, and the FSLN legislators were released from party discipline for the vote. The majority abstained, while several voted in favor. The law has never been implemented or rescinded.

Since the Sandinistas’ return to power in 2007 no woman or governmental or private health professional has been prosecuted for any action related to abortion. Any woman whose life is in danger receives an abortion in government health centers or hospitals. Many places exist for women to get abortions; none has been closed or attacked, and none is clandestine. The morning-after pill and contraceptive services are widely available.

Sandinista Measures to Free Women from Violence 

Nicaragua has created 102 women’s police stations, special units that include protecting women and children from sexual and domestic violence and abuse. Now women can talk to female police officers about crimes committed against them, whether it be abuse or rape, making it easier and more comfortable for women to file complaints, receive counseling for trauma, and ensure that violent crimes against women are prosecuted in a thorough and timely manner.

Nicaragua’s women in blue. [Source:]

Women make up 34.3% of the 16,399 National Police officers, a high number for a police department. For instance, New York City and Los Angeles police are 18% women and Chicago is 23%.

The United Nations finds Nicaragua the safest country in Central America, with the lowest homicide rate, 7.2 per 100,000 (down from 13.4 in 2006), less than half the regional average of 19.

It also has the lowest rate of femicides in Central America (0.7 per 100,000), another testament to the Sandinista commitment to ending mistreatment of women.  The government organizes citizen-security assemblies to raise consciousness concerning violence against women and to handle the vulnerabilities women face in the family and community. Mifamilia, the Ministry of the Family, carries out house-to-house visits to stress prevention of violence against women and sexual abuse of children.

Nicaragua is the most successful regional country in combating drug trafficking and organized crime, freeing women from the insecurity that plagues women in places such as Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

Women’s Leadership in the Nicaragua Government

The progress women have made during the second FSLN era is reflected in their participation in government. The 1980s’ Sandinista directorate contained no women. In 2007, the second Sandinista government mandated equal representation for women, ensuring that at least 50% of public offices would be filled by women, from the national level to the municipal.

Today, 9 out of 16 national government cabinet ministers are women. Women head the Supreme Electoral Council, the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s office, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and account for 60% of judges. Women make up half of the National Assembly, of mayors, of vice-mayors and of municipal council members. Women, so represented in high positions, provide a model and inspires all women and girls to participate in building a new society with more humane human relations.


No Greater Democratic Victory Than the Liberation of Women

The progress made in women’s liberation is seen in the Global Gender Gap Index: In 2007, Nicaragua ranked 90th on the index; by 2020, it had jumped to 5th place, exceeded only by Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Nicaragua is a country that has accomplished the most in liberating women from household drudgery and domestic slavery because of its policies favoring the social and political participation and economic advancement of poor women.

Women have gained a women’s police commissariat, legal recognition of their property, new homes for abused women and for poor single mothers, economic programs that empower poorer women, abortion is not criminalized in practice, half of all political candidates and public office holders are women, extreme poverty has been cut by half, mostly benefiting women and children, domestic toil has been greatly reduced because of modernized national infrastructure, women have convenient and free health care.

In their liberation struggle, Nicaraguan women are becoming ever more self-sufficient and confident in enforcing their long-neglected human rights. They are revolutionizing their collective self-image and ensuring their central role in building a new society. This betters the working class and campesinos as a whole by improving the quality of life for all and is a vital weapon in combating U.S. economic warfare.

As Lenin observed, “The experience of all liberation movements has shown that the success of a revolution depends on how much the women take part in it.” Nicaragua is one more living example that a new world is possible.

• First published in CovertAction Magazine

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