Corporate Charters Get the Cash: Philadelphia Charter School Battle Casts Nationwide Shadow

Nationally noted activist/educator Dr. Walter D. Palmer, founder of an innovative charter school in Philadelphia, is in a historic battle with Philadelphia School District officials which could impact charters across Pennsylvania as well as the current debates nationwide over reforming public education.

At issue is the failure of Philadelphia district officials to provide $1.7-million in funds for the high school at Palmer’s charter–money that he says prior school district officials approved but never delivered.

District officials counter that the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Charter School, before launching its high school, never obtained formal approval from the School Reform Commission. As a consequence, they claim the school district owes the school nothing.

The SRC is a state government created and controlled entity that oversees public schools in Philadelphia including the 74 charters operating in that city.

If Palmer looses this battle, now being fought out in Pennsylvania’s appellate Commonwealth Court, it could bankrupt the school he opened in 2000, shuttering the impressive multi-million new building opened a few years ago in an impoverished section of North Philadelphia.

A win for the Palmer School enables charter schools in Philadelphia and statewide to increase enrollments.

Don’t Act, Don’t Lead: Obama Stiffs Gays in the Military Yet Again

Candidate Barack Obama, running for president, vowed to end the ludicrous Pentagon policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which, since it was established in 1993 by President Clinton has required gay and lesbian members of the uniformed services to hide their sexual orientation or be drummed out of the service.

In 2009, just installed in the White House, President Obama reiterated that the policy “doesn’t contribute to our national security.”

But now that a federal judge has ruled the policy to be unconstitutional, and has more recently issued an injunction barring the Pentagon from enforcing it, the president has responded not by deciding to let the court order stand, thus ending this particular form of discrimination against gays and lesbians, but rather by appealing the decision in an attempt to reverse it.

This is a case of the President/Commander-in-Chief following his own pathetic political policy of “Don’t Act, Don’t Lead.”

Time to Get Tough on Crime: Let’s Nail the Banksters Who Have Stolen Millions of Homes

There are calls in this election season for establishing a moratorium of some sort on home foreclosures, and a number of large banks have even voluntarily stopped, at least until after Election Day, on foreclosing on houses. That’s fine as far as it goes, but what about the millions of homes that have already been lost or stolen over the past several years?

Behind the talk of a legal moratorium on foreclosures, and the voluntary pause announced by some banks, lies the reality that many if not most of the mortgages in question are legally dubious. The homeowner getting a foreclosure notice frequently has no idea who the actual holder or holders of a mortgage may be, and banks that are trying to foreclose often themselves have no idea who actually holds title to the papers. This is because with the securitization of mortgages, they have been traded and re-traded, and often have even been diced up into pieces of mortgage-backed securities, so that the paper trail of ownership has been lost, perhaps irrevocably.

Homes foreclosed upon through fraudulent document should be recovered from criminal banksHomes foreclosed upon through fraudulent document should be recovered from criminal banks

In some cases and some jurisdictions, federal bankruptcy courts have been tossing out foreclosure cases, saying that the foreclosing bank has no proof of ownership of the mortgage and thus cannot claim the property. It’s a little like the person who is caught speeding and shows up in court to contest the charge only to have it tossed out because the ticketing officer didn’t show up in court to make her or his case.

Rules of Thumb for the Age of Doom

Anyone who claims that if you don’t know your history, you are doomed to relive it, is boring.

Anyone who claims that you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts is boring.

“Anyone dumb enough to wanna be in the military should be allowed in,” said the late great Bill Hicks. It was one of the few things he got wrong. Anyone dumb enough to wanna be in the military is too dumb to be trusted with a weapon. So getting gays into the military is not the issue. The issue is getting heterosexuals out of the military. They’re the ones who are shooting civilians for sport and taking trophies. Anyone who gets jazzed about equal rights for war criminals is boring.

As the Huffington Post gets bigger and bigger, it gets harder and harder to find the stuff that’s worth reading, unless you’re actually interested that Kim Kardashian bought a purse for $30,000.

Strange Bedfellows: The Death Penalty, Mumia Abu-Jamal and the European Parliament

Berlin — What do the USA, China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and North Korea have in common?

The answer may surprise you.

The European Parliament answered this question on October 2nd with passage of a resolution singling out that seemingly disparate list for criticism.

The embarrassing common thread among these six countries: an obsession with putting lots of people to death. The US, its key oil ally Saudi Arabia, its major trading partner China, its targeted enemies of Iran and North Korea, and its puppet ally Iraq all endorse the barbaric state-sanctioned practice of the death penalty, and lead the world in applying that terrible and irreversable sanction.

American Justice on Trial: Gratuitous Police Violence, False Testimony by Police, and a Rush to Bad Judgment

Hours after police in a Philadelphia suburb proudly paraded Kenneth Woods, 21, in front of the news media as the man responsible for killing a college student during a hi-speed crash while allegedly fleeing police in a stolen SUV, the cops backpedalled, admitting they arrested the wrong man.

Shortly after Woods’ arraignment on vehicular homicide and third-degree murder charges, the real culprit – Donny Sayers – telephoned police, reportedly confessing to his crimes and clearing Woods of any involvement.

That confession imploded a case against Woods that police had previous proclaimed was rock-solid, resting, they claimed, on fingerprint evidence, a cell phone photo and supposedly positive identification by the policeman who had pursued the SUV immediately before the fatal crash. (The driver of the stolen vehicle had fled on foot after the collusion and escaped pursuing police.)

Yet, when law enforcement authorities in Delaware County staged a press conference hours after Sayers’ surprise confession, they refused to fully accept responsibility for erring in so quickly fingering Woods, who was roughly body-slammed during his arrest despite his offering no resistance.

Afghanistan: Incubator for green energy

The only way to survive such an insane system is to be insane oneself.
– Joseph Heller

When the going gets weird, the weird go pro.
– Hunter Thompson

The Pentagon has its hands full in Afghanistan trying to make the debacle there look like a success for the December assessment it must provide President Obama.

The brilliant counterinsurgency theorist General David Petraeus is “pulling out all the stops,” according to The New York Times. He has expanded hunter/killer special-ops raids to a dozen a night, and he has pressured the CIA to ramp up its already heavy rate of drone attacks.

We no longer have body counts as in Vietnam, but the killing pace is on the rise to clear out insurgent leadership – or anyone, in COIN parlance, who is “irreconcilable” to US interests.

 Lou Ann MerkleA 20-ton MRAP begins its long, expensive journey to Afghanistan on the I-95 corridor in Virginia. Photo: Lou Ann Merkle

At the same time, a contrite Petraeus is apologizing profusely to the leaders of Pakistan for a cross-border helicopter raid that chopped up several Pakistani soldiers. This is in addition to the usual denial-then-apology cycle for the almost-weekly civilian deaths from the special-ops raids and drone attacks.

The Pakistanis are so furious over the cross-border helicopter raid they stopped US convoys delivering vital fuel into Afghanistan at the Khyber Pass, leading to at least 35 fuel trucks being torched and destroyed by either organized insurgents or members of the large and growing population of Pakistanis who hate our guts.

Then, there’s the case of outright psychopathic murderers in US uniform, such as Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs who stands accused of killing Afghan civilians for sport and collecting souvenir fingers.

Petraeus has pressured the reluctant Pakistani military to attack insurgent elements in the Pashtun border areas, and now Pakistani soldiers have been caught on video lining up six young, blindfolded civilian males and gunning them down. We find this offensive, since we do our killing discriminately – or by killing people who get in the way of our super lethal weapons, then apologizing.

“I am appalled,” says Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee. He has threatened this “could have implications for future security assistance to Pakistan.”

Lying to Win at the Supreme Court: Obama Administration Continues to Pursue More Secrecy and Less Privacy

The crazed obsession with secrecy, security, and ever-increasing intrusiveness by government policing and intelligence authorities into the lives of ordinary Americans has continued apace under the Obama administration. This madness can be illustrated by a case currently before the US Supreme Court involving the scientists who work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The case began back in the Bush/Cheney years when scientists at JPL objected vigorously to a new order that they all submit to deep background checks in order to receive new identity cards that would allow them to go to work. They were warned, when they complained about a security check that would involve looking back all the way to their college days, into not just arrest records, but student drug use, sexual histories, political activities, etc., based upon wide-ranging interviews with past employers, acquaintances, friends, family, etc., that failure to agree to the investigations would mean they could no longer come to work.

What made the whole thing ridiculous from the outset is that NASA is by law a civilian agency. It does not engage in national security activities. The scientists at JPL run the deep space probes like Viking, Cassini and the other planetary exploration programs, as well as other civilian satellite projects. Yet they were being told that even people who had worked at JPL and NASA for decades, back to the days of the Apollo Program, would be fired if they refused to submit to the new security checks.

Robert Nelson, JPL scientist and lead plaintiff against government-imposed security checksRobert Nelson, JPL scientist and lead plaintiff against government-imposed security checks

The JPL scientists rallied against the plan and filed suit, winning at the district and appellate court levels, and many assumed that with the arrival of the Obama administration, the whole idea would be dropped.

No such luck.

Letter from the Heartland

Jefferson County, KS — It’s too late for Mr. Goldsmith, for former Kansas City, KS Police Detective Max Seifert and hundreds of thousands.

Bank of America and several other giant banks last week announced they are halting foreclosures across many states.

But we have already witnessed our courts turned into vast paper mills churning out foreclosures and lawsuits from credit card companies, the public servants turned into collection agencies for the easy credit vultures preying on the gullible, the desperate and the stupidly poor and greedy–and nobody’s talking about people getting back homes already stolen by those corrupt operations. Ultimately, all we’ve gotten has been a national circular firing squad, without competent leadership or investigators. The institutions once used to punish the violent, or to protect the vulnerable, instead have become a gargantuan legal hammer smashing the lives of millions into what may be years of grinding of poverty.

I Won't Be Fooled Again

The Democrats keep calling me. They’re asking for money. It’s understandable, I guess. Ever since voting for Dick Gregory’s Freedom and Peace Party presidential campaign in 1968, I’ve pulled the Democratic lever and even actively campaigned for Gore, Kerry, and especially for Obama.

Not a big-time donor, I made small contributions routinely. Not a campaign organizer, I put in weekly stints at the phone bank, where I happen to be very effective. Not a media pundit, I jawboned my friends, including my highly skeptical editor, to vote for the dude.

It’s paying volunteers like me who help win elections. Yet, many of us grassroots activists share a sense of mounting despair, anger, and profound disillusionment with the present administration, adding up to a far bigger threat to Democrats than the Tea Baggers can muster. Yo! We’re your base! Labor, women, minorities, young people, and progressives – remember us?

Look what’s happening: