(LAST MONTH - September 27, 2011) Texas Climate - Reaping what we sow


It's hot, I mean really hot. How hot is it in Texas? Just yesterday in Waxahachie I saw two trees fighting over a dog.

Texas, is experiencing a scorching summer and set to break all-time historic heat and drought records in cities throughout the state. Worse than in 1925-26, 1936. 1950-57, 2005-6. Worse even than the Dustbowl. And, there are some forecast that the drought could continue through 2012.

We've seen less than an inch of rain statewide in July and August. Stock tanks have run dry, urban reservoirs are being depleted and water tables have fallen...threatening to dry up sacred springs. With more than 98 percent of the state is in the two most extreme stages of drought, cattle are sickening and dying. City water lines are breaking as the ground shifts, corn and wheat crops are destroyed, and many businesses are going under.

According to David Anderson, a livestock economist with Texas A&M's Agrilife Extension Service, the current drought is likely to be the costliest ever. Losses to farmers and ranchers have already passed an estimated $5.2 billion and continue to rise.

As my grandpappy would say whenever things got really bad, or we'd done something wrong, Perhaps it's "come-to-Jesus time" for we Texans who have continued our wasteful ways and our contribution to the drought.

For too long, we have been relying on natural benevolence while degrading the earth. Some would even say that we are now reaping what we sowed - burning oil in an extravagant way that has led to a greenhouse effect that is now burning us in return. And, no amount of prayin' is going to solve the problem of dissipated use of resources and the needs of a growing state.

Energy Excess

Texas has long been proud to be the leading crude oil and natural gas-producing state in the nation. We are home to nearly all of the world's major oil companies and have reaped the financial benefits to the tune of trillions of dollars from energy and its movement around the globe.

But, we also produce and consume more electricity than any other state in the nation. Our 25 million people use nearly as much as California and Florida combined (56 million). At 11,552 Trillion BTU's …..that's a lot of coldbeer (in Texas cold beer is one word).

Business and industry account for half of all energy use in the Lone Star State, and our residential use of electricity is significantly higher than anyplace in the world. This creates a situation where the smokestacks of coal and oil-burning plants ring the state belching millions of tons of pollution into the air. Texas produces a significant portion of all greenhouse gas emissions throughout the globe.

Added to the emissions that come from electrical generation, Texans drive lots of cars and produce tons of additional greenhouse gas emissions. Each Texas resident produces approximately 32 tons of carbon dioxide each year. This makes us #1 in the U.S and #4 in the world in terms of air pollution that every Texas man, woman and child helps generate.

Water Wasters

Texans are also some of the most extravagant users of water in the world and second only to California in the amount of water consumed. We use if for everything from electric power generation, watering our lawns, livestock, manufacturing, and farming. More recently, "fracking" of oil shale to release natural gas is also a big contributor to water usage.

In 2004, Texas consumed 15.5 million acre-feet of both ground and surface water, but our thirst is unquenchable. In 2010, natural gas companies used 13.5 billion gallons of fresh water for hydraulic fracturing, and that could more than double by 2020. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has projected that total Texas water demand could rise to 21.6 million acre-feet by 2060 and no one knows where it's going to come from-the current plans for water reservoirs won't help; they will just provide more shallow pools of evaporation, much like Canyon Lake or Lake Buchanan. Fracking alone may soon consume thirty to thirty-five percent of total water usage-and don't forget, that's not water that will be returned to the hydrological cycle---polluted by hundreds of toxic chemicals, and often by radioactive elements, it is gone forever. No wonder that a group of anxious farmers and ranchers recently met with the TWDB to ask for relief. They're afraid that their regions will join those which are already running dry.

Scientists like Dr. Richard Seager of the Lamont Doherty Center at Columbia University tell us that Texas is moving into a state of perpetual drought, with desertification, the process of literally becoming a desert, moving into Texas from Mexico at the rate of several miles per year. State climatologist John Neilson Gammon tells us that this particular drought could last through next spring, or even later-but like other scientists, he can't predict the frequency or intensity of drought periods.

Calling it a "Pee Water Plan", the cities of Big Springs, Midland, Odessa and Stanton, are recycling waste water for drinking. In usually-wet Houston residents have been told to stop watering their lawns as the metropolis drains Lake Conroe. League City has closed the public pool due to the drought. San Antonio has asked well-users to reduce their pumping by 30% and may soon move into Stage Three water restrictions, which are considered draconian by many. But even in the most severe of droughts, Texans are still using forty to sixty percent of available water for landscape irrigation. Perhaps they should start planning landscapes that are appropriate to the desert that Texas will become. El Paso, once facing water shortages, ripped up the urban turf.

Science Stoopid

Despite the clear evidence that we are using up national resources faster than they can be replenished and the fact of our contribution to global climate change, too many Texans continue to put their heads in the sand.

Governor-would-be-president Rick Perry calls for evangelical rain dances while denying global warming. His sentiment holds true with many Texans who willfully choose scientific illiteracy and ignorance over personal and social responsibility.

They are sowing a path of destruction that may end up burning - quite literally - through their homes, businesses and communities, unless they help to bring about change.

These are the "science stoopid" members of our community who stand in the way of governmental policies and community projects to deal with the issue.

The Future Rests With Us

The impacts of our energy and water use is coming home to Texans, but it's also affecting the citizens of the world. We must all become good stewards of our Earth.

Time is short for us to address our current drought and plan for the perpetual drought that scientists say will come. Incentivization programs targeting water use must be common in every municipality-traditional lawns should be abandoned, water-saving devices should be mandatory. As we look for better ways to grow drought-tolerant crops, we also need to be making long-range water plans for the state. Experts say that we won't be able to sustain electricity production at our state's plants should this drought continue and should the overall situation worsen. The time for conservation, of both water and energy, is now.

Resources for Water Wisdom and Energy Intelligence

There are several organizations which address water scarcity in Texas and throughout the United States. One of the best is Food and Water Watch. In Texas, we have the work done by the Hill Country Alliance and the Helotes Creek Nature Center. The San Antonio region benefits from the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance. The Texas Water Conservation Association is helpful in finding a group in your region.

Many other organizations in Texas address the underlying problems that have brought us to the brink. The Clean Economy Coalition of Corpus Christi is a prime example of a citizens' group that fights for better lives for Texans. Others include the SEED Coalition, the Texas office of Public Citizen and the Texas office of the Sierra Club.

Additionally, watch this space as Texans for Peace increases its involvement in these problems that so intrinsically affect Texans' lives. We hope to have a full-scale environmental effort, encompassing both environmental justice issues and energy and water issues before the end of the year. Together, we can make the changes that are needed in this world.

Dirty Oil Pipeline Coming

During the past week, scores of people have been arrested in Washington, DC while protesting the decision of the Obama Administration to o.k. the building a massive pipeline that would carry oil slurry from the tar sands of Mexico to Texas for refining.

The plan, first concieved under the Bush Administration has recently been championed by Hillary Clinton. Representative Henry Waxman, said the pipeline will carry oil from Canada’s tar-sands region, “the dirtiest source of transportation fuel currently available.”

Michael Brune, president of the Sierra Club, urged Obama to veto the project, but final approval of the $7 billion, 1,711-mile, project continues to move forward in Washington. More arrests are expected this week.

$20 Billion for AC ... in Afghanistan

Operation Enduring Disaster continues in Afghanistan and has become America's longest, and second costliest, war in the nation's history. Congress has approves hundreds of billions of dollars that has been wasted, including $20 Billion spent just on airconditioning for the troops - at a time when Afghan and American children go hungry and without.

While the pampered soldiers play videogames in front of wide-screen televisions in airconditioned bases, grunts sweat at forward operating bases (FOBs) in the field, wondering why they are there and when they will be allowed to come home. A few (very few) think about what else could be done with the $1.36 Trillion that has already been spent.

 

Texas schools not measuring up


The number of Texas schools that failed federal No Child Left Behind standards last year continues to rise. Texas schools failing to make “adequate yearly progress” increased to 2,233 from 368 last year, according to preliminary results released by the Texas Education Agency. Math and Science education levels are particularly troubling.

In related news, Governor Rick Perry apparently doesn't believe in science education. Perry, now running for U.S. president, told a boy that evolution is ”just a theory” with “gaps” and that in Texas they teach “both creationism and evolution.”

State borrows $9.8 billion

The mismanagement of state finances continues as the "no taxes" Legislature fails to address the costs of education. The state issued $9.8 billion of general-obligation notes, the state’s largest short-term debt offering, to fund public schools.

Texas increased its annual top-rated tax and revenue anticipation note sale from last year by $2 billion to cover payments to school districts until the bulk of tax revenue receipts next year. The additional borrowing will compensate for the end of federal stimulus funding and property-tax collections that are below what was budgeted...meaning that Texas taxpayers are rewarding bankers and investors for the Legislature's failures.


(ARCHIVES - June 25, 2011) Only YOU can prevent endless U.S.-led war


It is easy to a person to become disgusted, irate or even cynical at our nation's endless war and militarism. Particularly in view that we have a "peace" president who has escalated wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, refused to withdraw from Iraq and launched new wars of aggression in Libya and Yemen (and perhaps Syria and Iran during his second term).

Likewise, we have a Congress - with members from 'liberal' to 'conservative' who seem to delight at seeing who can outdo each other with wasteful and unneeded military spending (The "Defense" budget more than doubled since 2000 from $311 billion to $690 billion for 2012). This doesn't even take into account the "low level" wars, conflicts and military campaigns that the U.S. continues in Colombia, Israel/Palestine, Balkan states, Venezuela, Haiti, Mexico and elsewhere.

Sadly, too, are a majority of Americans who put partisanship above policy, believe the propaganda on the Pengaton and U.S. media and are unwilling to challenge their own assumptions of the efficacy of military strategies to achieve goals of peace and security.

And, those opposed to endless warmaking have taught, marched, protested and been imprisoned while trying to prevent and stop war - but with limited success. Some even say that the peace movement has "failed". Perhaps it's because the nonviolent revolution doesn't get much press in a nation where revolutions "will not be televised".

Instead, peace advocates and activists continue to work for effective approaches to social change in efforts to bring about peace and justice for the long term. We know that U.S.-led war will continue until American citizens bring it to halt and transform our nation into one where peace, nonviolence and justice prevails. Like the Smokey Bear slogan, only YOU can prevent endless war.

ACTIVE NONVIOLENCE

In order to effect social change and transform society into one that is peaceful and justice, proponents are committed to the principles of active nonviolence - and the use of means that are consistent with the ends. This is something that is lost on those who desire to end human suffering - such as in Libya or Darfur - by using the military. They don't get that military projection of violence only leads to further death and destruction and is the wrong strategy. Peacemakers, on the other hand, understand that "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way," in the words of A.J. Muste.

Taking a page from spiritual and moral leaders of the past, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped articulate the following Principles of Nonviolence that guided actions during U.S. civil rights and has been adopted around the world by nonviolent "revolutionaries".

Nonviolence....

1. Must be a way of life - it requires resistance to "evil", assertive spiritual, mental and emotionally actions, and continually seeks to persuade persons to the justice of the cause.
2. Must seek to win friends and understanding - it seeks an end where all are reconciled into a "Beloved Community".
3. Must focus on deeds, not people - it holds that all people have worth and that even those who commit evil are also its victims.
4. Seeks demonstration through action - it requires a willingness for actions that demonstrate commitment, accepts suffering without retaliation and, in doing so, convent someone when even reason fails

5. Chooses love over hate - it rejects violence, in all of its many forms, and gives love willingly even n the face of hostility.
6. Is for the long term - it requires patience and a commitment to a vision that peace and justice will eventually triumph over violence and injustice.

STRATEGIC PEACEMAKING

In examining the scores of nonviolent revolutions of the past century - from the overthrowing of dictators around the world and the liberation of nations - Gene Sharp researched and catalogued 198 methods of organized nonviolent strategies that continue to be used today, such as in the "Arab Spring" and anti-war movements. They list is quite extensive but is grouped into several areas that, if enacted, can bring about necessary change.

Methods of Nonviolent Protest and Persuasion

The first set of methods involves bringing attention and publicizing issues and to articulate the principles and arguments for the desired change. They include: Formal Statements - Declarations of position, letters, positions of organizations, petitions, and public speeches. Gandhi famously insisted that before taken action, one should always first notify the "opposition" of the action, the reasons for it and the escalations that would ensue should the response not be achieved.

Communications With A Wide Audience - Sloganeering, leafleting, articles, media campaigns and communications of all types should be employed to spread the message of the desired change.

For years now, the peace community has created websites, bumperstickers, billboard, editorials and other information to dispel the myths war even in the face the hundreds of millions of dollars that the Pentagon spends on military propaganda throughout every segment of U.S. society. However, more resources are needed in this area, if only to counteract the tremendous psychological operations (PSY OPS) perpetrated by those who favor war and the military's $300+ million annual propaganda budgets.

Group Representations - Lobbying, deputations, picketing and other actions by small and large groups are always required to communicate the message of nonviolence or "speak Truth to Power" to those from whom change is required.

Symbolic Public Acts - Clothing, yard signs, graffiti, public protests, praying, disrobings and other symbolic acts are used publically to draw attention to the cause and to serve a reminders of the issue in ways that often shock and startle.

Pressure on Individuals - These actions range from the "haunting" of public officials wherever they go to vigils and protests in their offices. Children's shoes, representing those of Iraqi children, have been delivered in person to members of Congress to help articulate the destruction of war. Congressmembers are challenged on their war positions when they go into the community as well.

Drama and Music - The use of humor, skits singing and other arts to amuse while pushing forward on a peace and justice issue. Last week, peace activists in Washington D.C. were arrested for "dancing" at the Jefferson Memorial.

Processions - Peace marches, parades, protest, motorcades and religious pilgrimages have long been used. Gandhi's Salt March was particularly effective in rallying people in India to the cause of the overthrow of British imperialism.

Honoring the Dead - Political mourning, mock funerals, and homage at burial places is sometimes used. The "Boots on the Ground - Eyes Wide Open" exhibits of the combat boots representing soldiers who have died, has been effective where it is displayed.

Social Noncooperation

One of the first principles of "change" is to quit cooperating with the thing that one desires changed. For example, if a person is against war then not joining the military is an essential part of non-cooperation. Some noncooperation is personal, while others - such as in the tactics used to overthrow apartheid South Africa - is enjoined by large groups.

Ostracism of Persons - Selective or entire boycotts, excommunication, interdiction and Lysistratic nonactions have been used to "cut off" persons, groups or oncooperation with Institutions - Suspension of sports and social activities, strikes, sitdowns, social disobedience and withdrawal of funds are used to increase pressure on institutions.

Withdrawal Entirely - "Sick outs", fleeing to sanctuaries, collective "disappearing", and individual refusal to participate - from elections to work - as a way to send a message and disrupt the social system.

Economic Noncooperation

Since most of society rests on underpinning economic frameworks, forcing economic change can often lead to social change.

Consumer Actions - Consumer boycotts, refusal to pay rent or taxes and international financial boycotts have been effective in bringing about changes, particularly of big corporations.

Actions by Workers - Workers' and producers' boycotts disrupt "business as usual". Strikes, slowdowns and other actions by workers have long been employed as effective tools. Most recently, dock workers in Seattle have refused to load military ordinance heading to Afghanistan.

Actions by Owners and Financiers - Refusals to trade, employ, buy and sell, withdrawing deposits, refusing to pay depts., etc. can also have an impact on the economy.

Actions by Governments - Embargos, blacklisting and other punitive measures can have an effect on a neighboring nation.

Political Noncooperation

When the problem is political, such as laws that are unjust, noncooperation with those laws or institutions often comes to the forefront. This includes refusal to elect leaders who have proven records of warmaking....even if they are friends or political partisans.

Outright Rejection of Authority - Withholding of allegiance, refusal to obey government edicts, non-assistance with investigators, boycotting schools and institutions and refusal to accept election outcomes demonstrates a lack of support for a particular authority.

Citizens' Actions - Nonobedience in the face of direct orders, refusal to assemble or disperse, noncooperation with conscription, hiding, false identities and other breaking of "illegitimate" laws.

Government & International Actions - Selective refusal of assistance by government workers, blocking of lines of communication, obstruction and "throwing a wrench in the machine" and outright mutiny. Diplomatic severance, withdrawal from international organizations, expulsions.

Nonviolent Intervention

Direct, nonviolent intervention in the path of violence is a method that is generally used when all other methods have failed or where the costs of nonintervention - such in a massacre - are too great to wait. They include:

Psychological Intervention - Fasts, mock trials, hunger strikes and others measures to bring moral pressure.

Physical Intervention - Sit-downs, stand-ins, freedom rides, flash mobs, raids, interjections, human chains, obstruction and occupations are all methods where a person's body is used directly in an action. A flotilla of international peace activist is currently sailing to Israel/Palestine to break the siege of Gaza , despite Israeli threats to kill participants and U.S. threats to arrest them as "terrorists".

Social Intervention - Teach-ins, guerilla street theatre, creation of alternative social institutions, overloading public facilities (i.e. filling the jails), and alternative communication are also used.

Economic Intervention - Land seizure, defiance of economic blockades, seizure of assets, alternative markets, and setting up alternative financial institutions have been used at various times.

Political Intervention - Overwhelming administrative systems, "leaking" government information, seeking imprisonment, rejection of sovereignty and direct undermining of governments.

NEXT STEPS FOR USA

After exhausting many of the steps above, it is now time for Americans who are opposed to the endless warmaking of the U.S. to escalate our actions, too - much as the military, political and corporate establishment has escalated theirs. In order to bring an end to overseas wars, the bankrupting of our nation and the possibility of widening global war, we must seek to employ the methods of nonviolence in even more creative ways, place more energy into these actions and, if needed, be willing to commit so-called "treasonous" acts. We demand "Jobs, Peace, Justice" for all!

The White House, Pentagon, President, Congress, federal agencies and the Supreme Court have demonstrated that they are willing to let such wars continue endlessly, along with the bankrupting of the nation. Arrests of peaceful citizens and unlawful detainment and torture have become acceptable norms in the eyes of Washington leaders and their enforcement agencies. War profiteers fill their coffers with the nation's treasure while parents cry over the graves that hold the bodies of their children.

The insanely destructive are aided by the fearful many and the sanctimonious few. They used the Big Lie that they are "protecting" America from "enemies", when in fact it is they that are bringing America to the edge of moral and financial bankruptcy and weakening our security.

The challenge for peace activists isn't just to be willing to undergo the difficulties that come with sometimes taking a stand in opposition to our government and its willing followers, but to do so in ways that are constructive and "win" over the other side.

It is not enough to stop the military from being deployed overseas, but we must enact laws that reduce its power and influence. We need to make sure that the military is subservient to The People and is only used in a proper manner and isn't large enough to be an aggressive force that dominates every part of society (i.e. militarism). We need to retool the soldiers into teachers, doctors and other profession that build and heal the world and quit telling youth that soldiers "serve the nation" when they are being sent off to fight unjust wars.

If Washington continues to deploy the same global strategies with bureaucrats in the Pentagon and elsewhere remaining in charge of domestic and foreign policy, we need to change the political guard in Congress and the presidency and constrain corporate influence over elected officials and the courts. Corrupt officials must be removed and sent to jail. Unjust laws must be rewritten.

Unjust laws and rulings that come from the courts need to be tested and infringements on personal freedom and liberties demand challenges if they are to be changed. You and I must repare to violate unjust laws and rulings, in ways small and large while clearing articulating alternative visions.

This October 7 will mark the 10th anniversary of America's longest war. For the past decade, the U.S. has warred on and occupied Afghanistan, then Iraq and now expanding into Pakistan, Libya and elsewhere. That symbolic date, on the heal of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, is an opportunity for America to reflect upon, and be challenged, to turn away from its chosen path of war and militarism. It will also be a time to focus on "Jobs, Peace, Justice". for all.

But, change in the U.S.A. won't come about without "U".

Many tools and tactics are available to the nonviolent strategists who seek change. 'Arm' yourselves with these and develop your own. Study Gandhi, MLK, Sharp and others to learn how nonviolent movements, and even handfuls of small groups, have changed the world through that 'force more powerful'. Activate your local community, house of worship, school or business to stand for good.

And, when the wars are over, as indeed they will one day be, celebrate knowing that you became the change you desired to see in the world - YOU helped stop the war machine.

Dallas Summer Peace Series "Moving Forward"

The Dallas Peace Center has an exciting lineup for the 7th Annual Summer Dinner Lecture Series. Highlighting this year's event is Rinku Sen, author of Colorlines, who will speak on racial justice and Matthew Hoh, Director of the Afghan study group and an advocate for a change in policy.

If you plan to be in the Dallas-Fort Worth area this summer, take advantage of this series and get to know the folks at the Dallas Peace Center.

Houston gays celebrate NY vote

On the eve of the Houston Gay Pride parade and festival, LGBT Houstonians and their allies in celebrated the decision by the state of New York to leagalize same-sex marriage. The legislation passed by a bi-partisan vote and makes New York the largest state to allow gay marriage. Texas, larger than NY, is home to more gay couples.

New York now joins Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa and Washington, D.C. and countries - from Canada to Argentina - that allow gay marriage.

Billions missing in Iraq

The Iraq Parliament wants to know where $18.7 Billion spent by the U.S. in Iraq has gone unaccounted for. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is refusing to tell U.S. government investigators how much money it sent to Iraq during the first years of the American invasion as a top Iraqi official suggested the missing and possibly stolen funds from that era is more than $18 billion – nearly three times the previously reported figure.

The Bush Administration, already accused of war crimes, now stands with the most corrupt dictators in the world in the scale of financial theft.

Wrongly jailed man get $1.4M


A Texas man imprisoned for nearly two decades for the killings of a grandmother and five children that he didn't commit will receive $1.4 million in compensation after the Texas Legislature added a provision specifically addressing his case. Anthony Graves had been declared innocent by a special prosecutor last year in the 1992 killings of the six family members outside Houston. However, because of the wording of the order exonerating him, the 45-year-old former inmate had been unable to collect under a 2009 Texas law that gives exonerees $80,000 for every year they spent in prison. State Comptroller, Susan Combs refused to make payment.

Graves now says he's grateful that things have been cleared up, but that the money "doesn't even come close" to making up for the time he spent in prison. "I lost 18 years of my life," he said. "It wasn't like I hit the lottery."

Ready for another Texan in the White House?

Congressman Ron Paul of Texas and governor Rick Perry have both been touted as possible Republican nominees for U.S. president. Both have been on the campaign trail and speaking before Republican crowds - although each has a different message.

Perry touts fiscal and social conservatism but is also associated with the George W. Bush tax cuts that left state coffers bare and have created a financial crisis for Texas schools. Paul focuses on libertarian principles of antiwar isolationism and reducing the size of government. Both Perry and Paul have pledged to eleminate the healthcare reforms that were enacted into law by Congress under president Obama. It should be an interesting race to watch.

(ARCHIVES - March 28, 2011) If You Can Read This - Thank a Teacher
(or: How the Texas Legislature is Intent on Driving the School Wagon Into the Ditch)


One can only presume that members of the Texas Legislature possess a modicum of basic language and computational literacy. After all, most are products of Texas public schools.

However, many apparently failed their civics, economic and business classes - as indicated by their approach to education funding. While the population and economy grows, legislators are poised to slash funding for schools, create a wave of teacher layoffs and reverse decades of educational reforms and improvements.

Basic Lesson in Civics: A Growing Texas Needs More Schools, Not Fewer

Nearly two hundred years ago, early Texas settlers were so concerned about the lack of public education that they listed this item as one of their grievances in the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico. And, one of the first things that Texas parents and community members voted on was to set aside public lands to support public schools in every county and allocate land for a state university.

The "cultivated mind is the guardian genius of Democracy" challenged President Mirabeau B. Lamar in his first address to the Texas Congress. Lamar envisioned a state where the children of a rough and hardscrabble population would attend public schools and universities. He saw a rich land that could be put to use to create wealth and education for a growing citizenry.

Texas' population grew more rapidly that that of the U.s. as a whole in every decade since Lamar's time and increased from 20.8 million in 2003 to 25.1 million today - a tremendous rate. Growth had traditional come from an influx of working families who immigrated from across the country and from overseas, but it continues to expand by natural births.

The number of children enrolled in Texas public schools (Pre-K through 12th grade) grew from 4 million to 4.3 million in the 10 years since 2000. These young Texans primarily receive their education through a network of more than 8,000 schools from the tiniest rural towns to large suburban high schools. Hundreds of thousands more attend junior colleges and public and private universities from El Paso to Beaumont.

More workers. Young families. Lots of kids. This equals the need for more schools. For Texas to remain a vibrant and democratic state, all of our citizens and residents must have access to the best education has to offer. As the kids say, "do the math".

Basic Lesson in Economics: As Our Competition Becomes Smarter, So Must Our Kids

As parents, business and community leaders we are proud of our students and want them to have access to a broad-based education system that allows anyone to succeed. We know that Texas operates in a global economy - much of it information and knowledge based - and that the future of our state rests on the ability of these young people to compete.

Texas has grown to become one of the top 10 economies in the world and our per capita gross income is even higher than the U.K. From the natural energy wealth and rich farms to computer chips, tourism and medical technologies, the Texas economic engine is going strong. Texas is the largest exporter of goods in the U.S. and has the second largest workforce.

Our state should continue to grow if we invest more, not less, in education. Otherwise, we face the challenge of not being able to compete in a rapidly advancing world. The "rules of the household" don't change in our global neighborhood. Our kids need quality education now more than ever before to we risk losing all

Average K-12 test scores in Texas are still ahead of Mexico and Russia but have fallen behind countries like Poland and Hungary. Texas ranks particularly low in educational performance among the industrialized world due to high drop-out rates and low numbers of college graduates.

While the number of students attending college is increasing, only 27% of Texas adults have even a 2-year associate's degree or higher compared to a U.S. average of 40%. At least twelve countries are ahead of even that.

Basic Lesson in Business: An Educated Workforce is Essential to Texas

Concerned about the state of the Texas workforce, during the past three decades educators, administrators, legislators and business leaders collaborated in reforms that produced dramatic gains in elementary and middle schools and helped to reduce achievement gaps between student populations. Texas established standards and frameworks for accountability that became a model for the nation.

This partnership between business and government was tested during the most recent recession and business leaders know how essential education is for the future.

The Texas Association of Business, which touts itself as "taxpayers," "job creators," and "defenders of freedom," states that "good jobs, good wages and good benefits should be bountiful; and a job is a solution to most every social problem." These business support education and preparing students for post-secondary education and to enter the workforce and concur that more education is necessary to keep pace with the demands of employers.

The greatest obstacle Texas faces is preparing students to graduate with a degree that prepares them for postsecondary education or to enter the workforce. With more education necessary to keep pace with the demands of employers, Texas must have a rich supply of workers on hand to fill jobs.

To make sure that Texas has a rich supply of workers on hand to fill jobs we, as citizens, invest much in our young people. Per pupil spending on Texas students grew from approximately $8,500 in 2000 to around $10,000 today according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) but still lags the nation as a whole. Data that shows that states with higher per pupil expenditures tend to have higher student achievement.
Even though Texas doesn't spend as much as some other states, more students are graduating high school and attending college than ever before and the Texas labor force has continued to become more skilled and better educated. This has helped Texas employers to remain strong during tough economic times and offer new entrepreneurial opportunities across the state.

But it could all come to a grinding halt as the Legislature drives Texas education into a ditch.

The Wheels May Come Off

The Legislature's most recent draft budget calls for $4.5 billion in cuts to public education funding over the next two years (and $23 billion in overall state cuts). School boards and administrators are bracing for cuts of as much as 10% of their budgets, already hit by declining property values, as the state's share of education possibly gets reduced.

Various estimates are that state and local school budget costs could result in as many as 100,000 employees statewide - a blow to the Texas economy. Many school districts and universities have already begun cutting staffs while others are planning their 2011-12 budgets with dramatic contingencies. Some examples from around the state:

Corpus Christi - Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi would could lose about $11 million over the next two years. "If they [cuts] stand, they will be very devastating to the school," President Flavius Killebrew said. Local officials may be have to increase class sizes, freeze positions vacated by retirees or implement an early retirement plan for employees.

Austin - Austin ISD, worried that they might face a $140 million shortfall, is contemplating closing 9 schools - some "exemplary" elementary campuses and laying off 1,153 employees even as district enrollment continues to grow. Round Rock ISD expects to lose up to $73 in state funding and "Everything is on the table now," said the district's superintendent while cutting 280 employees. Hutto ISD is considering closing one of its new elementary schools and splitting the students between another elementary and middle school. Leander ISD is cutting 250 jobs.

Lubbock - Texas Tech's Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, with only 100 students, estimates that it could get $13 million less from the state over the next two years and could even face closure.

San Antonio - San Antonio ISD is is eliminating 125 positions in an effort to save $50 million. Northside ISD expects to need to cut $52 million, and eleminate 1,300 jobs even as it projects its enrollment to grow by 10,000 students during the next four years. South San Antonio ISD plans to increase class sizes in high school and eliminate some teaching positions.

Dallas - Dallas ISD is talking up to $150 million in cuts and laying off 4,000 employees. Denton schools could receive $27 million to $44 million less. Arlington is contemplating upping class sizes in Kindergarten and elementary grades. "We are now at the point where educational programming is pushed by the need to deal with every mounting budget reduction and not necessarily by mounting requirements of a 21st century education of our boys and girls," Stratton School Principal Alan Brown said.

El Paso - El Paso Community College students would get nearly $1.6 million less in state financial aid, officials estimate. "Community colleges are growing at such a fast rate that these reductions and the lack of funding for growth are going to negatively impact the ability for us to keep our doors open for all students," College President Richard Rhodes said.

Houston - Houston ISD, the 2nd largest school district in the nation, might have to slash between $203 million and $348 million - up to a fifth of its budget, according to estimates from a leading school-finance firm. HISD serves about 204,000 students with a $1.6 billion budget, and faces the biggest reductions. HISD's chief financial officer, Melinda Garrett, says, "You could cut out the entire central administration - every department - and you'd still be $120 million short."

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD could face up t $116 million in cuts, while Fort Bend ISD could lose up to $74 million. Aldine ISD is looking at $30-60 million in cuts. Humble

Abilene could lose anywhere from $9 to $16 million.

Even small rural districts would be hit hard. Almost half of the state's 1,000 school districts have fewer than 500 students, but they educate a very small portion of the state's 4.5 million students and have to fight for every penny they receive from the Capitol.

Tiny Miles ISD (425 students) would lost about 15% of its budget in 2012-13. Marathon (56 students) just finished paying off a $248,000 loan to cover its debt and is worried about closing altogether. Lumberton, north of Beaumont, says the cuts will be like a hurricane.

None of These Cuts, is Pre-ordained or Even Required.

Even as the Legislature ensconces itself in the Capitol, the Texas economy continues to grow.

Texas gross domestic product (GDP) grow surged during the 2000s, and Texas' private sector growth is an estimated $1.2 Trillion annually. To put this in a global perspective: Texas, with only 25 million people, has an economy is nearly as great as India with its population of over 1 billion. Texas is home to 44 Billionaires and some of the world's most prosperous companies. We are a state that is wealthier than ever before and there is no reason to be cutting school budgets.

At the same time, many home owners are fed up with high cost of school finance. As the state's share of school budgets has gone down their local property taxes have gone up. There has been a redistribution of the tax burden away from traditional sources such as energy, agriculture and industry to the individual middle-class family. People on all sides of the budget debate acknowledge that the system of school finance is terrible and needs to be overhauled, but the Legislature continues to punt on the issue year after year.

Their solution for 2012? Cuts. Cuts, and more cuts.

Rather than deal responsibly with the need for better schools, legislators are in Austin telling parents, educators, businesses and community leaders that it's not their problem. The lack of leadership, from the governor on down, is threatening to make Texas a laughingstock once again. Even worse, if schools do end up having to make dramatic cutbacks in 2011-12 it could take years to education in Texas to recover.

Coalitions of groups, like Save Texas Schools, have descended upon Austin to implore legislators to fund schools, but their message has fallen on deaf ears so far. While politicians dine at The Four Seasons and the Driskill Hotel, their pens are poised to slash funding for education.

It is up to us, as parents, business leaders and citizens, to make sure that our schools aren't gutted and to remind politicians that they are sent to Austin to provide basic services and tackle hard issues to the betterment of Texas.

If you can read this, thank a teacher - but not today's Texas Legislature.

Houston Peacemakers will network April 3

Houston peacemakers will feast and network together at the Houston Peace & Justice Center's annual Peace Potluck on April 3. This annual event include activities for children, tabling by various groups and great entertainment.

If you are in the Houston area, plan to network with other like-minded folks at St. Stephen's Church (Woodhead @ 1800 Sul Ross Houston 77098). HPJC’s centrality to peace and justice work is in its ability to call upon the resources of the appropriate organizations, institutions, and individuals and to execute its projects across the city and region.

Dallas congresswoman leads peace

Congresswoman, Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, was recently lauded for a new program that she has begun, lead by women, to spread non-violent conflict resolution around the world.

Called "A World of Women for World Peace," the program includes a curriculum of conflict resolution for girls of all ages. Johnson said the program is based on respect for those who have different beliefs. "That is kind of our approach, is to respect those differences, allow people to have their space to have those differences, and I have worked with people in war-torn areas, from Bosnia to Afghanistan, Bahrain, throughout Africa, Sudan women, Palestinian and Israeli women, and also Iraqi women as well."

Texans celebrate Chávez legacy

Thousands of Texas celebrated the enduring life and legacy of civil rights leader César Chávez last week - from Lubbock to Laredo. Students in Lubbock marched on Saturday. Laredens too. There were big rallies in Austin, San Antonio and Houston as well.

A more become aware of the rich Hispanic legacy of Texas, and the contributions of Chávez to the dignity of all peoples, people young and old are turning out in greater numbers at local events.

"Save Our State" Rally April 6th in Austin

A coalition of groups from across Texas will call on the state government to prioritize education, health care, public safety, the environment, and jobs with a mass rally and events on April 6.

Building on the spirit and energy of rallies around the country calling on state governments to prioritize education, health care, public safety, the environment, and jobs, these proud Texans believe io a balanced approach to the state budget and moving Texas forward (instead of backwards as the current Legislature seems to be going). Families, individuals and groups are invited to the State Capitol in Austin throughtout the day to visit legislators and affect how their government is run

(ARCHIVE: December 22, 2010) 'Peace on Earth' through superior firepower?

"Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet," says General James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command at the Pentagon. Our Warrior-in-Chief is part of a generation of Americans who believe in peace through superior firepower and uphold the military way. General Mattis has Pentagon operational responsibility for the Middle East and Central Asia and, as such, he carries out the U.S. 'War on Terror' by occupying large chunks of Iraq and Afghanistan, sending drones on the homes of Pakistanis and unleashing terror on millions of people on behalf of the President and Congress. What a nice "Christmas" present.

Imagine if General James Mattis, were in charge of writing the nativity scene in the New Testament of the Bible: "And for U.S.A. child is born, to U.S.A. a Future Soldier is given, and He will protect the government. And He will be called Warrior, America's Hope, Everlasting Protector, Prince of War." None of this namby-pamby "love one another" nonsense.

'Mad Dog' Mattis has also been quoted widely for his enthusiastic approach towards violence and warmaking. "It's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people," the grinchy Commandant said while speaking about Afghans before he was appointed to his post in early 2010 by President Obama.

But Mattis can't take all of the credit. He is only emblematic of the long list of American commanders who live for war and violence and who illumine the dark the halls of what has become the new center of U.S. government - the Pentagon.

Notwithstanding your old civics class that described the U.S. government in the context of three branches - the White House, Congress and Supreme Court - the Pentagon and defense establishment has emerged as a fourth. This hallowed star of federal government has become single greatest entity in Washington, with the grandest building, largest discretionary budget and real "troops" of personnel that today dominates much of domestic policy and virtually all foreign policy. It has become, in essence, an enormous beast clothed in the crisp uniform of "service " to the most militarized nation on earth. So you'd better watch out, you Pinkos.

Since the end of WWII the Pentagon, along with the alphabet-soup agencies that make up Homeland Security, has grown to become such a hefty entity that it virtually controls large chunks of land and commerce in every part of the U.S. and in many nations around the world. Governments from Israel to Colombia are direct vassals dependent on Pentagon largesse and even nations whose citizens oppose many U.S. policies, from Cuba to New Zealand, nevertheless have American military bases on their shores. The sun never sets on the U.S. military empire. Surely, God-Blesses-The-USA!

But despite the lofty goals, and throwing tens of trillions of dollars around since the end of WWII, the Pentagon just can't seem to achieve a benevolent society or peaceful relations among nations. Perhaps it's because that as an institution, it is made up on men and women who essentially believe - as do most Americans - in the efficacy of violence, the virtue of "the state" and the sanctity of military "sacrifice"? Cheezus on a cracker.

While they swear allegiance to the Constitution, it often appears that most Pentagon leaders believe more in the duty of serve and protect the institution of the federal government and their masters in Washington. There is little talk about how to "promote the general Welfare" (Communist!) or ensure the "domestic Tranquility" (Hippy!) in their emphasis on "defense". The lore, ceremonies and creeds that the Pentagon have constructed to ensu compliance, discipline and order - even under the threat of human death - would make an offer-the-other-cheek messiah blush. These certainly aren't the kind of sanctity for life nurturing principles that the world's religious peoples affirm. Thank the generals.

The Soldier's Creed (Warrior's Ethos), a standard that the U.S. Army teaches to all enlisted personnel during basic training, provides a glimpse into the aggressive mindset of those who run our country.

I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit……..

Thank goodness that there is nothing in this creed regarding the concepts of 'goodwill to all'…and it appears that "peace" was overlooked as well. Otherwise all of that military ordinance might have been wasted.

The Warrior's Creed certainly wasn't written by any of Jesus' followers. Nor does it even come close to Jewish concepts of "shalom" or the peace of Islam. There is no lamb lying down with the lion in the Pentagon view of earth….only asymmetrical combat against endless enemies of the state and continual dominance by the "projection of force". Who needs an angry "God" when you have the mightiest army on earth?

In recent decades the Pentagon has turned America's plowshares into swords, sickles into spears. They sure train well for war. Blessed are their landmines and nukes.

Through its propaganda, colossal budgets and marching armies of millions of war advocates (active duty, contractors, think tanks and veterans) the U.S. military has become enshrined as the czar of domestic societal priorities and the arbiter of foreign efficacy. No problem is too large or small that someone in the Pentagon can't fix.

We did so well in Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq and Afghanistan, didn't we?

It looks like Martin Luther King was wrong when he observed, "returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars... Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." He couldn't find "love" in the warrior's lexicon.

Those who witness the continuous wars of the Pentagon and other armies around the world think that the military might may just be a greater curse than a friend. While asking for "security" they have trouble recognizing a peace that comes from a gun.

Malalai Joya , an Afghan leader who has stared down numerous assassination attempts since 2003 and was suspended from parliament in 2007 for comparing the body to a "barn full of animals", fights against corruption in her own country and the war that has come to her land. "Afghans face three enemies," she said recently, "the occupying forces, the Taliban, and the warlords." Joya got her start as a humanitarian during the Taliban regime, establishing underground health clinics and orphanages to spite the country's fundamentalist rulers. Now she is sceptical of Kabul's current powers, NATO and the Taliban. "Democracy without independence has no meaning," she said.

Other Afghans echo her view. Tired of living with three decades of war and worsening conditions.

"Do you think we like to live this way?" an Afghan man asked as he led a peaceworker towards a primitive tent encampment on the outskirts of Kabul. "Do you see how we live? The cold and the rain are coming. How will we protect our children?" He flicked his forefinger on a weather-beaten blanket covering a tent. The blanket immediately ripped.

Standing next to him is a man who quietly handed her three crumpled photos, never lifting his eyes from the ground. An interpreter identified the man as his cousin. The first picture showed his cousin's ruined home. A U.S. aerial bombardment had destroyed the dwelling. The next pictures were of two bloodied children. "All of his children were killed," the spokesperson said. "All his family, his wife, his five children, by an attack from the air."

Another young man, 14-year-old Abdulai, had a father killed by the "Taliban". Like every other human being he now copes with sorrow, hate, fear and anger simultaneously. He wakes up to the chronic war days in his land sensing that 'something is very wrong with the world he's caught up in. "these elders of the world are not getting it," he says.

More and more Afghans, like Joya and Abdulai, are rusubg against the Pentagon's plans on their country. They are literate enough to know that the U.S. has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on war while their friends and neighbors go hungry. They can also see that the war is no closer to being resolved in 2011 that it was when the U.S. invaded a decade ago. They are saying "Get Out!"

"Love is how we firmly take our stand," say the Afghan Children of another local organization - Our Journey to Smile. "To every group that is waging war in Afghanistan: We want you out!" How can these people be so ungrateful after Americans have nearly bankrupted their own country with bigger and bigger military budgets, dropped thousands of tons of munitions on them and traveled all of the way to their homes in the most remote reaches of the earth to deliver "Freedom"?

Holy Himmler; Don't these people realize that without the good-ole U.S.A.they wouldn't stand a chance?

The voices of Afghans are mixed with those of Iraqis, Palestinians, Colombians and others around the world who have become victim of the U.S. military war machine. Their cries of anguish are joined with the prophetic noise of peace and antiwar activists in every nation. Together they say "Not in Our Name". Perhaps they should all just be rounded up, like that Wikileaks guy, for daring to speak Truth.

We seem to have a similar problem at home with a minority of people, often described as "loving" or "peace-filled" and who seem to feel the pain of distant childred made motherless by war. They complain about the terror of watchmen raiding homes in the night, taking fathers and sons away. And, they argue that good ends don't come about by bad means. They chant "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way." Old news.

According to an ancient tale, two thousand years ago a woman living in a nation occupied by a foreign army gave birth to a child in humble circumstances. She dreamed of a better life for her children, a world in which people were kind and loving, there was food and shelter enough for all and where widows and the poor would be taken care of. She sang to her little boy about rulers being removed from their thrones so that the humble could be lifted up; the hungry being filled and the rich sent away empty. (Instigator!)


However, her country was occupied by a foreign military and its vassal governor that feared anyone who might pose a threat to their rule. This governor even ordered his soldiers to massacre all boy babies under the age of two in the capital - and his soldiers obeyed ("just following orders").

To escape the terror of such violence against their new family, she and her husband fled to a foreign land. They raised their children in a camp, along with other war refugees, but continued to teach them stories of peace, justice and nonviolence. With the guidance of his parents and local community, their youngest son became a lover of peace and returned to his native country.

They say he would enter stranger's homes with "peace be upon this house", praying that a 'kindom' would be created on earth much as heaven, and that he preached that a person would be 'blessed' if they could show others how to cooperate peaceably instead of fighting.

But, eventually the army caught up with him one evening and put their investments in the latest military technology and their swords to good use. He didn't last long.

However, followers of this man continue to go around the world, even in the face of imperial power and repeat santimonious sentiments long after the death of the one they called "Prince of Peace". To this day they are ridiculed by generals and their foot soldiers wherever they take their message of nonviolence.

The Pentagon and warmongers like to call them "left wing fringe" even as these "peaceniks" brush aside those epithets and continue to work towards creative ways to resolve conflict and witness for social justice. Far from the seats of power they can be found feeding the hungry, ministering to citizens held captive and speaking out on behalf of the poor and preyed upon but they don't even appreciate the red-white-and-blue Christmas ornaments (Made in China).

They are also the first to question the violence, torture and (especially) war. These "peacemakers" seem to resent that the Pentagon is the best corporate killing machine on the planet whose ideology of dominance by force and awesome tools of destruction are to be envied. They don't realize that without a strong military, Al-Qaeda or Taliban warships might one day be docking at Corpus Christi on the Texas coast.

These anti-war, punk peace activists don't understand how dangerous the world is that we live in today. They think that no amount of military tactics or operational brilliance can overcome bellicose attitudes towards fellow humans. They have unrealistic ideals, and should all probably be sent to Gitmo.

After all, they think that when Jesus commanded his followers to "love your enemies" he probably meant don't kill them.

 

NAACP and LULAC seek review of Texas schools

Two Texas civil rights groups, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the United League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC) have teamed together to challenge curriculum changes approved by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) earlier in the year.

The request to the U.S. Department of Education contends that the curriculum changes passed in May "were made with the intention to discriminate" and would have a "stigmatizing impact" on African-American and Latino students. The groups have asked that implementation of the curriculum changes and new standardized tests be stopped for being racially or ethnically offensive or historically inaccurate.

Their request for a federal review also pointed to "high stakes" state assessment tests "that do not adequately test for all relevant and important educational information," contending the standardized tests given to students "disproportionately fail minority students and ultimately are important factors in causing large numbers of minority students to drop out of Texas public schools."

Environmental groups sue over TX air permits

Six environmental groups sent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a notice of intent to sue if the federal agency does not resolve Texas air-permitting issues that it has objected to in a timely matter. The Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Environment Texas, Air Alliance Houston, and Texas Campaign for the Environment accuse the EPA of "failing to issue or deny" permits for 43 facilities after raising objections to them. The groups intend to file a suit in 60 days after the EPA receives the notice to compel the agency into action.

Under federal law, Texas had 90 days to submit revised permits after the federal agency issued its objections, but it failed to do so, and the "EPA has a duty" to take over that task, the letter said. The groups want the EPA to intercede and deny permits that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has approved on a "flexible" basis.

Senators fail Texas Dream Act students

It was meant to provide a path to citizenship for students brought here illegally as children, but on Capitol hill, the bill known as "The DREAM Act" failed to make it past the Senate with both Texas senators Cornyn and Hutchison voting against the bill.

College students around the state had worked on passage of the bill, including a group in San Antonio that went on a hunger strike and were arrested in Hutchinson's office when she refused to meet with them.

The Dream Act would have provided a way that hundreds of thousands of undocumented young Texans could become citizens by performing public service. Now these students - many who have lived in Texas for virtually their entire lives - face possible deportating from the U.S.

Gay soldiers now allowed

Congress rescinded the Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy, paving the way for gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces without fear of being fired. The repeal of “don't ask, don't tell” marks the end of a 17-year battle over gay equality in the DoD and shores up the fight for gay marriage.

Despite the calls for equality, most peace groups are appalled that the Pentagon will now have a new tool to recruit youngesters. Many colleges, which previously had not allowed ROTC on their campuses because of discrimination by the military, will now be open to military recruiting.

TX Peace vets arrested in DC

Several Texans were among 131 Veterans for Peace who were arrested in Washington this week while protesting the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. War veterans and peace activists locked themselves to the gates outside the White House in an act of civil disobedience.

 

(ARCHIVES: November 20, 2010) Food Banks and Bank Food

"No citizen should be so wealthy as to buy another, and none so poor as to be forced to sell himself" -- Jean-Jacques Rousseau (The Social Contract)

The proverb "If you give a man a fish, he will be hungry tomorrow. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" seems like a reasonable proposition if taken on its face. Afterall, it implies self-reliance as a virtue and societal goal. Who can argue that persons would be better off if each had the ability to supply all of his or her own needs.

At the same time, we live in a nation where each person is expected to contribute in some way to the common good and to help "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." But, something has gone terrible wrong.

The economic system that has evolved in the U.S. has become a free-for-all stacked against in favor of idle wealth and against those who work for a living. A financial class has come to rule our economy, politics and communications and connives to enrich themselves at the expense of others ….making us all poorer as a result. Many people have simply become canapés for Bankers to munch on.

Back to the proverb: The banker would extend it, "…then you can sell the fisherman the bait, hooks and fishing gear and charge him for access to your private lake." "Even better - don't teach him to fish and require him to purchase all of his food from you at global marketplace rates." With parting advice, they would suggest, "Pay him the lowest wages possible while charging inflated rates for housing, energy, clothing and medicine." In such a way you will ensure his continued dependency upon you and guarantee recurring revenues.

Food Banks

Such is the nature of the modern laissez-faire economy where, on one hand, we produce mountains of food - enough to feed half the world - yet Americans go hungry every day. Even the $1 "value" menu at local fast food chains isn't enough to offset the nearly-empty pockets of some families. Appeals by food banks are evidence enough.

A 2009 Feeding America survey found that 99% of food pantries reported an increase in demand for emergency food assistance during the past year. "Despite the fact that the nation's food banks delivered approximately 2.63 billion pounds of food between July 2008 and June 2009 - an increase of 21.4% over the prior year - many are struggling to meet the increase in client demand," reads the report.

Across the United States, more than 35 million families (14.6% of U.S. households) experience food insecurity and millions of children go hungry each day. According to the Bread for the World Institute, at least 3.5% of households experience severe hunger. Some people in these households frequently skip meals or eat too little, often going without food for a whole day. An estimated 9.6 million people, including 3 million children, live in these homes.

U.S. poverty rates in 2010 have risen to levels not seen since the 1960's - before the programs of the "Great Society", before Reaganomics and "supply-side" theories, before the financial swindling, the dismantling of industry, the treachery and collapse of trade unions, NAFTA and endless overseas wars. With the rollback of social spending in recent decades, it's as if all of the worker gains for the past 50 years has been wiped out - except for the tremendous growth in profits of the investor class.

In relatively prosperous Texas - home to many of the world's richest people and corporations - local food banks raise the alarm of running out of food.

"We're seeing people unemployed or underemployed and they're having to make tough choices like rather or not they should pay the rent that month or go without food," Becky Landes, the vice president of program services at Northwest Assistance Ministries in Houston. According to a 2010 study by the Houston Food Bank, approximately 137,000 individuals are fed by the food bank organization each week.

"We're having to cut back on the amounts we're ordering because we have a budget crunch," said the Rev. Jay Cole, Crossroads' (Dallas) executive director. That means nearly half as many bags of groceries for the 7,500 people who come to the charity each month for food.

"We've been turning people away, which just breaks our hearts," Cole said. Most area food pantries stock their shelves through the North Texas Food Bank. The food bank had to cut the amount of food it could provide to agencies by 13 percent despite increased demand.
"The number of people that go to one of our food pantries would fill Cowboys Stadium two times," says Jan Pruitt of the North Texas Food Bank. At the Cedar Hill Food Pantry, Gene Sims has been scrambling to feed the 1,300 people - half of them children - who rely on the charity for groceries each month.

The San Antonio Food Bank says that it is seeing a "huge" increase in first-time families coming to them for help. During this year's food drive, they hope to collect one million pounds of food. Local food pantries aren't able to purchase food from the Food Bank because is running low on food. "The shelves are bare," says Alamo College Catholic Student Center recruiter Audrey Grams. "We have money in our account, but there isn't food to buy."

The West Texas Food Bank (Odessa, El Paso, Alpine) says for the first time in over a decade they cannot afford to purchase turkeys to hand out for thanksgiving meals. "In the past USDA has made turkeys available to us, that is something that did not happen this year," said Wade Kuehler, Board President of the West Texas Food Bank. Without free turkeys from the USDA, Kuehler says the Food Bank is left to purchase thousands of turkeys themselves. "We're looking at about $.99 a lb. and we made a decision that we couldn't afford to spend our limited resources to bring in turkeys for one day."

Even as restaurants in Austin are filled with prosperous patrons, a shortage of food has the volunteers who run the Shepherd's Heart Food Pantry in Taylor asking the community for more donations. The food pantry is sponsored by the Taylor Area Ministerial Alliance but purchases food from the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. During the past few months, however, the food bank has not had as much food to share. "[The Capital Area Food Bank's] inventory is reduced and so all the pantries that order from them are experiencing a shortage," says JoLynne Williams, Shepherd's Heart manager. Williams says the pantry was not able to order enough food for November to fill the approximately 325 bags of groceries the pantry distributes weekly. In September, the pantry cut its hours on Wednesday and Friday because of the food shortage and to accommodate workers' schedules.

Yet, grocery stores shelves are fully stocked and U.S. farmers are reporting record crop surpluses.

"Even as the broader economy falters amid signs of a weakening recovery, the nation's agriculture sector is going strong, bolstered in part by a surge in exports, according to federal estimates of farm trade and income," crows the New York Times. estimates show that American farmers will ship $107.5 billion in agricultural products abroad in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. That is the second-highest amount ever, behind the record $115.3 billion in exports logged in 2008, when commodity prices soared as the global demand for agricultural products was helped by fast-growing economies in the developing world.

BANK FOOD

The investor-class, led by global bankers, is thrilled. They see future profits where others see hunger. Their vaults are filled with lucre and they encourage people to "buy more gold" (even to eat it, as had become popular among the rich). We are still a wealthy nation, despite the economic downturn.

Americans are some of the most productive people on earth and have made U.S. corporations - and the investor class of this nation - rich enough to live like kings. The United States - with 27.8% of the world's largest corporations - is a financial giant, followed by Japan and then China. Since 1980 the U.S. economy has expanded greatly and American corporations have become global in scope, often gobbling up their competitors.

And yet, this isn't enough for the insatiable appetite of bankers. They use their corporate media spread falsehoods about the economy while leveraging political power to fill their coffers even more with financial "bailouts" and tax cuts. They confuse the working poor and ignorant about the economic system and why we have hunger.

The problem isn't 1. The supply of food and 2. Overall U.S. economic health. It also won't be won't be solved by taking a few more canned goods down to the food pantry or increasing government programs that subsidize food (although please by all means, DO donate to your food pantry today!).

The primary reason why American families can't afford to purchase the inexpensive food that fills America's warehouse is that they have too little income. Their wages are too low. The record profits of corporations is testament to the toil of those same families who are seeking help at food banks.

The real problem is that the too much of wealth of these corporations has come out of the pockets of working men and women. The rising income inequality of this country is due to a minority of Americans who would rather "get theirs" than pay livable wages to their fellows.
Americans go hungry every day because they have become food for banks to consume.
The U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that while U.S. wealth (GDP) per capita has increased 67% since 1980, while median household income only increased 15% during that same period. During 2009, median household income actually fell to $49,777. This was down from $50,122 in 2008, and $50,233 in 2007.

"Trickle down" economics didn't. Instead it created such inequality that the wealthiest 25% of households now hold 87% ($54.2 trillion in 2009) of all wealth the United States (forget "income" and focus on "assets" for a change). At the same time, the poorest quarter of Americans pay higher tax rates than they did before WWII, after which they were asked to bear the burden of paying for war debt. Those in the highest tax brackets learned how to game the system, profit from government, while getting "tax cuts".

A tiny minority of these same Americans are the ones charging such high rents that their fellow citizens have to choose between paying their utilities or buying food. The super wealthy own the credit card companies and banks and charge usurious interest rates on people who must finance their car to get to work, their child's education or to pay medical bills. They dine at sumptuous banquets while the man on the street begs for bread. They manage to spend billions of dollars each election cycle and purchase lobbyists to gain federal contracts while the shelves of local food pantries are bare.

Hunger in American won't be solved without restructuring our economic system: Providing ways in which men and women can earn the wages needed to provide the basic necessities for their families, Creating an economy that rewards the worker as much as the investor, and Taxing the wage earner less, and the asset owner more. Economic change is essential. It will help fulfill the American ideal of a nation that promotes the general Welfare of The People.

FREEDOM IS MORE THAN A PAPER PROMISE

Right after the Great Depression - when millions of Americans found themselves without food, homes or jobs - President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation and proposed Four Freedoms people "everywhere in the world" ought to enjoy:

1. Freedom of speech and expression
2. Freedom of worship
3. Freedom from want
4. Freedom from fear

Norman Rockwell's famous depiction of "Freedom from Want", aptly illustrates the image for today - a full Thanksgiving buffet. It's part of an ideal that continues to draw people to this rich land of milk and honey. However, we aren't living up to the ideal when so many need handouts to survive while plutocrats and oligarchs focus on stock dividends.

We need more human development as part of the general welfare of this nation. Empty words and promises don't suffice for those who starve. To paraphrase M.K. Gandhi, It matters little to the hungry child whether they live in a dictatorship or a "democracy" and now is the time to fix the system of government and commerce that has led to the sitution of poverty in the midst of enormous wealth.

We must restructure our economy to bring human needs to the forefront while creating an economy that provides better wages and economic development, particularly for small businesses. An increase in wages and reduction in interest rates and overtaxing of the poor is essential to setting things right. The time is now, during the economic downturn, to take power away from those who have led us into this morass and return it to "The People".

Otherwise we'll continue to need food banks throughout the U.S. A. - and Americans will remain a food for bankers.

"No Taxes" Texas Legislature may trash education

As the new Legislative session gets ready to come to Austin, there is fears that the Legislature may slash funding for essential programs - such as Texas education. Instead of coming up with creative ways to fund needed budgets, the "no taxes" crowd has raised the spectre of downsizing education in order to cover the $25 budget gap.


Governor Rick Perry, House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst all reaffirmed their pledge against new or increased taxes and deep cuts in services. In related news, a new national education assessment shows that American 12th grade students are still below '92 reading scores and the U.S. now ranks 48th out of 133 nations in math and science.

Texas roles in new GOP House

Texans will have significant clout in the new Congress with members playing a big role in the GOP's new House leadership team. Three Lone Star conservatives – Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Pete Sessions of Dallas and John Carter of Round Rock – will help incoming Speaker John Boehner of Ohio set policy and strategy over the next two years.

It has been a rapid rise for Hensarling, 53, who served as a top aide to former Sen. Phil Gramm before winning a House seat just eight years ago. He has led the party's conservative bloc and has emerged as a leading deficit hawk and budget expert. Another Texan, Sen. John Cornyn, leads the party's Senate campaign effort. Texas is no stranger to congressional influence. In the 1990s, Republicans Dick Armey and Tom DeLay served in the Nos. 2 and 3 House slots. Three Texas Democrats have served as speaker: John Nance Garner, Sam Rayburn and Jim Wright.

In somewhat related news, the corruption trial of former House Speaker Tom Delay continues in Austin.

Dallas to recognize peace leaders

On December 2, North Texans will celebrate peace leaders in the area. The annual Dallas Peace Center Peacemaker Awards dinner will honor Rev. Bill Matthews (Lifetime Achievement), Larry James (Peacemaker of the Year), and the Texas Muslim Women's Foundation (Organization of the Year).

Bill Matthews has been a cornerstone in the Dallas peace and justice community for more than two decades and is currently working on a proposal to bring the Parliament of World Religions to Dallas for a 2014 conference. Larry James, CEO of Central Dallas Ministries (CDM), has guided his organization for 16 years, fighting poverty through housing, hunger relief and health care. The Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation was founded in 2005 in order to empower, promote, and support women and families through educational, outreach, philanthropic, and social services.

Tickets are still available, and can be purchased through the Dallas Peace Center.

Bush library met with protests

Former President George W. Bush's presidential library groundbreaking at SMU in Dallas was slightly marred by peace and justice groups - including Texans for Peace - who continue to draw attention to the outright fabrication of lies and historical dissembling of that administration's effects on the U.S. and the world.

Calling for "War Crimes Trials" for the former president and his regime, activists continue to protest both Bush's new book and the library in the name of peace and social justice. They draw especial attention to the millions of Iraqis and Afghans who have either been killed, injured or made homeless as a result of Bush's invasion of those countries.

(ARCHIVES: August 14, 2010) Reduce the Military Beast

Between 1774 and 1776 the British Parliament enacted laws and taxes on American colonists to help retire the debt of the French and Indian War. Colonist's opposition to the Stamp Act and Townshend Revenue Act led to the Boston Massacre and, eventually, to the war for independence. The cost of fighting the British in the Revolutionary War left the newly formed government of with a national debt of $80 million and near bankruptcy.

The United States was born from war and military deficits, and continues that same path of destruction.

As the U.S. expanded westward, killing the First People on their way, the debt obligations of the Federal government increased but it wasn't until the Civil War that the nation found itself plunged into absolute war debt as federal spending increased from $65 million to nearly $3 billion. It has been estimated that that war - the first "modern" war - expended 1.5 times the total gross national product of the United States for 1860.

During the U.S. Civil War, President Lincoln instituted the first income tax. Wartime finance also prompted a significant change in the banking system. In 1863 Congress passed legislation creating the National Banking System to purchase government bonds while the Confederacy issue its own currency to pay for the war. By mid-1864 the costs of paying interest on outstanding government bonds absorbed more than half all government expenditures. On a per capita basis, the costs to the North population were about $150 -- or roughly equal to one year's income. The Southern burden was two and a half times that amount -- $376 per man, woman and child.

The costs of that war created widespread economic depression throughout the U.S. and it took generations to pay the debt. However, that didn't stop the warmongers in Congress from starting a new conflict. The Spanish-American War was costly and Congress instituted new taxes to pay for it in addition to going further into debt. Debt rose 50% between 1893 and 1899 to pay for that war and some of those taxes existed until modern times

During the 20th Century, the United States first faced the overseas costs of participating in "The Great War" in Europe. Debt for the war and the costs of relief and reconstruction totaled $10 billion in addition to war reparations of more than $44 billion that debtors - like Germany - owed the U.S. WWI also led to a global Great Depression and influenced Germany's decision to start new hostilities. The economic problems that the payments brought, and German resentment at their imposition, are usually cited as one of the more significant factors that led to the end of the Weimar Republic and the beginning of the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler.

World War II was the costliest war, so far, in human history. Between 1941 and 1946, U.S. Treasury debt exploded from $42.97 Billion to $269.42 Billion while the nations of the world spent hundreds of billions more and were left owing for generations. Great Britain didn't pay of its debt to the U.S. until 2006.

By 1950 the military-industrial-complex (MIC) was fully in charge of the U.S. economy. Even though U.S. Treasury debt already stood at $257.36 billion, there was no stopping the militarists who now dominated Washington with their new seat of government - the Pentagon - as evidenced by its size and location in the heart of the District of Columbia. Even though the world was weary of war, military advocates - aided by both political parties - pushed through large expenditures, year after year.

During the period of the "Cold War" the United States spent an estimated $13.1 Trillion on military and war. By 1971, the debt had increased to $423.13 billion largely due to "wars" in Korea and Vietnam, but also due to conflicts in Dominica, Lebanon, Iran, Grenada, Panama, El Salvador, Cuba, Laos, Honduras, Cambodia, Libya, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Israel/Palestine (and USS Liberty) and the Persian Gulf. The list of conflicts that the United States has been involved in is very long. Between 1971 and 1999, Treasury debt had grown to $5.638 trillion.

Then the old canard - COMMUNISM - was suddenly gone with the collapse of the USSR. Citizens everywhere rejoiced expecting peace and prosperity and the benefits of the "peace dividend". However, the MIC and ongoing U.S.-led wars and military expenditures continued unabated.

U.S. foreign policy was now in the hands of neoconservatives - like the Project for a New American Century - who advocated the "project of force" of U.S. military might throughout the world and who saw "terrorists" behind every tree and every baby born to a "foreigner". The military was happy to comply with false intelligence while missing a handful of terrorsts who were able to strike the Pentagon and NY with non-military technology.

A "new war" was on - the "global war on terrorism" or GWOT.

America launched its longest and second-costliest war in Afghanistan and Iraq. By some estimates this war has already cost $1 trillion and could eventually cost more than $3 trillion by the time it ends, in addition to trillions of dollars in "regular" military spending.

While estimates of the actual costs of that war continues to be debated, what is clear is that the U.S. is suffering from a major economic recession, the size of the federal government and debt have ballooned to outrageous proportions, and military expenditures are at an all-time high.

To paraphrase President Eisenhower, every dollar that has been spent has been taken out of the mouths of families who could have been housed, students who could have gone to college and Americans who could have had free medical care. The capital expenditures of the military do little to fix roads, build bridges, fund teachers or otherwise improve the infrastructure of the United States. Instead, it is largely a colossal waste that will take generations to pay off. Too many opportunities for good have been sacrified on the altar of war.

Annual direct expenditures for "defense" have reached $722 billion per year, and indirect expenditures are several billions more. At the current rate, the United States can expect to spend upwards of $8 Trillion more on the military by 2020. As we've seen during the past decade this is a bi-partisan problem with Democrats in Congress falling all over Republicans to spend "like drunken sailors".

The Pentagon's expenditures have become so large that they subordinate the public's needs and make it nearly impossible for politicians to resist giving more - afterall, military jobs and the millions of soldiers and non-uniformed people employed by the MIC are the largest single source of socialized employment by the federal government. Additionally, the long-term claims - from pensions to healthcare - of soldiers will need to continue to be paid for decades even if all wars cease today.

Recently, Secretary of War Bill Gates recommended cutting $100 billion from military budgets over the next five years - out of an estimated $4 TRILLION expenditures. While $100 billion might seem a lot, his "cutbacks" would only represent 2.5% and leave budgets still higher than they were during the Bush Admininstration. Even that modest amount in reductions immediately came under attack by the entrenched military lobby the dominates Washington.

Such expenditures are not only dysfunctional but unsustainable as well. The military apparatus encourages waste, corruption, exaggerated risk taking, social instability (at home and abroad) and lost opportunities to find peaceful and less violent solutions to global problems. Ultimately, the costs of U.S. militarism are too large to bear and must be significantly reduced. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan needs to come to a swift end and steps taken to not involve the U.S. in any new wars.

The only way that this will happen is if U.S. voters are willing to support dramatic cuts in the military, and the politicians who will have to do it. For the good of the nation, both Republicans and Democrats will need to cut military budgets and change foreign policy by rejecting the "projection of force" doctrine.

The United States was born from war and military deficits. In the end, it will lead to the dissolution of this nation. Change is needed. If the Obama Administration won't make the needed changes then it needs to be replaced.

 

Texans arrested during Obama visit

Just as people were arbitrarily arrested while excercising their free speech when Bush as president, so too they were arrested when Obama came to Texas last week.

Robin Schnieder, of Austin, was arrested while gathering signatures on a petition for the Texas Campaign for the Environment on the UT campus while Obama visited. Dan McCarthy was arrested for carrying signs on a sidewalk. John Bush with Texans for Accountable Government (TAG) and antiwar activist Chandra Seymor were arrested while having a peaceful debate. They hoped to receive apologies from the Democratic Party.

Instead, White House Press Secretary launched an attack on critics of Obama policies calling them "crazy" and saying they should all be drug tested.

SA mosque avoids controvery

The building of mosque has recently caused controversy in other states. However, Muslims in San Antonio broke ground on a new mosque this week with the excitement that generally accompanies a new house of worship - and was celebrated during Ramadan.

One Muslim community in San Antonio plans to move into a new 17,000 worship facility on the city's northside. The Al-Madinah Mosque will costs about $4 million and take a year to build. It is one of nine in San Antonio, which Islamic leaders estimate has 25,000 to 30,000 Muslims. San Antonio is home to many diverse faith communities who live together in peace. Let's hear it for Texans who remember the state motto: "Friendship".

Hightower at Dallas Peace Center

Humorist, author and populist Jim Hightower will speak at the Dallas Peace Center on August 19 as part of the Center's Summer Speaker Series.

Hightower, has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks. Twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner,

Hightower believes that the true political spectrum is not right to left but top to bottom, and he has become a leading national voice for the the public who no longer find themselves within shouting distance of the Washington and Wall Street powers at the top.

Get your tickets while they're still available and learn more about the Peace Center actiivities in Dallas.

Dumbest Texan of the Year

Rep. Louie Gohmert of Tyler is perhaps the dumbest person in elected office, and the entire state of Texas. This East Texas congressman was part of the original "birther" groups and conspiracy theorists that questioned President Obama's citizenship. Then, during the president's address to the nation he held up handmade signs saying "What Bill?".

Now, he claims that terrorists from the middle east are sending women to the U.S. to have children to create a generation of American-citizen spies and terrorists. He wants to remove the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Not only is Gohmert ignorant enough to hold such views, but he revels in going on national television to expouse them. He was recently on CNN embarassing himself, and Texas, before an international audience.

Texas responds to floods in Pakistan

Millions of Pakistanis have lost everything they have - homes, crops, entire towns - during the worst floods in generations. The size of the disaster has swamped international agencies and governments. While the world watches the disaster unfold, Texans are reponding in places large and small.

St. James' Episcopal church of Taylor, is raising money to help Christians in Peshawar. Global Aid Network (GAiN) of Dallas has already sent an emergency relief team to Pakistan and is appealing for dollars to fund their efforts. The Raindrop Turkish House of Houston is raising aid money to be sent through partner agencies in Turkey, while the American-Pakistani Physicians Association has several ways to become involved.

The Islamic Society of Great Houston (ISGH) has set up a fund to help flood victims and the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund is calling for Texas Baptist to contribute to helping feed the hungry. Consider how you and your organization can help. China and Mexico have also been victims of recent majors floods and still need help, too.

Militarization of Texas Border

Falling prey to the neocons "terrorist behind every tree" mentality, the Obama Administration continues to build upon the militarization of the Texas border started by George W. Bush.

Last week Obama signed $600 million measure to increase militarization of the US-Mexico border. The spending will fund around 1,500 new border agents and law enforcement officials and additional unmanned military drones like the ones used in Afghanistan. The bill was sponsored by arch-conservatives in the Senate, who despite their pledges for no new spending, find plenty of excuses for more military and war funding. Immigration reform supporters are disappointed that these same Senators are blocking any solution to the issue of immigration reform.

(ARCHIVES: June 22, 2010) BP and the wages of selfishness

The chickens (or oil-soaked herons) are certainly coming home to roost for us after a generation of greed, corruption and selfishness in American life. Even the "Drill Baby Drill" and "Attack Iraq" crowd are beginning to realize that in their rush to selfish profitization they may end up destroying their own land, livelihood and families.


The ecocide and fratricide that occurs in front of our very eyes almost beggars incredulity. To our children it must seem something new and novel, but as parents we know it is an ongoing self-destructive pattern of irresponsible behavior that we have been engaged in for too long. We have only ourselves to blame.

The BP oil disaster, like mining collapses and the deaths of thousands of young Americans in overseas wars, is emblematic of payments due coming for the wages of selfishness.

For too long, disciples of Reaganomics and Ayn Rand have preached a gospel of "free-market rational selfishness" which eschewed social cooperation and interdependency in favor of unbridled individual capitalism. In this world view, mountains are to be mined, oceans to be harvested, nations to be abused and intellectual thoughts and creations to be privately owned. We forget that John Galt was a fictional character.

Even experts among us now admit the error of fundamental assumptions about our economic system (the glimmer of wealth apparently blinded even rigorous examiners). Bankers, policymakers and federal reserve chiefs acknowledge that the strategies that have previously been employed created much of our current disaster.

Yet, so ingrained is the paradigm of private ownership in today's world that there is little serious discuss of alternatives. We have become so accustomed to the concept of private property "rights" and exploitation of one another that we scarcely notice that this artificial economy we have created is collapsing all around us. We pray to the golden bull of Wall Street for answers and elevate Global 500 corporations as our gods.

We know that selfish interests get in the way of our common humanity, but then, greed and fear takes over.

Even as fishermen complain about the death of waters in the Gulf, politicians and the public quickly decries the six-month moratorium on more deep-water drilling. American economic insecurity and the lack of a social safety net leaves us desperately worried that we won't be able to pay our mortgages (to the bankers), buy food (from private corporations) or see a doctor when we are sick (where's public healthcare?). So, we choose instead to risk destroying the world further instead of seeking ways to make sure our neighbor is housed, fed, and healed.

In the case of British Petroleum and the Deepwater Horizon explosion, we see how a drive for quick profits leads to millions of gallons of poisonous goo covering our waters and land. Overseas, young Texas boys and girls are dying to ensure that oil and gas pipelines can be built and secured across the lands of Iraqi and Afghan farmers - fully supported by even "liberal" members of Congress. The political establishment along with taxpayer-funded military act as chief enforcer of this privatized venture. The profits will end up in the pockets of politicians and investors in Kabul, Baghdad, New York, London Berlin, Amsterdam, Canberra and Washington, DC.

Tough luck for the generations of Grand Isle shrimpers, Gulfport bait shop owners and Laguna Beach leasing agents.

Those who proselytize for profit could care less, so long as their vacation homes in Hawaii, Martha's Vineyard , Palm Beach and the Bahamas aren't affected. You see their self-satisfied faces on the Sunday morning t.v. commentary, hear their siren voices on the radio and read their words spilled across the paper each day. They seductively promise, "you can rise above your fellow man". "You too can become like a King."

Shut 'em off. There is another way: One that requires courage, instead of fear; compassion in place of selfishness. Instead of letting ourselves being pitted against one another in a zero-sum game of economic selfishness, we can rise to the banner that "there is enough for all". There is plenty of food to ensure that no one goes hungry. No one need go without a roof over their head. Our healthcare system has the capacity to serve everyone. Even our power needs can be supplied through existing available resource, conservation and investments in green energy. We don't have to accept nuclear waste dumps in West Texas, nor oil spills in the Gulf.

What right do we have to sell, slice and dice our shared planet for the profits of a handful of individuals? Why do we let private energy investors obtain leases to shared public lands? Why are we so willing to pimp ourselves and the world humanity? Does "God" have a contract with Texaco?

Similar inquiries are raised whenever there is a disaster or challenge of global significance: Chernobyl, global warming, SE Asia Tsunami, etc. Even the most hardened capitalists are beginning to ask more questions as they witness the devastation of wetlands and public beaches taking place on a global scale. From G20 presenters in Toronto to US Social Forum activists in Detroit, the plans for the future are being discussed and planned.

Will it be a future where we continue to kill one another - with words and deeds - or can we rise above this dystopia? Will our children inherit our folly or enjoy peace, prosperity and ecology? Another world is possible. Another US is necessary.

What we dream and envision, we can achieve. The choice is ours.

In the words of Henry David Thoreau, "If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours."

The only thing standing in the way of creating a better world is our own lack of imagination and willingness to work together for our community good. Meanwhile, coral reefs die underwater and heron chicks die in blackened estuaries. Not by an "act of God", but at the hand of men - exceeding selfish ones. Us.

Greening Amarillo, Dallas & Houston

Texans of all persuasions, from liberals to conservative, are doing more to help steward a green and sustainable environment than ever before. One Amarillo housing project plans to build 310 homes completely off of the electrical grid - powered entirely by solar. The new community will also let residents grow their own food.

Dallas City Council members are considering a three-year "electricity" purchase that includes $750,00 s for green energy. Dallas is the second highest renewable energy user in the nation at 40%, next to Houston, but knows it needs to do more.

Houston will be the location of the new Toshiba electric car factory. The Houston plant is expected to produce Toshiba's first overseas automotive propulsion motors in 2012 and is an example of green jobs for the future of the Texas economy.

Poster boys for polluters

Congressman Joe Barton became the poster boy for Texas oil polluters when, instead of recognizing the threat to Texas of BP's oil disaster, he choose to focus on their setting aside of $20 billion to compensate victims. Calling it a presidential "shakedown" of an oil company, Barton and other neocons continue to top the pinnacle of selfishness.

And, showing the same level of ignorance (or support of their business friends), Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot and the Texas Commission on Evironmental Quality [sic] (TECQ) has decided to fight stronger federal rules and controls on air pollution.

The AG is asking courts to rule against the EPA when it comes to permitting pollution from oil refineries. The EPA says the state's permitting process allows industry to emit too many pollutants.

Saving the golden goose

The current high school drop out rate threatens Texas' economic future unless it receives more attention and better funding, according to demographers and economists. Unless the dropout issue is successfully confronted, the potential asset of a burgeoning young population could become a lead weight dragging down median incomes and the ability to attract new business enterprises.

Instead of threatening to cut education funding, the Texas Legislature needs to change the law allowing 16-year-olds to drop out of school. Texan's need to invest in and encourage EVERY student to obtain and high school degree and go on to college if possible. If not, Texans can expect a slow decline in household incomes and greater social inequality. Texas also needs to invest more in pre-K to set the stage for success in students' later years. "Every kid deserves to be educated, and we're going to figure out what it takes and do it," says Bill Hammond, president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business.

No haters for Texas

Arizona's recent law targeting undocumented residents - SB1070 - could become law in Texas if a few legislators get their way. There are move afoot to use legislation to divide Texas and support the racist actions that promoted the problems in Arizona.

However, real Texans are coming forward and saying "not here". The cities of Austin and San Antonio have already taken up the call to rebuke Arizona. Texans for Peace is planning a legislative "education" campaign for the coming year on this issue. Together, we can stop the tide of hate and keep Texas "friendly". Todos somos Texans.

(ARCHIVES: May 25, 2010) Somos todos "Texans"

Desde chicos aprendimos, a querernos como hermanos
El futball y las canicas,
A los buenos y a los malos
Muchas veces nos peleamos, otras veces ni hablamos,
Pero aun sigo siendo amigo del que es como mi hermano

En momentos presentimos
Que solos nos encontramos
Es alli donde aparecen los que son mas que hermanos
Los regalos que no dimos, las palabras que callamos
Los abrazos que negamos al que hoy no estan a tu lado
Pero aun afuera hay muchos
Esperando de un abrazo
Necesitan de aquel que se ha de llamar hermano

Amigo tu, Amigo yo
Perdoname si te he fallado
Lo se muy bien, lo sabes tu
Siempre estare cerca, a tu lado.
Quiero estar y compartir, momentos buenos y los malos;
Quiero reir, tal vez llorar
Amigos que... nunca olvidamos

-- Amigos de Alex Campos

Texas is more than a place. It's also 'state of mind' where everything is bigger, brasher...and friendlier. Perhaps our immigrant foreparents were looking ahead when they adopted "friendship" (Tejas) as our state motto. from the first people living here.

Living in this "little bit of heaven on earth", we know that being Texan is more than just citizenship in this great state. Who is a Texan? A "Texan" is anyone who lives, or has ever lived (or even so much as traveled) to Texas and holds that bond of friendship in their heart. This includes tourists, former-residents and the entire currently population. Here in the Lone Star State, we are all neighbors and friends. We are all "Texans".

However, apparently our neighbors in Arizona think a little differently when it comes to those living in their state.

Led by former residents from Midwestern states, the newest emigrés of Arizona seem intent on rejecting the language, culture and diversity that has enriched that land for generations. Their thinly-veiled racist ideology and recent legislation against undocumented residents in the name of "the law" has created a scandalous issue from what has never been a problem in the first place.

For decades, citizens and "illegal" residents have lived and worked side by side in Arizona, as they have in Texas and many other states. Millions of undocumented workers have obtained false social security documents (and pay federal taxes without any hope of getting a refund) in an attempt to better themselves.

Countless families have overstayed their legal visas or crossed the borders illegally in order to ensure that their children could live a better life - access to quality schools, good community water and health, and the hope that they would have a better - and longer - life. Others came here to escape terrible political and economic conditions in their native land with the hope that their descendents would enjoy the blessings of liberty that attracts so many around the world to the "American dream".

To all, Texans say you are welcome here.

The modern state of Texas was born from Mexico and the cultures, traditions and economic relationship of our nearest foreign neighbor have helped to make Texans wealthy beyond dreams (The per capita .GDP of Texas - greater than Germany's - is due in no small part due the to commerce and workforce that comes from the south) e all Texans ....(continued from Page 1)

Businesses in Texas willingly hire hundreds of thousands of foreign workers - many knowing that their papers may be false - and bring their families into their occupation. Immigration has been a boon to our state.

While Arizona has a lsizeable border with Mexico, it does not have the tremendous amount of trade and interaction that Texas does. Only states that border Canada have a foreign experience similar to Texas' - and you don't see them trying to restrict "illegal" immigration.

Many illegal immigrant families, using the same process of obtaining false social security cards, have also purchased autos, homes, insurance and everything else that a "legal" citizen may do. They pay local property taxes, start business and otherwise contribute to the social fabric of the community putting in their own fair share.

Xenophobes try to claim that illegal immigrants are stealing "American" jobs or pose a threat to national security. However, Wall Street and Washington D.C. politicians have been more responsible for weakening the U.S. economy and the economic downturn - through the creation of unregulated "financial instruments" and reckless military spending - than any other force.

Security? When is the last time that a Canadian, Guatemalan, Colombian or Salvadorian killed masses of people in this country? Many of the families who come here from those countries are fleeing violence and want peace. Others come so that they won't starve. Security isn't an issue, with the exception of drug cartels and their (legal citizen) U.S. partners who have created a multi-billion dollar industry.

Besides the obvious economic benefits of a porous border with Mexico and Canada, the issue of illegal immigration is one of justice.

Children who are born in America automatically become U.S. citizens (thanks to the 14th Amendment to the Constitution!). However, they may not have legal papers due to a variety of reasons. Also, many of their siblings, parents or grandparents may be living with the fear that they can someday be repatriated back to another country. For this reason, no school would want to take their students on a field trip to Arizona - one never knows if their star athlete is such an "undocumented" American .

Likewise, no one wants to be uprooted from a community in which they have lived for years (or decades) because of some change in the "law". It's neither right nor just - and defies common sense. Why would any state want to suddenly create turmoil and fear among its residents?

To be blunt, many of those who oppose "illegal immigration" are simply racist - despite their claims. Having lived in Arizona I have heard to many caustic remarks about the "brown-skinned" and still remember how people - many citizens for generations - are treated there.

In one instance, after giving a speech to a local fraternal organization, an elderly woman came up to me and spoke to me in heavily-accented English. "Shouldn't we do something about the millions of illegal aliens pouring across the border?" she asked. She said that she had arrived in the U.S. as a child after fleeing Germany. I gently reminded her that once she too was a stranger in a new land…only to see her march off in a huff.

Thank goodness I live in Texas where a person is more likely to be judged on how well he or she works or helps his neighbors than where she comes from.

Here, we will NOT allow the creation of laws like in Arizona - we're the friendly state.

We've spent decades trying to rid our state of racist, reactionary hate-mongers and the parties to which they belong. While the struggle isn't over, the ranks of kind, friendly and tolerant Texans hold the majority across the political spectrum.

Ant-immigration sentiment has no place in a state where "All free men [sic], when they form a social compact, have equal rights...." Just as Texans have come to aid the struggle for human rights in the South in the past, so too can you expect to see us getting involved in the Southwest. We know that an injustice anywhere is a threat to us everywhere.

From El Paso to Texarkana we welcome our new neighbors from the west with open arms. Arizona's loss is our gain. When you arrive, know that we expect continued hard work, contributions to your local community, kindness to your neighbors and activities to make our state and world a better place in which to live and work.

We are all together in this in Texas. Somos todos "Texans".

Time to abolish the SBOE

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has become such am embarrassment to the state - recently allowing evangelicals to rewrite history - that it no longer serves a useful purpose. Texans for Peace has joined others in callling for the Texas Legislature to eliminate this elected board.

Slave trade? No longer part of the curriculum. It's now been renamed "the Atlantic triangular trade". Susan B. Anthony, Upton Sinclair, Civil Rights...minimized.

The same neocons who want to eliminate government altogether apparently also want to thwart the study of America's history as well. Join the FB Cause to Abolish the SBOE.

BP-Houston protested

British Petroleum (BP)'s U.S. headquarters was the scene of recent protest by Americans fed up with deregulated oil drilling and ecocide at the hands of companies in Texas. Along with BP, Halliburton and Transocean are also culpable in the recent disaster in the Gulf.

The "naked truth" protests are a "crude awakening that our country is on the wrong track, that we need an energy system that doesn't kill workers, that doesn't destroy our ocean and that works with nature, not against nature," say Code Pink co-founder Madea Benjamin

Texas peacemakers honored

Texas State Representative Lon Burnam recently retired after serving 10 years as Executive Director of the Dallas Peace Center. He was honored by his fellowsfor his bold dedication in standing up for Texans - in DFW and around throughout the state. The Fort Worth Democrat was also co-founder of the Crawford Peace House and plans to remain active in peace issues for a long time to come.

Margret Hofmann was recently honored by the City of Austin with a small park named in her honor. Margret, a former Austin City Council member, and a founder of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) of Central Texas. A member of the Friends Meeting (Quaker) of Austin, Margret also writes regularly.

Both Lon and Margret are active members of Texans for Peace and we look forward to their continuing contributions to peace and justice throughout Texas.

Alto Arizona May 29

Civil rights activists from throughout the U.S. will converge on Phoenix on May 29 for the Alto Arizona march against SB1070. A Festival of Human Rights is scheduled on Friday May 28, the day before the march. Marches are also planned throughout Mexico and in other countries.

Mexican President, in a visit to Washington last week, called upon President Obama and Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

 

(ARCHIVES: March 9, 2010) Healing the Hurts: Addressing the Human Toll of War

The U.S. has been at constant war for the past nine years and the human toll continues to grow. Even as these overseas wars continue, it is time to consider how we as peacemakers will help to heal the personal, family and global injuries that war have caused.

At least 1 million Americans have been to Iraq and Afghanistan as soldiers or contractors. More than 5,300 have already died there. In addition to those who have been killed, there are about 16 soldiers wounded for each who dies.

Within those countries 62 million local citizens have also been directly exposed to combat, and millions killed, injured and made homeless as well.

Untold numbers of people, both soldiers andcivilians, have torn limbs and troubled minds. The impacts from these injuries will ripple throughout a generation or more, just as those from WWII, Korea and Vietnam altered the social fabric of America and the war-torn nations.

Throughout Texas, on street corners and in homeless shelters, veterans of wars - past and present - live in desperation and insanity. Many once had families and people who loved them, now they struggle just to get the next meal. Others wonder - like Timothy Pridey and his wife - how to support their family in a down economy.

In low-rent apartments in our biggest cities, a few thousand "lucky" refugees from Iraq try to rebuild their lives. Facing a strange new society, they try to help their children adjust to a world much different than the one they left. The Dallas Metroplex even now has its own fledgling "Little Baghdad". Among Iraqis in their own country, the psychological scars of war run particularly deep.

"I was sitting on the couch the other day, and all I could do was cry and wish that I was dead," says Senaa Tahir Abid, after seeing her husband and sister's husband killed.

Thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the past nine years. Their only legacy is the tragic faces and broken hearts of those left behind…adding even more victims to the cost of war.

Those military veterans who are fortunate to still be alive and with no physical injuries, often carry the psychological scars of war throughout their lives. War is a debilitating experience where the brain is constantly occupied with fear and death. Combat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the current term given to a traumatized psyche and tortured "soul". Their parents ask "why?"

The New England Journal of Medicine studied four combat units and found that 17% of Iraq war veterans and 11% of Afghanistan war veterans suffered Hurts from PTSD while a similar study by the RAND Corporation put the number at 20%. The Pentagon has acknowledged that the suicide rate for soldiers is growing and far exceeds the suicide rate in the general population.

Mick, a 20-year-old GI in Killeen says that part of the problem is due to trying to struggle with the mental images of war while integrating back into "normal" society. "They expect you to be the perfect soldier and the perfect civilian," he said. "The government expects us to be bipolar, to separate work life from home life."

The medical costs of treating PTSD, even though they are only part of the social costs, are expected to grow dramatically in coming years. According to the Washington Post, "about 300,000 U.S. military personnel who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan are suffering from post-traumatic stress or major depression, a mental toll that may cost the nation as much as $6.2 billion over two years."

Like the returning soldiers, the millions of men, women and children of Afghanistan and Iraq are likely to suffer even more in coming decades. They've seen their cities and towns ripped apart, destruction and dead bodies littering streets. At least 8 million have had to flee and become refugees - many living in camps - at some point during the past decade. There are at least 6.6 million who still live as refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the two nations. Families without the comfort and safety of homes. Children without schools and the security of normal life. Neighborhoods and social life fragmented. The effects of munitions, like depleted uranium (DU) and other WMDs left behind by U.S. troops, will scar the landscape and generations to come.

Unlike many Iraqi mothers, Um Haider, who fled Baghdad to Houston, is one of the fortunate ones. Her children are all well and without injury, but she worries for the cousins left behind. "The situation in Iraq is terrible," she says. "Everywhere there is destruction, walls, burned buildings and ruined lives." Um Haider doesn't know if she'll ever be able to return, but unsure how she will support her family in their new home of Texas.

While Americans watch movies like The Hurt Locker, most real images of war are sanitized and removed from view. The victims of war are forgotten, even when they walk among us. Do not look away.

However, we have a civic and moral obligation to help to heal the wounds and hearts of this human tragedy. Even more so since, as a nation, we are the ones directly responsible for their injuries in the first place. We must accept responsibility for the returning troops and for the civilian victims left in their wake. They shouldn't have to do it alone.

Even more, as Texans who believe in peace and social justice, we have an even greater challenge to salve war's wounds. Peacemakers are directed not only to help end, or prevent, wars but are also called to be healers. Some, like Peggy Kelsey, are in Afghanistan right now.

In Texas, we have a particular need to be involved. Not only has this state sent the largest groups of soldiers off to war, who are now returning as veterans, but we are also becoming home to tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans. These neighbors will need to get along and, as in Vietnam, soldiers of conscience will want to revisit and rebuild the countries they destroyed. Even when the war is over, the work of peace won't be "done". As peacemakers we not only need to empathize with both victims and perpetrators we have to help "mend the pieces". It is our way. And, afterall, these are your sons and daughters.

There are many resources and organizations that focus on the aftermath of war: Veteran's groups, support organizations, Iraq and Afghan societies, and humanitarian organizations. All could use volunteers and financial resources. At the same time, peace and social justice organizations - some working directly in the "red" zones - also need your support.

Listed below is a small selection of organizations that you can become involved with. Together, we can help heal the hurts.

U.S. VETERANS

Coalition for Veterans
Iraq and Afghan Veterans of America
Iraq Veterans Against War
Farmer-Veteran Coalition
Injured Marines Fund
Laptops for the Wounded
Our Military Kids
Swords to Plowshares
TexVet
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)
Under the Hood

Veterans for Peace

IRAQIS/AFGHANS

Afghan Women's Mission
Global Exchange

Help the Afghan Children
Help the Refugees in San Antonio (FB Group)

Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston
International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Iraqi-American Association of North Texas Iraqi Red Crescent
Women for Women International

Neocons on their way out of SBOE?

Conservative and Liberal Texans alike have had their fill of know-nothing members of the State Board of Education who have been trying water down the curriculum and textbooks by watering down evolution and other scientific principles.

From Amarillo to Houston, concerned parents have been urging that "sanity" be returned to the SBOE. These elected officeholders don't generally receive much review at election time, but this year, might be near the top of the "issues" that will bring voters to the polls as they say "don't mess with Texas education".


Border violence growing

There are concerns that recent battles between rival drug cartels in Mexico will spill over into Texas. There have been recent increases in border violence in towns from Juarez to Matamoros. The most recent escalation in drug wars appears to be around Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa. In some cases, Mexican parents have had to keep their children out of school for fear of almost-daily shootings.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) provided an unusual warning to college students to stay away from the border during Spring Break. Hildalgo's Border Festival has been shortened. Tourism, already down because of the economy and H1N1 flu, is expected to suffer from the ongoing threat of violence as the U.S. State Department issues travel warnings. Journalists have been targeted, creating some news blackouts.

However, citizens in those same border communities are standing up to the violence. Some are turning to online activism, others are taking to the streets to protest both the violence and the militarization of their cities.

End the War Protests Continue

Even as Operation Enduring Disaster in Afghanistan continues into its 9th year and the war in Iraq into its 7th, peace activists and antiwar protesters continue to demonstrate against the war and call for peaceful solutions.

On March 20, there will be a Million Musicians for Peace march in Austin from the Capitol to City Hall. In Houston, a National Day of Protest rally at Mason Park. In the Valley (McAllen) a Special Protest Against the War 11am-noon, McAllen, right in front of Bentsen Tower at Bus. 83 & Bicentennial. In Arlington, on the 19th, an "I Stand for Peace" gathering. There will also planned large demonstrations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, DC. and other towns and cities around the world. Denton will have a "Funk the War" march on March 28.

Celebrate César Chávez

Texans everywhere will be celebrating the legacy of civil rights activist and founder of the United Farm Workers, César Chávez, on March 26-27. There's a special reason for those in the Metroplex to celebrate after Dallas renamed a major street to honor Chavez. In San Antonio, the state's largest march will be held on the 27th.

The Willacy County Processing Center is the largest immigrant detention center in the U.S. and harkens back to the days during WWII when Japanese-Americans were locked up in South Texas. Owned by the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation (MTC), Tent City is one of many detention centers run for profit and with little federal oversight.

Close Texas prison camps April 10

A broad coaltion of organizations is calling for the closure of the Texas prison camp in Raymondville and planing an April 10th demonstration at the site.

The Willacy County Processing Center is the largest immigrant detention center in the U.S. and harkens back to the days during WWII when Japanese-Americans were locked up in South Texas. Owned by the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation (MTC), Tent City is one of many detention centers run for profit and with little federal oversight.


(LAST MONTH: January 3, 2010) Light a candle in 2010

The analogies are many: Children of Light, Candle in the Darkness, Keepers of the Flame, Warm Hearts….These Torch Bearers are the individuals who lead the way down the path of peace and social justice, as they have done since time immemorial. They can be found in the darkest recesses, unflaggingly daring to illumine the truth at any cost. Indeed, in the words of Robert Altinger "the darkness of the whole world cannot swallow the glowing of a [their] candle."

During the past year, we have seen many examples of such Pillars of Fire working on issues ranging from immigrant rights to working to end the death penalty. I hope you take inspiration from their stories.

Principled Leadership - Lucy Davila Hakemack

School leadership takes more than just understanding of curriculum, pedagogy and learning philosophy. It also takes compassion and willingness to "go the extra mile" to help children succeed. Lucy Davila Hakemack, Principal of H. Grady Spruce High School in Dallas ISD know this all too well. Test scores are up, and students feel like they can have a positive high school experience. Through her leadership Dr. Hakemack has helped transform a troubled school to one where teachers, staff and students have come to believe in their own success and education in Texas is one step better.

Transforming Homelessness - Ron Hall and Denver Moore

Denver Moore was a homeless man from Louisiana living on the streets of Fort Worth. Ron Hall was a successful local millionaire. Then, both of their lives were changed by a chance meeting. While volunteering at the Union Gospel Mission in 1998, Hall and his wife Debbie met Moore and curious about his circumstances got to know him better. Ron and Denver ended up collaborating on a book "Same Kinda Different As Me," and since have raise more than $31 million to help end homelessness in their community.

Confronting Presidents' Wars - Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite was a luminary in American life and letters. One of the best loved broadcasters for decades, Cronkite was well known for speaking the truth - including his 1968 opinion on Vietnam. "With each escalation, the world comes closer to the brink of cosmic disaster. To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past." Several weeks later following this report candle....(continued from Page 1)

President Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election. Texan Cronkite continued to speak out against war - and another Texas president - prior to his death in 2009. "Our Troops Must Leave Iraq," he wrote and he urged the American people to "make their voices heard with unmistakable clarity."

People's Magistrate - Ernie L. Glenn

San Antonio is known for having judges who both understand the law, but rule with compassion. Such is the case for Judges Ernine L. Glenn. Glen, of the Bexar County Drug Court, tries to help those who come before his court to overcome their addictions and realize that their lives could be better. Such was the case with Cassie LaVernia who went from living under a freeway bridge as homeless drug addict to living responsibly and helping others. Because Judge Glen was willing to see beyond her problems and get Cassie involved in drug education she now is a hope, not a burden to others in San Antonio.

Workplace Dignity - Proyecto Defensa Laboral (Workers Defense Project)

Undocumented workers have trying circumstances. Willing to work, they often are taken advantage of by their employers and frequently unpaid for their services. Few are willing to speak out. The Workers Defense Project empowers low-wage workers to act collectively for racial and economic justice in the workplace through leadership development, education, organizing and collaborating with strategic allies. Last year they were successful in getting thousands of dollars that was stolen in wage thefts back into the hands of workers and changes in building inspections in Austin after the death of a worker. Now they have embarked to open a community/cultural center which will have Spanish-English literacy classes, low-income work assistance and cooperative business development.

Freeing the Neighborhood - Lenwood E. Johnson

Lenwood E. Johnson has helped to preserve the historic nature of the Freedman's Town, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Houston. When the City of Houston wanted to tear up historic brick streets laid by freed slaves in order to install new sewer and water lines, he went to work. Johnson rallied the neighborhood and media - and won! The City agreed not to tear up the streets and help bring attention to local - and often forgotten - stories of early Houston. Freedmen's Town, established after news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas in 1865, became a thriving center of jazz, arts, and business, hailed by many as the "Harlem of the South" and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Coming Forward for GLBT Rights - Jon Nelson

Last June, on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in NY, a Fort Worth gay bar was raided by local police and the TABC. The incident sparked outrage across Texas and the nation, as patrons were injured and jailed. Attorney John Nelson came forward to ensure that to speak out that in his city "discrimination is wrong, and would not be tolerated here." He also helped found a new group - Fairness Fort Worth - to "to help facilitate the process for witnesses to the Rainbow Lounge raid to come forward and give testimony." Although investigations are still ongoing, the raid has already resulted in the suspensions of a sergeant and two police officers and admission and disciplinary actions and acknowledgement of violations by the TABC Chief.

No Borders - Jay Johnson-Castro

Along the Texas-Mexico border, a vocal group of activists have been challenging the building of the "Wall". These Texas "border ambassadors" work with local officials and community activists to build opposition to the "ugly and acrimonious barrier" that will divide the two nations. Johnson-Castro turned from running a bed-and-breakfast to leading walks from city to city along the border, organizing rallies, and helping to bring attention to Washington about this "Concrete Curtain" that is being built. Jay has also been instrumental in actions against the Texas prison camps where immigrant families are held for months.

Writing and Publishing to Succeed - Melanie Moore

Several years ago, weary of layoffs in high-tech, Melanie Moore decided to pursue her dream of helping children with literacy while "amplifying the voices of the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the international" writers who may be ignored by market-driven publishing. The result was the creation of Badgerdog, a place where young writers are cultivated and published. During the past year, Badgerdog worked with students in several Central Texas school districts to be confident - and published - authors. This "organization run by poets and fiction writers" has become instrumental in the resurgence of print works and helping others to "find their voice".

Cleansing Coal - Clean Economy Coalition of Corpus Christi

When Las Brisas Energy (Chase Power) proposed to build a $3 billion 1200 MW petroleum coke-fired power plant in Corpus Christi, local citizens organized. They formed Clean Energy Corpus to advocate for cleaner and more economically sound energy for the city. With the help of National organizations (Environmental Defense Fund , Sierra Club) they have argued against permitting by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. In December the TECQ found, "the applicant has not proven that the emissions from the permit will not cause adverse impacts to human health," in large part to testimony from local doctors concerned about the already high levels of asthmas in the area and the data that shows Corpus already has the highest level of birth defects in Texas. Local leaders plan to continue to try to stop the plant in 2010.

Hope for Texas - Kid's Against the Death Penalty

University students have long been active in the push to eliminate the death penalty in Texas. But, now they've been joined by their younger siblings - Kids Against the Death Penalty (KADP). KADP kids have been organizing online, attending rallies and helping to educate their peers about Texas executions. Several members of KADP are relatives of Jeff Wood, currently on death row even though he never killed anyone. KADP members have marched for miles along Texas streets holding anti-death penalty signs, visited the Legislature and Rick Perry, and continue to press for justice. They courageously speak out on an issue in which too few Texans, whether adults or children, have found the time or the courage to address. They are even inspiring kids in other states to join the anti-death penalty movement.

International Action for Freedom - Diane Baker

Rev. Diane Baker, a Dallas hospice chaplain, has aided the souls and spirits of peacemakers in struggles for peace and justice. The 62-year-old grandmother has been a strong advocate of human rights throughout Texas and the globe and has taken stands for freedom in Cuba, farm workers in California and victims of violence in Mexico. She is currently part of the 8-person Texas delegation participating in the Gaza Freedom March in Egypt and joined the fast to force the Egyptian government to allow their march to proceed and not be penned in by riot police.

As one year ends and a new one begins, we can take heart in knowing that there will be even more inspiring stories in the weeks and months ahead. But, you don't need to wait to read them here…get out there and write your own.

Light a candle. Better yet, start a bonfire!

Interfaith vigil to close Texas prison camp - Jan 9

Faith leaders, churches and peace and justice activists will gather at the Willacy County Processing Center in Raymondville on Jan. 9 to vigil and continue to demand that the Obama Administration shut down this prison camp and let these non-criminal families go home to await their immigration hearings.

Holding 3,000 detainees, the "for-profit" Willacy Center is the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) largest immigrant detention center. Since "Ritmo" opened, detainees have suffered sexual abuse, negligence in medical care, unhygienic facilities, spoiled and rotten food, inappropriate use of solitary confinement, and inadequate access to representation and services. Immigration detention separates families and stands between noncitizens and the communities that provide them emotional, spiritual, and legal
support. In Florida, detainees' families are fasting in non-violent opposition to ICE's inhumane immigration enforcement system.

National student peace conference coming to Texas

The 2010 Student Peace Alliance National Conference will be held February 26-28 at Southwestern University in Georgetown. The conference, whose theme is "Extreme Makeover: Peace in the 21st Century" will bring together youth peace leaders from throughout the nation to "focus on evidence-based programs that are effectively reducing and preventing violence both at an international and domestic level."

The three days of conference speakers and attendee collaboration will highlight effective domestic and international peacebuilding programs; provide grassroots organizing, community peacebuilding, and lobbying training; and empower young people to be citizen peacebuilders and advocates. Your help, and donations are needed. Encourage students in your community to attend. Sponsor scholarships and show students of the nation a true Texas welcome.

Texans for Peace has signed on as a sponsor of this conference. Rob Atkinson, a member of Texans for Peace, was instrumental in getting SPA organized before his tragic death in December 2008.

New Ways of Looking at Water

Peace, social justice and environmental activists in San Antonio will hold a "New Ways of Looking at Water" conference February 14-16 at Trinity University. The conference is for the entire community to "explore The science, politics, law, history, poetry, music, art, spirituality, architecture, fashion, use, misuse, past, present, future, here, there and everywhere of water." It is free and open to the public.


Iraqi refugees in Texas

The first wave of Iraqi refugees, like war refugees before them, has come to Texas. As many as 100 Iraqi families have already relocated to Texas, most to big cities and are struggling to make a new life here. They generally find themselves living in low-rent apartments competing for jobs with immigrants from other countries.

They are generally ignored by the media, and those who wreaked havoc on their country. However, social service agencies and non-profits work to assist them, as they do to support anyone in need. More to come.

FB for Texas News

More and more, those interested in peace and social justice are turning to social media - particularly Facebook - to keep up with activities and the latest information. Texans for Peace invites you to join one of several FB pages used to communicate throughout the state:

Texans for Peace FB Main
Texans for Peace - Austin Area
Texans for Peace - Corpus Christi and the Valley
Texans for Peace - DFW and North Texas
Texans for Peace - Houston Area
Texans for Peace - San Antonio Area

You can also keep up with news via Twitter

 

(ARCHIVES: December 1, 2009) Citizen Future: Demolishing Fantasy USA

Last week 83-year-old Sister Anne Montgomery, along with a group of 4 others, was arrested at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base near Seattle, after cutting through fences, entering the base and scattering sunflower seeds to protest nuclear weapons and help demolish the current US fantasy of empire.

Fantasy USA, like Fantasy Football, is a game in which adults daydream about being "owners" along with their made-up "teams" and virtual players. Like popular computer games, Bingo parlors, Texas hold'em and "reality" t.v., Fantasy USA has become a widespread and popular phenomena. Many Americans have joined the ranks of the "fantasy world" in attempts to feel more in control of their personal lives and external world events. While there's nothing wrong with diversions, amusements and entertainment, it can get out of hand when an entire nation embarks on a fantasy empire.

Such is the state of the USA today - including government, politics and economics - where Americans have placed their hope into "Empires of Illusion", American "exceptionalism" and electroal "hope" with as little basis in reality as the "fantasy points" in a fantasy football league.

The very concept of the United States as an autonomous political entity, self-contained "American" business markets and individual political exercise mean little when the "World is Flat" and we are interconnected with every other society on the planet. Nevertheless, millions of Americans continue to fall prey to the illusions of tricksters who make promises that are neither meaningful nor permanent - we can "win" in Afghanistan, America will always be the "land of the free", etc.

Meanwhile, thoughtful citizens work towards sensible progress based on the realities of the world in which we live today. Some cut through the mirages and hallucinations to "wake up" their fellows from the dreams in which they have become increasingly ensnared. Others put their bodies on the line to physically challenge and help tear down the walls of empire.

 

Anne Montgomery is part of a growing movement of faith leaders and secular activists who are willing to challenge the empire directly.

In addition to her recent Ploughshares action in Bangor, she has gone to Guantanamo to demand the release of prisoners and traveled extensively throughout Iraq and Israel/Palestine to work with the people who have been victimized by war. These citizens know that "Fantasy USA" and its manufacture, deployment and use of weapons of mass destruction is both "immoral and criminal" and that as citizens we are responsible to resist. Unlike the real principles upon which the nation was founded, this "Fantasy USA" along with its destructive empire is "a blasphemy against the Creator of life, imaged in each human being."

Mahatma Gandhi and his followers in India, early in the 20th century, destroyed the "Fantasy UK" when they threw off the yoke of British empire and colonialism. Other fantasy regimes were changed throughout the world - from the Ottoman Empire to dictatorships in the Philippines and elsewhere. This week, millions will celebrate the end of "Fantasy USSR" with the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall.

Meanwhile in the U.S., the empire of illusion - political, military and economic - continues to be as a threat to free citizens at home and abroad. The charlatans of Wall Street and Washington openly plunder the public treasury for their own interests, escalate the destruction of countries overseas and - along with their media counterparts - provide only pablum and promises. The puppet masters who control politics and politicians say, "wait until the next election (or candidate)". "Change" is their mantra but support of empire is their goal.

Even the most ardent supporters of the Our-Way-of-Life-Free-Market-Capitalism and American "superiority" have come to understand that something is fundamentally wrong. How can the largest corporations go from making record profits to near collapse? How does racking up trillions of dollars in dept fighting overseas wars add to the long-term security and "common defense"? Does the winner-take-all ethos of the current political process really "establish justice", "insure domestic tranquility", "promote the general welfare" and secure "blessings of liberty"? How long will we allow those who have shown themselves willing to follow dreams of dominance and hegemony no matter how high the risks to remain in power? Not forever, since our very survival is at stake.

Many citizens are beginning to see through the illusion of empire and are speaking out, and working directly, to replace Fantasy USA with a nation that is more just and rewarding for all. Phyllis Bennis notes, "we are at a moment when this movement is rising" and people are demanding social and economic rights and defying US power. We need to challenge the empire. Indeed, if no US citizens, who? If not now, when?

In late November, thousands of citizens will converge on Ft. Benning in Georgia in continuing vigils and civil disobedience actions to close the School of the Assassins (SOA) and stop US military interventions in Latin America. Among the crowds will be Texans from around the state. They know that democracy can't be spread through the "barrel of a gun" and are willing to nonviolently challenge the policies of the Pentagon, Congress and the President. "It is up to us to hold those responsible accountable and to push for to closing of the School of the Americas and a change in US foreign policy" says Father Roy Bourgeois. "Too many have died and continue to suffer at the hands of graduates of this notorious institute."

Others, from peace groups to anti-tax protestors, will march on Washington next year to bring about needed change - from increasing civil rights to shutting down the war machine. As their numbers grow, politicians and pundits may find that their patronage is at risk and that "The People" - not the empire - come first.

In Soul of A Citizen, author Paul Rogat Loeb discusses how people of conviction can continue to work towards peace and social justice by inspiring one another and working to build human bonds. "There are elements of the road that we build as we go. Even in the most difficult situations, we can construct such self-made routes towards freedom and justice." He recalls the leadership of Henri Nouwen, Winston Willis, Desmond Tutu, Thomas Merton and others and how peacemakers can take advantage of the "fullness of time", "radical patience", "Power of stubbornness", "slow-burning fires" to bring about change. While acknowledging that "cynics will continue to smirk, insisting that our efforts are futile," he reminds us that "we're never truly alone when we act with courage and vision."

Bringing an end to Fantasy USA, and replacing it with a "more perfect union" won't be easy, but we never know what we might create unless we try. This is the future of citizenship and patriotism in our nation.

Sr. Anne is one citizen who is trying. So should we.

Texans mourn Ft. Hood tragedy

Texans, and non-Texans alike, are mourning the recent massacre at Fort Hood in Killeen. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, stands accused of shooting to death 13 people and wounding 38 more when he began shooting on his own base last week.

The dead include: Michael Grant Cahill, 62, of Cameron, TX was a physician's assistant and retired CWO who was working on the post as a contracted civilian. The soldiers who died:

Major L. Eduardo Caraveo, 52, of Woodbridge, VA
Staff Sgt. Justin M. DeCrow, 32, of Plymouth, IN
Capt. John P. Gaffaney, 54, of San Diego, CA
Spc. Frederick Greene, 29, of Mountain City, TN
Spc. Jason Dean Hunt, 22, of Tillman, OK
Sgt. Amy Krueger, 29, of Kiel, WS
Pfc. Aaron Thomas Nemelka, 19, of W. Jordan, UT
Pfc. Michael Pearson, 22, of Bolingbrook, IL
Capt. Russell Seager, 41, of Racine, WS
Pvt. Francheska Velez, 21, of Chicago. She was pregnant.
Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, 55, of Havre de Grace, MD
Spc. Kham Xiong, 23, of St. Paul, MN

Because the attacker, who was injured, was Muslim, some attention has been drawn to the 20,000 other Muslim-Americans who serve in the U.S. military. However, many soldiers say that the stress of this shooting can be directly tied to the stress that multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have generated throughout the military and the determination of the Obama administration to continue the war and occupation without an endpoint.

Exxon inks "oil-for-blood" deal

Dallas based Exxon-Mobil remains the world's largest publicly traded oil company with 2008 profits of $45.2 billion and has been an active player in Washington's foreign policy decisions. Last week the multi-national corporation signed its first contract to develop Iraq's West Qurna oil fields since they were nationalized by Saddam Hussein more than 30 years ago.

With reserves of 8.7 billion barrels, West Qurna is among the prized Iraqi fields eyed by Western oil majors who are thankful that Western soldiers were able to secure after the invasion of 2003. The pact comes after British oil major BP and China's CNPC signed Iraq's first major new oil deal since the 2003 U.S. invasion for the Rumaila field.

Houston based Shell is a partner with Exxon in the Qurna deal that beat out a consortium of Russia's LUKOIL, ConocoPhillips, France's Total and China's CNPC. The Exxon-Shell group plans to raise the field's output nearly five-fold to 2.325 million barrels per day (bpd) from less than 500,000 bpd at present. The consortium will receive a remuneration of $1.90 per barrel through the life of the 20-year contract.

 

500,000 war forces in Afghanistan

Hey, Hey, Obama man
We want out of Afhanistan

The Pentagon has announced plans to increase U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan to 100,000 by the end of 2012 and has requested NATO partners to provide up to 150,000 additional soldiers. Along with 250,000 "defense" contractors and paramilitary personnel, this would be largest military escalation since Vietnam in 1968.

Both President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress are not only expected to support this dramatic escalation in the war, but also to poney up additional hundreds of billions of dollars to finance it, making "Operation Enduring Disaster" the longest war and second most costly in U.S. history, despite the public who want the war ended.

 

Dallas Peacemaker Awards Dinner

North Texans will celebrate peace during Peacemaker Awards dinner in Dallas on December 3 at the DoubleTree Hotel at Midway and LBJ.

This year's dinner will honor Carol Crabtree Donovan, KinderUSA and Rita Clarke and is an annual event to help fund the Dallas Peace Center. Reserve your tickets today.

 

So-called "Patriot" Act to continue

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Congress want to extend key provisions of the Patriot Act, originally passed after 9-11, which was set to expire this year. Holder wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee members that he offers “strong support” extending theAct, which would reauthorize the “lone wolf,” records and “roving wiretap” powers:

•Lone wolf: Allows government to track a target without any discernible affiliation to a foreign power, such as an international terrorist group.
•Business records: Allows investigators to compel third parties, including financial services and travel and telephone companies, to provide them access to a suspect’s records without the suspect’s knowledge.
•Roving wiretaps: Allows the government to monitor phone lines or Internet accounts that a terrorism suspect may be using, whether or not others who are not suspects also regularly use them.


 

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