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“Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”

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By Jerry Waxman

In B. Traven’s 1927 novel, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, part of the plot involved outlaws pretending to be police in order to murder the American gold prospectors for whatever loot they could steal. In the novel, Bob Curtin asks them for identification to which one of them replied: “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges (expletive deleted)!”  This was at a time following the Mexican Revolution when many of the revolutionaries split up into bandit gangs. The Mexican government had their own police force, The Federales, as well as the army dispensing quick justice to those that they caught. The 1948 movie was as faithful to the novel as the Hollywood Code would allow, but there were a few changes that did not impede the story. In the movie Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) asks the question, and Gold Hat (Alfonso Bedoya) responds with the now immortal quote in this piece’s title. Taken as pure entertainment The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one of my favorite all time movies, and I’ve also read the book. If people actually read the books that most of these movies were adapted from they would be aghast at the liberties taken and regard them, no matter how entertaining, as cheap imitations. I hate what Hollywood has done to Steinbeck and Hemingway and so many others. So, why this diatribe? That’s simple; I hate cheap imitations and I hate fraudulent representations like Teach For America.

Yes, it’s coming to OCPS and that is tragic. Ask yourself a few questions. Would you choose a doctor or dentist who only had five weeks of training out of college and not a member of the AMA to diagnose and treat you? Would you hire someone who only had five weeks of training without having taken the bar exam, and is not a member of the ABA to represent you? Would you hire any professional be it an electrician, plumber, air conditioner repairman who isn’t licensed? If you would even think about it you’re a fool. There are plenty of con artists out there who fool people all the time and they pay dearly for it. TFA is just another con that our very lackluster school board has fallen for. Shame on them. OCPS spends well over a billion dollars on construction and maintenance every year and I’m sure that their building contractors are quite reputable. That’s no Penny Saver handyman doing that construction, yet they’re quite willing to put people in the classroom that are in no way qualified to teach our most precious assets, who don’t have any stinkin’ badges. Where’s the sense there?

You might want to blame it on OCPS. Their divisive policies have forced 2300 teachers out of the system since 2012 with more to follow. They’re still fighting the teachers over a minimum raise which should have been settled long ago, yet they are willing to bring in TFA people and pay them the same money as hard working teachers who have years of classroom management experience as well as professional credentials in their chosen fields. The money will be supplied by funding from Race to the Top, which is something that any sensible school board would have rejected, but then this board has no guts. Instead of advocating for the children, they act as babysitters for their funders. They are as culpable as any Orange County and state agency, yet they could not have that power unless they were elected, and there is the missing part of the equation. Shakespeare said it eloquently: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”  There’s more to that quote but its meaning is clear; we elected them without knowing who they are or what they do and we pay for it dearly. This is very traceable back to former governor Jeb Bush, who at the time was quite popular. Unfortunately, the Bush era brought in legislators that harmed this state, especially in the area of education. Bush founded some foundations that set about to siphon off public money to fund unaccountable charters and enable nonproductive testing to evaluate teachers and school systems. The real enemy of education in this state is Jeb Bush and his minions, yet he was able to convince big money, like The Waltons, The Broads and The Gates Foundation to go along with his ideas. Until we completely discredit and reject Jeb Bush, Florida will wallow in less than mediocre stature

Why do we elect people who do us harm? Why do we elect people who leave us worse off than we were before? The answer to me is obvious. It’s from another famous novel and movie, All the king’s Men, where the main character reveals who the voters really are: “Now listen to me, you hicks. Yeah, you’re hicks too, and they fooled you a thousand times like they fooled me.” Again, this is not the entire quote but the message is clear-the average voter in this state is a hick who will continue to be fooled come election time. The eleventh largest school system in the country deserves much better. I just got this e-mail from Diana Moore, president of the Orange County CTA and I want to share it with you:

“Our school board members think that spending the $1.5 million additional dollars they just received from Race To The Top on a group called Teach For America is a wise investment.

Well, your Orange County teachers want you to know, that there is NO substitute for training and experience!

Orange County children don’t deserve a revolving door of teachers due to the low morale, inconsistent implementation of this evaluation system by poorly trained principals and assistant principals and holding their step level raises hostage. 2300 teachers have resigned in Orange County since 2012.  The school board members set the tone and vision for our schools, but you as voters elect them.

Paying TFA $41k and $3250 bonuses after 5 weeks of training to go into inner city schools is another slap in the face to your hard working Orange County teachers who have still not settled their contract to bring starting pay up by $3000 to $40k. That is $26.00 an hour to $28.10 since not getting a raise since 2007.

Parents and community members, now is the time to ask your school board, what they are planning for your children, and If the question at the end of the day will be “Who was your teacher today?” instead of “How was your day today?”

Read this article to see:

http://atthechalkface.com/2013/06/30/an-open-letter-to-new-teach-for-america-recruits/

Meet at 445 W. Amelia Street at 4:00 on March 11th to stand with our teachers before the next school board meeting.

These members are running for re-election in August 2014: Joie Cadle-District 1, Bill Sublette, Chairman, Daryl Flynn, District 2, and District 3. Call them about your concerns at407-317-3200.

Diana.Moore@floridaea.org

This is not a time to sit back and complain about what’s going on. This is a time to take direct action. The teachers need the support of the public and the public needs to know the facts. There’s an election coming in August and it’s time for the public to demand accountability from these people. After all, these are Public Schools we’re talking about. I have no complaint at this time on the construction projects recently. These edifices are magnificent and beautifully done. They were built by first class, licensed and insured builders. Shouldn’t what goes on inside these structures demand the same degree of competence and professionalism that went into building them? And OCPS and CTA teachers DO have those stinkin’ badges.

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Emulating Gabriel Heatter

By Jerry Waxman

Gabriel Heatter

 

Author’s Note-This was supposed to be a column about the monthly meeting of the Sierra Club and its program. It developed into something else and I was powerless to stop it.

*Look for the silver lining, whene’er a cloud appears in the blue
Remember somewhere the sun is shining, and so the right thing to do is make it shine for you

 

If you’re of a certain age (at least 65 and over) you remember what radio was like in the 1940’s and 1950’s before commercial television took hold. Every network and some local radio stations had their commentators as well as general programming. Gabriel Heatter started in radio in its infancy on WOR in New York after spending some time in the Hearst organization as a reporter. In 1934 WOR became the flagship station for the new Mutual Broadcasting network and Heatter was there for the Bruno Hauptmann trial. Hauptmann was convicted of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby. Back in those days Heatter’s two main rivals for air time were Walter Winchell and Edward R. Murrow, so he was hot stuff. In 1939 he gave Alcoholics Anonymous its first national exposure and he was always looking for true and uplifting stories to broadcast. In 1942 when the US was not doing well against Japan in the Pacific the news came in that our naval forces had sunk a Japanese destroyer. Heatter started his program that evening with the iconic phrase “There’s good news tonight” a phrase he would use for the rest of his broadcasting career. It became an instant hit with audiences and Heatter spent the rest of his career making lemonade out of the sour lemons in the news feeds.

Mutual in those days was more than creative; it was eclectic in the fact that much of the programming was experimental. Ken Nordine had some outrageous stuff interspersed with Heatter, Bob and Ray, Orson Welles’s Harry Lime, Gangbusters, The Shadow and science fiction programming just to name a few. I used to listen to it on Philadelphia’s Mutual affiliate WIP and it was heaven to do my homework while listening to it. Heatter could always find the silver lining in the news, and he was so emotional that he would actually cry on the air if the news really affected him. The only other commentator I ever heard openly weep on the air was Paul Harvey on the death of Sen. Joe McCarthy. Yes, I heard that one, live too in 1957.

I’m actually wondering why I’m almost 400 words into this column and I haven’t even approached my subject yet. Well, I guess that’s because Heatter had the right attitude. He had a 30 year career of always looking on the bright side, so let’s give it a try.

The Sierra Club in Orlando meets every third Wednesday in the bucolic setting of Leu Gardens at 7:00 PM. The topic for the evening was a presentation on the pitfalls of the current Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations for which the Obama Administration is seeking “Fast Track” trade promotion authority, a device which the Nixon administration introduced in 1972 as a way to circumvent barriers to unrestricted free trade between certain countries. Fast track limits debate time in both houses of congress and does not allow for amendments or real investigation of documents. Most treaties, and the TPP is a treaty, must pass by a 2/3 majority in the Senate after long, exhausting debate. Fast tracking allows for 50% plus one for passage in both houses. Since the TPP is composed of twenty seven chapters, only five of which deal with actual trade, it is virtually impossible for the senate to debate the merits in the time given. Since I’ve written previous articles on the subject I need not remind everyone about the perils that we taxpayers face if this country signs on to the treaty. Those articles are readily available on my blog, producer1.wordpress.com or in the archives at West Orlando News Online. They contain complete videos of the meetings I attended and they are also available to anyone on my YouTube channel. They speak volumes more than I could write. Links to the Sierra Club meeting can be found here, here, here and here.

So, what’s the good news that happened at the meeting? Well, …..lots of it. First of all, we received word that a judge in Nebraska ruled that Nebraska’s law allowing for the Keystone XL Pipeline was unconstitutional. This is a temporary situation, however, but it allows more time for demonstrations by the Sierra Club and its allies to be put into action. There are several protests planned very shortly.

Secondly, the protests and anti TPP actions over the last year that I’ve been involved are having their desired effect. A year ago no one, including myself, knew what the TPP was. Since then, there has been a growing awareness on the part of the public and certain elected officials that the TPP and especially the ability to fast track it is a bad deal, a very bad deal. While the mainstream, corporately owned press chooses to bury any articles the alternative media has come alive. Articles are constantly appearing in the more progressive blogs including the Huffington Post. Bill Moyers at PBS has done programming on the TPP, and bloggers from all over, including my friend, Shannyn Moore, the conscience of Alaska, continue to write about it. Ed Schultz on MSNBC constantly rails against it. Opposition in the House of Representatives is still short of defeating the fast track, however, Harry Reid is not introducing the legislation to the Senate, which means that if it does come to the floor it will probably have to wait until after the 2014 elections. That buys a lot more time to get more people involved. What it all really means is that we’re starting to turn things around.

More good news that has happened recently, the Affordable Care Act is picking up steam and it appears that record numbers are in the future. It also appears that the heavily financed opposition ads are not making their impact. Chris Christie is finally being exposed for the fraud he really is. Mexico has just banned GMO corn. And this just in: President Obama will not include “Chained CPI” in the budget. On the local Orlando front Rick Scott’s appointed Board of Education got a virtual black eye when it voted for Common Core adoption in the face of organized and rabid community opposition, which will not go away, the city’s double dealing with Tinker Field was exposed and something good could happen from that. These little victories are huge when you consider the forces that have conspired against the average person, yet we need to still be on guard. Fast track, TPP, Keystone XL Pipeline, GMO, Common Core and school privatization and the city commission’s insatiable desire to displace the residents of Parramore will return, perhaps in more evolved and more virulent forms. We can’t sit back and rest on our laurels, for these little victories are only the beginning of a long struggle. Gabriel Heatter’s famous broadcast took place on May 2, 1942, less than one month after the famous Doolittle raid on Tokyo and a full month before the US Navy’s victory at the Battle of Midway and six months before our victory on Guadalcanal. The tide was turning, yet there were three more years left in the war. Heatter was upbeat; I hope I can be too. In case you haven’t guessed, I grew up with old time radio……….and I miss it; The Goldbergs, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Burns and Allen, The Romance of Helen Trent, Lorenzo Jones, Inner Sanctum, Tales of Suspense, The Shadow, Little Orphan Annie, Bobby Benson and the B Bar B Ranch, The Lone Ranger……….etc………..etc………..etc.

 

A heart, full of joy and gladness, will always banish sadness and strife. So always look for the silver lining, and try to find the sunny side of life.

 

*Look For The Silver Lining by Jerome Kern, Buddy Desylva and Jerry Nowak

Central Florida Unions Say No to the TPP

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By Jerry Waxman

Remember that old 1956 movie, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where the giant seed pods were replacing real people with non human things that looked like people as they slept? Remember Kevin McCarthy’s frantic warning (“They’re here already! You’re next!”) as he bounced about in traffic? That movie was a thinly veiled warning against communism which was a very popular sentiment during the McCarthy (no pun intended) years. No need to be alarmed. Communism would never take hold here because we were a free people, free to choose how we lived…….or so we thought. More rightly, the movie has become prophetic because if we substituted the words “Multinational Corporatism” it doesn’t sound so horrible but it accomplishes the same goals. Guess what? Communism was never the enemy; totalitarianism was. We are about to experience totalitarianism of a different kind, a totalitarianism so absolute that even our government, at all levels, will be powerless to stop it. It’s called the Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP and our government wants us to be a part of it.

We’ve been asleep as a nation since Ronald Reagan’s election as president. That was the beginning of trickle down economics, union bashing, privatization and the consolidation of corporate power on a global basis. The economic elites see the billions of our tax dollars pumped into our highways, schools and other government services and they think to themselves that they need a piece of the action. Governments don’t make anything; they contract it out to builders, auto manufacturers, furniture manufacturers, clothing manufacturers, etc. Private industry already supplies the government with everything it needs but these people want more and our elected officials are willing to let them have it because we haven’t been holding them accountable. President Obama even alluded in his State of the Union speech to fast tracking the US efforts to join the TPP. Fast tracking is a method of escaping accountability in the US congress. The method failed on NAFTA during George H. W. Bush’s administration and NAFTA had to have a full hearing during the Clinton administration. The lessons learned from NAFTA and other free trade agreements should steer this country clear of any of those agreements in the future. I’ve written previously on the TPP in two articles, The Enemy Beneath, and You Have been Granted a Rare Privilege, the former about the dangers of the TPP and the latter about a forum in which Congressman Alan Grayson as well as other leaders spoke out. There’s no need to cover it again.

Jim Howe is a man on a mission. I first met him almost two years ago when he moved here from Midland Texas, where he was an activist, at about the same time that Occupy Orlando was starting up. He is a member of the Communications Workers of America local 3108 and his politics are decidedly progressive. He is active in the local Green Party and through his influence and efforts I got to spend a lot of time with the Green Party 2012 candidate for president, Jill Stein, who had a profound effect on me. Jim is a political activist first class and his mission these past 10 months has been to rally union and political opposition to the TPP. His efforts are starting to pay off.

At the recent AFL-CIO Central Labor Council meeting on August 14, during a hotly contested officers election meeting, Jim was able to get everyone to agree to sign on to an opposition resolution showing Central Florida labor’s stance on the TPP, prior to the elections. He also is active in Floridians Against the TPP and works closely with Public Citizen and the Citizens Trade Campaign. The Citizens Trade Campaign has crafted a letter to Congress with support from numerous groups to stop the fast tracking and the TPP itself. The letter itself hasn’t been updated since March, but Central Florida Labor was signatory to it even then.

Although it is not written about by the mainstream press in a large way there are several articles and actions popping up if you care to look for them. Most recently progressive blogger, Jim Hightower, wrote extensively and expressively on the subject. The one question we all ask ourselves is why the secrecy? How come there’s no real outrage? Are we so used to being ignored and abused by our leaders and corporations that we just meekly accept whatever crumbs we receive? Not where Central Florida Labor is concerned. With men like Jim Howe taking leading roles in keeping up the opposition this battle is far from being over. Howe wants everyone to know that the next planning meeting for action against the TPP will be held on Thursday, August 22 at 6:30 pm at CWA union hall, 2220 Edgewater Drive in Orlando. Be there, because if you’re not “you’re next!”

Chasing Jill Stein

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By Jerry Waxman

Jill_Stein_2012Sometimes fate can fall into your lap when you least expect it. During the presidential campaign season I not only advocate for various causes, but I tutor and manage progressive candidates for low level elective office from Circuit Judge to Soil and Water and City or County Commission seats. I knew of Jill Stein only casually when she was nominated by the Green Party thinking to myself “Oh well, another name on the ballot,” but she really piqued my interest when she and her running mate, Cheri Honkala, were arrested for disturbing the peace at Hofstra University protesting the presidential debates on Oct.16. Two more arrests happened in quick succession during the heart of the campaign. She was again arrested in Texas on Oct. 31 for trespassing while bringing food to the Keystone XL pipeline protesters. She and Honkala were arrested again on August 1 in Philadelphia during a sit-in protesting Fannie Mae foreclosure policies. Crazy, said I. In the heat of the election, where she needs every vote she can get she goes out and gets arrested three times! I wish every candidate had that kind of courage. Images of Eugene V. Debs crossed my mind. Stein is a natural successor to Ralph Nader and her thought processes are very much in line with his, without the hard edges. With all due deference and respect to Nader, he could be hard to take. Stein has plenty of charm and charisma and when you are in her company she makes you feel special. What she lacks are people who will vote for her and her Green Party.

A little more than two months ago Jim Howe, a labor and Green Party activist whom I met during Occupy Orlando asked me to cover the Anti TPP rally in Tampa which I did and I wrote an article on it called The Enemy Beneath. There was also another planned rally in Orlando in May. During this period of time Howe asked me if I would like to meet and interview Jill Stein, who would be at the Florida Green Party conference May 25, 26 & 27. I immediately answered “Of course I would!” So, I started reading up on Jill Stein’s history from every resource I could find. Most of what I found is readily available on line and I needn’t go into it, other than the fact that a life threatening condition changed her into a nonpareil activist, and eventually caused her to run for elective office. In the interview she describes that incident in an almost hilarious way. After doing the research I had a pretty good idea what she was about but there were some gaps that I wanted filled so I was really looking forward to it. Howe informed me that I was scheduled for a full hour at 9:00 A.M. Saturday morning. I thought that was terrific; I could drive over Friday evening, get the interview and get out of Tampa early.

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley”—Robert Burns

There was a Green Party get together in a coffee house Friday night where the main speaker was talking about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to it because I spotted my friend Billy from Occupy Tampa who traveled to DC with me in December 2011 and got arrested on the Supreme Court steps. I spotted Jill Stein across the room and eventually made my way to her, but not before I had made a comment on a question to the speaker about the impact that the J Street lobbyists are beginning to have. When Jill and I finally met she thanked me for my J Street comments. I told her that I was looking forward to the interview in the morning. Unfazed, she asked me “What interview?” It seems that everyone who arranged the interview neglected to inform her about it. After conferring with the Green Party Coordinator, Friedmann Buschbeck, who was her official escort for the event, we agreed that the interview would take place a little later in the day, and we may not get a full hour.

That meant that I had to alter my schedule. I had to attend the conference, which I did and at the same time I could record Jill’s remarks to the attendees, do the interview and perhaps get to see a friend, Bill Bucolo, in St. Pete who is heading up a statewide environmental caucus for the Democratic Party. No such luck! She didn’t show up until 11:00 and went right into her hour long presentation. I did make a lunch date with Bill in St. Pete because Friedmann and I agreed that we would do the interview after the March against Monsanto, around 4:00. Here are the three videos of her presentation. Here also is another video of Jill at the March Against Monsanto.

During lunch Friedmann called to say there was a change in plans and that they would be coming to St. Petersburg to give a talk at the History Museum at 7:00. So, there I was stuck for a few hours and I’d have to wait until the speech was over. After a full day of events and speechifying I’m wondering if she’ll be in any condition to do the interview. When she finally arrived she looked as fresh and perky as she had in the morning and I was just hoping she’d be in the mood after the event.

Friedmann and I agreed that the interview would take place as soon as the program was over. There were a few other speakers before her, and by this time a capacity crowd had assembled, including another friend, Jay D. Alexander, who occupied Washington D.C. with me. Jay ran unopposed for local office and is now an elected official in St. Petersburg. Jill’s speech was too long to get in one take so here it is via part one and part two. Here’s the video of her Q&A.

Finally, at approximately 9:15 that evening after a very short break we got to do the interview. Twelve hours late but well worth it. Before we turned on the camera I complimented her on her stamina and commented that her unflappability and poise when talking and answering all sorts of questions reminded me of some of the best con men in the business selling time shares or shady securities. I meant it in a good way and we both had a chuckle. She revealed things about herself that are not generally reported. She talked about her life as a child. Her very middle class existence, and even though she graduated from Harvard, she originally started out at Radcliffe, which gave me a lot more to work with. She took a year off before going to Harvard Medical School to become a professional musician, but she gave it up because she found it too difficult. We talked about her poetry, her favorite books and she revealed that she’s not the reader in the family; her husband is. I had wrongly assumed that Don Quixote was her favorite read. What she did reveal was that although she is technically adept, she has the soul of an artist. Here’s the complete interview and it’s well worth the look.

The interview is over and we’ve all been invited to a party. Now I know that I’m not going back to Orlando that night.  It also gave me a chance to catch up with Jay, who is still trying passionately to restart the CCC, and has lobbied Congress incessantly about it. At the party Jill said her goodbyes and we hugged in the way that long lost friends do. I felt tired, of course, yet giddy about the whole experience.

Dewey Defeats Truman

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( Pigging Out With Koch)

By Jerry Waxman

Sentinel Koch Protest

In case you haven’t heard the news, the Chicago Tribune reported that headline the day that Truman won the election in 1948. Their track record has been about as accurate ever since that date. The great and iconic columnist Mike Royko went to work for them in 1984 only after Rupert Murdoch bought the Chicago Sun Times. Some of Royko’s choicest criticisms against Murdoch were “No self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped in a Murdoch paper” and “His goal is not quality journalism. His goal is vast power for Rupert Murdoch, political power”. It’s amazing how something said 30 years ago is still relevant today. Current Tribune ownership couldn’t possibly be more right wing than Murdoch so why is Chicago still in the hands of the Democrats? Could it be that Murdoch’s and Sam Zell’s message just sucks? That may not be a scholarly treatise but you can bet that it’s pretty accurate. Cities like Philadelphia have recently witnessed the demise of a formerly great newspaper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, bought by Moses Annenberg in 1930 to take advantage of his racing sheet empire, but elevated by his son, Walter and again by the Knight organization over the years. McClatchy bought it from the Knights and then sold it to a group of conservative businessmen who in their own Charles Foster Kane egos thought it would be “fun to own a newspaper.” P.S.  They are in receivership.

So, let’s say that you had a couple of billion dollars just lying around and your candidates nationally had just been whupped in the 2012 elections after you and your allies had spent a gazillion dollars trying to get them elected. What would you do? Well, it might be “fun to own a media empire”, especially at fire sale rates; after all, the price mentioned is approximately 15% of what Sam Zell originally paid for it. For Charles and David Koch the sale is mere pocket change. They wouldn’t even miss it if the enterprise failed, and they would make more money by giving it to Mitt Romney to liquidate. Business people look at bottom lines. Forgetting what it costs to buy, the day to day costs of running that media empire would be dear. It would take years to make things profitable if that’s even possible. They are better off just buying out all the advertising space in all of the enterprises and spreading their message that way. No muss, no fuss, plenty of coverage.

Many people in Central Florida are very concerned about this because the Tribune Corp owns the Orlando Sentinel, the region’s only print daily, and fear that a Koch takeover could spell doom and gloom in the region and cancel any hope of objective journalism in Central Florida, yet the conservative element is hoping and praying that they will. Upon hearing the news blogger Tom Tillison posted on his Facebook page “Be still my beating heart!”  Yet, West Orlando News Online publisher Keith Longmore, a true progressive, thinks that this could be the best thing to happen for his publication.

Florida Watch Action head, Amy Ritter, is quite upset about the possibility of a Koch Bros. takeover and organized a protest Thursday afternoon, May 15, at the offices of the Orlando Sentinel. Approximately 30 protesters waving signs showed up. Prior to the organized protest several members of the Sentinel staff came out to say hello, but were completely silent on the issue. Similar demonstrations have taken place in cities like Allentown, Pa., Chicago and Los Angeles where Tribune papers are. In Los Angeles, many staff members threatened to quit if the sale went through, but L.A. is a big media town with many more opportunities than Orlando. This is an extremely small media market, and you don’t want to lose your job here. We did manage to espy Scott Maxwell, Mark Schlueb and Dave Damron, but they were nowhere to be found once the protest started. Other members of the press were there and recorded the event, however, no broadcast or cable stations were present. As far as I am aware the only videos taken were by yours truly and Tom Tillison.

Orlando Press Corps

(Left to right  Tom Tillison, BizPac Review, Billy Manes, Orlando Weekly, Mark Schlueb and Scott Maxwell of the Sentinel)

Ritter addressed the crowd of about fifty voicing her concerns about the Sentinal turning into a propaganda machine for the Koch Bros narrow Tea Party type views Other speakers included Sue Casterline, a subscriber for over 30 years, who will cancel her subscription if the Koch’s buy the paper, Holly Fussell, a Rollins College student, who uses the Sentinel for research and she fears that her information will be tainted by Koch ownership and Melissa, another concerned student who echoed Casterline’s and Fussell’s concerns. Ritter then ended the gathering with a chant and encouraged everyone to wave signs at rush hour traffic.

Ritter states that there will be other actions and that the community at large needs to know what’s happening. The Sentinel can’t comment on it and the Koch Bros. will not comment on a pending sale. A spokesman for the Kochs said that they invest in a lot of business opportunities and that the Tribune Company is just one. That’s all well and good, but I don’t want to wake up one morning and find out that Dewey won in 2014. Do you?

The Sequester Could End Today

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By Jerry Waxman

“You never let a good crisis go to waste.”……..Rahm Emmanuel

 

I have to admit a grudging respect for Rahm Emmanuel’s thought processes, even though I think he’s wrong most of the time. When he’s right he’s dead on and that quote from him says it all when it comes to the Sequester. The one time the President should have been taking his advice where he could act immediately he hasn’t done so. For months now the FBI has been warning of budget cuts that could seriously hamper its effectiveness as well as the effectiveness of local law enforcement. All it would take is for the Justice Department to declare “That’s it! It’s over! We’ve gone over budget on Boston and we can’t go any further. As of 4:15 PM April 19, all investigations are hereby closed until further notice.” The President could then declare a national emergency and force congress to repeal sequestration “or else!” While they are at it they should also pass a few background check laws before they go home.

This is not an original idea. In 1969 George Lucas had the opportunity to make an obscure movie titled THX-1138, starring Robert Duvall based on Lucas’s original story. Set in the future, the story deals with a totalitarian society where drug abuse was NOT taking drugs. By the movie’s end THX 1138 escapes to the real outside world not because he is smarter, faster or more expert in any way, but because the system computers declared that they have gone over budget and that all pursuit must stop. That’s budgetthink alright and unfortunately it’s sequesterthink as well. As my paean to George Orwell I think I’ve created two new words.

Think of it. A known terrorist is now on the loose in the Boston area and he’s known to be armed and dangerous. Where will he strike next? As I switch news channels to see who is coming up with the latest disinformation I think to myself, “Imagine the possibilities.” The problem is that our Attorney General can’t even prosecute a banker properly and our President has yet to exhibit real executive leadership, so this scenario will have to remain a figment of my imagination.

On the other hand, if he sequestered the congress during a national emergency they might also pass his budget including Social Security chained CPI and Medicare cuts, just for spite. Be afraid either of his actions or his inactions. Either way we’re screwed

“Imagination is more valuable than knowledge”…….Albert Einstein

THE ENEMY BENEATH

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By Jerry Waxman

Periscope

 

Ship’s Captain: “Bring her around hard aport 220 with a hard rudder amidships”

Bosun:              “What’s that, Captain?”

Ship’s Captain: “MAKE A LEFT! MAKE A LEFT!

 

U-Boat Captain “Hmmm…He brought her around hard aport 220 with a hard rudder amidships.”

1st mate:            “ Vas, Herr Hauptmann?”

U-Boat Captain: “HE MADE A LEFT! HE MADE A LEFT!”

With apologies to Charlie Manna’s War at Sea from his best-selling comedy album Manna Overboard.

 

The late Charlie Manna’s War at Sea routine was a send up of the classic WWII movie, The Enemy Below in which an American Destroyer captain and a German U-Boat captain play a cat and mouse game with each other, anticipating each other’s every move and countering each other’s offensives. It was a taut, tense drama with a not fully satisfying ending. Manna’s routine was very funny, but nothing is funny about the newest threat to our country which is traveling well below our radar, and we only know about it because of a few well isolated pings on our Sonar. We everyday Americans are at sea cruising while the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), running as silently as possible, has us in its periscope sights and the eleven or twelve member wolf pack is ready to draw blood.

To fully understand what’s happening we have to go back about twenty years ago to the early 1990’s when the Bush 41 administration had finalized NAFTA talks and was trying to “fast track” the agreement into action. NAFTA was a free trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada which was supposed to promote more and better trade between the three countries as well as open up more jobs. Most of us don’t read these things because they are voluminous beyond our attention spans and filled with words beyond our comprehension, but rest assured that giant corporations have more to do with the formation of these agreements than governments do and these corporations will do anything they can to create and protect their perceived future profits under these FTA agreements. We the people don’t really matter to them. Bush 41 wasn’t able to fast track the agreement before time ran out and Bill Clinton came into office. Clinton, the ultimate corporate Democrat had to renegotiate the agreement to assure some worker protections, which ultimately led to its passage. Clinton signed the document on Jan. 1, 1994. Clinton was quoted as saying. “NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time”

So did Prohibition, at the time. The trouble is that when you research these things from other that a human nature perspective Murphy’s Law kicks in full force and something bad is bound to happen. In the almost twenty years since the enactment of NAFTA American jobs have yet to make any kind of impact, Mexico’s farm communities have been devastated and Canada isn’t so happy with it either. The only people it has benefitted are the actual corporations who are doing the trading. In fact, it’s even worse than that. Buried somewhere in these agreements are regulations that supersede actual laws of the countries involved. In other words if something a corporate entity does is considered to be illegal by a country or a state it can be overruled by the terms of the agreement. The agreement allows for NAFTA to pick its own arbiters, usually corporate lawyers to determine the outcome, even over and above a Supreme Court ruling. One case in point is The Canadian Parliament banning the use of MMT, a gasoline additive in 1997. Ethyl Corp., based in Virginia, notified the government of Canada of its intent to sue under NAFTA’s Investment chapter. Ridiculous, right? Nope! The Corporate lawyer NAFTA panel rejected Canada’s argument and a year later Canada was compelled to reverse its decision on MMT and to add insult to injury Canada also had to pay out $13 million in fines and corporate profit losses. In 2012 Canada was again in the gunsights of the Eli Lilly Company because of Canada’s restrictions on granting medical patents to Lilly. Lilly filed for $100million in  the NAFTA investor court. So far, over $365,000,000 has been paid out on submitted claims and there are 19 other actions under review worth 14 billion dollars. The worst part of this is that this has nothing to do with trade issues; this has to do with environmental and public health issues.

I remember discussing NAFTA with my son’s friend, Morgan who was an AFL-CIO organizer in South Florida back in the mid Nineties. At the time I was not against NAFTA because I believed that Clinton was sincere about how NAFTA would work. Morgan took the opposite view and said that it’s the worst thing that could happen to American labor. I pointed out the worker protection clauses that Clinton had inserted, and Morgan just said “that’s just never going to happen. It’s a ruse.” As it turns out Morgan was right. NAFTA is an unmitigated disaster unless you are the corporations doing the business, and there’s nothing that our government can or will do about it.

“If at first you don’t succeed”

So, what do you do when you see NAFTA is not working out? That’s easy. You expand it to include Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic making it more dangerous that before, after all, why shouldn’t some of our Latin American and Caribbean friends feel our pain as well. This was the work of the neocons in 2005 in the Bush 43 administration. There was a lot of contention in congress over CAFTA and it was only ratified by one vote in the House of Representatives. Again workers lost protection and American jobs were sent overseas. Environmental and health concerns were overlooked and the corporations made a fortune. Combining that with the Bush Tax Cuts we were screwed again.

“Try, try again.”

Not satisfied with enriching their corporate friends and damaging the average taxpayer more than ever, the Bush 43 people entered into talks to create a Pacific Basin partnership originally encompassing nine countries, including The United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The US entered the negotiations in March of 2008 which places it during the Bush 43 administration. Since that time other countries have expressed interest including Canada, Mexico, Taiwan, The Philippines, Japan, Colombia, Laos and Costa Rica. The US is aggressively pushing South Korea to join. Since the original meeting back in 2004 there have been 16 rounds of talks, the last one taking place in Singapore back in March 4-16th of this year. A seventeenth round is scheduled from May 15-24 in Lima, Peru.

Having experienced the difficulties in both NAFTA and CAFTA the US participation in these talks has gone covert. No one talks about it. There is almost a 100% blackout of information in the corporately controlled news media, and what information is available has been gotten through leaks and whistleblowers, and you know what happens with whistleblowers. There is no transparency in these negotiations and from what we can ascertain only 2 chapters of the agreement actually have something to do with trade itself. Much of it has to do with intellectual property, and a lot of it has to do with circumventing labor, environmental and public health issues. What we do know is that the Obama Administration has embraced the TPP and is doing what it can to fast track it. On April 15, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Japan and gave a speech at Tokyo Tech waxing eloquently about the advantages of the TPP. Activist Cherie Faircloth, a contributor to WONO actually called the White House and got through to Robert Spitzer, Senior Trade Policy Advisor with the USDA. In her conversation with Spitzer, he admitted that there were too few corporate agricultural advisors in Florida and he was looking for more. Her article appeared on Feb. 26, 2013.

Back in Early March a group of activists attended an anti TPP rally in the Ybor city section of Tampa. You can find the links to the videos Here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. The message is pretty clear. We’re in Submarine Alley and all those torpedoes are set to fire on us. Since we know about it we can do something about it. Even though many politicians will deny that they have knowledge of it there are some who are aware of it including Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. Action needs to be taken in the congress to not allow the fast track and to ultimately defeat the US participation in the TPP. You can get more involved by researching the TPP and going to Public Citizen. Org. Maybe we can avoid the torpedoes. Just watch out for the minefields.