Archive | December, 2009

From Copenhagen to Kabul, this is an unjust war on us all

14 Dec

President Obama recently defined just war as, “the concept of a just war…a war is justified only when certain conditions were met, if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defence, if the force used is proportional, and if whenever possible, civilians were spared by violence”(Oslo, Norway. 12/10/09). By the president’s own scholarly admission, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and on the environment have never been, or will be just wars.
Last weekend (Dec. 12-13th), hundreds of protestors protested outside of the white house in the wake of a war president receiving the Nobel peace prize. Likewise, In Copenhagen, a hundred thousand protestors (Democracy Now, 12/14/09) marched onto the Bella Centre to protest the war waged against changing the system that has exacerbated man-made climate change. These two movements are simultaneously surging as the U.S. sends 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, behind 6584 civilian casualties, according to the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) and a UK Guardian summary, and over $233 billion spent on the Afghan war (nationalpriorities.org, 12/14/09).
The $233 billion plus that is being spent could be spent on directly creating Green Jobs that would allow us to save our planet from home, and it would allow us to pay our climate debt abroad that consists of “historical damages, the plundering of our resources, the contamination of [their] lands” (Ivonne Yanez, Democracy Now, 11/12/09).

The un-just war, which is to say that the actions of the U.S. have been contextually disproportionate, not wholly in self-defence, and civilians have and will not be spared in Af-pak (U.S. DoD term for Afghanistan and Pakistan), Iraq, or from the environmental catastrophe that is expected to displace millions. Here at home with the neglect that has spawned infamous rates of disease and environmental racism, according to 2001-05 EPA figures, 13% of Black Children acquired asthma directly correlating with air-pollution (Children’s Environmental Health Disparities report).

This just war to create peace is only a class war; in Afghanistan, the class war ignores the human and financial for U.S. hegemony, as Exxonmobil recently won the rights to develop Iraq’s “best undeveloped oil fields” (New York Times, 12/12/09); moreover, the poorest inhabitants of the Globe will suffer the consequences of climate change as emissions, consumption, and fossil fuels are the main considerations in a Copenhagen framework.

For more information on what the U.S. can possibly do to address climate change, check out this NPR article: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121166917

The crisis won’t be solved by Patterson’s cuts, but by us

6 Dec

The imperial aspirations of Governor Patterson will not solve the budget crisis. Recently, he has proposed emergency measures that would give him unilateral power to create the next state budget; which was “was rejected practically instantly” (11/25/09, Buffalo News). Public services do not have to suffer, yet the solution requires restructuring and redistribution of funds from the top to the bottom; something that the powers that be have never done without political demands being made by grassroots motion and calling on whatever political insurgency (i.e. progressive legislators) can be mustered.

According to the Buffalo News, on Dec. 3rd, “New York’s Senate has joined the Assembly in approving a measure to reduce the state’s budget deficit by about $2.8 billion” (“NY Lawmakers Approve Deficit Cutting Plan”) and thereafter, the article cited the Governor’s specific desire to cut education and hospital funding. These two sectors are extremely vital to the lives of everyday people, and it is extremely dire when the health and the intellectual growth of a population are sacrificed when according to word of mouth, in the wake of 2008 SUNY tuition increase, the governor ordered thousand dollar wine glasses.

What’s to be done? In Berkeley, CA at UC Berkeley on November19th, the Regents board announced a tuition hike by 32% and the cutting of 38 custodial jobs, and in response according to the San Francisco Indymedia the students occupied the University. The occupation ended on the 21st amongst three days (18th-21st) of planned demonstrations with a tuition freeze and 38 custodial jobs (11/21/09, San Francisco Chronicle). Their occupation was complemented by a 250 strong mass lobby here, in Manchester, England. Under the banners of Unions and the newly formed Manchester for Jobs and Education, we stood against 127 job cuts and the £180 million in education de-funding ($296 million). Across the board, acts of student militancy and organization of both workers and students have begun. To defend our interests, especially in a city with three big universities (UB, BSC, and Canisus College) and a sizeable Community college (ECC) we have to invest our energy towards movement at the bottom.

It could be said that Governor Paterson wants to avoid sending I.O.U.’s to the public and private sectors, like in California However, this radical proposal to save our bankrupt state comes at the time that Pres. Obama, the Democratic Party leadership, and public opinion polls are telling him to step aside.

The demands of the public need to be articulated clearly, because the budgetary process is too important to be left up to legislators; radical action may be necessary, yet practical action is the most efficient action. Nevertheless, practical action must be radical and effective; like with all great transformations partial and moderate means non-existent. As SNCC leader John Lewis said in this original speech at the March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington in 1964: “to those that say we must be patient and wait, we must say that ‘patience’ is a dirty and nasty word”.

Pursuant to those words, Organize everywhere; lives a subversive life because real change is not gradual and our life-services are not their concern, unless we make it their concern. Therein, remember when this seems out of our control: we are not alone.

We must oppose the cuts at MMU, or we’ll be cut together

4 Dec

Over 250 people demonstrated against the job cuts at Manchester Metropolitan University on Friday, 27th November. The 127 cuts are only the first salvo in the attack on jobs and education at MMU. Our new campaign group Manchester for Jobs and Education has been formed as the students answer to the war on their universities in the form of budget cuts and redundancies.

We stand with Unison, University and College Union, and other people from many backgrounds against the cuts. The coalition of people against these acts realizes that in time of economic distress that we cannot justly disinvest in people. That is what the 127 redundancies and the national de-funding of education represent, jobs and education are the means of material and intellectual sustenance of individuals and society.

As more students apply for university, young and mature, they will seek institutions that can accommodate them and give them an experience that will allow them to develop. We simply cannot do that without the staff, the technical, administrative, and manual staff. Alongside the tutors, the aforementioned employees operate, file, and maintain the university and its facilities.

Despite the value of universities and their staff’s efforts, the government has announced funding cuts for education with the intention to save £35 million by 2010 (the Guardian, 17/11/09); nevertheless, according to The Times Higher Education online, Vice Chancellor’s across the UK are making windfall salaries (e.g. Sir Colin Campbell of University of Nottingham makes £585,000; Manchester Metropolitan’s John Brooks makes £250,000-max). The Vice Chancellor’s salary is complemented by a £22,000 pension and the university £1.3 million budget surplus in fiscal year 2009-2010; notwithstanding, the absurd rise in tuition fees that have recently replaced free public education (except in Scotland).

This is abhorrent, plain and simple. In times of economic crisis we should invest more in public services. This will create jobs (in this case maintain jobs), it will educate a wider percentage of the population and emerging workforce, accommodate the needs of the population; moreover, it will ensure economic security for those in the sector as opposed to a shock therapy aimed at making the universities competitive with new buildings and material gimmicks.

How do we propose that we do this? Manchester for Jobs and Education demands that: 1) completely halt the cuts and the increase in tuition fees; 2) Management stops squandering university funds (i.e. lavish vacations and benefit packages); 3) fund education, with reductions at the top, not the bottom (i.e. large management salaries, and for the government: 4.5 billion war spending, or MP’s salaries); 4). We unashamedly side with the workers in decrying the failure of mismanagement and with over 5300 staff and student signatures we demand a no-confidence vote for Vice Chancellor John Brooks.

The cuts in education are happening in direct correlation with rising fees and the depletion of services. Our interests are clear, we have to advocate and agitate for our jobs and our education, because they are ours; if we do not fight for our interests then nobody else will.