Against the Current, No. 82, September/October 1999

Congress' Phony Health Care War

— The Editors

ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND people in the United States of America lose their health insurance every month.  It seems unlikely, however, that this number included the president of Columbia/HCA, the industry leader in for-profit health care, who, as reported in the August 5 New England Journal of Medicine, "resigned in the face of federal fraud investigations .  .  .  with a $10 million severance package and $269 million in company stock."

Random Shots: That Was the War That Was

— R.F. Kampfer

NOTICE HOW QUICKLY the Chinese government reined in those public demonstrations at the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Perhaps they remembered Wellington's attitude towards expressions of opinions by the troops: “If you allow them to cheer, another time they will feel entitled to hiss.”

Clinton had expected Milosevic to back down when threatened, mainly because that's what he's always done himself.

Star Stuff

MOST OF US know children whom we can see growing up to become Darth Vader.

Since Jar Jar...

A Big Win for the Green Party

— Mike Rubin

ON MARCH 30 Audie Bock became the highest-elected Green Party officeholder in the United States and the first Green candidate elected in a partisan race. By defeating Elihu Harris, the former mayor of Oakland (and former state assembly representative) by more than 300 votes out of about 30,000 votes cast, she became the California State Assembly representative for the 16th District.

Attacks in Philadelphia, Lies in VANITY FAIR: A New Campaign Against Mumia

— Steve Bloom

THE AUGUST ISSUE of Vanity Fair published an article purporting to show that death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal had “confessed” his guilt in the early 1990s in a conversation with a Pennsylvania Prison Society volunteer, one Philip Bloch. At an August 3 press conference held at the studios of WHAT, a Black radio station in Philadelphia, Mumia's attorneys presented evidence exposing the Vanity Fair report as a fraud.

No Classes for Torture! Protests Escalate Against “School of the Americas”

— Anne Schenk

SPURRED BY AN enormous and unexpected victory in Congress, thousands of protesters will gather later this year at the gates of Fort Benning, GA to demand the closure of the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), a military facility that provides training for Latin American and Caribbean soldiers and officers.

Indonesia's Fraud-Riddled Election

— Emily Citkowski

THE ELECTIONS ARE over in Indonesia.  The international press, calling them "the first free and fair elections in over 44 years," noted the relative lack of violence during the campaign period leading up to the June 7 vote.

A Freed Political Prisoner Looks Ahead

— Emily Citkowski interviews Dita Sari

IN A SURPRISE move by the Indonesian government, jailed labor leader Dita Indah Sari was released from Tengerang prison Monday, July 5th.  Dita was jailed in May of 1997 for leading a strike of 20,000 workers.  She was originally sentenced to six years, reduced on appeal to five.

Rebel Girl: What's Behind the Applause?

— Catherine Sameh

REMEMBER THE YEAR of the Woman? Female forays into electoral politics had media coining the phrase so often it left most women feeling we'd received that token lapel pin for a lifetime of hard work. Still, it was an historic year with palpable accomplishments by women. This year is strangely similar, the last one in a decade marked by both advances and setbacks for women in this country.

The Battles for Education

Race and Class: Busing and Integration, 1975-99

— Malik Miah

IN THE MID-1970s Boston was a major battle ground for equal education in the public schools. Boston's inner-city schools—as in most urban areas—were less-equipped and in worse condition than those in white neighborhoods.

Backed by city officials, racist whites attacked Black students being bused from their segregated neighborhoods to white schools. The antibusing organization ROAR (Restore Our Alienated Rights) organized racist protesters carrying signs such as “Stop Busing, Niggers Go Home!” and “White Power, No Busing.”

Peer Review and the New Teacher Unionism: Mutual Support or Policing?

— Joel Jordan

THIS SPRING, THE California state legislature passed a bill sponsored by the newly elected governor, Democrat Gray Davis, making California the first state to mandate peer review in every school district. Until then, the handful of established peer review programs scattered around the country had been the products of local teacher union and district bargaining.

Destruction and Resistance at SUNY

— Ali Zaidi

THE STATE UNIVERSITY of New York turned fifty in 1998, but its mission-to provide New Yorkers with quality education at low cost-is endangered.  Earlier this spring, SUNY faculty finally responded by revolting and issuing an unprecedented demand for the removal of the state-appointed university trustees.

The Realities of Chicago School Reform

— Edith Organizer

IN CHICAGO, THE current round of school reform efforts began in the late 1980s.  They were ostensibly sparked by the November 1987 public pronouncement of William Bennett, then-Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan, calling Chicago schools "the worst in the nation."

University of California Victory: 10,000 Academic Student Employees Win Union Election

— Carolina Bank

AFTER A SIXTEEN-year battle, the University of California was pressured by various methods this spring to recognize the eight academic student employee (ASE) unions. This is a momentous victory not only for ASEs but also for the labor movement: At the onset of the campaign, many people said we would never be able to organize such a transient labor force (a unit of 10,200 employees).

False Promises of Higher Education: More Graduates, Fewer Jobs

— Harry Brill

THROUGH A CONTINUAL dose of propaganda from the establishment and its allies, the American people have been persuaded that obtaining at least a college education is not only necessary, but also provides working people with excellent opportunities to avoid low-wage work and chronic unemployment.

Assaulting Public Education in Canada: Privatization Plague Spreads

— Eugene Plawiuk

FOR THE PAST six years right-wing provincial governments across Canada have embraced the neoliberal agenda of “educational reform.” Four provinces in particular, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have led the charge in dismantling public education in favor of market-driven alternatives.

Affirmative Distraction: Elimination of Affirmative Action at U-Massachusetts

— Marie Sarita Gaytán

THE WEST WIND has blown east. The elimination of affirmative action in Texas, California, and Washington's public university systems seemed like a phenomenon isolated to highly competitive west-coast state universities—until February 1999, when the University of Massachusetts announced that it too would eliminate the use of race-based admissions policies and scholarship programs.

March of the Vouchers - What Should the Left Learn from School Choice Debates?

— Harry Brighouse

IN APRIL, FLORIDA became the first state to adopt a statewide school voucher plan. By a vote of 25-15 the State Senate adopted the absurdly named “A+ Plan for Education” which had previously been passed in the House by a vote of 70-48.

The bill establishes a mechanism for “grading” all public schools in the state, based on test scores and other factors such attendance and graduation rates. Schools that earn A's or show improvement over the years will get incentive rewards of $100 per pupil from the state. But students in schools identified as “failing” for two out of four years will be eligible for $4000 vouchers, which can be used to send them to the public or private schools of their parents' choice.


T-Shirts and Sweatshops

— Barry Carr

“Sweating for a T-Shirt.” A video by Global Exchange. In English or Spanish, 23 minutes. $25 for individuals, $50 community organizations, $100 institutions.

Daniel Singer's Whose Millennium?

— Samuel Farber

THIS BOOK IS a treat.  Daniel Singer is able to put forward a strongly democratic and radical left socialist analysis in a clear, transparent prose without jargon or obscurantist phraseology, be it postmodernist, academic or sectarian Marxist.

Portrait of A Jazz Genius

— Connie Crothers

Dance of the Infidels, A Portrait of Bud Powell by Francis Paudras, translated from French by Rubye Monet. First publication 1986, English edition New York: Da Capo Press, 1998. 353 pages. $18.95 paperback.