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BBC: Imperial Tool

By Stephen Lendman

10 April, 2008
Countercurrents.org

At a time of growing public disenchantment with the major media, millions now rely on alternate sources. Many online and print ones are credible. One of the world's most relied on is not - the BBC. It's an imperial tool, as corrupted as its dominant counterparts, been around longer than all of them, now in it for profit, and it's vital that people know who BBC represents and what it delivers.

It was close but not quite the world's first broadcaster. Other European nations claim the distinction along with KDKA Pittsburgh as the oldest US one. BBC's web site states: "The British Broadcasting Company Ltd (its original name) was formed in October 1922....and began broadcasting on November 14....By 1925 the BBC could be heard throughout most of the UK. (Its) biggest influence....was its general manager, John Reith (who) envisioned an independent British broadcaster able to educate, inform and entertain the whole nation, free from political interference and commercial pressure."

That's what BBC says. Here's a different view from Media Lens. It's an independent "UK-based media-watch project....offer(ing) authoritative criticism" reflecting "reality" that's free from the corrupting influence of media corporations and the governments they support.

Its creators and editors (Davids Cromwell and Edwards) ask: "Can the BBC tell the truth....when its senior managers are appointed by the government" and will be fired if they step out of line and become too critical. It notes that nothing "fundamentally changed since BBC founder Lord Reith wrote the establishment: 'They know they can trust us not to be really impartial.' " He didn't disappoint, nor have his successors like current Director-General and Chairman of the Executive Board Mark Thompson along with Michael Lyons, Chairman, BBC Trust that replaced the Board of Governors on January 1, 2007 and oversees BBC operations.

On January 1, 1927, BBC was granted a Royal Charter, made a state-owned and funded corporation, still pretends to be quasi-autonomous, and changed its name to its present one - The British Broadcasting Corporation. Its first Charter ran for 10 years, succeeding ones were renewed for equal fixed length periods, BBC is in its ninth Charter period, and is perhaps more dominant, pervasive and corrupted than ever in an age of marketplace everything and space-age technology with which to operate.

It's now the world's largest broadcaster, has about 28,000 UK employees and a vast number of worldwide correspondents and support staff nearly everywhere or close enough to get there for breaking news. It's government-funded from revenues UK residents pay monthly to operate their television receivers - currently around 22 US dollars, and it also has other growing income sources from its worldwide commercial operations supplementing its noncommercial ones at home.

Most important is how BBC functions, who it serves, and Media Lens' editors explain it best and keep at it with regular updates. They argue that the entire mass media, including BBC, function as a "propaganda system for elite interests." It's especially true for topics mattering most - war and peace, "vast corporate criminality," US-UK duplicity, and "threats to the very existence of human life." They're systematically "distorted, suppressed, marginalized or ignored" in a decades-long public trust betrayal by an organization claiming "honesty, integrity (is) what the BBC stands for (and it's) free from political influence and commercial pressure."

In fact, BBC abandoned those notions straight away, and a glaring example came during the 1926 General Strike. Its web site says it stood up against Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill who "urged the government to take over the BBC, but (general manager) Reith persuaded Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin that this would be against the national interest" it was sworn to serve.

Media Lens forthrightly corrects the record. Reith never embraced the public trust. He used BBC for propaganda, operated it as a strikebreaker, secretly wrote anti-union speeches for the Tories, and refused to give air time to worker representatives. It got BBC labeled the "British Falsehood Corporation," and proved from inception it was a reliable business and government partner. It still is, of course, more than ever.

Consider BBC's role during WW II when it became a de facto government agency, and throughout its existence job applicants have been vetted to be sure what side they're on. Noted UK journalist John Pilger explains that independent-minded ones "were refused BBC posts (and still are) because they were not considered safe."

Only "reliable" ones reported on the 1982 Falklands war, for example, that Margaret Thatcher staged to boost her low approval rating and improve her reelection chances. Leaked information later showed BBC executives ordered news coverage focused "primarily (on) government statements of policy" and to avoid impartiality considered "an unnecessary irritation."

This has been BBC practice since inception - steadfastly pro-government and pro-business with UK residents getting no public service back for their automatic monthly billings to turn on their TVs - sort of like force-fed cable TV, whether or not they want it.

Back on BBC's web site, it recounts its history by decades from the 1920s to the new millennium when post-9/11 controversies surfaced. BBC only cites one of them rather pathetically. This critique gives examples of its duplicity across the world.

Misreporting on Iraq - Deception over Truth

The controversy BBC mentioned was the so-called Hutton Inquiry into the death of Ministry of Defense weapons expert Dr. David Kelly. On July 18, 2003, reports were he committed suicide, but they were dubious at best. Here how BBC explained it: "a bitter row with Government" emerged after a "Today programme suggested that the Government 'sexed up' the case for war with Iraq in a dossier of evidence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. (BBC governors) backed the report, rejecting (PM) Tony Blair's (demands) for a retraction."

"The row escalated over the following weeks when editorial flaws became evident." Then came Kelly's "suicide." It made daily headlines because he was the source of the BBC report. "The Hutton Inquiry followed, and on January 28, 2004 chairman Gavyn Davies resigned when Lord Hutton's findings were published. The following day the remaining governors accepted the resignation of Director-General Greg Dyke."

True to form, BBC suppressed the truth, so here's what we know. David Kelly, as an insider, accused authorities of faking a claim of Iraq WMDs that could be unleashed in 45 minutes with devastating effects. He then mysteriously turned up dead (three days after appearing before a televised government committee) to assure he'd tell no more tales with potentially smoking-gun evidence for proof. He apparently had plenty.

What BBC and the Blair government suppressed, a Kelly Investigation Group (KIG) examined and revealed. Consider these facts:

-- Kelly's death was pronounced suicide without an autopsy;

-- Lord Hutton was aging and never before chaired a public inquiry, let alone one this sensitive making daily headlines;

-- no formal inquest was ordered and was subsumed into the Hutton Inquiry;

-- evidence showed Kelly's body was moved twice;

-- a supposed knife, bottle of water, glasses, and cap reported by later witnesses weren't seen by the first ones who found Kelly;

-- hemorrhaging from a left wrist arterial wound was ruled the cause of death, but there was little blood to substantiate it; other suspicious findings also suggested a thorough independent investigation was warranted.

In fact, evidence became clear that the real agenda was cover-up. Key witnesses weren't called to testify. An anesthesiologist specialist read two KIG accounts (of known facts) about Kelly's death and concluded that "the whole 'suicide' story (was) phony in the extreme....He was clearly murdered." Another surgeon confirmed that Kelly couldn't have died of hemorrhage as reported. It's impossible to bleed to death from that kind of arterial severing.

Three other doctors also examined evidence, commented, and concluded that Kelly didn't commit suicide. The doctors and KIG then wrote an 11 page letter to the Coroner, cited their concerns in detail, and got no response. In a follow-up phone call, the Coroner said that he saw the police report and felt everything was in order.

In the meantime, the Hutton report came out and was leaked a day early to defuse a possible murder angle. Concurrently, the Coroner refused to reopen the investigation, the Hutton Inquiry was bogus, it never proved suicide and, in fact, was commissioned to suppress Blair government lies, whitewash the whole affair, and end it with considerable BBC help.

In this instance, things didn't play out as BBC planned, thanks to correspondent Andrew Gilligan. On May 29, 2003, he delivered what became known as his "6:07 AM dispatch" and said his source (David Kelly) alleged that the government "sexed up" the September dossier with the 45 minute WMD claim knowing it was false. He was immediately reigned in on subsequent accounts, but the damage was done, and Gilligan upped the stakes in a June 1 Mail on Sunday article.

In it, he quoted Kelly blaming Alastair Campbell (Blair government's 1997 - 2003 Director of Communications and Strategy) for embellishing the dossier to provide cause for war against Iraq. The fat was now in the fire with Kelly through Gilligan accusing the Blair government of lying and BBC having to find an out and get back to business as usual.

It wouldn't be simple with an exposed Campbell diary entry revealing he intended to go after Gilligan and apparently Kelly and do whatever it took to nail them. It all played out for days with Campbell demanding an apology and retraction, BBC wanting it to go away, Kelly's July death, and other Blair allies defending the government with threats about reviewing BBC's Charter until it ended predictably and disgracefully.

BBC cut a deal. Saying they resigned in late January 2004, it fired Gilligan along with Chairman Gavyn Davies and Director-General Greg Dyke. Even they weren't immune to dismissal at a time of an "aberrant" report that later proved true. For BBC, it was back to business as usual under new management supporting two illegal wars showing no signs of ending or BBC reporting truthfully about them.

From the start, it championed Tony Blair's "moral case for war," was a complicit cheerleader for it with the rest of the media, and found no fault with Washington and London's blaming Iraq's regime for what it didn't cause or could do nothing to prevent. Instead, round the clock propaganda ignored the facts and barely hinted at western responsibility for the most appalling crimes of war and against humanity that continue every day.

It's the way BBC reports on everything. Fiction substitutes for fact, news is carefully filtered, wars of aggression are called liberating ones, yet consider what former BBC political editor Andrew Marr wrote in his 2004 book on British journalism: Those in the trade "are employed to be studiously neutral, expressing little emotion and certainly no opinion; millions of people would say that news is the conveying of fact, and nothing more."

Even worse (and most humiliating) was his on-air 2003 post-Iraq invasion comment that he'd like to erase: "I don't think anybody (can dispute) Tony Blair. He said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both these points he has been proved conclusively right. (Even) his critics (must) acknowledge that tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result."

So much for truth and accuracy and a free and impartial BBC. It continues to call a puppet prime minister legitimate; an occupied country liberated; a pillaged free market paradise "democracy;" with millions dead, displaced and immiserated unreported like it never happened.

Supporting Aggression in Afghanistan

BBC was no better on Afghanistan and considered the war largely over when Kabul fell on November 13, 2001. The bombing continues, but it was yesterday's news, and only Taliban "crimes" matter. Unmentioned was how John Pilger portrayed the country in his newest book "Freedom Next Time." He called it more like a "moonscape" than a functioning nation and likely more abused and long-suffering than any other.

Contrast that description with BBC's reporting that Afghanistan is now free from "fear, uncertainty and chaos" because the US and UK "act(ed) benignly; (their) humanitarian military assault is beneficial (but those) meddlesome (Taliban) are trying (to) undermin(e) our good work." Unreported is what really lay behind the 9/11 attack and the price Afghans and Iraqis keep paying for it.

BBC's Disturbing Balkan Wars Reporting

BBC's shame is endless, and consider how it reported on the 1990s Balkan wars that evoked popular support on the right and left. Slobadon Milosevic was unfairly vilified for the West's destruction of Yugoslavia. Things culminated disgracefully with a 1999 seventy-eight day NATO assault on Serbia. Its pretext was protecting Kosovo's Albanian population, but its real aim was quite different - removing a head of state obstacle to controlling Central Europe, then advancing east to confront a few others.

Milosevic was arrested in April 2001, abducted from his home, shipped off to The Hague, hung out to dry when he got there, then silenced to prevent what he knew from coming out that would explain the conflict's real aim and who the real criminals were.

The war's pretext was a ruse, Kosovo is a Serbian province but in 1999 was stripped away. Ever since, it's been a US-NATO occupied colony, denied its sovereignty, and run by three successive puppet prime ministers with known ties to organized crime and drugs trafficking. It's also home to one of America's largest military bases, Camp Bondsteel, and it's no exaggeration saying the territory is more military base than a functioning political entity.

Then on February 17, 2008, during a special parliamentary session, Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence. It violated international law but got something more important - complicit western backing (outweighing a one-third EU nation block opposition). It also got one-sided BBC support. Its reporting took great care to ignore an illegal act, leave unmentioned that Kosovo is part of Serbia, or explain the UN's (1999) Security Council Resolution 1244. It recognizes the "sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" and only permits Kosovo's self-government as a Serbian province. No longer with plenty of BBC help making it possible.

Targeting Hugo Chavez and Assailing His Democratic Credentials

BBC misreports everywhere at one time or other, depending on breaking world events and the way power elitists view them. Consider Venezuela and how BBC reported on Chavez's most dramatic two days in office and events preceding them. Its April 12, 2002 account disdained the truth and headlined "Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (was) forced to resign by the country's military. (His) three years in power (ended) after a three-day general strike....in which 11 people died....more than 80 others (were) injured," and BBC suggested Chavez loyalists killed them. It reported "snipers opened fire on a crowd of more than 150,000 (and it) triggered a rebellion by the country's military."

During anti-Chavez demonstrations, "Mr. Chavez appeared on the state-run television denouncing the protest, (then BBC falsely reported corporate TV channels it called independent ones) were taken off the air by order of the government. (High-ranking) military officers rebell(ed) against Mr. Chavez. (He) finally quit after overnight talks with a delegation of generals at the Miraflores presidential palace."

"BBC's Adam Easton, in Caracas at the time, says there are noisy celebrations on the streets, (and former army general) Guaicaipuro Lameda said Mr. Chavez's administration had been condemned because it began arming citizens' committees (and) these armed groups....fired at opposition protesters."

In another report, BBC was jubilant in quoting Venezuela's corporate press. They welcomed Chavez's ouster and called him an "autocrat," "incompetent" and a "coward." They accused him of "order(ing) his sharpshooters to open fire on innocent people (and) betray(ing his) country."

BBC went along without a hint of dissent or a word of the truth, but where was BBC when a popular uprising and military support restored Chavez to office two days later? It quietly announced a "chastened....Chavez return(ed) to office after the collapse of the interim government....and pledged to make necessary changes." In spite of vilifying him in the coup's run-up, cheerleading it when it happened and calling it a resignation, BBC put on a brave face. It had to be painful saying: "The UK welcomed Mr. Chavez's return to power, saying that any change of government should be achieved by democratic means."

It's hard imagining Caracas correspondents Greg Morsbach and James Ingham see it that way. Morsbach called the country a "left-wing haven" on the occasion of 100,000 people taking part in the 2006 World Social Forum in the capital. He said the city is "used to staging big events (opposing) 'neo-liberal' economic policies," then couldn't resist taking aim at Chavez. "Five hundred metres away from the (downtown) Hilton," Morsbach noted, "homeless people scavenge in dustbins for what little food they can find." He then quoted a man named Carlos "who spent the last three years sleeping rough on the streets" and felt Bolivarianism did nothing for him.

It's done plenty for Venezuelans but Morsbach won't report it. Under Chavez, social advances have been remarkable and consider two among many. According to Venezuela's National Statistics Institute (INE), the country's poverty rate (before Chavez) in 1997 was 60.94%. It dropped sharply under Bolarvarianism to a low of 45.38% in 2001, rose to 62.09% after the crippling 2002-03 oil management lockout, and then plummeted to a low of around 27% at year end 2007. In addition, unemployment dropped from 15% in 1997 to INE's reported 6.2% in December 2007.

Morsbach also omitted how Chavez is tackling homelessness. He's reducing it with programs like communal housing, drug treatment and providing modest stipends for the needy. His goal - "for there (not) to be a single child in the streets....not a single beggar in the street." It's working through Mission Negra Hipolita that guides the homeless to shelters and rehab centers. They provide medical and psychological care and pay homeless in them a modest amount in return for community service. No mention either compares Venezuela under Chavez to America under George Bush (and likely Britain under anyone) where no homeless programs exist, the problem is increasing, nothing is being done about it, and the topic is taboo in the media.

Instead in a BBC profile, Chavez is called "increasingly autocratic, revolutionary (and) combative." He's a man who's "alienated and alarmed the country's traditional political elite, as well as several foreign governments," (and he) court(s) controversy (by) making high-profile visits to Cuba and Iraq" and more. He "allegedly flirt(s) with leftist rebels in Colombia and mak(es) a huge territorial claim on Guyana."

The account then implies Chavez is to blame for "relations with Washington reach(ing) a new low (because he) accused (the Bush administration) of fighting terror with terror" post-9/11, and in a September 2006 UN General Assembly speech called the president "the devil."

Chavez's December 2007 constitutional reform referendum was also covered. It was defeated, the profile suggested controversial elements in it, but omitted explaining its objective - to deepen and broaden Venezuelan democracy, more greatly empower the people, provide them more social services, and make government more accountable to its citizens. Instead, BBC highlighted White House spokeswoman Dana Perino saying: Venezuelans "spoke their minds, and they voted against the reforms that Hugo Chavez had recommended and I think that bodes well for the country's future and freedom and liberty."

In another piece, Inghram took aim at the country's "whirlwind of nationalisations, and threats to private companies (are) changing Venezuela's economic climate and threaten to widen a tense social divide." It's part of Chavez's "campaign to turn Venezuela into a socialist state" with suggestive innuendoes about what that implies, omitting its achievements, and reporting nothing about how business in the country is booming or that Chavez's approach is pragmatic.

Instead, Inghram cites his critics saying "his plan is all about power" (and) bring(ing) no benefit to the nation" in lieu of letting business run it as their private fiefdom. It's how they've always done it, Venezuelans were deeply impoverished as a result, and BBC loves taking aim at a leader who wants to change things for the better and is succeeding.

It refers to his "stepp(ing) up his radical revolution since being re-elected in December 2006." Venezuela is "very divided" and its president "far too powerful (and) can rule by decree" - with no explanation of Venezuela's Enabling Law, his limited authority under it, its expiration after 18 months, and that Venezuela's (pre-Bolivarian) 1961 constitution gave comparable powers to four of the country's past presidents.

BBC further assailed Chavez's refusal to review one of RCTV's operating licenses and accused him of limiting free expression. Unreported was the broadcaster's tainted record, its lack of ethics or professional standards, and its lawless behavior. Specifically omitted was its leading role in instigating and supporting the aborted April 2002 coup and its subsequent complicity in the 2002-03 oil-management lockout and multi-billion dollar sabotage against state oil company PDVSA.

Despite it, RCTV got a minor slap on the wrist, lost only its VHF license, and it still operates freely on Venezuelan cable and satellite. Yet, if an American broadcaster was as lawless, it would be banned from operating, and its management (under US law) could be prosecuted for sedition or treason for instigating and aiding a coup d'etat against a sitting president. BBC ignored RCTV's offense, assailed Hugo Chavez unjustifiably, and reported in its usual deferential to power way.

It falsely stated RCTV's license wasn't renewed because "it supported opposition candidates (and said) hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Caracas....some to celebrate, others to protest." Unexplained was that pro-government supporters way outnumbered opponents, it's the same every time, and they gather spontaneously for every public Chavez address. Also ignored is that opposition demonstrations are usually small and staged-for-media events so BBC and anti-Chavistas in the press can call them huge and a sign Chavez's support is waning. As BBC put it this time: The situation "highlight(s), once again, how deeply divided Venezuela is" under its "controversial" president - who's popular support is so considerable BBC won't report it.

BBC's War Against Mugabe

On April 4, The New York Times correspondent Michael Wines wrote what BBC often reports: "New Signs of Mugabe Crackdown in Zimbabwe." It highlighted "police raids....against the main opposition party, foreign journalists (and) rais(ed) the specter of a broad crackdown (to keep) the country's imperiled leaders in power."

Below is what BBC reported the same day in one of its continuing inflammatory accounts in the wake of Zimbabwe's March 29 presidential and parliamentary elections. It pitted the country's African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) President Robert Mugage against two opponents - the misnamed Movement for Democratic Change's (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai (a western recruited stooge) and independent candidate Simba Makoni.

In its role as an unabashed Tsvangirai cheerleader, BBC headlined: "Mugabe's ZANU-PF prepares for battle" after its parliamentary defeat - MDC winning 99 seats; ZANU-PF 97 (including an uncontested one); a breakaway MDC faction 10 seats and an independent, one, in Zimbabwe's 210 constituencies with only 206 seats being contested; ZANU didn't contest one seat, and three MDC candidates died in the run-up to the poll.

Results for the 60 (largely ceremonial) Senate seats were announced April 5 with ZANU-PF winning 30 and the combined opposition gaining the same number. In addition, ZANU-PF announced 16 parliamentary seats are being contested and ordered recounts for them that could change the electoral balance. Mugabe is also challenging the presidential tally, asked the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to delay releasing it and wants it retabulated because of what he calls "errors and miscalculations."

MDC officials called the move illegal, BBC seems eager to agree, and then went on the attack the way it always does against independent black republics. It can't tolerate them, but it's especially hostile to Zimbabwe. It's the former Rhodesia that British-born South African businessman, politician and De Beers chief Cecil Rhodes founded shortly after Britain invaded in 1893 and conquered Matabeleland. UK soldiers and volunteers were given 6000 (stolen) acres of land and within a year controlled the area's 10,000 most fertile square miles through a white supremacist land grab. They went further as well, confiscated cattle, and coerced the native Ndebele people into forced labor. Brits also exploited the Shonas, they rebelled, and a year later were crushed at the cost of 8000 African lives.

Decades of exploitation followed, a 1961 constitution was drafted to keep whites in power, Rhodesia declared its independence in 1965, but Britain intervened to protect white privilege. UN sanctions and guerrilla war followed, Southern Rhodesia declared itself a republic in 1970, then became the independent nation of Zimbabwe (the former Southern Rhodesia, then just Rhodesia in 1964) in April 1980 after 1979 elections created independent Zimbabwe Rhodesia.

Robert Mugabe was elected president, won overwhelmingly, remained the country's leader for 28 years, and at age 84 ran again for another term on March 29. He's called outspoken, controversial, and polarizing but for millions in Zimbabwe (and in Africa) he's a hero of his nation's liberation struggle against white supremacist rule.

America, Britain and other colonial powers, however, don't view him that way, and therein lies today's conflict. A racist UK can't tolerate an independent black republic and uses its state-owned BBC to vilify Mugabe and target him for regime change in a pattern all too familiar.

In a close March 29 election, vote-rigging is suspected, results days later weren't announced, and BBC accused ZANU-PF of knowing and concealing them as well as governing dictatorially. With no official totals, it stated "Mugabe....failed to pass the 50% barrier needed to avoid a second-round run-off." It's now been announced, by law must be held within 21 days of March 29 (by or before April 19), but AP reports "diplomats in Harare (the capital) and at the UN said Mugabe (wants) a 90 day delay to give security forces time to clamp down."

BBC expects trouble, appears trying to incite it, and denounces Mugabe loyalists as hard-line, militant and known for their violence. In battle mode, correspondent Grant Ferret from Johannesburg (BBC's banned from Zimbabwe because of its anti-Mugabe reporting) states: "Intimidation is....likely to be part of the second round. Offices used by the opposition were ransacked on Thursday night (April 3) (and) two foreign nationals (were) detained (for) violating the country's media laws." An NGO worker "promoting democracy" was also detained.

Correspondent Ian Pannell joins the assault. He stresses a crumbling economy, out-of-control inflation, people unable to cope and talking everywhere about "a struggle to make ends meet." They "spend hours queuing at the bank or waiting in line at a bakery where lines stretch around the corners. Many shops have as many empty shelves as full ones," Zimbabweans are suffering, and "80% of the workforce" has no regular job. People survive anyway they can, there's "a thriving black market," overseas remittances help, but "fields (are) without crops, shops without goods, petrol stations....low or empty, women at the side of the road begging for food, traders desperate for customers and hard currency."

There's no denying Zimbabwe is under duress, but BBC won't explain why. It never reported that ever since Mugabe's ZANU-PF ended white supremacist rule, he's been vilified for being independent, redistributing white-owned farms, mostly (but not entirely) staying out of the IMF's clutches, and waging a valiant struggle to prevent a return to an exploited past.

Doing it hasn't been easy, however. It's meant getting little or no outside aid, bending the rules, restraining civil liberties, banning hostile journalism like BBC's, but up to now (most often) holding reasonably free and fair elections and winning every time. Despite Zimbabwe's problems, Mugabe's popular support has been strong, especially from the country's war veterans who didn't fight for freedom to hand it back to new colonial masters.

But it looks like that's where Zimbabwe is heading. The March 29 election showed weakness. The opposition made it close and forced a runoff (unless a retabulated count shows otherwise). It controls the parliament (barring a retallied change) and has strong western support that smells blood. Behind the scenes, regime change is planned and this time may succeed. An 84 year old Mugabe's time may be passing - if not now, soon.

Zimbabwe's economy has collapsed, drought problems have been severe, food and fuel shortages are acute, 83% of the population lives on less than $2 a day, half the people are malnourished, more than 10% of children die before age five, and the country's HIV/AIDS rate is the fourth highest in the world. In addition, average life expectancy plunged to 37.3 years, inflation is out of control, conditions are disastrous, and it was mostly engineered by 2002 western-imposed sanctions.

Fifteen EU member states and Australia support them plus America after passage of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (ZIDERA). Its effect has been devastating on an already weakened economy. It cut off the country's access to foreign capital and credit, denied its efforts to reschedule debt, froze financial and other assets of ZANU-PF officials and companies linked to them, and effectively brought the economy to its knees.

ZIDERA states that economic and other sanctions will be enforced until the US president certifies that the "rule of law has been restored in Zimbabwe, including respect for ownership and title to property....and an end to lawlessness." Unmentioned is the Act's real purpose - restoring white supremacist rule, exploiting the black majority and doing to Zimbabwe what's happening throughout Africa and in nearly all other developing states.

If Mugabe goes, the IMF can swoop in with a promised $2 billion (renewable) aid package for a new MDC government with the usual strings attached - sweeping structural adjustments, privatizing everything, ending social services, mandating mass layoffs, crushing small local businesses, escalating poverty, and returning the country to its colonial past under new millennium management under a black stooge of a president to make it all look legitimate.

BBC has a role in this, and it's been at it for decades. It's waged a multi-year anti-Mugabe jihad and seems now to be going for broke. For days, broadcasts practically scream regime change. Reports are inflammatory, visibly one-sided, with correspondents saying (MDC's) Tsvangirai won, election results are being withheld, no runoff is necessary, and when it's held Mugabe will use violence to retain power.

On April 5, BBC quoted Tsvangirai accusing Mugabe of "preparing to go to war against the country's people (and) deploying troops and armed militias to intimidate voters ahead of a possible runoff....thousands of army recruits are being recruited, militants are being rehabilitated and some few claiming to be war veterans are already on the warpath."

Tsvangirai wants the courts to force officials to release the results, Zimbabwe's High Court is hearing MDC's petition, but earlier it was claimed "armed police prevented MDC lawyers" from petitioning the Court to get them. BBC quoted one of them saying "police had threatened to shoot them," then quoted Tsvangirai again saying Zimbabwe's central bank was printing money for bribes and government-financed violence and intimidation campaigns.

BBC also suggests that international intervention is needed "to prevent violence if a second round is held (because) violence and intimidation (have) been characteristic of past (Zimbabwe) elections." It quotes another MDC spokesman saying ZANU-PF will "use a runoff to exact revenge....it's a strategy for retribution."

Its correspondent Peter Biles reports "the ruling party remains divided....many (want) a change of leadership, and believe under Mr. Mugabe, Zimbabwe has no future." BBC hammers at this daily in a full-court press to force out Mugabe either willingly or with outside intervention, and now is the time.

A broadcaster is supposed to be neutral, fair and balanced and BBC states "Honesty and integrity (is) what (it) stands for." BBC is dedicated to "educate (and) inform, free from political interference and commercial pressure."

The US-based Society of Professional Journalists states in its Preamble that it's the "duty of the journalist (to seek) truth and provid(e) a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. (They must) strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility....Seek truth and report it....honestly, fairly, courageously."

In serving power against the public interest for 86 years, BBC fails on all counts.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM - 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8566

posted by Steve Lendman @ 3:39 AM

Monday, April 07, 2008
Destroying Public Education in America

Destroying Public Education in America - by Stephen Lendman

Diogenes called education "the foundation of every state." Education reformer and "father of American education" Horace Mann went even further. He said: "The common school (meaning public ones) is the greatest discovery ever made by man." He called it the "great equalizer" that was "common" to all, and as Massachusetts Secretary of Education founded the first board of education and teacher training college in the state where the first (1635) public school was established. Throughout the country today, privatization schemes target them and threaten to end a 373 year tradition.

It's part of Chicago's Renaissance 2010 Turnaround strategy for 100 new "high-performing" elementary and high schools in the city by that date. Under five year contracts, they'll "be held accountable....to create innovative learning environments" under one of three "governance structures:"

-- charter schools under the 1996 Illinois Charter Schools Law; they're called "public schools of choice, selected by students and parents....to take responsible risks and create new, innovative and more flexible ways of educating children within the public school system;" in 1997, the Illinois General Assembly approved 60 state charter schools; Chicago was authorized 30, the suburbs 15 more, and 15 others downstate. The city bends the rules by operating about 53 charter "campuses" and lots more are planned.

Charter schools aren't magnet ones that require students in some cases to have special skills or pass admissions tests. However, they have specific organizing themes and educational philosophies and may target certain learning problems, development needs, or educational possibilities. In all states, they're legislatively authorized; near-autonomous in their operations; free to choose their students and exclude unwanted ones; and up to now are quasi-public with no religious affiliation. Administration and corporate schemes assure they won't stay that way because that's the sinister plan. More on that below.

George Bush praised these schools last April when he declared April 29 through May 5 National Charter Schools Week. He said they provide more "choice," are a "valuable educational alternative," and he thanked "educational entrepreneurs for supporting" these schools around the country.

Here's what the president praised. Lisa Delpit is executive director of the Center for Urban Education & Innovation. In her capacity, she studies charter school performance and cited evidence from a 2005 Department of Education report. Her conclusion: "charter schools....are less likely than public schools to meet state education goals." Case study examples in five states showed they underperform, and are "less likely than traditional public (ones) to employ teachers meeting state certification standards."

Other underperformance evidence came from an unexpected source - an October 1994 Money magazine report on 70 public and private schools. It concluded that "students who attend the best public schools outperform most private school students, that the best public schools offer a more challenging curriculum than most private schools, and that the private school advantage in test scores is due to their selective admission policies."

Clearly a failing grade on what's spreading across the country en route to total privatization and the triumph of the market over educating the nation's youths.

In 1991, Minnesota passed the first charter school law. California followed in 1992, and it's been off to the races since. By 1995 19 states had them, and in 2007 there were over 4000 charter schools in 40 states and the District of Columbia with more than one million students in them and growing.

Chicago's two other "governance structures" are:

-- contract (privatized) schools run by "independent nonprofit organizations;" they operate under a Performance Agreement between the "organization" and the Board of Education; and

-- performance schools under Chicago Public Schools (CPS) management "with freedom and flexibility on many district initiatives and policies;" unmentioned is the Democrat mayor's close ties to the Bush administration and their preference for marketplace education; the idea isn't new, but it accelerated rapidly in recent years.

Another part of the scheme is in play as well, in Chicago and throughout the country. Inner city schools are being closed, remaining ones are neglected and decrepit, classroom sizes are increasing, and children and parents are being sacrificed on the alter of marketplace triumphalism.

Consider recent events under Mayor Richard Daley in Chicago. On February 27, the city's Board of Education unanimously and without discussion voted to close, relocate or otherwise target 19 public schools, fire teachers, and leave students out in the cold. Thousands of parents protested, were ignored and denied access to the Board of Ed meeting where the decision came down pro forma and quick. And it wasn't the first time. For years under the current mayor, Chicago has closed or privatized more schools than anywhere else in the country, and the trend is accelerating. Since July 2001, the city closed 59 elementary and secondary schools and replaced many of them with charter or contract ones.

Nationwide Education "Reform"

Throughout the country, various type schemes follow the administration's "education reform" blueprint. It began with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) that became law on January 8, 2002. It succeeded the 1994 Goals 2000: Educate America Act that set eight outcomes-based goals for the year 2000 but failed on all counts to meet them. Goals 2000, in turn, goes back to the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and specifically its Title I provisions for funding schools and districts with a high percentage of low-income family students.

NCLB is outrageous. It's long on testing, school choice, and market-based "reforms" but short on real achievement. It's built around rote learning, standardized tests, requiring teachers to "teach to the test," assessing results by Average Yearly Progress (AYP) scores, and punishing failure harshly - firing teachers and principals, closing schools and transforming them from public to charter or for-profit ones.

Critics denounce the plan as "an endless regimen of test-preparation drills" for poor children. Others call it underfunded and a thinly veiled scheme to privatize education and transfer its costs and responsibilities from the federal government to individuals and impoverished school districts. Mostly, it reflects current era thinking that anything government does business does better, so let it. And Democrats are as complicit as Republicans.

So far, NCLB renewal bills remain stalled in both Houses, election year politics have intervened, and final resolution may be for the 111th Congress to decide. For critics, that's positive because the law failed to deliver as promised. Its sponsors claimed it would close the achievement gap between inner city and rural schools and more affluent suburban ones. It's real aim, however, is to commodify education, end government responsibility for it, and make it another business profit center.

Last October, the New York Times cited Los Angeles as a vision of the future. It said "more than 1000 of California's 9500 schools are branded chronic failures, and the numbers are growing." Under NCLB, "state officials predict that all 6063" poor district schools will fail and will have to be "restructured" by 2014, when the law requires universal proficiency in math and reading." It's happening throughout the country, and The Times cited examples in New York, Florida and Maryland. Schools get five years to deliver or be declared irredeemable, in which case they must "restructure" with new teachers and principals.

In Los Angeles and around the country, "the promised land of universal high achievement seems more distant than ever," and one parent expressed her frustration. Weeks into the new school year, she said teachers focus solely on what's likely to appear on exams. "Maybe the system is not designed for people like us," she complained. Indeed it's not.

New Millennium Education

That's the theme of Time magazine's December 9, 2006 article on the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). It's on NCEE's New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. Time called it "a high-powered, bipartisan assembly of Education Secretaries, business leaders and a former Governor" and the pre-K to 12 education blueprint they released. It's called "Tough Choices or Tough Times," was funded by the (Bill) Gates Foundation, and below is its corporate wish list:

-- moving beyond charter schools to privatized contract ones; charter schools are just stalking horses for what business really wants - privatizing all public schools for their huge profit potential;

-- ending high school for many poor and minority students after the 10th grade - for those who score poorly on standardized tests intended for high school seniors; those who do well can finish high school and go on to college; others who barely pass can go to community colleges or technical schools after high school;

-- ending remediation and special education aid for low-performance students to cut costs;

-- ending teacher pensions and reducing their health and other benefits;

-- ending seniority and introducing merit pay and other teacher differentials based on student performance and questionable standards;

-- eliminating school board powers, all regulations, and empowering private companies;

-- effectively destroying teacher unions; and

-- ending public education and creating a nationwide profit center with every incentive to cut costs and cheat students for bottom line gains; this follows an earlier decades-long corporate - public higher education trend that one educator calls a "subtle yet significant change toward (university) privatization, meaning that private entities are gradually replacing taxpayers as the dominant funding source as state appropriations account for a lower and lower percentage of schools' operating resources;" corporations now want elementary and secondary education control for the huge new market they represent.

The Skills Commission's earlier 1990s work advanced the scheme and laid the groundwork for NCLB. It came out of its "America's Choice: High Skills or Low Wages" report on non-college-bound students. It called them "ill-equipped to meet employer's current needs and ill-prepared for the rapidly approaching, high-technology, service-oriented future." It recommended ending an "outmoded model" and adopting a standards-based learning and testing approach to enforce student - teacher accountability.

Both Commission reports reflect a corporate wish list to commodify education, benefit the well-off, and consign underprivileged kids to low-wage, no benefit service jobs. It's a continuing trend to shift higher-paying ones abroad, downsize the nation, and end the American dream for millions. So why educate them.

School Vouchers

They didn't make it into NCLB, but they're very much on the table with a sinister added twist. First some background.

It's an old idea dating back to the hard right's favorite economist and man the UK Financial Times called "the last of the great (ones)" when he died in November 2006. Milton Friedman promoted school choice in 1955, then kick-started it in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan. He opposed public education, supported school vouchers for privately-run ones, and believed marketplace competition improves performance even though voucher amounts are inadequate and mostly go to religious schools in violation of the First Amendment discussed below.

Here's how the Friedman Foundation for Education Choice currently describes the voucher scheme: it's the way to let "every parent send their child to the school of their choice regardless of where they live or income." In fact, it's a thinly veiled plot to end public education and use lesser government funding amounts for well-off parents who can make up the difference and send their children to private-for-profit schools. Others are on their own under various programs with "additional restrictions" the Foundation lists without explanation:

-- Universal Voucher Programs for all children;

-- Means-Tested Voucher Programs for families below a defined income level;

-- Failing Schools, Failing Students Voucher Programs for poor students or "failed" schools;

-- Special Needs Voucher Programs for children with special educational needs;

-- Pre-kindergarten Voucher Programs; and

-- Town Tuitioning Programs for communities without operating public schools for some students' grade levels.

What else is behind school choice and vouchers? Privatization mostly, but it's also thinly-veiled aid for parochial schools, mainly Christian fundamentalist ones, and the frightening ideology they embrace - racial hatred, male gender dominance, white Christian supremacy, militarism, free market everything, and ending public education and replacing it with private Christian fundamentalist schools.

In March 1971, the Supreme Court ruled in Lemon v. Kurtzman against parochial funding in what became known as the "Lemon Test." In a unanimous 7 - 0 decision, the Court decided that government assistance for religious schools was unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. It prohibits the federal government from declaring and financially supporting a national religion, and the First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;...."

That changed in June 2002 when the Court ruled 5 - 4 in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris that Cleveland's religious school funding didn't violate the Establishment Clause. The decision used convoluted reasoning that the city's program was for secular, not religious purposes in spite of some glaring facts. In 1999 and 2000, 82% of funding went to religious schools, and 96% of students benefitting were enrolled in them.

The Court harmed democracy and the Constitution's letter and spirit. It also contradicted Thomas Jefferson's 1802 affirmation that there should be "a wall of separation between church and state." No longer for the nation's schools.

Nationwide Efforts to Privatize Education

In recent years, privatization efforts have expanded beyond urban inner cities and are surfacing everywhere with large amounts of corporate funding and government support backing them. One effort among many is frightening. It's called "Strong American Schools - ED in '08" and states the following: it's "a nonpartisan public awareness campaign aimed at elevating education to (the nation's top priority)." It says "America's students are losing out," and the "campaign seeks to unite all Americans around the crucial mission of improving our public schools (by using an election year to elevate) the discussion to a national stage."

Billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad put up $60 million for the effort for the big returns they expect. Former Colorado governor and (from 2001 - 2006) superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District Roy Romer is the chairman. The Rockefeller (family) Philanthropy Advisors are also involved as one of their efforts "to bring the entire world under their sway" in the words of one analyst. Other steering committee members include former IBM CEO and current Carlyle Group chairman Lou Gerstner; former Michigan governor and current National Association of Manufacturers president John Engler; and Gates Foundation head Allan Golston.

"Ed in '08" has a three-point agenda:

-- ending seniority and substituting merit pay for teachers based on student test scores;

-- national education standards based on rote learning; standards are to be uniformly based on "what (business thinks) ought to be taught, grade by grade;" it's to prepare some students for college and the majority for workplace low-skill, low-paid, no-benefit jobs; and

-- longer school days and school year; unmentioned but key is eliminating unions or making them weak and ineffective.

In addition, the plan involves putting big money behind transforming public and charter schools to private-for-profit ones. It's spreading everywhere, and consider California's "Program Improvement" initiative. Under it, "All schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) (must make) Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)" under NCLB provisions nearly impossible to achieve. Those that fail must divert public money from classrooms to private-for-profit remediating programs. It's part of a continuing effort to defund inner city schools and place them in private hands, then on to the suburbs with other "innovative" schemes to transform them as well.

Under the governor's proposed 2008 $4.8 billion education budget cut, transformation got easier. As of mid-March, 20,000 California teachers got layoff notices with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell saying this action puts student performance "in grave jeopardy." Likely by design.

Plundering New Orleans

Nowhere is planned makeover greater than in post-Katrina New Orleans, and last June 28 the Supreme Court made it easier. Its ruling in Meredith v. Jefferson County (KY) and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District effectively gutted the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that affirmed: segregated public schools deny "Negro children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment."

In two troubling 5 - 4 decisions, the Roberts Court changed the law. They said public schools can't seek to achieve or maintain integration through measures taking explicit account of a student's race. They rewrote history, so cities henceforth may have separate and unequal education. Then it's on to George Wallace-style racism with policies like: "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" with the High Court believing what was good for 1960s Alabama is now right for the country.

The Court also made it easy for New Orleans to become a corporate predator's dream, and it didn't take long to exploit it. Consider public schools alone. The storm destroyed over half their buildings and scattered tens of thousands of students and teachers across the country. Within days of the calamity, Governor Kathleen Blanco held a special legislative session. Subject - taking over New Orleans Public Schools (NOPS) that serve about 63,000 mostly low-income almost entirely African-American children. Here's what followed:

-- two weeks after the hurricane, US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings cited charter schools as "uniquely equipped" to serve Katrina-displaced students;

-- two weeks later, she announced the first of two $20 million grants to the state, solely for these schools;

-- then in October 2005, the governor issued an executive order waiving key portions of the state's charter school law allowing public schools to be converted to charter ones with no debate, input or even knowledge of parents and teachers;

-- a month later in November, the state legislature voted to take over 107 (84%) of the city's 128 public schools and place them under the state-controlled "Recovery School District (RSD);" and

-- in February 2006, all unionized city school employees were fired, then selectively rehired at less pay and fewer or no benefits; it affected 7500 teachers as well as custodians, cafeteria workers and others.

Within six months of Katrina, the city was largely ethnically cleansed, the public schools infrastructure mostly gutted, and a new framework was in place. It put NOPS into three categories - public, charter and the Recovery School District with the latter ones run by the state as charter or for-profit schools.

New Orleans Loyola University law professor Bill Quigley described the plunder and called it "a massive (new) experiment....on thousands of (mostly) African American children...." It's in two halves.

The first half based on Recovery School District's estimated 30,000 returning students in January 2007:

-- "Half of (these children were) enrolled (in) charter schools." They got "tens of millions of dollars" in federal money, but aren't "open to every child....Some charter schools have special selective academic criteria (and can) exclude children in need of special academic help." Others "have special administrative policies (that) effectively screen out many children." This latter category has "accredited teachers in manageable size classes (in schools with) enrollment caps....These schools also educate far fewer students with academic or emotional disabilities (and) are in better facilities than the other half of the children...."

"The other half:"

These students were "assigned to a one-year-old experiment in public education run by the State of Louisiana called the 'Recovery School District (RSD)' program." Their education "will be compared" to what first half children get in charter schools. "These children are effectively....called the 'control group' of an experiment - those against whom the others will be evaluated."

RSD "other half" schools got no federal funds. Its leadership is inexperienced. It's critically understaffed. Many of its teachers are uncertified. There aren't enough of them, and schools assigned students hadn't been built for their scheduled fall 2007 opening. In addition, some schools reported a "prison atmosphere," and in others, children spent long hours in gymnasiums because teachers hadn't arrived. In addition, there was little academic counseling; college-preparatory math; or science and languages; and class sizes are too large because returning students are assigned to too few of them.

Many RSD schools also have no "working kitchens or water fountains (and their) bathroom facilities are scandalous....Hardly any white children attend this half of the school experiment." RSD schools are for poor black students getting short-changed and denied a real education by an uncaring state and nation and corporations in it for profit.

Quigley described a system for "Haves (and) Have-Nots," and race defines it. He also exposed the lie that charter schools are public ones. Across the country, but especially in New Orleans, school officials are unaccountable, can pick and choose their students, and can decide who gets educated and who doesn't.

Separate and Unequal

In his 2005 book "The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America," Jonathan Kozol explains a problem getting worse, not better. Using data from state and local education agencies, interviews with researchers and policy makers, and the Harvard Civil Rights Project, his account is disturbing at a time of NCLB and other destructive initiatives.

Harvard Civil Rights researchers captured the problem in their Brown v. Board of Education 50th anniversary assessment stating: "At the beginning of the twenty-first century, American public schools are now 12 years into the process of continuous resegregation." Desegregation from the 1950s through the late 1980s "has receded to levels not seen in three decades." The percent of black students in majority-white schools stands at "a level lower than in any year since 1968" with conditions worst of all in the nation's four most segregated states - New York, Michigan, Illinois and California. "Martin Luther King's dream is being celebrated in theory and dishonored in practice" by what's happening in inner-city schools. King would be appalled "that the country would renege on its promises," and the Supreme Court would authorize it in their two above cited decisions and an earlier 1991 one:

-- Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell that ruled for resegregating neighborhood schools mostly in areas of the South where desegregation was most advanced.

According to recent National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data, blacks and Latinos now comprise about 95% of inner-city students in the nation's 100 largest school systems - accounting for more than one-third of all public school students. Kozol writes about "hypersegregation" with "no more than five or 10 white children (in) a student population of as many as 3000," and this is the "norm, not the exception, in most northern urban areas today." It's "fashionable," he says, to declare integration "failed" and settle for a new millennium version of "Plessey" and its "separate but equal" doctrine that "Brown" repudiated until now.

Despite high-minded political posturing and programs like NCLB, the truth is these youngsters are forgotten and abused. They're warehoused in decrepit facilities, curricula offerings ignore their needs, testing is unrelated to learning, teachers don't teach, the whole scheme is swept under the rug, and "educating" the unwanted is "standardized" to produce good workers with pretty low skill levels for the kinds of jobs awaiting them. Kozol refers to "school reform" as a "business enterprise with goals, action plans, implementation targets, and productivity measures," and above all what marketplace potential there is.

Separate and unequal is the current inner city school standard. Unless it's exposed, denounced and reversed, (and there's no sign of it), millions of poor and minority children will be denied what the "American dream" increasingly only offers the privileged. And no one in Washington cares or they'd be doing something about it.

Disturbing New Dropout Data

A new Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center report released April 1 is revealing, disturbing but not surprising. It states only 52% of public high school students in the nation's 50 largest cities completed the full curriculum and graduated in 2003 - 2004. This compares to the national average of 70%. Below are some of the findings:

-- 1.2 million public high school students drop out each year;

-- 17 of the 50 troubled cities have graduation rates of 50% or lower; in Detroit it's 24.9%; Indianapolis is 30.5%; Cleveland at 34.1%; Baltimore - 34.6%; Columbus - 40.9%; Minneapolis - 43.7%; Dallas - 44.4%; New York - 45.2%; Los Angeles - 45.3%; Oakland - 45.6%; Kansas City - 45.7%; Atlanta - 46%; Milwaukee - 46.1%; Denver - 46.3%; Oklahoma City - 47.5%; Miami - 49%; and Philadelphia - 49.6%;

-- Chicago barely came in at 51.5%;

-- the data show public education in the 50 largest cities' principal school districts in a virtual state of collapse;

-- dropout rates for blacks and Latinos are significantly higher than for white students;

-- dropouts are eight times more likely to end up in prison; family income is the main problem; in cities most affected, it goes hand in hand with a lack of good jobs and a sub-standard social infrastructure;

-- key to understanding the overall problem nationwide is the gutting of social services, widening income gap between rich and poor, exporting manufacturing and other high-paying jobs abroad, and politicians and business exploiting the needs of the many to benefit the few;

-- NCLB "reform" is called the solution; Democrats and Republicans are complicit in promoting it, and no one in government explains the truth - the report reveals a sinister scheme to end public education, say it causes poor student performance, and privatize it so the "market" can provide it to well-off communities and merely exploit the rest for profit.

Why else would the (Bill) Gates Foundation have funded the study and Colin Powell's America's Promise Alliance have sponsored it. APA is partnered with business, faith-based (Christian fundamentalist) groups, wealthy funders, and organizations like the American Bankers Association, right wing Aspen Institute, Business Roundtable, Ford Motor, Fannie Mae, Marriott International, National Association of Manufacturers, US Chamber of Commerce and many other for-profit ones and NGOs.

Educational Maintenance Organizations

It's a new term for an old idea that's much like their failed HMO counterparts. They're private-for-profit businesses that contract with local school districts or individual charter schools to "improve the quality of education without significantly raising current spending levels." They're still rare, but watch out for them and what they're up to.

An example is the Edison Project running Edison (for-profit) Schools. It calls itself "the nation's leading public school partner, working with schools and districts to raise student achievement and help every child reach his or her full potential." In the 2006-2007 school year, Edison served over 285,000 "public school" students in 19 states, the District of Columbia and the UK through "management partnerships with districts and charter schools; summer, after-school, and Supplemental Educational Service programs; and achievement management solutions for school systems."

Edison Schools, and its controversial charter schools and EMO projects, hope to cash in on privatizing education and is bankrolled by Microsoft's co-founder Paul Allen to do it. The company was founded in 1992, its performance record is spotty, and too often deceptive. It cooks the books on its assessments results that unsurprisingly show far more than they achieve. That's clear when independent evaluations are made.

Kalamazoo's Western Michigan University's Evaluation Center published one of them in December 2000. Miami-Dade County public schools did another in the late 1990s. Both studies agreed. They showed Edison School students didn't outperform their public school counterparts, and they were kind in their assessment.

Even more disturbing was Edison's performance in Texas. It took over two Sherman, Texas schools in 1995, then claimed it raised student performance by 5%. But an independent American Institutes for Research (AIR) study couldn't confirm it because Edison threatened legal action if its results were revealed. It was later learned that AIR's findings weren't exactly glowing and were thus suppressed. However, Sherman schools knew them, and when Edison's contract came up for renewal, the company withdrew before being embarrassed by expulsion.

The city's school superintendent had this assessment. He said Edison arrived with promises to educate students at the same cost as public schools and would improve performance. In the end, the city spent an extra $4 million, and students test scores were lower than in other schools. The superintendent added: "They were more about money than teaching," and that's the problem with privatized education in all its forms - charter, contract or EMOs that place profits over students.

Unless public action stops it, Edison is the future and so is New Orleans in its worst of all forms. It's spreading fast, and without public knowledge or discussion. It's the privatization of all public spaces and belief that marketplace everything works best. Indeed for business, but not people who always lose out to profits.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM to 1PM for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests.



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