Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Marc Norton stands up to the Pentagon

Way back in 2005, I gave Marc Norton a District 5 Diary Year End Award for comparing the Muni fare strike to the Civil Rights movement. Norton likes to place issues he writes about in a grand historical context. He advocated a fare strike when Muni raised its fare 25 cents, likening it to the Civil Rights struggle in the South. He now sees the local struggle over allowing JROTC in city schools is either "standing up to" or "utter obeisance" to the Pentagon, the assumption being that our military is not about defending the country but about waging "imperial" wars around the world:

Superintendent Carlos Garcia's September 18 memo, delivered triumphantly to school administrators by ardent JROTC supporter Margaret Chiu, Assistant Superintendent for high schools, is one of those dirty little secrets that strip the facade from an institution, revealing the true moral and political bankruptcy at its core. In this instance, the San Francisco school district's utter obeisance to the Pentagon is writ large for all to see. Garcia's memo restores the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC), one of the Pentagon's favorite military recruitment programs, as an independent fiefdom within the district, answerable to no one except its military masters.

Like many city progressives, Norton seems to think that he and his comrades never lose on the merits of an issue; they are just outspent by the forces of darkness, usually the wicked Downtown Interests. He suggests that JROTC would have been thrown out of our schools if not for "hundreds of thousands of dollars of downtown corporate money, and fanned by the propaganda and Big Lies of their ever-subservient media---arrayed against the program's opponents, who command intense moral and political indignation, but precious few material resources." 

This is the prog line on other losing issues, like public power. If not for the millions that PG and E always spends in opposition, city voters would surely approve of San Francisco's taking over its power grid, even though city voters have now rejected public power eleven times over the years (In fact, last November more people voted for legalizing prostitution in SF than voted for public power!).

Norton mentions the School Board's 4-3 vote in favor of JROTC, but he doesn't mention the fact that last November city voters voted to retain JROTC by passing Measure V, 55-45%. Hence, Superintendent Garcia isn't just choosing to be a Pentagon lackey; he's simply trying to implement the will of both the voters and the school board. Norton ends with a call to the barricades:

Can the local anti-war movement step up to the plate in a big way, as it should, and bring to bear its not inconsiderable moral authority over the school district in this bastion of anti-war activity? There are anti-war mobilizations coming up in San Francisco on both October 7 and October 17. Will the movement take some time at these mobilizations, so focused on decisions in Washington, to look to its own backyard?

"Moral authority" plus $2.00 will buy you a ride on Muni. You have to win elections, and last November progressives lost both a majority on the school board and the popular vote on retaining JROTC. Nothing has changed since then, except that the school board and the school district are now implementing the will of the people.

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