Friday, August 14, 2015

Great job by Texas Conservation Corps!

It was good to see the following article in this week's Austin Chronicle, about new sections of the Barton Creek hike/bike trail that have been created largely by young people working with the  Texas Conservation Corps, a local Americorps program through American Youthworks.  This Americorps program is a great way to work outdoors, help Texas become a more ecologically friendly place and earn money, too.   Just think of how many people will benefit from being able to use this trail!

Here's the article from the Austin Chronicle:

 Austin's newest trail system will make its debut Friday, Aug. 14, with the official opening of the first six miles of the Violet Crown Trail. When completed, the trail will extend 30 miles from Zilker Park into Hays County, passing through greenbelts, urban areas, and city-owned water quality protection lands. Spearheaded by the Hill Country Conservancy, which preserves open space by forging land preservation agreements, the project has been in the making since voters approved the first purchase of water quality protection lands in 1998.
In some ways the grand opening is symbolic: The trail's first five miles, from near Barton Springs Pool south to Gaines Creek, comprise the existing Barton Creek Green­belt trail. The HCC has reconstructed some damaged areas and added mile markers with maps and wayfinding signposts, paid for by the Austin Parks Foundation, to orient trail users. They've shared the signposts' GPS coordinates with the city to help emergency crews pinpoint a caller's location. And in partnership with mountain biking club Austin Ridge Riders, the HCC has assumed responsibility for the maintenance and cleaning of that section of the greenbelt.
One new mile of trail, connecting the Barton Creek Greenbelt trail to the new Violet Crown trailhead at Hwy. 290 and Brodie Lane, runs along Gaines Creek, south of Bar­ton Creek. The new trail, like the greenbelt, is a natural dirt surface and open to hikers, runners, mountain bikers, and leashed dogs. The labor on both sections has been done primarily by youth in the Texas Con­ser­va­tion Corps, an AmeriCorps service program of local nonprofit American YouthWorks.
Because the trail will eventually pass through environmentally sensitive water quality protection lands, where caves and karst features connect to the Edwards Aquifer, and where the endangered golden-cheeked warbler nests, the city commissioned the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to assess the trail's proposed route and identify potential problems. That process has informed the planning particularly for later sections of the trail. The conservancy's goal is to complete the next seven miles, connecting the trailhead to the Veloway, by the end of 2016.
The HCC got into the trail business to get a new generation invested in preserving Hill Country land, says Executive Director George Cofer. "The more people we can get onto the lands, who will come to understand how beautiful and how sensitive from an environmental standpoint they are – that's good for recreational reasons, health reasons, and educational reasons."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Fight for 15 is a step toward peace as well as justice

The latest issue of Draft Notices, the quarterly newsletter of San Diego-based Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft, arrived today.  As usual, it contains news and views pertinent to high school students.  This article by Rodrigo de la Rosa makes good connections between working for peace and working for justice:

The $15/hour Minimum Wage Campaign Is Counter-recruitment

— Rodrigo de la Rosa
More and more cities have begun to pave the way toward economic justice by supporting the nationwide initiative of increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles, and Portland, OR, have committed themselves to this goal within the next few years. In states such as Texas, where the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, this change would more than double income in households earning less than $15,000 per year. Although the campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour began as a fast food worker campaign, it has now been implemented in many other service sector jobs and has ultimately become a working-class campaign. In California, where the minimum wage is currently $9 per hour, a single mother or father earns $17,280 per year; that’s $6,570 below the poverty level for a single person without dependents. In San Diego the campaign to earn $15 an hour has been going for a little over a year and has already gained an outstanding amount of support.
This campaign not only advocates for economic justice, but it will also have an impact on military recruitment, because the most powerful factor that drives people in working-class communities into the ranks of the military is POVERTY.
High school students in low-income communities have programs such as JROTC that serve as a gateway and recruitment tool for the military. Military recruiters conduct more class visitations and attend more career fairs than college recruiters in low-income schools. Meanwhile, programs such as JROTC and military recruiters are much less present in schools in affluent communities.
Because the military has such massive exposure in high schools with a majority of working-class students of color, it becomes a much more likely option for them to become economically stable and perhaps have a career. Because these schools often have very limited guidance resources and their families face economic strain, it is difficult for students to see themselves developing a career by attending college. Many students, like me when I was in high school, then come to the conclusion that they are fated to either go into the military or become part of a low-paid workforce upon graduation. It is much easier for recruiters to entice young vulnerable students to join the military when the federal minimum wage is $7.20 per hour and the California minimum wage is $9.00.
If the minimum wage were to increase to $15 per hour, not only would it be a fair and dignified wage for the those who are currently the lowest paid workers, but it would also be more difficult for recruiters to make military salaries sound appealing compared to the civilian workforce. (According to a U.S. Army website, a soldier with less than two years of experience earns somewhere between $18,000 and $20,000.) It would give many young people a reason to consider alternatives to joining the military.
As more and more cities start to advocate and support the $15 per hour wage and the right to form a union at the workplace, it is important to understand the connection and impact that it will have on recruitment into the military specifically within the communities of color who are targeted by recruiters. By supporting the fight for $15 per hour we are not only advocating for economic justice but we are also supporting counter-recruitment demilitarization efforts.
For more information on the $15 minimum wage campaign, visit:
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (

Monday, July 13, 2015

Malala Yousafzai's words of wisdom

"Books, not bullets, will pave the path towards peace and prosperity"
- Malala Yousafzai on her 18th birthday

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Women veterans suffering high suicide rates

A new study shows that women veterans, especially young vets, have much higher rates of suicide than nonveteran women.  Here is an excerpt from an article published on Monday, June 8 by the Los Angeles Times.

"New government research shows that female military veterans commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of other women, a startling finding that experts say poses disturbing questions about the backgrounds and experiences of women who serve in the armed forces.
Their suicide rate is so high that it approaches that of male veterans, a finding that surprised researchers because men generally are far more likely than women to commit suicide.
"It's staggering," said Dr. Matthew Miller, an epidemiologist and suicide expert at Northeastern University who was not involved in the research. "We have to come to grips with why the rates are so obscenely high."

Though suicide has become a major issue for the military over the last decade, most research by the Pentagon and the Veterans Affairs Department has focused on men, who account for more than 90% of the nation's 22 million former troops. Little has been known about female veteran suicide.
The rates are highest among young veterans, the VA found in new research compiling 11 years of data. For women ages 18 to 29, veterans kill themselves at nearly 12 times the rate of nonveterans.
In every other age group, including women who served as far back as the 1950s, the veteran rates are between four and eight times higher, indicating that the causes extend far beyond the psychological effects of the recent wars.
The data include all 173,969 adult suicides — men and women, veterans and nonveterans — in 23 states between 2000 and 2010.
It is not clear what is driving the rates. VA researchers and experts who reviewed the data for The Times said there were myriad possibilities, including whether the military had disproportionately drawn women at higher suicide risk and whether sexual assault and other traumatic experiences while serving played a role."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Calling all Travis Rebels to fight injustice with nonviolence

Hart, Tami, Susana, special guest, Ryan and I had a SOY table at Travis HS this past Tuesday.  It was great to have Ryan with us, who is an IVAW member and brought along copies of the IVAW 10th Anniversary "Celebrate People's History" publication that include some of the excellent graphics created by the JustSeeds Artists' Collective and veterans over the decade.  We posted these along with our other displays.  We were glad to have an opportunity to talk with students who said they were thinking of enlisting. Ryan and Hart were able to offer other perspectives from their own experience.
As always, the Penny Poll results showed students' priorities were Health Care and Education, above all.  Health Care came in at 37% of the budget, Education at 27%, Military at 14%, Environment at 13% and Humanitarian Aid at 9%.
As part of the t-shirt challenge, we asked students which of the Super-Villains of Poverty, Racism, Sexism, Ecocide and War they would rebel against.  I was inspired when one of the students immediately chose Sexism, saying she may pursue a career in human rights law as a way to strengthen women's rights.
Travis Rebels, we hope you will each find your ways to rebel against injustice using strong, nonviolent means -- like education above all.

One of the IVAW posters from the 10th anniversary publication

Hart and Ryan, Veterans for Peace

Peace Strong!

Peace Strong!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

NPR piece: the inequalities between civilian and military when sexual assault is involved

An important piece aired on NPR last week about the extra burdens faced by civilians who are sexually assaulted by military personnel.

This is a serious problem that is not being adequately addressed by military or civilian court systems.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Americorps is a win-win

Americorps programs are good alternatives to military enlistment.  You can earn a living stipend while doing valuable community work, learn good team-building skills, add to your resume and earn an education award of about $6,000 for one year of service.

There are several local Americorps programs. One of them is now hiring for the 2015 - 2016 program year : the ACE tutoring program that is associated with the UT Dana Center in the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin.  For this program, which involves teaching literacy skills to elementary school children, applicants must have at least two years of college.  If you are interested in doing literacy work and have an Associate's Degree or are midway through a Bachelor's Degree, check out this program at this link.

Many Americorps programs can be done directly out of high school.  Check out the many possibilities here .

photo by editor of ACE Americorps members on MLK Day