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Denebola » Aron Milberg http://www.denebolaonline.net The Award-Winning, Official School Newspaper of Newton South High School, Newton, MA Fri, 17 Jun 2011 02:00:19 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.2 Outsourcing the cafeteria http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/02/10/outsourcing-the-cafeteria/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/02/10/outsourcing-the-cafeteria/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2010 08:44:33 +0000 Aron Milberg http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=3624 The cafeteria staff at South might be looking for work sometime soon as, in an effort to cut costs, the Newton Public Schools are planning to privatize the lunch services. The staff, currently coupled with Newton Public Schools, would be subject to the rules and payment of the private company to whom NPS is outsourcing.

This means one of few things, either the staff lose their jobs entirely, or they keep their jobs but at even lower wages with no benefits, subject to the whims of a cost-cutting third party.

Besides the librarians and custodial staff, the cafeteria staff is already the most mistreated group of individuals at the school. They work long hours in the Student Center for low wages, all the while subject to students haranguing them.

They and the aforementioned custodial staff keep the school running, doing the fine-tuning required for a smooth-running school day. In addition to these obligations, the school wants to cut their jobs or take away their benefits? This cannot be tolerated.

If one worker loses his or her rights due to cost-cutting, then all workers can lose said rights; it sets the precedent for abuse and abrogation of all workers’ rights. In the interest of preserving the labor and worker rights of those who staff our kitchens, cook our food, clean the cafeteria, and smile at me every morning as they hand me my coffee and bagel with two cream cheeses, the school cannot privatize their jobs and take away the benefits of working in a public system.

We live in a nation strained for health insurance and other such amenities, as demonstrated by the current gridlock of the Obama administration. The laying-off or transferring of our cafeterial staff is indicative of such a problem’€that a worker and his or her benefits are considered, ultimately, dispensable to the ruse of cheaper costs and increased profits.

This is not a struggle particular to the staff at our school, although their fight, considering its proximity to our lives, must be dealt with immediately.

Nevertheless, it is a struggle against a system in which a person can lose their life and livelihood so that an institution can save a nominal amount of money. A School Committee that poured millions into building an entirely new high school and is now thinking that cutting six or seven workers is a good cost-cutting measure, should rethink their priorities and their understanding of basic economics and finance.

I urge the school not to privatize its food services, and if it does, that it guarantees all current workers their jobs and the benefits included therein.

Should the school do this, it will be setting the standard for worker equality and justice in the country, a noble goal’€and a goal that Newton ostensibly stands for, as a bastion of liberal tolerance stands for, but has not represented fully through its hypocritical actions.

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Opposing Viewpoints: Barack Obama’s recent Nobel Peace Prize win is an undeserved mistake http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/12/23/opposing-viewpoints-barack-obama%e2%80%99s-recent-nobel-peace-prize-win-is-an-undeserved-mistake/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/12/23/opposing-viewpoints-barack-obama%e2%80%99s-recent-nobel-peace-prize-win-is-an-undeserved-mistake/#comments Wed, 23 Dec 2009 07:59:17 +0000 Aron Milberg http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=3416 The Norwegian Nobel Committee has chosen to award President Barack Obama the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at international diplomacy. In my opinion, Obama has made a fool of himself by flying around the world to receive it. Not only is his very winning of the prize a flawed judgment, but it reflects poorly on his moral fiber for him to accept it. There is a certain level of bad faith required to justify such an action, to be an open man of war and accept a prize for peace.
Obama’s win indicates a growing trend of pragmatism’€that is to say, a growing emphasis on practicality over truth or reason. The Nobel Committee’s willingness to so easily hand out a prize that once stood for the highest honor in left and liberal circles, illustrates that they are beginning to diverge from those people who are actually actively against war, exploitation, killing, and imperialism.

Moreover, much to my dismay, Obama is not a friend of the peace movement. He has created too many issues for himself with healthcare and other such problems, and has not turned his attention to the wars in which America, the country he is supposed to manage, is engaged.

It is true that he started to withdraw troops from Iraq, but to be truly considered anti-war, a candidate should necessarily take a “troops out now stance and recognize that the act of militarily occupying a sovereign nation is a crime. He must realize that it is our nation’s responsibility to leave a country to its own devices while still supporting them in efforts to rebuild.

When it comes to Afghanistan, however, there is no redeeming gray area to Obama’s policy. Not only did he not make an effort to reduce troops in the nation, he has now licensed 30,000 troops to further occupy its territory.

The justification is, ostensibly, that these troops are necessary to root out terrorist forces in Afghanistan that could pose a danger to America. Let us not forget, however, that recent military reports have shown that Americans in Afghanistan are, for the most part, fighting not members of terrorist cells, but poor farmers who want to defend their right to their own land.

The Taliban has relocated, in fact, to Pakistan, which is in a state of disarray trying to stabilize itself. If Obama really wanted to strike a blow against the Taliban, he would have to invade Pakistan and consequently completely destroy civil order in the tenuous area of the Asian subcontinent.

I cannot say that Obama can be called a true man of peace. He has increased war efforts in Afghanistan, he has not pulled enough troops out of Iraq, and he has not taken a firm stance on the actions of Israel.

Though he may not necessarily be characterized as a war-hawk, by any means, based on those decisions he can neither be characterized as the kind of peace-driven revolutionary that he has been made out to be. And that being said, Obama should at least have been honest with himself and with the world and declined to receive the unwarranted honor bestowed upon him.

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A fresh take on the yearly Powderpuff debate http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/11/25/a-fresh-take-on-the-yearly-powderpuff-debate/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/11/25/a-fresh-take-on-the-yearly-powderpuff-debate/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2009 06:45:17 +0000 Aron Milberg http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=3221 I know it is annoying that every year you have to hear someone argue against Powderpuff. You’re probably thinking, “Why can’t you just let us have fun?

Well, the answer is simple: Powderpuff is sexist.

Normally, drag is a subversive break with the norm of gender. In Powderpuff, however, the drag is a mockery of gender, an attack on women. Male cheerleading at the event is a form of drag as well, usually mocking its feminine counterpart as licentious, prissy, and weak.

Meanwhile, the girls play football. And while there is nothing wrong with girls playing football, in this context, it is implied that girls playing football is a reverse of the norm, thus reinforcing the notion that girls are weak, incompetent, and unfit to play.

Changing the name from the mocking term “Powderpuff, which refers to female frivolity in a derogatory manner, to “girls football would make little difference. As we learned in freshmen year English, Powderpuff by any other name still smells as sexist.

Girls should be able to play football whenever they want; there should not need to be a special event that makes a spectacle out of it. It is not an anomaly for someone of the feminine gender to be athletic.

There is no novelty in girls playing sports anymore than there is in boys doing the same. The special significance placed on the event demonstrates the belief, conscious or unconscious, that girls exercising more “masculine qualities of strength, athleticism, force, and stamina is wrong and warrants notice.

But so what? It’s just girls playing football, and they have a good time, right? That, too, is invalid. It completely belies the fact that gender, and specifically gender as it stands in the patriarchy, is just an institution. Moreover, women, the victims of the system, internalize the ideas of male superiority. It isn’t such an unheard of concept; countless studies of slaves and death camp victims demonstrate that victims identify with their masters.

The argument is often made that Powderpuff is justifiable because the girls’ participation is voluntary. But it is important to remember that opportunities for girls to participate in sports, the more “masculine sports especially, are limited. This event allows girls one of those rare opportunities to participate in one of those traditionally masculine sports.

When girls are given the opportunity to do something they have not been able to do before, it is natural that they will want to do it. The point is, the opportunity should have been given before.

In a world where sexual violence is still unfortunately prevalent, and gender dichotomies still have an oppressive skew, it is discouraging that a school like South, which emphasizes equality and tolerance, backs’€both financially and emotionally’€events like Powderpuff that reinforce patriarchal norms and satirize women.

In the interest of equality, feminism, and good athleticism, Powderpuff should be abolished immediately. Girls should be given full opportunity to participate in any sport they choose, whenever they choose, and Powderpuff should be replaced with a more egalitarian school-wide event, like a huge game of capture-the-flag or even a paintball match. Anything would be better.

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Opening the gate: Perspective on Palestine http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/09/30/opening-the-gate-perspective-on-palestine/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/09/30/opening-the-gate-perspective-on-palestine/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2009 07:35:03 +0000 Aron Milberg http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=2743 Well, we’re all back to school. I hope you all had a wonderful summer, because I did. My summer, however, was a little bit different than most. In addition to the usual sitting around that I, I traveled quite a bit, and most importantly I traveled to the place that I talk about most: Palestine.

On a program called Birthright Unplugged, an anti-Zionist response to the Taglit-Birthright trips, I took a tour of Israel proper and the West Bank.

I came in with a moderate position on the issue, supporting the two-state solution. But now, after my first-hand experience in the area (after having run my mouth on the subject for the last few years), I’m not so sure anymore.

My guidebook mentioned something called “Palestine Syndrome. It is the term for what happens upon experiencing the down-to-earth hospitality of the Palestinian people, the great food of the area, and the vastness of the oppression Palestinians face: you fall in love with the region. I experienced this in full.

Everywhere our group went, we were greeted with intense hospitality and respect, in spite of and perhaps due to my being an American and a Jew. Not a single person I met on the trip hated Jews or Americans, and in fact, the Palestinians were actually excited that a person coming from this background was willing to hear their story. I never encountered any sort of Islamic extremism, and in the Dheisheh refugee camp where our group stayed for two nights, I encountered precisely the opposite.

We were greeted by the Palestinians with intense hospitality and respect, in spite of my being an American and a Jew.

Most people disdained Hamas and the religious right, and welcomed “Western ideas like secularism and feminism. There were pictures of Che Guevara graffitied everywhere, even graffiti that read “Women can change the world. It was heartbreaking to think that this situation is portrayed so inaccurately in the Western media.

What was even more heartbreaking, though, were the things we saw at the end of the trip. We visited a woman’s house in the West Bank. The Israeli government wanted to demolish it in order to build the wall through it, but she refused. So they built the wall around her house, separating her from her village and conjoining her to the bordering settler village, from which she experienced constant harassment and ill-will.
The gate opens for her family only twice a day; sometimes her child cannot return home from school because the Israel Defence Forces refuse to open the gate. She still greeted us, however, with customary niceties, engaging us in conversation and serving us tea despite her poverty.

Still sadder was what we saw on the last day of our trip. We were taken to a pine forest in Israel proper, a sight that was eerie in itself. The Palestinian man who took us there showed us a British map of the village that used to stand there. It had a bus system to the rest of the Middle East, many houses, and a successful school system. He led us up a hill and came to a halt.

Near tears, he said, “This was where my house was when I was six years old, and proceeded to show us the location of his kitchen, his porch, and where he used to play.

The Zionist militias destroyed our guide’s village in 1948 and expelled the Palestinian population, as they had done to around 400 other villages. Contrary to popular belief, none of these villages was evacuated, on the suggestion of neighboring Arab states. In this particular village’s place, they grew a pine forest.

There are still 6 million refugees, all of whom are guaranteed the right of return by several international courts of law, many of which, the Geneva Convention being a good example, Israel has signed onto.

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza still suffer from a morass of legal stipulations and can be arrested at any time (for instance for the accusation of “throwing stones between the years of 2001 and 2006). Israel is still blockading Gaza, the site of some extremely volatile bombing campaigns, such as the one in February.
In spite of all this, I felt safe walking through Ramallah, where I was confronted by people wanting to talk to me, to tell me their story, to take pictures with me. In spite of all this, Palestinians remain the most educated Arab population in the world.

By all, this I am convinced that the two-state solution is impractical. There are too many refugees and too much at stake. The only solution, in my mind, is a one-state solution, a bi-national solution, with no specific established religious or national identity, a state that extends from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, where all Palestinian refugees have the right of return, and where Jews and Palestinians (Christian and Muslim alike) can co-exist in a democratic fashion.

Though not in the foreseeable future, it is possible.

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How the world sees America http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/05/13/how-the-world-sees-america/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/05/13/how-the-world-sees-america/#comments Wed, 13 May 2009 09:56:17 +0000 Aron Milberg http://www.sandbox.denebolaonline.net/?p=2307 People don’t hate Americans as individuals, despite the popular preconceived notion. If an American travels extensively, he will find that if he treats the locals with respect, he will in turn be respected and treated with humanity.

America as a whole, however, is not so well received by the world population. It is fair to say that people hate America, even if they don’t hate Americans.

Twentieth-century scholar Edward Said coined the term “Orientalism, a system whereby Western narratives about the East are influenced by the Western imperialist attitude. This bias taints the Western perception of the East with untruth.

Non-Western narratives in the West are likewise eschewed with “Occidentalism, a system whereby other people’s perception of the West and its ideals are changed because of the effect of centuries of un-reconciled Western imperialism.

The Occidentalist narrative about the United States exists in all the places it has imperialized. As Hugo Chavez of Venezuela says, “The grand destroyer of the world, and the greatest threat … is represented by U.S. imperialism. The places that “hate our freedom most are the places where we have had the most involvement, such as Latin America and the Middle East.

During the twentieth century, secularism was actually on the rise in the Middle East. Yassir Arafat, Gamal Nasser, Saddam Hussein, and Mohammad Pahlavi were all secularists. However, the U.S. had chosen to support Hamas, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Islamic revolution in Iran, and the Islamic infiltration of the new Iraqi government.
The West’s policy toward Islam has created the cultural conditions that fostered modern radical political Islam. This is, of course, not to say that there is only one type of Islam, and that there is no hope for secularism in the Middle East.

After the 9/11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden wrote a letter to America stating his grievances. It is true that he commented on America’s need for Islam, which is what conservative pundits point to when they say Bin Laden “hates America’s freedom. They ignore, however, the majority of the letter, in which the main grievance is that “[America] attacked us and [continues] to attack us.

Bin Laden listed Somalia, Palestine, Kuwait, and the Middle Eastern Oil Aristocracy as examples in which America has negatively involved itself, resulting in the death or subjugation of Arabs. He did not mention America’s historical involvement in Iran, or the imperialism of European countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa; imperialism which in the early stages of globalization was inextricably linked to America.

Admittedly, Bin Laden also chastised America for its liberal policies towards gambling and homosexuality, its secular government, and its capitalist economic system. But if America had not been so involved in the history of the Middle East in such a destructive way, these issues would probably not have come up.

Bin Laden does not criticize Turkey, which legalized prostitution, or Palestine, which has an intense history of secularism; not so coincidentally, the Ottoman Empire has fallen and there has never been a Palestinian Empire. The “American Empire, though, is still around.

To say that the Middle Eastern animosity toward the West is not derived from Islam would be false. But to say that modern Islam is not a product of modernization, imperialism, globalization, secularism, foreign ideology, and economic conditions would be even more harmfully false.

As Said says, “Ideas, cultures, and histories cannot seriously be understood or studied without their force, or more precisely their configurations of power, also being studied.

It would be a misstep to say that secularism, liberal democracy, modernization, industrialization, and even globalization and capitalism are inherently evil. In fact, most people would willingly accept these things, if the choice were voluntary.

But throughout history, the West’s global contributions have been introduced by imperialism, colonialism, and destruction.

The face of liberal democracy is one of violence and evil. And it is not because people hate liberty. It is because the so-called liberators kill the children and steal the resources of the places they are liberating.

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