In the new issue of The Nation, Karen Houppert investigates how the US military has gone beyond trying to recruit tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders and is now actively chasing children as young as eleven years old. Growing desperate amid repeated failures to meet recruitment quotas and empowered by provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, military recruiters are working the schools like never before.

Houppert shows how many parents are increasingly resisting these efforts. “A lot of people are concerned,” she quotes one Los Angeles parent as saying, “but don’t know what to do about it.” But now there’s a new coalition designed to aid parents–and all concerned citizens–alarmed by the military’s increasingly predatory efforts to woo teenagers into the armed forces.

Spearheaded by Working Assets, Mainstream Moms and ACORN, the Leave My Child Alone coalition is trying to raise awareness of the military’s often stealthy recruiting ploys and make sure that all parents know that the Pentagon has established a database with the names of 30 million 16 to 25 year olds as a recruitment tool and that their children can opt out of their school’s military recruitment lists and the Pentagon’s database.

The LMCA site offers a step-by-step account on how to opt-out as as well as a raft of educational and activist resources. Check it out and circulate word about this new coalition. (The Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities also offers good ideas on how to “demilitarize our schools.”)

What You Wear Does Matter

These days, with the AFL-CIO weaker than at any time since the inception of the labor federation, would seem an unlikely period to witness the growth of a sophisticated, anti-sweatshop movement. But thanks to the steadfast work of numerous grassroots groups, the dedication of student activists with organizations like United Students Against Sweatshops, and perhaps a little protectionist China-bashing, there’s a greater awareness of the actual “cost” of the clothes most Americans wear.

The Campaign for Labor Rights (CLR) is one of the most effective independent organizations working to inform and mobilize grassroots activists in solidarity with international anti-sweatshop struggles. Considered the “grassroots mobilizing department” of the anti-sweatshop movement, CLR has worked with more than 500 communities in the US in support of both local and overseas labor struggles. A current campaign calls on Dole to desist in actively engaging in anti-union activity aimed at Colombian flower workers who have successfully organized themselves into an independent union. Click here for more info on CLR and click here to support the group’s efforts.

Creating Your Own Reality

Regular posters to the Comments section of our blogs will notice a new feature: “Ignore this person,” a simple function that allows participants in online discussions to render invisible posts that they find offensive or off-topic.

How best to moderate a free-wheeling online discussion is a question which has bedeviled scores of webmasters. At The Nation, we’re particularly disinclined to ever censor anyone based on political perspectives, especially those we abhor. But it can be disruptive when, as happened recently, someone decides to paste dozens of versions of the same Ann Coulter piece to all five of our weblogs in an obvious effort to disrupt the conversation. Or when someone simply unleashes an obscene tirade with no argument being made.

So what we’ve come up with is a way for readers to create their own realities by offering the option of “ignoring” a given poster.

We hope that everyone will employ this option sparingly and will use it only as a last-resort to rid themselves of those few posters explicitly trying to prevent the free and feisty exchange of ideas. We strongly discourage anyone using it to shield themselves from unwelcome points of view.