Thursday, March 31, 2005
More on Why Charter Schools Are Not the Answer
Yeah, I’m on vacation. But this was too good to pass up.
Most of you know that I often write about education issues, especially--since I’m here in Milwaukee: Voucher Central.
I thought about highlighting this story the other day, about a new “tool” offered by the family-friendly folks at Standard & Poors, “a searchable database of schools that includes a ‘return on spending’ analysis as well as data on demographics, testing and other educational results,” according to the article.
But I didn’t. However, my sworn nemesis, a conservative Wisconsin blogger, did, and in that post I found something absolutley remarkable.
Owen’s post itself wasn’t that great; he was just talking about how great this site was, whereas I would have pointed out how difficult it would be to judge anything based on one year’s (two years ago, even) data. But the site does show that Wisconsin outperform the rest of the country on pretty much every measure.
But what was interesting about the post is in the comments, though, which are not permalinkable, so scroll down. The only comments so far are from someone named Patrick who says he “recently worked for an organization that runs a charter school in Milwaukee.” That’s not what’s astounding, though. What’s astounding is that we have an insider admitting to what we already know. He writes,
(My emphasis throughout.)
[A] test score/dollars-per-pupil ratio, such as this Standard & Poors metric, is better left as topic for debate on school funding rather than a measurement parents should use to weigh the best schools.Â Why?Â In my time working with the local charter school, and discussions with others in similar positions at charter schools, I came to learn the â€œgamesâ€? that charter/choice schools (or, more importantly, their parent organizations) play with â€œcostâ€? numbers.Â Many of us on staff with the parent organization spent countless hours of our work days to support the school, yet none of our salaries or benefits were ever included in official reports of school expenditures.Â â€œOfficialâ€? school expenditures didnâ€™t show any marketing costs, fund raising costs, custodial services, security costs, etc.--these dollars were in fact spent and necessary, but they were applied to the parent organization.
* Many charter schools, including the one I worked for, purposely avoid costs that public schools must incur.Â For example, the charter school I worked for provided no busing, bought no library books (the very small library contained only donated books), and had no students with physical disabilities (a dirty little secret among many small private and charter schools--if you donâ€™t have a special education program, parents of special ed students wonâ€™t apply to have their kids come to your school.)
* The school I worked for received private money in addition to the public money it received.Â Yet the â€œcost-per-pupilâ€? figures we provided were based only on the public monies provided.
* Charter/private schools know that their private donors can be fooled by the test score numbers you give them.Â Each year I worked with the charter school, we publicized only those test scores that looked good.Â If 3rd Grade reading and 5th Grade Math scores were good, thatâ€™s what we publicized in articles and letters.Â If the Iowa Standard tests were good but the WKCE tests werenâ€™t, we pretended the latter scores didnâ€™t exist.Â In developing ideas on how to publicize scores, I examined materials another well-known local charter school put forth--after reviewing scores on the state DPIâ€™s site, I found that they were actually lying about their scores by quite a bit. [. . .]
* Charter/private schools can and do accept academically talented students ahead of poor students--something public schools cannot do.Â The charter school I worked for had more interested parents than it did open slots for students.Â What did it do?Â â€œUnofficially,â€? it accepted the students with the highest grades from their previous school work.
Having been paid to â€œplay withâ€? testing results to make them look good for a charter school, I offer this advice to parents who want to use testing results intelligently as one indicator of the quality of a school:
* Ask to see all cumulative testing results at all grade levels, not just what the school gives you. [. . .]
* Donâ€™t let the school play the â€œyearâ€? trick.Â For example, if a school had terrible test results this school year but great test results last school year, they might give you the â€œ2004â€? test results, which are actually the 2003-2004 school year test results based on tests students took in November 2003 and results the school received in 2004.Â If this school yearâ€™s test results were better than last school yearâ€™s, they might give you the â€œ2004â€? test results, which are the results of the tests students took in November 2004 as part of the 2004-2005 school year.
Thanks, Patrick, for the honesty. I keep saying, charter and choice schools are not the answer everyone thinks they are. Sure, public schools also “play” with the numbers. But they are, at bottom, fully transparent and fully accountable to you, me, the DPI, voters, taxpayers, and parents. These “private” schools simply are not. They make promises and represent themselves one way ("The school will be safe. [. . .] We don’t have a bad school. We have a great school,” said the guy from Academic Solutions) while the reality is completely different (riots in the halls, anyone?). And what kind of transparency can we ask from these schools? What kind of accountability?
United in their Hatred
Well folks, it’s a double barrel kind of day. In today’s NY Times we get a glimpse of just how awful Organized Religion can be, spouting hatred publicly and turning beautiful teachings on their head by their prejudice.
International gay leaders are planning a 10-day WorldPride festival and parade in Jerusalem in August, saying they want to make a statement about tolerance and diversity in the Holy City, home to three great religious traditions.
Now major leaders of the three faiths - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - are making a rare show of unity to try to stop the festival. They say the event would desecrate the city and convey the erroneous impression that homosexuality is acceptable.
“They are creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable,” Shlomo Amar, Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi, said yesterday at a news conference in Jerusalem attended by Israel’s two chief rabbis, the patriarchs of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches, and three senior Muslim prayer leaders. “It hurts all of the religions. We are all against it."
Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi sheik, added: “We can’t permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty. This is very ugly and very nasty to have these people come to Jerusalem.”
The festival is planned for Aug. 18-28 and is expected to draw thousands of visitors from dozens of countries. The theme is “Love Without Borders,” and a centerpiece will be a parade on Aug. 25 through Jerusalem, a city that remains deeply conservative, though other parts of Israel have become increasingly accepting of gays in recent year
When the first WorldPride festival was held five years ago in Rome, religious opposition came from the Vatican, while secular opposition came from a neo-Fascist group that vowed to hold a counterdemonstration. But the neo-Fascists canceled their demonstration, the march came off peacefully, and even a few center-right politicians joined many thousands of marchers.
One day later, however, Pope John Paul II appeared on a balcony over St. Peter’s Square and delivered a message expressing his “bitterness” that the gay festival had gone forward, calling it an “offense to the Christian values of a city that is so dear to the hearts of Catholics across the world."
This kind of support from the leader of the religion I was raised in confirms the fact that I shall not miss him when he finally dies, even though I’ve prayed for a quiet passing for him. It’s hard sometimes not to sink down to his level. Attending this festival is starting to appeal to me, that is if I don’t think about what August in Israel must be like.
Gay for Pay
In this article in the New York Times we see that Mary Cheney has joined our lovely Jeff Guckert as Gay for Pay. By this I mean exactly what I’m implying, that if you want to see them dealing publicly with their sexuality, you must drop a dime into the kitty.
Mary Cheney, the daughter and campaign manager of Vice President Dick Cheney whose identity as a lesbian became an issue in the presidential campaign, has sold the rights to a memoir to Simon & Schuster for an advance of about $1 million, according to two people involved in the negotiations. “We had several attractive offers,” said Mr. Barnett, who had also negotiated Ms. Matalin’s arrangement with Simon & Schuster. “ In the end, Mary Cheney found great advantage to working with her old friend Mary Matalin.”
Let’s hope this isn’t a new trend starting, sort of a gay whoring for dollars. Miss Cheney (she doesn’t deserve the title of Ms.) has only been vocal twice about being gay. The first was when Coors paid her to be their gay and lesbian liason, trying to get gay people to buy Coors products thereby funneling money into the Coors family who in turn run as right wing Republicans in Colorado. Now she’s cashing in again on her gayness (are they offering her straight sister a million bucks?) by writing this book. You would think maybe she’d appear at some fundraisers for Human Rights Campaign or Lambda Legal Defense Fund but no, that would be for free and as we see again, Mary doesn’t give it away.
She joins the lovely Jeff Guckert in the gay for pay department, he who will throw puff questions at the president while simultaneously criticising Democrats all the while running gay escort websites featuring his nude body as bait. Charming- how long before the two of them have a reality show together where they (again) share their sexuality with us for even more money?
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
We are bathing in it.
Just lately, Gannon, a several months long, narrow focus seige, followed by reaction that he will be on a NPC panel (who cares, it seems to fit). Earlier, desperate leaderless anger, sadness over Ohio and suppression of the vote, once a cornerstone of the party. Now we have ‘’tube-in’’ phalanxes, 24 hour cable X3 for days, the most intense media since SBVfT, an earlier massive failure of the Democrats. Three ring circus, joined by the former civil rights figure who spent Easter weekend on FOX referring to Michael Jackson as “Mike”... yes really, not kidding there.
Oh, there is not much to tell me about Jesse. But there was a different man once, I swear it. Always a pol, never a doubt about it from bloody shirt at the Lorraine Motel forward, but there was work done with beleagered, under seige white farmers, work done with hostage release and 7 million votes garnered in a run at the Democratic nomination.
I am not arguing for Jesse: I don’t waste time. I am indicating what is thrown over, now fully gone forever. Traded in for barker status in Florida, the dangling organ of the nation. Randall Terry has stood with killers of abortion doctors, and Jesse stands with Randall now, meets with ‘’Jeb!’’. He fully aids and abets the dominionist agenda.
I do not waste much time seeking leaders. Not my personal style, I think it is a flawed game. A nation however requires leaders, this is simple fact. And I worry for a nation where an increasingly strange party is isolationist, but avenging, tightly in league with the reformist religionists, and holds all power. They seek to build consensus that executive power should trump the (secular) courts… that faith based, pro-life parents should trump the marriage contract.
If elected Democratic leaders were in fact leaders, things such as Gannon, Jesse, even Schiavo ad infinitum, ad nauseum, would factor less, or differently, in our lives. The nation would hear, fully hear, that we have a constitutional crisis in Schiavo.
No one speaks to us. No one. Gore is silent, Dean went inside. Bradley’s op/ed today is nearly cool dismissal. My take, he said a few things, but has fully moved on, this was the wave good-bye. I do not blame him, not a lot left to say.
The Democratic (and those who stand more or less with the Dems) electorate is flailing around, seeking this or that for traction or grist, in the end it is bile that starving Democrats swallow and tell themselves it is sustenance.
And I don’t believe in this waging of “clean” politics that is spoken of… that will never get us anywhere (I stop at Osama in oppo ads, whether run by Democrats or Republicans). FDR and LBJ (Eleanor too!) are spinning faster in their hardened, domestic pol graves at the thought of clean politics… I believe in tough, blood and guts, hell bent for leather politics, and for a reason:
Make sure you survive it, and then, and only then, can you survive the opposition... I am very practical. Weakness does not serve a national political party, it never has and will not now… however exhortation to clean politics will suit appeaser Democrats. Or whatever they are.
Over and over I see little to nothing, will-o’-the-wisp sorts of things, irritations one deals with summarily, but now thru gaseous vacuum, the irritations rise to the level of red meat politics. In reality these are small, tired fires that leaderless Democrats gather round. HilPac joins Lieberman and rails against violent videos. GMAFB!, twice over! Ditch the dame I say, but they won’t. The Clintons of Chappaqua have a death grip on a weak party. Prepare for unholy revelations, the Republican foes are gathering in the twilight.
I had thought that Boxer possibly got a taste for really reaching out. Not taken in here, but I thought she might surface for another battle. She has not been hurt out here in CA by her bluntness, questioning Condi, rising against the certification… This is normal politics to me but in this wasteland of ours, it stands out. I promise you, she would be rewarded if she spoke. What passes for “liberalism” in California is deeply held, western states’ libertarianism (in San Francisco we add “libertine")... surprising groups would rally to her. But no… silence.
We are told, over and over by the boring cheerleaders (sorry to be rude, but they are) that all is held back for the fillibuster and for the judicial nominations battles. Considering how very much Bush has won, and with ease, “our” side should be rested and ready to go. Dark hints that Delay will be brought down… Fine by me, any ol’ time. Gingrich went, in his day… that was fine too. It made no difference. Not really. Somehow the Democrats never capitalise on anything. Failure of leadership. I hate the word, if we had national leaders it would be less of a concern.
Mostly I am concentrating that the tube-in Il Papa and the tube-out Mrs Schiavo* do not die on the same day. And that she achieves eternal rest (we should be prepared, it may be a week or more til she dies). I fear she will figure, in fits and starts, in the upcoming PA senatorial race as Santorum was on the grass this week at the hospice. Praying, they said it was… More false witness, I call it. And flaming fucking bullshit too. If I could stop that I would.
From experience, I would say that Democrats will be neither swift nor smart in the upcoming run. Already it is Republican-lighter-than-air. Already at Democratic sites I read that Casey’s position on abortion is the “moral” one. I have said for a long time that Democrats were absorbing (and actively being fed) Republican language. That is assimilation, clearly.
* I know it’s rude, but it is literally the only laugh going. I grabbed it during the night, screamed with laughter and send thanks to Billmon for the respite.
Shattering the Cultural Mirror
"Do you ever read any of the books you burn?”
He laughed. “That’s against the law!”
“Oh. Of course.” Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Weâ€™ve all had those books, those photographs, recordings and poems that flashed a reflection of the world around us blindingly into view, like a sunbeam catching the corner of your eye, momentarily dazzling, then revelatory.
Bradburyâ€™s masterpiece was one of those books for me. I loved books and albums. They helped me to travel to places beyond my little ranch house in my little Midwestern suburban town. To think that they could be burned, removing the possibility of new discoveries, new eyes through which to view the world, upset me greatly. Iâ€™ve worried my whole life over reports of censorship, of books and vinyl and canvas thrown onto the pyre.
Art, science, history, philosophy â€¦ the entire width and breadth of enlightened culture have served to help us to see the world, and each other, through fresh eyes. Sometimes those representations have been distorted, child-like clay representations of something more sublime, but the endeavor over time has helped people to learn more about themselves and each other. Chasms between people that lead to dehumanization, exploitation and wars have been broken down by poems, songs and histories.
This process is often very frightening, unsettling to those comfortable in their current understanding of their little corner of the world. Every culture has philosophers, scientists, artists and poets who are confronted by clergy, officials and angry mobs. Sometimes they pay for their explorations with their lives, but each generation brings new explorers, fashioning new mirrors with which we can reflect on who we are, and who we want to become.
Movements to censor art and culture ebb and flow, but we are in the midst of a time where a dangerous confluence of would-be â€œfiremenâ€? seek to determine for us what we can and canâ€™t see. The danger is no longer just Comstock and his lists of rules, or the Preacher and torch, but theyâ€™ve been joined by MBAs with actuarial tables and ratings. Let the mirrors be shattered, all the better for the fragments to be scooped up, framed and offered to smaller, targeted populations, only to be shattered and reframed, again and again.
We need open, vigorous and unbound culture so that we can keep moving along, engaging in our universe, cooperating in the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth, but maintaining an unbroken tapestry along the journey. Whether censors are cutting those threads with laws, sermons or business plans, they endanger the possibility of new connections, new beauty, new understanding and new possibility.
Fight them whenever you can. Fight for your children and neighbors to have great and challenging books to read; in store, library or classroom. It is important for them to see what has come before, both so they donâ€™t feel so damned alone but also for them to avoid mistakes that have been repeated so many times. Go see the paintings of an artist that you may not understand, and stand up to anyone who says they shouldnâ€™t be displayed. Check out those samples of a song online, but support the artist who recorded it. Remember, not just your memories but the memories of others on page, canvas, magnetic tape or digital file, so that you can help to better create a better future.
Finally, demand that the political party that is supposed to represent the progressive principles that this country was founded on stop cooperating with the cultural and corporate right. Culture is not a just a commodity, science not just an empty opinion to be twisted to support narrow financial interests. I will work against any politician who calls for the censorship of movie, book, television program, scientific report or even video game.
Yes, this means you Senators Clinton and Lieberman.
"There was a silly damn bird called a Phoenix back before Christ: every few hundred years he built a pyre and burned himself up. He must have been first cousin to Man. But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we’re doing the same thing, over and over, but we’ve got one damn thing the Phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did. We know all the damn silly things we’ve done for a thousand years, and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, some day we’ll stop making the goddam funeral pyres and jumping into the middle of them. We pick up a few more people that remember, every generation.” Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
American Nosedive (Cont): Act In Haste And Repent At Liesure Department
I had kinda been wondering when Mr Putin’s clumsy move against the oil giant Yukos was going to start paying off. In terms of a remorseless and inescapable hit to the whole national value equation of Russia.
At last. Here we go again! This is from today’s Financial Times
Our dear leaders are getting so very good at doing that these day. Shooting their national value equation in the foot. Yukos could have so easily been turned to national advantage. George, maybe you could still learn something here.
Moscow warns on impact of slowing investment - by Neil Buckley in Moscow
Russia’s slowing investment growth in the wake of the Yukos affair is making it difficult to meet booming domestic demand, the country’s finance minister warned on Tuesday.
Alexei Kudrin, the finance minister and one of the government’s leading liberal reformers, told a government policy seminar on Tuesday that growth was slowing and investment in increasing capacity was far too low. â€œWe have a catastrophic excess of household demandâ€? over supply, he said. â€œThe economy is not able to respond to this demand. â€œOur forecasts show growth will slow over the next three years, and results from the first two months of the year confirm that.â€?
The remarks came days after president Vladimir Putin met Russia’s wealthy â€œoligarchsâ€? and offered an effective amnesty on the sometimes murky 1990s privatisations that were the source of their riches....
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos chief executive, is on trial on fraud and tax evasion charges partly related to a 1990s privatisation. Yukos itself has been hit by a $28bn (â‚¬22bn, Â£15bn) demand for back taxes and partially renationalised to pay off some of the claim. State prosecutors yesterday demanded a 10-year prison sentence with hard labour for Mr Khodorkovsky. His trial is drawing to a close, though the verdict is not expected until May.
Igor Shuvalov, an aide to Mr Putin, told an investors’ conference that Yukos had in effect been a show case. Investment growth slowed last year amid concern about respect for property rights. Capital flight, previously falling, also increased fourfold to $7.8bn last year, with Russians again wary of keeping money in the country.
A show case indeed. Remarkable how these woolly moves spiral things out of control. What began as an argument over several billion in taxes ends up costing the economy maybe a cool trillion or two.
Christianity and Islam (1)
It is not religion; itâ€™s the â€œreligiousâ€?
Islam has been under much focus in the world following the surge of fundamentalismâ€¦ and of course 9/11! Many atrocious acts have been committed in the name of Islam. Regular Islam has been said to encourage such behavior by nature of the religion. Regular Muslims who are in contact with other cultures have been mainly on the defensive, defending or justifying their faith. Muslims immersed in their own communities have been on the offensive, defending their faith against what they see as an organized onslaught. Much literature has been written on the subject.
Comparisons between the various religions are almost always futile unless one is considering selecting one or the other, convincing reluctant impartial onlookerâ€¦ or gathering support in preparation for a war of confrontation. It certainly is not an objective of this essay. I will approach the subject from a much simpler view and try to avoid dreary techno-religious details.
1. When I look at my own aging mother, who is a devout Muslim, I frankly see nothing wrong in her faith. It gives her tranquility, peace of mind, a constant, universal standard of right and wrong, a sense in life, a unified vision of the universe, an attitude towards other human beings, an assurance of her compassion towards the needy, the unfortunate and the suffering, rituals that put order in her life, emotional and spiritual fulfillmentâ€¦ and so on and so forth.
But I am sure that this description fits your own mother, grandmother or some gentle old Christian soul that you know.
2. Compare this image to those people with fiery eyes and long, unkempt beards, wielding swords and beheading â€˜infidelsâ€™, declaring jihad [religious struggle] against decadenceâ€¦ and seeking to â€˜convinceâ€™ people to live in bygone times, in the name of Islam.
Across the Atlantic, I am sure that you can also see men with fiery eyes and loud voices dripping venom, vindictiveness and hatred claiming to be the followers of loving, forgiving Jesus Christâ€¦. advocating wars, justifying wars and glorifying the murder of innocents.
3. I also hear and read many criticisms of Islam and its incompatibility with democracy, science, free-speech, liberalism of thought, equal rights and personal freedoms. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I donâ€™tâ€¦ But my mind goes back to the time when Christianity held sway over peopleâ€™s (even kingâ€™s) lives in Europe and elsewhere.
I remember wars, crusades, where atrocities were committed and blood shed to liberate the birthplace of Christ from the hands of infidels. I remember the Spanish inquisition. I remember burning people alive at the stake under charges of witchcraft. I remember â€˜officialâ€™ religious views that the earth is flat or is the center of the Universe; or poor Galileo. I remember book burning. I remember slave ships run by God-fearing Christiansâ€¦ and numerous other such things unacceptable to modern thinking.
Has Christianity or the teachings of Jesus changed much over the centuries? Neither has Islam or Mohamedâ€™s teachings.
I am certain that this is not what these religions were intended for. Had this been the case, they wouldnâ€™t have had so many willing followers in so many nations throughout many past centuries.
Everybody is innocent and everybody is guilty.
Hooligans are the problem, not football.
It is not the religion. It is some of the â€œreligiousâ€?.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
New York: Demoted To Walking City Number 7
I love to be on the road. But the one thing I find hard to take in most US cities other than NYC is an absence of interesting places to walk around in. (Malls, you say?!)
Other than for example, the narrow strip along their rivers, does anyone actually enjoy walking in Reno or Sacramento, where I am often fated to spend time these days? If so, I am not seeing these walkers out there in their… dozens. Or whatever.
But now other cities are finally winning through and NYC is fading, if you can actually believe that. Today’s New York Times (unfortunately that link will break after one week) has this piece by Clyde Haberman:
The American Podiatric Medical Association - foot doctors to you - has taken to compiling a roster of the 10 “best walking cities” in America. Two years ago, when this Maryland-based group issued its first list, New York ranked No. 1. Quite right. This is one of the few major American cities where people understand that feet can be used for something other than pressing against a gas pedal.
Last year, New York faded for some reason to second place, behind Jersey City, which was deemed a fine town for walking despite a worrisome crime rate that led its authorities to impose a late-night curfew this past weekend.
Jersey City??? Did the podiatrists actually walk that rather barren bunch of back-office skyscrapers and low-rent housing? Does anyone? Even (ha ha!) outside curfew hours?
But worse was yet to come. The podiatric group has just issued its survey for 2005, and New York has tumbled to seventh place.
Seventh! Way behind Arlington, Va., which was No. 1. We were two ranks behind - dare we say it? - Boston. Are we destined now to lose to Boston in everything?
Relax, a George Tzamaras is quoted as saying. “It’s not that New York has done anything different or wrong,” he said. “It’s just that the criteria have changed.... “
Since starting its survey in 2003, the association has fiddled with its standards, while quadrupling the number of cities that it rates, to 200. “The deck had been stacked in one direction,” said Al Fisher, a statistician in Rockville, Md., who crunched the numbers for the podiatrists. “We tried to stack it in a different direction.”
The changes worked against New York. Greater emphasis, for example, is now put on how active people are. One obvious question is whether they walk to work. In New York, 12 percent do, the survey finds. And 51 percent use public transportation - a higher number, it should not shock you, than for any other city in the Top 10.
That para stopped me dead. If 12 percent walk to work do 88 percent get there ENTIRELY by other means? Again, not buying it. Especially with NYC presently the Number One tourist destination - in the world - and all those many thousands all padding around daily with maps out in front of them.
Anyway. Arlington came first. Then came San Francisco; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and Boston. Well, thats all so-so with me so far. Nice places. S-F is definitely up there.
But then comes Washington. Huh? HUH? DC Washington? Myself, I would not even put Washington, except the Mall area, in the top 100 for walking. If Jersey City has curfews…
Then come New York; Eugene, Ore.; Jersey City; and down at tenth Denver. (The Bottom 10 were mostly car-oriented cities in California, Texas and Florida; yeah, lets get THAT list up, with their health stats.)
[But] Is not “the attractiveness of the facilities,” now downplayed by the podiatrists, what makes a city great for walking, almost by definition?
Isn’t that why most people would rank Paris - the one in France, not Texas - a grander place to walk than, say, Alexandria, Va. (No. 11 in the survey)? Or why Rome - the one in Italy, not New York - is glorious for walking despite impediments like the tendency of some drivers there to treat red lights as mere opinions?
New York could no doubt do better by pedestrians, as groups like Transportation Alternatives suggest. But what is a great walking city if not a place where you can roam and never run out of fascinations, whether store windows, soaring buildings, or people who are at times strange, even hostile, but never dull?
With all respect to the foot doctors, maybe a new list is needed, with the emphasis placed not on walking but on strolling. Walking is physical exercise. Strolling exercises the mind. Doing it well requires creativity. Not to be overly chauvinistic, but when it comes to that, does any place in this country outrank New York?
Gotcha. Well done Clyde. You nailed it.
There has been spirited argument about what to call the creeping authoritarianism in America today, from those on the right denying that it even exists, to some on the left warning of Brownshirts and prison camps. Iâ€™m of the mind that we are living in a modern, corporatist version of feudalism, where ownership trumps labor and anything that gets in the way of serving the owners is forbidden. The growing power of the Theocrats serves to cement the power of those owners, in much the same way the Church bolstered the powers of the Royals in medieval Europe.
Whatever we call it, today’s dynamic can take some strange forms, a case-in-point highlighted in todayâ€™s NY Times.
A Ban on New 5th Avenue Parades? Who Knew?
Thinking of parading on Fifth Avenue to celebrate Puerto Rican Day? No problem. Columbus Day? Step right up. What about the Norwegian-American 17th of May Parade? You’re good to go.
But if you want to organize a march that is entirely new - to celebrate, say, Iraqi independence or protest the war in that country - the city says you are not welcome anywhere on New York City’s most famous parade venue.
That is because the Police Department is enforcing a little-known regulation adopted four years ago that bans any parades on Fifth Avenue that were not permitted prior to July 2001.
The regulation, which was adopted so quietly that even its advocates say they were unaware of it, states that future applications for parades will be denied “unless the parade was held at that location prior to the promulgation of these rules."
Parades are unique events in NY City. Part cultural event, part tourist trap and more than a little political, a NY City parade can be an amazing event to witness and take part in. From the faux-populist extended advertisement that is the Macyâ€™s Thanksgiving Parade to the cultural touchstones/political support-building of the St. Patrickâ€™s Day, Puerto Rican Day and Wigstock, parades in NY bring subcultures in the city out onto center stage, give politicians a chance to court supporters and entertain tourists from far and wide.
Parades have often been events for celebration and for protest. The Halloween Parade through the Village served for years to advance the cause of the gay and lesbian community in the city. War victories have been heralded, and wars have been protested, but the city is increasingly trying to stifle protest.
Jeffrey E. Fogel, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, a civil rights advocacy group that is representing the protesters, said he had never heard of the regulation before the city invoked it to deny the protesters’ request for a March 19 march down Fifth Avenue. The march, in opposition to the war in Iraq, was allowed to take place on a different route.
“You can’t just take a free-speech zone out of commission, as it were,” Mr. Fogel said. “It’s one thing to impose reasonable restrictions. It’s another thing to say, from this day forward, nobody can march on Fifth Avenue.”
The city has yet to respond in court to the lawsuit. But Bloomberg administration officials defended the Fifth Avenue prohibition as a reasonable exercise of power that does not discriminate among future applicants (because it bans them all) and allows them to march elsewhere in Manhattan, sometimes just blocks away from their first venue choice.
This may seem a small thing. After all, the protests are offered other (more out of the way) routes to parade down. Why should we care? Krugman points out today that there is a frightening willingness to cater to one end of the political spectrum today, a willingness that is in stark contrast to the marginalization of protests of the current party in power.
Democratic societies have a hard time dealing with extremists in their midst. The desire to show respect for other people’s beliefs all too easily turns into denial: nobody wants to talk about the threat posed by those whose beliefs include contempt for democracy itself.
We are treated to small gatherings of extremists highlighted on national news coverage, while large parades of anti-war protestors or pro-womenâ€™s health advocates are ignored or marginalized. Denying 5th Avenue as an avenue of massed gatherings, apparently in response to the growing anti-war, anti-administration movements, is a literal attempt to push opposition off of the civic stage.
It may be a small thing, but it is a continuation of a dangerous trend.
Monday, March 28, 2005
Back in 7 (Seven) Days
Your humble folkbum is on vacation. That means, sadly, that “Oh, My Word!” is on vacation, too.
But don’t worry; The “Car Talk” of Grammar™ will be back next week with another round of advice and answers to all of your burning--or merely itching--questions.
Until then, treat this post as a Monday open thread. What’s on your mind? What crawled up your butt and died? Let it all hang out, people.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
The Real Terri Schiavo Lesson: Eat Your Bananas To Stay Alive
Two weeks ago I was presenting my case here that many and maybe most of us are in the grip of a mix of easy-to-get and hard-to-shake nutritional imbalances that are especially acute now in the US.
One suggestive piece of macro-evidence? Overweight people. People simply eat more when their body is trying very hard to get enough of something it needs. Another? The sour mood we now see in the body politic....
Most nutritional deficiencies wonâ€™t actually kill you right off, just turn you into a good Republican (joke, joke!), but there is one that really can, and will, in the blink of an eye.
Terri Schiavo is said to have had a potassium imbalance that was actually self-induced by way of anorexia or bulemia. This then led to her heart attack (it seems a factor in most heart attacks under 60) which then led to her brain condition, and now, it seems, it will finally lead to her death.
We had some rather scary eyeball-to-eyeball exposure to the death-dealing qualities of insufficient potassium when we lived several years in the worldâ€™s hottest city: Khartoum.
Interesting place, Khartoum. Where the Blue Nile from the mountains of Ethiopia meets the White Nile from Lake Victoria in Uganda. The White Nile really is white, from the desert sediment, and the Blue Nile really is a sort of gray-blue, from the mountain sediment. And for miles downstream of Khartoum (to the north) the two would be slow to mix, so the east side of the river would remain blue and the west side white.
But I digress. The real story here is that the daytime temperature in Khartoum can remain near 130 for months on end. Out at the airport, with all the blacktop there, it could get up to 140 or 150. Step off a plane in THAT heat and you really do wonder if they are paying you enough.
Luckily the Sudanese folks eat potatoes and yams and bananas (you know them - those big no-nos for the Atkins Dieters) and a lot of green salad so they do not particularly have a habit of dropping dead like flies in the heat.
But every few months a white guy would drop dead, usually one of the newer arrivals, their condition having been made worse either by too much salt or too little. That imbalance thing.
Ever since then. we have tended to err on the side of a little too much potassium, rather than a little too little, or a lot too little…
Anybody care for a banana? And take two if you are bulemic or on Atkins.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
serious moonlight: an evening with M. Ward
The Great American Music Hall is one of those venues that with its combination of gilded ambiance, storied history and spooky atmosphere....creates a kind of off-the-grid node, a super-charged creative space, that adds something intangible to whatever goes on there. The Hall is at once emblematic of the city of San Francisco...just off the seedy corner of Oâ€™Farrell and Polk streets at the entrance to the Tenderloin...and at the same time, it is, like the best clubs, quite literally another realm entirely, another world, someplace you step into...a place of magic.
For a long time now, itâ€™s been a club where acts play on their way up. One of the last stops on the small club circuit on the way to bigger halls, bigger venues, greater reknown. Itâ€™s the kind of venue that, when a friend says...â€?I may have a free ticket to see this guy, at the Great American Music Hallâ€?...you go.
Matt Ward is a singer-songwriter known as M. Ward. Iâ€™d never heard of him. My buddy J. was shocked at this. â€œYou canâ€™t be serious.â€?
Of course, I was. Mildly claustrophobic veteran of many live shows that I am...my finger is currently about five beats behind the musical pulse of my generation, that group of kids they used to call X a long time ago before that moniker, like us, grew too old for that shit.
J. and I were sitting after work in a downtown Oakland bar at 7PM...and he was explaining to me that M. Ward was a show I didnâ€™t want to miss. Is he like Dan Bern, I asked? â€˜No,â€™ J. replied...â€™Dan Bern wants to be Dylan, M. Ward wants to be Tom Waits.â€™ Ahhh…
So J. called P. to find out if she had that free ticket. She did. P. would leave it for me with her friend T. at a bar next to the Roxie on 16th street...if we could make it there. So J. and I jumped on BART, got off at Civic Center...jumped into the waiting VW van of Jâ€™s friend G. and drove to the bar where I proceeded to futiley ask folks if they were â€œPâ€™s friend T.â€?.......before I broke down and called T.â€™s cell phone. T. was standing right next to me...looking down, he saw my strange phone number on his caller id and said to his friend...â€?Who the fuck is this?â€? When I volunteered, â€˜Meâ€™, he smiled and proferred the ticket. And like that, I was in.
Like all modern music clubs, getting into the Great American Music Hall requires a kind of running of the gauntlet. Rules and regulations delivered by stern-faced, seen-it-all employees who can barely hide their disdain for you...which of course is really misdirected BS because in all likelihood if they didnâ€™t work there....they would BE you...I mean, they like the music too. At any rate, once inside the Hall, you see that it really IS a music hall...the kind of small entertainment venue that preceded and then flourished during the vaudeville era. A gilded palace with human scale. A Globe theater. An Odeon. The kind of place that feels like Mozart would have happily produced â€˜the Magic Fluteâ€™ for a cheering 18th century populace....or, earlier, Ben Jonson might have seen one of his masques performed.
The show was sold out. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness...I surveyed the crowd. They were me and I was them. A teeming throng of college-educated, largely white bread kids, creative professionals in their twenties and thirties hungry for music that theyâ€™d loved and listened to on their iPods for months. Nervous. Self-conscious. Well-behaved. Friendly. Looking at each other but never, ahem, really making eye contact. Hanging out.
Everyone in this crowd, including myself....was sporting meaningful signifiers of a certain type...a faded ball cap, a tattoo, a cool t-shirt, vintage sneakers, a pair of courderoys. Which was fitting, because when the lights dimmed for the main act...and M. Ward took the stage, a lone figure with a vintage guitar in the spotlight...he was basically a guy in a sweater and a blue baseball cap pulled tight over his eyes. He was â€œusâ€? too.
M. Ward can really play acoustic guitar. If you are into that, go see him if you can. For all the thousands of guitar-playing American kids holed up in basements and apartments with roommates...for all those duffers strumming on porches littered with beer cans...out of those brilliant souls whoâ€™ve turned humble open mic nights into something memorable and unforgettable...or even those urban legends like Flathead or Satan whoâ€™ve given their music away for free on streetcorners the world over...M. Ward really is something special when he sings and plays guitar, he has that lyrical touch that folks have been rumored to sell their souls for.
Heâ€™s young and gifted, and has a voice that oozes mood. And, yeah, in that heâ€™s like Dan Bern and like Dylan...like Tom Waits or Nick Cave. But letâ€™s face it, Dylan and Tom Waits were being like somebody else themselves...Spider John, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong...but on the way there, like all artists, they became something significant in their own rights...for us and with us...in conjunction with their audience. Thatâ€™s how it works, and, if you ask me, how it always has.
There were moments, however, in that crowd of fans reverently swaying their heads, holding on to every note with a silence that was eerie, when I realized that the thread of the music being played was already older, more ancient and more venerable than when Alan Lomax pushed â€˜recordâ€™ on his reel-to-reel sitting in front of Huddie Ledbetter (and then copyrighted it...the ultimate â€˜crossoverâ€™)...there were moments where I found that I just couldnâ€™t give myself to the songs without getting all wracked up with self-conscious distractions relating to the audience and the musician himself. Moments where I wished I was in New Orleans where thereâ€™s eye contact and head-nodding in the crowd and where the acknowledgment of the past is explicit and forms a continuum thatâ€™s larger than even the best artists.
Authenticity is the craw in the maw of â€œour generation.â€? Itâ€™s awkward. And, if you ask me, thatâ€™s just the way it is, too, and the way itâ€™s gonna be.
But there were also moments, like the intial acoustic number....or the encore where he did a langourous cover of David Bowieâ€™s Letâ€™s Dance, a cover that powerfully reinvented and deepened the song...where the conjunction of the venue, the artist, and the crowd created something memorable and pure. Something hypnotic and new for us in the hall.
And thatâ€™s fitting. Because, for all his folkroots nods, M. Ward belongs to David Bowieâ€™s generation...our post-modern one. And in that context, he, like Bowie, is driven, creative...and committed to bringing his own personal vocabulary out and sharing it any way he can. He is experimenting with one goal in mind...making a connection with his listeners...like artists have for as long as people have sung songs...conveying something of his private self in order to draw that out of his audience, so that for one moment...like in the awkward silence at the Great American Music Hall the other night...something is created that is much greater than the sum of its parts.
essay Â© 2005 kid oakland / paul delehanty
Friday, March 25, 2005
The question of religion is so volatile and riddled with emotions that I have been postponing my promise to start discussing it time and again. Now, with the elections in Iraq over and the arena undoubtedly dominated by sect and religion, it seems to be on everybodyâ€™s mind. Not just in Iraq but in America too. America is so occupied by its own question of religion, values as well as with Islam. The same is true for many other countries of the world.
World terror and both Muslim and Christian religious fundamentalism are likely to have a large, and an increasingly important, effect on all our lives for decades to come. They are certainly having an enormous effect on my life and the lives of all the people I know!
On top of that, I believe that these serious issues are being blurred, sometimes deliberately, by other undeclared motives and intentions that are almost totally unrelated to its essence. They are of course also being distorted by prejudices on most sides. We need to define and address the problem itself outside â€˜powerâ€™ considerations, undeclared intentions and, above all, blind hatred that has been feeding on prejudices for more than a thousand years.
It is only fair to bring this question into the open. For a long time, I erroneously assumed that most people are uninformed on many of the important issues regarding Iraq and Islam. Now I believe that more have been misinformed! How that â€˜misinformationâ€™ came about is another intricate and complex issue.
The events of 9/11 naturally shook the people of the United States to an almost unprecedented degree. But they also seem to have generated an almost irrational wave of reflexive fear that was put to use to propagate other agenda. I find it sad that that momentous event did not spur most of the American public to do some serious soul searching or seriously attempt to understand. Most seem not to care. All they want is for their government to protect them from further attacksâ€¦ at whatever cost. To many, it does not seem to matter much at the moment that the route followed may lead to higher risks in the future.
I have to make it clear though that I can only express my own personal point of view in this regard. I am in no way an authority on the subject but I am fortunate that I have mingled with people from all walks of life in Iraq, as well as people from the West, both devoutly religious and atheist as well as the wide spectrum in between.
Perhaps a re-statement of my own personal position on the question of religion may be in order:
I have said before that I am not a religious person in the normal sense of the wordâ€¦ but I have developed a deep respect for religion after realizing the enormous positive conceptual and practical effect it had on the morality of mankind.
In this regard, I frequently find myself enjoying Nietzscheâ€™s insightful ravings about the corrupting effect of religion on mankindâ€™s composition and spirit, its herd mentality influence and so forthâ€¦ but I cannot agree with him.
I can also see some merit in Marxâ€™s dim view of religion in general; I can understand some of the reasons that led him to his conclusionsâ€¦ but I cannot agree with him on the â€œopiumâ€? thesis either. We have ample evidence now that religious beliefs existed when man was living as a hunter-gatherer long before any exploiting classes existed.
All in all, I believe that the overall effect of religion on mankind was, and in many cases probably still is, beneficial. Most of mankind cannot venture out into the wilderness of uncharted and undefined intellectual moral woods (or deserts!) without a guiding hand, a â€˜mapâ€™ or an external beacon. It may be even counterproductive to ask most people to do so. Many of the universally in-built values of justice, and sense of right-or-wrong that I sometimes feel are shared by the whole human race seem to be still too frail in most people; they can easily be over-run by more immediate concerns of survival, dominance, benefitâ€¦ or even convenience.
This is why all those free spirits that have existed throughout mankindâ€™s violent history and who have ventured into uncharted intellectual wilderness are so valuableâ€¦ as scouts, even though many have erred and the conclusions of some of them have led to disasters. The quest is far from over. But I cannot hold some peopleâ€™s belief that we are already there against them. For most people, life would be otherwise too chaotic and extremely painful.
Regarding religion, perhaps I can say in summary that my quarrel is not with religion per se, but with many of the â€œreligiousâ€? and many of the â€œreligious establishmentsâ€? of the various religions.
I also sadly believe that most people need some prejudices and some sort of â€œcollectiveâ€? identity. Look at some of the football supporters! Trivial as this example may sound, I believe it exemplifies one of the major ailments of our societies, with very few exceptions.
This series is no longer directed mainly to America; America, by and large, does not seem to be ready to listen. Yet, America remains a most important player in this arena. The issues and the dangers involved are however of a global concern.
It is not intended as a guide to religion (whether Islam or Christianity). I am not qualified as an authority in either. Instead, they are musings of a concerned person and his journey in wrestling for some decades with the important question of religion in societyâ€¦ as well as a simple outline of the main conclusions reached through this quiet struggle and through observation of the society from the inside.
I will try to restrict myself to Islam and Christianity. The Islam-Jewish conflict is still too volatile for quiet debate and is riddled with politics, a long history of conflict and an enormous amount of injustice and mistrust. I know too little of the Buddhist faith.
This is not a propaganda campaign and I hope that it will not attract propagandists and â€˜misinformersâ€™ of any creed. I also know that my words will be read by a number of non-believers. All I ask them is not to dismiss very lightly beliefs held and cherished by several billion people.
Basically itâ€™s a viewpoint.
Exile_lsf Slide Show: The Philadelphia Flower Show Slides 41 To 80
I posted these paras below about the Philly show on 15 March. Now two enthusiastic emails ask: where is the promised batch #2 of the slides on the large set pieces?
[15 March] The Philadelphia Flower Show is a 100-plus year old 10-day event… that is said to be the largest in the world. This was our seventh time to be there and please be warned: go once - and you will not rest at all easy if you are not there the next year as well.
The show is held annually in the Convention Center mere yards from the dead center of Philly. Right next door is a very old farmers market where many of the show people go eat the Pennsylvania Dutch food and the cheesesteak hoagies. The show pulls in buyers and lookers from around Philly and the DC through NYC through Boston corridor, and not a few from other parts of the US and from Europe.
So here they are and pleased you appreciate them. They were posted, in fact, but on Sunday, buried at the tail end of some thoughts on development.
The 41-to-80 Slideshow For All Monitors
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
The Revival Tent on the Circus Grounds
The national Democrats want me in one. Theirs, the very silent, large, moving revival tent they have constructed, as America herself moves swiftly to become a Revival Tent society, a messy mix of pseudo-religion, emotional exhortation and tawdry levels of celebrity… served up on the national altar.
A super “Dr. Know-All Pierce-All” had made the necessary promise and they were marching behind his banner in a great united front of screwballs and screwboxes to purify the land. No longer bored, they sang and danced joyously in the red light of the flames. -Nathaneal West, The Day of the Locust
By the Schindlers’ refusal to accept the years of litigation thru several judges, as indeed they have done, the parents become right wing extremist celebrities. Yes they are. Any sympathy I might have had was over years ago. And there is no excuse, as served up in the Democrats’ own revival tent, for me to accept that this was not seen on the horizon. We know where the money comes from to keep the RW circuses going. We kn ow who is governor of Florida. We can see how this feeds the Republican base --despite the fact that Thursday and Friday there was a bare 40 or so religious protesters, as reported by Bob Franken, at the Hospice.
Luntz himself has spoken of propaganda: “feed them the words”.
MSNBC has spent part of the morning in Rome inter-mixing Catholicism, Easter and the ailing Pope, right along with Terri Schiavo. Resurrection, everlasting life. Our latest nominee declared for the “life begins at conception” model. It is not science, not that professed model: it is faith and belief. And it pretty well scuttled any real discussion in the campaign of stem cell issues, it. died. right. there. Ron Reagan, ever the wise child of the strange man, had offered careful assistance even providing the script, it was never used.
The Democratic Revival Tent works to please and support the politician rather than the voter. The voter is harrassed to appeasement, too often. Or departure, angry and worn to weariness. Prefering the voter be poorly informed, now there are exhortations the Republican Party is “splintering”.
But, it was 47 Democrats in the House who crossed the aisle. It was the senate who hid in a virtually nonexistant voice vote and it was Reid who issued his statement Thursday. No one can ‘’save’’ Nelson of FL (the excuse offered up as palliative). Let him (first termer, elected in ‘00 with 51%) vote with Bush, who cares anymore? Why say it matters.
18 on Bankruptcy, 3 on ANWR. Whatever the vote, Bush gets who he needs from the 44 + 1. Democrats refuse, absolutely refuse, to see he made them complicit in the war (and thus the lies), with the vote on IWR. They still do not see that. He made them complicit, but they were willing. Snookered but knowing. It could not be worse.
No matter, we are told, again we should not trouble ourselves that Democrats allowed this circus of the feeding tube (this is the third go round with the feeding tube, which in likelihood should never have been inserted) to move swifty to “bi partisan”. Harkin stood with Santorum and could be heard by C-Span mics audibly hoping for “de novo” (someone’s god should spare us). A MN house Democrat, Oberstar, stood with Sensenbrenner, Dreier and others to make long emotional declarations. Neither Democrat stood silent, it was full court, Gephardt Rose Garden replays. They are complicit. Had this not been fully and fairly litigated, it would be different. If the circus was not well known, but it is fully known.
Reid spoke early,Thursday, and to me it is incontrovertible capitulation.
â€œI am pleased Senator Frist and I were able to pass the bill that protects the life of Terri Schiavo by allowing her parents to go to federal court. If the House Republicans refuse to pass our bipartisan bill, they bear responsibility for the consequences."
Official bi-partisanship on Thursday March 17. The worry, my real worry, is how complete is the
capitulation of this Mormon pro-lifer. Pro-life and its various propagandas leading the political agenda (loss of privacy… I did not believe Rove post election on MTP when he claimed never to have discussed Griswold with Bush) is the game that will disarm any vestige of a sane America, or the hope for one. All we ever had, really.
From the remarkable CNN coverage of (Michael Schiavo’s) Atty Felos’s press conference, from Friday afternoon after he was served with subpoenas from the House:
And the bill was passed because, ultimately, not one Democratic senator got up and said I don’t consent to the bill being heard at this time. And I want to say to ... the Democratic senators, don’t do this to Terri Schiavo again. To have this woman’s wishes now, to have her feeding tube inserted by a subsequent act of Congress before she dies, would be a horrific act upon her body.
And if the Democratic minority doesn’t stand up for Terri Schiavo, then they deserve to be the minority party. If they can’t stand up and one person say, no, we’re not going to ramrod this through. If they can’t stand up for the civil liberties of each and every one of us, then they deserve to be the minority party and the dwindling minority party. It’s time for them to stand up. Yes.
I was never in his, Reid’s, odd corner. The issues here, and the opportunity to make appropriate use of the sad long horror story, over which Michael Schiavo has stood a kind of ultimate lone watch for his wife, were so clearly what should move the (modern) Democratic party: privacy, the refuge and sanctity of marriage (anyone’s marriage to anyone), personal autonomy, Rule of Law, and finally again, privacy. Instead we got so little. We got connivance, but for courage by Wyden (acknowledged by Felos) to delay the vote. Silence. The Democratic Revival Tent. It moves right along with the Republican game plan. Too often and too well.
For three hours Sunday evening in the House, forced to debate by Wexler, Democrats did the party proud. And I thank them from the bottom of my heart, Wexler, Davis, Wasserman-Schultz, others, carried the evening. Barney Frank stood and always had 15 seconds or 30, a full minute sometimes, to offer up, to stop the gavel, to keep the rare and marvellous speaking. But 47 crossed the aisle and voted with the Republicans, 53 Democrats stood with the Rule of Law.
Most days, when there is cogent and coherent offerings from the side of sanity, it comes from Laurence Tribe, Jonathan Turley and CNN’s Toobin, as well. Even Dershowitz (Mr Torture) spoke well to the issues, particularly to the problem of the government working to deliver the dictates of religion into an issue. But these are not elected Democrats. And the wonderful and valuable voices in the House were delivered to a narrow and self-selected viewership.
Democrats do not come forward, they hide. Opportunity after opportunity is lost. I should not be treated as the “party faithful”, those days are long long over. The Democrats dined out (fitfully it must be said, they relinquished much) for decades on the greatness of FDR, the tremendous (and desperately overdue) accomplishments of the Civil Rights Era… but they dined and dined. Bloated, they cannot move. Inert. The very thing a living breathing functioning national political party must not be. It is not a religion but the leaders act as tho it is one.
This country is wearing a blindfold, staggering backwards, and slitting its own throat in slow motion. -James Wolcott, March 19
Gov. Bush is on CNN, issues of the Dept of Family and Children (DFC) taking custody of Mrs Schiavo are being discussed. Of course it will fizzle but the base will be satiated, and in tow.