Archive | June 4, 2012

Memory lane

Today I had to drive through the Hellmouth on my way to a job interview (I-95 was a parking lot, and I got off so I wouldn’t be late.)

It looks really different; the ratty old train station where I used to commute to work is all shiny and yuppified and new. I even took a brief detour down my old street. Despite living in a claustrophobic little box of a studio apartment, I did love that 150-year-old building (a former tavern/whorehouse). And it was the prettiest little street ever. My landlord’s historic old house (1692) is now a stylish bed and breakfast, and the old marina is closed up. At the other end of the street, they’re rehabbing an old Victorian mansion on the waterfront.

I was so unhappy when I lived there, but I did love that little street. I’d lost my job, my car engine blew up and I even got pneumonia – without insurance, of course. I’d never been so sick in my life. My bedroom (an alcove, really) was so small that my double bed almost filled the room, and I would lie there, shaking with chills and fever, listening to the crackly noise my lungs made when I breathed. And even after I finally got a new job and saved enough money to move to Mt. Airy, I also got really sick the night before I moved out – and stayed sick for another two weeks.

But I didn’t think of any of that today. I just drove down the street, remembering how beautiful it was in the fall when the leaves turned red.

Education ‘reform’

A parent and attorney cross-examines Penny Pritzker, billionaire member of the Chicago Board of Education. (She was Obama’s finance chair.) Via Diane Ravitch:

Farmer is a trial lawyer. He describes how he bristled when he heard an interview on the radio in which Pritzker described what Chicago students need: enough skills in reading, mathematics, and science to be productive members of the workforce. Why no mention of the arts, of music, of physical education, he wondered.

So he cross-examined Pritzker in absentia. Her own children attend the University of Chicago Lab School. Mayor Rahm Emanuel sends his children there too. Arne Duncan is a graduate.

Farmer points out that the Lab School has a rich curriculum, not preparation for the workforce. Children there get the arts and physical education there every day. The Lab School has a beautiful library, and Pritzker is raising money to make it even grander and more beautiful. He asks the absent Pritzker, “Do you know that 160 public schools in Chicago don’t have a library?”

The Lab School has seven teachers of the arts. In a high school that Pritzker voted to close, there was not a single arts teacher.

Matt Farmer goes on to quote the director of the Lab School, who opposes standardized testing and insists upon a rich curriculum. The statement by the Lab School’s director about the importance of the union bring the assembled teachers to their feet, roaring and applauding.

I hope Penny Pritzker and Rahm Emanual watch this video. People who have the good fortune to send their children to elite private schools should do whatever they can to spread the same advantages to other people’s children. When they are members of the board of education and the mayor, they have a special responsibility to do what is right for the children in their care. If they inflict policies on other people’s children that are unacceptable for their own children, they should be ashamed.

Why I can’t stand Donna Brazile

Have you ever heard anything so typical of the Villagers?

As for John Edwards, he should seek redemption, not re-election. He should find some way to be of service without getting publicity for it – running a legal assistance program or a charity; teaching in a public school in a low-income community; becoming a social worker or a youth counselor. He shouldn’t do interviews; he shouldn’t give speeches; and he should never – ever – run for public office again. His model should be Chuck Colson, not Richard Nixon.

Yeah, Chuck’s the right role model. He used his alleged born-again experience to simply shift his bare-knuckles political style to manipulating the fundamentalist base for profit. But it “looked” good to people who didn’t know, and really, appearance is the ultimate Village value.

Edwards borrowed (without attribution) Jesse Jackson’s famous line: “God isn’t finished with me yet.” He is more likely to hear God’s voice in church or when he is walking alone or with his family than when he is performing in public.

First of all, that isn’t even what Edwards said, so Donna’s unChristian little dig is inaccurate. He said, “I don’t think God’s through with me.” Second, who the hell is Donna Brazile to decide anything for anyone? What typical Beltway arrogance. In case she forgets, this was exactly the attitude the Village displayed toward Bill Clinton: Too low-class, too Southern, Not People Like Us. Fuck her.

And one other thing: I was never a huge fan or a personal friend of John Edwards. But I do think it is time to stop casting stones at him. He did some things that were very wrong. But so might many of us when faced with the temptations of celebrity. If he stays out of the spotlight, we should leave him and his family alone.

So if he doesn’t stay out of the spotlight, he’s asking for it – from people like Donna Brazile. Give me a break.


So bonafide conservatives Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein published a new book out that blames Republicans for Washington’s legislative gridlock, saying that despite conventional media wisdom to the contrary, it’s “asymmetrical polarization.” Surprisingly enough (yeah, I’m being sarcastic), Chris Hayes is the only cable news person to date who’s had them on to talk about the book – this, despite them being past of a regular stable of Sunday TV guests. Wonder why? Via Raw Story:

The book describes the Republican Party as “an insurgent outlier … ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

The authors of It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, who have found themselves ostracized by the Sunday morning shows where they had always previously been welcome, appeared Sunday on MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes to discuss the book.

Mann explained that the separation of powers provided for by our Constitution deliberately creates a situation in which that Congressional majorities are unable to act without some degree of cooperation with the other party. Now that “one of those political parties has veered off the tracks” and become “aggressively oppositional,” it has many tools available to prevent legislation from being passed or enforced.

Ornstein singled out the filibuster as a large part of the problem, because it is being “used routinely,” even on non-controversial legislation. However, he also pointed to Republicans voting even against their own bills in order to avoid giving President Obama anything that would look like a victory.

“Problem-solving used to be the name of the game,” he continued. “But problem-solving now — partly it’s the era of the permanent campaign — has taken a back sea to short-term victories.”

Mann added that any Republicans who were interested in problem-solving have left the party over the years, while those who remain are “vehemently ideological” and consider themselves to be “engaged in a holy war.”

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