30 November 2007

Like taking candy from a baby...

If you want to understand just how f'ed up DCPS is, you need to understand the culture of enabling that surrounds the crimes and criminals in the system. A few weeks ago, The Post ran a big feature about adults stealing money from afterschool programs and enrichment activities like Moten's chess club (Sandy Jones, former business manager at the school, was convicted of that crime), and the saddest aspect for me was not the thefts but the lack of concern among supervisors even when the criminals were caught. More on that later...

Yesterday Brenda Belton, thief and former DCPS Charter School supervisor, was sentenced to 35 months in prison, which apparently was two months short of the maximum. It's too bad she couldn't be sentenced to more, but that's the nature of white collar crime...knock over a liquor store and get five to ten years for a few hundred bucks, couple thou if you're lucky; steal $800,000 from children (Belton herself apparently pocketed about half of that, steering the rest of the money to friends, family, and crooked contractors) and get less than three years. Jones, incidentally, who stole far less than Belton, could be sentenced to up to 10 years.

It's clear, though, that some people simply don't get it. The reaction from her "supporters" was telling:

Belton's family and friends, including her sister, daughter and ministers, filled three rows of seating at the sentencing. Many said they hoped Urbina would show Belton leniency, considering her role as an educator.
"It's a waste of resources putting her in jail," said Lafayette Seymour, a minister at Belton's church, the District-based Unity Center of Truth. "She would do more good if she were granted time served and were allowed to return to help the children with her skills and education."
Let's get one thing straight right now: this woman was no educator...she was a thief. She got inside the system and stole from it. When she was given an opportunity to "help the children with her skills" she found it more useful to help herself to the children's funding.

However, the minister's attitude is very similar to Esther Monclova-Johnson, the DCPS supervisor who oversees "talented" afterschool program technology managers Emerson Crawley and William Jones, who saw fit to reimburse themselves from student fund money for their trips to Camelot strip club and Finemondo restaurant (the latter a near daily occurrence with tabs often running over a hundred dollars). Monclova-Johnson apparently feels these two individuals possess unique talents that can't possibly be replaced by someone perhaps a bit more honest:
"These guys are extremely talented, and the work that they give to the program is not worth them being dismissed over a practice that may have been approved . . . by past directors," Monclova-Johnson said. "They weren't doing anything that they felt was wrong at the time, but maybe it was."

Um, if it ever was approved that you could go to strip clubs on DCPS's dime, then I want that job. Not only should those two bums be fired, but Monclova-Johnson herself should be looking for a job. It's disgusting.

29 November 2007

Pushing the limits of anyone's understanding of humanity.

I'm against the death penalty, but I'm all for life imprisonment, preferably in windowless concrete cells with no running water or cable television, for people who commit crimes against children. I'm not terribly interested in the details of which of these two actually killed this little girl; they were both involved in covering it up for months after the fact and need to be sent to their own solitary little cells with rats crawling about and a bowl to piss in.

26 November 2007

Here's another of my long, unreadable screeds...

The Washington Post gave over half the front page of their Outlook section on Sunday to a free advertisement for libertarianism, penned by the editors of (un)Reason Magazine. Libertarianism is a widespread philosophy that's pretty to think about but bears about as much relation to reality as World of Warcraft (or, as I'm discovering, Webkinz).

According to the authors, libertarianism boils down to "1. a person who believes in the doctrine of the freedom of the will; 2. a person who believes in full individual freedom of thought, expression and action." Sounds good, right? In fact, it's so broad that it becomes utterly meaningless and fairly soon libertarians themselves have to discard the feel-good rhetoric and qualify it: "full freedom of thought, expression and action" morphs into full freedom etc so long as you don't impact another's rights...so with this slogan, we're basically back at ground zero for any philosophy that has emerged after the Enlightenment...including the bete noir of libertarians...socialism/Marxism/communism (you have to remember, that like libertarians, we're talking about the philosophy of the movements, not of the governments that actually called themselves by those names -- for instance, while the German Democratic Republic held itself to be communist and called itself Democratic, I would argue that in fact it was neither). But to get back to the point, what exactly distinguishes libertarians from the unwashed masses who also happen to believe in individual rights (so long as those individual rights do not impact the rights of others)?

First, there's a completely naive belief in what they like to call the "free market," which as anyone with half a day's time spent on Wall Street will tell you is about as "free" as a crooked roulette table in Vegas (is there any other kind?). Markets are simply objects to be manipulated: learn the rules of the game, understand the symbols that produce fear or confidence, and manipulate them.

However, if you'd like to delve deeper into what libertarianism is, you shouldn't bother to read the Washington Post article, because it's mainly about 31 year government employee Ron Paul's run for the highest government position in the land and how this man who's been collecting government paychecks for nearly half his life is a rebel against government. In the moments when the authors aren't talking about Ron Paul, they're busy avoiding explaining what libertarianism entails, except to call it "freewheeling fun" and "a live-and-let-live ethos" and -- in the only descriptor that even comes close to a philosophical statement -- "the fundamental notion that a smaller government allows individuals the freedom to pursue happiness as they see fit."

Unfortunately for all of us who aren't in the military industrial complex, a smaller government usually means going after the social benefits that we enjoy in this country (and that other countries enjoy to a much greater extent), from the big bugaboo of welfare to the several other programs that fund libraries, public schools, national parks, and the like. To be fair, a certain brand of libertarians aren't even interested in maintaining the military, but then again, you are getting into the question of whether libertarianism isn't such a big tent that it's essentially meaningless as a label (if you want an example of that, check out the wikipedia article on libertarianism -- more flavors than Baskin-Robbins).

For libertarians, personal choice is all there is: you choose to be a drug addict, you choose to be a welfare bum, you choose to be homeless; conversely, you choose to be a CEO, you choose to be a K Street lawyer, you choose to be a middle-manager. Fundamentally, libertarians do not believe in society -- we're all atomized individuals running around on our own and we bump into one another, but that's not really important -- my only interaction with you is an economic interaction (unlike Marxists, who tend to believe that economic relations form the basis of social relations, libertarians like to believe that economic relations signify nothing more than a matter of choice). Essentially, it's everyone for him or her self (the most absurd manifestation of this tendency can be found in Ayn Rand's Objectivism, which her devotees liken to a philosophy).

So we've entered fantasyland, in which the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and there are no consequences. We're all equal of course, so long as you don't mind the fact that I inherited Daddy's factory and stocks and you inherited a crack habit...personal choice, don't you know.

Hugo's Les Miserables is a comedy compared to the selfish, smug, and utterly unrealistic version of social relations held by your typical libertarian.

But it's all freewheeling good fun.

UPDATE: I read through the nearly useless WashingtonPost.com live online discussion with Gillespie and Welch, and noticed they're repeating that tired old mistake of arguing that the Nazis were simply socialists who espoused nationalism:
Nick Gillespie: In fact, Mussolini started as a communist and then became a fascist (best understood as a nationalist variation on communism; hence National Socialism uin Germany).
Yawn. This supposed similarity breaks down as soon as you realize that Hitler didn't nationalize industry -- in fact, while the US government and US businesses shunned the Soviet Union, they invested heavily in Nazi Germany...ask our current president's dead granddaddy, Prescott Bush. Fascism isn't best understood as a "nationalist variation on communism" but as the logical progression of capitalism as it asserts control at the state level (before replacing the state -- the period in which we are currently, where multinationals seem beyond government control mechanisms).

As if Sudan didn't have enough problems...

Sure we aren't out of the woods yet and there's still a lot of nutcases out there who want to burn witches for teaching evolution, but at least in the USA you don't get arrested and have your school shut down because some first graders named their class's stuffed animal "Muhammad.":
The BBC's correspondent Amber Henshaw said Ms Gibbons' punishment could be up to six months in jail, 40 lashes or a fine.
The school has been closed until January for fear of reprisals.
Fellow teachers at Khartoum's Unity High School told Reuters news agency they feared for Ms Gibbons' safety after receiving reports that men had started gathering outside the police station where she was being held.
Seriously, how f'ed up is a country when a first grade teacher is in danger of being lynched over the name of a teddy bear? Reminds me of the scene in Monty Python's The Life of Brian where the man's getting stoned to death for saying the name "Jehovah."

I'm entertaining reasonable suggestions for why religion dominates Muslim countries the way it does (and yeah I know the whole thing about graven images and blah blah blah...I'm asking for reasonable suggestions).

21 November 2007

Pre Holiday Preparations.

Here it is. Day before Thanksgiving. DC has a certain lull to it in the days leading up to holiday breaks, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, as people leave town trying to beat the last minute rush. We're just sitting tight and waiting until tomorrow morning, when no one is generally on the road, because we've done the Wednesday afternoon thing only to have a three hour drive turn into a five and a half hour drive.

Although the past two years, I've been in charge of the pumpkin pie baking, my mother informs me that this year my services are no longer needed in that department, unless of course I want to make a pie of another flavor. Apparently she's picked up on the fact that I haven't exactly had a lot of time on my hands this fall.

Since we'll have some free babysitting, we'll probably try to catch a movie here or here, even though they both have a crappy selection. I have absolutely no hope of catching up on reading while in a house occupied by at least four and often as many as 8 children between the ages 2.5 and 12. However, the book I'm about to begin is Zadie Smith's White Teeth.

I'll see what happens.

20 November 2007

I'm sorry Mr. Pynchon.

I finally finished V. It took forever -- I think I began the book sometime in the foggy memory of summer, when reading ambitions heighten with all the phantom free time that disappears like so many grains of sand through your sandchair...

It's not a bad book...it just didn't interest me. I suppose the Stencil bits interested me, because that's where Pynchon was at his conspiracy theory that could completely be all in your head best, but the Whole Sick Crew just bored me to death. Sure there were funny bits, but in the end it's like one of those stories your friend tells, and when you don't laugh he says, I guess you had to be there.

It will probably grow on me and I will come to terms with it in the trajectory of post-WWII literature and the dawn of the Postmodern, but at this point what it's done is moved my 2nd attempt at Gravity's Rainbow much further down my reading queue.

I'd packed Zadie Smith's White Teeth with me last weekend in the bizarre reasoning that I would easily finish V. on the train ride north, but I was nowhere close. I read about thirty to forty pages on the way up and passed out until Trenton, I believe. Then the weekend was a blur. So I found myself pushing through the last hundred pages of V. as I headed south, exhausted from the weekend but trying to stay awake so I could put that book back on the shelf when I returned to Adams Morgan.

And dear readers, I did just that.

19 November 2007

Your future dream is a shopping scheme.

It's not a terribly surprising conclusion, but now there's another study out there indicating that Americans are reading less than they used to. The article notes that an earlier study, done in 2004, was dismissed because the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts this time, not the National Education Association) focused on "literary" works:
Titled "To Read or Not to Read," the report is a significant expansion of the NEA's widely cited 2004 study, "Reading at Risk." The NEA based that earlier study exclusively on data from its own arts surveys, and as a result, that analysis focused mainly on so-called literary reading -- novels, stories, plays and poems. This led some critics to downplay its implications.
Sure. Who cares if people read literature -- so long as they can read warning labels, traffic signs, and how long to keep the fries in the deep fryer? I suppose critics -- those who get it -- will now complain that the title of the new report is drawn from "some famous work of literature by someone" and therefore biased toward reading, you know, like heavy stuff that makes you think or something.

While the reports authors won't outright blame technology for this shift, I will. A few generations ago, we didn't have the portability of Nintendo DS and PSP, so we can take our gaming anywhere, and at any rate, electronic gaming was nearly so advanced and encompassing as it is now. These days you can live your life -- or at least a life -- online (e.g. World of Warcraft, Everquest, to a lesser extent Sims). Not too many of us wanted to spend all of our free time jumping barrels and climbing ladders.

Cable and Satellite television have made incredible advances both in their offerings and their saturation; this weekend I was in northern New Jersey and nearly every house on every block had one of those little DirectTV dishes attached to the roof. Pay television service has approached the level of necessity for most people, something that is seen as nearly as fixed and important as paying the electric, heating, and water bills. At the same time as pay television has penetrated nearly every house in the country, the offerings have advanced beyond the twenty or thirty channels of a generation or two ago; now ESPN alone offers something like four channels, HBO has split into multiple offerings, and offerings that wouldn't have seemed viable several years ago are now among the most talked about (Food Network, for example). Several cartoon-only channels now cater to 18-35 year old stoner burnouts, while in many markets strange religious channels feature a nun talking quietly to the television camera.

It's in many ways a consumer's dream-life, with so many choices it's sometimes difficult to make a choice. Of course, choice in this case is relative, since the only real choice you are making is to spend your time watching television -- once you've made that choice, what you happen to be watching is immaterial. The medium, as McLuhan said, is the message.

So by and large, we are choosing not to read. We are not developing our literacy, but rather remaining stuck in a level of fluency that means we can get through life, maybe not as well as we like, but rather as well as we need to do it all over again tomorrow.

We are no longer hungry.

15 November 2007

Going to see Neil Young tonight...

Neil Young is playing Constitution Hall tonight, and I'm going to be there. In all my fourteen years of living in this nation's capital, I've never been in the site that turned away Marion Anderson because the Daughters of the American Revolution didn't like the fact that she was Black. The DC School Board also denied her an auditorium. Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR over their racist stance (which of course didn't keep FDR from hemming and hawing and dragging his feet over anti-lynching legislation). Marion Anderson instead performed at the Lincoln Memorial.

These days the DAR is happy to have anyone in their doors, and Neil Young will be there and I will be there and it will be the first time I've seen Mr. Young live and in person. Young of course wrote "Southern Man," in which he attacked the white supremacists who were clinging to their dustbin of history ways, and "Alabama," which takes a more indirect route by implying that Alabama has poverty to worry about rather than upholding white supremacy. Lynyrd Skynyrd didn't take kindly to Neil Young's critiques, calling him out in "Sweet Home Alabama," though they themselves claimed it was for the sweeping condemnation of the South rather than for the anti-racist aspect of Young's song (Skynyrd have some interesting stances, including what might be one of the earliest gun control songs in "Saturday Night Special").

I'm guessing Mr. Young will be promoting his new album, Chrome Dreams II, and pulling out a few oldies from his catalog. I'm hoping for "Like a Hurricane" myself.

14 November 2007

It just keeps getting bigger and bigger...

Just about anytime you get an official acknowledgement of the Big Money being spent or wasted by government, you should realize you're only getting half the picture. If that. Residents of the District should remember the not so distant past of the baseball stadium funding fiasco, in which the District of Columbia government, in all their brilliance, rolled over for a multi-billion dollar monopoly called Major League Baseball to publicly finance the baseball stadium. And the costs kept growing.

Now in the past week and a half, we've gotten two Big Money scandals to digest. First, again in our fair city, the Tax Office scam, in which currently about half a dozen individuals have been arrested for stealing at first glance $16 million. Then on second glance, it turned out to be $20 million. But wait, after peering a bit longer, it turns out it's more like $31.7 million, or double the original estimate. I doubt anyone would be surprised to see it hit $40 million soon.

Of course, the District's money woes pale in comparison to the really Big Money ripoff scam of the 21st century: Bush's Iraq Boondoggle, whose total cost has now gone to a numbing $1.6 trillion, if you throw in the Afghanistan action. Bush has asked for about half of that cost, meaning he's either trying to hide the other half of the wars' expenses or he really is a stupid miserable failure who can't keep budget items straight. Or both. The Post has more information on the report.

The Post, in fact, breaks it down to $20K for every family of four in America. What a waste. Now as we approach 4,000 dead American soldiers in Iraq (today it stands at 3,863, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualties site), BushCo is rattling sabers for an attack on Iran. I wonder what that will cost in lives, dollars, and regional instability.*

*Speaking of regional instability, it strikes me that the most destabilizing events in the region generally have US involvement as a major feature, including US support for the brutal regime of the Shah, US material and logistics assistance in Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons, and well, the toppling of crazy but contained Hussein and the transformation of Iraq into a broken, Balkanized nation.

13 November 2007

Not dead yet.

Sorry to alarm my readers...or reader I mean (thanks MA). As my good friend Bobby Dylan once said, it's alright ma, it's life and life only.

Here's what's happened this morning (slightly edited):

1. It was raining. Biking in the rain is always more of a pain.
2. I got hit by a cab. I was fully in my rights, riding the right hand lane through a green light, when a cabbie decided turn right on red meant "turn right on red into a bicyclist." Fortunately, I wasn't hurt, my bike wasn't hurt, but he did knock me off the bike a bit and I did pound on his hood and call him a nasty name. His reaction seemed to indicate it was an everyday occurrence for him to run over cyclists -- a quick wave of his hand, like a "sorry...my fault."

Still...being hit on a bike, even if you're not injured, gives you cause to pause.

While on my bike, I've been hit by cars about three times (I don't count the daily near misses from clueless drivers who pass you up and then turn into you, etc.). I've never been hurt in any of those collisions. While on my bike, I've been hit by another bicyclist once. I ended up in the hospital with a broken cheekbone for that collision, then ended up in the hospital again when the bone didn't set right and they had to rebreak and reset it.

I suppose I'm still a little shaken from this morning's close call.

3. I was in the Library of Congress for a forum related to International Education Week. It was several government functionaries and the executive director of the NEA and a few education types. Two low points: one panel member told an anecdote about teaching science and his niece or cousin or something and how it was hard because, "she's a girl, so she doesn't like science to begin with." WTF? And they've invited this moron to talk about advancing education? The other low point was realizing that most of the panelists couldn't think their way around education except to believe its purpose was to serve either the business community or the CIA (Why learn a foreign language? So you can be a spook!).

Grumble grumble.

Things fall apart.

Things fall apart.

12 November 2007


Because I'm too busy (or maybe lazy) to think of a post...

08 November 2007

Seriously, give yourself five minutes to read this interview.

I'm just throwing this link out there: a great interview with Angela Davis in the Guardian today. I know it's an ancient book now, but her Women, Race, and Class (1981) rocked my world.

Here's a small quote from the interview:
The advancement of the likes of Powell and Rice within the Bush administration, argues Davis, exemplifies a flawed understanding of what it means to tackle modern-day racism. "The Republican administration is the most diverse in history. But when the inclusion of black people into the machine of oppression is designed to make that machine work more efficiently, then it does not represent progress at all. We have more black people in more visible and powerful positions. But then we have far more black people who have been pushed down to the bottom of the ladder. When people call for diversity and link it to justice and equality, that's fine. But there's a model of diversity as the difference that makes no difference, the change that brings about no change."

But read the whole thing yourself. It covers a lot of ground.


A friend of mine, his father just died. It seems to be a year of that, with three of my close friends now losing their fathers this year. The first came after a long six month decline, and to tell you the truth I didn't know how to react. I'd known the man, played poker with him. He'd been a fixture at our summer league basketball games. But to be quite honest, I froze up. Outside of a phone call, I did nothing.

The second friend's father had been much older and in a state of precarious health. I saw her soon afterwards and had more time to talk with her about the death, but still I feel I didn't do all I could or perhaps what I should.

The third friend, who happens to be married to the second friend, both of whom I've known since freshmen in college, just lost his father a week and a half ago. So their family has had a rough year. In this case, at least, I'll be able to attend the memorial service in northern New Jersey.

Let's hope I get things right.

07 November 2007

DiFi, Chucky S, and doing the collapse.

Do you want to know why Democrats constantly lose elections even when they're running against war criminals? Look no further than yesterday's senate judiciary committee vote to send forward the nomination of Bush's latest lapdog for torture, Michael Mukasey, who will now probably be presiding over what used to be called the Justice Department, but now seems more like a PR smokescreen for illegal wiretapping and torture.

Thanks to the help of logrolling Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the always disappointing when you get to crunch time Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bush can claim another victory in his fight to say FU to the Constitution. Much as they did during the carte blanc authorization for the Iraq War that the Democrats handed to Bush back in 2003, the so-called "opposition" party rolled over for everyone's favorite idiot king.

The Democrats simply don't deserve the White House. Furthermore, the Democrats simply don't deserve the support of progressives in this country, as they demonstrate a continuous commitment to politics as usual and refuse to rock the boat.

It was Schumer himself who brought Mukasey to Bush's attention, so turning his vote would be a tough sell, since he had so much personal investment in the torture candidate. Schumer's weak defense that "this was the best candidate we could expect from Bush" is a bit disingenuous, since it seems it's really the best candidate we can expect from Schumer.

The New York Times summarizes the controversy surrounding Schumer's handpicked equivocator:
The nomination of Mr. Mukasey was almost derailed by his refusal at his confirmation hearings to define as torture the interrogation technique known as waterboarding, which simulates drowning and is reported to have been used by the Central Intelligence Agency on a handful of Qaeda leaders since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Never mind that waterboarding is considered by most Americans and other industrialized countries with working democracies to be torture. The Democrats are constantly outmaneuvered by their own petty greed and the machinations of a tightly-focused Republican core who never gives up pushing its agenda.

We must face it: the Democrats are nothing but a party of mediocre bureaucrats with one or two exceptions. As a party, they are doomed to failure through the lack of any commitment to difficult work.

When the Bush Administration wanted to do something momentous, like overturn the Constitution, did they let the ACLU or legal scholars or Senators stand in their way? Hell, no. Even now, Bush thumbs his nose at decency, vetoing bills to provide children with healthcare, and the Democrats can't do anything but cower like geeks who have just had sand kicked in their faces by the schoolyard bully.

It's hard to remember that this party is the party that constructed a social safety net and brought desegregation to our nation. Those accomplishments are over 40 years old now, and perhaps it's time the Democrats stop resting on their laurels and try to imagine a future that isn't confined to the status quo. Or maybe it's time for progressives to get their act together and start imagining a future in which the Democrats become the Whigs.

06 November 2007

Darkness at the break of noon.

I'm not sure how many people have actually noticed, but with this time change thing, it gets dark really early. I may have lived through 38 ends of DST, but it always catches me by surprise when I walk outside at 5 p.m. and it's dark. Dark means night riding, and that means lights. Of course, the bracket for my front light had broken in the spring, and I never replaced it, and a few weeks ago some asshole stole the rear light from my baby seat.

I ask, what sort of low-down jackass steals a safety light from a bicycle baby seat?

So I had to go plunk down some money on some new lights to enhance the safety of the three members of the family who rely upon two wheel transport to get around on a daily basis. What I discovered was that you could spend fifty dollars on a headlight if you so desired, or you could spend $17.99 on a combopack of a headlight and a taillight. If you ask me, the taillight is more important, since it's the cars coming up from behind that are more likely to run you off the road, although I won't discount the importance of a front light given the propensity of oncoming traffic to make left turns into bicycles.

Now if I don't find my bike gloves soon, I'm going to have to get a new pair, and that's not fun because they generally cost around $50 a pair, and I'm not sure why, because they don't protect against really cold temperatures -- they're more of a late fall, early spring sort of glove (unless you by those big ass "lobster mitts" that you see some messengers and takeout delivery people wearing in the winter) that are great for cutting the wind and providing some warmth, but are absolutely useless below forty degrees. That's when the big ski gloves come out.

Thanks to the lack of snow around the District, we can, with very few exceptions, bike all year round.

05 November 2007

Recapping the weekend.

OK the weekend started out on a sour note: due to family illness we were unable to travel to Happy Valley for the PSU v. Purdue game, and I had to give my brother my tickets. On a good note, PSU won.

On the week, I managed a weak 12-6, 13-6 if you count the PSU call. I came damn close on several though, seeing Texas mount an improbable comeback to win v. OK State and watching Alabama screw up the endgame to lose to LSU. It was torture watching FSU win v. BC, although BC QB Matt Ryan looked like a chump -- how can a guy who throws floaters over the middle be in the hunt for the heisman?

A final question for pondering: what would Michigan's record be right now if the refs ever called their offensive line for holding?

02 November 2007

Another Friday, another day to be wrong, so wrong.

Sorry to disappoint those of you coming to the site expecting Marxist commentary, but today is Friday and during the busy fall Fridays I am generally consumed on Friday with the college football weekend. As many of you know, I received my undergraduate degree from that hotbed of Communist infiltration, Penn State, where our football coach appears to be a Republican but is really a Manchurian Candidate and only awaits the signal from his handlers.

So here we go:

1. Ohio State v. #21 Wisconsin. After the buzzsaw PSU went through in Happy Valley last week, I think Ohio State simply stifles Wisconsin in a most ugly fashion in Columbus.
2. Boston College v. Florida State. Oh how sweet it will be when BC crushes FSU.
3. LSU v. #17 Alabama. Oh the storylines...Sabin v. LSU...Bama wins.
4. Arizona State v. #5 Oregon. Undefeated ASU v one-loss Oregon. The winner of this game wins the PAC-10. Oregon wins it.
5. See #4 above.
6. Oklahoma v. Texas A&M. Ouch, if you're an Aggie fan. Of course, if you are, you probably can't read this post anyway. Oklahoma wins.
7. WVU is idle.
8. Kansas v. Nebraska. In any normal year, Nebraska would see Kansas as a definite win. However, this year it's the Huskers who are trying to save bowl eligibility and Kansas is undefeated. Nebraska is really bad this year, but I still don't trust Kansas. I say the Huskers win this one.
9. Missouri v. Colorado. Hapless Colorado will be no challenge for Missouri.
10. Georgia v. Troy. The Bulldogs get an easy one after several weeks of tough ones.
11. V-Tech already beat G-Tech.
12. Michigan v. Michigan State. Wouldn't it be nice to see Mich State show up? They're too unpredictable for me to pick them...Wolverines win this one.
13. Connecticut v. Rutgers. What is this world coming to when UConn is ranked in football? It's the end of times, I tell you. Rutgers wins.
14. Hawaii is idle.
15. Texas v. Oklahoma State. A few weeks ago I confused Iowa State with Oklahoma State. This week Texas will lose to OK State.
16. Auburn v. Tennessee Tech. Auburn in a slaughter.
17. See #3 above.
18. South Florida v. Cincinnati. Amazingly, only a few weeks ago these teams were #5 and #15, respectively. USF actually made it to #2 before tumbling. USF is at home, so I give them the win.
19. USC v. Oregon State. USC gets back on track v. the PAC-10 punching bag.
20. Florida v. Vanderbilt. V-bilt is no pushover this year, but Florida will still beat them.
21. See #1 above.
22. Boise State v. San Jose State. Boise State wins.
23. Virginia v. #24 Wake Forest. Yawn. ACC football. Is it basketball season yet? Virginia wins.
24. See #23 above.
25. Clemson v. Duke. Umm...Clemson in a rout.

And for the record, I will be at the PSU v. Purdue game this weekend and it is my belief that PSU will wake from their slumber and shut down the Purdue attack. And PSU will win the game. Much hot chocolate will be consumed.

01 November 2007

This started as a sweet little post Halloween recap, but then...

Last night was a blast. Hung out on the block with all the other middle-aged parents, sipping wine out of Starbucks paper coffee cups so we wouldn't end up like this lady (oh yes, my DC memory is deep, my friends, very deep). Every now and then I had to hand out some candy. It was a remarkably light night, and by 9 p.m. we were inside, lights off, and upstairs. It wasn't long ago that Halloween meant knocks on the door well past ten p.m., with trick or treaters taking a very liberal definition of "costume" to mean street clothes.

The light traffic meant I had plenty of time to sit on my porch silently contemplating the night and watching rats scurry across the yard. I chased a few of them, especially after I got a big stick to flush them out of the underbrush. And speaking of flushing out rats...

George Will is writing his usual nonsense again about topics he knows nothing about. For Will, if the topic contains the keyword "Choice" or "Competition," it must mean "Good." So in this case he's writing about education, a topic about which he's so ignorant, but gosh he uses all the correct right-wing keywords: "near-monopoly," "anti-choice," "opponents of choice," "fear of competition," etc. It's really very tired.

Of course, he gives the game away when you realize he's mainly concerned with teacher unions. Will isn't concerned whatsoever with the poor downtrodden children forced into Dickensian workhouses that liberals and big bad teacher union bureaucrats call "public schools." These children don't exist in his world, because they aren't going to grow up to be little overprivileged bowtie wearing stuffed shirt prigs...his opinion of public education is so low that he imagines all the products of the teacher union enslaved schools will become the faceless trolls who take his plates away after dinner, hand him his drycleaning, and bag his groceries.

Like any shill for laissez-faire capitalism, Will's real bogeyman is unionization, and the specter of living labor getting together to meet dead accumulated Capital on even somewhat level terms terrifies him. Teacher unions just happen to be an especially easy target for him, since teachers are public sector employees. For some strange reason, Will believes the NEA (he generally attacks the NEA, probably because it's the larger of the two major teacher unions) should not look after the rights of its members, and more fantastically he somehow believes that the interests of teachers (the union membership) is somehow at odds with the interests of education. As if teachers are looking for ways to make schools fail.

Like most right wing critics of education, Will couldn't be bothered with actual facts or details about how schools work and curriculum gets set. Again, Will isn't concerned about the children in the schools or the idea of public education itself (for all its flaws, universal public education is anathema to Will's coterie of elitists, since it assumes that everyone -- not just the children of privilege -- deserve education and are capable of learning): he's interested only in dismantling the system that for all the scare tactics (beginning with Why Johnny Can't Read way back in the 1950's), actually works for most students (the job, of course, is to make it work it work for all, since public schools, unlike private schools, can't throw out anyone and everyone who might lower their test scores...).

This reactionary anti-union stance is why Will finds himself defending what he would otherwise deride as a "government handout" (Will is great at cherry-picking his anti-government stances, generally ignoring right wing entitlements and deriding the "Big Government" excesses of, let's say, funding for public education or healthcare for the poor). Here's Will explaining the Utah program that he's trying to defend:

In balloting more important to the nation than most of next year's elections will be, Utahans next week will decide by referendum whether to retain or jettison the nation's broadest school choice program. Passed last February, the Parent Choice in Education Act would make a voucher available to any public school child who transfers to a private school, and to current private school children from low-income families.

Note the hyperbole that he leads with: this state-level ballot about a program that is very similar to programs that have been around a long time in other states (and the District) is more important than "most of next year's elections," which are at the national level, including for President. But that's typical Will. Will touts this government handout because it comes from the "general fund" and not from traditional sources of public education funding, therefore robbing the voucher opponents of the argument that it's taking funding from the public schools. So if you follow along, essentially Will is arguing that the $500 - $3000 vouchers are in addition to funds already allocated for education, and Utah's state expenditure of $7500 per pupil will remain intact. He uses this line to argue that the voucher program, and I quote, "every Utah voucher increases funds available for public education."

In fact, he details the process. Follow carefully:
Utah spends more than $7,500 per public school pupil ($3,000 more than the average private school tuition). The average voucher will be for less than $2,000. So every voucher that is used -- by parents willing to receive $2,000 rather than $7,500 of government support for the education of their child -- will save Utah taxpayers an average of $5,500. And because the vouchers are paid from general revenue, the departed pupil's $7,500 stays in the public school system.

OK, got that? Since Utah spends about $7500 per public school pupil, and the vouchers are worth on average $2000, then Utah saves $5500 per child using a voucher, but the $7500 per pupil doesn't go away. Did anyone else wonder at Will's deployment of the New Math? If the money stays in the system, you don't actually save that money and get to count it as savings to taxpayers, who by Will's admission are still paying the $7500 to the public school system...now in addition to the $2000 for the private school subsidizing voucher.

Am I missing something? Is he not claiming that the original $7500 that would have been there anyway is still there, and an additional $2000 is being paid out, yet somehow the taxpayers are saving $5500? As I said before, Will and education are not exactly familiar with one another...

To seal the deal (and I know you're bored by now), Will makes the argument that Utah's private schools "are operating one-third below full enrollment" and the vouchers will help fill them up. Isn't it funny when a free marketeer like Will starts arguing for subsidies because the market doesn't seem to work the way he wants it? Check it out:
The voucher program will enable demand for private schools to match the supply. A privately funded scholarship program, Children First Utah, for low-income pupils can support only 15 percent of applicants. Although most of the total value of the new voucher program will go to low-income families, the program amounts to a reduced government subsidy for such families -- at most $3,000 rather than more than $7,500 per pupil.

So replace "voucher program" with "subsidy" and you see what Will's aiming at. The private schools are underenrolled because they aren't seen as providing the value for their cost. Rather than make them "compete," as he wants with the public schools, Will wants the government to give them a handout, therefore allowing them to continue to overcharge their pupils. And he returns to his ridiculous, wrong even on the basis of his own evidence, argument about a reduced cost. He's already stated that the $7500 per pupil remains in the system, so we aren't looking at a "reduced government subsidy," but rather an increased subsidy (in fairness to Will, he does say "reduced government subsidy for such families," and technically he's correct: since the family is not in public school, they don't directly receive the subsidy; but he's either lying to the reader or simply too stupid to understand the difference between the individual family and the system as a whole when he argues that it's some sort of reduction in taxpayer burden).

Anyone read this far?