30 June 2008

No accountability.

I'm leaving aside for now the completely disgusting tactic used by the Catholic Church to offload their education mission on the DC taxpaying public, all the while reaping a nice little tax free rental income, thank you very much.

Let's start with the "Education Mayor" and his flunkies. Fenty and his flunkies have known since last fall that the Catholic Church was looking to do what other private foundations have been doing for several years now: dip into the public coffers in the name of charter schools. In fact, as the Washington Post reports -- in a surprisingly critical piece -- it was yet another example of empty promises from the education wing of Fenty's regime:
Victor Reinoso, deputy mayor for education, indicated at the time that the city clearly understood the implications of the archdiocese's announcement: "We will take it into consideration as we plan future budgets," he said.

That never happened.

District officials disclosed last week that they are still looking for the money to finance the schools, a sum that could come to as much as $16 million this year. They have told the nonprofit operator, Center City Public Charter Schools, that its first quarterly payment from the city -- due by July 15 under District law -- will be delayed.

Brilliant. Loyal readers should know Victor Reinoso's name: he's Fenty's "Deputy Mayor for Plagiarism," or as he's colloquially known, the deputy mayor for education. Still, a toothless DC Council approved his nomination last summer...

Reinoso and Rhee are cut from the same cloth: say what's expedient at the moment and forget about the follow-through. As with Rhee's empty promises to Benning Elementary, Reinoso's assurances are merely meant to placate and defer the inevitable moment of truth.

Not exactly a wise way to run a school system.

And maybe the D.C. Council is finally starting to take notice that it's not necessarily a good thing to offload your authority and oversight and hope for the best:
The Center City application touched political nerves on the council, which has grown increasingly concerned about its lack of control over a charter school sector that now costs the city more than $360 million a year. Earlier this month, Gray and D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) introduced legislation tightening the regulation of charter schools, including a mandated 15-month planning period before newly approved schools open.

Really? You think maybe $360 million a year of public money going to private organizations is something you should be concerned about, Councilmembers Gray and Wells? Well, thanks for the brilliant insight. Maybe you should perk up before Rhee finishes the job.

27 June 2008

What will you do this Depression?

It's been a while since we've had to deal with a big economic downturn worthy of the name "Depression." Technically, we're not there yet, since techncally we're not even in recession, which basically requires negative growth sustained over two quarters. A depression is a sustained, deep recession. It isn't pretty.

How many people have been watching their 401(k)'s and 403(b)'s and the like stagnate or wither away this year?

How many people don't have 401(k)'s or 403(b)'s and the like to watch wither away?

We're watching the tail-end of a party that's been in decline since 1999, and it's had a long denoument, mainly thanks to the housing bubble, but now we've drunk those dregs and my friends the hangover is going to be ugly. You know the kind of hangover I'm talking about: the sort you get when you've scoured the house for any sort of alcohol just to keep the party going, and you've run through that old bottle of cooking sherry and even contemplated the rubbing alcohol...but you weren't quite that drunk.

What will we do when we can't afford to supersize our extra value meals anymore?

What will become of all those former Starbucks stores once 7 out of 10 customers stop buying their daily skinny decaf macchiatofrapuccinolatterrificos at $3.50 a pop?

I know one thing we won't be doing so much of...flying. What made flying so damn easy in the years since deregulation has pretty much gone away: low prices and convenience. Sure, prices are lower than they were before deregulation, but they're nowhere near as low as they were in the heyday of flying across the country roundtrip for under $200. Add to that price uptick the extreme inconvenience of flying...the little baggies, the security lines, the removal of shoes, belts, jackets, laptops, etc., the getting to the airport fifteen hours before your flight in order to deal with aforementioned hassles...and you've got a great formula for decreasing demand.

Air travel will return to that hallowed place it occupied in the 1970's, when a trip to a far off place was a big event and rarely occured on a yearly basis. I wonder if trains will pick up the slack, or are they subject to the same pressures in the same way as airlines? You certainly can't go across the country in five hours on a train.

We've built travel infrastructures to serve an economy that has been to a large extent itself built on assumptions of cheap energy. Our non-urban shopping models assume nearly universal automobile access. Our suburbs themselves assume nearly universal automobile access. Our McMansions in those suburbs are energy hogs. Our SUVs we drive to and from our McMansions in those suburbs are gas hogs. How does our model of 21st century American life look in an era of sustained scarcity of resources?

How many strip malls will become hobo jungles?

How will the homeless travel to this depression's pastures of plenty?


26 June 2008


What does the end of the DC gun ban mean to you and me? I don't mean philosophically...I mean practically, as in the end result as felt in our daily lives.

Probably not a whole hell of a lot. I am guessing that most federal subjects of this enclave known as the District of Columbia will continue to go about their business as they had before, with neither greater nor lesser safety.

Sure guns will be easier to get, since you won't have to go out of the District anymore, but it's not like people who really wanted 'em couldn't get 'em.

The only appreciable change will probably be in the amount of accidental shootings that occur due to a rise in gun ownership in the District. Mainly kids. Perhaps there will be a few more murder-suicides arising from domestic disputes because a gun makes it a little bit easier to go too far too fast.

From a law enforcement angle, it takes away one of the handiest ways to tack on charges or at least get some charges on a criminal or alleged criminal in the District: unlicensed firearm and unregistered ammunition (yeah, the ammunition is a separate charge).

But in the main, it won't affect our daily lives at all.

23 June 2008

RIP George Carlin

George Carlin has died of heart failure, age 71.

It's a monumental loss for American comedy, because there were few, if any, more brilliant observers of everyday life who raised their observations to the level of cultural critique. And of course, it's a monumental loss for three and four year old Thomas the Tank Engine fans everywhere, who will now mix their enjoyment of the stories with the bittersweet knowledge that the man talking to them -- if he isn't Alec Baldwin or Ringo Starr -- is no longer with us. "Peep, Peep!" Thomas said. "Indeed death is all around us."

Mr. Carlin, who in addition to being a children's narrator was also famous for the "Seven Words" bit, got me thinking about Michael Gerson's absolutely moronic column about Al Franken. Gerson apparently is unaware of satire and context, which leads me to believe that he either was an extremely poor English student or had extremely poor English teachers. I've wondered before how someone as culturally tone-deaf as Gerson could possibly have a syndicated column in a major newspaper, and in each column I chance to read he reinforces my notion that he is small-minded, utterly out of touch with reality, and remarkably obtuse.

Really, the idiot takes Franken to task for a comedy bit in which Franken lauds the internet's ability to help his 12 year old get visual aids for a school report on bestiality. Gerson apparently thinks Franken is being serious. He misses the absolute absurdity of a school report on bestiality (who knows, Gerson is so hopelessly out to lunch he probably thinks public school sex education is nothing more than a year-long primer on alternate positions, partners, and practices), even when Franken gives it away with a glowing endorsement of the "visual aids" and his son's classmates' great interest in the visuals.

Gerson needs a little George Carlin sitting on his shoulder pointing this shit out. Preferably using the seven words.

20 June 2008

Mischief, thou art afoot.

Caught Julius Caesar at the Shakespeare Theatre last night. What a rip-off. The guy, Caesar, gets killed before intermission.

The performance is good but not great...it somehow lacked the gravitas of its theme -- I wasn't sold by either Brutus or Marc Antony's speeches after the death of Caesar, although overall Brutus -- played by Tom Hammond -- is great. In fact, since Brutus is basically the star of the show, Hammond's part is crucial, and he carries it well.

As always, the set design is inventive but not fussy, even if the set did cause Andrew Long, the original Marc Antony, to, um, break a leg for real. OK, so he just ruptured the achilles tendon, but it's enough to cause the Post to speculate on a "curse on Harmon Hall."

Having not really paid much attention to Julius Caesar since high school, I was struck by how much this play says about the fickleness and violence of the mob -- or as we might say these days, the common man. John Steinbeck had a theory about mass actions, and he explored it in such works as In Dubious Battle, a strike novel set in California's apple orchards. He called it the "Phalanx," and his interest was in figuring out how individual wills and intentions become subsumed to a group-consciousness.

Marc Antony's speech "to bury Caesar, not to praise him" incites the very masses who only a few moments ago were praising Brutus to now seek his death, and it's clear that Antony understands that power lies not in the Senate but in the street, as he declares, "Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou what course you wilt!" Even further, Antony realizes that once loosed, the public wrath is not under anyone's control, and the mindless beating of Cinna the Poet only reinforces the unguided savagery, in the wake of which Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus seize power.

And poor Brutus, the "noblest man in Rome," who turns against his friend in the name of the state, learns all too late that the cause of the country -- "pro patria" -- is not a site of universal agreement, but rather an empty signifier that everyone claims.

19 June 2008

In case you happen to be in London with time to kill.

I can't believe it, but I actually saw a Cy Twombly I liked. Normally, I don't think of art and Cy Twombly in the same sentence, mainly because his crap is so juvenile and derivative -- and by derivative I don't even mean it's a good copy...I mean it's watered down shoddy nods toward something that's already been done. However, I was checking out the Guardian's piece on Twombly's show at the Tate, and one of the preview pieces I found very nice:

It makes me think of waves crashing against the shore. There's a mood to it, and energy. "Untitled, Part VII" he calls it. Other than that one, the pictures strike me as the sort of dreck I've always associated with Twombly. No concept, no originality, just a lucky time: he happened to be painting when Rothko, Pollack, Johns, Warhol, and Lichtenstein were popular, and somehow critics mistook his juvenelia for art. Jesus, you can't even compare him to those other five. It's like comparing Coldplay to Radiohead or U2.

18 June 2008

Rhee-treads anyone?

What do you do when you preside over one of the biggest education disasters in recent history? Why get a job with DCPS of course!

Cleveland, of all places, is chortling over the Rhee Regime's luring of several notable Cleveland failures to the District's system:
We knew something strange was going on when Lisa Ruda, the chief of staff for the Cleveland schools back in their heyday of horror, got hired to play the same role in the Washington, D.C. school district [“Thanks, D.C,” August 7]. She may have been part of Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s Dream Team that invented attendance numbers, bungled the $1.5 billion construction project, and helped the district earn a reputation for the Worst Education This Side of the Mississippi. But we never would have believed that someone else wanted to repeat our experiment in abject failure…

Needless to say, Cleveland isn't exactly upset about the District's "poaching" their "talent." In fact, they're ecstatic that Ruda, once she landed in the nation's capital, began hiring her cronies, although Lisa Rab, the reporter covering this strange rhee-incarnation of failure, was admittedly perplexed and tried to connect the dots. Here's the connection between DCPS and Cleveland:
Turns out that Byrd-Bennett, the former Cleveland schools chief who led Ruda and the rest of the disastrous team, also has a new job in D.C. She’s a director for New Leaders for New Schools, a non-profit that trains principals to – get this! -- turn around failing schools. Which means, unfortunately, that one of Cleveland’s most-hated government flunkies is now spreading her wisdom to younger generations. According to the Washington Post, she’s been advising D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee on some issues, too.

Amazing. A corrupt former schools chief and her corrupt cronies are imported almost whole-cloth into the District. New Leaders for New Schools is one of those organizations -- like Rhee's own New Teachers Project -- that found there was money to be made (and lots of it) consulting and providing head-hunting services for the public schools.

Byrd-Bennett, unlike her underlings, is not working directly for DCPS; instead, her organization is providing the "vetting" or litmus test for principal hires in DC. Byrd-Bennett is not well-liked in Cleveland and beyond. In fact, the ACLU went after her for trying to circumvent Ohio's "sunshine laws" that ensure public disclosure of school business. Incidentally, Michelle Rhee already won a court battle in her attempt to keep public school budget numbers from the public until it's too late...but it's possible the DC Council might get some backbone to stop the nonsense...doubtful, but possible.

17 June 2008

Ebb and flow.

I have a conundrum. Or a challenge. Here it goes:

The water pressure in our house is incredibly low. I'm not talking temporary as in fixing a water main break low; I'm talking ongoing for several years now low. In the shower we have a hose that reaches the ground. If you put it on the ground upside down, the water trickles out...maybe shoots in the air about two inches. Our kitchen sink produces no force from the faucet, as if the water is simply falling out.

Yet the flow from the front and back hoses, as well as the utility sink in the basement, is strong.

I've been looking for valves along the water lines that would differentiate between those different outlets, but I can't find any that aren't open wide.

From what I know about water pressure in general, the larger your pipe the more water you need to maintain pressure...or to put it a bit more scientifically, water pressure relates to the speed at which water must move to get through an opening. There's a severe volume problem with both the kitchen sink and shower. Hmm.

16 June 2008

It's like watching a good friend slide into dementia...

Anyone else notice the Post's editorials slipping from moderate to right-wing lately? On June 12, their lead editorial was a paean to the public-money-for-private-schools experiment foisted upon us by the U.S. Congress during one of their darker right-wing days. Oh sure, it sounds great: 1,900 scholarships handed out to low-income families so their children can attend private schools. It's an amazing piece of largesse from the radical right-wing leadership that attempted to strip public funding from social services across the board...but not from giveaways that would undermine public education.

Seriously, who wants to be against giving children more access to education? It sounds insane until you start asking the same questions of other Constitutional issues, like "who wants to be against law enforcement?" or "who wants to be on the side of the terrorists?" -- in other words, it's a trojan horse.

For starters, these vouchers aren't the kind that will get you to Sidwell Friends, St. Albans, or any other high-end private school. These vouchers are basically enough to get you to Catholic school, which I'm not knocking, but let's not pretend that these vouchers "level the playing field" and let's not forget that in D.C., the Catholic church -- one of the largest tax-free landholders in the District -- is backing away from its mission to provide education for its parishioners and trying to turn its private schools into public charter schools. Essentially, the vouchers provide a public subsidy to private schools, and in their amounts, they are providing de facto public subsidies to religious institutions.

I wonder if the Post would be so enamored of the program if instead of providing education vouchers, Congress decided that it should get in the business of providing free subscriptions to the Washington Times to help District residents with "media choice."

Interestingly enough, the Post sees in the likely demise of this federal program a plot against Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee's school "reforms," as they put it. Never mind that the federal voucher program predates the Fenty/Rhee takeover of the District's schools and never mind that a federal program to subsidize private enterprise should have absolutely nothing at all to do with how the mayor conducts reform of public education...just read the Post's bombastic fear-mongering conclusion:
Much, though certainly not all, of the opposition to vouchers is rooted in Democratic interest-group politics and the traditional resistance of teachers unions to change. And that is what should worry Mr. Fenty. If this worthwhile program can be sacrificed, so can the many vital reforms he and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee are hoping to put in place.

Oooooo! It's the big, bad "Democratic interest-groups" and the "teachers unions" who are to blame for trying to scuttle a Constitutionally suspect federal giveaway to religious institutions. I'm surprised they didn't take a swipe at the ACLU while they were at it. And what are these "vital reforms" of Fenty and Rhee that the Post alludes to? Doing away with due process? Finally scuttling that "quaint notion" that job decisions should be based on performance?

If you put two and two together, though, you realize that someone at the Post is on an anti-union crusade...after all, the Post as a business is fairly aggressive with fighting its own employees. Today, the second editorial decried Montgomery County government for its inability to stand up to what the Post calls "union bullying." Honestly, if I put the editorial up without attributing the source, readers would most likely conclude it was from the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal, or the John Birch Society.

Apparently the Post believes that unions -- those organizations that gave us things like child-labor laws, weekends, health-care benefits, paid vacation and sick leave, workplace safety standards, and in general higher standards of living -- are little more than self-interest groups.

Frankly, I'm getting sick of the Post.

13 June 2008

Disturbing news, but no one cares.

So you've been in charge of DC Schools for a year...schools tend to be in the business of educating students, yet it's only now, after a full year, that you admittedly decide to turn your attention to academics?

No, I didn't make that up.

Chancellor Rhee has finally figured out that DCPS is in the business of providing education, and so she's pledged that in her second year on the job she would concentrate on academics. How refreshing:
Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said the focus in year two will be on boosting student achievement levels.

Wouldn't you hope that boosting student achievement levels would be the focus of a schools chief every year everywhere?

Rhee and Fenty were busy yesterday touting their education bona fides and listing their accomplishments. What they left off the list was one of the most important things: "Left in place every one of former Superintendent Janney's curriculum programs -- until two days ago when She-Who-Is-Not-To-Be-Questioned effectively ended or delayed continued implementation of the Columbia University Reading and Writing Workshop." Obviously the administration shouldn't be terribly proud of record, since Rhee's snap decision at the very end of the academic year throws training for new hires into utter disarray...but what does she care. Here's what the Post tells us about the Fenty/Rhee achievement list:
A five-page, mostly single-spaced handout detailed 46 initiatives. They include a new textbook distribution system, refurbished high school athletic fields, spruced-up buildings, more art and music teachers and digitized personnel files that eliminated 4.6 million documents in disarray.

These are all good things. Even though Rhee overstated the textbook distribution problem, it's good to have a more transparent one in place (though it's not the first time DCPS officials have claimed to have streamlined textbook delivery); many DCPS fields were a disaster -- demoralizing and dangerous to students; many buildings obviously needed an overhaul; art and music should not be treated, as they were for years in DCPS, as luxuries (though Rhee's art and music initiative will not hit the classroom until fall 2008, and her seeming largesse comes at the cost of both the Weighted Student Formula and the Small-School Subsidy); and finally, the state of personnel and other files in DCPS needed to be addressed before accountability, both academic and financial, could be enforced.

However -- and you knew that was coming, right? -- only one of these highlighted initiatives touches academic achievement. Two of them are clear facilities issues and two others are business operations -- meaning they lie completely outside the need for the involvement of educational experts.

So what has our chancellor been doing for the past year...oh yeah, exactly what people who aren't educational experts do.

12 June 2008

Anatomy of a hit.

If you want to understand the Rhee modus operandus in a nutshell, look no further than the Benning Elementary story in the Washington Post today. Leaving out the details, here's how it works: 1) meet and greet the community 2) pretend to hear their concerns, make promises, and assure them you are on their side 3) make decision that completely ignores or dismisses those concerns and promises 4) pretend you knew nothing about the community's concerns.

It's a pattern that's very transferable and has happened at a number of schools, although the Benning Elementary closure is certainly extreme -- Rhee uses this method for decisions great and small, because it's very effective: you've essentially bought time by making promises you have no intention of keeping, but by the time the community figures that out, they're fractured, shocked, and dismayed by your astounding duplicity.

Here's what happened at the end of last school year at Benning, a school suffering from deteriorating facilities and low enrollment (who wants to send his or her child to a school where the roof leaks?):
In an elegant white jacket, she [Rhee] walked the dimly lighted corridors and soiled carpets with Fenty and a platoon of cameras, chatting up students and teachers, promising to fix what ailed Benning. Fenty (D) picked the Northeast Washington school for Rhee's debut, aides said, because it crystallized many of the technical and academic challenges she would face.

Act I, the photo-op. The promises to fix the school. Fast forward to the end of the school year, and Benning Elementary is being closed:
A year after Rhee's whirlwind tour, the leaky roof remains, as does most of the worn-out carpet that kindergartners sit on each day. Other things got better, teachers and staff say. For the first time on Principal Darwin Bobbitt's three-year watch, the school had math and reading coaches, as well as an art teacher. All classroom teachers got new computers. Although maintenance personnel weren't able to fix the school's cranky air conditioning, they were far more responsive when it went down, staff members said.

In other words, fix the things that can move, like the computers and the personnel. Allow the students to spend each day on filthy rugs under unsound roofs, because all along Rhee knew her promises to keep Benning open were simply shell-game shuffles, designed to placate the parents committed, despite all its failings, to their neighborhood school.

Act II, then, begins with signs of improvement -- new computers, more academic support -- yet the larger structural problems remain unaddressed. That is classic rising tension...it reminds me in ways of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, in which the town's outward signs of economic success are belied by the poisons whose eventual discovery will compromise that economic recovery.

Act III, and this is a 3 Act play, comprises the climax and denoument so far. Rhee drops the hammer. Parents are stunned:
"What can I say? My word means nothing," said Tamika Jackson, mother of a second-grader. Like many Benning parents interviewed, she said she is looking to charter schools as an alternative.

Another of Rhee's goals accomplished: public school parents leaving the system for charter schools, those quasi-public institutions that believe they shouldn't be beholden to public oversight even as they swill at the public trough...

The play would not be complete, however, without Rhee's protestations that she did no wrong, broke no promises:
Rhee said she does not recall complaints about the roof, but tried to make what improvements she could. She said she does remember being impressed with Bobbitt, calling him a strong leader, and eventually offered him the principal's job this fall at Malcolm X Elementary in Southeast. As for the closing, she said it was unavoidable.
Bobbitt, for his part, retains a role in Rhee's next production and is understandably grateful, since Rhee has been replacing more successful principals with her friends and associates.

And that's the story so far, a sad tale of raised and dashed hopes, of promises unkept, and of the miscreants escaping justice. I fought the law and the law won, as the song goes.

I'm want to see the ending rewritten, perhaps expanded out to a five act, in which Rhee's hubris finally encounters sustained community solidarity, and she's held to account, made to justify her actions, and unable to do so, is summarily deposed by the mayor...or perhaps we will have to wait, like Fortinbras, for a final tragedy to clear the way for rejuvenation...

11 June 2008

From Fashion to Foucault.

If I were to continue writing about fashion, I suppose I would have to bring in Roland Barthes as opposed to Michel Foucault, since Barthes' work, especially Mythologies, would be so useful. However, I'm not really following that thread, preferring right now to stumble very very slowly through Foucault's lectures from 1976, Society Must Be Defended. In his 21 January 1976 lecture, Foucault asserts that in the investigation of sovereignty he'd prefer to investigate the "operators of domination," and that

We should not, therefore, be asking subjects how, why, and by what right they can agree to being subjugated, but showing how actual relations of subjugation manufacture subjects. [45]

So his analysis of sovereignty is going to have little to do with things like compacts, charters, constitutions, etc. -- or at least as we consciously perceive them -- and more to do with the role of power relations in creating subjects. To that extent, there's a remarkable similarity to Althusser's theory of Ideological State Apparatuses, though Foucault is quick to criticize the totalizing aspect of Althusser's theory ("I think we can analyze them effectively only if we do not see them as an overall unity, only if we do not try to derive them from something like the Statist unity of sovereignty" [45]. -- a pretty clear critique of the Althusserian ISA).

Working backward, we can also attribute Foucault's methodology to Marx's famous dictum from A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859): "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness." However, Foucault would still see the prevailing Marxist interpretations of culture as too totalizing, as he preferred the play of systems against one another and the power relations that came out of competing systems, or as by-products of those systems -- or I suppose more to the point, the interplay of forces that throught their interplay create systems. In the end, though, I don't see much difference, because his mapping out of the regimes of surveillance, from the panopticon to the clinic, could all contribute to the logic of capitalism -- as opposed to the logic of the ruling class.

Anyway, before I get too far afield, Foucault takes "sovereignty" as his ostensible topic, but the exploration of sovereignty, while interesting in itself, also moves him toward a more general goal of establishing historical discourse as a battlefield: historical interpretation, historical representation, inclusion or exclusion as "world historical" are the ground where an eternal war is fought and never completely won or lost.

Perhaps that sounds simple, and maybe it is. Nietzsche more or less argues the same thing in the 19th century, but Foucault is making a much more sustained analysis than Nietzsche ever did, and in the end his point isn't simply that historical discourse is the location of interpretive battles, but also that it can only be so. There is no fixed finality. The battle is never ever over.

10 June 2008

Time for a Rhee-Call.

Continuing her efforts to destroy public education in the District as quickly as possible, Chancellor Michelle Rhee has pulled the rug out from under students and teachers district-wide by cancelling the contract DCPS had with Teachers Institute to implement and provide continuous training for the Columbia University Reading and Writing Workshop.

Her ostensible reason is that the contract was not competetively bid and was not written up properly. Perhaps that's true, and Teachers Institute founder Sheila Ford seems like a bit of scoundrel -- OK, make that a full-fledged scoundrel -- by securing funding from DCPS for Teachers Institute before she resigned her DCPS principal's job, but the program itself is incredible. My son has had the opportunity to work with this program all year and I was extremely satisfied with the progress he made and the materials and methods used in the process.

One of the concepts behind the Columbia Reading and Writing Workshop is that teachers receive ongoing training in teaching reading and writing, and many DCPS teachers will tell you that previous to programs like this one, they have received little or no instructional training from DCPS. Another concept behind the program is differentiated learning, allowing students to move through "leveled libraries" as they progress in their abilities.

I'm disgusted by this action on Rhee's part. She seems to have no regard for student learning or the stability of learning communities that are working -- and from what I've seen, the reading and writing instruction in DCPS is far better under this program begun under Clifford Janey than in previous years.

I won't be surprised to find in a month or two that Rhee has identified a new partner to continue the program...perhaps an organization headed up by one of her old cronies. After all, she's been working hard to put her version of the "old boy network" in place throughout DCPS -- qualifications be damned, you'd better be a friend.

09 June 2008

Delusions of Grandeur.

Our idiot king is at it again, playing dress-up in his mind as he seeks a way to absolve himself from the guilt of killings thousands of civilians and costing over 4000 U.S. servicemen and servicewomen their lives for his vanity play in Iraq.

Bush seeks to put himself in a pantheon of heroic figures, despite all signs to the contrary. The Post send-up is mocking, which I'm sure will raise the ire of the right wing, but I've got my own problems with the Post, beginning with their pandering story about New Orleans' charter school smoke and mirrors show (but I don't have time right now to talk about that...). Anyway, the Post's Dan Eggen describes Bush's grasping at historical straws this way:
He's in Poland in 1939 as Nazi tanks advance on Warsaw, then flying with his Navy-pilot father to battle imperial Japan. He's alongside Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, William McKinley on his deathbed and Franklin D. Roosevelt on D-Day. He lingers with Harry S. Truman, another U.S. president deeply unpopular in his time.

Indeed. Bush is looking for ways to excuse his poor performance in office, so he's running here and there, taking a little of this and a little of that, trying to show he's not a sham (oh, man, the parallels to the New Orleans charter school story are scary...). The main problem, though, is that his anecdotes are so pathetic. Check this one out, in which he tries to draw some parallel to fighting the Japanese in World War II and being allies with them today:
He talked about the World War II service of his father, former president George H.W. Bush, and how the elder Bush fought against a nation, Japan, that is now a key U.S. ally. Referring to the 1940s, President Bush said: "If you'd have thought an American president would stand up and say, 'My close buddy in dealing with the threats to our countries would be the prime minister of Japan,' they'd say, 'Man, you're nuts, hopelessly idealistic.' . . . I have found that to be one of the ironic twists of history."

And what point does that prove, other than the fact that George Bush doesn't know much about history? In its short history, the United States has fought wars against England, Spain, Mexico, Germany, Italy, and Japan (plus some others). You'd be hard pressed to find any of these countries missing from a "US Allies" list. Only a moron who assumes static relations of power and interests would be amazed. The fact that Bush majored in history at Yale should call into question the scholarly credentials of Yale, by the way.

Of course, beyond being simply an example of Bush not understanding history or politics, the above example also shows that his specific mission of recuperating his failures through appeal to historical record are, well, Forrest Gumpian at best. Who is this historical figure who claimed that in the future the US and Japan would be close allies? Oh...it's speculative...I get it.

Except it isn't. There was a concerted effort at top government levels to re-create Germany and Japan as allies because we were already turning our eyes toward containing the Soviet Union. So it's hardly "nuts, hopelessly idealistic" as Bush would have it, for a figure in the 1940's to suggest that enemies could be turned to allies, especially since that was the ostensible goal of the postwar rebuilding plans the US spearheaded. The response of historians to Bush's attempted hijackings has been relatively critical:
Some historians are particularly critical of Bush's frequent references to Truman, who had an even lower approval rating than Bush amid opposition to the Korean War. They say Truman's place in history is elevated by his roles in leading the victory in World War II, creating institutions such as the United Nations and implementing the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Europe.

Bush on the other hand seems more interested in failing in Iraq and Afghanistan, crippling the United Nations, and destroying rather than rebuilding nations.

Bush's legacy, I'm afraid, will be closer to that of Buchanan or Harding than to any other whose name resonates with history's approval. If Bush is lucky, he could hope for the partial recuperation that finally awaited the disgraced Richard Nixon, but I see nothing even remotely akin to Nixon's overtures to China in Bush's repertoire.

06 June 2008

See the Phillips Collection Free on Saturday and Sunday.

The Phillips Collection -- one of those museums in DC you generally have to pay to see -- is opening its doors this weekend for a "Jacob Lawrence Family Free Festival" that will include great activities including a children's shadow puppetry re-enactment of Lawrence's Migration Series.

You can see the entire Migration Series -- which is normally split evenly between the Phillips and MOMA assembled in one place until October 26th...then they'll most likely be split up again or maybe they'll go somewhere else...MOMA doesn't list a Lawrence exhibit in its upcoming shows, so I don't know...

Here's what the Phillips Collection says about the Family Free Festival:
Jacob Lawrence Family Free Festival The museum will be filled with activities and entertainment during a weekend-long celebration of Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series, including shadow-puppetry, interactive dance performances by The DanceFusion Jazz Project, a Lawrence-inspired play written and acted byMississippi students, 1940s jazz performed by The Potomac Jazz Project, collage making, gallery tours, and films.

05 June 2008

Dying by degrees.

Listen up, kids, and I'm going to show you how democracy disappears little by little in increments so small you don't realize it's gone until it's too late.

The D.C. Council is going to be entertaining a bill that's supposedly about "homeland security." It's currently scheduled for Monday, 14 July 2008, 10:00 am, in the Council Chamber, Room 500, and the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary will be holding the hearing on"Freedom of Information Homeland Security Amendment Act of 2007", Bill17-0355.

Very dry, right. Of course, the title is a bit of a giveaway, what with the "Freedom of Information" bit. That would be related to FOIA and various sunshine laws enacted to keep governments from hiding their dirt from the public eye. Well, DC wants to hide that dirt a little more. Ostensibly, the bill would keep "critical infrastructure" safe from FOIA requests. Interestingly enough, public education is included in the "critical infrastructure," which while I'm relieved that DC government finds public education critical, I'm curious as to why information about public education would be covered under homeland security concerns.

Is the mayor afraid the terrorists might learn the lunch menu for next Thursday?

More than likely, this request -- made in the fall of last year -- has something to do with Michelle Rhee's constantly being outfoxed by public watchdogs like Save Our Schools (DC) and Fix Our Schools, two groups that have exposed her sore lack of legal knowledge and lack of desire to be publicly accountable.

So goes the "public" in public education...

This just in: I wrote this post up before I read today's Post about the even more crazy DC Police plan to cordon off neighborhoods and ask for everyone's "papers" for access to the area...does this plan sound a little bit, um, mid-century to anyone else out there?

04 June 2008

A post about cars. Or statistics. Or both. Maybe neither.

General Motors is looking to offload that symbol of American arrogance, obliviousness, and stupidity, the Hummer. I suppose that ship has finally sailed, now that the Housing Bust and the Credit Crunch have arrived simultaneously with the end of the Era of Cheap Gas. As always, the Washington Post obfuscates statistics for no apparent purpose other than to make clear comparisons impossible. For example, check out this sparkling paragraph:
North American sales of the Hummer family peaked at 75,939 vehicles in 2006, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank data. The drop since then has been precipitous, no doubt owing to high gas prices and social shaming. This year, only about 3,000 H2s have been sold. (At $4 per gallon, the $57,000 H2's tank costs $128 to fill.)

Let's see...the Hummer family -- which included in 2006 the H1, H2, and H3 -- sold 75,939 vehicles. But in 2008 -- a year currently underway -- one version (the H2) is down to 3K vehicles. So we have the entire line for a year compared to one model for less than half a year. Why make it so convoluted? Why not simply compare the entire line in 2006 to the entire line in 2008? Or extrapolate to say the Hummer line is on pace to sell X units in 2008.

In fact, let's make a word problem of it. If the Hummer family sold 75,939 units in 2006, and the H2 sold 3000 units in 5/12ths of 2008, how many Hummer family units have been sold so far in 2008? Um...who knows. The Post hasn't given enough information to make any sort of statistically interesting comparison. All you can really conclude is that sales are way down, especially since the H1 was discontinued after 2006, so the Hummer family only includes the H2 and H3 in 2008.

But enough of my complaining about the Washington Post's sloppy reporting. At least it's not the Washington Times. Let's celebrate the hopeful demise of one of the most ugly, asinine, wasteful, and shameful penis replacements ever invented.

03 June 2008

Have you heard the one about....

I'm normally all for laying it on Dick Cheney, but this inbreeding joke of his is too damn good. Seriously. "I've got Cheneys on both sides of my family, and I'm not even from West Virginia." That's good humor.

I'm thinking that West Virginia needs to stop fighting this image of being inbred hillbillies and to start using it as a marketing tool.

"West Virginia -- We're all family!"

"West Virginia -- Whether you're friends or family, it's all the same!"

It's really a good time for it, what with the too-Mormon-for-regular-Mormons down in Texas getting all the sympathy for the big bad state of Texas taking away their kids (and their wives...it's all the same apparently -- reminds me of Chinatown..."my sister, my daughter, my sister, my daughter..."), and West Virginia could capitalize on all the excitement generated by cross-generational inbreeding.

The first task, of course, is to jettison the term "inbreeding": it's too fraught with negative connotations. Likewise "incest." These are concerned communities that practice "genetic preservation." You still have to be careful with that term, too, lest you fall into the same connotative school as the white supremacists, because even if the shoe fits, you sure don't want to look proud wearing it.

So how can WV take back the stereotype? How can they own it?