Thursday, January 16, 2014


It's time to drop the curtain for a couple of weeks so I can concentrate on moving back to my hometown to be with the woman I love.  I mean, I might pop back in if something earth-shattering comes up, but probably not.  If you follow me on facebook, I will continue with short posts, of course, and some of them, or some of my longer comments, or both might end up being posted back here.

In the meantime, go read AlterNet, which is where I get most of my links.  And here's the Real Art theme song.  See y'all again in February!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014


From HuffPo:

Juggalos Are Suing The Government With The ACLU 
For Classifying ICP Fans As A Criminal Gang

The Juggalos, a subculture of fans devoted to the music group Insane Clown Posse, announced Wednesday that they are suing the government for violating their civil liberties.

Speaking at a press conference with the American Civil Liberties Union Wednesday in Detroit, the Juggalos said their constitutional rights to expression and association were violated when the federal government classified the entire Juggalo fan base as a gang. Four Juggalo members, along with ICP rappers Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, have initiated the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

More here.

You know, I don't really like ICP.  I mean, they're okay.  There are some things about them I like.  The clown makeup is cool because I like clowns.  And they have kind of an interesting sound, albeit highly derivative, although there are lots of other highly derivative bands I like.  But in the end, they just don't do it for me.  Their lyrics are too violent for my tastes, and I think they're misogynistic.  And typically, I greatly prefer music that relaxes me these days, while ICP rattles my nerves.

But so what? Different strokes for different folks.  They're artists, and artists go places society doesn't want them to go, because that's what artists are supposed to do.  And they've reached a huge number of people who get something important to them from ICP's music.  So while I'm not a fan, I do believe this band, all bands, have a perfect right to be who they are, and to create the kind of art they want to create.  A necessary corollary of such a belief is that people have a perfect right to listen to whatever kind of music they want, whether other people like it or not.

That's why the FBI classifying ICP's ENTIRE FAN BASE as a criminal gang deeply disturbs me.

Yes, you heard me correctly.  The federal government has declared an entire group of people, over a million the feds say, to be associated with one another for the purposes of committing crimes.  Just because of a band they like.  Indeed, a former student of mine, highly intelligent, a good man, definitely NOT a criminal, is now registered as a gang member with the FBI simply because of a band he he's into.  No, seriously, I'm not making this up.  And this isn't simply some paperwork we're talking about.  Being classified as a gang member makes life more difficult--getting a legitimate job becomes more difficult, for instance.

So okay, with a million fans, it's beyond likely that some of them have committed some crimes, which I assume is the FBI's justification for this action.  I guess I should count myself as lucky that Charles Manson didn't get Beatles fans classified as gang members.  Or that the Rolling Stones' usage of the Hell's Angels for security at their infamous 1969 Altamont concert, which resulted in one of the Angels stabbing a concert-goer to death, would get me into trouble with the law for owning a copy of Tattoo You.  Yes, I'm being facetious, but that's how fucking stupid this is.

ICP is just a band.  You can have your opinions about whether they're any good, but that doesn't change the fact that they're just entertainers.  With a lot of fans.  Declaring these fans, all in one fell swoop, to be part of a criminal enterprise is nothing short of Orwellian: YOU WILL LISTEN ONLY TO APPROVED MUSIC OR YOU WILL BE DECLARED AN ENEMY OF THE STATE.  This is something that ought to frighten everybody.  The government is telling you what music you can and cannot listen to, and there are significant consequences if you ignore their edict.  This is totally fucked up.

And it's Obama's FBI.  Some liberal he is.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014


I posted a brief status update on facebook a couple of days ago: "Denying that racism exists is the new racism."  Well, a far-right friend of mine from high school showed up and started throwing bombs, kind of pissing off other friends of mine.  I mean, it was just a quickie thing for me.  I hadn't intended it to be a big huge thing.  But it became a big huge thing.  So I jumped in:

Okay, gotta wade in here.

When the left and the right talk about racism, they're talking about two very different, but related, social phenomena.  The right, as far as I can tell, generally sees race, racial relations, and racism as a matter between individuals.  How do we treat each other in interpersonal relationships?  What kind of language do we use to describe people from other races?  Etc.

In contrast, when the left talks about race, they're talking about not only what I just described, but also the sum total of all those attitudes expressed in terms of economic and political power.  So the left sees racism in interpersonal terms as well as overall social and institutional terms.  That is, how are blacks, as a group, faring in this country relative to whites?  How are blacks treated by government institutions such as schools, courts, and police departments relative to how whites are treated?  How does the mass media portray different races?  How much of the economy do various races control?  What kind of access to capital and finance do blacks have relative to whites?  Is there really equal opportunity in the US?  And so on.

It is my firm belief that, while interpersonal racism certainly exists and works both ways, that is, there are definitely non-whites who are total dicks toward and about whites in this country, just as there are white race-assholes, in the end, this sort of racism is far less consequential, especially to whites, than the institutional racism which generally concerns the left.

This is not to say that whites, especially the white working class and the white poor, are not oppressed.  They are.  There are some very legitimate and serious grievances a lot of whites have in this country toward the power centers that run it, and such grievances must necessarily be taken seriously by the left, if we are to have any credibility at all.

(Quick digression: I have become increasingly concerned in recent years with how all these reality shows are portraying the white poor and working classes.  From Honey Boo Boo to Duck Dynasty to The Jersey Shore, all these shows portray the white working class as a bunch of stupid fucking hicks, wallowing in their own bullshit like pigs in slop.  Meanwhile, fat cat media investors on Wall Street are profiting handsomely from it, and they couldn't give a rat's ass that they're humiliating fellow Americans simply because they suffer from ongoing economic oppression.  The more I think about it, the more it enrages me.  And that's just one example among hundreds of how the white working class is oppressed in America.  And really, this isn't even the worst.)

So yes, whites, a lot of them, suffer, too, and neither party in Washington appears to care too terribly much about it, Elizabeth Warren types notwithstanding.  But here's the deal.  Whites are NOT suffering because of anti-white racism.  Conservatives can throw around Al Sharpton's name all day long, but it doesn't make one bit of difference.  In spite of the stupid and crazy shit he and his ilk have asserted over the years, it hasn't oppressed a single white American.  Sure, it's pissed some people off, hurt their feelings, but so what?  It's like I say about the word "cracker": big fucking deal, in the end, whites still run everything; why should I care what stupid bullshit The New Black Panthers are saying?  Screw 'em.

That is, yes, racism goes both ways, but the truly insidious variety, chronic institutional racism coming directly out of the US power structure makes non-whites suffer in intolerable ways that whites simply do not experience.

Don't believe me?  For your consideration:

1. Whites receive relatively lax discipline in schools compared to blacks, which impedes educational opportunity, which necessarily impedes equal opportunity overall.

2. Blacks continue to be incarcerated at a MASSIVELY higher rate than whites, and this doesn't have much to do with who's committing the crimes because as far as actual criminal activity goes, whites are as bad or worse.  Indeed, there are now more blacks in prison than before the end of segregation, which is why some observers refer to the issue as "The New Jim Crow."  Needless to say, imprisoning a huge percentage of the black population plays total havoc with the notion of equal opportunity.

3. Blacks continue to be much poorer than whites, and always suffer more than whites during economic recessions.

4. Al Sharpton and Honey Boo Boo aside, the mass media in this country continue to profit from perpetuating anti-black stereotypes across the board.  And that affects EVERYBODY, so it aggravates the interpersonal racism which concerns both the left and the right, as well as making it easier to get away with the institutional racism about which the left talks.,8599,1948662,00.html

5. Hell, this country even has a massive double standard on smoking good old fashioned marijuana.  If you're white, you can definitely get busted for this, but it's WAY less likely than if you're black.

I could go on like this all day.  This is the evidence.  This is the truth.  And it's such a massive body of evidence, documented ceaselessly, over and over again, that one has to truly have his head buried in the sand in order to deny it.
'Nuff said.


Monday, January 13, 2014

ONLY THREE BEERS... enough to get me into a frame of mind such that blogging is virtually impossible.  So no real post tonight.  Friends from work were seeing me off because tonight was my last shift at the restaurant I've worked at for six years here in Metaire.  It was fun; we talked about God, and LSD, and aliens, and ghosts.  Actually, pretty soon, what with moving back to Houston, I'll have to go on yet another hiatus.  But not just yet. Anyway, more blogging tomorrow.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

How Ariel Sharon Shaped Israel’s Destiny

From The Nation:

Against fierce Palestinian resistance, one of the Middle East’s most vital and cosmopolitan cities was laid to ruin. Sharon’s forces flattened West Beirut with indiscriminate shelling, leaving streets strewn with unburied corpses. With each passing day, disease and famine spread at epidemic levels. In August, the day after the Israeli cabinet accepted US special envoy Philip Habib’s proposal for the evacuation of the PLO, Sharon’s forces bombarded Beirut for seven hours straight, leaving 300 dead, most of them civilians. The Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling wrote that the raid “resembled the attack on Dresden by the Allies toward the end of World War II.” Sharon even requested an additional paratrooper brigade to obliterate the PLO forces besieged in the city, earning a rare rebuke from Begin, who worried that his defense minister would completely destroy Habib’s efforts to resolve the crisis.

PLO forces withdrew from Lebanon, according to Habib’s guidelines, but the worst was yet to come. Sharon had stymied a proposal for the introduction of multinational peacekeepers capable of preventing reprisals against the defenseless Palestinian refugees who had been left behind. Thus the stage was set for the most heinous massacre of the war. Following the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, the Christian warlord who was supposed to serve as Sharon’s handpicked puppet president, Israeli forces helped usher Christian Phalangist militias into the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila, then surrounded by the Israeli military, providing them with intelligence and operational support. Sharon and many of his officers were well aware of the Phalangists’ intention to murder as many women and children as they could. After days of slaughter, as many as 2,000 civilians were dead, with countless others raped and brutalized.

More here.

Whatever your opinions about Israel's decades long and continuing occupation of the Palestinian territories, it cannot be denied that Ariel Sharon was a monster.  He was a butcher as a military commander, just as he was a butcher while in government.  He committed crimes against humanity on more than one occasion.  He turned Palestinian lands into hopeless and desperate ghettos.  He carefully and knowingly instigated at least one intifada, which he then used as an excuse to kill again.  He probably did more than any other Israeli to push his nation, and ours, too, to some extent, toward its current inflexible and extremist attitude toward the Palestinians.  His legacy of hate and violence will no doubt continue for decades to come.

I will not mourn a monster.  The world is a much better place without Ariel Sharon.  I'm glad he's gone.


Friday, January 10, 2014


Frankie (and Sammy's ear)

Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!


The War Over Poverty

New Krugman:

And if progress against poverty has nonetheless been disappointingly slow — which it has — blame rests not with the poor but with a changing labor market, one that no longer offers good wages to ordinary workers. Wages used to rise along with worker productivity, but that linkage ended around 1980. The bottom third of the American work force has seen little or no rise in inflation-adjusted wages since the early 1970s; the bottom third of male workers has experienced a sharp wage decline. This wage stagnation, not social decay, is the reason poverty has proved so hard to eradicate.

Or to put it a different way, the problem of poverty has become part of the broader problem of rising income inequality, of an economy in which all the fruits of growth seem to go to a small elite, leaving everyone else behind.

More here.

"Lazy moochers," "just get off your ass and get a job," "welfare queen," none of that stuff is really working anymore.  I mean, as Krugman observes, the conservatives had a really good run with this kind of rhetoric, constructing and then implanting into the public consciousness the false notion that the poor are poor because it's their own fault, while at the same time using this rhetorical cover to dismantle protections against capitalism gone wild, which is the REAL reason the poor are poor.  But it's over now.  People can look around and see with their own eyes that for every job opening there are three applicants, that many, if not most, of the jobs that actually are available offer crap wages with no benefits and no future, but with a lot of anxiety and a lot of living paycheck-to-paycheck.

"Get off your ass and get a job" is just an insult when you're desperate for work, real work, that will pay your rent.  But that's all the conservatives have to say.  They offer nothing.  They're trapped in a language that simply can't speak to today's dismal economic reality.  And because they're trapped in a language that no longer has anything to do with the real world, if it ever did in the first place, conservatives necessarily cannot conceptualize that a massive problem with how we structure our economy even exists, which means that their economic "solutions" are simply an exercise in absurdity.  Cut taxes!  Deregulate business!  Rising tides and boats and yadda yadda!  We've been on that kick for three decades.  All it's done is make things much, much worse. 

There's something in the air.  The right wing has overplayed its hand.  The times they are a changing.  People are starting to see that the conservatives are all washed up, starting to see that the world they assert does not exist.  This libertarian fantasy, this all-business all-the-time vision of America, this cutthroat competition model for human existence is on the way out.  It has been nothing but a very sad and self-destructive detour down the wrong road.  But America is waking up.  Libertarianism will be swept into the dustbin of history, and in the coming decades we will laugh at the notion that anybody ever believed this crap-philosophy.  That's when we'll finally be able to move forward as a nation again.  That's when we'll have the right to call ourselves great.

But not just yet.  We've got a lot of dead-enders out there, and they continue to wield a great deal of institutional power.  And they've dug themselves in, barricaded themselves within their institutional bunkers.  Simply knowing the truth is not enough.  There's a lot of work to do.


Thursday, January 09, 2014

Why Not Tipping Your Waitstaff Is Inexcusable

From AlterNet:

Oh, but you don't have it in your budget to tip your server?

Then it would seem that you, in fact, don't have the money to treat yourselves after all.

My friends, if you have 35 bucks to drop on a meal, but you don't have the 7 dollars to leave a 20 percent tip, then what are you doing in a restaurant in the first place? You need to hire a financial adviser (well, maybe see if you can get a free consult) because it's just plain unwise to blow your entire net worth on a couple of entrees at Applebee's. Save your 35 dollar nest egg, run to Walmart, buy a box of spaghetti for a dollar, and enjoy a home cooked meal.

More here.

Here's the deal.  In the end, it is the restaurant industry which bears the lion's share of responsibility for this awful situation.  Decades ago, they used lobbying muscle to get laws passed allowing them to pay servers well below minimum wage.  Indeed, I almost never receive an actual paycheck.  In theory, the $2.13/hr. I get is eaten up by payroll taxes, or so I'm told, resulting in no paycheck.  I will grant that it is very kind of my employer to pay my fairly low taxes for me, but the bottom line, really, is that I am effectively NOT PAID by the business which ostensibly employs me.  Instead, the customer pays me directly, not my "boss."  The restaurant industry, through legalistic sleight-of-hand, and clever manipulation of American social custom, has effectively pulled off the ultimate capitalist coup: free, or virtually free, labor.

Good for them.  I guess.  But the enormous problem with this, I mean, apart from the fact that the restaurant industry somehow gets free front-of-house labor, which is appalling in itself, is that servers are, in essence, lowered to the level of the homeless street person who wipes your windshield at intersections.  That is, we must grovel for these sinisterly euphemized handouts known as "tips."  And it really is groveling sometimes.  At any given moment, there is absolutely no guarantee that we will be paid for the work we do.  A grumpy customer, a misunderstanding, ill prepared food, any one of a thousand different scenarios, all completely out of the server's control, might result in lost wages.  So you've really got to be on the ball with your ass-kissing or you might not get the money you've rightfully earned.  Needless to say, this is totally unjust, and it needs to change, the sooner the better.

But just because this is all mostly the restaurant industry's fault doesn't get the bad tipper off the hook.  Even though stiffing your waiter is perfectly legal, and even though restaurants have created the situation making it all possible, when you leave a bad tip, or no tip at all, YOU ARE STEALING MY LABOR.  No way around it.  You're benefiting from my service without any financial compensation for me.  It's larceny, albeit larceny for which you will never be prosecuted.  But just because a crime is legal doesn't mean it's not a crime.  You are stealing my labor.  And that makes you a thief.  A filthy piece of shit.  Scum of the earth.  And if you ever sit in my section again, I WILL REMEMBER WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO ME.  And you will get the service you deserve.

Don't try to tell me my service was "bad."  I'm really good at what I do, or I wouldn't have lasted in this field for as long as I have.  That is, bad servers get fired.  So talk to management, if you must.  Get another server if you've ended up with one of those bad waiters on their way out the door.  But don't concoct fantasies of how bad my service was in order to justify saving a few bucks.  You're ripping me off.  Plain and simple.  I worked for you, and you're fucking me over.  So fuck you.  I promise, I swear, that your next experience with me really will be bad.

What comes around goes around, mother fucker.


Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Football’s Devastating Harvest

From the NY Times, courtesy of a facebook friend:

It’s difficult to say definitively whether significant injuries over all are on the rise, and it doesn’t matter. They’re too prevalent, period. And the N.F.L. needs to go far beyond its efforts thus far to assess and reconsider anything that might be affecting player safety: what kind of equipment, head to toe, they wear; the give of the turf on which they play; the way they train in the off-season. Maybe there should be weight limits. There should certainly be more rest between games and there should probably be fewer of them, though there’s been talk of the league’s moving in the opposite direction. 

The status quo won’t do. It’s untenable. It’s arguably unconscionable. On Saturday, the sight of a crumpled Chief with distraught teammates hovering over him became so common that the announcer remarked, in a voice too glib, on the “injury bug” that was “contagious for Kansas City at the wrong time now.”

More here.

This is one of those things I selfishly try not to think about too much.  Because I LOVE football.  And I don't really want to come to terms with the fact that there might not be any way to play the game, as we understand it, without causing life-shortening and/or life-diminishing brain injuries to the men and boys who play it.  I mean, I've watched over the last few years as the institution of football has tried to come to terms with this, new rules, better helmets, etc.  But a recent study strongly asserts that it's not really the big hits as much as the smaller, routine hits that happen with virtually all players during virtually all plays, play after play, game after game, season after season.  We already knew football is a dangerous sport.  What we've only recently come to understand is that it might be so dangerous that we just shouldn't play at all.

I remember getting a concussion, myself, during the two years I played in middle school.  It was a kickoff return, and I was walloped so hard I got dizzy and saw stars--of course, there was some sort of infraction and we had to line up and run the play again; I was totally loopy for that one, with my mind addled for at least another twenty or thirty minutes.  Fortunately, for me, my football days as a player were relatively brief.  But what about the guys who play from kindergarten through twelfth grade?  Through college?  Into the pros?  What's happening with them?  Do they even imagine, if they're experiencing some sort of condition, that something they did a decade or two ago, something they loved, might be responsible?

I really want football to get this figured out, to create a safe situation such that what these players do when they're young doesn't ruin, or end, their lives when they're older.  Of course, I think cancer-free cigarettes would be a nice idea, too.  That is, making football free of brain injuries may very well be impossible.  If that's the case, the only morally conceivable course of action would be to end the sport forever.  And I just can't imagine that.

This is truly f'd up.


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Weakened 'polar vortex' blamed for N. American chill

From courtesy of a facebook friend:

The bitter chill gripping North America is a result of Arctic air that has spilled southwards, and global warming may be a cause, an expert said on Monday.

Arctic air is normally penned in at the roof of the world by a powerful circular wind called the polar vortex, said Dim Coumou, a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) near Berlin.

When the vortex weakens, the air starts heading southwards, bringing exceptional snow and chill to middle latitudes.

The weather shift is also helped by changes in a high altitude wind called the jet stream.


What drives the polar vortex is the difference in temperature between the Arctic and mid latitudes, said Coumou.

Once sharp, this differential has blurred in recent years as the Arctic—where temperatures are rising at about twice the global average—warms up, he said.

"We've seen this type of cold spell more often lately in recent winters, in Europe but also in the US," Coumou said in a phone interview.

More here.

It's been holding steady here in Metairie at 28 degrees for the last few hours. tells me it's going to bottom out at around 22 degrees somewhere around six in the morning.  Needless to say, it's damned cold, a whole helluva lot colder than it usually is in these parts, even in the dead of winter as it is now.  Another article I looked at said this is the coldest it's been in the US in twenty years.  So, while such a cold snap is definitely within the scope of normal temperatures over the course of several decades, it appears that climatologists are blaming this blue Norther on global warming.

If you are in any way inclined to be confused by, or even dismissive of, the notion that extremely cold weather can be the result of our planet getting hotter, click through and read the article.  It's a pretty simple explanation, really: more heat makes the weather do things we almost never see, and this includes temporary, geography-specific drops in temperature, which makes sense given that the atmosphere isn't much more than a bunch of big huge chemical reactions.  

So global warming, climate change, whatever you want to call it, is no longer, and hasn't been for several years, something that will happen in the future.  It's happening right now.  And it's just going to get worse.  And it's our fault.  Well, okay, it's really capitalism's fault, but we, average ordinary people, participate, whether we want to do so or not.  But you get my drift.  Super storms, a rise in the number cat five hurricanes, catastrophic heat waves, gigantic cold waves, all this stuff is evidence of severe disruption of normal weather patterns catalyzed by the continual increase in average global temperatures.

And it's all just going to get worse.  Capitalists, who are the most short-sighted class in the history of humanity, will do nothing, nothing at all, which might sacrifice quarterly earnings.  And they've duped some thirty percent of the population into laughing about how cold weather disproves global warming.  This was going to be hard to fix from the get-go, given how the entire economy is based on greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels.  But the obstinacy of the so-called "one percent," coupled with the knee-jerk denial of any and all science contradicting cherished conservative beliefs, makes it virtually impossible.

We're totally screwed.  And I'm afraid it's too late.


Sunday, January 05, 2014


My girlfriend's in town.  No way I'm going to waste time blogging.  See you Monday night.  Read this in the meantime.


Friday, January 03, 2014



Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!



From the New York Times, Krugman blogs, courtesy of Eschaton:

Disinformation on Inequality

The point here, as on so many other economic issues, is that we are not having anything resembling a good-faith debate. 

We could have a debate about whether rising inequality is a problem, and whether measures intended to curb it would do more harm than good. But we can’t have that kind of debate if the anti-populist side won’t acknowledge basic facts – and it won’t. In his piece Stephens trashes Obama, accusing him of making a factual error when he did no such thing; then proceeds to commit just about every statistical sin you can imagine in an attempt to minimize the rise in inequality. In the process he leaves his readers more ignorant than they were before. When this is what passes for argument, how can we have any kind of rational discussion?

More here.

You know, there are still decent arguments conservatives can make in support of conservatism.  But they've got to drop some cherished conservative notions in order to do so.  I mean, some of their most central and foundational concepts have been proven just plain wrong in recent years.  

The financial implosion of 2008 demonstrated once and for all that markets don't self-regulate, which means that government MUST intervene in the economy in some ways.  We've been cutting taxes on the rich for so many years now that economists have been able to study the effects, many times at this point, and these studies clearly show that tax cuts for the rich provide virtually no economic stimulus--of course, that also means we know for sure now that tax cuts do not create greater tax revenues, which is a silly thought in the first place, but there used to be what seemed like a reasonable argument supporting it, just not anymore.  We've also learned in recent years that cutting government spending during a recession makes the recession worse, and cripples the economy's ability to grow.  Okay, we already knew that, but conservatives, in their hysterical anti-deficit mania, have been ALL ABOUT cutting government spending, for years and years.  But now we know, for sure, that this is incredibly foolish in a weak or shrinking economy.  And so on.

So how have conservatives responded to all this recent information severely undermining their understanding of the way the world works?  Did they get together and reevaluate?  Did they make heartfelt attempts to formulate a new conservatism, one that is firmly rooted in the real world?  No, of course not.  Instead, they doubled down on their now obvious bullshit.  And when you point out to them that they are expecting you to believe what is obvious bullshit, they get REALLY ANGRY.  And that's their new game.  That's how they've responded to a total collapse in what passes for conservative "philosophy."  They just keep on believing fiction, anyway, and there's hell to pay if you don't respect their "beliefs."  The press, of course, is totally useless in this area, accepting conservative bullshit as "the other side," lending it legitimacy for reasons about which I can only speculate.

As Krugman asks, "how can we have any kind of rational discussion" under these circumstances?  Well, we can't.  And throw in evolution and global warming, to boot, and the situation becomes even worse.  You just can't do business with people who believe in fiction, and who expect you to believe in fiction, too.  It's a pretty grim situation, actually, with the conservatives opting for fantasy instead of modifying their ideas to fit reality.  I have no idea what to do about it.

But I do know one thing: it's damned rude to expect me to believe total and obvious bullshit; when conservatives treat me this way, I have absolutely no obligation to be polite or respectful when I respond. 


Thursday, January 02, 2014

Why Charter Schools Are Foolish Investments

From AlterNet:

Advocates tend to argue that charter schools provide competition for floundering public schools and high-performing options for parents. However, national studies repeatedly have shown that charter schools produce about the same measurable outcomes as public schools while also demonstrating some disturbing consequences:

  • Charter schools tend to segregate students by race and class. 
  • Charter schools under-serve special-needs students, English-language learners and the highest poverty students — all populations that require significant proportions of public school budgets.
  • Charter schools contribute to student and teacher churn by creating revolving doors for students and teachers between charter schools and traditional public schools, which are under added pressure of always accepting students leaving those charter schools. 
More here.

People don't really understand what charter schools are.  If you listen to the cacophony of dogs chasing their own tails known as "the education debate," you probably imagine that they're some sort of administrative solution to our "failing" public schools, one that presumably "gets the government off the people's backs," harnessing the power of "competition" or some other nonsense, making it sound like the magic of capitalism comes into play somehow, and we do love our capitalism in the US, don't we.  But, of course, that's completely ridiculous.

Charter schools are a grand series of educational experiments.  The idea is to free schools up from traditional administrative rules, in hopes that some charter, somewhere, will be able to come up with ideas that we can then use in the public schools.  That's all.  Not a solution, just a bunch of experiments, pure field research in education.  And really, by itself, the charter concept isn't such a bad idea.  Just as long as we understand exactly what they are, and use them accordingly, instead of waving them around as demagogic rhetoric aimed at dismantling the public school system we already have.

Unfortunately, charter schools are FAR more successful as demagoguery in "the education debate" than they are as, you know, experiments in schooling.  Because the reality is that charter schools generally perform as well or worse than their public counterparts.  Actually, charters perform worse when you consider that they have the luxury of choosing their own students, unlike the public schools, which have to educate everybody who comes in the door.  Any idiot can appear to be successful running a school if they get to pick and choose who they're going to be educating, and that's essentially what's going on with charter schools, for the most part.  So, by and large, the charter movement, which has been around for at least a decade now, is a total failure.

The idea is to improve the public schools.  But the best they can do is equal the public schools, and, at that, with advantages the public schools don't enjoy.  Nonetheless, education "reformers" continue to offer them as a solution.  And people believe them.  I am now convinced, more than ever before, that, in spite of all the lip-service offered about how important learning is, nobody in this country really gives a shit about it.  So we continue to blow millions and millions of dollars on a failed experiment, which is irrationally deemed "successful," all while condemning public schools as "failing," even though they do just as well with both hands tied behind their backs. 

All of this, of course, coupled with total unwillingness to deal with education's REAL problem, the pathologies of poverty, will ultimately lead to a worse America.  Actually, that's happening right now.  But that's what we get for having our heads up our asses.  We get the country we deserve.


Wednesday, January 01, 2014


Here, listen to some U2:

Happy New Year!