Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Protest Against DeVos in Chicago

98 Years Old - Grrr, Baby!
Protest Against DeVos in Chicago: January 31, 2017

When my brother and I traveled down to the “Say No to Betsy DeVos” protest at the Federal Building in Chicago this afternoon, we wondered whether we’d see anyone dressed in a large Grizzly costume.  In fact, we scoured a few blocks on the way to find a costume shop.  You might recall that when asked whether or not schools should be gun-free zones, DeVos cited the likely need for weapons in some cases; for example, like Wyoming where grizzlies are present.  So, that would be a yes?

Arrived at Jackson and Dearborn at 3:30.

No Grizzlies, but a swelling crowd of around three hundred protestors materialized.  DeVos had received a confirmation vote of 12 – 11 hours before in the Committee hearings, a vote split with a dozen Republican Yays, and eleven Democratic Nays.   The full Senate confirmation may fall along the same lines unless the Democrats hold firm in their opposition and several or more Republicans agree with education as a right, not a privilege.  And an Education Secretary who might perhaps understand existing laws to protect students in an educational or academic environment?

The throng of people at the Federal Building grew and the chanting began – rhythmic and forceful: “Education for the masses. Not just for the upper classes.” 

Placards expressed frustration with much more than DeVos.  Some in Arabic opposed the immigration crackdown; others listed the various cabinet choices and one effigy of Trump was carried about as a large puppet.  Note how small the hands are.

Several protestors were arrested for blocking doorways at the Federal Building, and as they came by to be processed, the crowd stood against the windows shouting encouragement. 

You might also recall that Betsy DeVos’ resume for Secretary of Education is spotless; that is, missing any real experience in education.  She has no education degree, no teaching experience, nor any experience working in any school environment.  Indeed, none of her children have ever had any connection to public education.  But she does work hard to generate “for-profit” schools, especially in her home state of Michigan, where she has, according to the Washington Post, been a primary force behind the escalation of low-performing charter schools in urban areas. 

While DeVos may decry the salaries of teachers working in the public school systems, she is not bothered by the superintendents in her advocated charter systems earning $130,000 annually despite no credentials or educational experience.  And with scores showing less than state averages despite skimming the public systems for best candidates.

Such little hands...
“DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader. She’s not an expert in pedagogy or curriculum or school governance. In fact, she has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation’s public schools.
“She is, in essence, a lobbyist — someone who has used her extraordinary wealth to influence the conversation about education reform, and to bend that conversation to her ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them.”

Near the end of the protest, an authentic “Grizzly” showed up: a 98-year-old Great Grandmother who took the microphone and told the story of her father’s arrival to America with a falsified passport in 1905.  She described her own journey and matriculation from college at no cost because it was in New York at a time when the people voted to allow free and public education for everyone.

“What happened to us?’ she asked the crowd.  “My grandson won’t tell me what he owes for his college education, but I got him to nod yes when I guessed $60,000.  That’s crazy!  This is wrong.  How did we become 99.999% without hope? “

“I’ve seen a lot.  I may be old, I may be 98 years old, but I still have enough fight left for this battle too.”  

Then, the cheers.

Meanwhile, back to DeVos and her husband – and their ersatz-educational get-richer schemes that provide a thin veil of scientific verisimilitude and something that might have been invented by an educational branch of Clockwork Orange: Neurocore.  Neurocore is a growing business in Michigan and Florida offering “time for a mind makeover,” especially for children who are having issues with attention span or diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder or even autism.  Patients are provided a therapeutic kind of conversion therapy which includes watching film and being brought back on task when distracted or uninterested.  Experts in the field find the proclaimed results of Neurocore’s  Dr. Fotuhi unlikely or questionable  Fotuhi rejects such observations.  DeVos, who currently sits on the board of the company, estimates her investments at between $5 and $25 million.

“Sounds like conversion therapy,” my brother shook his head.  Indeed it does, and it seems that Ms. DeVos is not free from that charge either.  Senator Al Franken of Minnesota asked her about her deep past relationships with various religious organizations that use or promote conversion therapy for LGBTH youngsters.  Ms. DeVos denied any direct connection to such practices or the support of such methods, but Politico does identify (as did Franken) $10  million in funding of Focus on Family, “an organization that currently states on its website that, ‘homosexual strugglers can and do change their sexual behavior and identity.’”

Ms. DeVos denied the allegations and retorted that such characterizations did “not accurately reflect those of my family.” 

My brother?
The leaders of the protest demanded that Durbin and Duckworth demand the 30 hours of questioning by each Senator for each of Trump’s candidates in order to know better what kind of character we are placing in such high office.  This is not a “slow down,” the leader shouted; it is their "right under the law.”

Remember, it will take every Democratic vote and a few Republicans to turn this danger to public education away.  Make your call and call someone – relative or friend -  in another state to make theirs as well.   

Call your senators now! Dial 1-855-882-6229, and tell them to reject Betsy DeVos' nomination for secretary of education.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Dan rather Decries Trump's Immigration Order

Dan Rather
Dan Rather Decries  Trump’s Immigration Orders on Facebook

HT: RS - While Trump’s actions yesterday have created turmoil and anxiety for thousands upon thousands of citizens and people around the globe, Mr. Rather has quickly and accurately captured the unthinking affront to our nation’s own democratic philosophical and political ethos.  If you have not read it, please do – or go to Facebook and seek Dan Rather.

“Today I shed a tear for the country I know and love, the one I believe still beats in the heart of most of its citizens.

“The United States became the most powerful nation in the history of mankind not merely on the basis is its fearsome military, as lethal and well trained as that may be. It wasn't solely based on its unprecedented economic engine, as dynamic and far-reaching as that may be. America's greatness was forged by a Constitutional compact of grand and universal ideals that the country has tried to live up to ever since.

How about "Life, Liberty, unless you're Muslim?"
“For generations, we have been an imperfect but vital beacon of freedom to a world too often wandering and failing in moral confusion. But that ultimate strength has dimmed considerably in light of the recent actions on immigration from the new President Donald Trump. We are turning around desperate refugees. We are singling out men, women, and children on the basis of their faith - and we are doing all of this with a randomness and capriciousness that defies reason.

“A colleague of mine used the term "heartless" to describe so much of the President's executive actions. Sadly, I found it an apt and dispiriting diagnosis—especially when faced with the results of his executive order on immigration. For over the years, I have seen that our greatest American leaders extol empathy rather than condemnation. They have known that in a complicated world, it is best to make policy choices with a scalpel - not a hacksaw. Sometimes, when our national security is threatened at the level of World War II, all-out conflict is the only recourse. But those instances are by far the exception.
“From Vietnam, to the Iraq War, from Japanese internment camps to the centuries-long persecution on the basis of race and ethnicity that almost toppled our democratic experiment, broad strokes channeling our least compassionate and most jingoistic impulses have always made us weaker rather than stronger.
“Today, in the wake of his one-man decision to wreck and reverse immigration policy so suddenly, there is chaos and confusion mixed with heartbreak and fear. A well thought-out, measured overhaul of immigration policy, with organized-in-advance measures to implement that is one thing—and one that perhaps a majority of Americans would support, But this mess, created overnight, is quite another. With this, we have embolden(ed) our enemies who want to see nothing else than to compete in a world of moral relativism. In the Cold War, our struggles over civil rights fed into the propaganda of the Soviet Union - as our new actions fuel the extremism Mr. Trump claims to be attacking.

“Too many people during the campaign explained away Mr. Trump's irresponsible rhetoric as metaphors and euphemisms. These are not concepts he understands. Serious foreign policy experts know that this is a boon for our enemies and undermines our democratic principles. But too many Republican leaders in Congress, even ones that denounced the Muslim ban during the campaign, stand by cheering it now. History will mark their names, as it marks this moment.

“This will be challenged in the courts, who may very well strike it down. But damage, real damage, has been done to our global image. I believe Vladimir Putin is smiling, and would-be global powers like China see a vacuum forming that they will be eager to fill.

“I still remain optimistic that the vast majority of American people will recoil and speak out at this unwise policy. But whether we like it or not, as the detentions and impediments already springing up make all too real, this is the stated de facto policy of the United States today. Every day that it goes on, every day the chaos, confusion and heartbreak deepens, America loses more pieces of its soul and standing in the world.”

My Own Response: RESIST

"Constitution?  Remember, I don't read…"

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Day One: The Emperor

Day One: The Emperor Declares His Audiences “Biggest Ever!”

Poor Sean Spicer, the press secretary for President Trump.  Imagine for a minute his sudden epiphany of what life will be like in the next…well, however long he can take it.  The International Puppet Festival is in Chicago this weekend, but the approximation of realism in Washington fell far short in Spicer’s scolding tone and stern reading of an announcement that Trump's inauguration had the largest audience in history "both in person and around the globe."

Spicer: Do what?  Say What?

Trump: Ours was the biggest crowd – more than Obama.  The press lies!

Spicer: But…

Trump:  I was there and I saw them, way more.  It was terrific, amazing, big league…
                Just read what I sent…    

Having served previously as communications director for the Republican National Committee, Spicer finds himself now in a role that will rival the spins in the story of Rashomon.  Gambatte Ne, my friend.

So, in 24 hours, we see Trump’s non-departure from the profane, divisive, and puerile fascination with himself and all things himself.  A speech before the CIA is undermined by an impulsive need to defend himself from reports of a half million who have come to voice opposition to our electoral leader’s political and profane pronouncements.  In moments, Alec Baldwin may take to the air with another caustic and mocking portrayal of the President’s self-infatuated persona, and we can expect Tweets in the early morning hours.
Why an "alternative" would be the way the Donald sees it.  Wink, wink.

Or, even more bizarre, the appearance of Trump's spokesperson Kellyann Conway on early Sunday news media defending poor Spicer's precarious pronouncements with a malfunctioning eyelash and an "alternative set of facts."  A what?  Just what would an "alternative" to facts be?

A timely article in the New York Times today by John McWhorter offers some insights as to how we have become inured to the likes of Trumpian syntax – think the malapropisms and fumbled logic characteristic to George Dubya’s elocution.  Think also of the same kind of relaxed “talk” in our own conversations with our friends and neighbors. 

The truth is that President Trump’s choppy, rambling self-expression is not so exotic. A great many thoroughly intelligent people talk more like Donald Trump than they might know. What’s new is that someone who talks like this in public has become the president of the United States. Yet it isn’t surprising, and if we are not to spend the next four to eight years alternating between exasperation and confusion as he sounds off, we need to learn a new way of listening.

“The false starts, jumpy inserts and repetition — speech as montage — are all typical of casual speech as opposed to written language. The endless emphasis (“Believe me,” “big league”) is as well. All humans festoon their talk tic-style with assurances of sincerity such as “really” and “totally.”

More interesting is McWhorter’s take on how we might all learn to accept and deal with Trump’s styles of communication: his use of twitter, his over emphasis on simplicity and childish adjectives, his lack of specificity, etc.  All of this serves, of course, as a foil to the previous President’s measured and careful (if not overly formal) rhetorical conversation.

“Because it is novel that someone in the Oval Office can’t be bothered with trying to be articulate, President Trump’s speaking style is throwing off the news media. All understand that his speech is structurally ungraceful. It may be harder to grasp that Mr. Trump, as someone just talking rather than artfully communicating ideas, has no sense of the tacit understanding that a politician’s utterances are more signals than statements, vehicles meant to convey larger messages.”

Trying desperately to decipher what is meant, what it will mean, and getting it first; the news media jumps to any tweet like a fish to a sparkly lure thrown just within reach.  And, ridiculously, they present on air all the same pundits and representatives of various institutes to deconstruct the tweets as if they were the Voynich Manuscript. 

“So how should we listen to this man daily for years? First, we have to realize that his talking style isn’t as exotically barbaric as it looks on the page — the oddness is that it winds up on the page at all. And second, we have to understand that his fans’ not minding how he talks is symptomatic of how all of us relate to formality nowadays. Language has just come along with it.”

So, what age do you put the current occupant’s language levels at?  John  McWhorter has his own opinion.

Find it and the entire article here:

And, oh yes, enjoy Alec Baldwin.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

11:55 p.m. - January 19th, 2017

11:55 p.m. - January 19th, 2017

“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan

 Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been my darling young one?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Oh, what did you see, my blue eyed son?
And what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin'
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin'
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder that roared out a warnin'
I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin'
I heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin'
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin'
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Oh, what did you meet my blue-eyed son ?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded in hatred
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

And what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what'll you do now my darling young one?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin'
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner's face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I'll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'
But I'll know my song well before I start singing
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.