So… What’d I Miss?

It’s been a while.  I admit that I’ve been too flabbergasted to put pixel to page lately.  But the events of the past couple of weeks have been pinging around in this little pea brain of mine, and since male pattern baldness has a low R value (damn you, DHT!!!), words were bound to come out at some point.

So today is the first day of the death of a presidency.  While the end date on the headstone is still unknown, it’s as if this administration was rolled into hospice this afternoon.

Former (for less than a month) national security adviser and all-around disgrace to the military Michael Flynn sent a letter today to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, along with the FBI, proposing that he testify in exchange for immunity.  When you are given immunity, that means that you’ve probably committed a crime.  But don’t take my word for it:

I’d like to brag about predicting this – I had Flynn as the first to flip the day he resigned after a long (24 days) and storied (I’m sure there are PLENTY of stories…) tenure as the FUCKING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER because of his ties to fucking RUSSIA.  I’d like to, but I can’t, because it was too fucking easy of a call.  I’m sure someone in the Orange Shitgibbon’s transition team asked him if they should vet Flynn.  I have absolutely no doubt that this is an actual transcript of that exchange:

Lackey:  Mr. President-Elect, should we go ahead and vet Michael Flynn?
Orange Shitgibbon:  Vet?  why does Mike need to see a vet? Does he have rabies?
Lackey:  Very well then, sir.  More fries?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself binge watching “Today at the White House with Baghdad Bob”, aka the White House daily briefing.  I have to say, Sean Spicer is really starting to nail his Melissa McCarthy impression.  Every once in a while, I start to feel bad for the guy.  Then I remember:  fuck him.

So today is the day the morphine drip started for this stupid fucking illegitimate money- laundering Russia-loving insecure nepotistic piece of shit presidency.  It’s the exact same feeling that you’re going to have when you hear that Charles Manson has been hospitalized for stage four lung cancer… and then you’ll realize that he was never PRESIDENT OF THE FUCKING UNITED STATES.

The end is going to be bumpy as hell.  There could be hearings that go on forever, slowly circling in on Trump like a turd that just doesn’t want to find its way down the toilet until the very end.  Or, as some people are predicting, Trump steps in front of a microphone some day soon and announces  that he’s resigning because being away from lil Barron has really taken a toll on the kid.

Former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele (“the black guy” who Republicans chose because, you know, we elected a Kenyan Muslim dude) is telling clients to start developing relationships with Pence, because Trump isn’t going to finish his term.

And then there’s this, late today, on a fantastic Twitter feed by the patriotic hacker The Jester:
Jester-Trump-Resign-Twitter

So… yeah.  And then we get Pence.  Just when I was starting to have fun with this.  Fuck.

Metaphor

March 23, 2017

 

At the risk of being too simplistic, I can only wrap my brain around the new Federal Budget proposal in terms of the environment in which I spend my time.  The proposal includes a massive boost to military and Homeland Security, while cutting huge percentages of domestic programs.  If we drop that Federal Budget scenario down to a microcosm—say a public high school–here’s what it would look like:  We’d have state of the art camera security and a strong police presence around the perimeter of the school in order to protect the students from harmful outsiders.  There would also be a highly visible police presence within the campus, in order to vet each student to ensure that they fit the correct profile of students we want to educate within our walls.  Drones would be enlisted to fly over the campus periodically to make sure all students adhered to appropriate conduct codes, and to ensure that no one on the outside attempts to scale the heavily fortified wall surrounding the compound. God forbid we should want to educate those who didn’t start their education here.

Inside the classroom however, the children share meager materials—

They’ll be sitting on the floors, because there aren’t enough desks.

They’ll be sharing texts, because there is no funding to ensure each child has a book.

More kids than we thought will have books today, though, since several students are home sick, not having the ability to access health care.

Several students are unable to focus on lessons, because they struggle with mental health issues for which there is no assistance—or their parents do.

Students break for lunch at noon.  If they weren’t fortunate enough to bring their own lunches from home, they will be going without. They should have known better than to be born into a family without sufficient means to provide them lunch.

Don’t worry about afternoon music classes; there aren’t any.  Those go by the wayside when funding for NEA becomes obsolete.  Ditto for field trips to the local museums.

Programs to assist students who need additional help in acquiring English language skills, or students who are struggling and falling behind in reading and math?  Good luck.  Perhaps those students should try NOT having another language as their primary language, or perhaps they should just try not to have learning disabilities.  Again, they should have had the foresight to be born into families with better resources.

Yes, unless born to privilege, in our little school the kids will lack resources.  They’ll be hungry, and in need.  Access to the most basic of needs will be limited; access to culture and art non-existent.  Not to worry, though—no harm will come to them from the world outside the school house doors.  Probably.  On the inside, however, they’re on their own.

 

Back into the Fray

March 22, 2017

 

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post.  I feel I’ve been in survival mode, politically speaking—dodging bullets raining down left and right.  Each morning brings a fresh barrage of nerve-wracking, dangerous revelations out of the White House.  Russian ties, blatant racism, nepotism, and misogyny. An endless stream of infantile “Presidential” tweets directing hostility and rancor at the media and begging desperately for respect, credibility, and adoration that he has no idea how to garner from the public.  Legislation designed to gut education, health care, and programs that care for our most vulnerable populations.  An endless parade of appointees who not only DON’T “drain the swamp”, but instead own the swamp and have every intention of erecting a gilt palace and unpacking the finery and the good silver for a good long stay.

It’s tempting to keep dodging the bullets, ducking for cover.  It would be easier to turn a blind eye to the news.  It’s hard to know even where to jump in the fray or which battle cry to raise.  The fray, however, rages on; the easier way doesn’t win victories.  We must battle on.

Breaking Bread in the Trump Era

These last few weeks, I have been feeling frustrated, angry, scared, and heartbroken.  Growing up in highly conservative communities, I have always had several friends who had differing political viewpoints than my own.  And yet, I have been struggling to feel any sort of compassion or warmth towards people on the opposing side and that hasn’t felt right to me.  I want to be accepting; I want to be open; I want to be inclusive.  This past weekend brought me back to that reality.

In the name of Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend, Torrey, and I headed to a cozy cabin in the Redwoods.  When we arrived at the check-in office, I started chatting away with Martin, one of the owners of the property.  Within the next few hours of our stay, different circumstances lead us back to the office and we were hitting it off with Martin.  Torrey and I were later grilling outside our cabin and Martin came over with a bottle of Jameson.  We hung out, sharing our stories and different philosophies and in those few hours, we became genuine friends. 

Later that night, Martin knocked on our door inviting us over for quesadillas and to listen to him play the drums.  While Martin and I walked over to his house, he turned to me and said he had two things to share that I wouldn’t like.    

“The first is I smoke cigarettes.  And the second is I voted for Trump.”

The strangest thing happened to me in that moment: I didn’t actually care.  And that felt so good.  I have been feeling so fearful and divided from Trump supporters and it felt good to just not give a shit about who someone voted for.  

I don’t know why Martin voted for Trump.  I don’t know how Martin feels about our current political climate.  And I don’t know if he agrees with what Trump has done these past few weeks.  But I do know that in the short time we grew to know each other, he was genuinely kind and respectful.  

This past election revealed that our country is divided…  How are we going to resolve that?  I don’t have a scientific solution to share with you and to me, there isn’t one.  I believe our individual kind actions towards each other can lead to a collective unified nation.  I believe that we are not powerful as a nation when we are broken internally and individually.  None of this may be groundbreaking to you.  But hopefully in the midst of how you’re feeling, it’s a reminder to stay open and accepting regardless of what we face in these upcoming years.

Betsy DeVos and the Question of School Choice

February 12, 2017

It shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that a president with no political experience saw no issue with appointing an Education Secretary who has absolutely no experience with public education.  Despite that lack of experience, and after a bitter battle in the confirmation hearings this week, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the head of our educational system in the United States.

I have a great many concerns about this, as her appointment will directly affect my students and me.  Never mind that her confirmation came after she and her family made great contributions to many of the senators who voted on her behalf, which means she essentially funded her own nomination.  Never mind that in the hearings, she was unable to respond to the simplest of education policy questions, such as the distinction between growth and proficiency.  Never mind her stance against Common Core—a whole issue in its own right, worthy of deeper discussion in a later post.  Never mind that she has never ‘walked a mile’, let alone a step, in the shoes of hard-working educators all over the country.

There are a lot of issues, but one of the biggest ones is her staunch advocacy of School Choice.  School Choice sounds great, and in theory, it’s meant to level the playing field.  It’s meant to make underperforming schools ‘step up to the plate’ and to allow underprivileged students access to better schools than those in their own backyard, often in the form of charter or voucher schools.  Parents ought to have a say in where their kids go to school, and should be able to send their kids to the best schools, even if that’s not the one in their neighborhood.  In theory—a great idea.  In reality, not so much.  School Choice, and what that looks like on paper, doesn’t play out in reality. From a position of privilege, perhaps that’s difficult to see, but then again if the one has never walked a mile in those shoes, the inherent design flaws are not immediately evident.

Students can still be denied access to private or voucher schools, so “School Choice” can translate into options for those who have additional monies, and those who are academically advanced and therefore desirable to selective schools who want to boost their academic ratings, but that does not mean that those schools have to accept students who might lower their school’s test scores—it’s bad for publicity, which is often what drives high performing and moneyed students there to begin with.  Of course, those students already have those choices now.  School Choice, here, doesn’t so easily open new doors to those who don’t fit into those categories—the ones School Choice is supposed to lift up and bolster.  The economics of School Choice factor in another way as well.  If every student has $12,000 federal dollars which can follow them to the school of their choice, and the private schools charge in excess of that, only those with additional money can foot the bill—just as is the case now.  Factor in additional transportation charges on top of that, to travel to schools outside the neighborhood schools, plus books, supplies, and uniforms, and you have yet again an equation that closes School Choice to the ones who could most benefit from it.  Those students will be left in the local neighborhood schools, now bereft of the federal dollars which could improve and sustain the improvement to the free public education to which all students should be entitled.  If those schools are to be improved so that access to a good education is, in fact, available to all of our children, pulling federal funding out of those schools cripples their ability to make those improvements, effectively widening the divide instead of leveling the playing field.

One of the most troubling issues is that funding following the students means that federal tax dollars will pay for religious schools, since according to the Department of Education, some 76% of private schools have some religious affiliation.  This is a basic violation of the separation of Church and State.  Parents should certainly be able to teach their kids their own religious and spiritual foundation, but taxpayer dollars should not be required to fund those choices.  Setting aside even that fundamental argument, there is the issue of oversight within private schools, which are not beholden to the same degree of transparency as public schools. Private schools, religious and otherwise, do not have to follow the same standards of professional credentialing or curriculum, and are not held to the same testing standards as public schools.  This makes it difficult to even tell if sending our tax dollars to those private/voucher schools is an economically sound move that accomplishes the intended outcome of raising our students’ academic performance nationally.  I know a great many private school teachers, and many of them are hard-working, dedicated, intelligent individuals.  There are certainly high-performing private schools—of that there is no doubt.  I don’t want this to devolve into an us-vs.-them argument, because I believe that there are great things going on in some of the private and charter schools.  What I do expect, however, is the kind of accountability with our tax dollars for ALL schools that won’t happen if Betsy DeVos’ track record at the state level bears out at the national level.

On Betsy DeVos’ own website, she says “I am committed to transforming our education system into the best in the world. However, out of respect for the United States Senate, it is most appropriate for me to defer expounding on specifics until they begin their confirmation process.”  She’s been confirmed now, and so far I have yet to hear the specifics, other than devaluing the work of public educators and expounding on the dubious benefits of School Choice.  If she is, in fact committed to transforming our education system, I want to see transformation that takes into account some of the real issues facing the students that walk through the public education system daily.  I want assurance that the perceived ‘fix’ for our schools isn’t the Pied Piper waltzing out of our public schools and trailing along with her promises of fattened coffers without oversight for only those who have the ability to catch the train and follow.

Instead, meet with teachers.  Meet with students where they are.  Use those funds to build up public schools and bring them up to speed with the needs we face in today’s society—all schools, not just select ones.  Invest in building business partnerships within communities, to bridge theoretical education with practical application.  Invest in the kinds of technologies that kids need in order to thrive and succeed in today’s society.  Invest in technical and vocational training that help our kids understand complex tasks of the work force of today.  Invest in mentorships that promote engagement in education.  Invest in the creative and critical thinking that encourages our students to begin thinking about and solving social issues today, and even those issues that haven’t surfaced yet.  Invest in an arts education where students can find a voice for their passions, the expressions of their souls. Invest in a humanities education that recognizes our students are not numbers, not inanimate products of a business, but humans who struggle with poverty, depression, teen suicide, violence, financial uncertainty, abuse, language barriers, disabilities, discrimination, and yes, even the real possibility for some of our students of deportation for them or their family members.  Take all that money out of the public schools and send it to private schools, and those problems still exist, and in even heavier concentrations in those neighborhood schools.  Don’t send our students off scrambling in search of a promise of a better education; give them a better education where they are.

A high-functioning, prosperous democracy depends on an educated populace.  It would benefit all of us to make sure all of our children have a strong education.  I hope Betsy DeVos goes to school—our public schools—to learn what good teachers are doing day after day, because it’s going to take a real education in order for her to positively effect change for all the children of our nation.  I hope she’s ready for it.

 

Some resources and additional reading:

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/11/5-things-to-know-about-betsy-devos-trumps-pick-for-education-secretary/508661/

https://www.au.org/church-state/february-2011-church-state/featured/10-reasons-why-private-school-vouchers-should-be

http://www.betsydevos.com/q-a/

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a52934/who-is-betsy-devos-education-secretary-policies/

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/parents-already-face-tough-school-choice-they-want-simplicity-2017-02-07?siteid=yhoof2&yptr=yahoo

http://www.nea.org/home/19133.htm

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/why-betsy-devos-riling-education-advocates-n716491

http://www.scarymommy.com/what-outraged-parents-can-do-to-defend-public-education-after-the-confirmation-of-betsy-devos/?utm_source=FB

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/12/08/a-sobering-look-at-what-betsy-devos-did-to-education-in-michigan-and-what-she-might-do-as-secretary-of-education/?utm_term=.369acce1cf28

In a U.S.-Mexican Trade War, No One Wins

In the first week of his presidency, we have seen Donald Trump move forward on some of his campaign promises through withdrawal from the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and ordering the construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. These actions seek to posture his administration as tough on the international stage and putting America’s needs first. However, what happens when other nations refuse to bend to Trump’s will, as Mexico refuses to finance the wall? Sean Spicer, Trump’s Press Secretary, stated that the administration was considering a 20% tax on Mexican imports in order to finance the wall.[i] The logic behind the tax is simple: higher prices for Mexican imports should drive down American demand for such products and harm the Mexican economy.

 

The rationale behind this tax stems from a single assumption that appears to guide most of Trump’s decision-making:

 

  • America, as the world’s largest economy and super power, can withstand and outlast any other country or economy in a trade war

 

Through this assumption, Trump hopes that a 20% import tax would cripple the Mexican economy into submission and believes that the American economy can survive any sort of economic retaliation from Mexico. He is most likely correct. America would most likely outlast Mexico in a trade war, but outlasting Mexico does not mean that America wins. An import tax mostly falls on the consumer, and this tax would be regressive, meaning that the burden falls heavier on lower-income households. The result: many working class Americans—those who swung heavily towards Trump this election—will be feeling the most acute pain in their wallets. As Senator Lindsey Graham said on twitter, “any policy proposal that drives up the costs of Corona, tequila, or Margaritas is a big-time bad idea. Mucho Sad.” Mucho sad, indeed, Senator Graham.

[i] http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/26/politics/donald-trump-mexico-import-tax-border-wall/

On This Day

January 20, 2017

Today, perhaps more than any other day, the world will be watching our nation.  The world will be watching us.  With baited breath, we wonder what this new administration will bring.  Now more than ever, what we do matters.  How we respond matters.  Don’t wait; act.  Silence is tacit agreement. Speak. Loudly and often.  We cannot allow our voices to be crushed under the weight of this Brave New World.  If we don’t exercise our democratic right to raise our voices and let our representatives know our hearts, we will lose ground.  We already have.  The march to pick up lost ground begins now.

In his inaugural address, Trump said, “The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action. Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done.  No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America.”

Now arrives the hour of action. Yes.  Now, and for the next four years.  Let’s be willing to put in the time and the energy to show what the heart and fight and spirit of America is really about.