Teach Your Children

San Francisco Board of Education Recall Ballot

Well here we go again with yet another California recall election and the national media contorting themselves into pretzel logic trying to figure out just what the hell is going on with the heart left in the  City By The Bay.

Wow, Steely Dan and Tony Bennett in one sentence.

By now you may have heard that San Francisco voted to recall three members of the Board of Education over, well, it’s actually a lot more intricate than the media would have you believe. Sorry national media, but this was NOT liberals versus the ultra left. This wasn’t about San Francisco becoming more conservative. Put away all those now tired catch phrases like “woke” or “cancel culture”. This was a lot more parochial than that.

126,000 people voted in this election out of a population of 824,000 people, 500,000 of whom are registered voters. 374,000 people couldn’t be bothered to even drop their ballot in the mailbox, possibly because San Francisco only has about 53,000 school age kids within the city limits. That’s about 6% of the total population. To put that in perspective, there are 120,000 dogs in San Francisco.

That’s right, dogs outnumber school age kids almost 3-1 in old Baghdad By The Bay.

Ostensibly this election was about three issues: not getting kids back in school during the pandemic, wanting to change school names to honor less allegedly abhorrent role models, and wanting to eliminate the so called merit system for admission to Lowell High School (more about that below).

Pretend this is the SAT and we’ll break the above paragraph into three parts to inspect and dissect. Got your number two pencils at the ready? OK, begin.

Eyes on your own paper young man.

So, getting kids back into school during the pandemic. Parents were mad that the school board decided  unvaccinated youngsters were at risk to not only themselves but to all the adults they could be giving their potential cooties to in a classroom and thus exacerbating the pandemic. Parents were saying their kids were falling behind because distance learning was not as good as in person instruction. They have a point as it’s pretty much a given that kids learn better in an actual classroom and not in front of a laptop with mom or dad trying to conduct business in the next room and the dog growling and the doorbell ringing to announce the Door Dash guy is here. But then again everyone was in the same boat so to speak. It wasn’t one group or another that was singled out to have to do distance learning, ALL students had to do it. If little Billy, excuse me, little Saffron fell behind in his/her studies maybe there were other factors to take into consideration.

Like a worldwide once in a lifetime (hopefully) pandemic.

Issue number two was the so called infatuation with changing names of schools to not honor those who had been retroactively declared persons of bad faith because of some stain in their permanent record. Yes, the stains were in the mold of holding other humans in bondage or having besmirched the reputation of minority groups over a hundred years ago.

Sigh.

Look, despite what Fox News would have you think, in San Francisco there is no Pol Pot High playing Joseph Stalin High for the city football championship. We’re talking about names like Washington and Lincoln and other 18th and 19th century historical figures. Were they important figures in American history? Yes of course. Were some of their views abhorrent to modern sensibilities? Yes of course. Here’s a history lesson we should all learn: no one is perfect, especially when you compare the way they lived their lives in their own time to the way we aspire to live ours in our own time. Be careful when you set anyone up as a model of perfection. That statue will always be mounted on a very shaky pedestal. MLK was an adulterer. Gandhi slept naked with his grandniece “in order to test his celibacy”. Mother Teresa encouraged her followers to secretly baptize dying patients Catholic without their permission. Dig far enough back in anyone’s closet and you’ll find some skeleton rattling around in there.

But the renaming issue was also an issue of bad optics and politics. It was perceived as the school board prioritizing the renaming of schools over getting kids back into schools. What they should have done is table that entire discussion until after the pandemic was over. Oh, actually they did that to a large extent. Except certain conservative media outlets (ahem, again Fox News) kept insisting they hadn’t and that it was the only issue these liberal crazies were interested in.

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Continue reading “Teach Your Children”

These Are All Tells, Conservatives

The word “tell” can be used as a noun. It has origins in poker, where a “tell” is an expression or action that gives away what the player is really thinking. It’s the opposite of “poker face,” the blank, neutral expression of a seasoned player. Republicans have more or less abandoned the code words and sleight-of-hand of the past, where “welfare queen” was a derogatory term for a low-income Black or Hispanic woman. That way, they could express outrage that you would dare accuse them of racism but now, they are less interested in hiding that. They feel comfortable just … Continue reading These Are All Tells, Conservatives

What Are We Doing?

If you could just ignore that positive COVID test and come into work tomorrow, that’d be great.

Corporate America is pretty much turning into Lundberg as far as how it is dealing with COVID. For those unfamiliar, Lundberg is the smarmy, passive-aggressive boss from the excellent 1999 workplace satire, “Office Space,” and is pictured above.

Lundberg’s most memorable character trait was sneakily making his employees work weekends and not telling them until the end of the day Friday.

Fast-forward to the present day and now it seems management has had it with your COVID concerns and is going to need you to come in even if you’re sick. For example, at Red Lobster you may get some COVID from your server along with those cheddar biscuits:

Full disclosure: Not a fan of Red Lobster, mainly because I grew up an hour north of Baltimore/Chesapeake Bay and I could get much better seafood elsewhere. And everything is too salty there, not to mention if you get any fried seafood, it all tastes like KFC Extra Crispy.

That said, this is completely insane and irresponsible to the fans of Red Lobster. Also, as Legum points out in that Twitter thread, his reporting found that the ol’ myth that if retail corporations provided paid sick leave they would immediately go under is pretty much, well, an ol’ myth.

So much for all that “essential workers are our lifeblood” propaganda we saw in the spring of 2020. Now we have the employee version of how the Red Army used to have special soldiers to shoot any Soviet troop who was retreating in WWII (look up “barrier troops for more).

Teachers are increasingly being told that they, too, are virus fodder. A good example of this is the teacher’s union battles with Professional Awful Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is leading the charge against Chicago Public School teachers who want to avoid dying in a pandemic. This excellent thread by Guardian reporter Julia Carrie Wong raises a good question – how is forcing teachers to teach in person going to work if lots of them get sick?: https://twitter.com/juliacarriew/status/1478531158023491584

Indeed, it’s not the teacher’s unions creating the problem, it’s the VIRUS that’s creating the problem. Meanwhile, Georgia has decided that if you got the COVID and you aren’t showing symptoms, get back to work, teachers. “But they are requiring masks for such people” says the moderate reasoned person in my head. “Have you seen how great people are wearing them?” I reply.

As has always been the case, the virus also doesn’t cooperate with such policies. The battle cry for the REOPEN SCHOOLS OR ELSE crowd has been “children aren’t at risk” but COVID being COVID, it apparently isn’t listening to the Nate Silvers and Matt Yglesiases of the world.

Continue reading “What Are We Doing?”

The Great Redemption, Part II

Michael F., Adrastos, and Cassandra have all done a wonderful job of relitigating the mess that was this week’s election results. Scroll on down for more. Although I will add that the media is seemingly all-in on all sorts of misinformation, as shown by this CNN report: "A gallon of milk was $1.99. Now it's $2.79. When you buy 12 gallons a week times four weeks, that's a lot of money."@EvanMcS goes grocery shopping with the Stotlers and shows us how badly inflation is hitting the middle class. pic.twitter.com/39hPPRHLja — Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) November 4, 2021 Around 50 gallons of … Continue reading The Great Redemption, Part II

The Carson Youth?

 

 

No, not Johnny Carson, Dr. Ben Carson former Trump HUD Secretary and idiot savant surgeon.

Back when Dr. Ben Carson was running for president, I had a lot of fun mocking him. Here’s how I described him in 2015:

We all know people who are brilliant in one aspect of life and absolute ninnies in others. They thrive if they stay in their lane, and crash when they don’t. I’ve met some surgeons who were brilliant with a scalpel and hopeless with people, the fictional Dr. House is just an extreme example. They should stick to the operating theatre as they say in Woody Olde England. It’s increasingly obvious that Dr. Ben Carson fits the bill and should stick to what he knows best: cutting people open and helping them instead of putting his foot in his mouth.  I think the Doc needs a footectomy or some such shit.

That continued to be true in his tenure as HUD secretary, which was distinguished only by the expensive office furniture he purchased.

Dr. Ben’s latest scam project is a youth group, Little Patriots. The group’s philosophy, such as it is, reflects Dr. Ben’s own right-wing religiosity and nostalgia for the American Revolution. Why a black dude from Baltimore would be nostalgic for 1776 is beyond me. Maybe he thinks he’s Crispus Attucks reincarnated. Beats the hell outta me.

When I first heard about the Carson Youth, I was mildly alarmed. Is he Baldur von Schirach reincarnated instead of Crispus Attucks? Schirach was the Nuremberg defendant who headed up the Hitler Youth. Like Ben Carson, Schirach was a mediocre politician who did the bidding of his master. That landed him in Spandau Prison for 20 years. Carson stayed away on Dipshit Insurrection Day so the analogy collapses. One thing they have in common is that they both worked for Baldur-faced liars…

The Little Patriots web page focuses on education, Ben Carson-style. The home page sounds the alarm much like the Paul Revere of historical myth:

Education Is On a Concerning Path

  • Kids are being taught opinions, not facts.

  • Decrease in civic pride.

  • Pledge altered to exclude God.

  • Parents cannot afford or access alternative education options

Dr. Ben’s American Cornerstone Institute rides to the rescue with a simplistic and cartoony civics lesson. I was gobsmacked to learn that it was free. I assumed it was like Trump University. The moneymaking aspect comes in later.

The Little Patriots educational program rests on four platitudes, I mean cornerstones just like the Institute’s name. We’ll review them after the break. Go ahead and jump.

Continue reading “The Carson Youth?”

A Victim of FOFO

Prince George At Euro 2020 Final
I feel for ya kid. If my dad made me wear a suit and tie to a sporting event AND my team lost I’d be pissed too.

A few years ago a new acronym entered the lexicon- FOMO. It stands for Fear Of Missing Out, the notion that because via our phones we can see in real time events our friends and relations are engaging in we are somehow missing out on those events by not actually being there.

This past Sunday I became a victim of FOFO. Like FOMO, FOFO involves our relationship with technology and the toys that bring the tech to our fingertips. But FOFO isn’t about missing out on something, it’s about the active desire to not want to know something. FOFO stands for Fear Of Finding Out.

The particular event this relates to was the final of the Euro Cup Soccer Tournament between England (the good guys) and Italy (the less good guys). Out here on the Left Coast the match began at noon. I could not watch it then. There was business to attend to, business that would not be finished till well after the end of the game. No problem thought I. I would simply record the game, avoid any information about what happened in the game, and watch it in pure unadulterated sports ignorance bliss when I got home.

And that’s when I encountered FOFO.

It might not be a big deal here in the US of A, but the Euro Cup IS a big deal everywhere else in the world. While I had disabled all the alerts I have for sports stories and even went to the extent of disabling alerts from news organizations on the off chance a score would find it’s way to my binging phone, I so wanted to know nothing of the match in order to better enjoy it via tape delay that I took to not even looking at my phone the entire afternoon.

That’s a lot more difficult than you would think. I didn’t miss out on anything really important, but every time there was a vibration and a bing in my pocket (is that a bing in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?) I felt I had to ignore it on the oft chance it might contain information I didn’t want to know.

And suddenly I understood the Fox News viewer better than I ever have.

While I didn’t want to know who scored or what team was ahead, the Fox News viewer doesn’t want to get information from any other source on the oft chance he or she might have their preconceived notions of right and wrong challenged. Their FOFO is directly connected to their own self image or perhaps to the lack of same.

Their FOFO is so strong that their elected officials are taking them up on it. January 6th? Never heard of it. Did something happen that day? I just remember there being a lot more than usual tourists traipsing through the building. No big deal.

Continue reading “A Victim of FOFO”

The Friday Fishwrap

Herb Caen Column Heading

Once upon a time there was a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle (that was a newspaper) named Herb Caen. His column ran in the paper six days a week, but his Friday column was called the Friday Fishwrap. A convenient reminder that that morning’s paper would be used in the evening to wrap up and dispose of the remains of the no meat on Fridays throw aways. Thus he filled the column with throw away items, thoughts, flotsam and jetsam.

In his honor I’m going to try that today.

The Democrats missed an opportunity last week with the 1/6 investigation vote in the Senate. They should have let the Repugnicants filibuster, really filibuster, the Jimmy Stewart in MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON type filibuster, where all work in government comes to a stop. The public would have gotten a look at what the filibuster really is. Then the Dems could have gone on a media blitz tearing up the Repugnicants for bringing the federal government to that halt. It could have built a groundswell of support into a tsunami of criticism, the kind of criticism that would prevent the Repugs from trying to filibuster the For The People Act or the Infrastructure Plan.

On HBO Max right now is a film of the play OSLO. It’s about the back channel negotiations that led to the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993 between Israel and the PLO. The key takeaway from the film is that the Norwegians who acted as facilitators between the two parties insisted that each day when the meeting ended all the participants would then sit down and have dinner and drinks together and talk only of their families and friends. In other words humanizing each side to the other. If the Israelis and the Palestinians can do that, surely those of us on the left can have a meal with those on the right.

The San Jose rail system is still down, a week after the proverbial disgruntled worker killed nine. The reason? He had planted bombs at his house and bomb making materials were found in his locker at the yard. The VTA is taking no chances and methodically going through everything looking for explosive material. Maybe if they had combed his employment record as keenly as this, nine of his fellow workers would be alive today. Just saying.

The Army won’t investigate Herr Obermeister Flynn’s comments on the appropriateness of a “Myanmar style coup” here in the country all members of the armed forces swear an allegiance to protect. They say it’s because they never investigate retired officers. OK then, call him back to duty and court martial his ass for insubordination, treason, and any other crime you can think of that he’s committed.

There’s an old saying in politics: If you’ve got the votes, call the roll. Gavin Newsom has the votes to overcome this insipid recall vote so it looks like we will have the election in early September. Once that is finished, can we please talk about making it more difficult to qualify a recall vote? Ten percent of the electorate should not have the power to force a wasteful and unnecessary recall election.

More after the break

Continue reading “The Friday Fishwrap”

The Hidden Figure of Ruth Freshour

Ruth Freshour & Avidac
The expert teaches the newbies how to program a computer.

Today would have been my mother-in-law Ruth Freshour’s 94th birthday.

Ruth would be amazed at the world we live in. Not because she would have been amazed at all the wonderous gadgets we can play with. Not because she would be astounded at how technology permeates our lives. No, she would have been astounded because all of those gadgets and systems and technology are things she had a hidden hand in creating.

She grew up in Worcester Massachusetts, her mother a homemaker and her father, well you could say her father had a variety of ways of making money. Most of those ways involved some form of speculation. Speculation as to the turn of a card or the speed of a horse. He must have been pretty good at it since they lived as comfortably as could be expected during the Depression.

Ruth was a bright girl. Really bright. Smarter than her brother and sister. Smarter than a lot of the boys at school. Smart enough that she could apply to and get into Smith College, one of the “Seven Sisters” colleges, the equivalent in the pre-coed days to the Ivy League. Of course while her classmates had their tuitions paid for via the interest, never the principle, of their trust funds, Ruth’s tuitions were paid via crumpled up fives and tens adorned with cryptic notes about various horses’ pedigrees.

I’m sure the Bursar’s department at Smith must have loved that.

At Smith she studied mathematics, not only out of a cerebral love of math and a feeling of calling to the field but out of the prosaic desire to have a job that paid a decent salary, didn’t involve manual labor, and could put her in position to find a husband who she could feel was her intellectual equal. In 1949 she graduated Smith and began applying for jobs.

A degree in math usually meant a ticket to a teaching position, but teaching jobs were hard to come by. Returning WWII vets got first pick, then any other man, then the other guys, then back to the first guys to see if maybe the other job fell through, and then if desperate finally down to highly qualified women. But find a job she did, with the largest employer of mathematicians in the world at the time — the United States government.

First she was sent to Annapolis Maryland, to the Ballistics Research Lab of the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Aberdeen did the research that developed all types of new weapons. They needed a way to be able to test the theories about what those weapons could do before deciding if it was worthwhile making the weapons. For that you turn to math. Math and a giant room filling box of wires, diodes, and lights with the enigmatic name of Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer.

ENIAC

Ruth spent three years programming the ENIAC though the term programming didn’t even exist back then. It was just math and the people who tamed the mechanical beast were mathematicians, not programmers. She must have been pretty good at it because eventually she got the call to the big leagues and headed off to the deserts of New Mexico, home to the Los Alamos Scientific Lab to work on the math for the second generation of atomic and thermonuclear weapons. Continue reading “The Hidden Figure of Ruth Freshour”

Animal Country

Animal House

When you were a teenager and saw ANIMAL HOUSE you probably reveled in the anti-establishment hijinks of the Delta House. Watch it again as an adult and you might giggle at a line or two (remembering a time when you did something similarly asshatted) but more likely you will come away thinking what jerks the characters are. Don’t get down on yourself for not being as counterculture as you once were, it’s all a part of growing up.

If US politics were the movie, the Repugnicants would be the Deltas while the Democrats would be, um, the Jewish Frat the Deltas checked their answers for the Psych exam with. But as much as you enjoyed Animal House and the zany antics of Boon, Otter, Bluto, Pinto (cause he had a spotted dick, a line cut from the movie cause the studio suit said “yeah, that goes TOO far”) you wouldn’t want them running your country.

Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

And yet people keep voting for them.

You fucked up… you trusted us! Hey, make the best of it!

Meanwhile the Democrats just keep chugging along lead by their undisputed leader President Joey B Shark who just keeps pumping out new initiatives to try and help both the American people and the American economy. And the American people keep listening and liking what they hear. 68% approval ratings for his two biggest proposals show that.

Better listen to him, Flounder, he’s in pre-med.

But you know there is an old saying that the guy who shouts the loudest is the one who gets heard. And Repugnicants sure do shout loud. What they shout is utter bollocks, whether about Dr. Seuss or red meat, but those bollocks get amplified by the Murdoch media machine till finally the other network talking heads feel they must make mention of whatever stupidity is being uttered, if only to refute it.

A Pledge Pin! On your Uniform!

Honestly, the US Senate would be hilarious if Ted Cruz was played by Stephen Furst, Josh Hawley by Tom Hulce, and Mitch McConnell by Bruce McGill. Of course Donald Trump would be played by John Belushi. We don’t care about grades, who needs grades when we got voter suppressed forever seats!

Continue reading “Animal Country”

More Hick Schtick From John Neely Kennedy

The junior Senator from the Gret Stet of Louisiana is the man I love to hate. I considered two Sue Grafton inspired titles for this post, P Is For Phony or H Is For Hypocrite, before settling on this one. … Continue reading More Hick Schtick From John Neely Kennedy

Fixing Schools

I got mad sometime in 2004 or so, when the war in Afghanistan became less about KILLING OSAMA BIN LADEN and more about “let’s paint some schools there to show ‘them’ Americans, despite dropping bombs on them for decades, are nice people they should love and emulate right down to endless re-runs of ‘Friends.’” I got mad because on a near-daily basis I spent time in schools that had literal holes in the roof and doors that wouldn’t stay shut unless they were padlocked, where in one classroom kids wore parkas and another the windows were open in January because … Continue reading Fixing Schools

Maliciousness

I’m never one to credit evil as an explanation where stupidity will do nicely, but as this post points out, this is starting to surpass the “wishful thinking” phase:  You pushed faculty to offer in-person classes or classes that could at least have an in-person component. Classes that drew students to campus and put butts in classroom seats were valued. You created all sorts of untested hybrid options with the idea that some personal interaction was better than none. Faculty objected and students went with online options when possible, but still you persisted. You created pokazukha websites and plans and fliers for … Continue reading Maliciousness

Saturday Odds & Sods: Higher Ground

Blue Night by Edward Hopper.

The tropics have been busy this week. There are two named storms in the Gulf. Neither is headed our way, but it’s been a wet week. Oh, to be on the dry side of a storm.

It was qualifying week for the 2020 election in the Gret Stet of Louisiana.  Senator Double Bill Cassidy gained a name opponent when Democratic Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins filed to challenge him. He has his work cut out for him: he’s not well known in South Louisiana. The spineless incumbent remains a heavy favorite.

The most interesting local race is for Orleans Parish District Attorney. Incumbent Leon Cannizzaro is retiring, which makes it a wide-open race. City Council President Jason Williams looked like a very strong candidate until he was indicted on federal tax charges. The funniest moment of qualifying week was when Williams told us not to be distracted by his indictment. Dude, you’re running for DA. You need a better argument than that.

This week’s theme song was written by Stevie Wonder for his smash hit 1973 album Innervisions.  It’s about reincarnation or some such shit but I like it for the funky groove.

We have two versions of Higher Ground for your listening pleasure: Stevie’s original and a 1989 cover by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Glad I was able to funkify your lives today. I took lessons from the Meters:

That George Porter Jr. bass line makes me want to jump…to the break. See you on the other side.

Continue reading “Saturday Odds & Sods: Higher Ground”

They Did This On Purpose

Read this and think about what you learned about history, and why:  Here’s another example: Teenagers in both states will learn about the Harlem Renaissance and debates about the movement’s impact on African-American life. But Texas students will read that some critics “dismissed the quality of literature produced.” I get frustrated day after day after day listening to Our Thought Leaders lamenting how divided we “have become” and how polarized “things are” like a storm just moved in and nobody knows why. Children for decades have been deliberately taught different stories, for a very specific reason, and the article presents … Continue reading They Did This On Purpose

LET’S MAIL SOME LEGOS TO ALASKA

I dunno if anybody else is struggling right now but I AM. Holy balls, am I ever.

The world is a dark miserable shitass place and being on Twitter is losing its goddamn charm as all I ever see is people attacking each other over who’s really a Bernie bro and who humped their cat and who has the WORST ideas for revamping local news and who I used to love yesterday who now has to be cancelled because he has revenge or rape or race-war fantasies.

And I do not have a hot take on any of it. I’m just annoyed by everything. Once upon a time I would have enjoyed laughing at Cat Humper Twitter as much as I did David Cameron Dead Pig Humper Twitter, but lately my overarching reaction is just to be really, really tired by everyone’s antics. Which is not productive. Or helpful.

You know what is?

MAILING LEGOS TO ALASKA. 

Continue reading “LET’S MAIL SOME LEGOS TO ALASKA”

Stop Asking People to Prostitute Their Experiences for You

Ugh: As college admissions become ever more competitive, with the most elite schools admitting only 4 percent or 5 percent of applicants, the pressure to exaggerate, embellish, lie and cheat on college applications has intensified, admissions officials say. The high-stakes process remains largely based on trust: Very little is done in the way of fact-checking, and on the few occasions officials do catch outright lies, they often do so by chance. How about we stop making it heartwarming that people basically have to beg in public for everything now? A good education, a way to get to and from work, … Continue reading Stop Asking People to Prostitute Their Experiences for You

School Segregation and Brett Kavanaugh’s Entitlement Complex

Shot:  I saw this growing up with kids in private high schools who had never been to public school. They really thought public school kids spent their days drinking paint before inevitably heading off to juvenile hall for an extended stay. This is a slight exaggeration, of course, but if the base assumption is that your private school is better, and some of your classmates aren’t exactly perfect, then Those Other Kids must be soooooo bad. Chaser:  So imagine my surprise when, thanks to the Facebook page for an upcoming high school reunion, I learned the school is getting a … Continue reading School Segregation and Brett Kavanaugh’s Entitlement Complex