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Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

Taggers & Gatters

In Driving, Fluid, Mobile, Protean on April 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm


Are you stuck in the regular classroom where the teacher pontificates and tells you to sit down and shut up, while far away, the Taggers (Talented And Gifted) get to design their own curriculum, pursuing in-depth any whim in the wide world where their mind wanders…in a similar fashion to the way you and I pretty much are just stuck paying our taxes and don’t bother to pay accountants to look for non-existent loopholes, while the rich get to design their own programs of  “voluntary compliance” and “self-regulation” that create some of the most exotic sounding tax shelters that they dare the IRS to try to untangle, or, alternatively, they will rent the IRS a derivatives decoder for the low price of only $50,000/hr?   Yes, the rich understand the concept of leverage, and, no, thank you very much, no one needs to lower their leverage, particularly with the IRS.

Take heart:  for every Tagger in the world, there are at least 10,000 Gatters.  GAT= Gawd Awful Talker.

The Taggers of today’s elementary schools are the Very Serious People of tomorrow’s  Krugman columns.    Whereas the Gatters of today will be the Gatters of tomorrow, doing nothing very serious except spouting off, and not particularly effecting any extraordinary changes in the world.  Given the amount of damage the Very Serious People are doing, this may not turn out to be a huge liability.

Now, while there are tremendous, high-pressure criteria to be a Tagger, the Gatters are one of those super-cool groups open to all that get to exist in the world of dual meanings–kinda like how, in the 60’s, “bad” was re-defined to mean  “super-cool, way good, ” as in, “waaaaaaaay baaaaaad!”  But there were also still many truly bad things in the 60s which were in no way the good kinda bad. Gatters can be so truly chalk-gratingly awful that they stand as a Gat, as is, no explanation needed…or they can actually be a super cool person who adopts or is awarded the label Gatter to distinguish that they are not a Tagger, because the existence of Taggers implies there is a non-Tagger category to whom everyone else belongs.

So, everyone stuck, and everyone not stuck, in the regular classroom can nominate any person, event or place for a Gat award, conferring automatic status into the world of gatters, which is unofficial into perpetuity.  Items that come to mind for potential nominations this week are Donald Trump’s press conference and The Royal Wedding.   Unnamed columnists.

The beauty and purpose of it is to let your mind run wild.  You needn’t tell the person.  But if you are stuck in a room and can’t get out, possibly for many hours, just keep saying to yourself, “You are an official Gatter.  In fact, I am going to nominate you into the Gatter Hall of Fame…”

The Taggers might be spinning cocoons all around us Gatters, herding us this way and that with their earth-shaking Plans and Designs for Humanity.    But I think, in the end, they’ll realize we Gatters were having a whole lot more fun, since we simply admitted we were Gatters:  there’s nothing wrong you can say if you admit everything you say is wrong…reveling in being wrong, we’ll let the rest of the world be right, and enjoy the rich consequences of being of no consequence.

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Aftershocks

In Bursting Open, Dusk, Sheep on April 28, 2011 at 11:31 pm

We got a letter in the mail today informing me my daughter did not make it into the “Talented and Gifted” (TAG) program in her public school for third grade.  I know that my disdainful letter slamming the program as laughable in a world where NPR is being de-funded, 5 million barrels of oil spill into the ocean unpunished, and Wall St. loots and robs our government and people with impunity–in short, life on the planet is being trashed no matter how many individual “bright” people inhabit it– in lieu of dutifully completing  the package of 6 pages of examples of her brilliance, did not help her prospects.

My favorite example I was to provide on the form that I refused to fill out was, “demonstrates a concern for injustice, social issues, and moral questions beyond age level.”

Was I supposed to tell about her defending one of her classmates to the rest of the class?  Was that age-appropriate, or above age-level?  Did it matter she was a white girl defending the dignity of a black boy who was being taunted?  Who cares what TAG thinks, anyway…the boy was darn grateful at the time, he let her know, and they are friends to this day.

This, fittingly, on a day when North and South re-ignited the civil war on the NYTimes comment pages regarding the tornado damage, bleeding into big-government/small-mindedness diatribes.   The editorial on President Obama’s release of his birth certificate opined, “It is tragic that American politics is fueled by such poisonous fire. ”

By perpetuating first the whole climate denial, Red/Blue state antagonisms, instead of basic empathy, we are falling into the conditioning the media has designed, just like there used to be a Pavlovian response to The Red Scare/Commie threat in public discourse.

I was sympathetic with the posters who apologized for making it political, but they couldn’t help themselves, because they are so wounded by the climate-denial, government-off-my-back, self-sufficiency rhetoric of the South.  But my whole extended family lives in the South, and many of them have been climate change deniers since I was in junior high school and first discussed it with them.  They also have Biblical explanations for almost everything they encounter in life.  They really do believe God knows everything that is going to happen and there’s not much they can do about it.  That is how they “see” the world.  I was also derided  during many a visit when I was a young girl for co-mingling with “them damn Yankees.”

But it is clear that the rhetoric is flimsy and malleable, and the politicians take advantage of trying to create wedge issues to divide us so they can perpetuate their lavish lifestyle with impunity.  Because as soon as you scratch below the surface into a deep probing of what all the words mean, you’ll find more in common than apart among people all over the U.S.

Which is why I take extreme umbrage at even daring to categorize only some of our children as “talented and gifted.”  It immediately implies everyone else outside such circle is not.  It immediately implies that even if you thought you had a stroke of genius or inspiration, no one would agree with you, so just be quiet in your corner, don’t bother offering your opinion.

I myself went to the same school district as my daughter, and, equally, I was not selected for TAG.  It wounded me for many years, even after elementary.   I couldn’t figure out why, in middle school, they put me in same classes as the TAG kids…was I really “good enough” to be there?

And, once there, many of the former TAG kids struck me as profoundly unimaginative.  I felt deflated to gradually realize that perhaps it wasn’t that I was not “smart” enough, but perhaps I had not been conformist enough to be enlisted.  I became increasingly rebellious as I went through school, and one day I wrote an essay about Arlo Guthrie’s, “Alice’s Restaurant” for who I knew to be a profoundly conservative English teacher.  She promptly gave me an “F.”  I re-wrote it about Aristotle and received an “A.”  Experiments like that confirmed my beliefs…

When one of my English teachers in college asked, in written comments, if I was going on to grad school, I thought he was a fool.  I never believed myself “good enough” to compete in academia.  I went all over the country working on organic farms instead.

This outsider mentality has no doubt continued to leave me adamantly, dogmatically single, and profoundly disdainful of marriage as yet another patriarchal institution more about controlling property than about love.   And as a single mother by choice, I don’t hobnob with the almost all exclusively married parents of my daughter’s school.    We are ever outsiders, as much by choice as necessity.

I am not saying not being selected for TAG scarred me for life and caused me to be a single mother, but I am indicting it as a program that ever reinforces social norms.  The subtle messages it gives young children who have no understanding of the cruelties of politics, race, gender, class and power in the larger world can have psychological and social effects that run deep over a lifetime.

You would think that my daughter would be welcomed into the program as confidence booster precisely because she is one of the extreme minorities, being in a single parent household in her almost exclusively married community.  She and I have both had our moments when we have shed tears over this truth.

But these social criteria do no apply.  The larger social context is completely ignored.  She failed to meet the standards on the standardized tests, “stronger learning characteristics/behaviors,” and “stronger evidence of superior portfolio products.”  These  4 out of 5 categories were inadequate.  Her only redeeming  category was “stronger evidence from classroom performance/grades.”

Imagine!  Her teacher loves her, ADORES her, she adores her teacher, and I and her grandparents believe she has been talented and gifted from her first breath.

But she is being held back because she lacks standardization, as evidenced by tests!   She sees many possibilities in answers that aren’t available on the tests.

And here she goes, becoming already pigeonholed into the underachiever category, so that her single mother can be vilified as yet another  of the poor who need to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps (even though the only welfare I receive is the same as everyone else receives: marginally breathable air, barely drinkable water, roads, schools, etc.).     All while exclusive clubs for the well-heeled and well-connected are created in our very public schools that we contribute to equally with our tax dollars.

This, too, in a city that remains intensely, embarrassingly racially segregated.

Revolts against this system in our school district  have been staged before, with little success.  No wonder:  look at how much success the larger world has made–our President, utterly vilified under the scars of racism our country cannot heal.    The birth certificate  being just the latest chapter of the Jeremiah Wright, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. sagas that keep insisting that race is “real,” in our all too vivid and warped imaginations. The realities penetrate deeper than two sides, and have economic and social roots that wind through everything we do.

These categories recede only to the extent that people experience for themselves that they are superficial labels.

I looked up an old Loretta Lynn album my parents listened to growing up on YouTube today.  She told the story ’bout “how my momma socked it to the Harper Valley PTA.”   It encapsulates perfectly the tensions between North and South, Democrat and Republican, rural & poor, urban & wealthy in its very genre, “country music.”  I cried, thinking of my deceased grandparents, who would have made such comments as could not be printed in The Times.    I comment, trying to heal them, myself, our country.  One person at a time….

All the Fits That’s News To Print

In Aggression, Completion, Firmness, Northwest, Tree Fruit on April 27, 2011 at 12:31 am

A lesson that was first impressed on me in college, was how history, above all, is an interpretation.   Thus, the Great Men & Dates understanding of history is actually a very limiting interpretation of  many events in the world, and diminishes the experiences of the far more common “commoners” who have lived through all the ages.

The commoners did not have access to literacy and scribes to write their official history, but many commoners still found ways to get their stories told, through oral traditions, or diaries, as they could.  These marginalized or partially “lost”/left out narratives are as vital a part of our history as the Famous Founding Fathers.  Understanding the Native American traditions, recovering them from history, means they are no longer “lost,” even if they have to be painstakingly regenerated by tracking down elders and finding oral histories.

Because in  no small measure, ever was it so that paid speech is Speech, and all the other speech is just “chatter, ” from the hieroglyphs, to illuminated manuscripts, to the corporations’ freedom of speech today.  Much of what we study are the neuroses of men who are anointed leaders by our collective acceptance of them, whether as a “democratically-elected” leader,  or as a tyrant who came to power by force.  In both cases,  the power of the position is largely reinforced by the people, whether through acceptance or revolt.  Revolt, too, establishes that such leader has enough power to revolt against.  No one needs to revolt against powerless people.

This concept is what leapt out at me when seeing the article, “From a Qaddafi Daughter, a Glimpse Inside the Bunker” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/27/world/africa/27aisha.html?hp).   Wow.  Now that’s a “marginalized” voice,  through perception, if not reality.   And hearing from her sharply pronounced how deranged the world attention on Gaddaffy is.   He is loving the power we are all giving him by attempting to revolt against him and then reporting about it. And here his daughter, a relative commoner to him, comes up with her story that us commoners should theoretically want to identify with more than with her dad’s…..

In her interview, she is not even suggesting SHE would make a great candidate if her dad was ousted.   And she reveals the utterly tenuous, faith-based endeavor that any and all leadership is:  ‘When pressed repeatedly on how her family could stay in power, she said more than once, “We have a great hope in God.” ‘

So it all really does boil down to a collective willingness to accept or reject any leadership….because she senses the loss of that collective spirit, she sees a God that is divisible, or separate from the spirit of men that will somehow, magically, intervene on behalf of her wishful thinking.  One of the most common traps of all of all religions.

She does not flip the logic to see that God could “intervene” were she to take full ownership of her actions and subsequent destiny…making God flesh in herself through full acceptance of  and responsibility for all the actions she and her family takes.   This would make any and all possibilities possible.

She could revolt against her father, and declare herself one of a field of candidates to be elected democratically.  She could walk in her father’s mold, and make a violent coup against her father, but declare herself the new, undemocratically elected leader.   A woman tyrant that might be tyrannical in a feminine way that her father was not.

Here’s a paragraph I love from the article:

” At the same time, she also derided, and possibly misunderstood, the basic ideas of checks and balances and public accountability in an electoral democracy. “Let me say something about the Western elections that they say are a democratic system of ruling,” she volunteered, referring to handwritten notes she had prepared for the interview. In an election where one candidate won with 50 percent of the vote and another lost with 48 percent, she asked, “Do you call this democracy? Just this one vote? What happened to the 48 percent who said ‘no’?”

Gaddaffy’s daughter is more in tune with us than Mr. Brooks is!  Yes, she is RIGHT,  she sees the LACK of  “checks and balances” in a system that leaves at least half of us feeling divided and disenfranchised.

The 48% she refers to is steaming mad.  They think that because President Obama won, socialism is taking over and everyone is just lounging in the hammock of the welfare state.   No logic can sway them, and they are going to come out in droves in the next election to prove just how mad as heck they are.

The 50% of us who elected President Obama are now divided ourselves in how to deal with a president who has failed every hoped for dream of reforms.  What is the best direction next?

Since that 50% is undecided, the only clear division is between the 48% and 50%, who at times get so angry, agree that about all they can agree on is succession really might not be such a bad idea after all.

Both of these sides might agree it would be perfectly delightful to have one half of the country with unions, manufacturing, organic farms, full public transportation, government-funded NPR, government-funded contraception and abortion, egalitarian pay circles, not structures, wind and solar power, with buildings so insulated they need no external energy source, loose family definitions or even tribes, holistic medicine, government funded community health clinics that would be warm and cozy, not sterile, with a full single payer system for all, and a recovery of lost living oral tradition of ancient wisdom and ancient, sustainable ways of living.

The other half of the country would have NONE of the above listed, with, instead:  nuclear power, Walmart with wages adjusted to be equivalent to workers in China,  child labor, no education public or private, dominant man-subservient woman-only families with 30 children, gated communities for their bosses who lived in opulent luxury,  and the people who voted again and again for these bosses who were part political, part boss, because they are darn proud of being self-sufficient and not depending on no socialist welfare state, and most especially because, you never know, they might be rich one day too, and how would they feel if they had people hankering after their hard-earned wealth?  Never mind that those guys in the gated community never once shoveled a ton of coal, picked a bale of cotton, or broke a sweat.   If we want to  magically believe their billions are somehow “hard-earned,” while our own work is worth only pennies, then let us, by jingo!  That’s our story and we’re stickin’ to it.

These are the two sides that are threatening to re-ignite the not-so-civil war in this country.  What would Gaddaffy’s daughter say?

I would say we stop looking to elected leaders and look to each other.  We have all the imagination and innovation we need amongst ourselves, the  uncommon commoners, to effect any and all change we want.   At the very least, we will leave a narrative to contradict the dominant narrative of the day, if anyone in future times wants to see what the non-leaders were thinking, and wants to write a People’s History.   These are the fits that are news to print.

Hiking for Tax Hikes in Beverly Hills (re: Krugman, “Let’s Take a Hike”)

In Armor, Balanced, Decisive, Difficult on April 25, 2011 at 12:39 am

Interior showing family of nine

Indeedy, Mr. Krugman, our country would do well to send a few tax collectors hiking up Beverly Hills, CA, swinging by Manhattan, NYC, on the way….a hike in such terrain would be salubrious for body, mind, and soul of our nation, no doubt!

Thank you for reminding me that the original Bush tax cuts were sold as a way to dispose of a large budget surplus…

How did that simple “high taxes= surplus” truth twist into the magical thinking that _cutting_ taxes, not increasing taxes, creates revenues and budget surpluses? The louder the frothy-mouthed “debaters” scream this lie at each other on FOX news, the more the veneer wears off their hysteria, coming back to the perfectly obvious arguments you patiently state.

Most vexing of all, why do the Democrats fall into this deficit trap? Every time we do, the budget surpluses travel right upstream to the rich. The last surplus was a give-away in lavish tax breaks to people who did not need them. Now that the rich have spent even that surplus, they are willing to extend their largesse to themselves by brazenly stealing from the elderly and middle class.

The word “private” has it origins in Middle English and Latin of 1350-1400, literally “taken away from public affairs, special use of past participle of ‘privare’ to rob” (Random House).

So whenever you hear the word “privatize,” just think “rob from the common good.”

Our hard-earned, rich reservoir of common good in this country has been too successful at welcoming everyone, even people who blatantly profess to propel the rich ahead at the expense of everyone else. Those are the very few who need to be barred from continuing to help themselves while the hard-working and humble avert their eyes in shame for them.

The People’s Budget is a stepping stool for the American people to rise above the hysteria of tax-cuts-for-the-rich, spending-cuts-for-everyone-else.  It is a budget proposal head-and-shoulders above the trash talk and kick in the teeth the Ryan budget propels.

Etherground Railroad

In Cow, Large Wagon, Rooster on April 23, 2011 at 12:08 am



Slowly, and all at once, a realm of freedom has situated itself where none before existed.  North, South, East, West, and far-East, both in the U.S., and beyond, I have found the voices that comfort me the most in my new-found collections of cherished blogs and reader comments.   Each active blog out there seems to do the same:  creating and compiling the voices who nourish the most needed truths.   Restoring a place where a concept of truth can perch, finding a foothold in the most ethereal clouds of cyberspace, hovering at the periphery of the world of paid journalism, where truth is an unlamented casualty of spin.

Walmart, CVS, and Home Depot have wiped out the pharmacies, hardware stores, and variety stores that were the old hubs for local news.  This shore-to-shore homogenization creates corporate manifestos that replace local creeds, cutting in both directions: if Mom and Pop were arbitrary, or even bigoted, in their hiring and firing practices, their fiefdom, at least, was limited.  And there was always a different shop with a different ethos down the road to try.  There were hardware stores that  challenged local assumptions, lunch-counters that were revolutionary, pharmacies that kept womens’ and girls’ secrets.   And there were others that were intrusive, prying, and that fortified stark moral assumptions, for which traveling to the next town over was the only escape.

A recent class-action suit against Walmart suggests that what once may have remained only local bigotry went mainstream into its corporate ethos that aided and abetted gender discrimination.  (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/opinion/07thu1.html?scp=3&sq=walmart%20class%20action&st=cse)

Eliminating Mom &Pop did not wipe out their prejudices:  the local control of the business was robbed, but the biases were codified in the new, sea-to-sea corporate culture.

Homogenization of corporate culture is not “soulless”–it very much has attitudes, but their omnipresence normalizes them, making them more likely for people to accept, and by accepting, eventually not seeing at all.  When this happens, there is no “town over” to escape to.

It can even take over old, “illustrious” institutions, like the Tribune company. (Read this gut-wrenching account if you missed it.  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/06/business/media/06tribune.html).   This decadence is the natural underbelly of a greed that does not even care for the names and reputations of the companies it buys and sells, no more than it esteems women, as corporate culture extols the amassing of trophy wives (see a similar demise with the Simmons Mattress Company) (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/05/business/economy/05simmons.html?scp=1&sq=Simmons%20Matress&st=Search).

In a predatory capitalist state, any company and any local economy in the world is fair game, to the extent that policy and politicians allow them.  The thin veneer of decency unravels in the individuals buying and selling large companies the more above the law they feel, evidenced in widespread lack of prosecutions.  Newspapers and blogs will cause them no shame.

Thus, unpaid bloggers are the real frontier, the true revival of a People’s Press.  Simply about people, unfazed by the profits that companies can re-invest in their people and equipment, or siphon into exploits of greed, which always have destruction and death at their ends.

Few knew of the whole extent of the underground railroads in the mid 19th century U.S.  Most just knew their bit part, and this kept it resilient and difficult for informants to infiltrate. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underground_Railroad)  There was great benefit in keeping local news extremely local, extremely specific.   Two connecting points were just that, nothing else.  The next link knew the one above, and below…if you questioned me, what else could I tell you?  No more than what I knew, so keeping knowledge limited was a real asset in that case.

Our knowledge today is equally limited,  as transcribed by time as ever,  and dispersed widely into loose fragments that it is up to the cunning of individuals to assemble.  I know of no local schools, workplaces, churches, neighbors, friends, politicians, or groups where I do all my physical traveling and communing that has any of the topics of these blogs in their conversations.  To care about this interior life is to be an “invisible woman”  amongst them.  Normal conversation is not suited to an intense imagining of our land, our ways, of wondering who is the “we” and the “they” few people want to imagine or be bothered with.

So these blogs are my way station, these blogs that I source to, learn from, revel in, rejoice and exhult in are the promise of a freedom and imagination, while I inhabit a world where there is little obvious evidence of conscience or deep engagement with the world, civic life, politics and philosophy/values.

The blogs I love are way stations, safe houses of freedom.  A place to feel that justice emerges, though it may not emerge beneath the robed Justice’s gavel.   A place to rebuke bigotry, though such attitudes still crowd people out of jobs and salary.  A place where a person may simply heal because they are recognized as a complex and whole person full of wayward and unruly and contradictory impulses, and is not merely a tissue sample for our technology-driven healthcare system.   A place where young and old, all races and directions, can join momentary hands in our minds, though no physical place may ever materialize.

For many slaves, the physical place did not materialize, but the concept and the hope of a railroad was better than no alternative.  Each of us takes our point in history, never understanding at the time that we are creating it, never seeing what was written about us in the future.  It does not matter to us how the story ends while we are living the now.

We can re-define the story of the underground railroad not as one limited to African-American slaves in the mid-19th century U.S., but a story that continues with us.  With anyone who understands the concept of “underground” as being in contradiction to the norms of the time, and who sees that physical travel to physical people, whom one imagines are more welcoming and hospitable than current circumstances, may actually be impossible.

So the resource is the imaginary travel,  the source is the network (underground railroad or blogosphere of cyberspace), which, until you travel it, is all but imaginary.   Those who perished without physically traveling could have been closer to freedom than those who physically traveled and were disappointed.   So I take heart here, and I follow the drinking gourd to cyberspace.

Imbalanced Checks (re: Krugman “Let’s Not Be Civil”)

In Bounced Checks, Checked, Unbounded on April 18, 2011 at 12:27 am

What kind of checks and balances do we have left in a world where all our pundits and politicians are paid mega-lottery type winnings to make their speeches, and we, the people, clamor to have our unpaid speech accepted by _The New York Times_ comment sections, in the hopes that any low-level politician staffer would ever even read them, let alone care?

The only checks we have left are the ones all three branches of government write to the banks, pharmaceutical, insurance, agriculture, transportation and defense industries in the form of subsidies, lax-regulation, and tax breaks, while the only balance is left on the backs of the vast majority of American people in terms of cuts to every lifeline we have for health, wealth, and wisdom.

A person who is being carried to the hospital with life-threatening wounds is not stopping on the ambulance ride to “balance their budget,” nor is the person who recently worked up a whopping $400,000K student loan debt, nor are millions of families who bought homes they can never hope to pay off in their lifetimes: this fallacy that just as American families are tightening their belts by cuts to expenses,  so government must do the same, is the most pernicious lie of all…

No, families that are drowning in debt don’t even own a belt to tighten. Cutting expenses to zero does nothing to pay back the school, hospital, or bank…Cutting all expenses to the point of not eating or living just keeps the debt accruing interest without adding to the principal.

The best way to pay down such debts is to get an extremely high-paying job: increase your _revenue_ stream. For a family this is a job, for a nation this is taxes.

The politicians have figured this out for themselves, and by choosing the ultra-lucrative field of politics, are well on the road to paying back _their_exorbitant home, school, and sometime medical debts.  But they don’t want the same for everyone else.  They want the rest of us to sacrifice beyond the debt we already have to somehow double down on our insolvency, while helping them out of their debts.

As a moody person who is not an employee of Moody’s, I’d give this deal a credit rating of:0-people, and 100-politicians.

Balanced Budget In Lifetimes of Fruitflies!

In Black-billed Bird, Emerald Green, Methodical, Northeast on April 14, 2011 at 12:15 am

Just when some of us may have tentatively wondered whether we really can trust the President again, after one of his more inspiring speeches in many months,  Ryan, like a typical spoiled child, in the subsequent House Budget Committee meeting,  declared  the President’s magnanimity and  tempered reserve, “hyper-partisan.”  That is indeed a moment for which Krugman’s blogpost “Everyone Has An Ideology” was written.  Ryan’s “The president gave a hyper-partisan speech” outburst is exactly like telling  someone who would say that that reintroducing slavery is unacceptable, “Well, that’s just your ideology.”

(And I was one of those lucky many who was told exactly that, as teacher after teacher in my southern state told me, K-12, in public schools, that the Civil War was not about slavery, it was about state’s rights.  What is the correct answer going to be on the standardized test?  Or do north and south take different tests? [right now, they do, and this is exactly why, because the Civil War is still being fought in everyone’s minds] Can you imagine Paul Ryan and Bernie Sanders writing the standardized test questions for U.S. history and social studies?  This is precisely the problem with the idea of one, unified, national standardized test.

See this fantastic article about what a rigged money-making scheme the national standards are…billions for the testmakers, and THAT money is the point, not the children, or the fact that the tests are high stakes and mean little to nothing.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/a_not_so_modest_proposal/2011/04/11/AFRTkZKD_blog.html?wprss=answer-sheet )

For those of us expecting the President to cave on medicare, social security, and tax cuts for the wealthy,  today’s speech wasn’t dragged irredeemably to the right like it normally is.  But if he is saying this to get re-elected, and then when the time for letting the tax cuts expire comes,  he revives the “I had no choice but to cave” logic…?  Especially if a double dip in the recession comes true…what if unemployment is soaring to 11% by that time? Will he claim we have no choice but to extend the Bush tax cuts indefinitely?

Since anything Obama says is going to be considered “left pole” anyway,  he should have come out singing the praise of Bernie Sanders’ “Robin Hood in Reverse” soliloquy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n33AJfR52M8&feature=youtu.be)

Then he could have given a shout out to Mayor Gray and the 6 council members arrested and detained in jail for 7 hours over the fact that their D.C. city budget was rejected by congress because the city is still fighting for autonomy (statehood)–for the capacity to spend its taxes as it sees fit, not subject to the federal congress.  Can you imagine any other state passing its budget and then having to send it to the federal congress for approval?  And the civil war was about states rights?  Why couldn’t they iron this out then?

But the Republicans who had to deny the approximately $65,000 of D.C. tax money that funded abortions for poor women continue to be quite happy to subsidize businesses that ship all their labor to China where one child per couple is the law of the land and millions of abortions are performed.  They just count on their pro-life  factions not to think of that.

Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Florida, praising this “open, honest process” on the House Budget Committee hearing is lauding  the shut ears of the Republicans who harp over and over again about the credit card limit and families tightening their belts  while ignoring impassioned, heartfelt pleas from the likes  Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver to remember the most vulnerable among us… Rep Cleaver regaling us with how, when his grandfather was asked if he had a favorite of his 18 grandchildren, he slowly answered, “Yes.  The one that was sick, the one that was unemployed.  And as soon as they were well, they went back to being equal.”  ( I actually met him [Emmanuel Cleaver] on the sidewalk outside the congress one day…he was carrying way too many boxes for one man to carry.  I had no clue who he was, so I ran over to help him.  It was a desolate Saturday, and he and I were the only ones around.  He refused at first, but I insisted.  He asked what I was doing out there.  I said I was hoping to reach a few members of congress with my message of peace/get out of Iraq.  He said, well, I am a member of congress…and when he told me his name, I was horrified I had not recognized him. But then, months later, when I was standing in a line of hundreds of people in the hall of one of the congressional office buildings to get in to hear Bernanke/Paulson make their $700 billion bailout pitch to congress, he walked by…and recognized me! He remembered me carrying his boxes, and he shook my hand and said some warm words…as small and as ridiculous as this all sounds, to me it is proof positive that he is all for the nobodies in the world, and when he tells his stories about the poor, they are rooted in all too direct experience.)

These refrains occur over and again… Democrats balance the budget, Republicans create soaring deficits in their tenure…then when Democrats are in power the Republicans declare we have no choice but to cut, cut, cut, whining, “Oh, I just hope we will ever see a balanced budget in MY lifetime! ”

Are even lifetimes subject to creative accounting tricks of the Republicans?  Are we talking about the lifespan of fruit flies?  So it seems, because a mere 3 years ago there was nary a mention of deficits.   Were none of these Republicans alive when we had $69.2 billion surplus in 1998, $76.9 billion in 1999, and $46 billion in 2000?   And weren’t they whining the exact same refrain about hoping to see a balanced budget “in my lifetime” in the Clinton years?

http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/during_the_clinton_administration_was_the_federal.html

The last time we handed the Republicans the balanced budget they wanted on a silver platter,  they took handed it straight to Halliburton, Blackwater, and all their corporate cronies.  Isn’t the whole point of remaining solvent on our national debt to maintain investor confidence so that investors can invest in their stock market inventions that have nothing to do with most of us?

If you have taken out a 4-year-degree student loan, do you stop at the 2-year mark to “balance your budget”?

Apparently a large percentage of Americans agree that would be just the time to “tighten your belt,” abandon the degree, and go to a low-wage job that does not require a degree to pay off the first 2 years of debt.

This is the ludicrous logic of belt tightening at the very moment when we could be heading to the next dip, or just an unending decade-long stagnation like Japan…where, not only are their birth rates low because they feel they can’t afford children (according to a quote from a recent front page Washington Post article), but now they have a huge elderly population having their golden years a little too luminescent with all the radiation falling in the form of rain, if we are to play in Brook’s poetry of everyday life.  “It’s a hard, hard, hard rain’s a gonna fall, ” indeed.–I wonder if Dylan sang that in China, what went through their minds, since they’re even closer to Japan than we are…

Bread & Circuses

In Damned, Dangerous, Difficult, Persistent, Profound, Rain, Spring on April 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm

“… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses” ~  Juvenal, Satire X, 100 AD

Anyone who clings prayerfully to peace in their hearts in a seeming drought time of peace on this earth, may actually find more comfort and do more good in the tiny crevice in which you endeavor than trying to commune on the streets with any passing soul.   Every time I go the the White House, I come home almost worse off than before I went, to see how utterly few people really seem all that concerned about anything beyond themselves.  You can cultivate a greater sense unity and community by writing comments on a website.

No wonder President Obama seems so cut off from ordinary, suffering Americans.  They sure aren’t holding his feet to the fire.  We entirely do get the government we elected, and if we don’t elect to see beyond the tip of our noses, our politicians will return the favor by ignoring us every bit as equally.

The security apparatus in full force doing its job with humorless reserve and barely veiled contempt for any soul so brazen to dare express an opinion is but a tiny factor in the fear factor that reigns our land and peoples’ hearts, souls, and minds.  It is almost pitiful that they (the security guards, and the invisible creepy network crawling in all the ether of cyberspace), don’t get more challenge.   We, the people, are truly keeping their job completely boring.

People dutifully constrain eye contact to the ground, never daring to commit the sin of interacting with a non-corporate person, a merely breathing semblance of flesh, obviously incapable of achieving the only legitimate human personhood of  the Corporation.

You can follow the money in and out of any labyrinthine complex of killing you want, but the military complex monster feeds at  Simpson’s millions of teats, which are all military and not remotely maternal, while everyone goes about their narrow business with nary a  wrinkle in conscience.

We, the coalition of the willing at the noontime GDAMS (do love the acronym!)(http://demilitarize.org/), fueled poetry, beauty, wrath, and determination, but we did not seem to spark a glimmer of curiosity from the passer-bys and “ordinary” tourists who outnumbered us by the hundreds.  I sometimes have sympathy with the ranters on the Times site who get so angry at all the people who vote Republican, venting that their fellow Americans deserve to perish in the divide and conquer stew stirred by our politicians.

But, the important thing about being this disgusted by the inexcusable apathy of our populace is that the same level of apathy existed in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in nations across all the sands of time and history.

Small, dedicated coalitions of the willing met in cyberspace, met in public squares, to far greater oppression than the smug derision we meet here. They were, and still are, being beaten, tortured, imprisoned, and killed for daring to express a simple opinion. And Asmaa Mahfouz’s group suffered years of pitifully tiny protests, vastly outnumbered by scary, black-clad, masked military who seemed to have no law, either moral or man-made, keeping them in check before a genuinely loving, liberating sense of unfettered freedom bathed the country and spilled across the world in tangible waves.

The President, be it Obama or Bushes or Clintons, on further reflection, is utterly representative of and emblematic of a populace cowed by standardized testing. Standardized testing is the epitome of tyrannical control which dictates a narrow frame of a concept with equally narrow answers, and allows no possibilities for subtlety, contradiction, irony, metaphor, or poetry. If you don’t pass the test, you won’t get into the right college, and if you don’t get into the right college, forget about trying to shape opinion or be a leader anywhere in the world, not anywhere from your street corner to the remotest pixels of cyberspace. Never mind debunking the concept of right and wrong answers with heartfelt spectrums of the rainbow…

Don’t step up to the plate at the comment page, don’t throw a curve ball, don’t risk falling utterly flat on your face. Never mind that the test makers have no interest whether anyone passes or not. They just want to make sure as many people as possible get tested over and over again so that they can get their fees. In fact, testing could almost generate more money than bomb-making if they attain enough of a monopoly, because people can take tests over and over again, but they only get to die once. The education monopoly has its insider funnels going straight to the White House, as Sardonicky shows is feeding our military industrial complex.

What if you graduated from the best college in the world, but not a single soul voted for your comment? What if the dropout had 5,000 people agree with him? Pointing out that global military spending reached $1.6 trillion in 2010? While how much is spent on peace? What even qualifies as peace when everything from our farming to shelter to clothing to energy to consumerism is anything but peaceful, in every mercenary step of the way from assembly to sale? How hard is it to come up with even a softball critique when you can’t walk two steps into hypocrisy somewhere in this world?

This leveling of the information age is the most truly democratic in all its brutality and glory. And I find it impossible to read what I do about all the crazy ways of the world and not try to demand that our we are worthy of our politicians, and our politicians are worthy of us. Others gave up and went to monasteries. The President’s own sister works tirelessly for peace and few outside her circle hear her message. But at least that is one less bomb thrower in the world.
http://www.alternet.org/economy/150418/obama%27s_sister_has_big_ideas_for_education_reform_

But if you look back at how big the protests were in the 60s, how much of it was because of the draft? A lot, I am told. Most people aren’t going to leave the shell of their immediate sphere, and by the time a threat is at their door, it is too late to protest.

So, pass the popcorn. The circus continues, and there’s a closer ringside seat in the commentariate than on the actual streets….

Obama Wants to Be a Millionaire

In Eternal Corporatehood, Good in the Hood?, Mortal Personhood, Patient, Waiting on April 11, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Free Lunch, Charles Dana Gibson, 1911

Jon Jost correctly points out in his comment to Krugman’s, “The President is Missing” that President Obama is but a pawn in the con game of our politics.  The President is missing:  all the answers to what should be easy questions.

Once a large enough audience was amassed under the auspices of a down-to-the-wire government shutdown battle, the presidential version of  “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” could commence.  MC’d by a press hot enough only to produce waffles, who warns the public to stay back lest they burn their fingers (in the form of helpful rejections of comment posts), they write questions bland enough to please all their corporate sponsors,  but spicy enough to try to conceal the fact that the show is but an afterthought to the centerpiece of the commercials.

Presidents from McKinley to Hoover have tried, and now Obama thinks he has a shot.  The first softball toss is:  Is confidence on Main St. the same thing as confidence on Wall St.?   The audience, not comprised of sponsors, but working people feeling the effects of 20 years’ “wageless” recovery, starts screaming, “NO! NO! NO!!!”

The President tilts his ear like something is tickling it, but his eyes barely register concern with all the noise in the room.  He calmly presses the buzzer, dazzles MC Steve Doocy from FOX news with his million dollar smile, and says, ” Yes! Certainly they are indistinguishable, Steve.  I can elaborate with an essay answer about all the ways investor confidence is the engine of this country, with peripheral generalizations about hard-working Americans and running cars into ditches…”

“No, no, thank you, Mr. President…we’re just trying to get you warmed up here…Next question, Which historical strategy is best for America to tighten its belt today?  1) Hoover: Liquidate! Liquidate! Liquidate 2) McKinely: Pro-Tariff Republicans to restore a gold standard   3) Reagan: marginal tax rates up to 50%  4) FDR: creation of WPA programs to  counteract private sector unemployment and low consumer demand.”

The audience screams incoherent answers, but there is a loud chorus demanding 4! 4! with a smaller sector for 3….The President is looking genuinely confused, even alarmed…he was reflexively going for answer 3, with the mellifluous ring of Reagan’s mere name in his ears…but halted when he heard taxes.
“You have one lifeline left.  We force that lifeline to be Donald Trump, and we have him on the line now if you want advice,” Steve helpfully offers.

“Well, might as well take the call, since, after all, he is one of those millionaires I aspire to be…”

“Pres O, my man, The Donald says 1 and The Donald has spoken.  If you don’t choose 1, you will regret it,” intones Trump.

This sends the audience going wild screaming 4, 4 , 4, drowning out all other cries…The President now has a confident smile, crisply dings the buzzer, and sings, “1, Steve, the answer is 1!  Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate! I had a moment of hesitation there…but, I’m not used to being in public this long without a teleprompter, you know…”

“O.K., great going, Mr. President!  Keep in mind, this is a tough question, and you have no lifelines left.

Who should go to jail as a scapegoat so the rest of America’s executives can swim in pools of cash without impediment?  1) Bernie Madoff 2) Philippe Dauman 3) Jeff Immelt  4) Ian J. McCarthy” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/business/10comp.html?scp=2&sq=executive%20pay&st=cse) and (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/business/10gret.html?pagewanted=2&sq=executive%20pay&st=cse&scp=5)
“Well, Bernie’s already in jail, and still the Taibi’s of the world are looking for bigger quarry.  Jeff’s busy creating jobs for Americans overseas.  Or maybe it is jobs he, the American, oversees, for anyone overseas who wants to apply for dual citizenship so the U.S. can lower its unemployment numbers without having to actually hire anyone.  That’s imagination at work for you!  Philippe should be my next donor target after Blankfein, uh, I mean, these are my good friends, and I need to treat them well…So, I don’t care what anyone says!  4 it is.  I never heard of him anyway.  4 is my final answer!”

“Great answer! You are correct!  Just throw ’em enough red meat every once in awhile,  although something still has to be done about all those unruly states’ attorney generals…

O.K., let’s wrap this up with the final question.  Even though you’ve answered all the questions correctly thus far, you forfeit your right to compete, and  will walk away with nothing if you get this question wrong.  All your previous correct answers simply entitled you to answer this question:

Should the entire budget hinge on Title X funding?  1) No, that is a miniscule dollar amount, but elimination of health services and family planning creates an undue burden on millions of cash-strapped families in a sheer ideological war against women.  2) Yes it should!  Those feminists ought to go back to burning their bras, not wearing make-up or shaving their legs if they need birth control.  It will create abstinence-only by default, problem solved.  If they want to dress up like conservative marms, they will be treated like them, and their place is still barefoot and pregnant.”

“Well, being no drama Obama, I can’t stoop to the distasteful partisan political rhetoric of answer #2.   I thought “cash-strapped” was a term that could only apply to companies, but my answer is 1.  1 is my final answer.”

“Well, Mr. President, the good news is, you lost.  Because you know if you had won, we would have found a technicality and not given you the prize money anyway.  Now you save us the trouble!”

“Well, Steve, I just have to tell you: you have been such a gracious host, and in return for me taking up so much of your time today, I want to extend an offer to you of $10 million dollars!  I may not be able to pay it all at once, but I  am sure Malia and Sasha wouldn’t mind washing dishes for the rest of their lives if I don’t manage to come up with some creative financing. ”

“Oh, Mr. President, you just take your time getting your powder dry.  That sounds like a delightful offer, as long as we can get a few more cabinet posts.  Without them, I’m afraid you might need to come up with $100 million, or else you might find yourself in an environment that is difficult to navigate.”

“Sure, Steve…Listen, I just want to say to the American people:  You all are great! I love you! I love you! You just tell me, in what other nation on Earth could so many people spend their precious few moments of free time trying to make ONE guy rich, while ignoring hundreds of millions of people around them dying in squalor and poverty?
Where else can you have people willing to dine on right-wing garbage night after night as if were a gourmet meal?

Where else can you have so few people who see that the two parties are deeply, madly, truly ONE?   One corporatist party every bit as thuggish as a Mubarak regime?   After all, if both parties weren’t one, how could I be The One?  or  The Won?  After all “The Won One” is really just the same corporatist mask with hundreds of different flavors to try to win over whatever the historical swing vote happens to be at the time….Catholics, Blacks, Jews, Gays, Hispanics, Women, etc…  We aren’t kidding when we say Obamabots….Looking next for a Buddhist Chinese Male running with a Gay Latina to carry on the corporate mission statement of the United Corporation of The World, where you should never forget only corporations have person-hood, eternal person-hood, to which people are just mere figments of the Corporate Gods’ all-consuming greed which must be continuously fed at all costs, though the earth may perish in a ball of radiation and CO2 first.

But there will never be a  primary challenge because people can’t get past the primary challenge of seeing someone who is on the exact same level economically to disparage and ridicule.   You’ve always got to make things personal, so that disputes are always about personality, never about policy.  Get young so mad at old, right at left, urban at rural, that people think they are fulminating at each other in the voting booths, when really they are just maintaining the corporate coup and transferring 80 years of prosperity right back to the greedy little hands of the oligarchs they worked so hard to pry it from in the last Robber Baron age.  Amazing how they duck when we say socialist, and cover when we say healthcare, over and over again!

That’s all just confidential, between us, sorry to go on so long. We all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch for our school children, only for the corporate robbers who walk free, while petty criminals behind bars in some cases get better tax-funded, socialist healthcare than those unlucky souls who are paying off $500,000 in medical bills garnished even from their social security checks.  God bless America!  Land of Plenty of Filthy Rich!  God Bless! God Bless!”

Steve gets the final word of the night: “Yes, Mr. President, I couldn’t have said it better myself…as long as we can get people of all religions, all races, all creeds, genders and locales to ask, ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ it will never occur to them to ask, ‘Why aren’t a few thousand more millionaires in jail?'”

The Eyes Have It

In Multitude, Thieves, Toil, Wrecked Chariot on April 7, 2011 at 2:16 am

https://i1.wp.com/lcweb2.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3a40000/3a49000/3a49600/3a49621r.jpg

“Women strikers selling newspapers for a living. New York shirt waist workers strike, 1910.”

I am still adjusting to an indecisive melancholy over the New York Times pay-wall, which even has a name about as inspiring as wall-pay-per, as if Charlotte Perkins Gilman may at any moment pixelate herself through the computer wallpaper and demand your $15 before you continue reading….yet  Gilman’s words, “but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind,” would be a horror to the New York Times were they taken literally, whose paper paper seems to be dying as the screen adds pages of life in reader comments…

At moments,  I am ready to boycott the website entirely in a pique against a perceived injustice to all the unemployed and disenfranchised, who are precisely the ones many of us most want to hear from in the reader comments.  On the other hand, discomfit with the Times has birthed such wellsprings as Sardonicky, being the best alternative to even the best of the “alternative” news…

So, since the Times did not “highlight” this comment (below),  I am doing so now.  Nor can I add all the other great ones I have enjoyed lately…but these are the “ordinary” voices that need broad platforms of free speech, such as the Times at one time afforded our sometimes democratic democracy.    These are the “eyes” that have it,  their living witness the fullest rebuttal to the Ryan budget.  The “tainted cheesiness of Paul Ryan,” as Sardonicky notes, (http://kmgarcia2000.blogspot.com/) does not spread on any cracker that can be eaten, and will do nothing to cure the literal and spiritual hunger of our nation.

57.

Colorado Going Blue

Colorado

April 5th, 2011

8:25 pm
The word “entitlement” is rapidly becoming an outrage. I have worked for someone more wealthy than I since I was thirteen years old and I am in my fifties now. These people made enormous amounts of my money from taking advantage of my impoverishment and lack of mobility in society via beauty or celebrity or geography to pay the lowest of wages and offer no benefits while continually asking for more productivity. And when more productivity arrived–they purchased new mansions, boats, cars, and vacations.

Is there anyone expressing more feelings of entitlement than the top wealth holders in this country? The idea that many of us have labored for years, myself a single mother with two children–one autistic, to survive on minimum wage, avoiding welfare by working more than one job without benefits–all the while barely staying afloat should somehow be less worthy of a quality of life in our old age is despicable. Especially in a country where housing and other necessities are driven by market demand fueled by those with more opportunity, more access to capital, and perhaps the gift of wealth by family–and just pure luck. How many wealth holders do you know that have to pay a banker $35 every time they need a loan of $60 for two days to get that last tank of gas in the car to get to work this week. (And, no, I don’t buy cigarettes, potato chips, or gamble, etc. And public transportation is about as popular here as public healthcare).

Those who have dug the sewers, picked up the garbage, and cleaned the bathrooms while still managing to shuttle the kids to soccer games and have done service at PTA and other service based community organizations should somehow stomach the brunt of the force of the GOP’s need to drown government in a bathtub and convince American’s that are we are broke is nothing less than a con game. A con game designed to keep the magnifying glass from hovering over the bankers, financiers, and corrupt politicians whose poor policy choices and strategies of enriching themselves, their kin, and any politician willing to be bought so closely that they may have to be accountable.

Minimally, get your heads out of the trough, and consider it less of an entitlement and more of a thank you. You might get more cooperation on the idea of change. On the other hand the elite could just start cleaning their own bathrooms instead of leaving it to the less fortunate.

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