Saturday, November 25, 2006

QUIEN ES ESA NINA: Who's that girl?

Margaret Spellings. That’s who. One of the most stunning appointments to the Bush administration cabinet this term has been Margaret Spellings, Secretary of Education. Our gal Maggie was appointed back in November 2004, after Bush actually won a term.

That the mainstream media has let this appointment fly by has been unbelievable, especially for those of us in public education. Granted, one could see why the media went into an orgy over the “heckuva” job that non-qualified Mikie Brown was doing as FEMA director when New Orleans went under water. But wake-up media: Take a look at Maggie. Because although many of us on both sides of the aisle initially had high hopes for the broad improvements that No Child Left Behind would have had, it’s becoming patently obvious that it’s a colossal failure and there’s a big secret in America that few know about: Maggie Spellings, who heads the Department of Education and No Child Left Behind, is COLOSSALLY unqualified for her job. In the hierarchy of education, Spellings would be hard-pressed to get a substitute teacher position. And I’m not kidding.

Let’s review the qualifications of two former Secretaries of Education, shall we? I’ll even select two former secretaries who served under Republican presidents, ok? Just so you don’t think I’m being unfair and imbalanced here. Let’s start with Rod Paige, who served under George W. Bush’s first term.

Now I’m not a big fan of Paige, especially when he equated teachers unions with “terroists.” Well…I do know a building steward or two who has a narcissistic personality disorder and who has declared a jihad against anyone who disagrees with them, so he might’ve had a point; but that’s another story for another day. Back to Paige. Like him or leave him: Paige was more than “well-qualified” for the job. Holding a doctorate degree, Paige dedicated his life to education, serving as a teacher, a coach, a dean, and a superintendent.

How about Bill Bennet? The right guy the left loves to hate? Dr. William Bennet served as Secretary of Education under President Reagan during Reagan’s second term. As with Paige, Bennet is not one of my favorite people, especially when he made that heinous comment, suggesting that one way to reduce crime would be to abort African-American babies. Truly uncalled for. Regardless of this remark, though, which is awful, Bennet was “well-qualified” for his job. Bennet has more degrees than a thermometer, including a doctorate from the University of Texas and a law degree from Harvard. Additionally, he had served on countless boards and councils related to education, including the National Endowment for the Humanities.

It’s clear: we, the American citizens, expect that someone who fills a cabinet position such as Secretary of Education should be both well-educated and well-qualified, and that that individual should have some experience in public education. So that brings me to Margaret Spellings’ qualifications. Previously the Assistant to the President Bush for Domestic Policy, Spellings holds a degree in political science from the University of Texas. And that’s about it for education. Maggie was involved with education reform in Texas when she lived there, and she worked with then governor Bush on a whole host of issues related to education. Too bad her only experience being in a classroom has been as a student, and it’s a shame that there’s no indication that she served some time as a substitute teacher, which, in Connecticut, requires one to have an undergraduate degree, which Maggie does have. But that’s ok, isn’t? I guess that although I don’t know a fucking thing about a hospital, I should apply for chief of surgery. And maybe you, reader, who may know NOTHING about let’s say, astro-physics, should design a space-craft for NASA.

When our gal Maggie first came out as Secretary of Education in 2005, she had a “heckuva” of arrival taking everyone on from the cartoon characters on a PBS show, whom she thought were lesbians, to Dr. Betty Sternberger of Connecticut, former Secretary of Education in Connecticut, who, like Dr. Paige and Dr. Bennet had experience in education and in the classroom. Imagine that.

What I find most disappointing in all of this—deep breath—is that as a teacher, department head, and trained mentor teacher, I usually find a lot of common ground with my conservative colleagues on issues pertaining to education. In fact, we tend to agree on a great deal whereas I am constantly at odds with "left-leaning" colleagues who are more overly concerned with students’ feelings, with whether or not students like them, with sucking-up to administration, with creating problems where they don’t exist, and with slowly dismantling the Western canon in a vain effort to say that such works as The Odyssey are no longer valid (yes, some asshole presenter at a conference I attended actually said this—my wife is my witness—she was there, too). To be frank, I have found in my ten years of teaching that many left-leaning and conservative educators do have a wealth of common ground. The problem is: too many people in Washington and elsewhere are too unconscious to recognize this.

Who’s that girl? Maggie Spellings. And I’m sure she’s a nice person, and I’m sure she’s been loyal to President Bush—he likey likes that. However, she’s grossly unqualified. But here’s where Georgie has blown yet another opportunity. What the fuck? Just think what could HAVE been done had he had the right people—no pun intended—reached out across the aisle, found a way to deal with some of those zealots in the union—I know, I know, and forged away to make American education at the vanguard in the 21st century. Bill Gates has been plowing along. So has Bill Clinton and his business associates in his work for with the Clinton Foundation. Maybe we do need to get business more involved because public education remains tragically left behind. Maybe the "true" free-market conservatives have got it right.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Friday, November 17, 2006

So after being smacked down by Mother Superior Pelosi last week with the force of Catholic Guilt, the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, Georgie finally goes to Vietnam to do what?: talk about another failed war: Iraq. The irony here is so overwhelming and surreal it seems as if the center of gravity has been temporarily displaced, and those of us watching have all we can do to hold on.

But Texas Air National Guard George doesn’t seem to get it, does he? When asked about what lessons the Vietnam War has to offer, our Commander of a Chimp replies, “We’ll succeed unless we quit.” Great response there, skippy. Obviously reading off of the dick diplomacy notes of Five Deferment Dick, Georgie wants to stay the course despite the mid-term election results, despite the declaration of Father Bush and his republican, old guard cardinals of the Iraq Study Group (whom I much rather prefer)—“Son, you’ve definitely fucked-up,” despite being confronted by Mother Nancy Patricia Pelosi for throwing spitballs in the Foreign Policy H block class, despite Kenn Mehlman OTDing (that’s out the dooring) of the RNC, and despite his approval ratings once again dipping around-to-below freezing.

Sure: he fired Rummy, a move many Republicans said he should’ve made weeks ago to have given some GOP candidates a snowball’s chance in Iraq of winning. Make no mistake about it: this election was a referendum on the war, despite what that asshole Oedipus-Revenge Lieberman says.

But one would think that after journeying to the heart of darkness of America’s foreign policy past, after seeing the iconography of Ho Chi Minh and the specter that that represents, after considering how Vietnam rebuilt itself in the wake of chaos and has inched to some sort of appreciation—in its own time—of free market capitalism, Georgie would get 1% more conscious about what’s going on. If his foray into the Pacific Rim with a PR blitz in the country where 58,000 Americans lost their lives doesn’t elevate his approach to this war in some way, then we will all being whispering in unison: the horror! The horror!

I've always had a high approval rating with my conservative students. I'm serious; I'm not kidding. And these kids know that I'm left of center.

What gives? A few things. First and foremost, self-identified conservative students know a bit more about government and politics--and I appreciate that. And they tend to appreciate me for appreciating that--and them. This isn't saying much, though, because most high school teachers will tell you that despite having a state-mandated "civics" graduation requirement for all students, a scary, overhelming majority of our students know squat about government and politics. It's true. Generally, though, conservative kids know more than their peers.

Because the rightolescents, I believe, know a bit more about government and politics than most of their peers, they come across stronger in class discussions that might address politics or debatable issues in one way or another. Of course, years ago when I first entered teaching, I came across a Sean Assity-in-training, who knew nothing other than what he thought; where did he get this from? Sean Assity, of course. He, though, was the exception, not the trend. Suffice it to say, the rightolescents know their stuff.

Frustrated with what was happening to the leftolescents I knew who were adrift, I was motivated a couple of years to help a group of students, at the high school where I teach, to form a young democrats club. I had to take some of these leftolescents out of the bell jar of the 2004 loss and educate them about what many of the righties already knew. And I had to encourage them to get involved; I am proud to say that many of them did with this past election.

In a recent phone conversation with a retired, left-leaning colleague of mine, whom I will call MC Master Teacher, MC Master Teacher has agreed with my observations and has also noted that in class discussion or debates, the rightolescents are generally much more controlled and compelling. I find this also to be true. More oftentimes than I care to admit, leftolescents, especially those who just claim to be so for no reason other than what they feel, tend to implode with emotion when addressing controversial topics, aspiring for high drama and operatics rather than a measured discussion. This helps explain why I don't get the right's infatuation with histrionic loud mouths like Mann Coultergeist and Rush Limfart. It doesn't make sense: would you rather have George Will and Peggy Noonan presenting your case or Coultergeist and Limfart? I say George and Peggy all the way.

Another reason that my approval rating has been consistently high with the rightolescents is that I--I believe--allow them to express their views and beliefs, regardless if I agree with them or not. Much to my dismay, I have heard stories from the rightolescents over the years that they felt uncomfortable coming forth with their ideas in certain classes. And while I can't cite any specific educators who do this, I knew a few trolls on the left who fit the bill of being looney, close-minded, and tragicaly one-sided. We educators need to encourage critical thinking for all adolescents, regardless if they ooze right or left. Let's work together on educating and broadening the American minds.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Russert: Senator Lieberman, welcome back and congratulations.

Oedipus: Thanks, Tim. It's great to be here.

Russert: Senator, you won the general election but lost the primary. Your thoughts at this juncture?

Oedipus: Tim, I have to tell you: it's been a difficult couple of months; I've learned and grown as a politican and as an indivdual; and I thank the candidates for such a spirited race. But as you know: this is politics. These things sort of happen, but the challenge is to move on.

Russert: You've gone on record saying it was a bitter campaign. Your thoughts?

Oedipus: It was bitter, and I wish it had been different--on my part, as well as on my opponents'. There was a great deal to talk about and we do need to move forward now.

Russert: Have you spoken to Mr. Lamont now since the election?

Oedipus: Yes. I thanked him for his efforts. I thanked him for being involved and raising the issues to new levels. You know, at the end of the day, he and I do see eye to eye on many issues and I have certainly considered our differences and where I need to be more embracing--let's say. And it's my hope that now the election is over, Mr. Lamont will join me along with my supporters in making sound decisions for our state and for our nation.

Russert: Improve? Would you elaborate?

Oedipus: Certainly--as I mentioned in my campaign, my role as a politician is about people. And while many agree with me, there are many who are disappointed with me. Now it's my job to listen to why those people are disappointed and to note that while we may disagree, we can work to cultivate common ground. That's my challenge. It's about people, Tim: I'm serious when I say this.

Russert: Does this include the bloggers, whom you claim vituperated you?

Oedipus: Yes. Look--being in public office isn't easy. You will have your supporters and your critics. And there were many critics who were bloggers. But as a public official representing many of these people, it's not my role to distant and isolate these individuals: my challenge is to reach out and to know them better to settle our differences and to move forward.

Russert: Iraq? What do we do now?

Oedipus: Well, while I've gone on record to support the Bush Administration, now is the time to make some changes. I don't know what exactly those changes are, but we need to do something because things aren't working and the American public is growing increasingly angry with the handling of the war. And I believe President Bush feels the same way.

Russert: And as you've indicated, you're a true Democrat. Will you caucus with the Democrat majority with the new congress?

Oedipus: Certainly. I said I'm a true Democrat, and I will caucus with my colleagues. Sure, many of them supported my opponent--I know that. But to be truthful, what would have I done had one of them faced a primary challenge and didn't win? Politics can be ugly at times. But we have to move on. And I have to move on. I said I was Democrat, and I mean what I say.

This was obviously the interview you didn't see; instead, we saw more of the same of Oedipus--angry, spiteful, parsing, and inflexible. Some things will never change.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf—I mean—Nancy Pelosi?

George. And if he isn’t, then he should be. For weeks now, we’ve heard the right wing goon squad fear Nancy. Nancy, the liberal. Nancy, from San Francisco. Nancy, the left coaster. Nancy, Nancy, Nancy. Nancy, bella Pelosi. You almost get the vision of Taylor and Burton, as Martha and George respectively, singing, “Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf? Virginia Woolf? The Big Bad Woolf?” In fact, while composing this entry, I went to the Wikipedia biography of Pelosi, looking for a picture, when lo and behold, I found a graphic photograph of a certain female part where a picture of Pelosi should’ve been. Talk about the vagina dentata male fear!

There’s a lot to fear with Nancy Patricia Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi is a first class politician and a better role model for women than that triangulation queen, Hillary. What’s Hillary calling herself now…an ambassador of bipartisanship? Ok, Hillary Lieberman. What a crock of shit!

The youngest of a large Italian-American family, Pelosi learned early on from both her father and her family that there are discrete skills necessary to be adept at politics. Pelosi’s father, a former mayor of Baltimore and a congressman, and her brother, also a former congressman, served as role models for Pelosi. But I would argue that growing up in an Italian-American family also provided a solid training ground for Pelosi, and I speak here from personal experience because I’m part of Italian.

The Italian-American family is all about politics; anyone who is Italian-American should know. There’s the head of the family, of course—the mother. Yes, folks, mothers have far more power than fathers in the family albeit this doesn’t seem to be so. Just look at Tony Soprano, for heaven’s sake: he can’t escape the wrath of his mother or the presence of his wife—the mother of his children—and the judgment of his shrink—Dr. Melfi—his surrogate, psychic mother. Let’s take a lesson from Tony: You never want to permanently piss off the Italian-American mother because if you do, you will receive an unbearable wrath or a sustained silent treatment, which is worse. Learning to navigate the waters of our mothers’ households—their kingdoms—teaches us Italian-Americans political skills that seldom can be reduplicated elsewhere. I won’t even address sibling dynamics—the senatorial set, the aunts and uncles, who act like the chorus in a Greek tragedy, and the multiple cousins and their factions—a blog is clearly insufficient for the volumes of political experiences to be analyzed here. One could write tomes upon tomes.

The fear of Nancy, though, extends beyond her ethnicity. Pelosi’s accomplishments are quite impressive unto themselves. Having raised five children, Pelosi officially entered politics once her children were in high school. She rose through the ranks of the political scene in northern California, Marin County, San Francisco, to be exact, which has a history of being red despite the conventional indigo perception. First elected to the House in 1988, Pelosi has been a flame-thrower ever since. And she’s known for her discipline, her backroom politicking, and, believe it or not, her moderation. Sounds like all the attributes a Republican pole salivates over; for Barry Goldwater’s sake, even Joe Scarborough has gone on record to say nice things about Nancy; this, of course, was in the late afternoon when the red set was still at work.

So let’s put this equation together: Mrs. Pelosi comes from the matrix of all political matrices—the Italian-American political institute, nothing to sniff at; Mrs. Pelosi has learned skillfully how to operate in the “family”; Mrs. Pelosi is a mother, a grandmother, and a practicing Catholic—the right hates that; Mrs. Pelosi is far better at flame-throwing than frumpy Hillary; and Mrs. Pelosi, like Howard Dean, another figure of hate for the right, has all the attributes of a successful politician: discipline, responsibility, decisiveness, fearlessness, and conservative traits of governing that so many overlook. Add these factors together and what you get is what the opposition fears most: the possibility of a successful, moderate—yes, moderate, House Leader.

Who’s Afraid of Nancy Pelosi? The neoconservative, hard right—you betcha. Just looking at Georgie in the press conference with Pelosi this week conjured up images of the naughty Catholic school boy meeting with mother superior—I know: been there, done that. The faithful left—sure, the criticisms are already rolling in, just check out The Huffington Post. And what about that junior senator from New York? Well, if she’s not scared, then perhaps she should take a harder look at Nancy Pelosi and how Pelosi has risen to success in a man’s world without bending herself into a pretzel of unrecognizable shape.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Here we go--crash helmets on: now that Lamont lost, we Americans have to "rush to judgment," the media, pundits, and yes, some of us bloggers, to suggest that the Netroots and Democrat activists have gone down in defeat in the wake of Oedipus Lieberman's redux. Snap out of it!: there's a lot more to this picture than meets the eye. First off, as KOS notes: elections are elections. Some of the candidates the net activists supported won, and some lost. Secondly, I would encourage both Lamont supporters and Lieberman voters to check out this article by Dave Sirota, who worked for the Lamont campaign. Granted, Sirota worked for Lamont but we need to go inside of the storm to see what really happened. Sirota is an apologist--you say? Well, that's a matter of perspective.

Last but not least, let's deconstruct this mono-myth promoted by David Brooks and others who have this lazy excuse for those of us who support Democrats wanting change. As I compose this blog intermittenly, I am chasing my three year old around the house while burping Catherine, the Great, who's just about a week and a half old. I don't have time to channel Lenin or Marx to ascribe to some right winger's fantasty of the mad, liberal left. My wife (yes, I'm married and we do go to church) is upstairs getting the kids' clothes so that we can go out shopping for food and baby items. Sorry, but we don't have time to plan a hostile revolution that would make Abbie Hoffman and his followers telekinetically communicate with one another from the grave. We both drank eight o'clock coffee this morning, not Starbuck's--not there's anything wrong with that. Quite frankly, we both find Starbucks good but a bit strong, so we stick with the working person's coffee just to get us through the morning. And we are charting out our day because later, I have to go to one of my three jobs. Sorry to piss on delusions of an angry "left," but I need to make a suitable living to provide for my family instead of attending the local chapter of the communist revolution.

Facts are facts; elections are elections; and some of us neither have the time nor the inclination to fulfill this poorly conceived vision of a leftist coup.

Have a great weekend, and may the force be with you all.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

(some quick observations)

1. The tide is high and I'm holding on (yes, I'm inspired here by the great Debi Harry): But let's not go nuts. Tsunami--I think not. Many of these wins were razor thin margins of victories. Even Chimpy pointed this out. Snap out of it Dems.!!! Don't get me wrong: I'll take it. But just as soon as the tide got high, the waters have already started receding and rather quickly. Be bold Dems. Bold and appealing, not whimpy and scary.

2. Post election Oedipus: A true Democrat? Get real. Ol' Joe boldly projects anger and revenge--any 9th grade student can see that. I suspect he will be doing more 3 dimensional chess with the caucus than he did before the primary smackdown. The fact that the right-wing chorus, led by none other than David Brooks and Mr. Safire on the OP-ED pages of the Times this morning, have harmonized in favor of Joe should give you an indication of how they have framed the Oedipus redux.

3. Ned is dead: Not really. Heal thyselves, Lamontistas. Ned Lamont, I believe, forced Dems. to surgically re-implant a backbonde when it came to the war. Both pundits and political scientists have noted that the Lamont influence coupled with the Murtha insurgence deserve more consideration. Get it, Dems.--a backbone. Perhaps this is why Lady Clinton, although she offered some alms to the Lamont campaign, stayed away from CT. You can't get into a pretzel with a backbone. Too bad Kerry got the backbone a little too late.

4. Looking to 2008: Well, from Lady Clinton's acceptance speech, which was enough to put me and everyone else I know to sleep, the lady has a lot of work to do. As a father of a new daughter, I'm delighted that we FINALLY have a woman speaker of the house and hope some day that we have a capable, qualified woman in the White House. Which brings me to Nancy Patricia Pelosi, who's got a pair. We like ballsy women. That's we--Americans. Hillary has shown some balls in the past. But she has cowered and triangulated a little too much for my liking. In fact, one can hear this in the rhetoric of her lame-ass acceptance speech. A note to Hillary: If you want to be perceived as tough, then be tough. Study Pelosi. Study Thatcher. Study Ol' Billy's smackdown of Chris Wallace. Study some of the gutsiness of Lamont. In the meantime, Barak and Gen. Wes. Clark are looking good, very good. And Johnny Edwards awaits in the background.

5. After the wave and the low tide comes in: hopefully, something will be done about the Iraq situation. It's a mess. Rummy is gone. Bush's Daddy's folks have come back--thank God. Let's hope something can be done for our troops. And let's stay 1% more conscious.

Monday, November 06, 2006


(a note to readers: Catherine, the Great, the latest addition to our family, arrived last week. Hence, I’ve been 1% more conscious amidst burping, changing diapers, and sleepless nights.)

Well, it’s official: Oedipus Lieberman’s narcissistic personality disorder has swung into yet another new chapter, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” In a pathetic effort to direct voters to look for his name at the ballot’s bottom—an appropriate place indeed, although I’d prefer his name off the ballot entirely, Oedipus et al are running an advertisement campaign to make sure the voters find him. How ironic!

Perhaps Oedipus Lieberman should find himself, since we now know that he’s really not a “true” Democrat even though he still clamors to be one. It’s also blatantly obvious that he’s not a “real” independent either. Being financed by every special interest group and corporation known to man, Oedipus Lieberman should be going public any day now. That Oedipus Lieberman has now sought the backers of former CT Governor and convict John Rowland shows the depths that Joe will go. And since Halloween has come and gone, some Republicans might be getting the hint that while Joe has temporarily aligned with them, his relentless masking and unmasking as any political entity financiers and their bases want reveals an individual who will do anything to retain power. Folks, he’s not a Republican either. Put simply, he’s Oedipus Lieberman, a man so myopic that what matters to him most is his own self-interest.

In a twisted way, I’m fascinated by this new chapter, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” for two reasons: one, the blatant irony; and two, for those of us familiar with the great Flannery O’Connor, her famous short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

Let’s start with the irony here: who is really good in this senate showdown? Is it Joe, an establishment, self-serving politician who believes he owns a senate seat and who is more patently concerned with special interest groups than with his own constituents? Hell, I’ve received more mail from Joe and his “friends” in the past two weeks than in the past eighteen years he’s been in the senate. Too bad the mailings are about Ned Lamont and not about explicating Lieberman’s positions on Iraq, especially since there were approximately 100 American deaths in Iraq last month compounded by the fact that military leaders have been calling for Rumsfeld’s resignation. Too bad the mailings didn’t set the record straight on Joe’s position, or let’s say positions, on Social Security. Joe’s done more triangulating on this one than Billary and Billary put together. Too bad these mailings were swifter than a response by Joe’s office to me and countless others for not filibustering the confirmation of Samuel Alito. Too bad these mailings were quicker than the responses to the many constituents who discovered that they no longer could count on Joe even though they once agreed that Joe actually did serve Connecticut, an element of this political narrative that the media has conveniently overlooked.

Is Ned Lamont the good one in this campaign? Granted Lamont is a political neophyte. Undoubtedly, he’s rather unpolished; he’s not as smooth as Joe, or as quick witted as Lucky Hands Al, who, let’s face it: talks a great game but comes up short in more ways than one. Just talk to people who live in the Derby area, and you may find out that they don’t think Al’s funny at all.

Willing to take a risk, Lamont is a father of three teenagers and a former Lieberman supporter, who, like many of us, views this prolonged, ill-conceived and mismanaged war very differently and has grown increasingly fed up with obdurate Oedipus. Unlike many of us, though, Ned has the money, influence and wherewithal to do something about it. Say what you will: Yes, Lamont is basically financing his own campaign. Yes, he has little political experience. But at least we know that Ned has paid for his campaign and dares to offer new ideas and bold criticism whereas Lieberman has been bankrolled by Wall Street backers and hackers, neoconservative loons, and special interest groups who are more concerned with…staying the course. By the way, folks, it’s a known fact that ol’ whining Joe has surpassed Lamont with campaign contributions.

Who’s good? You decide. But what does Flannery O’Connor have to do with this? O’Connor’s dark, twisted, comedic story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” focuses on this old, southern grandmother who remains stuck in her ways and resists change while the whole world around her, including her family, breaks from the past to move toward the future. On a family trip to another southern destination, the grandmother and her family learn that there’s a serial killer on the loose. Because of the grandmother’s insistence on visiting a plantation along the way, one she once went to long ago, the family literally crashes into this lunatic and his posse. Yes, they all meet their fate because of her, because of her stubbornness, because of her unwillingness to change, because of her unbending reverence for the past. One by one, the serial killer and his men start to kill off the family, saving ol’ granny for last. She tries to reason with him, and strangely enough, begins to believe that because he’s a good, Christian man, she can convince him not to KILL her. The hell with her family, who is already dead. By the time that the serial killer kills ol’ granny, the reader—and obviously, the author—are glad to see her dead. She’s that unforgiving.

So what’s your point? What does this have to do with the CT senate race? Are you outrageously implying that Joe is allegorically…that awful grandmother? Are you asserting that the serial killer and his posse are the deranged neocons who’ve bulldozed the Bush administration and engineered the Iraq fiasco? Is the car and the family in the car the electorate of Connecticut?

Perhaps you’ll have to read “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Who’s good? You decide.