Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Clinton vs. Gore?! Gore vs. Clinton?!

Weekly Presidential Politics - 5/30/07

I had a conversation with a highly respected colleague and fellow blogger (he might be familiar to you) yesterday. We had both watched The Chris Matthews Show over the long weekend. On this weekend's installment, guest Howard Fineman all but guaranteed that Al Gore would enter the presidential race this fall. Fineman cited the ever popular "sources close to Gore." Now, I don't think Gore's running, but let's proceed as if he is...

Here are some FAQ's and answers concerning Gore throwing his hat into the arena:

What would be the effect of a Gore entrance into the Democratic field? - John Edwards would be the first to take a hit in the polls. Like it or not, his greatest advantage in being the next President is that he's the top ranked White Guy on the Democratic side of the field. Gore takes away that advantage, not to mention the countless undecided progressives who would probably vote for Edwards, but would definitely vote for Gore. Soon thereafter, Barack Obama would take a hit, as his strength was as the original anti-war candidate, and Gore was more vehement and vocal in a vociferous opposition. Obama's other strengths, specifically oration and owning the outsider label, will also disappear over the horizon, as Gore v 2.0 has been known to blow the doors off many halls since he left the public office in 2001. Two of the three viable Democratic candidates would essentially be immediately eliminated upon the arrival of Al Gore.

Wait, wait. Are you saying we could have a Gore-Clinton primary? - Yes. More on this later.

How would Clinton react if Gore entered the race? - Kind of like this.

Would Gore win the nomination? - Yes. He unites the left of the Democratic Party and splits the moderates with Clinton. He edges out Edwards (or earns Edwards' endorsement) to win Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina. Clinton takes New Hampshire. After taking three of the first four primaries and riding a wave of momentum, Gore wins big on SuperDuper Tuesday, sewing up the nomination by midnight, February 6th. He then goes on an immensely popular national tour reminiscent of The Beatles, drumming up support for the Democratic Party, exciting the base to points not seen since Clinton in '96. At the Democratic Convention that summer, his national polls spike at near 60%.

Would Gore win the general? - I don't know. He handily defeats Giuliani. Romney could put up a fight and has a punchers chance. McCain with momentum could give him some trouble, especially if we begin to see progress in Iraq.

IC, does a Gore candidacy, easily the largest remaining possible variable in the Race to the White House 2008, make you giddy? - Um, yes. Yes, it does.

Why? - A Clinton vs. Gore battle is the most exciting primary since, well, the beginning of time, (with the possible exception of Bartlet vs. Hoynes in 1998). How in the world does Hillary Clinton (and Bill, of course) find a way to badmouth Gore's record as Vice-President? They can't! He was part of the Clinton administration! So do they go to pre-1992 to find Gore's holes? They can't! Then why would Bill Clinton have chosen Gore in the first place? Do they attack his lack of experience compared to Clinton? They can't! He was in the Senate, just like Hillary, and he served a national constituency as Vice-President under President Clinton for eight years.

So what would Camp Clinton be forced to do to try and dent Gore's inevitably strong numbers? They'd have to attack what he's done since 2001. And what has he done? Only put himself in front of two of the most important issues to Democrats: The environment and the war. His platform will be that he was right when so many were wrong, that he led when so many followed. Hillary can't get to the left of Gore on this one, and to stay to the right of him means she won't get the nomination.

So in the end, what's keeping Hillary Clinton away from the White House is her husband's Vice-President. Or, in the opposite outcome, what's keeping Gore away from a return to the White House is his ex-boss's wife.

Please join us next week for another installment of As the Country Turns...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


The Straight Dope

For the past two Tuesdays, it has been most valuable to read a student perspective of certain disappointing classroom realities. Both writers spoke eloquently about the issue of student motivation and achievement; both expressed exasperation at the sad fact that the slackers and whiners from high school did not change; rather, they migrate to a college setting with the same old sob story of excuses that serve as reasons to fake think and fake learn.

I read both of these entries with great interest and commend the writers. Upon some reflection, I offer you the "straight dope" from a teacher's perspective.

First and foremost, many teachers share the same frustrations that you do regarding student apathy, entitlement, and laziness. The attitude of "give me that 'A' simply for breathing in your classroom for 80 minutes" is something with which we are most familiar and frustrated. This alone could probably drive the faint of heart away from the profession in search of a more rewarding job, one with a company car and stock options perhaps. But for those of us that remain in teaching, learning to roll with the punches and keep encouraging our full spectrum of learners is just part of a very complicated puzzle. Believe it or not, this type of student is, in many ways, not our real problem.

How can we best handle these students? How can we best meet their needs and lead them out of the Dagobah System and into a true environment of academic learning? Quite simply, teachers need to be supported and respected for the professional educators they are. This means:

1. Teachers should not be labeled by their colleagues as the "academic" ones (the implication here is that being academic is a bad thing). I really resent being laughed at when I actually read and respond to my students' writing. I guess some colleagues fake teach like some students fake read.
2. Teachers should always be supported by administrators in cases of clear and blatant cheating. If a student cries "personality conflict," he or she better produce documented evidence like the Spark Notes that I hold in my hand.
3. Instructional time should be considered just that. I don't want to be bothered by a committee head telling me that I will lose 15 minutes of class for pumpkin carving and I don't want a student missing a literature test because he or she wants to give blood. NEWSFLASH: Pumpkins and blood drives both exist out of the walls of a high school.

This is just the top three (not in any order) of a long list of straight dopisms. I guess what I am trying to say is, there is an entire system of mediocrity at work here. You cannot solely blame the students when forces larger than the Death Star (take for existence, a Secretary of Education with only a bachelor's degree - not in education, by the way) impact the secondary education system.

Monday, May 28, 2007

An Ongoing Outrage

This particular topic has been bothering me for some time now. Like many of my fellow American newspaper readers, I am a Letters to the Editor junkie. I love to read this section every morning watching the free exchange of opinions. It's great when things get heated and a particular topic gets people going for days on end.

A certain topic always makes me cringe; not because of the topic itself, but because of some of the self-righteous people who choose to write about it. For every different choice of lifestyle on our planet, there is a person out there to demonize and finger point, to clutch a Bible and stand ready to deliver a sermon on the mount.

When it comes to gay rights (most recently gay marriage), there is no shortage of Jesus scholars out there ready to condemn gay people in one breath and promote a culture of life and brotherhood in another. Every week or so someone writes into the papers I read; every week someone else takes a number in the line to judge others with such severity that I wonder how they sleep at night. The problem isn't unique to the U.S., but there does seem to be a twisted , maniacal moral tidal wave going on in this country when the topic of gay marriage is introduced.

It's an ongoing outrage for me. I just don't see how people can actually think being a good person means passing such harsh judgment on others, waving words of scripture in the air as if to sling arrows at a group of people that they blindly and belligerently refuse to accept.

This is fellowship? This is brotherhood? No. This is an outrage.


Sunday, May 27, 2007



Today, I found Thomas Friedman to be, well, flat. In his column, which pays part homage to the undergraduate, graduating class of 2007 and part congratulations to his own daughter who is a part of this class, Friedman paints a rosier than rose picture about the graduates, the world of which they are a part, and the future they have the potential to shape. And he seems to be addressing a small minority of graduates: the wealthy and able.

Mr. Friedman dubs the class, rather one-dimensionally as “The Quiet Americans.” He claims that they probably don’t “take to the streets” to protest because, he suspects, they are “protesting on-line.” He lauds, what he has observed, their efforts of community service, of reaching out, of helping those less fortunate. He touts the number of graduates who have enlisted in the Armed Services, despite the nightmare known as Iraq. He frames their geopolitical, generational conflict as one of terrorism and fear versus optimism and opportunity. In short, he believes that this generation has the “determination” to “extend” their experiences into “adulthood” to become lawyers, doctors, consultants and bankers who need to stay “involved” to fix big problems like social security, globalism, and who the hell knows what else.

Certainly, any commencement speaker or scribe must be positive. And it’s completely understandable why Daddy Friedman wants what any parent wants for his child: a safe and potentially secure future in which individuals can thrive. But what I find so troubling about Friedman’s column is that while his observations certainly apply to some graduates, they clearly don’t apply to all.

Most “quiet Americans” are worrisome about the future. Many of them are negotiating ways to pay, in some cases, exorbitant college loans while trying to secure full-time employment. Many of them are weighing the possibility of graduate work and more incredible debt versus quickly entering the workforce to place professional dreams on-hold. A majority of them are trying to secure a “decent” paying job that will provide affordable health care, some funds or credit perhaps to purchase and fuel a car, and some modicum of independence. And quite frankly, many of them don’t fully understand our involvement in Iraq, before our entry, when we invaded, and now during our stay because these students are simply trying to survive and also because the mainstream media has done a terrible job providing American citizens with fair and balanced reporting on the war. Funny, on Memorial Day Weekend, we still don’t see one American casket, one nation-wide celebration to honor the fallen in Iraq, or one member of the Bush administration to lead a service for our fallen and disabled heroes.

Like Friedman, I believe in our students and their possibilities to do great things for the future. Unlike Friedman, I think most Americans are quiet for reasons other than their “can and will do” potential.

Addendum: Bush attended a photo-op today at Arlington and gave some lame speech about sacrifice.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Doth the People Protest Too Much?

Right now the state legislator is pushing through legislation that requires protesters to stand 150 feet away at funerals. At the same time, anti-war protesters and anti-anti-war protesters gathered outside the Coast Guard Academy’s graduation. Is it really appropriate to stage protests at funerals and graduations?

This winter a number of my students went and protested the protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church who were at an East Lyme soldier’s funeral voicing their view that the war in Iraq is God’s punishment for America’s tolerance for homosexuality. I was impressed with the students; they asked the soldier’s parents for permission first and were lauded for their maturity and positive presence. I found the protesters behavior abhorrent. How could anyone find it acceptable to encroach on a family’s grief for such an irrational, mean spirited argument?

I found the protesters at Wednesday’s graduation more understandable. While I disagree with their positions, if you have the President speaking, you open yourself up to vocal opposition.

In both cases I wish people wouldn’t protest. A funeral should be a memorial to a loved one, not a political forum; a graduation should be a symbol of the graduates’ achievements, not a publicity stunt for those with a vendetta against the president. At the same time, I don’t think we should be passing legislation that further limits people’s freedom of speech. Nothing can be accomplished from silencing individuals.

In some ways I admire protesters. What America really needs is more open debate, more educated people who feel strongly enough about an issue to be willing to stand outside and wear those opinions. What I’d like though are educated people, people whose signs say more than “Bush for Jail” or “War, Don’t Do It.” Protests only give people the opportunity for catch phrases and anger. I want more letters to the editor, informal discussions, and politicians whose positions are more substantial than the two-dimensional stance of his or her party. Protesters, think about the real people involved in the events you gather around, not just the statement your presence will make. The rest of us, let’s have the courage of the protesters to forget social correctness and voice our political opinions.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How Madison and Co. Tried to Save Us From This

Weekly Presidential Politics - 5/23/07

(Editor's note: It's been brought to my attention that a way to separate my political columns from the rest of the smorgasbord of blogs was to infuse one of my other loves: history. So, here goes nothing.)

It was the most brilliant section of one of the most brilliant publications in the history of man. That would be an accurate description of James Madison's Federalist #10.

The tie in to presidential politics? Federalist #10 lectured its readers on the necessity for the President to be appealing to a wide range of people. Madison argues it's easy for a local Congressman to embody a caricature of what his constituents are looking for in a representative. You're in the Iowa 4th district? Ethanol rules! You're in the Connecticut 2nd? Go sub base! You're in the California 30th? Take care of our environment! Nevada 1st? Labor rules! Kansas 4th? Hail Mary! Florida 17th? Vamanos, amigos!

It's that simple when you're a candidate for Congress.

But when you're a candidate for President? It's a whole different ballgame. You have to try to appeal to the Iowa 4th AND the Florida 17th. You have to woo Texas voters by lauding the second amendment while simultaneously telling Massachusetts that we need stricter gun control. If you don't cross appeal, you might be okay, but you better make darn sure that none of your base is even thinking about going with the other guy, or you're toast.

Madison and other Constitutional Framers knew this, of course. It's why they did it! They understood that a Greek-like democracy, with no central, unifying figure, would be torn apart by competing factions. It'd be mob rule. The President and Vice-President, as the only nationally elected members of our government, should find a way to bring the country together. It is through this motivation that, for years, Presidents were elected on their ability to moderate themselves and appeal to as many different types of Americans as possible.

Then, however, there was President Bush, and not without fault, John Kerry. Perhaps beginning in the election of 2000, and certainly solidified in 2004, the country turned into two factions: Red States and Blue States. To win an election meant to solidify your political base and get two out of three swing states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida) to your side. The product of this strategy is 40% of the country all but ignored. Regardless of who ended up winning the election, there were going to be a lot of people displeased with the results. It's hasn't been this drastic since the election of 1860.

Now, as we enter our first election Post President Bush, who knows how this election will be won? Will we have a Clintonian or Reaganesque unifier? Or will we have someone who finds and exploits the political divide, further pulling apart a steadily entrenched and close-minded country in order to win an election? Will there be two candidates blindly pulling at the wishbone that is America (ironically the land where wishes supposedly come true)?

Ultimately, will 2000 and 2004 be a fluke, or is it the new norm?

All I know is, James Madison is rolling in his grave.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


note: This entry was submitted by FA, my "get it right," former student.

I have just completed my freshmen year at Penn State and have already witnessed a role reversal between students and the professors. Students running the classroom? Sounds like a pretty new phenomenon. But is it? No. High school was the same way, students complaining about work loads and their poor grades.

Things would certainly be different at a “university” such as Penn State, right? Not even close. My English course is the perfect example of these classroom realities left behind. The professor was up for promotion at the end of the year, and informed us that her grading would be a little tighter to meet the university quota, something she usually does not do. She told us this at the beginning to give us the opportunity to switch classes; no one did. After the first essay grades were returned, the problems started. The professor told the class that she has been receiving emails from students who were upset with their grades. Students even threatened to skip classes until the grading criteria were dumbed down. Why the hell should she care? But she did! She told us the next class that she was going to give up her promotion in order to please her students. Disgusting. The school has 44,000 students, none of which she will ever see again.

Why does she care? Why does she allow her classroom to be run by itty, bitty freshmen students? I don’t get it. I really couldn’t believe it. This professor should be worried about advancing herself in society, not her students who have not experienced anything yet.

This was not the only instance of “Students Gone Wild” (perhaps a new best selling film series) at Penn State, but certainly the most dramatic. I saw it in high school and thought I had escaped from it when I graduated. Instead, I graduated into a new form.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Outrage of the Week

Family Values?

With a 2008 election season seemingly in full swing, I just love it that our politicians like to compete on the so-called "family values" issue. They take these lofty stances on hot topics like stem cell research, abortion, and gay marriage. They get photo ops with children and invite the press to their choice of Sunday services. It's so nice that everyone likes to appear like they have and support family values.

I guess they all have these great values in theory, but when it comes to investing some real money in families that need it, leaders on both of the aisle seem to fall short.

This year, the state of Connecticut's Department of Mental Retardation can only fund post-grad programs for half of our state's 270 graduating seniors, leaving many families at a real loss at the end of June. Imagine the achievement of 135 of these graduates being tainted by the fact that their families now have to scramble to make a plan for their children after graduation. In some cases, parents fear that they will have to quit their jobs.

Family values? I guess it only sounds good when campaigning for office.

CT Residents: If you read this post, please take five minutes to email your state representatives to help get this funding restored.


Saturday, May 19, 2007



WTF? Have CT state legislators lost their minds? The CT state legislature wants to—I kid you not—"severely limit" out-of-school suspensions because, as the Hartford Courant reports “out-of-school suspensions can alienate troubled students and discourage them from pursuing their education.” You’ve got to be kidding me! Some legislators, who are as qualified to understand public education as ultra-unqualified Maggie Spellings, think that teachers and administrators are the problem.

Granted, the number of out-of-school suspensions for last year in CT at first glance is staggering: 77,000, the Courant reports. This number includes pre-K students to those lovely children whom I teach, the 9-12 garden variety. However, what these statistics don’t reveal, though, is what the suspensions were for, whether or not the suspensions were short—2 days—or 10 days long, whether or not prior to the suspension other intervention was involved, etc. In short, there’s more than just staggering numbers.

I believe that no educator I know and respect likes it when a student is suspended. Note: the “I know and respect” clause. It’s true: like in any profession and domain, including the Bush administration, we have the incompetent, the overpaid, the scary lunatic clique, and the WTF do you have this job for group. In fact, just this week another school leader and I actually got on a magic carpet fantasy ride to imagine selecting colleagues whom we would have if we could create our own school; talk about a trip! Regardless of all the bad apples—and there are many, I still can’t think of one teacher who aims to get kids suspended.

Disempowering public school administrators and teachers once again makes no sense. Nowadays, teachers in many instances have little recourse to address a student wrong-doing without going to such lengths as to employ a NY law team to prove a kid was wrong; those of us who’ve been on the word-for-word-it’s-so-obvious plagiarism path know this all too well. And burdening teachers with more “detention-center” duties, whether it’s in their own room or in an ISS (in school suspension) office isn’t helpful either.

Word has it that the legislature aims to structure the bill in a way that would make out-of-school suspension possible if and only if violence is involved—great! So basically a kid can tell a teacher to “f**k off,” get time-out for a spa day or two in school and come back for some more? Wonderful. Yes, I understand the other side’s argument: kids out-of-school aren’t getting education when they are at home. This may be true. But allowing them to stay in school, to stay on site in an environment that they have grossly disrupted—including a disruption to the education of others—doesn’t seem to be the answer either. Furthermore, this insane idea about equating out-of-school suspension with only violent action is NOT an exactly good message either, for if the action is truly violent then those trained to deal with violence—not teachers and administrators—need to be involved. Sorry—most of us don’t have the necessary training in either law enforcement or psychiatry.

So, I have another chapter of my magic carpet fantasy ride: I’m putting the CT state legislature on suspension ad infinitum. Legislators, do your homework: talk to the teachers, talk to the building administrators, and talk to the researchers. Sure, some sort of compromise can be made with respect to student behavior. How about providing funds for smaller class sizes to reduce behavioral problems or adding more social workers to guide students? Let’s not put yet another responsibility on teachers and administrators. TALK TO people who are in the profession, not the likes of unqualified Maggie Spelling types whose know-nothing assessment of things needs to be, well, left behind.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Pump it Up

$3.24 at the Mobile and $3.27 at the Shell. Gas prices keep going up and Attorney General Blumenthal is pounding his chest, threatening to sue oil companies for price gorging. I take out my bike, spend hundreds of dollars replacing the chain and gears, and then promptly get back in my car. My dad drives an extra 15 minutes to a gas station that is five cents cheaper than the one he passes on his way home. While I'd prefer to keep my money, I'm not convinced that the rise in gas prices is a bad thing.

We're lazy Americans. Most of us claim to care about the environment, but a quarter of the "green" folk who buy hybrids also own SUVs. Only eight percent of Americans carpool. The buses to the high school remain half empty, as parents shuttle their 14 year olds back and forth each day. We don't really care about the environment.

If this gas hike continues, maybe we'll be forced to reconsider how and what we drive. I think this is the only way American society will reshape our relationship with oil. We can't have it both ways. We can't point out the inequity with which we get involved in Middle Eastern conflicts compared to African conflicts when we demand the oil. We can't scream about green house emissions when we demand the oil.

Really, we have a pretty sweet deal here. In Europe the average price is over $6/gallon. True, their public transportation systems are frequently better, but we can work towards that too. It's simple supply and demand.

This summer I'll be biking to work. I'd like to say that this is my hippie streak, but I'm just a cheap American whose not willing to pay the price for gas.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

ABH: Hillary Clinton Unites the Right

Weekly Presidential Politics - 5/16/07

Have Democrats hit their head on something hard? Have they had a temporary loss of memory? Why does it feel as if the voters of the Democratic Party have been looking for reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton? This column is neither a critique of her policies nor an evaluation of her odds to win the Democratic nomination (If you want to get my thoughts on odds, check out The Line on the left hand sidebar). This column has one simple goal in mind: Have Democrats forgotten that she can't win the general election??

One can understand why this might happen. She did a terrific job at the debate. She made herself palatable to many Democrats with her candor on the war, as well as her ability to appear tough on terror. For the length of this campaign cycle, she's kept a clear lead over the Democratic field in all national polls. She has the largest campaign war chest in the history of the primaries. She's the most experienced of the Democrats' Big Three. If you're a Democrat, there are a lot of reasons to support Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primary.

However, there's an overwhelming reason not to. It seems Democrats are starting to forget the cause for their previous feeling of trepidation. More than any other candidate on the side of the Dems, Hillary Clinton will get Republicans to show at the polls in November. Surely it's clear to see how significant that is.

As of now, the Republican 2008 field is in trouble. President Bush's heir apparent, John McCain, is getting coupled with an unsuccessful war. Rudy Giuliani's social issues give many Republicans pause. Mitt Romney will never have a chance to be a trustworthy conservative (oxymoron?) until he gets elected to a position outside of Governor of Massachusetts. The rest of the field, like truer conservatives like Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee and the rest, are long shots to garner the GOP's nomination. Ultimately, come general election time, we might not see a full contingent of Republicans at the polls. They won't vote for the Democrat, but they might not vote for their guy either. Clearly, the unmotivated Republicans are running the risk of losing another branch of the United States government.

There is one thing, however, that could rally all Republicans to the polls on November 4, 2008...the idea of the Clintons back in the White House. Some Republicans might stay home if it's Edwards vs. Giuliani or McCain. They might stay home if it's Obama vs. McCain or Romney. They will NOT stay home if it's Hillary Clinton vs. ANYone. A Hillary Clinton nomination unites the right. The entire Republican electorate would mobilize to vote for their nominee, regardless of who it is - Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Andrew Johnson, Darth Sidious, Satan... ANYONE. Their motto, in fact, will be ABH: Anyone But Hillary.

And if the Democrats are smart, that should be their motto, too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Classroom Realities Left Behind

There's a lot of talk about apathy and disinterest in high school students polluting the classroom with negativity and inability. It's not that students can't, but more that they won't. Readings neglected, homework unfinished, papers poorly constructed. Discussion and otherwise stimulating conversation seems to be seriously lacking, and what can be done? What is to become of these students who are babied by their parents, waving notes signed by Mom or Dad to explain away their late research paper or history project? Well, apparently, they go to college.

In my experience, the college classroom differs only slightly from its high school counterpart. While there are always a few students who are engaged and involved, there is an astonishing disconnect between students and the material, the professor, the class. Before the instructor enters, mumblings crop up from all around the room of students who were just too busy to complete the assigned reading. The professor is simply unreasonable, they maintain, and unsympathetic to extracurricular commitments and social obligations. When said professor has made his or her entrance and class has begun, the discussion suffers immensely, as very few have completed the assignments. Sound familiar?

The biggest difference between the slackers in high school and those who go to college is that their excuses don't work. The only note to excuse a late term paper must be signed by a physician. A parent e-mailing a college professor to contest the work load? Please. And, surprise!, there goes the GPA's of many a coddled college freshman. It is not that the classes are too hard, it is that the students are too lazy - a character trait reinforced by the public school systems that poorly prepare many young people for the rigor of college level work. Students need to start being held accountable for the fulfillment of their responsibilities and actions earlier in their educational careers because really, now I'm paying a lot of money to sit in a silent classroom with these people.

Is it the fault of the parents? Administration? The students themselves? I don't know, but something needs to change.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Outrage of the Week

Newt the Brute

Okay... I don't have all the details on this one. I was enjoying another wonderful hour of The Diane Rehm show this morning with guest Newt Gingrich. All I know is, the hour was going along in the congenial and professional manner that we admire in Diane. I missed about 15 minutes and when I returned, it turns out Newt left the show before the hour was over.

Of course, I don't have all the facts yet. Of course, the show takes an hour to archive so I cannot listen to it yet. But what kind of brute leaves The Diane Rehm show in the middle of the hour? She was, of course, "annoyed" at the former Speaker of the House. Anyone that listens to the show could testify to the professionalism of its host. Even my NPR hating friends on the right have to admit that Diane is the consummate lady, always respectful of her guests and objective when it comes to both sides of the aisle.

Why would former Speaker Gingrich leave? If he couldn't handle The Diane Rehm show, what on earth can he do? Sad, just plain sad. For answers, you'll just have to listen to what went down with Newt the Brute.

Saturday, May 12, 2007



I couldn’t get that ditty out of my mind. She was a bit country. He was a bit rock-n-roll. She was a bit of Memphis and Nashville. He had a little bit of Motown in his soul.

Maybe it was the sugar overdose. Perhaps it was the toddler parent caffeine addiction so many of us feed. It could very well have been the last lap for teachers; as we crawl on our hands and knees to June, anything and everything seems like a hallucination. Nope—there was another reason for my 8-track flashback.

Like a bad
K-TEL vinyl compilation of ‘70s music, it was a Donny & Marie kind of week here in good ol’ America. Hell, even King George wanted to take all of us back, including the Queen of England, to 1976, that cheery sun shine, big smile, big love era. Of course, as expected, Chimpy’s ‘70s vinyl had one too many skips, and he had to go to 1776 before he got to 1976. Can our royal f**k-up get anything right?

With HBO’s
Big Love due for its second season and porn-star named Mitt Romney showing his photogenic face and sexy smile all over the place, Mormonism proved to be as hot now as it was when the Osmonds dominated the cultural landscape back in the day. Of course, thanks to Rev. Al Sharpton, who’s always good for inserting feet into mouth while making stock prices for soar, things have got even hotter than my D & M show theme fantasy. Hey, you can’t tell me that Larry King resurrecting Marie Osmond from the Kathy Griffith D-list for insightful commentary on his show this week was a coincidence.

But don’t let The Donnie & Marie Flashback worry you: it might be a sign of good things to come. Romney’s
turning on the Bush administration. Several Republican congressmen are turning on the Bush administration. The ground game in Iraq is FOREVER turning on the Bush administration, with yet another stunning report that billions in oil money have oozed into the ether. And Fredo—who sadly can’t distinguish one lie from another lately—enables countless others rightfully to turn on the Bush administration.

Mesmerized by that ditty, though, I foolishly got stuck in my daydream believing. As sky rockets were in flight amidst an afternoon delight, I experienced the ultimate artificial high: The Internets (s intended) reported that for 12 seconds, CNN international had an incorrect breaking news announcement that Bush
resigned, which literally broke my high. Where is my gold dust woman when I need her?

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Blind Justice
This week my dad was kind enough to step in and write an entry; this was after helping me assemble a kayak rack and scooping me a bowl of ice cream. Dads are the best.

Last week the House expanded a Hate Crime Bill to include sexual identity, and many individuals are angry that Bush is planning of vetoing this bill. After all, who could be against “hate”? Even conservatives are against hate, but the real question is what business does the federal government have passing this bill when the vast majority of the states have their own hate crimes bill and all have plenty of laws covering the underlying criminal activity.

I don’t like the whole premise of “hate crime” legislation in the first place. We have laws outlawing assault, liable, murder, etc. in every one of our states. These have traditionally been under state and local jurisdiction. When an individual is a victim of a crime, the perpetrator is subject to the laws of the state where the crime occurred. These crimes should be prosecuted based on the criminal act—not on the identity of the perpetrator, nor on the identity of the victim. Prosecution also shouldn't be based on the motivation for the crime. If an individual is assaulted and injured, the motivation of the perpetrator should only be a secondary factor to perhaps be weighted by the judge or jury in assigning punishment. The criminal act and the evidence supporting its elements of proof should be the basis of prosecution.

The assault of a wealthy white man, a poor black woman, or a gay student should be treated equally, and the criminal who caused the assault should be punished for the assault. I think we stray a long way from the ideals of “blind” judgment when we make special classes of victims…just as we would if we considered the social status, race, or gender of the accused criminal.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007



Many people simply don't get "it" about teaching. Many people who teach, in fact, don't get "it' about teaching either.

What is IT that I am talking about? The non-glamorous, unappreciated, Betty Friedanesque experience that has... no... name: an "IT" factor, for lack of a better term. The feeling that a teacher who teaches knows all too well. The feeling of being overwhelmed, the feeling of never being fully appreciated, the feeling of being underpaid, the feeling that there are simply not enough hours in the day to do your job right, the feeling that you are: a data-entry clerk, a surrogate parent, a jury, a judge, a mind-reader, a cheerleader for everybody and their grandmother, an entertainer, a web master, a psychologist, a mediator, a friend, a "differentiated" instructor, a miracle worker, oh, didn't I mention also...a teacher? Call it a psychotic collage, a hyperbole, a catharsis of a frustrated blogger struggling to be 1% more conscious--call "it" what you will. I call "it" a teacher who teaches--in many instances a shadow in the American work force who has been left behind.

Teachers who teach know this, we live this, we think this, we endure this, and sometimes we don't know what to do with all of this-this "it" factor. In the spirit of Betty Friedan, this teacher who teaches can't help but wonder about the mystique surrounding all the teachers who teach: Is all this...worth IT?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Outrage of the Week

Is there anybody OUT THERE?

The study of history can teach us many things. We can gain perspective, knowledge, and in some cases, even wisdom. After Hurricane Katrina, lots of talk occurred about emergency response in the face of natural disasters. Lots of talk, apparently, and little action. This is obvious for anyone that has visited the Gulf Coast region even well over a year after Katrina and Rita ravaged the area.

Is there anybody out there? Have we learned from mistakes that have left a gaping wound in that part of our country? Nope. As evident in the tornado that hit in Greensburg, Kansas, emergency response is still lacking. The problem this time? The recovery equipment is "deployed elsewhere" in Afghanistan and Iraq.

How many more weather related disasters must occur before we can gain perspective, knowledge, and even wisdom? There is no clear and justifiable reason why we don't have the resources to help these areas adequately.

Rage-o-meter: 9

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Parallel Universe

My wife and I are big fans of Lost. Two of our colleagues, the bloggers—ballsy femme fatale and conservative & proud kindel, got us hooked last fall. And we are addicted. So are countless others—pun intended.

My “magnum” brother-in-law, a quasi-conservative whom I had to practically bang over the head with a drumstick last Thanksgiving—he was trying to defend narcissistic Oedipus Lieberman, shortly before Oedipus morphed into Captain Lieberman—tells us that there’s a “parallel universe” theory circulating the blogsophere, which would partly explain the events and phenomena of Lost; I’ve got nothin’ but “penny” love for you, JT. My “Lost” experts, though, insist that that’s not the case.

The jury might still be out on the parallel universe theory on Lost; however, the jury is in on the parallel universe in America: there are TWO AMERICAS. While some of us yearn to remain grounded in reality, OTHERS are being sucked via a wormhole into a fake-news universe, including most of the GOP Presidential contenders and the Republican Party.

Thursday night’s debate was a freak show and an utter disgrace to the dignity and statesmanship of what President Ronald Reagan represented—appreciate him or not. It’s too bad that these contenders desperately invoked his name countless times, a subliminal admission, a haunting refrain conveying that the Republican Party has LOST its way and much of America. Aside from the good Congressman Ron Paul, who was the only rational one of the bunch and the only Republican on-stage sincerely attempting to evoke the spirits of Reagan and conservative patriarch Senator Barry Goldwater, these contenders insulted—directly or indirectly—most Americans, including fellow Republicans.

From Nosferatu Giuliani’s flip-flopping on everything from abortion to national security, to porn-star named Mitt Romney’s Aldous Huxley segue into science-fiction and cloning, masking his own flip-flopping on issues and his latent contempt for Hillary Clinton’s hair colorist, from McCain’s pathetic, Viagra-induced charge that he would follow Osama-Bin-Gone to the “gates of hell,” to the non-log cabin homophobia and vehement contempt towards science (didn’t they look to see Nancy Reagan and Governor Terminator in the front row?), these candidates—with the exception of Paul—have boldly shown that the GOP has LOST its way.

This is not the party of my maternal grandmother—bless her soul. This is not the party of many conservatives and Republicans whom I know and respect, who believe in fiscal responsibility, limited government, PRIVACY, morals and values, and dignity. This is not the party of Reagan and Goldwater, conservative torchbearers with some sort of conscience and vision.

In this parallel universe of no real news, no conscience, no dignity—that many of them blatantly insulted a living, out-of-office president—President Clinton—was pathetic, no acknowledgment of reality here, there, or any where—in Iraq, in the middle class, or in the 21st Century for that matter, no clear understanding of what it means to be a conservative, Republican, Democrat—yes, we have our pull-down menu of identity problems, liberal, moderate, it’s obvious that as a nation we are certainly LOST. The question is, though: how do we jettison ourselves out of this parallel universe without getting stuck in a…wormhole?

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Cookie Cutter Candidates

I’m a firm believer in the power of debate. I hope that our country never loses the diverseness of population that requires a multiparty party system, with smaller groups nipping at the leaders’ heels. This presidential race may only be in its warm-up laps, but I’m afraid that it is creating the wrong divisions.

I don’t believe that Giuliani really believes that individuals need or have the unquestionable right to “bear arms.” I also question whether he really believes in stricter abortion laws? McCain once warned the country against “extreme Christian leaders,” and has spent months trying to cater to those he once disparaged. Hillary Clinton is for the war, yet she has joined the democrat efforts to establish a firm date for withdrawal.

The debate has come down to us versus them. Especially on the right. Primary season should be the time when candidates clarify their positions in contrast to their opponents, yet the three blind mice appear to be using these months to prove that they are the most “Republican” in the field. All three support the war; gun rights; the sanctity of marriage (while allowing gay couples the some rights); the limitation of abortion; Christian morals as a foundation for the country; and the need to lower government spending. These beliefs parallel my own, but their campaigns haven’t provided for debate and they haven’t shown us the foundational beliefs of the individuals vying for our vote. Instead this primary season seems to be widening the chasm between the two parties. The candidates don’t appear three dimensional, with policies that show their real beliefs and not just the party line. It won’t be until after the primary season when they start catering to the non-registered Republicans that the real positions are clarified.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hillary Clinton: The Democratic Doomsday Machine

Weekly Presidential Politics - 5/2/07

Don't let the courteous Democratic debate fool you. With a Democratic Congress soon to be fragmented over the country's most hotly debated issue, the candidates for the Democratic nomination will soon follow. In time, the candidates will stop teaming up against President Bush and start attacking each other in an effort to secure the party's nomination. At the center of this will be Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton's greatest advantage will end up being her downfall. No, I don't mean her gender. No, I don't mean her husband. No, I don't mean her possible-but-unlikely tapped supply of donors. I mean that Camp Clinton, thanks to the fullest campaign war chest in the country, has the potential to be a political menace of Darth Maulian proportions. You hit the Clintons and they will hit you back faster than you can say Cascius Clay. In the past, Barack Obama and John Edwards have both been the recipient of innocuous salvoes. But how long will the Clinton campaign play nice?

Other campaigns, though they will understandably never admit fallibility until after they drop out (See Tom Vilsack), fear this perpetual potential of a counter-strike as if it were a blow from the Almighty Himself. Senator Clinton, it seems, is in possession of the Democratic Party's version of the fabled Doomsday Machine, made most famous in Dr. Strangelove and a Star Trek episode. The idea behind the Doomsday Machine is that it is a weapon so powerful that, if deployed, it threatens mutual annihilation. The purpose is to overly-intimidate your enemies so they will never open fire against you. If you followed this questionable metaphor, you’d see that she has the potential to sink the Democrats chances in November. So do the rest of the candidates risk attacking her?

If they want to win, I think they have to. She'll be the frontrunner until someone takes her down OR until she takes herself down, and the latter cannot be counted on. We will see a handful of candidates make hay of her war stance, specifically her reputation, earned or not, of straddling the fence and blowing with the political wind. However, any shots taken at Mrs. Clinton will be reciprocated, and trust me, it won't be a proportional response.

The outcome? Hillary Clinton is going to make enemies this election cycle. There is a very strong chance this will come back to haunt her in the first couple months of primary season. To disgruntle her Democrat rivals might mean that, come Super Tuesday and beyond, some voters will consider her their top choice... with the rest not even having her in their top three. She won't get endorsements from other ex-candidates unless her nomination is sewn up. Therefore, any of the other candidates that can position themselves as everyone's second choice will have a decent chance of winning more delegates to the convention (read: winning the primary and becoming the nominee).

Last week, I guaranteed John McCain would win the Republican nomination. This week, I'm here to tell you, the Democratic nomination is up for grabs.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Classroom Realities Left Behind will be posted on Tuesdays. I've lined up a number of colleagues, former students, and bloggers to submit contributions. Enjoy!
I can’t do this work; I’m far too busy.”

“I can’t read this book. I just don’t have the time. Or the interest.”

“I can’t complete the homework assignment because it’s difficult. It was a lot. A lot of work. And my parents agree.”

“I can’t make the detention because I have a job, practice, and I HAVE TO RE-CHARGE my I-Pod.”

“I can’t own my behavior because YOU CAN’T make me.”

“I can’t pick up the bottle and wrapper on the floor because I can’t pick up my mess.”

“I can’t bring a pencil and materials to class…because I just…CAN’T”

“I can’t complete all the work on the syllabus because isn’t the college experience about independence; can’t I say ‘I can’t’ and mean it?”

Dear reader, welcome to the “I can’t” generation. This is their battle cry: “I can’t.” And while this mantra certainly doesn’t define this entire generation of high school and college-level students (I know plenty who don’t and won’t ascribe to it), it CAN define a vast majority of it.

As I reflect upon my ten years of teaching high school and undergraduate courses, I now wonder how and when “I can’t” took over. Is it part of the Bush zeitgeist of “you must be with us because you CAN’T be against us?” Is it due to a pervading sense of absolutism—yes or no, and nothing in-between? Is it because this generation’s parents dislike “harmful,” non-Oprah (I do love her) words like no, never, and not? Is it because the education system, of which I’m a part, has become hostage to the unilateral ideology that no matter what, we CAN’T hurt their already, alleged low self-esteems? Is it because should you challenge the “I can’t” battle cry in front of your colleagues you may be faced with: “How can you say that sptmck (that’s me)? I thought you were a liberal?”

Fumbling towards a more conscious state of mind as an educator, colleague, and parent who’s very concerned about the future education of all, including my two little ones, I CAN’T help wonder: CAN we leave the “I can’t” doctrine behind?