Friday, June 29, 2007

A Different World: Harry Potter

In less than a month, the final installment of the Harry Potter series will be released, and fans everywhere will finally find out the answers to the many questions raised by the first six books. Is it Harry's destiny to die? Did Snape kill Dumbledore out of obligation or because he's evil? What the hell is going on with that veil? Will Hagrid and Madame Maxime have giant babies? You know, the important stuff.

Now, HP's no Mrs. Dalloway, and JK's no Virginia Woolf. This series is not a shining example of literary fiction that will be taught in British Literature courses for centuries to come. But I do think it's unfair to dismiss it and belittle it as just some kid's book that poorly adjusted adults who enjoy wearing costumes have latched onto. It has revitalized reading in a generation where voluntary illiteracy was posing a significant threat.

For example, in my senior year of high school, I was involved in a discussion in which at least two of my peers proudly admitted to have never finished a single book in their sad little lives. Seventeen years, eighteen years and you've never had the desire to read a whole book? How has your brain not shriveled up by now? Where were your parents on that issue? "Oh, nothing has ever interested me, I've just never enjoyed reading," they said. ...Really? Nothing? EVER?

Harry Potter is out there -- everywhere. People are talking about it, it's in newspapers, on television, in the movie theaters. The pre-sale reservations of the book alone have shattered sales records. You can't escape it. And thus, in its ever-presence, it is promoting reading in children, and more notably, in otherwise non-reading parents who enjoy the book and are therefore willing to read it to their kids. To own and to have read Harry Potter is where it's at in elementary schools and middle schools, the place where a lot of children develop reading habits that dictate their relationship to literature for the rest of their lives. Maybe if my non-reading classmates had been presented with a book that was as much of a cultural presence as HP is now, they might have started reading at a younger age and been more prone to seek out other reading material. Or, at the very least, they would have finished a few books by the time they were eighteen.

It would be foolish to think that because of Harry Potter, Sparknotes is going to go out of business. There will always be a large number of people who just choose not to read. But in the next generation of students who will inevitably become adults, it is likely that that number will be smaller, and JK Rowling's book series has had a hand in that. Which makes Harry Potter entirely relevant, and therefore makes it perfectly acceptable for me, as a twenty year old (kind of) adult to desperately want to attend the "Harry Potter Place" Street Celebration. I'm just doing it for the kids.

So I say way to go, JK. Congratulations. And with all that said, I will now return to my self-imposed isolation from all internet conversations regarding the final book to avoid any God forsaken spoilers, which is a topic that would provide me two months worth of Outrage of the Week entries.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007



America has a fascination with freaks. Why, hell, we have a freak for a president, a DARTH freak for a vice president, and a bunch of freaks, including under-qualified freak Maggie Spellings, in the president’s cabinet. Our political system is overwhelmed with freaks and this is telling. One could say: a government for the freaks by the freaks. But not really. For we folks in CT have a super-freak for a Senator, the ever freaky Captain Lieberman, formerly Oedipus Lieberman, formerly Joe Lieberman, Democrat from CT—a freak who now wants to go to war with Iran. A freak whom I and many others didn’t vote for. Sure, there are countless other freaks. But the least said about the freaks roaming our streets, occupying high-paying positions, and dominating the entertainment industry the better. Suffice it to say, we are a freak nation.

Maybe it’s the recent summer solstice. Perhaps it’s that all the cherubs are out of school. It might be the weather. Whatever the reason, America has a freak fetish and it certainly seems to escalate with the temperature. The hotter it gets, the more humid it gets, the more uncomfortable it gets, the more the freaks come out and get freaky.

This brings me to Mann Coulter, a Rocky Horror Freak of all freaks. Yes, she’s well educated. Yes, she could reasonably (if she tried) advocate for conservative politics. Yes, she could legitimately bring something to the table aside from verbal arsenic and poisoned lace. But she’s a FREAK. A freak who appears on most shows in a...cocktail dress. A freak that can’t even be tolerated by her own side; the National Review did fire her after all. A freak who is given a mainstream venue from which to spew her venom. A freak that remains freaky by making fun of everyone, especially anyone who is a Democrat. A freak, whom Chris Matthews, a closet freak himself, invited on his show yesterday so that he could get his summer freak on. A freak who sells a lot books, who touches upon—like it or not—the American freak vibe, those deep-seated feelings that many Americans feel inside, and a freak who unequivocally perpetuates the American freak fetish. Which brings me to my freaky question: if we all know we have a freak problem, a freak addiction, and we can bring ourselves to admit to it, how do we ever set ourselves on a path of freak recovery?

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Different World: Graduate School

Everyone is going to college. That sophomore who sits in the back of the room and farts with his idiot friends? College bound. What does a bachelor's degree mean? Or, I guess the question I'm more interested in is what will MY bachelor's degree mean? I won't come away from the $80,000+ worth of debt and immediately be able to report for duty at a marketing firm or office. I will have an English degree. And you know those people who say they have an English degree and just stumbled into these really great careers in which their bachelor's in literature is kind of being put to use, but really they just get paid a lot of money for being intelligent? That will not be me. I do not have that kind of luck. Which means I can go to graduate school, work at the local mall or live with my mom forever. Great.

Eventually, someone is going to expect me to start paying back my loans. I say good luck to them, because I will be poor. Forever. I haven't even taken into account the interest rates. I'm still a few years away from my quarter-life crisis. The interest can wait.

What tests should I be studying for? I was under the impression that the SATs were the last time I would ever have to study analogies. Geometry? Are you kidding? I'm not sure I still know what all the shapes are called. Yet the GREs are in my immediate future. To be a teacher, there's the PRAXIS. At this point, being wonderfully rich but hating my life is looking promising, so I could always try out the LSATs. So many letters! So many tests! So much money to be spent!

With college becoming something that it seems like everyone attends, it seems like grad school is the new undergrad. Do you really need a masters degree to have the edge in the world of real-life jobs? I think, in many cases, the answer is yes. So why is it so goddamn expensive?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Bloomberg Factor

Weekly Presidential Politics - 6/20/07

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has left the Republican Party. Months of rampant Bloomberg presidential speculation nearly culminate with that announcement, convincing most pundits that this is a clear indication that Bloomberg will run for president as an Independent. He insists he doesn't know if he's running or not, but for the moment we'll assume that he is. What impact would this have on the presidential race?

The answer: He can't win, but depending on the nominees, he could swing the race in either direction.

Two examples:

Giuliani vs. Clinton vs. Bloomberg - How angry would this make conservatives? They get their most hated politician (Clinton), the only Republican pro-choice candidate (Giuliani), and someone who just made the conscious decision to leave the Republican Party (Bloomberg). Moreover, running for President of the United States would be three candidates from New York. Result: Conservatives stay home. Giuliani takes most of remaining moderate Republicans while Bloomberg definitely puts a dent into that demo. Clinton wins. Note, in a Giuliani vs. Clinton match up, it's a toss up.

Romney vs. Obama vs. Bloomberg - A Romney nomination means that conservatives got their man. Depending on where Bloomberg comes down on the war and national social issues, this scenario has him taking votes away from Obama, especially the state of New York and its 31 electoral votes. Plus, since Clinton and Obama are in the midst of an arms race before a potentially explosive primary, there's a strong chance that, through the primary process, 30-40% of Democrats will be convinced to hate the party's eventual nominee. Result: Dems don't unite behind a candidate, Romney wins.

See? It could go either way.

Let's take a brief look at the Bloomberg candidacy itself. It's been leaked by a staffer that Bloomberg and his aides were having a discussion about how much money it would take for a 3rd party candidate to run for President. The response: 500 million dollars. He didn't bat an eyelash. Now the word is out that he's willing to spend $1 billion of his personal fortune to not only run for President, but win it.

Well, let's be serious, Mayor. You're not winning this thing. A third party has no shot unless both major nominees are somehow out of step with the rest of the country. If two pro-war candidates were nominated, than of course a third party candidate would be viable. But short of that? Not a chance. The best a third party candidate can hope for, a la Perot and Wallace, is to siphon votes away from one or two of the big nominees.

Also, Bloomberg needs to hope that neither Giuliani nor Clinton get elected, as both of those candidates take the Mayor's home state. The problem is, of course, that Giuliani and Clinton are leading the polls in their respective primaries. The likelihood is quite strong that at least one of those two candidates will be in the general election, effectively eliminating Bloomberg's candidacy.

Ultimately, the best Bloomberg can hope for is a McCain-Obama nomination (for the record, I predict this man receives zero electoral votes). He can then throw a boatload of money into big markets (read: West Coast and Northeast), hoping to take California, New York, and New Jersey, with some smaller states following suit. This gets him to about 100 electoral votes and kills Obama. However, McCain might very well fail to make it to the 270 necessary electoral votes, too. So what does this do? It throws the election to the House of Representatives, with each member getting a vote. And do they vote for a guy who's not in their party? Of course not.

Michael Bloomber cannot win the presidency, and if that's truly his intention, this blogger suggests he find another way to spend his money.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Outrage of the Week

I don't want to go there, but...

First day of perfect weather in a while... stuck inside for 95% of it with the great N. and C. because we were having some work done in the house. Brain cells were leaking out of my head with each rising degree. I'll have a worthy outrage post this week. It won't be tonight.

RAGE-O-METER- 1% more brain dead

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Married to the Mob

Week in Rear View: Married to the Mob

Bada bing: Who would’ve thought that the ending to a popular mob series would capture the zeitgeist of the American political scene? Yes, many of our politicians—on both sides of the aisle—are no better than the shady characters in The Sopranos. In today's column, “Scooter’s Sopranos Go to the Mattresses," Frank Rich does a “buuuutifull job makin’” the connection stick. Fo’get ‘bout it!

But mob mentality is not new to America. Hell no! In fact, we, the American people, are unequivocally married to the mob, and this becomes abundantly apparent in our literature and in our every day lives. Just take a look. Need I remind you all of the old hags in The Scarlet Letter who wanted to brand Hester, the “shit don’t stink” East Eggers in The Great Gatsby who resented the G.’s new “monay,” or those heinous hypocrites in Jackson’s “The Lottery” who would stone their own mother just to blindly obey tradition? Mob rule is as American as apple-pie at Thanksgiving time, or as American as the NASCAR dads and those micromanagerial soccer moms—mob groups for a new, American century.

And Team Bush is no different. As Rich points out, that the Bush loyalists are pleading, f**king begging for Poopy Scooter’s pardon is the height of hypocrisy; do yourself a favor and get over to The Smoking Gun. Not only does this forgive-Paris-Hilton groveling reveal the administration’s blatant lies that led to Iraq, this also reveals how many self-righteous conservatives/neo-conservatives, and yes folks, establishment Democrats have no shame—not an iota. The “save Scooter” campaign truly sheds light on the “Kill Bill” hysteria, doesn’t it? Remember the Monica news hour update? The Monica minute? The Monica, genetic-material themed nano-second? The countless millions of taxpayers’ money that Kenny Star wasted? Sure, Billy bent the truth—and maybe a cigar or two—by questioning what the definition of is is, but this was to justify his own Bada’ Monica affair, not a Bada’ war, not a Bada’ 3,500 + troops dead.

As much as I admire Rich, though, there’s one crucial element of the American mob he neglected to emphasize: the mainstream media. Without them, Americans…won’t stop believing the fake news that fuels many lives of quiet desperation.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Different World: Racism

In fourth grade, when learning about slavery for the first time, my teacher assured the class that racism was a thing of the past in America. This lesson plan was a pretty big departure from learning about the heroic Christopher Columbus finding the (completely deserted, of course) New World and the wonderful Thanksgiving feasts that ensued. Being nine, I'm not sure if we all really grasped what slavery was and what it meant for our country, but we were all happy to hear that there were absolutely no consequences for the enslavement and subsequent harassment, segregation and bigotry that followed. Whew!

My college (like my elementary, middle and high school) is a predominantly white institution. In many of my classes, it is a sea of Caucasian. Most students come from similar backgrounds -- upper middle class households and towns with little to no diversity. Another thing many of these students have in common is the fact that they are, from my point of view, at least slightly racist. Not all, to be sure, but a significant number.

And why not? As an educated white person in an all white classroom, it is easy to safeguard against being called a racist. You simply tack onto the beginning of your sentence "I'm not racist, but..." and you are at liberty to say whatever you'd like! "I'm not racist, but if they don't like America, maybe they should go back to Africa." "I'm not racist, but they already have affirmative action, what more do they want?" "I'm not racist, but I want to be able to say the N word if they can." "I'm not racist, but if my immigrant ancestors could make their own way, they should be able to, too." Direct quotes from some of my entirely "non-racist" peers. I wonder, would they have been so free to voice these opinions if there had been a black person in the room?

Racism is no longer burning crosses and white pointy sheets, separate water fountains and lynchings. It's deeply embedded in our society, and we are taught at a young age to not recognize it for what it is. My generation, at least, was raised to believe that America treats everyone the same, and thus many children grow up with the understanding that any disadvantage is a personal construction. Yes, everyone can vote now, but unfair legislation has never been the root of the problem. We confront blatant racism (thanks, Imus!) in a media frenzy, as if it were an exception to the rule, but even then, it's probably Snoop Dogg's fault. Or it's just old people. Or people from the South. Or anyone other than yourself, your neighbors, your colleagues.

I'm not saying everyone is racist. But I think the environment I grew up in is a breeding ground for this weird, closeted kind that is prevalent in a lot of people I know. It may not be new, but it's flourishing in a society where talking about racism is unacceptable. You can't confront a problem if it isn't there, right? Keep burying, America.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Some of the joys of teaching are the phone calls and e-mails fielded during June. "Jack informs me that he isn't doing well in your class, what can he do to get his grade up?" "We just found out that Henry might not graduate. Can you let us his grades for each assignment this quarter, what work he can make up, which days you will stay after with him, so he can..." There are also the lines of students at the door, "What's my grade?" "Can't you give me a couple points, so I'm exempt from my final?" Quick, put in a zero for my final. I want to know if I can still graduate if I don't come to school Monday."

It can be discouraging, but you sit down with those students who have this new found desire to learn, you encourage the parents, and you roll your eyes at the deal makers, and you do all this while writing comprehensive finals for five classes, tallying grades, distributing summer reading, and finally grading 100+ exams.

June is a tiring month for teachers, so I was encouraged after reading this
editorial in the National Review, (originally found in the New York Sun). If you're a teacher, you'll appreciate someone taking our side; if you're not a teacher, I hope you consider this writer's argument.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ancestral polygamy: Irrelevant or Unimportant

Weekly Presidential Politics - 6/13/07

(Blogger's note: A busy week with work and the personal life has not allowed me to write a blog this week. Therefore, I'll go the vault for this one. I wrote this entry on my site a couple months ago. I find it still holds today, when last week I made the statement that Romney's Mormonism is a roadblock on his path to the presidency.)

"Do well and you will have no need for ancestors." - Voltaire

The latest from the Presidential rumor mill is that Mitt Romney's great-grandfather was a polygamist. My immediate thought: Who cares?!

Still, the fact that the article exists is troubling. I am troubled by the tactic used in the article by the two Associated Press writers. Take a look at their introductory paragraph:

"While Mitt Romney condemns polygamy and its prior practice by his Mormon church, the Republican presidential candidate's great-grandfather had five wives and at least one of his great-great grandfathers had 12."

That's borderline accusatorial. It's implied that Romney couldn't possibly be against polygamy if his ancestors practiced it. Otherwise, why would this article even be written? It'd be a non-story. It should be a non-story.

Unfortunately, though it should be a non-story, it's not. Some people actually do care. There are voters who think it's relevant that Romney's great-great-grandfather had twelve wives. There are voters who care if a candidate's father is Muslim. There are voters who care that a man Screamed to a ballroom full of supporters. There are voters who care about the color of a candidate's skin.

It's just that, some of those same voters don't care about other things. There are voters who don't care what their President does, as they will follow him blindly and because they're supposed to. There are voters who don't care if they're lied to. There are voters who don't care about dilapidated schools and a broken health care system. There are voters who don't care that a war - A WAR - had a constantly changing pretext.

Now someone wants to tell me that Mitt Romney's great-grandfather had more than one wife? I don't care!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007



This is the end. The end of school, my friend. This is the end. Our only friend, the end.

Let’s face it: in America, the school year ends right around Memorial Day weekend. After that time, the kids simply don’t want to do any work and the school environment enables them. With all the field trips, field days—the least said about this pathetic event the better, and other out-of-class events—games, college visits, awards ceremonies—scheduled during the fourth quarter, it also seems as though the teachers and school administrators don’t want to do any work either. Let’s not even talk about how hot the school buildings are. In my building, the walls practically drip with sweat. Of course, if you have the luxury of teaching in a fancy, smancy state of the art, air-conditioned facility, you no longer experience the hell-fire of the end. Above all else, we teachers who teach are forced to go into cruise control by the “end” at the end, and thus many of us aren’t thrilled about our work either. Have you ever actually envisioned shoveling shit against the tide? Get the picture of...the end?

One would hope that the powers that be would just wake up and smell…the end, and thus do something about it. Why must we have a full week off in February? Why can’t we have a long weekend? And what about April break? If we could get out earlier, couldn’t we get rid of or shorten some of these week-long breaks? And furthermore, what are the kids really learning? I can give them the most entertaining learning lesson possible--film included, and all they can think about is, alas, the end.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Outrage of the Week

It's Getting Better All the Time

This Paris Hilton business is pretty sickening already. I am sure that Scooter Libby and Alberto Gonzales are thanking Paris's new found God tonight, as she continues to be the media wench that she always has been.

Certain things do, however, make something that is already pretty disgusting even worse. Apparently, Ms. Hilton has taken it upon herself to redirect America's attention away from her "simple" life by asking us all to focus instead on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ridiculous, "simply" ridiculous.

Not even worthy of the Rage-o-meter.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Week in Rear View: Cell Block America

Week in Rear View: Cell Block America

Jail has been, well, “hot” this week. And if you can’t recognize how hot it's been, then you may, in fact, be leading a simple life.

Where does one begin? Fake or real? Real or fake? No, silly, I’m not talking about Pam Anderson or those chee-chee mamas in The Girls Next Door. I’m talking about the current state of our mainstream media, which loves to keep the “real” on the DL to transport us to a different world overpopulated by Paris, Lindsay, and others in a Nation Gone Wild.

The fake news is that Paris Hilton went to jail, only to be released temporarily for some reported, get this, “medical reasons”—my ass, and then put back into jail for the remainder of her sentence. The real news is that I. Scooter Libby, part of the Neocon death squad, a cheerleader for the war/mess in Iraq, received a 2 ½ year jail sentence this week for basically outing a top cover CIA agent—her name would be Valerie Plame—and for obstructing justice—Scooter’s game would be covering for Dick, our Vice President.

Paris knocked the shit of Scooter in our steroid-induced news cycle; quite frankly, Paris does look better than a WASPy, old prune. Regardless of Paris’s good looks or her intriguing SHEnanigans, there are now over 3,500 dead in Iraq and even more political casualties at home; General Peter Pace is the latest to join the body pile-up of the Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, prison-obsessed foreign policy of Bush/Cheney. Which brings me to my larger point: in our Dick Wolf, Law & Order, CSI, COPS, Prison Break culture, why is it that most Americans are trapped in a cell block of mis/dis—information?

Friday, June 08, 2007

A Different World

As a part time job, I nanny for two kids, a boy (2), and a girl (8). The other day, Emma and I were watching "Get A Clue" starring Lindsay Lohan (pre-rehab), and as the credits rolled, my little companion turned to me and said, "She's so pretty. Too bad she's a drug person. What a waste." And (having used up her allotted television time for the day on the movie) went on her merry way, building fashionistas out of model magic and coloring. Emma, like most children her age, still values the opinion of her parents more than the people she sees on TV.

Now, I love celebrities. I take a special interest, it seems, in the ladies of so-called "Young Hollywood." Lindsay Lohan, Mischa Barton, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Britney Spears. It's like watching that nice girl you used to play with from across the street doing body shots at her first frat party. You can't stop liking her because she's made a couple of bad decisions, and you definitely can't look away. You just try to remember the good times and maybe help her put her shirt back on at the end of the night.

But then again, I'm 20. These girls are my peers, not my role models. I grew up with the Spice Girls. Cameras didn't follow them around day and night, catching them throwing up outside of a club or shaving their heads in a fit of insanity. At least, that's not the Spice World I remember. It was all "girl power!" and shiny outfits and I was on board. But now we've got a batch of ex Disney child stars gone wild running around Hollywood, and kids are interested. They recognize Lindsay Lohan from "Freaky Friday" and now she's accused of grand theft, DUI, posession of cocaine and is back in rehab? For the second time! Britney Spears has been plastered all over TV from the time she was a pre-teen, from the Mickey Mouse Club to Pepsi commercials, and we're all well aware of her downward spiral. Granted, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie have never been marketed towards children (thank God), but they're out there and little girls especially are watching. And now Paris has just finished a stint in jail, Nicole Richie is close behind her and Mischa Barton has become Marissa Cooper.

Like I said, I'm all about it. You keep drinking vodka out of that Poland Springs bottle, Lindsay. Who cares about which side of the freeway you're supposed to drive on, Nicole? But parents need to be more aware of how much exposure to these crazies their children are receiving. They obviously do not have your kids' best interest in mind, so that means you have to. It is unfair to put upon these young ladies such a responsibility when it's clear that they can hardly get themselves safely from sun up to sun down. Stop the madness, turn off the TV and have a chat with the little ones about these "drug people." God only knows when Hannah Montana is going to start taking off her pants in public, so let's not leave it to her or anyone else to shape a young person's sense of morality. The girl down the street is going to grow up and get herpes no matter how upset it makes the neighborhood. You can't change what she's doing, but you can stop hiring her to babysit.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Bush? Really?--Bush, Really!

So the fine men who write this blog want to know if I can really claim to like Bush. Here's my answer:
This week marks the third anniversary of Reagan's death and everyone's summoning him. Let's ignore the Iran-Contra scandal, and give him credit, he was more popular than Bush. Bush has plenty of flaws, but he is honest and is steadfast.
The critic's biggest issue is without a doubt the war in Iraq, so let's take a time machine back to 2001, in a September 20th address, Bush stated:

Americans are asking: How will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command -- every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.
This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.
Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest.

Guess what? Bush hasn't changed his game plan. He never promised us a short fight. It's the American public that has ADD.

At this point there is always the quick shot that we entered the war under false pretenses: there were no weapons of mass destruction. Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, and most other prominent politicians also believed that there were weapons of mass destruction.

Not backing down? Let's look at the deaths of thousands of American soldiers. While every death of a young, healthy American should be mourned, we need to keep the numbers in perspective. During Vietnam, there were 58,000 deaths. During the American Civil War, there were 500,000 deaths. In Iraq, there have been approximately 3500 deaths in four years of fighting. Each year 3800 Americans die in accidental drownings. Should we fill all swimming pools?

Plenty of intelligent, well intentioned people disagree with our presence in Iraq, and even Afghanistan, and I respect their position. Bush, however, is an upfront leader. He will not make a decision based on the ever-changing whims of half-informed nay-sayers; he has his beliefs, and he follows them. I may disagree with some of his economic policies, but I'm not ashamed to say that I voted for him, both times.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Handicapping the Republican Field

Weekly Presidential Politics - 6/6/07

Someone made a crack at me in the last week, reminding me that there was another political party that has candidates running for President. It is true - I have been concentrating more on the Democrats of late. The reason for this is simple. You may not see it yet, but John McCain is going to win the nomination. I have yet, however, determined the eventual Democratic nominee, therefore I spend more time breaking that race down. I consider it wide open among three (four with Gore) candidates, which I have stated ad nauseum.

However, since I've been called out on my affinity towards Democratic Primary blog posts, I will throw the Republican readers a bone and do a general overview of the GOP candidates. This, of course, is taking advantage of the recent buzz surrounding both the Fred Thomson candidacy as well as last night's Republican debate.

Here are the thirteen (thirteen!) possible candidates for the Republican nomination, listed in likelihood to win the nomination, and in reverse order for dramatic effect.

13. Joe Lieber, whoops, sorry.

13. James Gilmore - The first quarter of 2007 saw Gilmore raise $174,790, which is approximately how much money Hillary Clinton made when she brushed her teeth this morning. Gilmore has no national name recognition and little money to change that.

12. Duncan Hunter - Like Gilmore and at least six other Republicans on this list, Hunter is billing himself as the only true conservative in the pack. (Isn't that funny?) I guess that's what happens when you don't trust the top tier candidates.

11. Tom Tancredo - Beware illegal immigrants, I think he's passing out leaflets trying to rally support for your mass execution. That way, you'll be dead...just like his campaign.

10. Tommy Thomson - Two weeks ago, Tommy Thomson offered a campaign stump speech to a town in New Hampshire. Seven people showed up. Moving on...

9. Ron Paul - The most libertarian candidate of either major party. You have to respect his consistency across the board. He wants to keep the government out of our pockets. Cut taxes, but cut spending, too. He was against the war from the beginning. The amount spent on a failed policy angers Paul, and it angers many conservatives. Unfortunately for the Congressman, he lacks the funds and recognition to make a run.

8. Chuck Hagel - Draft Hagel! One of only two (with Paul) anti-war Republicans in the race (Note: Hagel has yet to enter). He's been a harsh critic of the current administration, and fits a perfect niche out there - Republicans who are proud of their party but dislike President Bush.

7. Mike Huckabee - His authenticity impresses me. He seems genuine, he seems bright, he seems southern, he seems religious, he seems conservative, and he speaks articulately and honestly. Indeed, he seems like a great candidate for the GOP. So why isn't he higher? The man can't fundraise, finishing way back with only half a mil in the first quarter.

6. Fred Thomson - He has conservatives abuzz as possibly the first viable true conservative. Until he gets in the race, however, I don't it can be argued that he's viable or a true conservative. Still, the mere fact that a candidate potentially fits the bill goes to show you how desperate the GOP is for that candidate.

5. Newt Gingrich - Unbeknownst to most, this is the unannounced Republican candidate to keep your eye on. He's not nearly as likely to announce as Thomson, and if he does announce it'll be in the fall like Gore, but I don't think there's a smarter Republican in the field. I've never come across a man I disagree with more while at the same time being awed at his intelligence and ability to articulate a point. What I would do to have an ideological debate with him and get my ass handed to me.

4. Sam Brownback - I'd wager that if you ask the educated conservative, this is who they would vote for if it wasn't considered a lost cause. Ask around. It is this potential why I rank him directly after The Big Three.

3. Rudy Giuliani - Yes, he's been the leader in the polls and I've dropped him to #3. He just doesn't have the gas in the tank, folks. The guy's a Red Giant - burns bright for a while, but with a much shorter shelf life. Each debate will hurt him every time a non-national security issue comes up, and even his strength on national security is a house of cards. If I were his campaign manager (he should be so lucky), he needs to get a specific issue on the table as soon as possible: Who can beat the Democrats in November? Even then, this next guy might be the best answer to that question.

2. Mitt Romney - Romney more than ever has me questioning my confidence in a McCain nomination. I expect Romney to come on very strong. He wows me at every debate, every appearance. In fact, if it wasn't for his Mormonism and yet unabated flip-flopper moniker, I'd probably make him the favorite. And never forget the very real aesthetic issue: He looks the part.

1. John McCain - I'm sticking with him.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Classroom Realities Left Behind: Flatlining


In this age of education reform, in the era of NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, in this technologically-advanced period that geo-political guru Tom Friedman has appropriately tagged as “The World is Flat,” it’s mind-boggling how much our students DON’T know. Folks, for those of you outside the walls of public education, I’ve got a CNN newsflash. Brace yourselves. Hold tight. Crash helmets on. Get in the launch position: knowledge is out and skills are in. Yeah baby!!!

What do I mean? It’s simple: public education has sided with “skills” at the expense of knowledge. This disastrous approach starts when the cherubs are young. Memorization is de-emphasized, practically gone, replaced with the focus on…skills. The hell with multiplication tables. Screw spelling words correctly. Historical facts? And no you don’t: grammar rules? Forget ‘bout it—and that’s their excuse—the Stalinist proponents of the “skills” doctrine: why do students need to know…things??? Alas, the knowledge deficit sets in.

The truth is skill development is fine but not at the expense of developing and broadening our students’ knowledge. There are so many basic concepts that even the brightest students simply don’t know and haven’t mastered, whether it’s multiplication tables, understanding the three branches of U.S. government, or implementing the basic rules of grammar. What’s even more alarming is that the more advanced areas of learning require some basic mastery of this…stuff. Foreign languages, other cultures, different organizational systems, and global issues are what our students desperately need to know in this global economy, in the Bushie global war on terror, and in this galaxy of globalism. Thus the question remains: in this flat, flat world, why would we ever allow our students to flatline on knowledge?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Outrage of the Week

CNN hosted a debate last night for the candidates in the Democratic primary; knowing full well that such an event could produce some fodder for this week's outrage, I opted out of viewing the debate to attend a book reading from one of my top five favorite living authors, Khaled Hosseini.

Luckily for me, there was also a book signing to go with this event, and I had such visions of what I would say to Dr. Hosseini as he added his own pen marks to my already marked copy of
The Kite Runner. Earlier in the day, I read the New York Times Book Review of his new novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and walked away from it seething with outrage. I found the reviewer, Lisa See, to be way off the mark. At any rate, during the Q & A session, I found my mind wandering a bit as I considered my words to the author as I approached him to sign my book. I wanted to tell him that I thought the review was poor and probably indicative of a reader that did not a). finish the novel or b). read the text closely and carefully. I wanted to point to a few of her criticisms and assure him that she was, indeed, on the crack pipe if she really believed what she was writing. I wanted to tell him how much his first novel has impacted my high school and community college students.

For the first time in my life, I was first in line for something. As I stood there clutching my copy of
The Kite Runner, I knew I'd say none of these things. I'd cave in the face of this author I admire, just like I did when I met Elie Wiesel and Frank McCourt. Of course, I did cave; I shyly mumbled something about my Three Rivers students loving the book and promptly moved aside so the second person in line could get her book signed.

Faced with the reality that my outrage of the week went unspoken, I did some surfing on-line today and discovered that I could share these things with Dr. Hosseini on his blog. Or, I could bring them over to 1% more conscious and express my shock over the following.

Yesterday was a day of marked irreverence for certain contributers to the New York Times. First, Aimee Mann wrote a piece in the Op-Ed section about the 40th anniversary of the Sgt. Pepper album. She speaks of her 8 year old Beatle loving self with nostalgia then goes on to basically say that she has outgrown the Beatles and evolved into the lyrical style of Fiona Apple. Then I read this review written by Lisa See. Similar to Hosseini, she is also a best-selling author. Unlike Hosseini, her novel does not suggest that she is a master of her craft, an author of an instant classic. She nit-picks away at a few details and makes sweeping and inaccurate judgments of the text. In certain places, she's petty; in others, she's just dead wrong. I would never suggest that she (or anyone else for that matter) has an obligation to love this book; however, I do think that certain works (and musicians) have indisputable merit.

When people attempt to find fault with these masters of culture simply for the sake of finding fault, I question their motives.
The sequel to Lisa See's best selling novel is due out this month. Perhaps she fears the competition; perhaps she is intimidated by a man that writes with the female point of view so convincingly. Or maybe, just maybe, she is the student that only read the Cliff Notes in high school and reading and reviewing A Thousand Splendid Suns was beyond the scope of her ability.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Week in Rear View: I See Crazy People


In M. Night’s The Sixth Sense, “I see dead people” became the film’s most popular line. In the dreadful foreign policy of the Neocon loons and Bush apologists, “I see progress” has become their most pathetic excuse. In The Sixth Sense, the child actually sees dead people. In the world of loons and apologists, they see progress mostly in their fantasies. From my infinitesimal corner of the universe, I see a bunch of crazy people.

Let’s start with none other than Crazy Captain Lieberman, formerly Oedipus Lieberman, formerly Senator Joe Lieberman, Democrat from Connecticut. Doing John McPretend better than John McPretend, crazy Joe went on a walk “through the park” of the streets of Baghdad, surrounded by the best protection our taxpayers’ money can buy. He said that he saw “progress.” In contrast, our troops continue to see dead people while chanting The Animals’ “we gotta out of this place…if it’s the last thing we ever do…” Crazy—I know.

What wasn’t crazy was that May was the third deadliest month in Iraq for our troops since we invaded in 2003. One would hope that on some level Crazy Captain Lieberman did, in fact, see dead people and if not in Iraq then certainly at home. For those of us living in the 2nd Congressional District in CT, earlier this week we read about the unfortunate, sad death of Lt. Keith Heidtman, who was 24 and had a bright future ahead of him. Not so crazy—I know.

What remains incredibly crazy is that there’s a third of America that still approves of Chimpy’s handling of Iraq. What will it take for them to recognize that there are many, many dead people, every day, theirs and ours, and that things aren’t getting any better? No surge, escalation or new strategy seems to work. And the other two thirds who disapprove of the war need to reassess things as well. With Cindy Sheehan’s official departure from the anti-war movement, she reaffirms that both Republicans and Democrats are responsible mostly to their corporate donors, and, moreover, for this prolonged “we are in our last throes” war. Really crazy—I know.

Back to The Sixth Sense. In the film, the ghost psychiatrist, played by Bruce Willis, helps the young boy Cole to deal with his fear of seeing dead people. In America, let’s hope that the ghosts of our country will let us see that the mounting dead in Iraq is cause enough to begin ending this war. Hopefully crazy—maybe so.

Friday, June 01, 2007


She Works Hard For Her Money
Summer's around the corner and that puts me in a good mood. When I'm in a good mood, I have no need to vent. I've never really mastered the art of communicating past the point of complaining, so I had significant trouble figuring out what to write for my entry yesterday. Instead I slid into school early this morning, figuring I could cheat and write an entry before classes started...but nothing came of it. I slunk into a colleague's room, hoping for wisdom; instead she offered to take the topic I was writing about and compose the entry. While our reasons differ some, the end result is the same. So enjoy.

Recently, I hired my students for ten dollars an hour.

Money didn’t exchange hands, but for the purpose of a unit on careers, we worked out a budget. The “Aha!” moment came at the end of calculating the monthly expenses. They had a few dollars left over, but I threw them a curve: your brakes need work, your cat gets sick, or you break your leg hanging a picture at home. All of a sudden, they were in the red…and ten dollars sounded like so much when we started.

Ten dollars is above the minimum wage of seven-sixty-five, bumped up in January by the generous powers that be.

Which begs the question: Minimum wage for what? It’s not the minimum wage for living in Connecticut. If you’re making the minimum in Connecticut and over a certain age, you’re hurting and probably living in a box. Keep in mind that a family of four with two people working 40 hours on minimum wage puts them above the poverty level and out of the running for aid.

A livable wage in Connecticut would need to be considerably higher than a livable wage in Georgia- do a compare and contrast of rents in different states and the math becomes clear. Since a huge discrepancy of living costs exists among the states, letting the federal government set the wage lends itself to a one-size-fits-all fallacy that pinches in all the wrong places. Reminds me of the Christmas clothes my aunt used to give me.

Businesses in different states set de jure minimum wage. An offer of seven and change may be just right in some places or laughable in others. Think the casinos are the biggest employers in Connecticut because they offer minimum wage along with the dreamy ambiance? Heck no. They offer higher-than-minimum, bennies, and the dreamy ambiance.

No doubt about it, everybody’s hurt by a federally mandated minimum wage. Pity the poor business owners who have to outsource jobs or hire illegal immigrants because seven-sixty-five breaks the budget. Or don’t pity them. Having the government force them to pay a certain amount doesn’t solve the problem.

Whenever I do the budget activity with my students, I wonder how many of them will have to deal with unlivable wages beyond summer or college jobs. Having served my time on minimum wage, I can’t offer much advice to the unfortunate few aside from telling them to head for the casinos or to get out of Connecticut. They can take the current minimum wage as a broad hint that they’re not wanted here.