Sunday, October 27, 2019

At a Time of Less, Schools Need More

I realize that the country is going to get precious little in terms of public education out of the know-nothings who are presently in charge, and the chief of that group, Betsy DeVos, has unfortunately stayed on while other cabinet members have fallen away due to having some common sense or scandals that in previous administrations wouldn't allow them to be unattended in Lafayette Park, much less have an office in the White House.

And honestly, I can't say that I supported President Obama's approach to education because it relied far too heavily on punishing teachers for student test scores that might be influenced by some minor inconveniences like poverty, divorce, disease, hunger, or emotional problems. At least, though, Obama had some understanding of the importance of the public school system. DeVos and Trump are happy to let the system atrophy on the alter of private enterprise and competition, without seeing that every school, no matter where it is located, must provide a thorough, excellent, modern education for the children who attend.

With the budget deficit reaching $1 trillion dollars, I can't imagine that there will be any new federal spending on education, and the states are constrained by their requirements to balance their budgets. Yes teachers education professionals continue to strike, not just over pay, but over the health of their students. This article details many of the demands that these professionals are making, and in many cases they're not about salary.

One of the most troubling facts is that only 39% of schools employs a full-time nurse. That's shockingly low, even if there's a part-time person or a nurse on call. All schools should have a full-time nurse because you never know when a child will need one, and any delay can result in a tragedy. The same is true for school psychologists and an adequate number of guidance counselors. More and more children now rely on these vital resources, yet districts are not providing them in numbers to meet the demand.

The political winds have shifted back to the states on education after a robust era that began with George W. Bush. The result is less federal influence and more local control. This is generally how we've run education for most of our history, but with local control come local constraints, and most of those are fiscal. This means that school districts that struggle to raise funds will continue to do so and will not be able to adapt to the changing needs of their constituents.

Remember that we're talking about children. We must meet our obligations.

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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Just When You Think It Can't Get Worse

Given what we know about the president's ability to sink lower and lower as the weeks pass, I am hesitant to say that we've reached rock bottom in his swampy, immoral, ill-informed, and ignorant administration, but we're getting close. This, of course, is not a soothing thought, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Republicans are rebuking him over his unconscionable sell-out of the Kurds, and every day there's a new revelation in the tar pit of his Ukrainian outrage. Mick Mulvaney admitted that the president tied American military support to Ukrainian acquiescence to investigating Joe Biden and the wayward computer server that the president believes holds the key to Democratic malfeasance in the 2016 election. Mick took back his words later in the day, but we can always roll the tape. And we have.

The president is going to be impeached. There's no doubt about that. And there will be a trial in the Senate that even Mitch McConnell can't ignore, simply because a majority of Americans believe there is evidence that the president did something wrong. As the weeks pass, there will be more evidence, and the old evidence is not going to go away because it's been verified. So it can only get worse. How much worse is the key detail.

That Trump believes he's doing a great job will be his undoing, because he obviously believes that he can do no wrong, make no wrong decision, or be held accountable for his actions because he believes that it's all a plot by the Democrats, or those government employees who don't agree with him. Change American foreign policy with an off-hand comment? Write a letter that a high school junior would be embarrassed to send (and they've told me how embarrassed they would be to send such a letter)? Curse your way through a campaign rally? Ignore the Constitution?  Just another day at the White House.

And this business of holding the 2020 G7 summit meeting at Trump's Doral Hotel in Miami? Tone deaf doesn't even begin to tell the story, but he doesn't care and probably doesn't even see what the fuss might be. It's Chris Christie on a closed beach. No conflict of interest here, my fellow Americans. It's terrible.

Our allies are incredulous and are concerned about our trustworthiness and commitment to the stability of the world. We can sign as many bilateral trade agreements as the president wants, but that's not going to solve the issue of our foreign policy. In fact, I see that as disadvantageous. Our strength, and the strength of democracy in the face of dictators and theocrats, is in our numbers and our alliances. These are under threat.

And have I mentioned that next year is an election? Get registered. Vote.

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

But Now for Something Completely Different - Sport.

With great thanks to Monty Python. I had no idea that you could read all of the episodes online.

But back to sport. I was thinking the other day, after China rolled its collective ankle over a pro-Hong Kong tweet by a Houston Rockets executive, about the time in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when athletes adopted Islamic names. I know, I know; how quaint, right? An athlete changing their name to match their religion today would yield precious little backlash on the social media.


I also remembered Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. And having the Australian who won the bronze sympathize with them. And Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And Ahmad Rashad. And the others. There was a significant backlash, but on the end, sports enthusiasts generally accepted the changes.

Money changes everything. Remember when Micheal Jordan refused to get involved in the political debates of the 1980s and 90s? Or the relative peace within the Olympic movement after the fall of apartheid and the Soviet Union? Those days are now gone. Sports is a huge business, and having the Chinese buy stuff is every sports marketer's dream. That's why the tweet was a wake up call. The temperature lowered a bit at the end of the week, but this episode will not go away.

The athletes who now represent their sports grew up in the same political and social milieu as the rest of us, and they see themselves as more than just paid athletes. They are role models, ambassadors, social media stars and, yes, political animals. They speak out against police actions, injustice, sexism, economic inequality, and now, international affairs. Well, at least the team executives do. I also remember when American athletes protested the Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq. They were not labeled traitors. Carlos Delgado, who played for the Mets, and is not an American citizen, came under criticism for not coming out of the dugout for the national anthem. Sports radio provided lame attacks, but in the end, he didn't change his behavior. Lebron James tweets back when the president attacks him.

And honestly, someone has to stand up to the Chinese. They have had an outsized influence on the world economy because sellers want to sell to a billion people. But when we are, I believe, on the brink of a Chinese incursion into Hong Kong, someone also has to stand up for justice and democracy. It's not going to come from the White House, so it might as well come from more famous people who have morals. I understand that some of the athletes want to keep their noses out of the fray. Self-preservation, higher salaries and all that.

If you want to stand up to a bully, though, you need to have the right argument. And we do.

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Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Smoking Cannon

So much evidence, so little time.

It seems like every time the president speaks, he says something that could be construed as abuse of power or something that the founders clearly meant to protect us from. Trump calls these things, "perfect."

Now comes the unraveling. The president is obviously not going to get contrite. He's getting angrier and angrier and his communications are getting more and more abusive, personal and vile. He's clearly angry because Rudy and his other sycophants probably told him that what he was asking of foreign leaders was perfectly fine, and that in their opinion, the president cannot be the subject of a criminal complaint while in office. Of course, that's just conjecture and will have to be tested before a judge, but I'm thinking that once somebody tells the president something he wants to hear, then the president takes this as an iron-clad guarantee of correctness.

Uh oh.

There's that darned United States Constitution in the way again.

And the real issue is that most of the other people who work in government know what the rules are and that what the president has either asked them to do or what he's done under the impression that everything a president does is legal, is actually not. The next phase of this drama has already begun. It's where the civil servants and the credentialed professionals, as opposed to the aforementioned sycophants, begin to talk, release documents, ask for whistle-blower status, hire attorneys, or seek bargains. They will not give up their humanity or morals for a president who seems to have left his in Queens, exactly at the spot where Trump and his father decided to build apartments, but not rent them to African-Americans.

We are almost at the "my kingdom for a horse" moment. But first, the president has to repeat conspiracy theories while accusing Joe Biden of something for which there is no evidence. He must curse and sputter and offer excuse after contradicting excuse to cover his behavior. Then he will ask the last of his sycophants to fall on their professional and person swords. And some will.

In the end, though, his behavior makes the country less secure, more divided, and sullied by the mud he's slinging.

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