Wednesday, April 30

Underwear Will Be Worn On The Outside, So We Can Check.

(The following didn't post yesterday, due to some blogger problem I was in too big a hurry to notice.   Reposted now as just too damned good to miss.)

M wrapping up physical therapy and, with any luck, doctor's visits today, so blogging quantity around here is going to match quality for at least one more day. But I thought I might squeeze in another quick example of how teachers' union are ruining our schools.

Last night Channel 8's Leslie Olsen, who is that wondrous thing, a real reporter working on teevee news, interviewed a couple of teachers from John Marshall Middle School, or, as it is more commonly known, Troubled John Marshall Middle School. Marshall has failed to meet No Child Left Behind guidelines since the moment they were put in place, and, in accordance with consequences of that well-intentioned piece of legislation, is now subject to the whim of the same people who were in charge of seeing to it this didn't happen in the first place. By way of guaranteeing a different result.

Same story, different year. Last year the IPS administration simply decided to tack on another 25 days to the school year. Which they accomplished by fiat. Teachers in those schools didn't even know if the District intended to pay them for working. (This, apparently, is because it didn't intend to, or were going to offer to let teachers draw down their sick days if they wanted to be paid, until disabused of the notion.)   Teachers were told that if they didn't like it they could put in for transfers.

IPS lost an unfair labor practices suit over that affair early this month. So, naturally, they've seen the error of their ways; now they're just pink-slipping the entire staff.

Okay, that's not quite accurate: it's only 90%, and I'm just assuming they gave 'em pink slips, since that's required by state law, not just easily-ignored employment contracts. So they might be judgement-proof this time. There's a first time for everything.

Of course Being Within Your Rights and being smart are two different things. Perhaps teachers are at fault (the two who spoke to Olsen, who are reportedly among the number who won't be forced to transfer--it's being left to the Entrepreneur in Chief Principal--pointed out that the current staff had come together after last year, and that test scores did improve. Just not enough). Are ninety percent of them at fault? Or is it just easier to change 90% of the nametags on the doors than to really do something?

The principal's a good guy: young, enthusiastic, whip-smart. He applied for the job at my Poor Wife's school a couple years ago, when she was on the evaluation committee, and he was her choice (she thinks strings were pulled to send the guy to Marshall). One hopes for the best for all students, and the people who try to improve thngs, but one is eventually left hoping that the Big Idea hucksters behind them fall on their collective ass. I understand that they have little choice--God help the man, especially the African man, who's put in charge of an urban school district in this day and age--but one may cooperate with one's kidnappers without seeming so damned enthusiastic about receiving the opportunity. NCLS is a scam, and it's not accomplished anything beyond churning already roiled waters. It didn't protect John Marshall Middle School from a cooked-up White People's Property Tax Revolt, and it doesn't offer any solution beyond requiring the already-publicity-hungry superintendent to thrash about in search of more publicity. It'd just be nice if he managed to show the people who do the real work some respect, even if he doesn't mean it.

Tuesday, April 29

Pinch Me, I'm Dreamin'

HILLARY CLINTON: On second thought, I do have a comment. Jeremiah Wright is entitled to his opinion, like every American. And while there's no one more qualified than I to deplore the systematic trivialization of our political process, let me just add that Jeremiah Wright is one of millions of American voices that are never heard on the evening news unless someone's trying to make political hay out of them, and likewise one of millions of generally unheard Americans we desperately need a President to listen to.

BARACK OBAMA: I've complained publicly about "manufactured issues" dominating our politics. What I've since realized is that manufactured campaigns bring manufactured issues on themselves.

I've run a campaign calling for change, but the change it was designed to bring about was my move from the Senate Office Building to the White House. I've implied that all forward-looking people supported me, and that the old-style thinkers who supported Senator Clinton were part of the reason America is in the shape it's in.

Well, that's simply not the case. It was an electoral calculation. And I say so now not because it has produced a divided electorate--for which I'm truly sorry--and not a clear-cut and early victory for my campaign, but because I was wrong to do so.

Working-class Democrats are the soul of the party and of the country. They're the ones who created the party that stood up for the rights of people of color at the expense of electoral college advantage. They, and the "older voters" I may have denegrated--and to whom I now apologize--face "change" more forthrightly and with more bravery than any other group of Americans--change in economic or social status, in local identity, the outsourcing of jobs and the bias against older workers, deteriorating health, loss of mobility, independence, and a sense of belonging. Change is not the ability to set the clock on the DVD player. It's not the wisdom to choose the best cellphone or WiFi provider. It's the ability to face down whatever life throws at one, provided one is treated as fairly as his fellows. That's the sort of "change" the Democratic party stands for, and the sort of change I'm going to work for from this moment, whether as the next President of the United States, or a Senator from Illinois.

JOHN McCAIN: To be perfectly honest with you, I never liked the coloreds to begin with.

Friday, April 25

It Ain't The School, It's The Principal Of The Thing

SO my Poor Wife took me out to eat last night, which is a rarity for us, because...oh, wait, I'm sorry, but that just reminded me of last night's News. At some point after the local hairdos decided the godawful US economy was actual news--in their defense they were awfully busy fluffing Tax Protesting Wealthy People most of last year--and presentable news at that (they're not the same thing), we started getting...wait, I forgot that they actually did cover bad economic news last year, viz., the rising cost of the petrol they needed for their suburban Panzers, just as the current round has been sparked by what has or may yet happen to their mortgages. We like to be fair. Anyway, since the point where it has become permissible for people making something between Above Average and Exorbitant salaries for reading at a High School Level While Telegenic to knowingly nod their coifs at the plight of the Typical Working Man we've gotten all sorts of Focus stories, and, frankly, even though I find these more acceptable politically, and epistemologically, than the anti-tax crap, and lots more than the nightly celebrity and electronic gizmo parade, it quickly reduces to the same flavorless gruel. So last night they're talking about the toll a slumping economy is having on local restaurants. And boy was I ever glad my recent surgery wasn't abdominal as David Barris led off with, "Indianapolis is a city known for its great restaurants."

And if you know anything about Indianapolis you didn't get from the New York Times you are no doubt cursing me right now for not warning you about drinking anything before you read that. That is the single most dishonest comment I have ever heard broadcast, and that includes all defenses of George W. Bush's intellect.   And it's only the relative size of the market here that prevents it from bringing down the entire legal edifice surrounding the First Amendment. Indianapolis is absolutely, without question, empirically demonstrably the worst restaurant town of any city with potable water. Honestly, the Chamber of Commerce would have blushed to say that.

And then, as if to prove the point, we discussed the effect of Our Newly Rotten Economy with the manager of The Old Spaghetti Factory™  (Now Offering Pastabilities!).  Which is just one of the many great Indianapolis restaurants that envious other cities have copied.

And the guy says that his business is down, yes, but it'll survive. But he has friends who work in other concepts which have closed down. Other Fucking Concepts! This is why I've spent my life avoiding business people.

What was I going on about? Oh, so we're having a semi-pleasant evening dining on Chinese concepts, and my Poor Wife says she's forgotten to tell me the story about her Principal.

This will dovetail nicely with Roy's discussion of this George Eff Will shite (caution: George Eff Will shite). In comments mere mortal dispenses with the column, and Jay B. dispenses with Will.

Now, my Poor Wife has worked for so many principals in her career that we've lost count, but you can count the good ones on the left hand of a punch-press operator. The current one is not one of them. And she tells me that he's been transferred to another high school for next year, and he's already spending all of his time over there. Not that anyone particularly misses him, or would, unless they're in the habit of checking the office where he spends all his time. This sort of shuffling is common (and indicative of one really big problem with the public schools, one which is caused by George Eff Will, the meddlesomeness of anti-public school rightists and their business model solution for everything.  Or, rather, everything except failing banks.); this will be the third-straight principal of her school with a three-year tenure, and, like the other two, he'll leave a damp chair and the occasional unintentionally humorous email.

What he's taking to the new place is the modern disorder which insists that such people are not administrators, managers, or facilitators, but entrepreneurs. And, as you know, an entrepreneur is a guy who shows he earns his disproportionate recompense by firing some of the people who do the real work and leaving the rest to pick up the slack. And this is, reportedly, exactly what he's done, having already gathered together the staff and told them they'll each need to reapply for the jobs they currently hold, as he's rumored to be about to do with the faculty.

Which, of course, would violate any number of union rules, which is not exactly a new practice for the current administration of Indianapolis Public Schools (which imagined, just last year, that it could simply order teachers in two elementary schools to work all year, without even addressing pay or vacation issues), and which we'll get to in a moment. But first, who is it among the rabidly anti-unionists out there who imagines this is a good idea? It can't be anyone who's ever actually worked for a living, unless you want to count Jack Welch. It's a conceit of the idly wealthy, the inherited money operator of a string of dry-cleaning establishments, or the sinecured Washington Post comic-intellectual. Do things sometimes need a good shaking, a well-considered streamling, a sad reduction? Frequently. Does indiscriminately terrorizing every last employee accomplish good things? What does common sense say? I'm not sure where the idea that people work better when they're afraid of termination every hour of the day comes from, but I suggest it comes from people who want them to volunteer to work overtime without pay, or else the trainers of fighting dogs. Ditto the idea that the world is chockablock with better qualified people just waiting to take the jobs of anyone displaying insufficient obeisance. It's curious that in a society so enamored of its own militarism that this point should be lost. Grant didn't fire half the Army of the Potomac, or make every artillerist reapply for his job; he did what he was supposed to do and put their skills to better use. No doubt there are leaders out there who can beat your'n with his'n and hisn' with your'n. No doubt there are people out there with the individual teaching talent to improve a classroom or a schoolhouse worth of test scores. And no doubt they are exceedingly rare.   When did we exempt leaders from getting the most out of their charges?  (I believe the answer is "when Reagan took office".)

As for the unions--I'm not conversant with the contents of the IPS collective bargaining agreement, which the World's Third Worst State Legislature™ gelded a few years back (and only IPS's, by the way; that's America, toots), and at this point it remains a rumor (but from a knowledgeable source) that teachers are next on the list--there is certainly some amount of protection accorded by seniority, though it's not absolute. But even if there were none, who's stepping into that newly-cleared-of-deadwood verge? And who decides? Some bozo who can't be found in his own school half the time, but who knows how to play politics? That sounds like a solution, I suppose, if you don't know the first thing about it. Or if you're the sort who imagines wearing self-consciously anachronistic neckwear is a contribution to American letters.

Thursday, April 24

Get Up Off'n Yer Sister And Hitch Up The Mule, We's A'Goin' To Th' Polls!

Monica Davey, "For Indiana Voters, Talk Of Change May Fall Flat"  Times, April 24

Adam Nagourney, "For Democrats, Questions Over Race and Electability," Times, April 24

KOKOMO, Ind. — With all the talk among the Democratic presidential hopefuls about change, they may wish to consider this as they wander Indiana: People here practically revolted a few years ago when their governor, Mitch Daniels, pushed to change to daylight saving time like most of the country.

OKAY, it shore nuff sounds kinda backward, Miz Davey, m'am, when you put it like that, but there's a simple explanation for that: Fuck You.

Indiana's practically on the Mississippi, yet we're on EDST time now (asterisk!). In my lifetime we've been on Central Time, Eastern Time, back to Central, back to Eastern, off Daylight Savings Time, and back on it, and if I wanted to be perverse about it I could have moved around the state and added a different time zone every month. In other words, it's something of a local issue, and while it may play well and provide a snappy lede for you to ape Mitch Daniels in declaring yourself far too intelligent to be saddled with such a prize collection of Gomers, you ain't, and neither's he, and the issue is not and never was fear of an unknown and unsuspected Cosmic retribution for Actually Changin' Somethin'.

Instead, you might consider what a tiny amount of reportage would have revealed, that, thanks to its forward-looking Governor and his fearless dedication to scientific principles 21st century realities the political pressure applied by Indianapolis television stations, which want to be on New Yawk Time, a Hoosier lucky enough to have a job, albeit one which requires he rise at 6AM every morning, now drives to work in the dark every day of the year, hoping he doesn't run over any children waiting for the school bus in the process, while anyone who'd like to see the sun set even later than it does in Indiana in midsummer has to fly to Norway. This may provoke a chuckle around the table at whatever Argentinean/Mongol fusion restaurant is popular with Timesmen this week, but a short walk in our clodhoppers might convince you that it's a matter of some importance to people actually living under the regime, regardless of their natcherl suspicion of city folk and their fancy ways.

Oh, and not to mention the fact that Daniels reneged on a campaign promise when he ramrodded the change, or that he seems to have violated federal law into the bargain and trampled the will of local governments for good measure. 'Cuz we's jes' scuggins here, and we shore don't want to stand in the way of a good story. 'Specially when the Times thinks enough of us to actually send an actual reporter lady to Kokomo so she can collect the same quote three times.

I'm sorry, but didn't the Times promise a couple years back that it was going to suck the dick of Red State America, con brio, as penance for its evil elitist past?

Somehow "Northern Indiana is one big suburb of Chicago, Central Indiana is Indianapolis writ small, and everything South is Kentucky" doesn't quite measure up. Especially when any Hoosier, except maybe the Chicagoians, can tell you anything south of US 40 is actually Alabama. Kentucky is progressive by our standards.
And unlike some other states, including Pennsylvania, Indiana has mostly been ignored in general elections, too. It has long been written off by both parties as so reliably Republican in presidential races as to not be worth much note. After 1936, a Democratic presidential candidate has won the general election here only once, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

Well, let's examine our Tote Board of Shame, shall we? Again, it's undeniable, but how many Democrats won the Presidency in that seventy-two year period? FDR twice, Truman once, Kennedy once, Carter once, Clinton twice. Voting against any of them is not exactly a sign of rampant radical Republicanism, with the possible exception of FDR, but in 1940 he ran against favorite son Wendell Wilke, and in 1944...okay, I can't really explain voting for Dewey just as the war was won, but Ohio, Wisconsin, and the Plains states joined us, for some reason. Afterwards, you're talking about a state that went for Dewey over Truman (which has a nice ring to it, anyway), Nixon over Kennedy, Ford over Carter, and Bush/Dole over Clinton. I'm not particularly wild about it myself, but it hardly differentiates us from the remainder of the country that hasn't et in ho-tels.

We might add, out of what little pride we actually feel for Indiana politics, that Indiana's two Senators in the 1960s, Birch Bayh and Vance Hartke (both, according to the Times map of the world, from Kentucky), were champions of civil liberties and opponents of the madness in Indochina, and that while we're responsible for letting Dan Quayle out in public, neither Rudy Giuliani nor Alphonse "Al" D'Amato has ever held elective office in our jerkwater little state.

SO,  to quote Louisa May Alcott, while you're shoving that as far up your rectum as it'll go, let's turn to Adam Nagourney, and note that, once again, you know an anti-Democrat meme has reached rigor mortis when you find him fellating the corpse on the Times front page:
But just when it seemed that the Democratic Party was close to anointing Mr. Obama as its nominee, he lost yet again in a big general election state, dragged down by his weakness among blue-collar voters, older voters and white voters. The composition of Mrs. Clinton’s support — or, looked at another way, the makeup of voters who have proved reluctant to embrace Mr. Obama — has Democrats wondering, if not worrying, about what role race may be playing.

And, once again, if we may take a moment to respond, we'd like to do so with a farm implement.

Suppose we put it the other way 'round? Obama leads in delegates because young people in Red State America have been mazed by a decade's constant exposure to cell phone radiation, excessive iPod volume, and American Idol, exacerbating their natural tendency to confuse ass and chipmunk holes, plus all dem black folks iz votin' for one of their own? That sort of analysis would get you fired from the Times, unless it got you an Op-Ed column.

I'm through being insulted by this sort of shit, just as I'm over being dismayed as it was parroted in Left Blogtopia--whenever, that is, when Senator Obama has not done as well as expected. (At other points I seem to recall the insistence that he ought to be the nominee since "Hillary's supporters will all vote for him anyway.") I think it's beyond time to put up or shut up. From where I stand (cornfield), unless you want to count what some hyperventlilating Obamabloggers decided to make out of Bill Clinton comments, the issue of race has come primarily from the Press--which is not exactly friendly to Democrats, on balance--and secondarily from Obama surrogates, who seem to have missed the previous point.
On Wednesday, Mr. Obama played down the racial aspects of the coalition Mrs. Clinton used to defeat him in Pennsylvania.
“Our problem has less to do with white working-class voters,” Mr. Obama told reporters Wednesday in Indiana. “In fact the problem is that — to the extent that there is a problem — is that older voters are very loyal to Senator Clinton.”
But the real test may come in the general election, should he win the Democratic nomination. Pennsylvania and Ohio will be two critical states this fall, and it will be difficult for any Democrat to win those states without the support from the Democrats that Mr. Obama is struggling to bring onto his bandwagon.

So just who was it decided to throw those older voters off the cliff fifteen months ago, the better to run as Mr. New Postpartisanship? Is your skin color now supposed to protect you from that decision? In point of fact, outside the confabulations of those same huffing hyperventilators, the only people I've heard saying we wouldn't have all the problems we have now except for the darkies were Republican members of the U.S. Senate, but I've since heard both sides of the aisle blaming the Dirty Hippies of Yore.   It's something short of convincing. What about Obama exempts him from responsibility for how his campaign has been run? Y'know, I don't have to believe in Wrightgate, or Bittergate, or Lapelgate to wonder why the man still talks the about a Social Security "crisis". I don't have to concern myself with "electability"--a concept being pushed by people who have been 100% wrong about everything in the campaign so far, and who seem to perpetually imagine the election will be held next week--to find his national security positions too centrist or his health care program inferior to his opponent's. I don't need skin color to decide for me that I won't support him in the primaries, or that I will in an election contested by John McCain. I didn't want to fight; Obama and the Obamatots did, and it's time they quit whining and start figuring out how to win elections as readily as they win arguments with imaginary racist geriatric farmers.

Tuesday, April 22

Goin' Medieval

David Brooks, "The Great Escape" April 22

THIS morning we were pondering a piece about whether Expelled is one of the Signs of the Apocalypse when we clicked innocently enough on Brooks' Tuesday column ("The Great Escape"? How Obama ducked the really tough questions in last weeks debate, we figured), which turned out, instead, to be a wistful rumination on the lost natural world of the European Middle Ages, and how much better modern society would be if the peasants were more easily frightened by comets n' shit.
The essay, which appeared in Books & Culture, is called “C. S. Lewis and the Star of Bethlehem,” by Michael Ward, a chaplain at Peterhouse College at Cambridge. It points out that while we moderns see space as a black, cold, mostly empty vastness, with planets and stars propelled by gravitational and other forces, Europeans in the Middle Ages saw a more intimate and magical place. The heavens, to them, were a ceiling of moving spheres, rippling with signs and symbols, and moved by the love of God. The medieval universe, Lewis wrote, “was tingling with anthropomorphic life, dancing, ceremonial, a festival not a machine.” [link added]

Over the past fifteen months that essay has given Brooks welcome moments of respite  from the seamy world of political campaigning. Because, y'know, no one is more importuned by the cheap carnival of American politics than the people who choose to cover it for a living, and no one is more bedeviled by "attack ads, tracking polls and which campaign is renouncing which over-the-line comment from a surrogate that particular day" than the people who greedibly digest that stuff so the rest of us can compost our little gardens with their excreta.  

The thing that always strikes me about these "wonder on the edge of science, as told by religious nostrum peddlers" bits is how often they flat get it wrong. Really, is it too much to ask of these people that they watch The Science Channel once in a while? Watch for a month if you like, and try to find an astronomer or astro-physicist who acts as if he or she stares "into a trackless vacuity, pitch-black and dead-cold" for a living. These people are animated. In fact, they're a little too eager to get ahold of my tax money to settle an office bet, if you ask me, but that's beside the point.

Good Lord, you should pardon the expression, even to the indolent Midwestern bump whose three hours of astronomy credits boil down, thirty years later, to being able to vow the uninitiated by identifying Betelgeuse and Rigel on a clear winter night, the glories of solar astronomy beat hell out of tales of a handsome and touchy and, well, flaming youth driving a gold chariot across the sky, whatever their relative merits as literary imagery. And I don't know about you, but the knowledge that the elemental structure of the Earth, and the life on it, required the collapse or cosmic explosion of untold, unseen other stars, of time as vast as that trackless vacuity, or that we can--by dint of our curiosity about how things are, not how God's self-appointed spokesmen insisted they must be, sometimes with the rhetorical assistance of skillfully applied hot pokers--listen in on what's left of the Big Bang, beats the hell out of anything dreamed up by a group of people who hadn't realized you don't throw buckets of shit out on the sidewalk every morning.
There’s something about obsessing about a campaign — or probably a legal case or a business deal — that doesn’t exactly arouse the imaginative faculties.

We know, Dave. We read your column.
The medievals had a tremendous capacity for imagination and enchantment, and while nobody but the deepest romantic would want to go back to their way of thinking (let alone their way of life), it’s a tonic to visit from time to time.

Y'know, somehow, it's always the people who object to paying the fare who want to ride farthest.

Not to mention the fact that this is less a bus from Point A to Point B than an imaginary unicorn-guided monorail circling some mental Disneyland. Brooks, like Lewis, doesn't see himself as a pox-ridden peasant sitting down to his plate of leftover umbles warmed on the manure fire, fearful about today's solar eclipse (and tomorrow's sixteen hours in the fields); they're the fat monks secure in the knowledge that Ptolemy explained it all. Except they have air conditioning.

Don't get me wrong: I'll listen to pre-modal music alongside Stravinsky, read Chaucer with as much pleasure as reading Pynchon, and I'll faint in front of a Byzantine mosaic right there next to Stendhal. It's not that we have nothing to learn from Meister Eckhart. In fact it's precisely the opposite: it's these ludicrous mental travelogues which assume a personal superiority in order to insist that we are in fact superior in every way except our peasants don't owe everything to their betters. It's one thing to argue this constitutes your ideal of Beauty, or political economy; it's quite another to insist that it repudiates everyone else's.

Monday, April 21

Great Minds Think Alike

I'M not quite sure how I landed on MSNBC Saturday night--an accidental button push by a thrashing shipwreck victim; my Poor Wife was off at a school function--but I was immediately greeted by David Gregory opining that the massively unfair shit being hurled at the two remaining Democratic Presidential hopefuls is their own damn fault for keeping the race going this long. With logic like that, how can you not be hooked?

It was The Tim Russert Show, something I trust MSNBC gets to air for free based on the discrepancy between what Russert is paid and what he delivers on Meet the Press; there's no other explanation for it. Seated next to Gregory was Chuck Todd, the pollster guy NBC is grooming as the next Pat Caudell (Lucky You, America of 2028!).

The reader is forgiven for not remembering that Mr. Riley was, he believes, the only person in America who actually watched a 2001 C-SPAN panel, moderated by Steve Roberts and including such journalistic co-conspirators as David "Dean" Broder and Kit "Too Bad 'Steno' Was Already Taken" Seelye, as they gave their profession straight As for its performance in the just-concluded 2000 Presidential elections. Reader, try to imagine a greater violation of the laws of Spacetime than according high marks to the coverage of Bush-Gore. Hell, try to imagine being a journalist and actually showing up for the panel instead of taking the opportunity to throw yourself out your office window.   And try to imagine what I've done, without success, in an attempt to eradicate the memory.

The following is my transcript of three minutes from the Russert show. I think it's a remarkable document on almost too many levels to count, but that the most remarkable thing about it is that it's hardly remarkable at all: this, in 2008, is the level of "political insider" discourse in the most powerful nation on Earth. I'm going to try not to interrupt any of the speakers, but I'm not making any promises:
RUSSERT: The response to the ABC debate with the liberal blogosphere has been extraordinary. Really racheted it up--Charlie Gibson went on World News Tonight--reported on it right after the debate. Wh, the number of...statements...on the ABC web site, tens of thousands. You [indicating Todd was up] 've been involved in a lot of NBC, MSNBC debate preparation. What's your analysis of what happened that night?

Okay, we may have mentioned this before, but you cannot watch Tim Russert for any appreciable length of time without noting how rare it is for a fully-formed, cogent and coherent idea to come out of the man's mouth. Yes, yes, we know that Nabokov had his lectures printed on index cards and read them verbatim; that was not his main line of work, and we have separate proofs of his genius. What's Russert's excuse? He doesn't add anything to the national discussion that couldn't be added by any other hump with three shots of Bushmill's Black in him, except Russert's known in better restaurants. It's all well and good to say, oh, everybody knows he didn't mean ABC was debating The Liberal Blogosphere!, but this is not a grammatical quibble, and Tim Russert is not a guy who suddenly finds a microphone thrust at him. How'd The Liberal Blogosphere get in there in the first place? Why do his questions so often sound less like questions and more like somebody reading the glossary in the back of the questions book? We think the answer is a) his mind is untidy, and not in an interesting, Quentin Crisp's apartment sort of way, but in a Gwyneth Paltrow caught without make-up sort of way; and b) he's managing the debate, much the way a poor zoo elephant practices abstract expressionism. In fact they both hold the brush the same way.

Now then, we don't have Lexus/Nexus, and god knows we haven't wasted any more time on Russert than necessary over the years, but we seem to recall that when Hillary Clinton, in the midst of an extraordinary, and extraordinarily naked, political bombardment referred to a Right Wing conspiracy of substantial proportions she was fitted for a tinfoil hat.  Yet when people howl that a Democratic Presidential debate, in the final days of a closely-fought campaign, is moderated by a pair of goofballs who imagine all America is asking about flag pins just before the electricity is shut off and the tractor repossessed, these same folks find it necessary to identify the hubub as coming from the mosh pit of Left Blogtopia.  Hmmm.  

You or I--or anyone who's ever been responsible for the actions of a three-year-old even for a moment--might ask whether the questioning was fair, or appropriate; given a certain level of partisanship we might ask if the reaction was excessive. We are highly unlikely to turn to a pollster and ask for his analysis of "what happened that night", because we already know what happened that night.  

But we are not Russert, though like him we now turn to Chuck Todd. A couple things before we dive in:  I've transcribed a number of teevee conversations over the years, and I'm not particularly good at it. I expect to go over and over things to make sure I've got them right (in longhand).  But I had never, ever, before been forced to transcribe someone's remarks phonetically. Frankly, the disorganization of Chuck Todd's thought processes would suggest some as yet undiscovered neuropathy if one did not already understand the sirens' song of the One-Eyed Bitch Goddess and her High Priest Russert's expense account dinners. I think if one had access to the MSNBC archives one might locate the exact moment when young Chuck's soul flew from his mouth and dissolved into dew. It's long gone now, never to return, something I hope the beginning of his comments can still make clear when turned into print; this is a man who still has to watch his shoes while he dances. It's not pretty, but it's not particularly sympathetic, either.

The other, related, thing is this: I tried to take this down accurately. Believe me, I've got a half-hour invested in the damn thing, easy. If you'd like, feel free to cut and paste


wherever you feel necessary.
TODD: Well, I, I think that, y'know they, th...look, they made a's tough. And I think that my guess is that the ABC guys said to themselves there are two audiences for this debate. One is Pennsylvania voters, but the other, by the way, is superdelegates, so we better make sure we ask questions that both audiences want to have asked.

[Okay, I know I said I wasn't going to interrupt, but, what?]
And I think that when, and they went through and they feel like they asked all those questions, y'know, you do wonder if they changed the order a little bit, kept the same amount of time, but changed the order they probably wouldn't have got it, hit as much. But I think what's interesting about what you brought up is the intensity of "Obamanation", if uh, uh, I guess, to borrow a Red Sox Nation phrase, but they are a devoted group of people beyond which I don't think we've seen, really, we saw a tay, a taste of this in '04 with Bush and sort of his supporters, but I think what we're seeing a taste of is this is, this is just a glimpse of what the Democratic Party fight could look like if for some reason Clinton gets the nomination or appears to be grabbing the nomination away from Obama. MoveOn has already, y'know, pushed [the?] Obama support, y'know, they've already started a petition campaign against ABC and, other media outlets, y'know, apparently all of us are going to get hit by them. I, it, this is a intense group of supporters that may not...accept...a result that isn't Obama as the nominee to the point that they may destroy the Democratic Party.

Here's a thought experiment, assuming you survived all that: what sort of situation would cause you to give an answer like that? Untold riches? Pliant supermodels? A gun held on your family?

Okay, so Chuck Todd is to the Internet Quote Farmer what six producing zucchini plants are to the home cook. He's workin' the Russert Glossary Technique as best he can (superdelegates! Obamanation! MoveOn!),  Pennsylvania voters want to know about lapel pins and Bill Ayers (though why this shouldn't mean we ask the Senators about the Steelers' draft picks or Lindsay Lohan's sobriety goes unanswered).   In the midst of blathering about the unprecedented devotion of Obamanation we suddenly bring up George W. Bush '04, a man whose Republican halo had already begun to tarnish by that point, apparently because the script calls for MoveOn to be equated with the Swiftboaters, despite the fact that the Swiftboat shit was parroted by the nets while this is being discounted (at least sur la table Russert;  I happened to see the ABC coverage and Gibson was fair about it).  Then--in the grand tradition of distracting the rubes while the pickpockets work the crowd--a big fireworks finale consisting of...Obamanation destroying the Democratic Party! USA! USA!

Shit. Oh, here's David Gregory. Maybe he's not insane:
GREGORY: I've got a slightly different view of this, uh. One thing is I think that institutionally journalism is under fire, and, from both sides people are spending a lot of time attacking us and trying to divine our motives. And I'm not saying

[read: of course I am]
that we shouldn't be held to account and there's room for criticism in areas but, uh, I think this goes overboard, number one.

[and we've already be inundated with number two. sorry.]
Number two, I'm not quite certain that they approached it, uh, to the various audiences here. Look, Obama has been in trouble. He deserves some tough questions and scrutiny. There have been things that he has said and outside events that are really testing him. He is on the precipice of closing this deal and getting this nomination.

[precipice, n. L16 (Fr. précipice or L. praecipitiium, f. praeceps, praecip[it]-headlong, steep, or praecipitare PRECIPITATE v.) 1 A precipitate fall or descent. Freq. fig. L16-M17. 2 A high cliff, crag, or steep mountainside from which one might fall; a vertical or very steep rock face. E17. 3 fig A dangerous or hazardous situation. M17  Senator Obama currently occupies the verge of the nomination; should his final push fall short he will wind up merely dry-shod and wistful, not a crushed and lifeless snowboarder now lacking both common sense and motor skills.]
He should face some tough questions. Hillary Clinton has gotten a rough ride at various points because she's been losing. She went from this Inevitability Air [sic] to all of a sudden being on the ropes. The press as a body likes to dissect why that's happened.

You cover winners and losers differently. He has been ahead, she's been behind. This dynamic could change. He had all the sudden fallen behind. [sic] Why? Let's examine that. Let's ask these questions that you are going to be asked down the line. How do you handle these things? People may not like the content of these questions but how he deals with those questions, how he deals with distraction, with perception, with external events is every bit of what he's going to face when, if he becomes President of the United States. And I think it's illuminating for voters to get a sense of how he handles it.

Professor* Todd? You will note how the experienced streetwalker handles the really disgusting requests with aplomb. I was, of course, stopping and starting and going back to get all this, and I still could not ascertain the exact moment when Gregory realized he'd wandering into that "The Front Runner Gets The Rough Questions" minefield. That's an old pro at work, especially seeing as how his two very companions had used that as an excuse to gang-tackle Hillary last Halloween, and seeing as how a) they hadn't stopped in the interim, as she went from Inevitability Air to Also-Ran Stinkola, and b) her tough-gal response garnered nothing but catcalls, while Gregory was right in the middle of criticizing Obama for not being tough enough in response. It was clear that he did understand this by the time he'd said it, but he managed not just to keep going but uncork a fireworks display based on Journalism's Patriotic Duty, goddam it, and if it's old-fashioned to be a Patriot well then I'm proudly old-fashioned, goddam it! and never had to mention MoveOn a'tall.

And damn if we didn't stand up and salute the teevee after that.

We say again: if you answered all your six-year-old's questions like that, how long before she'd be hailing passing cars in an effort to get away? In fact, where'd the Question go, exactly? Is there really a MoveOn petition campaign to make ABC quit asking Barack Obama tough questions? Is it really possible that these guys don't get it? Isn't the answer to both those questions the same?

* Todd's speaker-bureau bio says, "Accompanying his extensive media presence is his work as a graduate level professor at the Johns Hopkins University." So far as I can tell, making allowances for the, uh, odd wording, this professorship is news to the Johns Hopkins University.

Friday, April 18

Like Last Night's Corn-On-The-Cob, This Too Shall Pass.

DAVID Brooks rewrites his blog entry of the day before--did the Times pay for this twice?
When Obama goes to a church infused with James Cone-style liberation theology, when he makes ill-informed comments about working-class voters, when he bowls a 37 for crying out loud, voters are going to wonder if he’s one of them.

So that we note here that the latest in a twelvemonth of bumfucked election pundidiotcy, and the sort of People magazine indicators of electability they espouse in Brooks' "moderate" "Conservative" circles, when they put down the Burke omnibus long enough, has led to David Brooks criticizing another man's athletic ability. Jesus wept.

We might also note that it's emboldened Brooks enough that he's snuck back to the fifth or sixth row of the Republican mob, wherever it is that he needs to stand to make sure those wienie-armed rock tosses of his don't actually hit his own people.
Back in Iowa, Barack Obama promised to be something new — an unconventional leader who would confront unpleasant truths, embrace novel policies and unify the country. If he had knocked Hillary Clinton out in New Hampshire and entered general-election mode early, this enormously thoughtful man would have become that.

But he did not knock her out, and the aura around Obama has changed. Furiously courting Democratic primary voters and apparently exhausted, Obama has emerged as a more conventional politician and a more orthodox liberal.

Wellll...okay. From my perch on the banks of the West Fork of the Mighty White his commercials make him seem a more "orthodox" liberal these days, but I'd suggest that's because the tanking economy has made that a much more comfortable place to operate from. And economic flip-floppery is the most accepted form, so I wouldn't exactly consider that a liability. I just think it's curious that the same people who used to scream about the great levels of diversity in a Republican party that voted en bloc for twenty-five years can't tell the difference between Obama's centrism and liberal "orthodoxy". But maybe that's just me.

So my take (aimai notes Obama acolytes making lemonaide out of Lemon Pledge) is that he might've have knocked Clinton out in January if he'd actually been an "orthodox Liberal", but back then that attitude just got you lectured on how old-timers didn't understand The New Politics. Or not in the way David Brooks did. And had that, or anything else, actually knocked Senator Clinton out of the race last January, whatever it was would now be the subject of Brooks' Obama Is Doomed column today.

I'm almost positive you have more invested in this than I, since I was basically born disappointed, and I can't imagine you'd be checking in here for a pep talk, but here goes: these people have been full of shit all along; today is not different. Obama supporters should have listened, should have been fighting Chris Matthews and Tim Russert instead of Bill and Hillary Clinton, should have been less assured that dummied-up racism was what they were going to face in the general, and a little more concerned with how they were going to answer the charges McCain would make, with an assist from that same Press that so loved Obama a few weeks ago. Finally, at this point, they should have learned that pre-season polls don't mean any more in April than they did in October, and overreaction is worse than no reaction at all. They knew better than the rest of us, and all people who refuse any lesson at all wind up learning the same way.

So, buck up; despite the fact that there are people out there who still say, "These attacks play right into his hands, because it lets him decry his attackers", many of them will be dead come election day, killed by using a fork to extract stuck toast one too many times, and what passes for "reality" will prevail. And it will not be kind to John McCain.

Thursday, April 17

Campaign 2008: Finally, A Good Reason To Watch More Porn.

David Brooks, "No Whining About the Media." April 16

HONEST to God, if you could make this stuff up--and you can't--what would you do with it? First, the nation's Newspaper of Record decides that giving David Brooks 800 words worth of nothing twice a week is insufficient; we need his instantaneous passive-aggression on the non-issues of the moment, presumably on the grounds that all the kids today are into this "blogging" thing. And then the man who has turned sniveling into a career tells "his readership" to stop whining about something. And that something turns out to be the conduct of last night's "debate", which, with apologies to the Firesign Theatre, managed to achieve a new low in Low, however impossible that seemed just hours before. Not to mention its being just the sort of thing anyone who reads Brooks for the intellectual content would already have been cheering.

(Campaign '08 ads are all over the teevee in Indiana now, which explains why their handlers had local teleprompter readers ape excitement over our recently reclaimed "relevance". Meanwhile my Poor Wife, registered Democrat, gets four phone calls a night from people who, I suppose, imagine they are "participating in the system", or even "making the world a better place". Apparently volunteer work leaves them little or no time to see their man or woman's commercials six times in an evening, since that would make the starriest-eyed young idealist rummage the garage for anything huffable. This is why I've long felt that the major disaster visited on the human race by the rise of technology is not Weapons of Mass Destruction, but the eradication of smallpox.)

Anyway, back to Brooks. It's difficult to believe he imagines his moderate-Republican act fools anyone, as it has all the subtlety of a Billy Dee Williams malt liquor commercial, but, he does:
First, Democrats, and especially Obama supporters, are going to jump all over ABC for the choice of topics: too many gaffe questions, not enough policy questions.
I understand the complaints, but I thought the questions were excellent. The journalist’s job is to make politicians uncomfortable, to explore evasions, contradictions and vulnerabilities. Almost every question tonight did that. The candidates each looked foolish at times, but that’s their own fault.

Okay, leaving aside--for a moment--the idea that George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson are "journalists", exactly when did this become their "job", and when did the "job" expand to include hosting duties on these low-budget, faux-democratic spectacles? It's one thing for these morons--and, tell me, what worse selections than Gibson and Stephanopoulos are out there?--to secretly (har har) try to manipulate our domestic politics into tabloid-level ratings busters (an idea which is at least ten years out of date, as no self-respecting junk-news junkie would try to cop a fix from the fucking networks anymore). It's quite a different matter to celebrate this shit as the vitally important work of a Free Press.

And shit, even Brooks knows better:
We may not like it, but issues like Jeremiah Wright, flag lapels and the Tuzla airport will be important in the fall. Remember how George H.W. Bush toured flag factories to expose Michael Dukakis. It’s legitimate to see how the candidates will respond to these sorts of symbolic issues.

Th' fuck?

I have to admit, long-time political dilettante that I am, that I had, indeed--are you sitting down?--completely forgotten how George H.W. Bush had toured flag factories. He presumably toured them while walking, and in the company of their CEOs and/or plant managers, but I don't want to assume too much. That this exposure stemmed the tide of Dukakismania and made the world safe for the most vapid presidency of the modern era managed to escape my notice. In fact, I thought we had all agreed to pretty much forget the entire Bush I administration as good for nobody. Evoking the most idiotic campaign ever conducted in a nation with sewage treatment plants as a paragon of sensible Chief Executive Selection is simply dumbfounding. Fer chrissakes, Bush I then lost the following election because he vomited on Kiichi Miyazawa. Which for Brooks, I take it, demonstrated to the American people he didn't really have the intestinal fortitude for international diplomacy.
Second, Obama and Clinton were completely irresponsible. As the first President Bush discovered, it is simply irresponsible statesmanship (and stupid politics) to make blanket pledges to win votes. Both candidates did that on vital issues.

The above was written by a self-styled Reaganaut.
Both promised to not raise taxes on those making less than $200,000 or $250,000 a year. They both just emasculated their domestic programs.

Both promised one thing or another. We are required under the terms of Ever Writing About David Brooks to point one of these out per column, lest anyone argue he's on the Op-Ed page because he writes so well.

We're no economist, mind you, but we will point out that the present occupant of the White House, a Fiscal Conservative, has cut taxes while conducting a number of wars. In other words, if nothing else there's always deficit spending, which was just fine with Republicans from 2001-2004.

(This reminds me: the one good thing about Indiana's upcoming primary--and by "upcoming" I mean "several tortuous weeks from now"--has nothing whatsoever to do with the still-contested Democratic Presidential race, but with Dan Burton's sinecured head being on the chopping block. I don't know if he's dropped the pathosesque "I had to shine shoes so my alcoholic father could buy nickel beer" series, but his new ad shows Senator Clinton, then Senator Obama, while intoning that he's the only man to keep their Librul TaxnSpending in check, as a crawl ticks off the awards he's won from Murricans United Against Taxes On White People. This despite the fact that the only Bush-era, record-deficit spending bills ol' Sureshot hasn't voted for were the ones whose calls conflicted with his tee times.)
The second pledge was just as bad. Nobody knows what the situation in Iraq will be like. To pledge an automatic withdrawal is just insane.

Right. This is no time to let insanity creep into our conduct of the Iraq war.

OKAY, now let's say you are The American Broadcasting Company, Inc. You're owned, fittingly, by the Walt Disney Company, the second largest media corporation in the world, with $35.51 B in revenue last year. And the best you can do is Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos? The Wal-Mart version of Charles Kuralt, and a guy whose career can only be explained by America's continued love affair with Talking Chipmunks? They didn't just grill the next Democratic party nominee for President on Bosniagate, Wrightgate, Bittergate, and flag pins, aka All The Important Issues; Gibson nearly went postal over Effective Capital Gains Tax Rates, a matter it has to be difficult to get his accountant interested in this year. And Chuck's contribution to "journalism" included this:
And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?

Which, again, given our general indolence in economic matters it's shocking to have to point out that fucking of course revenues rose when the rates were dropped, since the people who actually have Capital to Gain naturally waited until tax rates were lowered to realize it. It's not as if the Republicans have been doing this sort of thing in secret, is it? This is really like arguing that since the grocer sells more ground beef when he marks it down $1 a pound he ought to give the stuff away and retire wealthy. As for 100 million people owning stock, assuming they do and that doesn't include the (much greater) number who own mutual fund shares, most of 'em aren't day traders, and they're not so wealthy as to make stock-trading decisions based on short-term tax rates.  

Incidentally, this sort of thing is the product of Charlie Gibson being groomed for a week so he can mouth this sort of thing.  It's not his response to some errant comment or candidate's evasiveness; this is what a roomful of people came up with for Charlie Gibson to bring up.  

I'd vote for whomever called Gibson full of shit first, but no one does, and Senator Obama benefitted from the Won't Someone Stand Up For the Seven-Figure Wage Earners of the World approach when Gibson conveniently overlooked another of the Senator's "Social Security is in crisis" bits.   (For fuck's sake, can we start replying to this every fucking time that we somehow managed to find enough money to conduct wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while cutting taxes, and that the expenses we've admitted to were great enough to operate Social Security without a penny of tax revenue coming in?) 

As for Stephanopoulos, at least he's an equal-opportunity idiot:
Senator Clinton, when Bill Richardson called you to say he was endorsing Barack Obama, you told him that Senator Obama can't win. I'm not going to ask you about that conversation. I know you don't want to talk about it.

and: you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?

Not that it requires further comment, but we note here that Jeremiah Wright gave up his student deferment in 1961, spent two years in the Marines, transferred to the Navy and served through 1967. George Stephanopoulos heroically broke out in hives from the stress of serving as a Clinton spokesman.

Wednesday, April 16

I'll Be Out In A Minute

I'M sure apologies is too strong a word, but my usual tax procrastination has combined with Physical Therapy to throw my blogging timing way off.  

Especially the PT, which I'm hoping was merely a matter of wrong place/wrong time.  My "therapist" Liz--or, more formally, Ms Mengele--works out of a book entitled To Serve Man, which the others don't seem to be using. Last Friday I was given a series of calisthenics of about ten reps each and told if I managed to do them three times a day it would be "awesome".  Yes, vocabulary is another area where Liz and I don't see eye to monocle.

I return on Monday and find myself led into a secret room and strapped into a series of torture devices heretofore unmentioned.  It was a lot like being at some trendy gym with ex-Nazi trainers, except all the hot chicks were 85 years old.  Really, so far as I've seen I'm the youngest client there by roughly two decades.  And then Nurse Mengele has me do two sets of fifteen reps each of all my exercises, or roughly now, three fucking times what she started me on just 72 hours earlier.  That's some awesome progress.  Then she led me to a table and tried to dislocate my hip.  

Now, two things:  one, I'd been doing two sets of ten-fifteen reps on those exercises at home already, because they seemed pretty easy and the resulting pain was manageable.  But she didn't know that, and she barely asked me how things had gone.   I suspect she may have skipped a page somewhere. And two, my suspicions are at least partly confirmed by the fact that she began by working on the wrong leg, which is not a real confidence builder, shall we say, and the fact that she perpetually loses count on my reps, and was only alerted to the fact that I was doing 95 rpm on the recumbent bike when the adorably garrulous  ninety-year-old woman parked in the wheelchair behind me commented on how fast I was going.   Let's just say that I'm on guard in case she tries to lock me in the steam room.

The most disconcerting thing was that when I winced while doing an exercise on some stairs she stopped the proceedings and admonished me to stop doing things when they hurt.  When they hurt!  Lady, everything hurts, unless you've got some morphine in the desk you'd care to share.

No, wait, the most disconcerting thing is that the assignment of therapists seems to be on a strictly coed basis--every patient I've seen so far has one of the opposite sex, and the men seem to say "honey" a lot and "you've got my card if anything changes", and...wait a minute!  Where are the old therapists?  All of them seem to be under twenty-six.  Ohmigod, it's Soylent Green! They're in the mats!  Police!  Police!

Okay, so on second thought that's really not all that troubling.

But Liz and I decidedly did not hit it off, in part because she's got that Fergie thing going on, where apparently instead of showering with soap and water she uses olive oil, and Spanish instead of Italian at that, and in part because I was insufficiently impressed by the five-carat diamond on her left hand.  The goddam thing is almost as tall as she is.  And let's just say the aura is not of someone whose full attention is on the rehabilitation of Which Knee Was It You Had Surgery On, Again?

Plus I'm a short timer, which apparently doesn't make you very popular, but which did not prevent the office person from asking me if I preferred "James" or "Jim", to which I did not reply, "Well, my friends call me Jimbo, but you can call me Mr. Riley."  'Cause there was a thirty-year-old guy in the waiting room, and I had him pegged for a Soylent Green agent.   They're everywhere.

Thursday, April 10

In Brief

PERSONAL life and what my Poor Wife laughing refers to in my case as responsibility intrude, and I start Physical Therapy, or PT, in a few hours, but I did want to share an impression of Indiana's 6th District Congressman Mike Pence. The casual observer may best remember Pence as the man who claimed his stroll through a Baghdad market with just John McCain, seventy-five pounds of body armor, and a small battalion of friends, some hovering overhead, was "like an Indiana market in the summertime"; those of us who know him a bit better say, "think Mitt Romney (v. 2.0) with grey hair, a slight head wound, and a compulsion to refer to his religion that borders on Tourettism". Pence's combination of public evangelicalism, small-town Jaycee hucksterism, and the je ne sais quoi of the Florida real-estate developer proved just the ticket for his eastern Indiana district, just as soon as the Republicans got the chance to redraw the boundaries in 2000.

Anyway Pence--whose website actually touts as evidence of his tough-mindedness on Iraq the fact that in 2003 he inserted an amendment into a supplemental funding bill language which would have required Iraq to treat our "reconstruction" costs as a loan! and adds "I still believe that!"--got another undeserved fifteen minutes during the Petraeus Shadow Puppet Theatre this week, of which a snippet made it on local news. (Pence, we admit, is an absolute master at getting himself on Indianapolis teevee whenever the subject is remotely military. Had the fact that it had a solid, guaranteed Republican Congressional majority for forty years actually managed to prevent the closing of every military base in the state we'd not be surprised to see Pence reading the daily mess' Hot Items Selection List (HIST) every morning. This replaces the earlier part of his career, when he was a master at getting on teevee to tout his Conservative Budget Principles, before they bankrupted half the nation.)

So I catch his soundbite, and (from memory) it runs something like this:

MR. PENCE: Mr. General Burns, Petraeus, your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train soundly conducted military exercise based on Christian and Conservative principles. To what do you attribute your popularity wildly popular but still ignored by some Members and the Liberal Media despite it being So Obvious success?

To which we can only add that we look forward to catching the tape of Rep. Pence's next Baghdad market tour, the one where his security is handled entirely by $22 billion (it's a loan!) worth of New Iraq Army. Assuming the camera survives.

Tuesday, April 8

One Hundred Years Of Solicitude

Frank Rich, Sunday. Alpha:
REALLY, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton should be ashamed of themselves for libeling John McCain. As a growing chorus reiterates, their refrains that Mr. McCain is “willing to send our troops into another 100 years of war in Iraq” (as Mr. Obama said) or “willing to keep this war going for 100 years” (per Mrs. Clinton) are flat-out wrong.

DON'T get me wrong; it's nice to see Frank Rich, one of the last defenders of fair and honest discourse in our nation's press, a man who marched off to Theatre Siberia rather than be a part of his paper's decade-long Festival of Making Shit Up About the Clintons and Al Gore, rising bravely to defend the defenseless Republican party, itself the final bastion of the scrupulously truthful. It's just that, I dunno, if one feels such a need to defend our heretofore rigorous public rhetoric one might consider the ground one chooses for the stand; McCain's remarks deserve a damned good whacking. Omega:
The Democrats should also stop repeating their 100-years-war calumny against Mr. McCain. There’s too much at stake for America for them to add their own petty distortions to an epic tragedy that only a long-overdue national reckoning with hard truths can bring to an end.

All well and good; it's just that we'd like to suggest that this national reckoning be conducted by people who show signs of understanding the depth of the problem, of the direct link between the Iraq war and the Truman Doctrine, of sixty years of paranoid right-wing fascism and multinational corporate greed driving a perpetual war machine and dunning the American public for the privilege of being "defended".   

And to me, at least, that doesn't include Frank Rich, who in the run-up to war was writing about Saddam Hussein's fictitious accounting of his weapons arsenal and the hapless UN inspectors nobody could believe, and who contrasted the masterful PR (at least) of Bush's carrier landing with the hapless 2004 Democratic hopefuls nobody could believe, especially when they went windsurfing.

There's no sin in being wrong, of course, only in the failure to own up. The problem is that this public reckoning is guaranteed to exempt everyone who decided five years and countless thousands of deaths later that the war was a bad idea, but who didn't stop to consider that before diving in (Rich's Pearl Harbor Day 2002 column specifically asks if we're headed into "a war as necessary as World War II or to a tragedy of unintended consequences redolent of World War I," but that merely confirms our intention to whistle while we hike; Americans remain convinced of The Great War as a victory for our side--and a hopeless stalemate broken only because We went Over There--albeit one which began as an unfortunate misunderstanding. And we're convinced that WWII was a Western [read: stalemate broken when We went You Know Where] effort to shave Hitler's sui generis mustache, plus a side excursion into the Pacific to deal with some trendy fanatics in the East. None of this even approaches the truth, but the lure of turning global conflict into satisfying moral tales for children is great, and it pays well enough to keep Victor Davis Hanson from having to shovel real manure for a living.)

McCain's original comments were of a piece with this: America Stands Ready to send her sons and daughters to far-flung locals to further Peace--just so long as nobody gets hurt, he adds, which afterthought  is now picked up and used to rap errant Democratic knuckles. But who says nobody gets hurt? Who says this isn't, or doesn't require, a continuation of war? McCain, as usual, was sounding a bite from the Right's Neener Neener Collection, but it won't stand even a cursory examination. Yes, we're still "occupying" Germany and Japan. But those are missions which, in the former case, morphed into a Cold War tripwire, then, after Ronald Reagan defeated the Soviets, into a sort of Trans-Atlantic pen pal relationship, except with guns. Can anyone explain what we're still doing there? The primary benefit seems to be that many of our 19- and 20-year-olds get to find out what real beer tastes like. And we've got someplace nearer the action to send bombers from and remove casualties to.  As for the latter we haven't even bothered to concoct that much of a story for Nippon, which is simply the westernmost outpost of our Pacific Ocean.

Korea? Well, we might ask how we got there in the first place, and why we're still there preventing the International Communist Conspiracy from realizing its plans for world domination so many years after we discovered the simple but effective expedient of Just Buying It Off.   I wouldn't wish the Kims on anybody, but it's not like Syngman Rhee was some sort of prize.

I'm not proposing we simply re-write the history, but the fact is that Korea is technically a UN operation, that it is technically a war zone, not a peacekeeping mission, and that our people there serve in harm's way. The main reason we're still there is there's no real impetus to find a solution when we'd be the major beneficiaries of one, and when making fun of Kim's hairdo and scaring children about his nuclear "capabilities" accounts for so much fun, and so much political profit.  One admires the spirit of the attempt, but the man who gets stuck in a cesspool and explains he's just checking the fill level has more style than brains.  

But is no one being harmed? We've got a single combat brigade sitting across some barbed wire from the world's forth-largest army. It used to be two brigades, but then came Afghanistan and Iraq, after which the Bush administration suddenly decided we didn't need the troop levels we'd been maintaining for fifty years.

We haven't been harmed? Hell, if you so believe in the Iraq mission, as McCain claims to, then we might note the sort of contribution this made to our insufficiency of troops. At the height of the Cold War these missions could muster only stop-gap or tripwire numbers; now we're going to add the Middle East and hand the bill to the next three generations, just to save face?

And just so long as nobody gets hurt?

We regret to inform the Times that the "long-overdue national reckoning" of this sort of thing precisely involves John McCain's public bullshit, and if that requires taking his statements out and shooting them, if it requires saying "waging a 100-year-war" instead of the more accurate "paying for a 100-year-war and hoping the casualties remain 'acceptable' on John McCain's watch", well, it's often the innocent who suffer in wartime. And who foot the bill.

Monday, April 7

Uh, What?

Steven Lee Myers, "Generally Speaking." New York Times, April 6

OKAY, two things: first, like a lot of you, I'm still trying to figure out what that first round of Petraeusmania had to do with a little thing some of us like to call "Reality", and second, by the time the Times turned up yesterday I was well into Day Two of my inquiry into how many Vicodin you have to take before it feels like you're on drugs.

Add in the Automotive Cultural Component, or ACC, which comes from watching the start of the F-1 race at Bahrain early in the AM, during which I was reminded a) that beginning in 2009, Formula One will require a so-called Kinetic Energy Recovery System, or KERS, which will turn some of the braking energy now lost as heat into stored electrical energy--compare American stock car racing, which took a decade to figure out how to run on unleaded fuel, and b) that the F-1 announcing crew manages to complete entire seasons without screaming anything on the order of  NOW IT'S ALL ABOUT THE RACING!, something NASCAR can't get though a 30-second spot without, and I was in a mood even before I got to the Week in Review, I tells ya. Then I come upon this:
Iraq may be President Bush’s war, but Gen. David H. Petraeus has become its front man: a clear-speaking, politically savvy, post-Vietnam combat veteran with a Ph.D. from Princeton. Given the failures that have plagued the mission from the start, he may yet be Mr. Bush’s best hope for sustaining public support for an unpopular war once his presidency ends.

Uh, what? Someone 'fess up, now; you youngsters are just putting "post-" in front of shit just to fuck with the rest of us, right?
Now this astutely political general faces a season of political trials in the politically charged atmosphere of a presidential campaign — not to mention military ones, as illustrated by recent fighting in the southern city of Basra, which calls into question his efforts to prepare the Iraqi Army to stand on its own.

Or, in other words, the 1200-word piece (Is the White House General Petraeus' Next Command?) someone assigned three weeks ago to coincide with his Congressional testimony this week sorta self-destructed in the past ten days, but why waste all that typing?
Such is General Petraeus’s position that President Bush has repeatedly said that he would do nothing not recommended by his chosen commander in Iraq.

Dear reader, try to calculate what sort of salary it would take to get you to type that sentence in 2008.
And so successfully have the two men — civilian and soldier — managed to sustain the war in defiance of public opinion that some in the punditry and blogosphere have given voice to visions of him as a military man with a political future.

Or that one.

Great horned toads! You'd imagine the front page of the Week in Review might be one place where the half-witted droolery of "some in the punditry and blogosphere" was sharply reprimanded and forced to stand outside so as not to offend the sensibilities of the literate, not used as a springboard into idiocy.
While a Draft Petraeus campaign today may be little more than wishful thinking on the right, the buzz alone, from conservatives who relish the idea to liberals who seem mostly to loathe it, illustrates an abiding tradition of American politics. Anyone tough enough to battle through the fog of war, it is generally assumed, ought to be able easily to cut through the hot air of American politics.

Buzz? Buzz? You heard any out your way? Know any liberals who care one way or another whether David Petraeus competes for whatever Republican campaign donations might still be out there next time around?  Hell, I can't find many who've given a thought to what President Obama will do on Day Two.  In the world of friendly card games we call that a "tell".  
“I think the psyche is looking for a new Eisenhower,” said Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation, a bipartisan research organization in Washington, who was among the first to discuss the prospect of a Petraeus presidential bid in his Washington Note blog last August. He outlined a scenario that had a newly retired Petraeus recapturing the White House for the Republicans in 2012 from a failed Democratic administration.

Let's be fair to Clemons: he was writing--last August--at the height of the ersatz Petraeusmania, and reporting a scenario being brutted about "by some in the military set , and increasingly among some pols". It was long enough ago that the "failed Democratic administration" was Hillary Clinton's.

Honestly, now, why should it have required the utter collapse of the whole The Surge Must Be Working, Otherwise We'd Still Be Reporting On The War business over the past two weeks to have consigned this one to the crapper? Are the other mindless fantasies of that bunch newsworthy? (I mean the ones they own up to, the ones involving Star Trek military technology and body-painting a pneumatic and malleable Yvonne Craig.)
The idea is as old as the Republic — from George Washington through Ulysses S. Grant to Dwight D. Eisenhower. But it is most fecund in times of war. Douglas MacArthur flirted with presidential politics in 1952 after President Truman fired him, and in 1968 there was buzz about William Westmoreland before Vietnam went all wrong.
Is this just another one of those post- gags?  1968 was not "before Vietnam went all wrong". That was 1945.  

I was somewhere between eleven and fifteen when this would have happened, so I had other things on my mind, but I did read the papers and for the life of me I don't remember the name of William Westmoreland being attached to anything in those days except strings of expletives. (Wikipedia insists that Time mentioned him as a potential candidate in 1967; but the article itself  says his name is "sure to crop up", without suggesting where, exactly, and notes:
...though he would have to come home with a clear-cut victory in Viet Nam and that is at best a remote possibility

so we'll give them 1 out of 2.)

Washington, Grant, and Eisenhower. It's possible the recently comatose might miss the fact that their victories were highly popular (victories usually are), even if their wars weren't always overwhelmingly so. To the list of general officers we can add William Henry Harrison and Rutherford Birchard Hayes (breveted); Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt were heroic colonels. On the other hand voters also chose the draft-evading Grover Cleveland and (arguendo) the combat-avoiding Clinton and Bush II.  John McCain seems the last hope for any combat veteran of Korea or Vietnam to be elected, and any veteran of any Iraq war to manage the feat will almost certainly be competing against the tendency, in the Republican party at least, of not actually going in for that sort of thing on a personal level.

You might think that, when recent memory offers up electoral duds like Powell and Clark, let alone a Westmoreland, LeMay, Ridgeway, or MacArthur, and when every schoolboy ought to remember how George McClellan's national political career turned out, that this sort of thing could be overcome with just the timely application of a cold washcloth and a few horizontal minutes.

Friday, April 4

More Youthful Republican Folly

CNN: Presidential candidate John McCain stood outside the motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was slain 40 years ago, and told a crowd he was wrong to initially oppose making Dr. King's birthday a state holiday in Arizona.

[Note: I haven't found a transcript, so I can't say whether "initially" is McCain's or CNN's way of describing the first six years of his life as an elected official. While we're at it we might as well note that McCain didn't simply oppose the creation of a state holiday; he supported Evan Mecham rescinding it in 1987. Arizona finally got around to reversing itself again in 1989, after that act had given it a very public black eye, which it decided was more black than it cared to be attached to.]

New York Times: Mr. McCain was faced with a scattering of boos when said he had erred in the past when he voted as a freshman in Congress against the Jan. 20 holiday celebrating King.
“Even in this most idealistic of nations, we do not always take kindly to being reminded of what more we can do, or how much better we can be, or who else can be included in the promise of America,” Mr. McCain said. “We can be slow as well to give greatness its due, a mistake I made myself long ago when I voted against a federal holiday in memory of Dr. King. I was wrong and eventually realized that, in time to give full support for a state holiday in Arizona.”

Y'know, Senator, in 1983 the Montgomery Bus Boycott was a more distant event than the vote you got just now around to apologizing for is today. The March on Washington and I Have A Dream had already marked their twentieth anniversary. Dr. King had stopped marching, speaking, and breathing over fifteen years previously. How long did you need to figure it out? What was it, exactly, that opened your eyes in the intervening six years?

Ordinarily I'd at least give a bit of credit to someone for facing a hostile crowd and owning up to past misdeeds, but in this case I'd've respected you more if you just shut up, or even if you'd have recited the crap about how we just had too many gosh-darn holidays as it was. I mean, if that was such an important principle to you at the time that it sorta blinded you to Dr. King's accomplishments or the racist murderousness of his opposition, then it seems like it might merit a nod even at this late date.  Maybe what you should be explaining now is why you tried to hide a lack of appreciation for Dr. King's work behind the transparently racist faux concern over our lavish Federal holiday schedule.  

Yahoo News: The following is being issued by the Democratic National Committee:

...In fact, in 1983 McCain did something not even Dick Cheney did: he voted in Congress against a federal holiday in honor of Dr. King, which President Reagan later signed into law.

Uh, look, I'm all for contrasting his record with the pathetic Cheney's, but Reagan opposed the King holiday his entire political life, and signed on because it was veto proof. These people don't deserve credit for eventually "coming around"; they deserve to scatter like cockroaches every time a light gets switched on over their sordid doings.

Treason In Defense Of Slavery Month™ Salutes The Southern Marksman

April 4, 1968.

The Most Amazing Thing I've Seen In Politics In Fifty Years, No, Really.

AND it's not Barack Obama's campaigning in Indiana, or Dr. Woody Myers' surprisingly well-oiled Congressional campaign (he's running against Andre Carson, the winner of last month's special election, and several other strong contenders in the Democratic primary) plastering the local airwaves with ads that make it sound like he's running against George W. Bush. No, it's Dan Burton, the Watermelon Man, forced to buy teevee time in the primaries. [Caution: sepia-toned mawkishness ahead]

Rest assured that the population of his gerrymandered Republican sinecure hasn't suddenly taken leave of its senselessness over his politics; what's finally sent voters over the edge was the fact that they couldn't complain about Julia Carson's attendance record as she lay dying of cancer because Danny's wasn't any better. In fact his primary challenger makes a big deal of the fact that Burton missed an opportunity to vote for a resolution opposing an "early withdrawal" from Iraq. In fact the only thing that keeps this from being ultimately depressing is the secure knowledge that he'll latch on with some DC law firm instead of moving back here.

Getting The Jump On Last Week

Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan, "The Basra Business: What we know and what we don't." Weekly Standard, April 1.

OKAY, so it's nice to see that a barrage of Kagans (look it up; it's the accepted collective noun) now insists on waiting for actual evidence from Iraq before drawing any conclusions, even if the requirement applies only to their detractors.
The legitimate Government of Iraq and its legally-constituted security forces launched a security operation against illegal, foreign-backed, insurgent and criminal militias serving leaders who openly call for the defeat and humiliation of the United States and its allies in Iraq and throughout the region. We can be ambivalent about the political motivations of Maliki and his allies, but we cannot be ambivalent about the outcome of this combat between our open allies and our open enemies.

We honestly admire military historians, the only endangered species to have put itself on the list, and the only one which combines self-awareness of its plight with a fearless continuation of its showy (largely) male public displays. We remain unconvinced of The Surge's effectiveness, or even that it had the potential to succeed, but we think everyone must now admit that if our enemy proves vulnerable to the long-distance adjective this war has found its Curtis LeMay.

Maybe people who still read the Weekly Standard are taken in by this sort of thing, and maybe there are still people who read the Weekly Standard. Our pathetic attempts to marginalize (and criminalize! as though that term has any real meaning before the victors write the history) Muqtada al-Sadr back when we still imagined we were running things were simply brushed aside. That a pair of high-altitude-bombing Kagans now see fit to taunt Sadr for not returning to Iraq would be ironic if it weren't just plain ludicrous, not to mention being yet one more example of just how easy it is to win a war from 6000 miles away.

(How much have taxpayers spent over the past eight years to keep Dick Cheney alive? Shouldn't we demand that when his time comes we get his brain in a jar, so that some future generation might discover whatever serious anomaly makes a man susceptible to this sort of advice?)

Wednesday, April 2

...And The Little Red Wagon You Rode In On.

MY Poor Wife hit me with it first thing yesterday morning, before coffee and Vicodin, when my knee felt like a stuck door and my attitude was not much better.

"We're number 49!" she says, far too fucking cheerfully.

It's Spring Break. We generally do not have to deal with one another mornings, or not for long, and certainly not when one of us has had her coffee and the other is deprived and has one leg throbbing like The Only Vibrator in Texas. One of us is out of practice. Her. It is not a time for jolly games.

"Nummerfortynine whut?"

"We're number 49...

"Th' fuck of what?"

"Graduation rates. IPS was 49th out of 50th."

"Fuck fuckin' fifty fuckin' what? Compared to who?" I do not actually sound this coherent, or this sweet.

"I didn't pay attention. I think Detroit was last."


"I don't know."

I've been married for many years, often happily, and yet it still is a goddam struggle sometimes to stand on a recently surgically repaired leg with too much goddam Republican low-angled Daylight Savings Time coming through the kitchen windows and make happy talk with my dear spouse who happens to be standing directly between me and the Oster four-slot that promises to give me enough AM ballast that I can take the hydrocodone I'm near ready to kill for. But I'm trying.

This is doubly so when the topic is Goddam Stupid Public Education Posturing.

I eventually got toast, painkillers, coffee, and as much of the story as had sunk into her right-hemisphere-dominated world:  we were #49, and she had no further idea of how either axis of the chart had been labeled, or by whom, and it was on some morning cable or local news show, she was not sure which, because. as you may already be aware, she flips through channels faster than the goddam infrared can travel from the remote to the set. Cool blue ocean, cool blue ocean.

And I was a little busy, but I looked at the Racist Star online, as they'll rarely miss an opportunity to dump on the urban division of our largely Klan-organized central Indiana schools, but there wasn't anything there, and I eventually forgot about it and concentrated more on incapacitating bone pain.

Then we spent the better part of the afternoon buying a new washing machine (Whirlpool™ Cabrio, a top-loader with a wash plate instead of an agitator, the capacity of a moderately-sized airplane hangar, and a bigger price tag than our oven), in which task we were assisted by a woman with the kinetic mannerisms of a pair of caged hamsters and a Latin word tattooed across her hand in what I believe was Highschool Amateur Uncial Bold Extended. I resisted the urge to ask her about it.

So I had pretty much forgotten everything by the time we got home and switched on local news, and then (cue Channel 13)...
Dropout rates at Indianapolis Public Schools are back in the national spotlight again and for all the wrong reasons.
A new reform campaign ranks the city nearly dead last among major cities in graduating students, the 30.5 percent graduation rate trailing only Detroit in the national survey. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is leading the group that is sounding the alarm about the issue.
"It is not just a crisis, it is a catastrophe," he said.

Colin Powell. Nice to see ya, General. Glad you found something to lie about in the private sector.

Don't you have a massacre somewhere you're supposed to be covering up? Motherfucker. Indianapolis Public Schools could dish up Sugar-Coated Heroin Pops™ at lunch every day and teach nothing but Sass Mouth, Midriff Exposure, and Oral Sex Techniques for the next seventy-five years and not do as much damage to the country as Colin Powell has accomplished all by himself in forty.

So, of course, the "findings" of the "study" done by his non-profit scam organization America's Promise Alliance is regurgitated on air as though nobody'd ever have a reason to doubt something a Secretary of State said in public.

Okay, let's back up a minute. I'm not sure Channel 13 actually mentioned the name of any Four Star Professional Liars directly responsible for the deaths of four thousand men and women of the United States armed forces through an act he later attempted to atone for by directing elite squads of public relations executives to clear his own name. That part came from the online story. On air we were much too busy making cotton candy to bother noting where the sugar was coming from, or wondering why it smelled like that.

There was a mention of America's Promise Alliance, the organization Powell founded just after his Thompsonesque Am-I-A-Republican-Or-A-Democrat, Will-I-Run-For-President-Or-Won't-I routine closed in tryouts. So, being more curious than your average professional news-gathering operation, I hied myself over to their website and was repaid by coming face to face with Tim Russert without warning.

Now, I don't want to leave an impression of bias here, but just for starters we've got an organization which is founded by America's Most Tainted career military officer, one which somehow has the juice to get national exposure for a vaguely preposterous report on the morning of its release, and which has attracted the tax-deductible participation of noted parochial school bully Tim Russert. It's nothing I could put my finger on, but I was beginning to feel a mite uneasy. This was compounded by the fact that by now I'd found the online report at Channel 13, and discovered that IPS ranks next-to-last by virtue of its thirty percent graduation rate. This is the state's largest school system. Okay, so admittedly the only education most Hoosiers need is the smarts to move someplace else, but still--if 70% of our school students are dropping out before graduating from high school it's a wonder you can drive past any of the buildings without spotting one or two jumping from windows in an effort to beat the rush. I know a thing or two about Indianapolis Public Schools, and I think I can say without contradiction that attendance is so bad you couldn't possibly identify that many students as IPS property.

Of course this calls for a serious perusal of the methodology of the study, and of course I'm not really any more willing to do that than local news was, so I click on the Board of Directors link for some good ad hominem material. Though first I'll share with you another vial of suspicious-looking material:
Dropout rates are often controversial with districts using their own formulas to calculate the numbers.
"Whether you agree with a particular number or not is not relevant, the trend is real," Powell said.

Which was followed in less time than it takes to return one's jaw to its normal position by:
Using the Indiana Department of Education's formula, 46.1 percent of IPS students graduated last year. On their web site, the district claims a 51 percent graduation rate.

So we've got to ask, first, why we should be worrying about public education at all when basic math competence and the ability to construct a coherent English sentence, or punctuate one, are not required for positions where those skills would seem to the outside observer to be of central importance?

Before we scan that Board of Director's list let's take a moment to be fair. Perhaps the Powells and the other post-expiration-date Reagan teat munchers on it are genuinely concerned about helping Our Nation's Youth and improving Her Schools, towards which ends they are selflessly donating their time and expertise. In that spirit we're sure Secretary Powell will make himself available, and candidly expansive, to a hand-selected coterie of fourth-tier Clinton functionaries, Enron whistle-blowers, 60s militants, disgruntled AOL employees, and former audiologists tasked with examining his military and government records and deciding which dank hellhole he should spend the rest of his charitable career in.

Russert. Judy Woodruff. Jean Case. Marguerite W. Kondracke. Neil Bush. The one-time Nixon/Bush I functionary who helped create the Points of Light Foundation, and the former Shell CEO who now heads it. The guy who lost to Rick Santorum. Everyone who's run The United Way over the past two decades without landing in prison. Cal Ripken, Jr., because you need somebody who'll show up for every meeting, and Michael Jordan, because you need somebody who knows the Latest Line. Two Ph.D brandishers (I admit to a certain let-down there), one CFA, and the Rev. Dr. Wilson Goode, previously best known for the impromptu street barbecue he threw for MOVE as mayor of Philadelphia. My personal favorite, former Indianapolis mayor and disgruntled Bush administration faith-based associate sinecure Stephen Goldsmith, who's now brave enough to use his own name instead of the alias he used to feloniously vote under back when all the bad guys of Indy were after his Eagle Scout Prosecutor ass, and a man who had eight years to do something about Indianapolis Public Schools and didn't.  (He did propose we simply turn everything over to his enormous brain, but that was his answer for everything.) And Joel Klein, Chancellor of NYC schools and Scourge of Featherbedding Union Teachers, because out of three dozen people you need at least one who might've entered a public school at some point after sixth grade.  

The board bios yielded this, a harbinger of the study's reliability:
In addition to her many service-minded activities, Mrs. Powell has added "author" to her list of credits.

Though it falls a few quotation marks short of perfection in my book.

Okay, the study. Reasonable people who aren't employed by local news might well question how we figure out 70% of IPS students don't graduate, seeing as how the ear-tagging program for free-range African Americans is yet in its infancy. Well, the answer is compound: 1) we don't and 2) it doesn't matter, the trend is real. The rates themselves are determined by something called the Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI), developed by something called the Urban Institute (KKK). Let's go ahead and quote the definition; I sure can't top it:
This method assumes that graduation is a process composed of three grade-to-grade promotion transitions (9 to 10, 10 to 11, and 11 to 12), in addition to the graduation event (grade 12 to diploma). Each of the transitions is calculated as a probability by dividing the enrollment of the later year by the enrollment of the previous year. For example, the grade 9 to grade 10 promotion would be calculated by dividing grade 10 enrollment in one year by grade 9 enrollment from the previous year. These separate probabilities are then multiplied to produce the probability that a student in the school system will graduate.

This measure counts only students receiving regular high school diplomas as graduates and the data represent estimated grade-level cohorts rather than true cohorts of individual students. By multiplying grade-specific promotion ratios together, the Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) estimates the likelihood that a ninth grader from a particular school system will complete high school with a regular diploma in four years given the conditions prevailing in that school system during that school year.

Since the data used in this calculation are collected at the school district level, the CPI is calculated at the school district level, and a weighted average of the values is used for the state and nation.

I admit I'm nothing more than a half-curious amateur, but I'll be damned if I can think of a better way to convey an unfamiliarity with the nation's urban school population that borders on contempt while sounding scientificesque.

Let's back up. You can read the Cities in Crisis report here (Warning: not just a .pdf file, but one of those that presumably adjusts to the size of your monitor to give you the full effect of trying to read a billboard from close up). We're going to skip specific instances of grammatical torture, though it's interesting to note that paragraph one debunks a piece of "conventional wisdom", and paragraph two immediate cites "that same conventional wisdom" approvingly. Vertigo added fifteen minutes to my reading time.

Paragraph three begins:
This report takes a geographically-informed approach to the issue of high school completion.   [emphasis mine]

So focusing the Laser Beam of Sneering Opprobrium strictly on the nation's urban school districts is "geographically-informed". This is the same argument whereby country clubs that exclude Jews are known as "exclusive".

As we might've mentioned once or twice here, there are eleven school districts in Indianapolis, the fossilized remains of the Klan-ruled segregated schools of the 1920s and the White Flight schools of the 50s and beyond. Indianapolis Public Schools is the largest district in the city, but the majority of public school students in the city of Indianapolis do not attend IPS.

This is not a plea to leaven IPS graduation rates with the addition of suburban schools; some of them don't fare a hell of a lot better. It's to suggest that in a situation where moving two miles away, or registering a student with grandma's address, can switch a child's district (and thus count him as a "non-graduate") is, well, a tad suspicious. I don't know about any of the rest of America's Most Urban Jungles (I fell asleep during the long exposition of how they came to choose the failingest district in each instance), but in Indianapolis this is not exactly an esoteric point in the education biz.

Look, I'm a First Amendment almost-absolutist, and I'm not without human sympathy. I realize there are a lot of lifelong Republican flunkies, revolving door fillers, beneficiaries of Reagan-era affirmative action for well-born idiots, charity sinecures, professional panders, trophy wives, trophy husbands, and ex-athlete attention junkies who are hurting out there, wondering where their next tax break is going to come from, or how they'll manage to write off ten dinners a week with a Liberal colored man in the Oval Office. And I'd like to say to them, you know, if you're so fucking concerned maybe you could take some of your own billions and help some children, or maybe you could work to create a more just and equitable world where urban children had a reason to believe in school or work or much else, or maybe you could just stop using your influence to provide fact-free content for an easily persuaded crypto-racist demographic that's half-convinced it shouldn't be footing the bill to educate Those People anyway. But then, I like to think I'm a realist, so let's just forget it. If teevee news can brighten the day of just one unreconstructed bigot, and convince him to keep voicing his opinions on newspaper message boards, your efforts will have be termed a success. Provided he sobers up in time to make it to the polls.