Friday, September 23, 2005

The Governator is in Lafayette this Wednesday

I just got this e-mail from my teacher's union president. For all you living in Nor-Cal who might be interested in protesting the Governor's fundraiser, here's the information. If you aren't interested in protesting, we could dress in costumes for some early Trick or Treating. I bet they have good candy.




WHERE: William and Janet Cronk live at 3796 Happy Valley Road in Lafayette. We will be amassing beginning at 5 PM at the Lafayette Bart Station to carpool up to the site as there is limited parking.

Take the exit toward CENTRAL LAFAYETTE/MORAGA. Keep left at the fork in the ramp. Turn left onto Deer Hill Road, which ends on Happy Valley Road. Turn right onto Happy Valley Road. 3796 Happy Valley Road is marked by a set of 4 mailboxes.
THE LAFAYETTE BART STATION: Where Deer Hill Road ends on Happy Valley Road, you will find the Lafayette BART Station, which has three tiers of parking. The picketing will go from about 5:30-7:00 PM.
There is very limited space to park on either side of Happy Valley Road, but there are a few spots one could squeeze a vehicle. There is, however, one road that is wide enough for folks to park that is within 100' of 3796. Heading west (uphill) away from Highway 24 on Happy Valley, you will find Franklin Lane to your right. Cars can park into and out of this Lane. And where Franklin intersects Happy Valley Road, there is a bus stop next to a graveled lot that might hold a dozen cars.
DON'T COUNT ON SPACE BEING AVAILABLE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. It will be best to carpool from the BART Station!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Untitled Poem until my wife forces me to come up with something

My wife distrusts silence.
She fills it
covers it like a Band-aid
Wills it away
"It's alright. It's okay."
She urges me to sing.

While I sing songs here
You can hear
In the margins:
"No, sing to me"
Like a child
with endless impatience

After the last syllable sung
You can find her tugging
At the corner of this page
Like a Band-aid

It’s alright. Just sing.

Sing to me.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Stupid Governator!

Okay fellow bloggers, I need you to help spread the word:

Governor Arnold is going to hold a special election this November to try and pass some propositions and we need to vote NO on all of them.

Here's why:

Each of these special elections cost around $60 million dollars of California taxpayers money. If you live in California, YOUR money is going to this election instead of places like schools, hospitals, police, etc. Whether you like the propositions or not you should vote NO because each time one of these propositions passes it lets the Governor know that he can hold a special election whenever he wants (to get what HE wants) at OUR expense!

Having said that, let's look at three of the propositions on the ballot. Then I'll tell you why you should vote NO on each of them beyond the aforementioned reasons.

Proposition 74: Currently, once teachers have worked in a district for two years they receive permanent status (they can still be fired but due process must be enacted). Prop 74 would extend the probationary period to five years and allow schools to fire permanent teachers after two unsatisfactory evaluations.
Why you should vote NO: As a teacher, I'm in favor of changing the current system. Clearly, some bad teachers are working with kids. But Prop 74 will hurt much more than it will help. For every bad teacher in California, there's bound to be a bad administrator. We desparately need teachers who are smart, visionary and brave enough to do what is right for students (i.e not teachers, administrators or parents). This Proposition would strip teachers of their protection. I have had my share of parent conflicts, and some have taken their cases to the principal. If had a weak boss (luckily I don't) I would be out of a job under Prop 74. Our schools will become filled with teachers who will fold in any conflict--which will NOT help our students. Report powerful parents who are abusing their kid? That would be tougher to do. Tell an abusive administrator to knock it off? Doubtful. Take a stand on a student's grade? Forget it. I would be passing out A's like they were beers (and maybe passing out beers too) in my class. Or, more likely, I'd quit. And talented young minds would look elsewhere for jobs at a time when California is desperate for teachers.

Proposition 75
: This would force the union to ask it's members each year, in writing, whether they wanted their union dues used for political purposes (lobbying, campaign ads, getting this type of infotmation to voters, etc).
Why you should vote NO: We already have a system which accomplishes this task. When union members first join they are asked to do declare whether they want their dues to go towards political actions or not. So this Proposition is a clever ploy of the Governor to weaken the teacher's union through overloading them with time-consuming and money-consuming work. This Proposition looks good in print; in fact, it is simply the needless creation of paperwork.

Proposition 76: This will allow the Governor to unilaterally decide where money will be spent and where it will be cut.
Why you should vote NO: Because one man will be able to decide what to do with almost ALL of your money. This Proposition is polling very very low because, obviously, most people do not want Governor Arnold to become Emperor Arnold.

So what you can do to help: spread the word. Send e-mails. Contact everybody you know and tell them to spread the word. By voting NO on every Proposition in every one of these darn special elections, we can stop this waste of our tax-dollars. If we vote NO, he'll have to try a different tactic--and hopefully it won't involve our money.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

And Back to the Bleakness

I caught part of Saturday's "This American Life" in which one woman was recounting events in New Orleans. She claimed that policemen from a neighboring town prevented people from crossing a bridge allowing them to escape New Orleans in the midst of the flooding to what is known as the West Bank. She claimed the police fired shots into the crowd of people trying to cross the bridge until they turned back

At first I thought this HAS to be an exaggeration. Maybe she wasn't really there and this was a second-hand account. Then the story turns to another woman who WAS there, on the bridge--and she confirms that the crowd was turned back by policemen.

You can listen for yourself at The segment is called After the Flood.

Why isn't there more discussion of this specific incident? Why isn't there more discussion about how this specific incident exemplifies much of what is wrong with our entire governement...not just in its response to this crisis but the crisis of poverty and social inequity that happens EVERY DAY in America?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Break from the Bleakness

My students are busy composing original tragedies in the Greek tradition. One of my students has his protagonist say to his beloved:

"My love for you is like diarrhea; I just can't hold it in."

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Students Discussing Katrina

On my class Web-site, a student posted this two days ago:

So I wanted to pose a question to everyone out there. First, allow me to give a background story. So today in Government Class we are learning about the media. In relation to the media, we are getting daily updates about Katrina. Ones of the issues is not that the govrnment does not know what to do with the situation, most of the problem is that the entire thing is not in the budget. We are spending too much money on the war, for example. You all know that already though. The scary thing is that if you look to the core of each individual problem, everything comes down to money some how. So my question is, why do we need/have money? Most of you will probably respond "because goats are hard to lug around in bulk everytime I want a Jamba Juice." And I understand that, so I guess I am really asking why we need to get something from everyone? Take Katrina, no one is volunteering to rebuild New Orleans. It is going to cost "billions of dollars." So people are saying, "Well, I want to help and I sympathize greatly. But, I won't help unless I get something in return." How did human nature come to this, or is it just our capitalistic society? Money, technically, does not exist, and yet it is the religion of humans. Money implies stature and hierarchy. This all kind of relates to The Fountainhead I guess, and everything else we have talked about. Why do we value material things? Why does money have to exist, why can't people just do things becaue they need to be done? I am interested in anything that anyone has to say.

Here's my reply:

Katie--your questions are important. I think buried in your post (correct me if I'm off here) lies this core question: What the hell is wrong with us?

Or perhaps that's me projecting after witnessing days of footage from New Orleans. I'm assuming you've seen it too; hundreds of poor mostly black folks are dead and dying even as I write this, and our nation, full of money and resources, has been doing very little. Go here to see what our President was doing while people were dying.

You bring up human nature and the idea that people will sympathize/do something only when it benefits them. I agree. Those of us in this class are able to go about our lives because we are not affected, really, by this storm. We still have everything we need--and the people dying, mostly, do not look like us.

So what do we do? Do we CHANGE human nature? Or do we rise above it...try to live in a way that transcends our very nature of putting ourselves first. Either of those would be tough to do...but maybe it's possible. There is a third course, I think--but it's as tough as the other choices: we provide adequate resources (food, water, shelter, medicine) for every single person on this planet. It would be possible to do this--it could happen TOMORROW. Perhaps it would mean socialism across all societies or a LIVE-AID concert every single day...I don't know. But as a global community we do have the capabilities to do this.

Waterbones posts about how to volunteer for the Cross: I'm considering volunteering because I feel stupid and hypocritical sitting here typing a friggin blog while people are dying. But you know what's really sad? The major things keeping me from going right now: the time committment (6 months) and the fact I am in debt (I was planning on using the extra time to tutor/do some creative extra-work stuff to make more dough). So I guess I'm just one of those friggin Democrats that I loathe who whine about how the government is doing nothin while I sit here doing nothin.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Where's the Government when you need 'em

All jokes aside, this headline is from today's New York Times: Storm Overwhelms Government’s Preparations.

No shit.

We've all seen the images of people, mostly black and mostly poor, suffering. It's been five days and still folks have inadequate food and water supplies. Medical attention is not reaching many who need it desperately. It's clear our government officials were not prepared--nor are they at this very moment doing an adequate job.


We are not unprepared because our leaders are bad people. And it's not because we are spending so much money on Iraq and foreign affairs, which many would have you believe. It's simply that protecting poor people, and in this case protecting poor black people, does not register on the government's list of priorities.

By now I'm sure you have all seen the picture of President Bush twiddling with a guitar juxtaposed with the picture of people suffering in New Orleans (check out if you haven't). The President is clearly not a bad man; the smile on his face as he plucks those strings is almost cherubic. The fact is the people suffering in New Orleans simply don't exist for this man; they are as far from him as dying folks in Africa (or dying soldiers in Iraq if you believe Cindy Sherman). And because nobody near the President thought to say "Hey, maybe we should postpone the whole country band jamboree" it's safe to say that the fates of the dying are far from many people in our administration.

Sadly, this disaster is a microcosm for our country. A few days ago John Stewart of the Daily Show reported that, in speaking about Cindy Sherman, President Bush said that he feels compassion for her but that he has to get on with his life. His words: "I have to get on with my life." A lot of people are criticizing the President for this remark and others like it. Truthfully, I am warming to our President; unlike many, many others, he does not have ability to lie well--and when he speaks, even blunderingly, you know exactly what he means. He says he must get on with his life; this is no lie. He means it. So do many of us--and the officials who govern us. Unfortunately for poor people and grieving mothers, getting on with our lives means giving up theirs.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Defend the Looters!

So people in the Superdome are firing on helicopters trying to evacuate ill people, and we're very upset about it. I know I am. What the hell is that helicopter doing? It can't just fly in to the Superdome and then LEAVE. Has a constitution been ratified? Were all factions in the Superdome united--the ill, the looters, the Saints fans, the sleepy? I don't think we can order the helicopter (and the busses and trains) to leave New Orleans until it is a free and truly democratic place. Yes, the damage and destruction is horrible. But the people of the Superdome have survived one of the largest and most tyrannical storms to ever hit the U.S. and they are strong. Now is not the time to rush things. We must let the survivors form their own sense of security while supporting them. We can't just leave. We will leave. But not now. In a bit.

So, really, we should land our helicopters smack in the middle of the Superdome and teach the survivors to build their own helicoptors using their native resources...empty beer bottles and astro-turf. We can lead them towards a sense of independence by modeling good governance: we can set up a Superbowl congress with two houses (the House of the Near Goal-Post and the House of the Far Goal-Post) and a system with checks and balances and mutual funds.

I, for one, say our helicopters stay until every last person, from the ill to the looting, is free.