Three over coffee.

56402113The first three weeks are over.

Damn! I slept 10 hours last night. Even with a party going on next door. Apparently they really love Wilco over there.

This morning we woke to a dense fog. It made for a pleasant walk with Ulysses.

I have no hard plans for the weekend. I’m watching some tennis on TV, although apart from Nadal and Serena Williams, I have no idea who any of them are. And then there are the Bears and Green Bay on Sunday night. Then I’ll know summer is really over.

Who is Yosi Sergant and why does the loony fascist Glenn Beck call him a Nazi?

Who doesn’t remember the brilliant Hope poster by Shepard Fairey of Barack Obama from the campaign last year? While Fairey was the talented artist who created it, Yosi Sergant was the guy who organized the movement of cultural workers where Fairey could find a home.

In a wise move President Obama appointed Sergant to the post of Communications Director of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Then the loony fascist, Glenn Beck, attacked Sergant as a Nazi propagandist.

So naturally, the spineless folks in the West Wing dropped Sergant like a hot potato. Van Jones redux.

Is Michelle Rhee’s tenure-slashing salary schedule gone?

The Washington Post is reporting that a contract deal may be near between the DC teachers’ union and Michelle Rhee.

Gone is the two-tiered, “red-and-green” salary plan that garnered Rhee national attention when she unveiled it last summer. It would have paid some teachers as much as $130,000 annually — with help from private foundations — but required them to relinquish tenure protections for a year to qualify for the top pay scale, exposing them to dismissal without possibility of appeal. Gone also, city and union sources say, is Rhee’s attempt to weaken tenure provisions as they are currently written, which grant teachers with at least two years’ experience due-process rights in the event they are fired.

Some Saturdays I love Gail Collins. Like today.

Over at the Taxpayers March, people wanted the Republicans to apologize for asking Wilson to apologize. They seemed to be taking a cue from Rush Limbaugh, who said he was “ecstatic” when Wilson yelled at the president, since he himself had been shrieking “liar” at his TV throughout the speech.

Tea Party Patriots, do you really want your members of Congress doing something just because Rush Limbaugh does it? The next thing you know, they’ll be abusing prescription drugs and comparing the Abu Ghraib tortures to a fraternity initiation.

Three over coffee.

3236654458_c9a3420387We are across the Big Lake for the last time this summer. We drove out last night after the rush.

A full moon led the way.

Inside my classroom it has been a good two weeks.

The craziness over the Obama speech has just pissed me off.

I expected nothing else from the loony Right. That they are concerned that the President of the United States is trying to spread the ideas of socialism among students in his address on Youtube on Tuesday is a perfect reflection of their dishonesty and hatred for anything progressive or humane.

But the cave-in from school leaders and Democrats and even those inside the administration is just unforgivable. And perhaps just as expected.

Even the NY Times editorialized.

The American right has directed many silly and offensive attacks at President Obama. But so far nothing compares with the news that right-wing demagogues on talk radio and the Web, along with Republican Party officials, are trying to stop children from hearing the president urge them to stay in school — because, they say, that is socialist propaganda.

Obama is coming for our children!

Says Joan Walsh at

I never imagined the outbreak of right-wing crazy that Obama’s gesture would provoke, and this time it’s hard not to see racism behind the hysteria. The message is “Obama’s coming for our children!” the standard cry against scary boogeymen in every culture. I mean, really, what besides Obama’s race could make him so scary to these people? That he’s a Marxist socialist fascist Nazi? I’d argue that the only reason those extreme epithets have taken hold goes back to reason No. 1: Our first black president is provoking some outsize and irrational reactions.

A racist meme.

Michael Shaw at Huffington Post:

Beyond all the “state indoctrination” and even Hitler Youth analogies being propagated by Obama’s school chat, I’m wondering how much there is (or is also) a racist meme at play. It’s something along the lines of: You can’t trust your children alone with this man … knowing how black men are. Wink, wink.

Three over coffee.

pbl_0809-3118Saturday following the first full week back at teaching.

There’s no sense of summer still happening. The temperature won’t get above 60 all weekend and they’re predicting the coldest temperature on record for Sunday night.

We finished negotiating with the board of education on a new bargained agreement the week before school started. Monday we present the new agreement to the membership. The members get to vote on it on Wednesday.

Results show on Thursday.

Today’s Times has two items of importance to those concerned with education practice and policy.

In the news section there is an article that says NYC principals are quietly refusing to fill empty teaching positions with teachers who have been laid off from other schools. This is all complicated by the hiring freeze Chancellor Klein issued.

Critics of the union leadership point to 2005 when some seniority rights were bargained away, giving principals the right to hire who they wanted.

Meanwhile on the Times editorial page.

The Times editorial writers have decided to issue an all out threat to teacher unions. Either agree to the discredited notion pushed by Arne Duncan to tie teacher evaluation to test scores, or “get left behind.”

Left behind by who? Clearly the Times boys have decided that the decisions of Federal bureaucrats should trump local collective bargaining.

As the situation in NYC shows, when union leaders fail to protect the rights of teachers, kids suffer in the end. But if the Times wants to start a war on teachers’ rights to collective bargaining, that’s a war teachers will willingly join.

When Joe McCarthy ran the schools.

JD’s blog features a documentary film that is in production that recalls the days when McCarthyism ran wild in school systems all across the country. Teachers who held radical or unconventional views, who were communists or simply politically progressive, who refused to sign loyalty oaths were fired from their jobs.

Take a look at Dreamers and Fighters.

Three over coffee.

3829139992_447316a0f9It’s really a Fall day today. We ran around doing our Saturday morning stuff with the top down on the Mini, but we were both wearing sweatshirts. What a goofy summer in Chicago as far as the weather is concerned.

We decided to have coffee and oatmeal at home. Bagels are off the menu. I dropped twenty pounds this summer. But still have more to do.

I filled my stove top espresso maker with a good French roast espresso grind and the truth is that nothing tastes as good. We add it to some milk warmed in the microwave and who needs Peets?

Obama. The time is now.

Charles Blow, writing in this morning’s NY Times, speaks for many who busted butt last year to get Obama elected with the expectation that he would pursue an agressive progessive agenda. The polls are showing growing disappointment among our folks.

From the disaster that is Afghanistan, the slow withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the Duncan bullshit in the Department of Ed,  to the better than nothing strategy around health care, Blow says that time is running out.

Most important, this two-year window may be the only time Democrats can push through reform without Republican support. As Nate Silver pointed out on his blog last week, “Without major intervening events like 9/11, the party that wins the White House almost always loses seats at the midterm elections — since World War II, an average of 17 seats in the House after the White House changes parties.” There is no reason to believe that this won’t be the case next year.

A poll released by Rasmussen Reports this week found that on a generic Congressional ballot, Republican candidates hold a 5 percent advantage over Democratic ones.

The time is now. Just do it.

CPS students give Huberman some advice.

ChiTownDailyNews reports that 30 students involved in the Mikva Challenge, a summer program in Chicago, have drawn up a list of suggestions for CPS boss Ron Huberman.

One of the easy ones: The students called for Huberman to bring back the College Bridge program, which got axed last month after state funds were cut.

NEA not pleased with Duncan’s Race to the Top requirements.

Thankfully it appears that there is a growing and more public debate between my union and the Department of Education over charter schools and the linking of teacher evaluations to student test scores.

“Despite growing evidence to the contrary, it appears the administration has decided that charter schools are the only answer to what ails America’s public schools,” the 3.2 million-member union said in its 26 pages of comments.

The union also said: “It is inappropriate to require that states be able to link data on student achievement to individual teachers for the purpose of teacher and principal evaluation …”

The NEA said evaluations are a local function and that the federal rule would interfere with union contracts.

(Source: Newser)

Three over coffee.

IMG_0738We had coffee at the Whistle Stop.

The kids had headed off for pancakes at Rosie’s in New Buffalo and then they were going to get on US 80 back to Brooklyn.

I had suggested biscuits and gravy (which are very good at Rosie’s) to Lucy who just looked at me as if I had lost my mind. She shook her head.

“Pancakes and syrup?”

“Yep,” she said. “Although I don’t like pancakes. I do like syrup.”

I sensed Lucy had a plan.

We went back to the cottage. We cleaned, packed, changed the sheets, loaded the car, put Ulysses in the back seat. Michigan was over.

Chicago Air Show traffic!!! What should have been an hour and a half took us over two hours to get home. The jets are still flying over head at almost 4PM. They are scaring poor Ulysses half to death. Baghdad on the Lake with no civilian deaths. On the other hand, I think that’s probably an important difference.

Charles Blow in the NY Times discusses the costs of incarceration.

According to a study last year by The Pew Center on the States entitled “One in 100: Behind bars in America 2008,” the prison population of the United States has nearly quadrupled over the last 25 years while the nation’s population has grown by less than a third.

This is cool.

Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Teresa Carreno Youth Orchestra from Caracas, Venezuela. It is just five minutes long courtesy of TED.

NYC Educator applauds NY Mayor’s diversity plan.

Mayor Bloomberg believes in diversity. That’s why, when he selected these parents, he selected one with millions of dollars in city contracts, and another with a contract worth a mere $255,000 dollars a year (if you don’t count contributions from Bloomberg via the Carnegie Corporation).

Three over coffee.

2707644961_816a80f84fIt rained all day yesterday and it was still raining this morning over Berrien County, Michigan.

The kids are here and if the rain stops, maybe we’ll go down the road to pick some of the last of the summer blueberries.

If the rain doesn’t stop the day will be filled with Scrabble, Boggle, or Pit.

Alden Loury of the Chicago Reporter takes a look at Obama’s recent trip to nearby Wakarusa, Indiana and wonders if there isn’t a double standard at play.

I can say that with confidence since there are all-black versions of Elkhart all over the state of Illinois and across the nation — have been for decades. These communities have never quite received the messages that Elkhart has received. And Americans haven’t displayed the same level of understanding when Elkhart’s plight has played out in urban American settings experiencing similar economic devastation.

Mayoral pal Michael Scott, who is already ass deep in the CPS clout-gate scandal, is now so busted on a shady land deal connected to the maybe Chicago Olympic games in 2016.

Chicago Olympic Committee member Michael Scott is denying he could profit from a land deal near a proposed Olympic site.

Scott, who is also president of the Chicago Board of Education, wanted to develop city-owned lots near Douglas Park with a group of West Side ministers. The park is slated to host cycling events if Chicago wins the 2016 Games.

The Chicago Tribune reported Friday that the local alderman agreed to set aside nearly 20 lots for Scott’s for-profit development, which included housing and commercial space.

On the 64th anniversary of the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima, Japan by the United States, Daniel Ellsberg recalls how he remembers the event.

I had a sense of dread, a feeling that something very ominous for humanity had just happened. A feeling, new to me as an American, at 14, that my country might have made a terrible mistake. I was glad when the war ended nine days later, but it didn’t make me think that my first reaction on Aug. 6 was wrong.

Three over coffee and Sunday links.

37264183_9203bb3d9eI’m a day behind.

Yesterday, Saturday, a bunch of the family was over the house for bagels and coffee. Lucy and Joey were playing and we were watching, having missed out on that pleasure for most of the past year.

Then there was packing for our two weeks at the summer rental across the Big Lake.

We didn’t leave Chicago until 2PM. With heavy Saturday city traffic and the time difference, we didn’t get out to Lakeside until way after 6EDT.

No time for blogging.

And no desire to cook dinner.

We did a quick drop-in at the annual Lakeside ice cream social across the street from the Lutheran church. It provides a local kid with college scholarship money. We made our donation, but stayed away from the cake and ice cream. I’m still trying to loose 20 pounds by the start of school. Five pounds and 22 days to go.

The Red Arrow Roadhouse was packed. We grabbed two chairs at the bar. Anne had her Bombay Sapphire martini straight up. Mine was Gray Goose on the rocks (how many calories in 3 olives?). White Sox and Yankees were on the TV over the bar.

This morning all signs of yesterday’s drizzle are gone. It is a beautiful cloudless morning. There’s a slight damp chill in the air. We will leave the beach to the weekenders. There’s plenty of time for that tomorrow.

Sharon Miller, a retired Illinois teacher and long-time union activist, died in a terrible accident in San Diego during the NEA RA. Her husband, Gary Miller, an NEA Director writes to thank his union brothers and sisters for their help and support during this hard time.

There’s some Chicago turn-around school experiences that provide insight into what the future holds for Duncan’s Race to the Top. PURE talks about it here.

Russo reports that Duncan’s press flack Peter Cunningham is mum on the CPS admissions scandal.

Andy Borowitz suggests this wasn’t a teachable moment, Obama was right the first time and the beer thing was way too awkward.

Racing to the Top. If teachers ain’t buying it, can it work?

Don Rose remembers when Willis wasn’t the name of the US’ tallest building. It was the name of Chicago’s segregationist school chief. To keep Chicago’s schools segregated they built “Willis Wagons.” His legacy remains.

The one lesson that everyone took away from the latest “national conversation about race” is the same one we’ve taken away from every other “national conversation” in the past couple of years. America has not transcended race. America is not postracial. So we can all say that again. But it must also be said that we’re just at the start of what may be a 30-year struggle. Beer won’t cool the fury of those who can’t accept the reality that America’s racial profile will no longer reflect their own. Frank Rich

Three over coffee.

3707195867_0da21f12a9Summer thunderstorms rolled through last night. The sound of the thunder had to compete with the band playing at a party across the alley.

No problem. Windows got closed. AC got turned on.

You really can’t complain about a summer party on a Friday night. And storms do what they do.

I was thinking about the difference between Cambridge, Mass. and Logan Square. In Cambridge, the police actually show up when there’s a report of a burglary.

Professor Gates joins The Club.

I remember back in the early days of the fight for women’s reproductive rights. Suddenly, a number of high profile women came out and told of their harrowing experiences with abortions or unwanted pregnancies

One of the results of the Henry Louis Gates incident is that the internet in now full of the stories of high profile black men and their experiences with what NY Times columnist Charles Blow calls being in The Club.

My own induction into the “club” came when I was an 18-year-old college freshman. I was in a car with my friend Andre. We were young black men in a mostly white section of the mostly white town in Louisiana, about three miles from the college town where we lived.

How close were we to soldiers knocking down doors in your city or town and arresting people? This close.

The NY Times is reporting that the Bush administration was this close to using the Army as a policy to arrest people in the US, in their homes, without due process.

Top Bush administration officials in 2002 debated testing the Constitution by sending American troops into the suburbs of Buffalo to arrest a group of men suspected of plotting with Al Qaeda, according to former administration officials.

Tribune columnist Eric Zorn writes a column about Skip Gates to explain why he’s not writing a column about Skip Gates.

For those of you outside of Chicago, Eric Zorn‘s name probably means nothing. He’s a Chicago Trib columnist. But he exemplifies why the analog press is dying.

Today, for example, he writes an entire column speculating on the Henry Louis Gates incident, to explain why he’s staying out of it.

I could pile more guesses on top of guesses and try to peer into the hearts of the main players in this unfortunate drama — I’m sure most of us have — but I’ll leave that to those who are sure they know what happened here and sure they know what it means.

I’m doing what Obama should have done. I’m staying out of it.

Three over coffee.

2920164517_1e0d636cf0 The temperature dipped into the 50s last night. Big puffy clouds greeted us this morning. More like Fall than Summer. But the dirty little secret is that I love this weather. It didn’t keep us from sitting out at Letezia’s. In fact, the hot morning coffee only tasted better. An old sweat shirt did the rest of the job.

An old friend who grew up in LA came for dinner last night. She’s moving back. And although I love LA, I have crossed the tipping point. I’m a Chicagoan now. There’s no turning back.

Two interesting op-ed columns in the NY Times this morning.

Charles Blow explains why Pat Buchanan’s tirade about how a white guy can’t get a break in the US is just Buchanan trying to sell what they use to call a woof ticket.

In Buchanan’s white-centered Republican world, playing the victim is a route to victory. If Hispanics are offended by Republicans attacking Sotomayor, so be it. After all, he says, there were 10 times more white voters in November than Hispanic ones.

If Republicans buy this “who cares” reasoning, they’re doomed to defeat.

And Gail Collins does a funny quiz on the secretive Christian group known as The Family, which included the philandering Republican Mark Sanford, John Ensign and Chip Pickering.

What Gail Collins doesn’t mention, and gets mentioned very little is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was (maybe is) a member of the group.

There’s a new source for union and labor news. This one from the progressive folks at In These Times.