Monday, July 31, 2017


Priebus is out, Kelley is in. Spicer is out, Scaramucci is in. And now Scaramucci is out. Whee!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Not a One-Way Street

I'm not stupid. I've written about resegregation often enough to know that when Dr. King quoted Theodore Parker in saying, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," he was talking about faith, not about some fundamental good in the heart of humankind.

When we teach about civil rights in the US, we tend to teach it as a forward-moving arc. We skip merrily over the pushbacks of Reconstruction and the development of school vouchers as a means of bypassing Brown v. Board of Ed and other such slips that cause us to backslide.

That's why things like Trump's tweet about transgenders in the military can come as a shock. Far more meaningful this week, although not nearly so widely discussed, is Sessions's Justice Department's decision on Title VII—that it does not cover discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Obama's Attorney General Holder disagreed in 2014, and the EEOC disagreed in 2015, but today's Justice Department is taking a step backward. Since today's Congress is surely not going to amend the amendment, nor would today's president approve it, we'll probably have to see this settled by the Supreme Court, and that could take a good long time.

The erosion of our civil rights can be slow and unrelenting, as in public school resegregration, or it can be sudden and surprising, as in the DOJ ruling. We can reclaim what we lose and forge onward, but it doesn't happen quickly, and it takes hard work. What's important is to keep our eyes open to the chipping away and to resist where we are able.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


We are not talking about Russia. We are not talking about health care. We are talking about the new communications director and his attacks on the chief of staff and his potty mouth.

I'd call Anthony Scaramucci ("the little skirmisher") a rousing success. Straight from central casting.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Boy Scouts of America—not my favorite organization, although I was briefly a Girl Scout. But I feel for them after Trump's horrible display of verbal diarrhea at their Jamboree yesterday. I am loving the response on their FB page.

Monday, July 24, 2017

How We Propel the Narrative We Prefer

This sad but fascinating story from Homer (Alaska, but it could just as easily be New York) tells of one guy's attempt to prove to himself the connection between immigration and violent crime. It shows how tangled we can get when we try to trace facts through sources that lead us to like-minded sources, and so on, ad infinitum.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Believe Nothing

It was bad enough when I heard people on the left regularly quoting Bannon's acolyte's Clinton Cash on the topic of the Clinton Foundation and donors. Now every time I get a post about that horrible DNC or how the Russian collusion hysteria is just to cover the Democrats' transgressions, all I can think is that I'm reading Russian propaganda.

This must be what it's like to be a conservative Southerner reading the WaPo or NY Times.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Rural Schools

Commissioner Elia
The Rural Schools Conference this year was surprisingly quiet politically. Speakers would make a veiled reference to the election of 2016 and go no further, merely smirking or looking off into the distance. The Commissioner was clear in her displeasure about the planned budget, but that's as far as she went.

More surprising was the fairly widespread opinion that because the election shone a light on rural America, all of this will somehow be good for rural communities. I heard several times that this was an "opportunity" rather than the national death spiral the rest of us see.

This Pollyanna attitude became particularly surreal when one otherwise clever fellow remarked that climate change would be good for the northeast and might even allow NYS to reclaim the 10 million acres of farmland we've lost over the past few decades. The words "the new breadbasket" were used. PZ informs me that the northeast is simply too wet ever to be America's breadbasket and in its new, warmer climate will be better suited for growing okra, sorghum, or persimmon. Or collard greens.

Otherwise, the trip to Cooperstown was lovely and helped me to get into the rural mood (Dryden really is part of a micropolitan statistical area, and it's good to remind myself on the drive up what real rural looks like). One speaker, the national rural teacher of the year, was from a town in Arizona that was a four-hour drive from the nearest city. One presenter spoke of visiting a school of eight students in Montana where the kids were called in via cowbell whenever a wolverine appeared on the playground.  

So, yes, there's a part of the country we really don't see, or talk about, or (sometimes) fund. It's a part of the country where graduation rates are far higher than they are for urban districts (nationwide, over 80% of rural low-income students graduate), but where there are no local jobs for students once they achieve that goal. In 13 states, half the public schools are rural. In two states (Vermont and Maine), more than half of all students are enrolled in rural districts.

We think of rural communities as being set in stone, but one in nine rural students changes school districts in any given year, and in Nevada it's 17.3 percent. We think of rural communities as being poor and white, but one-quarter of rural students are students of color, and in New Mexico, it's 85.6 percent.*

It's still hard for me to see how any aspect of the 2016 election can move the needle for these kids and their communities, but it's certainly true that if we don't see you, we can't care about you. Maybe just the fact that we're talking about rural communities means that they will start to get the attention they deserve.

*All figures courtesy of my new friends at the Rural School and Community Trust.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

If You Run Unopposed, You Will Win

I thought I'd look at some random 2015 election results from a baker's dozen of larger communities in the 23rd. I looked just at city and town results, which may have been a mistake—county legislature results may be more meaningful. Most of what I found is logical: towns tend to go Republican, cities tend to go Democratic. More Republicans won than Democrats, which is also unsurprising. In 2016, out of all 23rd CD voters registered with the two major parties, 46% were Democrats and 54% were Republicans. That's about as close as you could get to the results on this chart.

The xs in color are positions for which people ran unopposed. Look at all the red xs! In general, the blue xs appear in city wards, but the red xs are all over the place.

We will know in a week or two who's running on party lines for county, town, and ward positions. I am hoping that there are more contested races than there were in 2015. If we're serious about seeing progressive change, especially in the hinterlands, it has to start with people stepping up to contest these local races.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Toto, I've a Feeling We're Not in the American Century Anymore

Watching Trump march through Poland with his imported applauders and his white nationalist message reminded me that empires don't take long to crumble once they start falling apart around the edges. I thought I'd have a look at some classic empires and see how we compare. I'm figuring that we didn't really count as an empire until about 1846, when we started grabbing stuff from Mexico.

Well, we beat the Mongols and Aztecs, so that's something. Just a tiny droplet in the shifting kitty litter of time, though, really.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

More Civics for Grownups

Image result for king george III 1776Of COURSE my favorite story of the year involves the plethora of Trump supporting tweeters who found dreadful parallels between King George III and the president and made their displeasure known to NPR, which had taken the radical step of tweeting the Declaration of Independence on Independence Day.

It is a radical document, designed to foment passion and revolution. And indeed, there are parallels.

  • But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. 
  • a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states
  • his invasions on the rights of the people
  • He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
  • giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us
  • A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Plus there's the mental illness. But Georgie, unlike Trump, had one wife and no mistresses and was by all accounts both thrifty and pious. Not a big brain, and a weak leader, but still in some ways better than what we've got.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Civics for Grownups

Here's this month's column—teaching political process to adults, candidates in city and three towns, plus a civics test for the Fourth of July.