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When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is "correct" or "wise," any more than a forest fire can be "correct" or "wise." Wisdom isn't the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.
Those are the concluding words to Non-Violence as Compliance, a powerful piece at The Atlantic by Ta=Nehisi Coates, who tells us
I grew up across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where today's riots began. My mother was raised in the same housing project, Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray was killed. Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution.

One note -  Coates wrote before the announcement by the States Attorney of the arrest.  Thus he has Freddie Gray in possession of an illegal switchblade.  The knife found by the police was not a switchblade, but rather a legal flip-knife that was closed and clipped inside his pocket.  Once that determination was made there was no grounds for Gray's arrest under Maryland law.

Read the Coates piece.  It is pointed.  It provides context for why someone like Freddie Gray might well run from a policeman, an action that is NOT grounds for arrest unless the police are attempting to place him under arrest for other charges, a point made forcefully to me yesterday by a member of a police department in a jurisdiction in the Baltimore metro area.


If you want some context to the recent events in Baltimore, read the piece linked below.  

Let me note as one who has taught just outside Baltimore for the past two years (first in Glen Burnie and now in Catonsville) that while the current unemployment rate in Baltimore is 8% that among African_American men 18-35 it is 30%

The piece contains a map of the Baltimore area with a loop showing population changes that is also quite illuminating.

Note that the loss of jobs for working class people has a great deal to do with the increasing inequity in a city like Baltimore

Here's the link.  


Fri May 01, 2015 at 02:31 PM PDT

an update on Felicity

by teacherken

Yesterday, in this posting, I explained about our youngest (at 12 years 7 months) rescued cat, her cancer, and her forthcoming leg amputation because of a tumor that encircled the leg.

She had to be hydrated and get her temperature down, but that went well and she did not need a transfusion before the surgery, and based on the reporting from the surgeon, probably will not now afterward.

She did very well, she is recovering, and tentatively we will bring her home midday tomorrow.  She will have to be kept in a confined space for about 10-14 days, so we will probably close her in a downstairs room that still has carpeting - there is some concern about her being on a slicker surface (such as hardwood) until she adjusts to being only three-legged.  Our oldest cat, LionEl, with whom she is very close, will be confined with her, and the third cat, Elsa, who can be a bit of a handful, only allowed to mix when we are around.

Felicity will also need oral medications several times a day, but these are liquids which are much easier to administer.

We thank you all for your support and your concern.



and all your previously decided priorities get tossed out.

Earlier this month my wife discovered a growth on the right rear leg of one of our three remaining rescued cats, Felicity, the shyest. She and her now deceased sister were feral, and probably quite inbred - and unusual, in being orange females.  Both had health problems over the decade plus since they joined us.  Both had had to have radiation therapy for hyperthyroidism.  Her sister, Angelica, developed kidney cancer and we had to say goodbye to here.

We took Felicity in to see our long-time (since 1982) vet Steve Rogers.  He was pretty sure it was a cancer, but arranged for some testing.  When the results came back we went to see him.  We were referred to a very good veterinary oncologist at the Hope Center in Vienna, which has cancer, surgery, etc., and a 24 hour emergency service that we have had to use on more than one occasion, last rushing there with Cielito, who was laboring from an undiagnosed congenital heart disease that took his life before I could drive the five miles.

A week ago yesterday we had our first visit with the oncologist, Dr. Beck, some preliminary testing was done, and on the basis of that we arranged to bring Felicity back this past Monday, leaving her all day, having kept her from food from the midnight before.  More tests and a biopsy were done.  We knew there was a cancer, we did not know what kind, we did not know if it had spread beyond the tumor which totally encircled her leg.

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is John Angelos, COO of the Baltimore Orioles, outside whose stadium a protest about the killing of Freddie Gray got out of hand.

The words came about as part of a twitter exchange after a comment about the protests from a Sportswriter.  A writer for USA Today transcribed them all into this post on Facebook

Take the time to read it.

It is absolutely on point.



Mon Apr 27, 2015 at 03:05 AM PDT

‘Lynch Mob’: Misuse of Language

by teacherken

is the title of this powerful New York Times column by Charles M. Blow.   He is reacting in particular to the inflammatory statement by the head of the Baltimore Police Union to the demonstrations in the aftermath of the death of Freddy Gray at the hands of police of the Charm City.

To provide some context, Blow takes us back to an actual lynching of a black man on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, quoting from a newspaper report:

“Sources are conflicting regarding many of the details of the assault on Denston and the subsequent murder of George Armwood, but what is certain is that on the evening of October 18 a mob of a thousand or more people stormed into the Princess Anne jail house and hauled Armwood from his cell down to the street below. Before he was hung from a tree some distance away, Armwood was dragged through the streets, beaten, stabbed, and had one ear hacked off. Armwood’s lifeless body was then paraded through the town, finally ending up near the town’s courthouse, where the mob doused the corpse with gasoline and set it on fire.”
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in his Friday New York Times column, titled Where Government Excels.

He begins by noting that some Dems are FINALLY talking about such an approach, then offers two general arguments in support of such a notion:  

First, the specific case for expanding Social Security is quite good. Second, and more fundamentally, Democrats finally seem to be standing up to antigovernment propaganda and recognizing the reality that there are some things the government does better than the private sector.
It is the latter context that is most important.

Krugman phrases this in the context of the basic economic term of "public goods" -

Every economics textbooks talks about “public goods” like national defense and air traffic control that can’t be made available to anyone without being made available to everyone, and which profit-seeking firms, therefore, have no incentive to provide. But are public goods the only area where the government outperforms the private sector? By no means.
He starts with health care, noting the much lower costs of operation of both Medicare and Medicaid than health care through the private market (even under the Affordable Care Act) - and he could have strengthened the argument by pointing at both the military and Veterans Administration systems.

He then pivots to retirement security, and I will continue my exploration of this column below the cheese doodle.

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is the title of this Eugene Robinson column in Friday's Washington Post.

It is well worth the read, as the title should make clear.

Allow me to jump ahead to the words that make the title relevant, and which occur a good way through the column, offered without the hypertext links in the original (which you should read):

What started the whole thing? Slager pulled Scott over because he had a broken taillight on his aging Mercedes.

Michael Brown was walking in the middle of the street. Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes. For three black men, these misdemeanors became capital offenses.

The one witness reports there was a scuffle, and it is possible Scott was not submissive enough in his words and body language, although as Robinson notes that
given subsequent events — eight shots fired at Scott’s back — I have to doubt that Slager initiated the encounter with an Officer Friendly approach.
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I am truly weary, deep in my bones, of writing these columns about the killings of unarmed people of color by the police. Indeed, you may be weary of reading them. Still, our weariness is but a dim shadow that falls near the darkness of despair that a family is thrust into when a child or parent or sibling is lost, and that family must wonder if the use of deadly force was appropriate and whether justice will be served.

And so, we can’t stop focusing on these cases until there are no more cases on which to focus.

That is how Charles M. Blow begins his column in today's New York Times, titled In South Carolina, Shot in the Back as He Ran.  

This is onn a day when the lead editorial in his paper is titled The Walter Scott Murder and the editorial board writes

The case underscores two problems that have become increasingly clear since the civic discord that erupted last year after the police killed black citizens in New York, Cleveland and Ferguson, Mo. The first, most pressing problem is that poorly trained and poorly supervised officers often use deadly force unnecessarily, particularly against minority citizens. The second is that the police get away with unjustly maiming or killing people by lying about the circumstances that prompted them to use force.

The editorial is thoughtful, and its willingness state bluntly thatn the police get away with unjustly maiming or killing people by lying about the circumstances that prompted them to use force is important.

I would argue that Blow puts our attention where it belongs:  on the police, the police culture, and the acceptance of atttitudes that can at best be described as disparate in their approach to people of color, particularly of black men.  


This case is yet another in a horrifyingly familiar succession of cases that have elevated the issue of use of force, particularly deadly force, by officers against people of color and inflamed the conversation that surrounds it.
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Cook wrote this op ed for tomorrow's Washington Post, which is now available on their website.

Here's the opening paragraph:

There’s something very dangerous happening in states across the country.
Or as it he puts it bluntly in the fourth graf:
These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.
As he puts it in the fifth,
America’s business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business. At Apple, we are in business to empower and enrich our customers’ lives. We strive to do business in a way that is just and fair. That’s why, on behalf of Apple, I’m standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation — wherever it emerges. I’m writing in the hopes that many more will join this movement. From North Carolina to Nevada, these bills under consideration truly will hurt jobs, growth and the economic vibrancy of parts of the country where a 21st-century economy was once welcomed with open arms.
And that may be key, and a major part of a backlash.  Most businesses, places like Hobby Lobby excepted, understand that when it comes to human rights there should be no doubt that they will oppose discrimination like this.  After all, many of their execs are themselves gay, or have friends or children who are gay.

Cook writes from personal experience:

I remember what it was like to grow up in the South in the 1960s and 1970s. Discrimination isn’t something that’s easy to oppose. It doesn’t always stare you in the face. It moves in the shadows. And sometimes it shrouds itself within the very laws meant to protect us.
Read the entire piece.  It is pointed, it is powerful, and it concludes like this:
This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage. With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous.
Yes indeed.  All of us.

Thu Mar 26, 2015 at 05:54 PM PDT

A dilemma?

by teacherken

I am leaving my current position at the end of this year.  That is a done deal.  The commute of 45 miles is in itself a sufficient reason.  I have a large number of irons in the fire, and some Virginia public school districts will not even begin interviewing before mid-April or the 1st of May, beyond the original job fair interviews that qualified me to be hired.

So what is my possible dilemma?

So imagine a school on more than 40 acres with woods and paths and water and horses all considered an essential part of the education.  Imagine the opportunity to teach humanities classes combining literature and social science and religion and philosophy and the arts, with no more than 20 students in a class lasting 90 minutes, 2 sections of that.  Imagine it is progressive, constructivist, with the students feeding into this coming out of Montessori.  Imagine it is project based learning, with no standardized tests, and realistically not tests in a traditional sense, with a real focus on the student interests.  As a teacher would that excite you?

 It excites me.  I had a screening interview by phone today, which I think I passed.  But even before I know whether I would be invited to visit and teach a lesson, I am likely to be offered a job that is very different - with a high needs population in a setting where there are still external tests.

In this latter setting I would be able to help write the curriculum.  I would have strong backing from the administration: I was the first interviewed, immediately invited to teach a sample lesson (after which the students applauded me) and no one else has been interviewed.  They do want me.

 I would be paid more, conceivably far more.  It is a shorter commute. And it would be worthwhile work.  Would I dare turn down the firm offer doing important work for the chance of a dream setting?  

This is not a hypothetical.  It is where I find myself.  Know this, as a professional if I accept the latter job, I immediately withdraw from consideration for any other job. And as I will be 69 by the end of this school year, whatever job I take I intend to finish my teaching career there.

Were both positions at the point of firm offers it might be a hard decision.  

If I accept the offer I believe to be coming, I exclude any other possibility.

The firm offer will be a challenge for reasons I cannot at this time discuss.  

I know that in any setting I can make a real difference.  If I did not believe I could I would leave the classroom for good.

I always challenge my students not to limit their dreams.

A part of me wants to role the dice.  

The progressive opportunity came almost out of the blue.  I had applied over a month ago and heard nothing until this week.  

At this point, knowing the one situation is about to come to a close I am not initiating anything else.  

It's a dilemma of a sort.

Except that I decided sometime ago that were I offered a job where I knew I could make a difference, had the backing of the administration to take risks to try to engage and motivate the students, where I could be a part of helping build something, I would take it.

So now I wait.

At least I have no more job fairs to attend until I found out about the situation.

Stay tuned.


Hate Takes the Bus is the columnist's response to the release over the weekend of the now infamous video of SAE members at Oklahoma singing a vile song.  

Blow offers a column that I think is a must read.  In it he points out that while Millennials are diverse and in general accepting of diversity that there is still persistent racism among some white young people, what we saw on display in the video.  Unlike some, he was not surprised by what we saw, perhaps because he is too aware of the ongoing issues of racism in America.

And while he himself was involved with a fraternity in college (and as he reminds about which he wrote in his book, pointing out there some of the problems that can overwhelm the good intentions of fraternities) we need to remember the ongoing influence those who have pledged fraternities while at college have upon our government and our society.

He provides us data on the impact of racism.

And he concludes powerfully:

This is why the vileness displayed on that bus matters: It was a reflection of the distance that must still be covered, and the rigidity of racism and the casualness of hate. It can wear a smile and be set to a tune.

We have to understand what that hate is. Hate is never about the object of the hate but about what is happening in the mind of the hater. It is in the darkness of that space that fear and ignorance merge and morph. It comes out in an impulse to mark and name, to deny and diminish, to exclude and threaten, to elevate the self by putting down the other.

What happened on that bus was bigger than just that bus; it was a reflection of where we are.

It was, and Blow provides the context to help us understand more fully.

Read the column.

Pass it on.

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