No Dark Sarcasm In The Classroom

No, the kids are not alright under GOP rule in Michigan.

City fire marshal investigators plan to inspect every Detroit Public Schools classroom after receiving complaints this week about overcrowded classes with more than 50 students.

Detroit Fire Department representatives met Thursday with district officials to determine the maximum number of students for every classroom in the district, said Assistant Fire Marshal Osric Wilson.

The fire marshal issued a violation this week at Nolan Elementary-Middle School after receiving a tip that a kindergarten class had 55 students.

Other complaints followed and investigators visited other schools, Wilson said. “This issue is not going to go away; people are going to continue to complain.”

Best part is you already can see the GOP solution to the problem of twice as many kids in classes because of half the needed teachers and wrecked schools:  sharp cuts in fire marshal inspections because of “unnecessary government interference when these societal parasites should be out stopping fires like we pay them to do” followed by taking a orbital cannon that shoots chainsaws at the state’s education budget because “our schools are clearly failing students.”

Besides, if the little drains on taxpayer dollars took up a trade to contribute to the economy instead of wasting time and money pretending like an education would ever get them out of the urban hellholes of America, they’d be better off in the long run or something, right?

Words are Toys Open Thread

There is a table has been making the rounds of the science blogosphere for the last couple of weeks — and I thought it’s the kind of thing that the B-J crowd enjoys:

Blog friend Southern Fried Science is extending the list, and you can add your own gems on his public Google Docs spreadsheet.



The original table comes from this Physics Today feature — “Communicating the science of climate change“ [PDF], by Richard C. J. Somerville and Susan Joy Hassol.  I entirely agree with their conclusion:

We must find ways to help the public realize that not acting is also making a choice, one that commits future generations to serious impacts. Messages that may invoke fear or dismay—as projections of future climate under business-as-usual scenarios often do—are better received if they also include hopeful components. Thus we can improve the chances that the public will hear and accept the science if we include positive messages about our ability to solve the problem. We can explain, for example, that it’s not too late to avoid the worst; lower emissions will mean reduced climate change and less severe impacts. We can point out that addressing climate change wisely will yield benefits to the economy and the quality of life. We can explain, as figure 5 shows, that acting sooner would be less disruptive than acting later. Let us rise to the challenge of helping the public understand that science can illuminate the choices we face.

The most important claim in that paragraph, IMHO, is that “it’s not too late to avoid the worst…”  As outright denialism becomes ever more risible, the fall back for those hopelessly drunk on dinosaur wine* is that climate change is just too bad, because some irrecoverable threshold has already been crossed.  This is nonsense.  See, e.g., for just one of many arguments on this issue, this 2009 report from the Yale e360 project. [Another PDF].  Confronting the (tactical) climate fatalists is the next huge communications challenge for scientific — and science writing — communities.

That said — the gap between what’s understood in conversation between people speaking the same technical jargon, and what gets through to the public remains a major stumbling block.  Which, I suppose, keeps me and my students in work. Ill winds and all that.

But I digress.  The point of this post is to encourage the Balloon-Juice commentariat both to add to the list above — or perhaps, depending on your mood, to come up with a similar table, a what-they-say/what-they-mean guide to Republican debate speak.

Have fun.

*”Dinosaur wine” is a phrase I steal from Dan Jenkins’ classic (sic–ed.) football novel, SemiTough.  So yes, I  know.  It ain’t dinosaur corpses that wind up in black gold.

Image:  Thomas Blount, Glossographia Anglicana Nova, (Title page from the 2nd edition, 1719)

A good sign?

I went out to a Teamster rally night before last. The rally was held to show private sector union support for the Vote No On Issue Two campaign in Ohio. No on Two is a citizen veto of Governor Kasich’s attempt to destroy public sector unions. The words I heard most often were “respect” and “vote”. I am at the point in the No On Two campaign where I always end up with these things, where I am obsessed with it and wondering why I ever got involved, because I am a bad loser and will hate to lose very much, so the rally came at a good time for me personally. Understand that wasn’t why they held it, because I was getting sad, but it is true that I found it heartening and inspiring.

Everyone in that room knew that the one and only objective of this sophisticated and coordinated multi-state demonization campaign is to destroy unions for good, with public sector workers targeted first in what is a broader war.

The part of the war on workers that has been the most baffling and disturbing to me is the complete disconnect between my personal, local, daily experience with union members and the contempt and vitriol I hear directed toward them every day in the political discourse and by commercial media. The 2nd largest private sector employer here is a union shop, and the union members that work there make a product that is so revered locally it is pictured on the town welcome sign. I visit a public elementary school down the road at least once a month in the course of my work. It has just never occurred to me to consider the union-member teachers who work there lazy and stupid and coddled.

It is now acceptable for an elected official in Michigan to say this about them:

“I think so,” Meekof said. “It’s an opportunity to let teachers get farther away from union goons. That should give them a better chance to break away from the mediocrity. That should make things better for our schools and our children.”

We have a national cable channel where it is possible, on any given day, to hear multi-millionaire media personalities lie about union workers. This is now just business as usual. Goons. Mediocrity. Thugs. Violent. On the Democratic side, all I seem to hear is hand-wringing over income inequality as it relates to tax policy or the safety net. I’m hearing this in a country where 40% of wage-earning households qualify for food stamps. I’m hearing this in a country where conservatives have made a campaign slogan out of crowing about how 47% of wage earners don’t contribute. Wage earners. People who work. 47% of wage earners don’t contribute to this country? WTF? This is now a winning campaign slogan?

Is there some connection between devaluing and demeaning the work that people do and the stagnant or declining wages they are paid to do that work? Is there a difference between workers who organize and win a seat at the table and workers who don’t? Is there any connection between the decline in organized labor and massive income inequality? Is there any connection between ridiculously high salaries and bonuses at the tippy-top and stagnant or declining wages at the bottom and middle? Talking about tax policy and shoring up the safety net is great, but there’s a multi-state attack on wages going on right now, and all union workers are targeted. While I think it’s fabulous that we want to provide them with food stamps or tax subsidies once they’re all making 9 dollars an hour, I think I’d rather protect their right to bargain and organize so we aren’t all making 9 dollars an hour.

I’ll leave you with what I consider a hopeful, local anecdote. Jim is a police officer and he’s a conservative. He is married to Mary, who works here with me. He had a Bush/Cheney sticker on his truck well past the 2004 election and he once gave me two Limbaugh books he bought at a yard sale as a gag gift. He’s also a good cop and a good husband and a good father.

As I was walking out of the law office yesterday I saw this planted out front:

I figured the local Democrats or a union group had stuck it there, but then I took a closer look. The sign has an FOP endorsement. The local Democrats and union groups bought signs from a Teamsters local. This isn’t one of ours. Jim put the sign up. We don’t ordinarily display political signs at the law office, but I’m going to break my own rule and leave it up. This is the first time in the 15 years I’ve known Jim that we are on the same side.

OWS/Together: Random Snippets

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”

If Apocryphal Gandhi was right, it seems like we’re approaching the pivot point between stages two & three. Not “news” (I hope to post more later), just links to some interesting pieces a little outside the spotlight. Chris Hedges at Truthout provides a useful explanation of the ground-level organization in Zuccotti Park, via a 22-year-old artist/waitress named Ketchup:

… “People were worried we were going to get kicked out of the park at 10 p.m. This was a major concern. There were tons of cops. I’ve heard that it’s costing the city a ton of money to have constant surveillance on a bunch of peaceful protesters who aren’t hurting anyone. With the people’s mic, everything we do is completely transparent. We know there are undercover cops in the crowd. I think I was talking to one last night, but it’s like, what are you trying to accomplish? We don’t have any secrets.”…
“So it’s 9:30 p.m. and people are worried that they’re going to try and rush us out of the camp,” she said, referring back to the first day. “At 9:30 they break into work groups. I joined the group on contingency plans. The job of the bedding group was to find cardboard for people to sleep on. The contingency group had to decide what to do if they kick us out. The big decision we made was to announce to the group that if we were dispersed we were going to meet back at 10 a.m. the next day in the park. Another group was arts and culture. What was really cool was that we assumed we were going to be there more than one night. There was a food group. They were going dumpster diving. The direct action committee plans for direct, visible action like marches. There was a security team. It’s security against the cops. The cops are the only people we think that might hurt us. The security team keeps people awake in shifts. They always have people awake.”
The work groups make logistical decisions, and the general assembly makes large policy decisions.
“Work groups make their own decisions,” Ketchup said. “For example, someone donated a laptop. And because I’ve been taking minutes I keep running around and asking, ‘Does someone have a laptop I could borrow?’ The media team, upon receiving that laptop, designated it to me for my use on behalf of the Internet committee. The computer isn’t mine. When I go back to Chicago, I’m not going to take it. Right now I don’t even know where it is. Someone else is using it. But so, after hearing this, people thought it had been gifted to me personally. People were upset by that. So a member of the Internet work group went in front of the group and said, ‘This is a need of the committee. It’s been put into Ketchup’s care.’ They explained that to the group, but didn’t ask for consensus on it, because the committees are empowered. Some people might still think that choice was inappropriate. In the future, it might be handled differently.”…


Mike Konczal at RortybombPars[es] the Data and Ideology of the We Are 99% Tumblr“:

… Let’s bring up a favorite quote around here. Anthropologist David Graeber cites historian Moses Finley, who identified “the perennial revolutionary programme of antiquity, cancel debts and redistribute the land, the slogan of a peasantry, not of a working class.” And think through these cases. The overwhelming majority of these statements are actionable demands in the form of (i) free us from the bondage of these debts and (ii) give us a bare minimum to survive on in order to lead decent lives (or, in pre-Industrial terms, give us some land). In Finley’s terms, these are the demands of a peasantry, not a working class.
The actual ideology of modernity, broadly speaking, is absent… no demands for cheap gas, cheaper credit, giant houses, bigger electronics all under the cynical ”Ownership Society” banner. The demands are broadly health care, education and not to feel exploited at the high-level, and the desire to not live month-to-month on bills, food and rent and under less of the burden of debt at the practical level.
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Occupy Wall Street: “Pay It Forward”

(h/t commentor Shinobi)

Since I may not yet have persuaded every single one of you to start reading Esquire‘s Political Blog regularly, here’s Charlie Pierce on “What They’ve Come to Find at Occupy Wall Street“:

NEW YORK — Sal Cioffi and Randy Otero are union electricians from Local 3 of the IBEW in New York. They’re working on the Freedom Tower a few blocks over in lower Manhattan. Over the past couple of days, they’ve taken to having their lunch in Zuccotti Park, in the middle of the Occupy Wall Street protesters who have set up camp here. The event has grown sufficiently that it’s now attracted almost as many food trucks and mobile falafel units as it has television-news trucks, so there’s always some place for Sal and Randy to buy lunch. So they park themselves on the stone bench, put their hard hats on the ground and, almost organically, they become part of the event.
“We’ve had demonstrations, and it never makes the news,” says Sal. “We could have 10,000 workers demonstrating, and it won’t make the news. At least, something like this, they get the publicity.”
“We had a rally for the workers, two months ago, and we marched across the Brooklyn Bridge, and there were people crossing that bridge for an hour-and-a-half, and it didn’t hit the news,” Randy adds. “All organized labor, no press coverage whatsoever.
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