Monthly Archives: February 2015

The 2016 Election Conspiracy of the GOP

Red States Blue States 3 Rep one party rule

When the GOP crunched the numbers and learned that it could not win a popular election for President unless it became more inclusive, the party developed strategies to bypass traditional election structures and devise new ones that would guarantee that a Republican would win the next national election.

We already know about their foresight in drawing up some pretty extreme districts when they had the opportunity. This resulted in the gerrymandering that has been oft discussed but which cannot be reversed until after the next census. This did not set off too many alarm bells because gerrymandering is an old strategy used by both parties from time to time. We do have one insightful Democratic Senator setting out to even out this advantage.

We know about attempts to suppress voting in ways that will make it harder for those who typically vote Democrat to vote.

We have seen the ways Republicans have manipulated 501 C 3’s and C 4’s to turn them into “dark” and untaxed campaign funding organizations and we saw how they cut Democrats off at the pass when they accused Democrats of conniving with the IRS to stop their illegal use of these tax-free groups. We also saw how their accusations that the President might be involved in this “scandal” stopped any IRS audits. Republicans were given complete freedom to subvert these not-for-profit categories of tax exemption. In a way they have found a way to get all Americans to back the GOP. Diabolical and effective!

We have seen the Supreme Court help the GOP by giving rulings in favor of ending limits on private and public campaign donations with Citizens United and McCutcheon v the FEC. As if that were not enough we have learned that the Koch brothers plan to spend almost 1 billion dollars getting Republicans elected, especially a Republican president.

We know, and yet seem helpless to halt the successful assaults the GOP has made on state and local governments. They don’t just go for the top office of Governor; they also set their sights on the legislatures and the courts. They even have ALEC to write verbatim laws that the GOP wants to see passed, and many of these bills have become laws, approved in the exact language ALEC set them down in.

The map of America has become redder and redder. Everyone notices it but for the life of me I can’t understand why it doesn’t alarm anyone.

We are actually thinking that Scott Walker, that little Wisconsin union busting and school closing governor, might successfully run for President.

We already know that, waiting in the wings, is a GOP plan to change the electoral vote count so that the whole of a state’s electoral votes no longer would go with whoever gets the highest popular vote, but the electoral votes would get divvied up proportionally amongst the parties as per the percentage of the popular vote each party achieves. This is a transparent ploy to defuse the power of the greater numbers of voters in metro areas who tend to be more liberal and to inflate the importance of rural voters, who tend to be Conservative.

This could look like greater equality, a sort of redistribution of voting power; except that it will mean that numbers no longer choose our President. Rural voters are much fewer in number than urban voters but occupy vast areas of many states. So if you choose to live in city centers that are densely populated you’ll be screwed.

Republicans have stubbornly held off tax changes and have refused to allow any changes to gun laws and we have let them. We have backed off, put up our hands, and said, “OK, if it means that much to you buddy, well you’ve got it. We’ll wait you out.” (Are we patient or are we intimidated?)

Do you really believe all of this has happened by accident? Doesn’t it all look like a very intricate strategy to co-opt the next election? Doesn’t it look like a subversion of the Constitution, even though it claims to be a purer interpretation of the intent of our forefathers? It is a perversion which uses and abuses the Constitution in very subtle and not so subtle ways to achieve one end – to make America a Conservative State’s Rights Nation Under God that will belong, lock stock and barrel to white men, and those they have granted dispensation to be allowed into the company of white men (although perhaps not at the highest levels).

This is a blueprint of a bloodless coup and, even if we wake up and work hard to rebuff this coup; it is probably too late.

I know I sound like an ideological left wing nut but I was not even all that political until I got a load of these activities. I care about justice and fairness and I am focused on doing anything that can be done to keep our planet intact and functioning, including outing these plotters and planners who care nothing about the things I care about. Notice how quiet the Republicans have become recently, how sober they seem. It’s an act. They are the same extremists who have been playing head games in Washington. They are being quiet so they can get elected.

Of course, hardly anyone reads what I write, and I believe it is possible that there are forces on the internet focused on keeping my opinions out of the mainstream and making sure they do not show up in search engines. I did not make up any of the items I have discussed. They have all been explored in the media in some depth. Perhaps the media cannot put these items together as an organized plot because it will seem like a conspiracy theory. Still, I bet there are many others who suspect that there might be an organized set of steps that are being checked off on the right as they attain one more goal on their way to the 2016 election.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

AT AT’s

walkers 4

What if ISIS, that ISIS of the black flags, that lost in the 15th century ISIS, was confronted with the 21st century and beyond on the battlefield. I saw a headline on the internet the other day which said that we will be fighting wars with robots and it sounded like that meant that we will be doing this now (or at least very soon.) Can we build those AT-AT things from Star Wars? I like to imagine that if an army of these Walkers started stalking out of the desert and closing in on ISIS terrorists that perhaps we could turn the tables and strike some terror into their hearts (and send them running for the hills never to be seen again).

You may think that I am treating a serious topic lightly and, in part, I guess I am but the advantage of Walkers is that using them does not put any American “boots on the ground” and the shock value of facing these enormous robots with their guns blazing just walking inevitably nearer, armored to withstand whatever modern weapons can dish out, satisfies both a primitive and a futuristic urge in my brain and in my heart.

These arrogant and brutal terrorists seem un-human enough that I believe it might be possible to ignore any pacifist tendencies in my nature and to be dispassionate in the face of this particular massacre. It’s akin to the pleasure that Sheldon Cooper gets from pretending that he can blow things up with his mind. Maybe I could experience it almost as if I was watching Space Invaders (the old, old video game) played by someone who was really good at wiping out those aliens. If nothing else, imaging this scene in the desert helps me act out some of my anger and grief.

Link to a short version of the Walkers:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2CAV3IdDh8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=WASr5-mS238

 

<iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/WASr5-mS238?feature=player_detailpage” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Link to a longer version of the Walkers:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WASr5-mS238

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=V2CAV3IdDh8

 

<iframewidth=”640″height=”360″src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/V2CAV3IdDh8?feature=player_detailpage” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

 

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

The Political Expediency of Blaming Terrorism on Obama

Obama and Iraq 2

I am so tired of listening to voices that blame Obama for ISIS (and, in fact, blame him for escalating terrorism overall). The rather twisted logic is that if Obama had left American troops in Iraq there would be no ISIS. There is no proof that this conclusion is correct, and there can be no proof. This is an opinion and a dangerous one, obviously useful to some as political fodder and to others as a reason to send troops back to Iraq.

This latter group reasons that we need to take care of ISIS while it is still in the process of forming its cruel Caliphate rather than postponing our inevitable battle with ISIS until they have consolidated their power and are more difficult (perhaps impossible) to dislodge and defeat.

It is clear that even experts on war are not totally clear about this pre-emptive strategy. We had only very recently decided that we are better off letting the Muslim world work from within to form coalitions between various Islamic sects or factions. A common threat such as ISIS represents would seem ideal as an impetus for cooperation.

Americans did not take well to the smaller American fighting force that had to be redeployed for tour after tour. We liked Obama’s promise to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home. However it did not take long at all for our relief to be exchanged for horror at the violence which began to manifest in several Muslim nations. Our senses were outraged by Assad’s activities in Syria, and from there the barbarity of it all only escalated as we watched the primitive and very public atrocities dished out by ISIS, an organization obviously focused on getting the world’s attention and fomenting war.

How do we turn our backs on acts that we find heinous; brutal acts which we find so odious to all in modern times that we thought they had become nearly obsolete? Well, we aren’t doing very well ignoring these barbarities performed deliberately to incite us. These terrorists understand how to push the world’s buttons. It seems clear that we may not be able to accept an escalation in atrocity forever, but we should use this time to carefully consider our options.

Instead we all waffle daily with our emotions swinging wildly along the whole scale from warmonger to peacenik and it doesn’t matter who is doing the reacting. Military experts, media people, Congressmen and women, and ordinary people find our advice to our President changing daily as events unfold to incense us and then calmer moments give us more perspective.

Obama did not begin the Arab Spring – the Muslim world probably was ready to awaken in these days regardless of anything America did or didn’t do. If anything is to blame, blame cell phones and the internet. Placing blame is not at all helpful and offers no assistance to instruct us about how to go forward, unless you are one of the people who think time could be put back in the bottle if we would only send troops back into Iraq.

Should we go in, should we stay out; should we join the fray, meet these fighters who have declared themselves our enemies on their own ground, or should we wait until they actually meet us on our ground? Are we in middle of fighting about whether the future of the planet will be a Muslim future, a Christian future, or a future that has made peace with religious diversity; or is such a moment not a moment we will ever have to worry about? If only we could trace the trajectory of each possible action into the future to see how it would turn out?

I do know that this moment of upheaval and this tipping point is too huge to blame on one man, even a man as powerful as the American President. If voters buy into this latest GOP ploy delivered in their usual repetitive style, then people must also buy that putting American troops back into the Middle East is the way to go. Once we get in there this time it may be almost impossible to get out until all the differences are untangled and sectarian divisions are overcome or defused and that could take a really long time. Muslim people may be able to find a way out of animosities that they have nursed for centuries, but killing each other seems like a rather counterproductive way to accomplish this.

We need really cool heads to make this decision and all we have are madmen on one side and people whose emotions get exercised by each act of inhumanity, and who then subside into a pleasant political amnesia when the level of atrocity subsides. And sadly, we also have those who whip up our empathy for others and try to turn it into political divisions here in America because they are just really focused in a laser-sharp fashion on winning our next election.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – Book

The Girl on the Train

In Paula Hawkins’ novel The Girl on the Train, Rachel rides the train back and forth between London and the suburb where she lives. She reveals herself to us with each trip. We see her creating stories in her mind about a couple she sees each day near one of the stops on the way to London and again as she travels home. We become as keen to see what this couple is up to as Rachel is.

We see that Rachel is drinking. Although at first it seems casual we soon understand that it is somewhat serious. Eventually we realize that Rachel is an alcoholic.

Three women tell this story which begins with a tiny grave by some railroad tracks, a woman in some kind of extremely frightening situation, and a small pile of dirty clothing by the side of the rails that Rachel rides each day. Talk about foreshadowing. As we switch back and forth between glimpses of their lives at first we only see what Rachel sees. Rachel has very good reasons to stalk this particular set of town houses that back up to the train tracks. She once lived happily in one of those houses with her husband Tom.

Just as a train picks up pace each time it leaves a station, this story is fleshed out each time we travel with Rachel past those Blenheim Road town houses. Rachel begins as a stalker but eventually she doesn’t keep her distance from these two couples, Anne and her ex, Tom and the “perfect” couple, Jess and Jason (actually Megan and Scott). When Megan goes missing on the exact Saturday that Rachel arrives back from a Blenheim Road “stalking” expedition with bleeding injuries and no memory of what she did that night, Rachel’s need to fill in those missing hours reveals truths about all three women and also about the men these women love. As a consequence of Rachel’s bumbling attempts to get answers, we, the readers, get to go along for a mind boggling, goose-flesh-raising, and tangled ride.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is engrossing and leads you on a very modern trip on a rather old-style train. When I am not thinking that Rachel may have done something unpardonable, I am thinking how much this book is like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window with legs. (Yes, the Jimmy Stewart movie.)

Your trust in humanity may suffer a bit as this one unravels. This novel gets full marks because, while perhaps not deeply literary, it is well written and obviously has great mass market appeal. It is difficult to put it down.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

Mayor Giuliani and President Obama – The Patriot Wars

mayor giuliani

There are more educated people everywhere in the world these days. What do you think they are thinking when they hear Americans talk about our country as if it is occupied by some separate and heroic race, and not by real, flawed humans? Don’t you think they may imagine that we have a case of egomania or, perhaps, some fairly serious delusions of grandeur?

Well Mayor Giuliani, once mayor of NYC, thinks that as long as our President stands in front of the world and blows America’s horn on one long high note then the world will buy into America’s “exceptionalism”. This is, I think, a new word, since my Microsoft Office Dictionary does not recognize it. Apparently this word, a GOP favorite, describes our hegemony in the world and that hegemony extends not just to power or our expressed ideas, but, supposedly, to our actual perfection as a nation in terms of both policy and behavior.

It’s an insult to continue to pretend that America is perfect. It’s an insult to the intelligence of people in nations around the world. It is also an insult to the American people. It suggests that they, and we, are so blinded by America’s superiority that we brush off any historical facts that tarnish this view.

Can we love our America even though we see our flaws as a nation and see the poor decisions and bad behaviors of some of our past (and present) leaders? Since my love of my country has more to do with what we believe and the ways we keep trying to live up to those ideals than it has to do with our actual politics, then I believe that we can.

I have learned some shocking things about activities which my nation thought would benefit us and which actually turned other nations against America. Think of all the pro-Western leaders we have installed as supposedly democratically-chosen by the country/countries being targeted (or exploited), which activities are nothing to be proud of, and remember that the world knows all about our exploits in “nation building”. Why do you think so many nations are leery about letting us have another crack at it?

I never favored Castro but I was more shocked than amused by some of the pathetic attempts we made to discredit him (such as sprinkling a powder in his boots which was intended to make him lose his hair and thereby his revolutionary charisma). What genius thought that up?

We have learned that experiments with sterilizations and electric shock have been secretly conducted in our own country on certain minority groups such as those with mental limitations and minority groups, African Americans for one.

Burying our heads will no longer fly and Obama loves America enough to accept her when she is all shiny, and also when those sour spots show up. He seems to feel that the rest of humans on the planet are educated enough to be aware that Americans expect our nation to take a high road but a road that politics often cannot seem to access because of things like cynicism, prejudice, greed, or any of the other sins that flesh is heir to.

So, Mayor Giuliani, it occurs to me that Obama would appear somewhat dim (like some of his predecessors) if he embraced a blind chauvinism as his public face. And all you are showing, Mr. Giuliani is your age and your biases. If we must “white wash” America’s role in the world we will continue to attract the scorn of those who know what is behind the paint on that wall. Obama loves America but he is interested in the tectonic shifts that place America as an actor in a global drama. He seems to see our role as peacekeeper, disease and poverty fighter, and caretaker of Planet Earth. On Alex Wagner’s show on MSNBC today it was summed up well – Obama’s goal seems to be to establish himself “as a statesman and a uniter”. It is sad to see people we once honored who cannot shake the dust of the 20th century off their feet.

As to whether Obama grew up in the same America as us – well since you and I grew up in “white America” and Obama grew up in America as a Black American (because we know he was always known as a child of mixed race) – we did not all grow up in the same America. That would have been and still is impossible. Make no mistake though, I do not question Obama’s patriotism or his humanitarian (Christian) values and I doubt that the world does either. I am embarrassed for you, and for anyone who goes along with the accusations you have leveled. They show that some Americans cling to a world view that no longer pertains.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

2016 Election Outcome Already Determined by Historical Data

geekscreen

Pundits seem to have this treasure trove of election “truisms” gleaned from careful analysis of America’s political history by political “geeks”. We heard some of it before the midterms and it centered on using past practice to predict election outcomes. We heard about low turnouts in midterms. We learned that this favored Republicans in the 2014 election. Pundits knew which races held an infinitesimal amount of wiggle room and which elections did not. Why even bother to open the polls? These pundits proved that tradition matters and it trumps even the most atrociously outrageous political behavior, and very active attempts to contravene it with sweet reason.

The newest piece of “geek” political “truth” says that once a party controls the White House for two terms the country always (very few, very old exceptions) votes in the opposite party. Such historical analysis suggests that an election in 2016 is unnecessary and that we could save a lot of money and time if we simply let Republicans pick our next President.

Since the pundits have this down to basically a science I am already inclined to just accept the inevitable. Yes, I have a sinking feeling in my gut because I think we would have to eventually undo almost everything a Republican President would do right now, especially with a majority in Congress and in the Supreme Court. This nightmare scenario may make many feel the same degree of glee as I do of despair, but I still conclude that what the faithful applaud in ideological form they will soon come to despise in practice.

Perhaps you already have heard me say this, perhaps not, but I just cannot stop making this point until or unless it becomes a political meme. I believe if America had referees the Republicans would be benched for their disgustingly anti-American behavior. They have accepted public office under false pretenses. They had no intention of governing. They took office in order to stop governance and have left the American people to fend almost for themselves through very tough economic times. We had only the Obama administration between us and financial ruin. Republican racism has embarrassed us in front of the entire world. They should be arrested for sedition and jailed. They should be penalized and they should have to sit out this election. They do not deserve to skate into the highest office in our nation on the heels of some kind of statistical probability.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon – Book

inherentvice

Doc Sportello is the weed-smoking, long-haired private detective in Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel, Inherent Vice, which is experiencing renewed interest because the movie version, also called Inherent Vice, just appeared in theaters.

As a writer, Pynchon, a towering figure in modern American literature, gives readers no time to take a breath. Action starts with the first sentence of Inherent Vice, “[s]he came along the alley and up the back steps the way she always used to. Doc hadn’t seen her for over a year. Nobody had.” That’s Doc’s ex-girlfriend, Shasta, and she needs a favor. She needs to have Doc check out her new boyfriend, who she has been asked to betray.

Doc’s a stoner, a bit past his prime years, but he’s a good guy and that gets him through what becomes a long board ride through some pretty scary surf. We’re in California, halfway between the Beach bands/surfer music days and into the post-Charles Manson days of the hippie movement, which is beginning to get into some pretty paranoid territory.

Capitalism in the days of the drug culture sounds beside the point, but to those who turn culture into profit, business is never beside the point. So we have Doc wandering through a weird LA full of dopers, musicians, addicts and rehab establishments, real estate developers, and shadowy multinational drug dealers/importers.

What should happen to Michael “Mickey” Wolfmann, husband and cheater-boyfriend? Should he be committed to an unnamed institution and should Shasta help? Where is Mickey Wolfmann anyway? Suddenly no one can find him even though, only yesterday, he had been peddling lots in his new desert development all over the TV (although all of the tech devices Doc deals with seem to have been invented in a parallel universe (check out the sound system in the trunk of his car.) (Cars also matter in this story.)

Doc Sportello’s subsequent investigative activities attract the attention of Bigfoot Bjornsen, a cop, who cannot be shaken loose, and the attention of various shady characters who Doc, in his marijuana haze manages to elude through some weird combo of charm and the luck of the stoned. It’s a romp of sorts through an LA that is not romanticized in any way. That Thomas Pynchon really did live in LA in the 60’s and 70’s gives him the chops to offer us a social commentary, set in days many of us remember as sort of an idealistic construct. Although Pynchon highlights mankind’s less than elegant greed and pursuit of wealth, he doesn’t moralize or suggest that we will ever leave our baser natures behind, but that we may, eventually, catch a brief breath of sweet peace and virtue between one sleazy deal and the next.

Pynchon is a writer who is studied in college literature courses, who is hailed as a great “post modernist” writer and who has won prizes. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about any of these credentials if you don’t really want to. Inherent Vice satisfies as a fast-moving and very offbeat PI case, solved by a very “high” detective named Doc Sportello. You may relate to the story a bit more closely if you have, at least once, been talked into getting high yourself, although that may be totally unnecessary, and I do not recommend that you get any new habits in order to read this book. The novel also seems sort of like a ‘guy-thing’ but such distinctions are not necessarily as true as they once were.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

February, 2015 Book List

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It’s that time again; time to look at what new books authors, publishers, and book sellers have to offer us. A few of these titles may shoot right to the top of my reading list but most will have to wait while I deal with my ever lengthening wish list. Of course titles that create buzz may distract me from my wish list and change the order of things, always a possibility. The books listed by the independent booksellers as titles that are selling well are not always new titles, but even the older books are, for various reasons, trending with readers right now.

Independent Booksellers

The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy

Funny Girl  by Nicky Hornby

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The First Bad Man by Miranda July

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

Descent by Tim Johnston

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon

A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano

The Story of a Name by Elena Ferrante

In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

Family Life by Akhil Sharma

Euphoria by Lily King

The Big Seven by Jim Harrison

We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Chris Scotton

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

Holy Cow by David Duchovny

Outline by Rachel Cusk

The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

Insatiable Appetites by Liane Moriarty

Amazon

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

My Sunshine Away by Mo Walsh

We are Pirates by Daniel Handler

Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lori Berney

Motive by Jonathan Kellerman

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Red Queen by Aveyard Victoria

Mysteries and Thrillers

The Whites by Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey

The Maurauders by Tim Cooper

The Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

The Swimmer by Joakim Zander

Nobody Walks by Mick Herron

Golden State by Stephanie Kagan

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman

Dark Intelligence: Transformation by Neal Asher

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

The Room by Jonas Karlsson

Publisher’s Weekly (thank you for sending me your tip sheets)

The Question of Miracles by Elana K. Arnold

The Octopus Game by Nicky Beer

Fancy by Jeremy M. Davies

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellison

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

Before He Finds Her by Michael Kardos

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud (graphic novel)

Crow Work by Eric Pankey

Disgruntled by Asali Solomon

Will Starling by Ian Weir

Most Anticipated Spring Books

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

The Buried Giant by Kasuo Ishiguro

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews

The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell

The Whites by Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt

Jack of Spade by Joyce Carol Oates

Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror

City of Savages by Lee Kelly

The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

Internationals Releases

Rivka by Femmetje de Wind

Paris is Always a Good Idea by Nicolas Barreau

The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty by Amanda Fillpacci

Nobody Walks by Mick Herron

Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson

Doctor Death: A Madeleine Karno Mystery by Lene Kaarberbøl

The Room by Jonas Karlson

Making Nice by Matt Sumell

Plague Land by S. D. Sykes

Compiled by Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

Note to NYS Teachers and Unions

Albanyteachersdemo3

Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York State, to give him his due, is wrong about using Common Core test results as 50% of a teacher evaluation. He assumes that some of our schools get poor results because they have poor teachers. This is a kind of sweeping generalization, a logic trap that is easy to fall into where complex factors actually contribute to results, because it is simple solution and it clears the desktop. But who is testing administrators or parents to see if they measure up. Administrators are fewer in number but they get paid much more than teachers. There are also not union members and therefore should be much easier to push around. Come up with a plan to evaluate administrators who come more directly under your powers.

Great teaching is a somewhat unquantifiable amalgam of intelligence, training, creativity, drive to succeed and personality. Even good teaching is pretty darn difficult to pin down. If there were not some sense of a je ne sais quoi factor at play here then we could just make a checklist and teach someone every skill on the checklist and voila! – perfect teachers could be cranked out over and over again.

Could we also quantify and clone the qualities of the perfect school district, perfect students, perfect neighborhoods, perfect parents? That would solve the whole thing and none of those pesky individual factors to worry about. But when put this way, we can see how impossible and ridiculous this is. Thank heavens we tend to produce many great teachers and even greater numbers of good teachers and we have done this in America for decades without stopping to get a check on the student test results of those teachers. Why start with a test that even good students are having some difficulty with.

But there are also bad teachers, teachers who hide behind their union memberships and work the system. They don’t like teaching; they don’t feel that connection between student and teacher that can keep a teacher going through a few rough years. They only see that if they get tenure they are assured of a good income until they decide to retire. If students or other teachers complain about them they talk to the union. Why does the union back up bad teachers? Surely they can tell from the feedback they are getting if someone is a bad teacher. But these people pay the union to support them, not to evaluate them so the union does its job. However, in being faithful to its members unions bring into question the qualifications of all of the great and good teachers they represent. Unions and teachers owe it to all of the great and good teachers to come up with a way to stop supporting bad teachers. Bad teachers can sue their unions and win because no one is documenting the “bad” behaviors of these teachers.

A common core test will not help us here. What if a school district, to cut down on chaos, assigns good students to bad teachers because they will practically teach themselves? I don’t know if this happens or how often it happens but it could certainly skew test results. Even assigning poorly performing students to a bad teacher can make matters worse in terms of student progress, student behaviors, and student retention, but poor performance by these students on periodic test will not really prove that they have a “bad” teacher.

Unions and teachers – police your own ranks – hold some work groups and conferences to get started on this right away. Come up with a plan and keep coming up with plans until you get one that works.

I understand there are “bad” teachers sitting all alone in tiny closets all over New York City counting paper clips. I don’t think you will find this problem occurs often outside NYC limits. If our state government is trying to solve a NYC problem by involving the entire state then they should be on notice that we know that they wish to make a complex human problem quantifiable, and good luck with that. State government could put some education dollars into workshops where teachers can share their experiences with Common Core and work to create lessons or suggestions that would help make Common Core come to life (if that’s possible). Some of these funds could also be used to provide teacher training so that teachers approach curriculum with confidence and a sound background in theory and technique.

Two problems to solve – both should be tackled by communications. The union and the teachers should tackle one problem, the problem of bad teachers; the union, the teachers and the state should tackle to second problem, bringing everyone up to snuff on Common Core. (Hint to NYS – offer bonuses to teachers who do this work.)

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>