Friday, February 29, 2008

our incarcerated nation

I couldn't not write about this one. Or at least post the link.

Justice and retribution and revenge have a troubling past and present in our country. From the unlawful lynching used as both a means to terrorize and remove property or just to keep us in our place.

That we spend more money on jails than schools, that we sentence children to jail for life, that we selectively decide who should be held accountable and who should not... all of these are reasons why I feel we might need to rename our "justice" system.

The injustice system
Retribution and Revenge for People We Don't Like
We'll Tell your Worth Masquerading as Justice
We Won't Pay for You to Go to College, but We Will Pay for your Incarceration
Magna Carta? Human Rights? What's That?!

and more indignant phrases...

Send in your suggestions.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hope for Children

The follow up to the story I wrote about the tragic shooting Oxnard earlier this month is that they are indeed going to try the young man (just barely 14) as an adult. There are myriad reasons that this is WRONG, but I don't want to think about it right now. I am full of despair over this case, not unlike so many other tragedies, but this one was just too close to home.

So, when in my catch up of newspaper reading, I came across this story. I breathed deeply, felt a little of the weight of the world lifting, and dared to hope.

I encourage you to read the whole story, but here's a snippit:

Within weeks, the situation improved as Mr. Lee provided intensive counseling to the family, with the aim of defusing what had become an increasingly angry relationship between Jacob and his mother. Instead of screaming at Jacob when he refused to comply with her curfew, Ms. Rivera called Mr. Lee. Over time, Mr. Lee persuaded her to agree to be less strict if her son would agree to be more forthcoming about his whereabouts, and more responsible.

Soon Jacob started meeting curfew and began passing his court-ordered drug tests and staying in school. If he continues on this course, he will end his probation in July, Mr. Lee said.

By the standards of juvenile justice, Jacob is a resounding success. And he is not alone. The city said that in the year since the program began, fewer than 35 percent of the 275 youths who have been through it have been rearrested or violated probation.


It worries me that we have to do studies like this, too. It also heartens me, some, that there are those out there who are, at the very least, willing to look for facts to either substantiate assumptions or debunk them as the case may be.

From the news article about the study:
"Our research indicates that limiting immigration, requiring higher educational levels to obtain visas or spending more money to increase penalties against criminal immigrants will have little impact on public safety," Kristin Butcher said in a statement.
While immigrants often have lower levels of education and higher poverty rates, which are normally associated with higher crimes rates, other factors are probably contributing to the underrepresentation among the foreign-born in state prisons.

better late than never?!

Ok... I am still catching up on my newspaper reading...

I just read this article, and I am left wondering, is this a revelation? I realize that we need these kinds of studies in order to PROVE the detriment of not having health insurance or of having inadequate insurance, but it still seemed like a shame to spend the money on this kind of study.

here's one FINDING:
The study’s authors concluded that “individuals without private insurance are not receiving optimum care in terms of cancer screening or timely diagnosis and follow-up with health care providers.” Advanced-stage diagnosis, they wrote, “leads to increased morbidity, decreased quality of life and survival and, often, increased costs.”

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Bill Moyers has got to be one of my most favorite people. Every week he throws down the real deal. It is frequently very difficult truths that he presents in a no-nonsense kind of way. Even though he has been criticized for being too liberal, he presents the facts as he investigates them. I highly recommend this reality check weekly. I rarely watch it live because it airs at 10 pm on KQED (when they are not moving it around and making it difficult for those of us without tivo or other dvr capability to tape).

This week's show featured Sara Chayes who is a former NPR correspondent who is living and working in Afghanistan. Some people talk about it, others do it. For now, I just buy their products to support their good work.

Ms. Chayes has started a coop where women create fabulous artisan soaps and body oils. She has also written a book about her time in Afghanistan as a reporter and since then. She has a wish list of items the cooperative needs .... you can also make a cash donation. Otherwise, you can start your holiday shopping early, that's what I did... of course, I bought some for me, too.

I searched each one of the retailers listed on her site and ultimately had to order from two places in order to get one of each ( won't be available til later in the spring) soap and the body oil. You can buy the soaps and other green gifts here (shipping was free!) or I found more soap and the body oil from a camping store (*pay with paypal, shipping was reasonable, only $10).

I freely admit that I LOVE fairtrade stores, items, etc. But this goes way beyond just economic justice... as one of the online stores said, good for the skin and the soul. Let's clean up this world!

Motivation. Discipline. Progress.

I made it to the gym today, just barely. I need only two more miles this week to make all my training miles for the week (only 12 this week, but still). Just as soon as I get to that milestone, I have to start counting (or counting down) the new week's miles. I can report to date, I have not missed one mile of training... that means three or four runs per week for the last six weeks (not counting the running I did to get ready for training). It should feel great, what an accomplishment...

I want to run because it makes me feel great. I want the runner's high. I don't want to have to drag my ass to the gym for those last few miles... I am tired of having to talk myself into getting out there in the fabulous fresh air to do that long run. Alas... I don't run because it's good for me (sometimes I am not sure it is), or because it is fun; I certainly don't run because I am anticipating that rush of endorphins. I run because I have made a commitment to run the next race. I commit to the race because without that goal, I won't train. I won't get out there and run for the fun of it, see above.

I need a goal. I need to be motivated into discipline because I am accomplishing a goal or a step towards a goal. There shouldn't be anything wrong with that. I hate that I need the carrot and the stick. It makes me feel like a lazy sloth. At my age I guess I can't expect to develop new habits. While running a six miler this week, I was talking about my lack of discipline with a friend who I consider the most determined person I know. In the talking it through, while running a 12 minute mile -- imagine how hard it was to keep that conversation going, I realized that I am disciplined. Duh. I know. But it is just that in my head there is so much more I could do if I would just be disciplined 24 hours a day. Um... setting practical expectations is clearly not my strong suit.

I did, however, officially sign up for the half-marathon in Shiprock today. Pressing pay on the registration page may only mean that I spent 43 odd dollars, but it is the psychological push that I needed to get myself to the gym. I hope it will get me out tomorrow to finish those last two miles and maybe do some other training... if the weather will cooperate, then I could do both but not have to be at the gym for two hours...I will let you know how it goes.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Remembering Malcolm

On the anniversary of his life being taken so violently, I am remembering Malcolm X and wishing I knew more about him. We are living some historic moments at present, but our past is just as important. We do not get (or seek) often enough the information about past events that fall out of the mainstream. Today is a good day to rectify this.

Here are some places where you can find out more about him, too. You can even see some of his speeches here. Sometimes, technology really is a valuable thing.

Mr. Ossie Davis delivered the eulogy at Malcolm's funeral. Here is some of what he said:

It is not in the memory of man that this beleaguered, unfortunate, but nonetheless proud community has found a braver, more gallant young champion than this Afro-American who lies before us - unconquered still. I say the word again, as he would want me to : Afro-American - Afro-American Malcolm, who was a master, was most meticulous in his use of words. Nobody knew better than he the power words have over minds of men. Malcolm had stopped being a 'Negro' years ago. It had become too small, too puny, too weak a word for him. Malcolm was bigger than that. Malcolm had become an Afro-American and he wanted - so desperately - that we, that all his people, would become Afro-Americans too.

There are those who will consider it their duty, as friends of the Negro people, to tell us to revile him, to flee, even from the presence of his memory, to save ourselves by writing him out of the history of our turbulent times. Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain - and we will smile. Many will say turn away - away from this man, for he is not a man but a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the black man - and we will smile. They will say that he is of hate - a fanatic, a racist - who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them : Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him.

You can read the entire eulogy here.

Some of Malcolm's words:

"I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation."

also some of his thoughts on foreign wars and the draft:

"If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us, and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country." -- Speech, Nov. 1963, New York City.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

the nose on your face?

Really, is it just me, or are all of the articles I have read lately not NEWS (at least, to me?). All of this seems as plain as the nose on your face. The fact that we need to have studies to show these things really distresses me. Someone, please, help me out? Why don't we just understand the consequences of these very basic trends?

This is what passes for an AHA moment in this article:

“A growing difference in education levels between income and racial groups, especially in college degrees, implies that mobility will be lower in the future than it is today,” said Ron Haskins, a former Republican official and welfare expert who wrote the education section of the report.

Here's another one. Will the revelations never cease?

There is some good news. The study highlights the powerful role that college can have in helping people change their station in life. Someone born into a family in the lowest fifth of earners who graduates from college has a 19 percent chance of joining the highest fifth of earners in adulthood and a 62 percent chance of joining the middle class or better. (Emphasis mine, in case you were wondering,)

Ahhh... here it is. The reason we have to have a study, that is, proof. Because our lives are now run by SPIN, we need "facts," "data," and "reports" to tell us what should be evident except that the spin doctors have been busy diverting our attention with other arguments.

Mr. Butler said experts were likely to disagree about the reasons and, hence, on policies to improve mobility. Conservative scholars are more apt to fault cultural norms and the breakdown of families while liberals put more emphasis on the changing structure of the economy and the need for government to provide safety nets and aid for poor families.

Get a life. If you do not progress educationally, you will not progress monetarily. Gone are the days, if they ever truly existed for more than a handful, of working your way up. The sad, hard truth is that the lower your educational level the lower your salary potential. And when we systematically exclude portions of our citizenry from that educational attainment, don't be surprised (OR BLAME THEIR PARENTS) when they are unable to find gainful employment, earn a living wage or support themselves or their children.

If you want to exclude the majority of your young citizens from the possibility of doing from themselves, then you must in good conscience maintain the poverty programs. You can call them safety nets or handouts, I don't care. Personally, I would rather that you give them a fighting chance and stop congratulating yourselves on your hard work. You didn't get to where you are because your parents or culture were better than anyone elses. You did not choose your birth family.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Respite unnoticed

I guess I understand the "hangover of perception" that is discussed in this article. It's not unlike the perception that people who live in "safe" neighborhoods feel -- it's unrealistic to believe that bad things could not happen in particular places, thus when something bad happens, it's a dramatic horror because that "hangover" is the one that says that person has the right to feel safe.

The real question for me is, if we all felt that we had the right to feel (and be) safe, would that make our neighborhoods safer? That is to say, would we behave in ways that would make our neighborhoods safer? If we never feel safe, we never go out. If we don't go out, we cannot help to make our neighborhoods safer. Just a hypothesis, I guess. I wonder how you could prove it?

Here are my favorite quotes from the article:

As the weekend approached, with its promise of gunplay, law enforcement officials said Friday that they had passed a new threshold: 33 days without a murder, the longest stretch since 1963, when there were no homicides for 40 days.
“Perception lags reality,” he said. “You have a high homicide rate, and you start to get it under control, but you suffer from the hangover of perception, and that lasts awhile.” That lag is especially pronounced in neighborhoods here that have suffered longest from poverty, neglect, and as centers of the drug trade. Everyone in those neighborhoods has heard the shooting and, more often than not, can point to the spot of a recent killing.

Best Valentines Celebration... Ever

Last evening, a few of my friends joined me at Pasand Lounge for an anti-valetines celebration (and divorce anniversary party -- 5 years this week!!)... it was truly lovely.

When giving thanks for all the truly wonderful parts of my life, I always think first of my fantastic circle of friends. Though the faces of the circle may change, there are some enduring qualities that make all the difference: intelligent, brilliant (really), loving, generous, accomplished, poised, FUN, fun-loving, eclectic, beautiful (inside and out), and raucous.

When my friends get together, it is a traveling party. That is to say, we bring the party anywhere we go. It is always nice to have great surroundings...but even better to have these lovely ladies.

Needless to say, then, we had a blast. There was serious laughing, drinking and eating. True to form, our conversation weaved through various themes: life in general, divorce, child-rearing, advantages of young sexual partners, sex, happiness, philosophical moments, dating, work, life in general. We didn't get to politics, but then again it was only a happy hour!

Hug your circle of friends, in real life or just in your heart if you're not close enough, and remember to be thankful they are in your life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Yesterday, a young man took a gun to school (just a few blocks from where my parents live) with the intention of ending the life of another young man. I was prepared to report that he had been unsuccessful, but, sadly, this afternoon, the police released a report announcing the death of the other student. Late reports yesterday and this morning were that though he had been shot in the head and back, but that he was improving.

All day long (yesterday), people commented on the local newspaper story. Apparently the TV stations were reporting the young man who was shot had been killed. Those rumors were put down by a staff member who was monitoring comments. Along with the rumors of death came rumors of bullying and about whether or not the young man who had been shot was perceived as or had expressed that he was homosexual. There was even maligning of character based on the fact that both victim and shooter were middle school at the age of 15. (Turns out only the victim was 15, the shooter was 14...though the facts as we know them have been changing hourly.)

More disturbing than all of that, which was indeed disturbing, was the intense attack on Latinos and immigrants. Almost immediately, since the names were not released, many started speculating that these were Latinos, that they were recent immigrants and that they were gang members, family members of gang members or ex-gang members. Notice AND and not and/or. The not so below the surface racism that infects the anti-immigrant debate is hardly even glossed by those who post ANONYMOUSLY on these comments.

Interestingly, much of the discussion on the article, especially after the names were leaked, was about bullies and bullying. I can think of no better embodiment of bullying than anonymously posting about that which you nothing but have very strong judgements. Spewing hatred in the guise of opinions about a current event, especially anonymously, is bullying any way you look at it. It is not simply saying how you feel, it is intended to be hurtful; it is intended to make someone feel less than.

I grieve for the young man whose life was so brutally cut short; I grieve for the young man who felt that shooting was an appropriate way to settle any dispute; I grieve for the person who allowed a troubled young man to get his hands on a gun (which includes all of us registered voters who continue to bow to the gun lobby -- yes, I said it, and I mean it, guns kill people just like people kill people); and I grieve for my hometown. This is a scar that will be very difficult to heal. Vengeance and retribution will only cause more pain and impede our healing. Hear me clearly saying, putting this 14 year old in jail for the rest of his life is not justice, that is vengeance. We need to get this young man some help. We don't have to destroy another life in order to demonstrate our anger and frustration at the taking of such a young life.

[The link above does not include the initial comments made -- that is those that were made before the names were released; but it does include some of the responses to the spewing of the venom from yesterday.]

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

something to chew on

I am really unhappy about the Hillary bashing.

It is not about thinking that she is the best candidate. I am not sure about that...
I find fault with all the candidates.

However, I really do think that there is so much going on behind the bashing.

We really do need to consider if it really is about Hillary or it is just about women.

Monday, February 11, 2008

making sense of the charter school experiment?

Far too often, we essentialize to the point of not seeing the whole picture. This is clearly the case with regard to charter schools. Having worked at one in the very early years, I understand both the potential and the pitfalls. With age and experience (I started at the charter after only two years teaching) I have come to see that long term change (that is to say, systemic change) can only come through continual experimentation coupled with true analysis and course correction. All that to say that no one reform will ever FIX the public school system. Moreover to believe that there is such a thing as public education that can be attacked in one way is to misunderstand the term.

Public education is a term, like CANCER, that is purposely vague yet with an overarching theme that resonates with everyone. Just because three people have cancer doesn't mean they will all get the same treatment. First, you would figure out what kind of cancer it was. Then you would prescribe a treatment. More importantly, then you would monitor the treatment to see if it was working ... then tweak it so that you could CURE the cancer.

Here's an excerpt from the article that sent me on this particular rant:
As schools improve and options increase, parents who now feel that they have no choice but expensive private schools might return to the district, whether in charters or regular public schools. Either way, the district would get more money to help with administrative costs. Families would get both the innovation of charters and the stability of a public school system.

That last point is an important one, because, for all their charms, charters are not the answer to all that ails education. Charter schools can demand a certain level of student behavior and parent involvement; the parents drawn to them are already fairly savvy and involved. That combination alone would tend to result in higher test scores. Conventional public schools, by contrast,have to take everyone. Should a charter fail, decide to close or "encourage" its low-achieving students to leave, who picks up the pieces without a public system?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

where do you find hope?

I am a news junkie... I mainline it all day long.

I read stories about horrible, brutal killings.

I read as much political talk as I can before I need to go to the bathroom and vomit.

I read the most about education. Usually, they are stories about the problems and the lack of solutions. Sometimes, they are stories that give me hope.

This is especially true when it is a story about something unlikely.

First I have hope, then I have despair; but I try to hold on to the hope.

I worry about personality-driven change. I am not convinced that these kinds of reforms can last, especially in a system that specializes in breaking you down and burning you out. It is important to tease out the pieces that work, figure out if they can be sustained if you lose the personality, and/or replicated elsewhere. This is the really hard work that we often don't have a process for doing.

Still, I like this story.

And it gives me hope.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Yes...I have been back posting.

If you haven't been here in a while...check through these:
Lighten your load with this story about giving back to the community.
A little something about the Happiest Place on Earth.
More travels with Mabel
A window into my family dynamics, at least as I see them.
Some the universe knows just what I need

You might find something you like.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Set Your TIVO

or your VCR (if you, like me, are still working with 20th century technology)....

A Prince Among Slaves debuted on PBS on February 4th, but it is not showing in my area until night. I am not sure why it is only showing on broadcast tonight at 11 pm and this weekend at 3pm, but I will set the VCR to tape it so I can watch it at my convenience.

Here are the details of this fascinating story:

Winner of the Best Documentary at the 2007 American Black Film Festival, PRINCE AMONG SLAVES tells the compelling story of Abdul Rahman, an African Muslim prince, through feature-film styled re-enactments directed by Andrea Kalin and Emmy-Award-winner Bill Duke; contemporary artworks, archival letters and diaries; and on-camera interviews with distinguished scholars and experts. Narrated by actor and hip-hop artist Mos Def, PRINCE AMONG SLAVES is based on Dr. Terry Alford's biography of the same name.

Abdul Rahman was captured in 1788 and sold into slavery in the American South. He endured the horrific Middle Passage and ended up the "property" of a poor and nearly illiterate planter from Natchez, Mississippi, named Thomas Foster. Rahman remained enslaved for 40 years before finally regaining his freedom under dramatic circumstances, becoming one of the most famous men of his day. He returned to Africa, his royal status acknowledged. PRINCE AMONG SLAVES ends with a family reunion of Rahman's African and American descendents in Natchez, Mississippi.

"Abdul Rahman survived the harsh ordeals of slavery through his love of family and his deep abiding faith," says co-executive producer Michael Wolfe." The film depicts a universal story of perseverance and hope. Abdul endured unimaginable indignities and faced immeasurable odds, yet managed to survive his long fall from royalty with character and integrity intact."

"I was immediately attracted to this story because of its powerful message," re-enactment director and supervisory producer Bill Duke says. "Too many people continue to be enslaved by poverty, drugs and bad decisions. But like Abdul Rahman, they can come out of it and regain their dignity and respect."

Here are some radio stories about the show, just in case you haven't heard of it yet.
From News and Notes, show titled: Doc Explores Life of Enslaved African Royal Son
From Tell Me More, show titled: Slave's Royal Lineage Chronicled in New Film

Monday, February 04, 2008

Tagged... and playing along

Thanks, Renea. Not sure I can abide by rules 4 and 5... I don't really know enough bloggers.

Six non-important things/habits/quirks...
1. I love LUCY; I can tell you what will happen in the episode after the first minute.
2. My pet is an aquatic turtle. She's not cuddly, but she is fascinating.
3. I only drink milk if it's in tea or coffee.
4. I never drank coffee before I moved to the SF Bay Area.
5. I never thought I would admit it, but there are things that I miss about NJ.
6. I don't "watch" tv, I only listen to it.

Tagged....Here are the rules:

Ok.. So,here are the rules:
(1) Link to the person that tagged you.
(2) Post the rules on your blog.
(3) Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.
(4) Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
(5) Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. Now let's have some fun.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


It's two days from our primary election in California...
and I am still undecided.

It is the same choice I have had for months... Obama or Clinton.

Someone said to me yesterday, not a bad choice in the mix.

I couldn't agree more.

And, if I could have my truest wish, I would get both. What a co-presidency that would be. But with all the sniping, I can hardly believe they could run together.

I am glad they have toned it down. All the ugliness makes me more cynical and less hopeful and frankly less optimistic about who the rest of the county will elect.

We just can't take another four years of war mongering... so ...

I wish I knew where to go for inspiration on the vote.

All the first and historic-ness and sentimentality is not helping.

But it sure is pretty.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Woolworth Sit-In That Launched a Movement

An apt beginning to Black History Month... listen in good health. It's a wonderful story with a truly beautiful lesson.

Oh...and I guess I should also post this one; Michele Martin on why she loves Black History Month.