West Jones Street and The Eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg

“But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic — their irises are one-yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground” (The Great Gatsby, Chapter 2).

Almost every student who passes through an American literature class has the opportunity to at least glimpse into the classic text of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In a day and age of instant gratification and movie adaptations, plot lines and lists of symbols are easily accessed, the patience needed to be pleasantly haunted by a work of true literature sometimes escapes even the best of intentions.

But Gatsby is a book that is rather quick to read, easy to absorb, and forever reflected upon. Among my junior English classes, whether AP level or not, Gatsby tends to be the favorite. Students feel smarter for having read it. They despise the right people. They wrestle with the shallowness of the characters. They seem to like the character who spent so much time becoming the person he was not. They come to look at a narrator as unreliable.

And they pick up on the symbols like the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg.

When someone sits for a picture or portrait and stares straight into the lens the result is the appearance of constant eye contact. The poster of James Baldwin in my classroom as he looks into the camera allows his eyes to always make contact with mine no matter where I am in the classroom. His smile, however, takes away any preclusion of judgement.

But the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg simply stare without any other expression. They are there to judge. They are the “eyes of God” in a society where many in power lack a moral compass, show spiritual depravity, and worship profit more than the welfare of others.

eyes1

They never blink.

They always look.

They seem to see all.

I followed him over a low whitewashed railroad fence, and we walked back a hundred yards along the road under Doctor Eckleburg’s persistent stare (Chapter 2).

I am thinking of starting a GoFundMe Page to raise money to construct another billboard for the obviously deceased and still fictional Doctor T. J. Eckleburg complete with the same “blue and gigantic” eyes with “irises one-yard high” on “no face” complete with “a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose.”

And this billboard would be placed right outside of the North Carolina General Assembly building on West Jones Street, possibly near the parking area where each lawmaker who leaves the building would have to lock eyes with the celestial oculist after a day of wielding power that affects so many people.

“I spoke to her,” he muttered, after a long silence. “I told her she might fool me but she couldn’t fool God. I took her to the window.”— with an effort he got up and walked to the rear window and leaned with his face pressed against it ——” and I said ‘God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me, but you can’t fool God!’”

Standing behind him, Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, which had just emerged, pale and enormous, from the dissolving night (Chapter 8).

Amazingly enough, if you were to visit the webpages of most of these lawmakers during election periods you might find some sort of piety meter that reflects their allegiance to a faith in God and Christian tenets.

We are in the Bible Belt. We are in a nation that calls itself Christian. We are by far the most evangelical country in the world. We are used to hearing people talk about how they bare their souls to God and look to God for guidance.

Yet,

  • Lawmakers just passed a resolution to repeal a discriminatory law that still allows for discrimination.
  • Lawmakers are sitting on bills like HB13 that are forcing public school systems to contemplate how to keep vital arts programs alive and keep teacher assistants in classrooms that are already crowded.
  • Lawmakers are funneling more money to religious private schools like Trinity Christian which is under investigation for embezzlement and shoddy accounting.
  • Lawmakers are refusing to expand Medicaid that would help more North Carolinians.
  • Lawmakers are considering measures like HB467 to keep NC residents from suing industrial farms for polluting their air and water.
  • Lawmakers are considering increasing health care costs for state employees while bragging about “surpluses.”

I understand. It may be a tad bit hyperbolic to equate a book that talks of a man who uses organized crime to build a life of opulence during the “Jazz Age” / “Age of Prohibition” in an attempt to control destiny who ends up crossing paths with a man of immense wealth who steamrolls over people because he can and looks at women and minorities as inferior then eventually gets killed by a mentally, spiritually, and financially crushed man to a modern setting.

Or is it?

By the way, the original billboard for Dr. Eckleburg is in the “Valley of Ashes.” Imagine if those ashes got into the water.

eyes2

 

Balderdash and Bilgewater, a Theory in Reactionary Tweeting – Following Betsy Devos’s Twitter Feed

This has become more of a habit for me. It is as if reading the twitter feeds from certain people has become one of the very ways to catch a glimpse into a scripted psyche of some of our public officials.

Trump has made as art of using Twitter as a means of communication and as a way of driving conversation. However, Betsy DeVos is not as fluid in this regard.

In fact, she’s quite reactionary in her approach. It’s almost as if she uses Twitter as a means to communicate the politically correct version of what she said in the first place. And what she tweets is still in direct contradiction to what she does or has said in the past.

Just follow her twitter feed. It is here: @BetsyDeVosED

No. I am serious. Follow it. What Trump uses as a means to lash out, DeVos uses as a means to build paper bridges.

And what surprises me is the relatively few numbers of followers she has, much less “retweets.”

But it is an amazing little journey and a neat exercise to juxtapose her tweets to what reality has presented to us.

tweet1

Every student? That’s not what many said when DeVos was nominated in late 2016. In fact, most public school advocates were very dismayed at her nomination.

But Ms. DeVos’s efforts to expand educational opportunity in her home state of Michigan and across the country have focused little on existing public schools, and almost entirely on establishing newer, more entrepreneurial models to compete with traditional schools for students and money. Her donations and advocacy go almost entirely toward groups seeking to move students and money away from what Mr. Trump calls “failing government schools” (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/us/politics/betsy-devos-trumps-education-pick-has-steered-money-from-public-schools.html?_r=1).

tweet2

When I see this, I seem to remember her confirmation hearing and her comments about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. From the Washington Post – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/01/18/six-astonishing-things-betsy-devos-said-and-refused-to-say-at-her-confirmation-hearing/?utm_term=.7200fa4402ea:

  • DeVos seemed to have no understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, which requires public schools to provide free and appropriate education to all students with disabilities.

DeVos said that states should have the right to decide whether to enforce IDEA, but when Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) later told her that IDEA is a federal civil rights law and asked DeVos if she stood by her statement that it was up to the states to follow it, DeVos responded, “Federal law must be followed where federal dollars are in play.” Hassan then asked, “So were you unaware when I just asked you about the IDEA that it was a federal law?” DeVos responded, “I may have confused it.” DeVos did not protest when Hassan said she was upset the nominee didn’t understand the law and urged her to learn about it.

tweet3

The feeling is mutual!

Not really. Because here’s DeVos’s resume when it comes to education:

<empty space>
<empty space>
<empty space>
<empty space>
<empty space>
<empty space>
<empty space>
<empty space>

tweet4

Especially, from grizzly bear attacks.

“I will refer back to Sen. Enzi and the school he is talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine there is probably a gun in a school to protect from potential grizzlies.”

tweet5

From The Advocate – http://www.advocate.com/politicians/2017/1/18/should-lgbt-people-trust-betsy-devos.

However, the public record does not reflect DeVos’s statement. In an op-ed for The Advocate,titled “Betsy DeVos Is a Threat to America’s Children,” the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, noted this core family’s “long record of opposing LGBT equality.”

“Foundations run by her parents and her husband’s parents have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Focus on the Family, a group that’s promoted damaging gay ‘conversion therapy’ and called homosexuality ‘preventable and treatable,'” Weingarten noted.

“A foundation run by her husband’s brother and sister-in-law donated $500,000 to the antigay National Organization for Marriage, and a foundation run by DeVos and her husband has donated more than $100,000 to the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy. DeVos’s late father, Edgar Prince, helped found the Family Research Council; her mother, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, sits on the boards of the FRC and the Acton Institute, which sponsored a conference held by an antigay hate group.”

tweet6

When she took stage at that event, she opened with this gem.

“I’m Betsy DeVos. You may have heard some of the ‘wonderful’ things the mainstream media has called me lately. I, however, pride myself on being called a mother, a grandmother, a life partner, and perhaps the first person to tell Bernie Sanders to his face that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

So much for free and reduced lunches.

tweet7

Those tweets were sent out literally in response to this press release.

FEBRUARY 28, 2017

Contact:   Press Office, (202) 401-1576, press@ed.gov

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the following statement after meeting with presidents and chancellors of Historically Black Colleges and Universities at the White House:

A key priority for this administration is to help develop opportunities for communities that are often the most underserved. Rather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have done this since their founding. They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. They saw that the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution.

HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.

Their counsel and guidance will be crucial in addressing the current inequities we face in education. I look forward to working with the White House to elevate the role of HBCUs in this administration and to solve the problems we face in education today.

tweet8

Which means that we should fully fund schools, right? Then why is she supporting a budget hat more than takes a tenth of the funds the federal government allocates to public education?

tweet9

Interestingly enough, one can go into any public school and find students just like Denisha. In fact they may not be the outliers, but the norms in many schools.

tweet10

So that means all school should be great, right? Betsy, are you listening to yourself? Or are you hearkening back to this?

“Betsy DeVos has consistently worked against these values, and her efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers — which take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most-vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps. She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education. By nominating Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities.” – Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA President

tweet11

Reading Suess? Maybe pass along The Lorax to your boss considering what he is doing to the EPA.

tweet12

Been there. https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/03/18/about-betsy-devoss-op-ed-in-usa-today/

tweet13

Nice words. But do the actions go with them? This is what public school advocates see.

  • Betsy DeVos has no degree in education meaning she is not even educated in how to educate.
  • Betsy DeVos has no teaching experience. NONE, but is the leading official for public schools in the nation.
  • Betsy DeVos never attended a public school or state supported university. None of her children have either.
  • Betsy DeVose’s monetary contributions to Christian-based schools and evangelical organizations have been conservatively estimated at $200 million.
  • Betsy DeVos is totally anti-union and believes that teachers are paid too much.
  • Betsy DeVos supports vouchers like no other.

 

tweet14

Betsy DeVos and Malala do not even come together in the same thought.

Malala won a Nobel Prize for holding her own Women’s March against a tyrannical machine. DeVos cowers to a man who was the reason millions of women marched in January.

tweet15

 

DeVos went nuts on Twitter on March 13th. Just wanted to share that.

tweet16

That budget according to many actually deprioritizies public education and hurts the most disadvantaged kids. NPR’s report (http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/03/16/520261978/trumps-budget-blueprint-pinches-pennies-for-education) states,

Eliminated

  • The $2.25 billion Supporting Effective Instruction program, also known as Title II, Part A. This grant program for states was designated to better recruit, support and train educators, particularly for high-need schools.
  • The $1.2 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provided before- and after-school enrichment, tutoring and other services.
  • The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, which provides $732 million in need-based aid for college students.

Cut

  • $193 million from TRIO and GEARUP, programs that help prepare low-income, first-generation and disabled students for college, starting in middle school.

For the Pell Grant, the federal government’s main income-based college aid program, the proposal calls for “level funding.” But, that “level” technically includes “a cancellation of $3.9 billion from unobligated carryover funding.” So, while Pell Grant funding would not go down, that $3.9 billion would not be available.

Pell spending has actually been on a downward trend since 2010-2011, but it had been expected to rise following a series of Obama administration changes to make it easier for families to apply for the grant.

Other

The proposal “eliminates or reduces” a list of programs without giving further details, including: “Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property, and International Education programs.”

tweet17

Again, validating with an outlier.

tweet18

Dream big.

Or just wish you were born rich?

Why I Am Applying For An Application To Open An Accounting Charter School to Audit All Religious Schools In NC That Take Voucher Money…Or

Why Lindsay Wagner’s article today on Trinity Christian School should make us rethink the Opportunity Grants.

We need this kind of journalistic integrity more now than ever.

http://ajf.org/ncs-largest-voucher-school-embroiled-embezzlement-scandal-submits-incomplete-financial-statements-state/

“NC’s largest voucher school, embroiled in embezzlement scandal, files incomplete financial statements with state”

What That Billboard Taught Me About Real Men

The Consitution gives us Americans the right of freedom of speech.

 

And that means we can advertise on billboards.

Apparently that billboard on I-40 between Winston-Salem and K-Vegas is experiencing the most testosterone-driven liberty America has to offer, but it is coming at a cost.

No. I do not mean it is driving a wedge between us as a nation. That was already there.

But it is showing us that real men do not have a need for better schooling in grammar and logic as well as in maintaining identity. Real men are above that.

Here is the latest billboard.

coupons

So, “Real Men Don’t Use Coupons Our coupons have pictures of dead Presidents and Statesman, and are good anytime anyplace.”

So we have a run-on sentence that contradicts itself by utilizing something that the speaker claims to not use (coupons) and erroneously capitalizes titles without proper names behind the then fails to pluralize an object of a preposition to keep accuracy then inserts a comma where it is not needed then does not separate two adverbs with a comma that modify the same adjective.

That’s about as grammatically correct as… the last billboard.

If you have kept up with the saga of the “Real Men” billboards, then you know that the owner of the billboard rental business, Bill Whiteheart, would not identify the people responsible for the first two installments which were:

“Real men provide. Real women appreciate it.”

“Much Ado About Nothing. A social experiment that brought forth those so immersed in their own insecurity that in the mirror they could only see an angry victim of their incorrect interpretation of a silly billboard — Bless their hearts.”

This blog had posts on both of those billboards-

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/03/01/real-men-dont-use-billboards-to-tell-any-woman-what-they-should-do/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/03/05/shakespeare-and-that-billboard/

But according to the Winston-Salem Journal article on this particular billboard, this renter of this message has no problem whatsoever in identifying himself (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/man-takes-credit-for-puzzling-new-business-billboard/article_013de4a9-5a95-55f2-b084-0dbe5093f679.html#comments).

The billboard also lists a website, which identifies Mitch Carr, an auto mechanic from Kensington, Md., as the man behind the billboard.

 

The website says Carr, who runs a Mercedes Repair business outside of Washington, D.C., enjoys challenging political views and is “politically in the center but believes that people with running water, heat, air conditioning and full bellies shouldn’t whine so much.”

You need to see that website. In fact here it is. It’s called hoohabook.com.

hoohabook

He’s a bit of a writer! The word “hooha” as part of the website’s name? Intriguing!

You might want to look at an excerpt of the book he is promoting on the billboard. He has one on the website – http://hoohabook.com/excerpts-real-men-dont-use-coupons/.

I probably would not use some of these on a first date, but I am not a real man according to this man’s definition as I am a monogamist male in a relationship with a lady who is a hell of a lot smarter than I am who also happens to be the mother of our children and my best friend.

You do what you want.

It’s America. I am allowed to be that. So are you.

He says he wrote that book referred to on the billboard to raise money for what seems like a worthwhile cause. He just does it in an Andrew Dice Clay fashion maybe?

And of course, I am actually giving him advertising by writing about him. America!

But this is what caught my eye. On the “About the Author” page of hooha.com  he states,

“Author E.M. Carr is better known to friends and family as Mitch Carr and is an auto mechanic from Kensington Maryland.

His other endeavors include two music CDs where he is the songwriter and producer, and two Novels written under the pen name of Rhett Dawn Home.

Not only is he a writer. He has a pen name that he writes under.

 

Pen name of Rhett Dawn? What? And he has a web site for that name as well? That’s the website he should be advertising on the billboard here in North Carolina.

Hell yes, I went there.

rhett dawn

If you want to read some excerpts, then read the excerpts from that website. Here – http://www.rhettdawn.com/excerpts-congressmans-wife/.

Oh, hell. I’ll save you the time.

We smiled at each other and I realized my hand was now completely over hers, stroking her hair line as her hand rested against her cheek. She looked up at me and there were those eyes again. There was something in there and I wanted to know more. Here I was with a woman I had spent less than an hour with and knew nothing about, who was opening herself up to me for no reason other than I was a nice person who helped her get her car started.
It seemed crazy, but I wasn’t leaving………

“One last kiss.”
“Here?”
“Here and now!”
“Okay,” she conceded.
I walked her off the edge of the path and up against a very large oak tree. I lifted her arms above her head and kissed her deep. At nearly six feet tall, I towered over her slender figure. I held her arms up by the wrist with her arms supported by my inner elbows and suckled her tongue as she surrendered to my masculinity. I moved my hands down her arms to her cheeks and held her head in my hands as I continued for at least another minute. Her eyes were closed and she kept her arms raised above her head. Her body was resting against the tree and I hoped it was because she was weak in the knees……..

I turned for the door and in an instant the other two were up and across the room with one between me and the door, and the other close enough that he could get in a solid punch if need be. I turned back around and said nothing. I assumed he wasn’t there for confirmation, but for some sort of retribution. I had imagined what I would say if ever confronted, but I realized I was just doing that with the belief that it would never happen, because I couldn’t think of anything to do but let things play out. He looked at me and said, “What, no denial? No excuse? Not even a Sir Galahad taking the blame to protect his lover?”

Move over Cormac McCarthy. Move over Philip Roth. You are both pansies. Thank God Kurt Vonnegut is dead. He was not man enough to write prose like this.

And yes, there is even a chance to get these books on Amazon where you can read about the author Rhett Dawn. But alas…

“The author has chosen to remain mildly discreet for now, but suffice to say he is local to Montgomery County and some names were changed to protect the innocent.”

It’s like Rhett has chosen to remain aloof like the people behind the first two billboards.

One would need to read the rest of the Journal’s story to get a little more understanding of Mr. Carr’s reasoning of why he took out the advertising billboard two states away from his home.

He said he drove by the original sign, posted in February, that declared: “Real men provide. Real women appreciate it.”

It was later replaced with: “Much Ado About Nothing. A social experiment that brought forth those so immersed in their own insecurity that in the mirror they could only see an angry victim of their incorrect interpretation of a silly billboard — Bless their hearts.”

Carr said the messages inspired him.

“Real men are sort of a dying breed in this country,” he said. “I consider myself one. You know one when you see one.”

The new message is intended to start a dialogue on what it means to be a “real man,” Carr contends.

“What it means is it’s a knock on men who dropped out of the ranks just because life got easy,” Carr said while explaining the new billboard.

“Just because the war stops doesn’t mean a soldier stops training. We need more real men out there.”

And Mr. Carr’s inspiration has inspired me to list all of the things that I have learned about being a real man from the very billboard that, lo, resides so close to me.

  1. Real men use bad grammar because real men know what they really mean.
  2. Real men are inspired by real billboards.
  3. Real men provide real billboards that women can appreciate.
  4. Real men don’t use coupons that allow them to save more of the coupons that they really use.(I know. It’s confusing).
  5. Real men do social experiments.
  6. Real men make Shakespearean references that don’t make sense to people who actually studied Shakespeare but may not be real men.
  7. Real men bless people’s hearts.
  8. Real men only use coupons that have dead white guys on them so while there may be an expiration date on coupons that many people use, real men use real coupons that have expired people on them.
  9. Real men self promote on billboards books that are self-published.
  10. Real men use pen names that seem generated by a William Faulkner adult entertainment computer program.
  11. Real men are a dying breed. Everyone else lives forever.
  12. Real men talk about how they are real men to, you know, stir the pot and start a dialogue.

Mr. Carr can say anything he wants.

He can spend his 2600$ with Mr. Whiteheart for a month’s worth of space and help the local economy.

He can advertise all he wants. Hell, I have done it for him with a lot of fun and glee I might add.

But he did say “people with running water, heat, air conditioning and full bellies shouldn’t whine so much.”

Whether he believes it or not (and I could give exactly zero f***s), the same freedom that allows him to rent that billboard in a state he does not even reside in and whine about what he thinks real men should do allows me to complain and whine as much as I want about anything I want.

America!

 

 

 

The Art of “Bang and Blame” – A Long Distance R.E.M. Dedication to Donald Trump

Friday, March 24, 2017.

House Republicans on Capitol Hill will be voting on Trump’s health care bill and it seems like Donald Trump may be facing a legislative failure in his first big legislative push.

And it set in motion a chain of interrelated thoughts.

First, there is this proclamation that came from one Donald Trump when he made his candidacy for president about his unique ability to make and seal the “deal.”

Art of deal

Interestingly enough, he used the word “art” in the title of the book that he never wrote, and ironically, it is the “arts” that he has specifically targeted in his budget proposal to boost military spending.

But Trump’s “art” really is not in making the deal. It’s in knowing when to take credit for himself and when to blame others when the outcomes of his actions, or lack thereof, create unpleasant results. And actually, it’s not an art as much as it has become a reflex practiced over and over again with the knowledge that he could always buy himself new opportunities.

CNN.com had a very interesting article called “Deal or no deal, Trump ready to cast blame” on the home page (3/24/17) and both Jeremy Diamond and Dana Bash stated,

Painting the President as a political neophyte who has only been in Washington for two months, the source said Trump has become “frustrated with his staff’s inability to get this done” and argued that Trump was misled by those staffers who urged him to tackle Obamacare head first and hitch himself to Ryan’s plan.

“He was talked into doing this bill first. It was not negotiated well on his behalf,” the source said. “He’s relied on his staff to give him good information and they haven’t. And that’s the problem.”

The source close to Trump described a president who felt bamboozled by Ryan and his own staff, duped into thinking that passing health care would be the quick victory he needed to make good on a campaign promise central to his election and push forward on other policy fronts (http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/24/politics/donald-trump-health-care-blame/index.html).

And then it occurred to me once again that there is an R.E.M. song that literally explains this whole ordeal and encapsulates the egotistical and obsessive will of the president to protect the thin, fragile, fleshy membrane that covers him: “Bang and Blame.”

REMBangBlame

The chorus sings through Michael Stipe’s original, unprocessed, thoughtful, and activist voice.

“You know that’s not my thing, you came to bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame.
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
It’s not my thing so let it go, you
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame.
It’s not my thing so let it go.”

Think of it. It’s not hard to come up with a multitude of synonyms for both “bang” and “blame” – both connotatively and denotatively.

Bang” – (from thesaurus.com) belt, blow, bop, crack, knock, rap, slam, smack, sock, strike, swat, thump, thwack, wallop, whack, whop; or (in slang terms) have sexual intercourse with

Blame” – (from thesaurus.com) allege, attack, betray, charge, cite, criminate, denounce, frame, impeach, indict, libel, pin-on, slander, slur, sue

It seems that much of what Trump says either objectifies and belittles women (Bang) or places culpability (Blame) on others.

CBSNews.com one time compiled a list of Trump’s “wildest” quotes, and you could actually classify most of these quotes under the heading of “Bang” or “Blame” as they are either attacking someone (particularly women) else or absolving responsibility and placing it upon others (http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/wild-donald-trump-quotes/) .

  • “I don’t think Ivanka would do that inside the magazine. Although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said that if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I would be dating her.” – BANG!
  • “Donald J. Trump is calling for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” – BLAME!
  • “Women have one of the great acts of all time. The smart ones act very feminine and needy, but inside they are real killers. The person who came up with the expression ‘the weaker sex’ was either very naive or had to be kidding. I have seen women manipulate men with just a twitch of their eye — or perhaps another body part.” – BANG!
  • “Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.” – BLAME!
  • “@ariannahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision.” – BANG!
  • “I think apologizing’s a great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I’m ever wrong.” – BLAME!
  • “You know, it doesn’t really matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” – BANG!
  • “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.” – BLAME!
  • “While @BetteMidler is an extremely unattractive woman, I refuse to say that because I always insist on being politically correct.” – BANG!
  • “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” – BLAME!
  • “I’ve never had any trouble in bed, but if I’d had affairs with half the starlets and female athletes the newspapers linked me with, I’d have no time to breathe.” – BANG!
  • “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.” – BLAME!
  • “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.” – BANG!
  • “Our country is in serious trouble. We don’t have victories anymore. We used to have victories, but we don’t have them. When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say China, in a trade deal?” – BLAME!
  • “Heidi Klum. Sadly, she’s no longer a 10.” – BANG!
  • “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” – BLAME!
  • “I love women. They’ve come into my life. They’ve gone out of my life. Even those who have exited somewhat ungracefully still have a place in my heart. I only have one regret in the women department — that I never had the opportunity to court Lady Diana Spencer. I met her on a number of occasions.” – BANG!
  • “I dealt with Qaddafi. I rented him a piece of land. He paid me more for one night than the land was worth for two years, and then I didn’t let him use the land. That’s what we should be doing. I don’t want to use the word ‘screwed’, but I screwed him. That’s what we should be doing.” – BANG & BLAME!

And with an impending defeat in this first of legislative miscues that hurt the very people who propelled him into office, it may not be too hard to see why “it’s not my thing.”

rem-bang-and-blame-album-version-1994-cs

And how apropos is it that this particular image of a ’45 featuring “Bang And Blame” is complete with “Losing My Religion,” “Country Feedback,” and “Begin The Begin”?

Song #1 explains Trump’s method of operation as far as his “leadership” style is concerned.

Song #2 explains the disconnect of his policies and those of Paul Ryan with the tenets of the very religion they espouse.

Song #3 explains how people are starting to feel about Trump’s policies – the very people who helped to elect him and he seems to have ignored now while he is in “Ignoreland.”

Song #4 explains that this may be the beginning of something. Maybe?

But it is neat to see that three of those songs were recorded live for Greenpeace, which I am sure receives no love from Trump.

Nor does Sesame Street and PBS. But they do love them some R.E.M.

FurryHappyMonstersSong

“Bang And Blame”

If you could see yourself now, baby,
It’s not my fault, you used to be so in control.
You’re going to roll right over this one.
Just roll me over, let me go,
You’re laying blame.
Take this as no, no, no, no, no.

You bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame,
You bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
It’s not my thing so let it go.

If you could see yourself now, baby,
The tables have turned, the whole world hinges on your swings,
Your secret life of indiscreet discretions.
I’d turn the screw and leave the screen,
Don’t point your finger,
You know that’s not my thing.

You came to bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
To blame, blame, blame,
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
It’s not my thing so let it go now.

You’ve got a little worry,
I know it all too well.
I’ve got your number —
But so does every kiss and tell
Who dares to cross your threshold,
Or happens on you way,
Stop laying blame.
You know that’s not my thing.

You know that’s not my thing, you came to bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame.
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
It’s not my thing so let it go, you
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,
Then blame, blame, blame.
It’s not my thing so let it go.

You kiss on me,
Tug on me,
Rub on me,
Jump on me.
You bang on me,
Beat on me,
Hit on me,
Let go on me.
You let go on me.

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Clause and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and Really Bad Letters to the Editor

Yes, Virginia! There is a Santa Claus.

And there’s GINA!

Plus there is a lot of erroneous information in your op-ed printed in today’s Winston-Salem Journal.

Much has been made of your bill H.R. 1313, The Persevering Employee Wellness Programs Act and its dystopian implications on genetic privacy laws already outlined in the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act or GINA.

Your letter to the editor this morning seemed more like an attempt to save face in light of the prospect that the current version of Rep. Ryan and President Trump’s healthcare overhaul will fail miserably. The text of that letter follows:

“REP. VIRGINIA FOXX, Banner Elk

H.R. 1313

I believe the Journal’s March 15 editorial “A wrongheaded bill on genetic screening” misrepresents legislation to provide regulatory clarity for voluntary employee wellness plans.

A provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) encouraged greater use of these wellness programs. However, steps taken by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) led to conflicting regulations. Those who want to offer these programs must either follow the ACA guidelines and be in violation of the EEOC rules or vice versa. By reaffirming the policies outlined in the ACA, H.R. 1313 removes this legal uncertainty so employees can continue to benefit from these voluntary wellness plans.

It’s important to understand that wellness programs have always been completely voluntary. They remain voluntary under H.R. 1313. Furthermore, discrimination based on genetic information is illegal under existing federal law and remains illegal under H.R. 1313.

The editorial also claims the legislation imposes financial penalties on individuals who decline to participate. I disagree. In programs that offer incentives, those who choose to enroll can receive a reduction in their health-insurance premiums. Those who decline to participate are not forced to pay any additional health-care costs, nor will they experience any increase in their health-insurance premiums.

Voluntary employee wellness plans have long helped working families control their health-care costs and improve their quality of life. It’s unfortunate that critics of the bill are spreading false information to deny workers that option.

Virginia Foxx is North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District representative. — the editor (http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/the-readers-forum-thursday-letters/article_fcc96549-17dd-584c-beab-33c3d8e8a430.html). “

While I very much appreciate your interpretation of the law, it fails to explain why “nearly 70 organizations, representing consumer, health and medical advocacy groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, AARP, March of Dimes, and the National Women’s Law Center, said the legislation, if enacted, would undermine basic privacy provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA” (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/employees-who-decline-genetic-testing-could-face-penalties-under-proposed/article_ec4136ca-650a-5ecd-9963-f5fb91acf1d4.html).

Something tells me that organizations which not only represent medical entities and lawful endeavors, but understand how the law applies to medical practices know much more about these types of things than you. But that is not to say that you have not done some dabbling into scientific foresight and logical divination.

Remember these gems?

  1. At North Surry High a few weeks ago, discussing potential FDA regulation of tobacco and tax increases on cigarettes, Foxx, a former educator, was quoted by The Mount Airy Newsas telling students that “I bet a lot of you like Mountain Dew. You wouldn’t want the government to tell you not to drink Mountain Dew” (http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/editorials/article_7541047c-2b29-5478-b53f-b132842eeb3c.html).

Mountain Dew and cigarettes. Caffeine and nicotine. Nothing addictive about either of those.

dew and gigs

  1. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) disputes President Obama’s claim that 47 million Americans lack healthcare. “There are no Americans who don’t have healthcare. Everybody in this country has access to healthcare,” she says. “We do have about 7.5 million Americans who want to purchase health insurance who can not afford it,” she says, urging Congress to adopt a new plan for healthcare reform that wouldn’t “destroy what is good about healthcare in this country” and “give the government control of our lives” (https://thinkprogress.org/rep-virginia-foxx-there-are-no-americans-who-dont-have-health-care-582c8e227b6c#.23f3o5c2f).

And the very bill that you are helping Rep. Ryan and President Trump pass at this very instant was just clarified by the Congressional Budget Office as being worse than the original one that did not have enough support earlier this week.

foxx ryan

“The agency revised its figures to reflect amendments made to the bill that were announced on Monday. The new numbers do not take into account a deal underway to woo House conservatives to support the measure.

Though the bill would be more costly, it would still leave 24 million fewer people insured than under current law. Some 52 million people would be uninsured in 2026 under the GOP legislation, compared to 28 million if Obamacare continued — the same as the prior estimate (http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/23/news/economy/obamacare-cbo-republican-bill/index.html).”

This could be worse than Obamacare? No! Why? Because Virginia, you said,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sA66v858_NU&feature=player_embedded

  1. That’s right. You said we have more to fear from Obamacare than we do from terrorists.

So when someone who espouses hyperbolic tendencies when speaking to constituents in Congress while writing books that praise her faith, yet totally contradicts reality and hides behind the fact that she never debates political opponents or hold town halls for fear of being asked intelligent questions writes an op-ed like the one aforementioned, then she may need to be tested herself – for a preexisting condition known as ignorance.

I know what I am asking for from Santa this year.

And this genetically-enhanced kid still wants more hours in the day to go play ball.

Malcolmsanta

Food Insecurity Affects Learning – Why Bureaucrats Need to Be Schooled on Schooling

Last week in the unveiling of Trump’s budget, Mick Mulvaney proved once again that an administration which includes Betsy DeVos as secretary of education and others who have never had to face a lack of something in their lives really do not understand what factors truly act on students in need who rely on public schools.

Mulvaney in a press conference on March 17th said the following concerning the 13 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Education calling for elimination of programs like CCLP which provides food for many low-income students during after-school activities:

“They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home [to] get fed, so they do better in school. Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that.”

Bullshit.

That same budget also eliminated Meals on Wheels. And Mulvaney’s explanation is, well, just look yourself.

 

Having worked in multiple high schools, I can assure you that all public schools have students in need. And no matter how affluent a school may appear, all schools have children in poverty.

The very economic downturn that occurred less than a decade ago from the bursting of the subprime mortgage bubble sent rates of free-and-reduced students sky-rocketing in public schools.

To listen to Mulvaney is listening not to truth, but to alternative fiction.

Then I saw this Facebook posting and realized that someone always says it better than I do because that someone has been some places I have never been and lived through events I have never lived through.

I have never really known hunger. Real hunger. I have never known abject poverty. But I know it exists in this “Christian” country.

So I am reposting the text of one Charles Clymer.

“Off all the episodes of Trump’s callousness, the ones about food have stuck to me quite vividly because for me, it’s personal.

Growing up in poverty, I observed food as a measured thing, that measurement often a source of great shame. That shame over food was so pervasive growing up, that it still sticks with me to this day, brought to bear without invite.

Last month, Sec. of Ed. Betsy DeVos joked at CPAC that she was the first to tell Bernie Sanders “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. However unintentionally, DeVos mocking “free lunches” while the GOP explores cutting free/reduced lunches for kids is disgusting. That DeVos is the face of the American public school system only compounds the shame and offense to children on these programs.

These kids often DO read and watch the news. They see statements like this. And yes, they do feel the shame.

Trump’s proposal to cut Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) would reduce gov’t funding for Meals on Wheels by up to 3%. 3% may not seem like a lot, but it works out to about 79,000 hungry seniors in a program that’s already overburdened and underfunded.

I guarantee you many of the 2.4 million seniors that rely on Meals on Wheels for survival have felt shame over this episode.

In our country, the impoverished are taught to feel shame over food, in ways big and small. Shame, it would seem, centers in food. This shame over food is something I’ve noticed isn’t present in folks who grew up never wanting for food. Let me explain…

As a child in poverty, I learned not to ask for too much food for the simple fact that my single mother couldn’t afford it. We got what we got, and most of the time, it was just enough, but there were many nights when dinner was threadbare, at best.

Breakfast? I learned not to expect breakfast. It was mostly absent. Breakfast, especially during summers, was a luxury. In fact, breakfast *and* lunch during the summers of my childhood were often luxuries.

When I was 9, for the entire summer, we subsisted off boxes of old-school military rations. (No, really.) And we made the best of it.

So, when school rolled around, access to free breakfast/lunch felt like a special kind of heaven, a gift from a God who had forgotten me. Free breakfast/lunch also meant my single mother felt less of a burden to feed us a proper dinner.

Folks in poverty often lack fundamental concepts when it comes to money. I’m a 30 year-old grad student, and I still have issues with this.

My mother would take my sister and I out to a cheap diner as a “treat”. We couldn’t really afford to be there. Yes, even a diner. So, why were we there? Because 1) it saved my mother some time/stress in cooking and 2) it gave us a sense of worth to eat out.

The most expensive thing in the various trailers in which we lived was the cheap box TV. We didn’t have many clothes. Few toys. But for 90 minutes, maybe two hours, we could sit inside a Denny’s and feel like we mattered. We could feel a little less worthless.

But not too much. My sister and I, without having to be told, would choose the cheapest items on the kids’ menu. I know for a fact that we both did this out of guilt for our mother. We didn’t want her to have to say “no” to a pricier item.

Imagine for a second being a small kid and intuitively getting that a difference of $2 or $3 for dinner is everything to your parent.

Of course, my mother also oscillated between severe mental health and shameless desperation in cutting corners. Every third visit to a Denny’s (or wherever), my mother would make up a reason to complain to management about the food.

It was late. It was overcooked. It was undercooked. It was the wrong order. Virtually all the time, of course, it was none of these. The manager on site would come to our table, listen to our mother’s passionate (and false) complaint, and comp the entire meal.

In retrospect, I’m 100% certain that these managers did this out of a combination of quiet frustration but mostly kindness. To them, the $20 or whatever wasn’t worth kicking out a mother and her two kids who were clearly in dire straits. Humanity.

When I reflect on my childhood, I can’t remember a single time telling my mother I was hungry. Not once. Think about that. “I’m hungry/thirsty” is a common thing kids will offer up, sometimes even when they’re not. It’s a thing kids do all the time. A kid telling their parent “I’m hungry” is something of a trope in film and television, esp. commercials. Kids cry, parents feed.

I wouldn’t have dreamt telling my mother I was hungry, lest I risk inviting a dark cloud of shame into the space, engulfing us whole.

I’m now a grown, college-educated adult with a decent income, and I still have shame issues over food.

I don’t like friends buying my food. In fact, to avoid hitting that nerve of childhood shame, I often pick up the whole check. At my birthday dinners, when decorum demands such grace, I try to smile warmly as my friends wordlessly snatch the check up.

On dates, it’s a relief when I can offer to pay for dinner and it’s mistaken for a sense of chivalry when it’s really about coping.

On rare occasions, when a date or friend insists on paying, and I let them, I try to put on a brave smile, but I feel guilty + indebted.

On the other side of the coin, I get a thrill when I order takeout, not for the sake of convenience but quite literally because I can. I buy expensive takeout because it gives me a sense of control and dignity I never had as a child. It’s not so much therapy as sickness.

And considering all this, my story is tame compared to others. Kids not eating for days at a time, malnourished. The homeless scrounging.

Senior citizens, 2.4 million of them, taking on a mantle of vulnerability to gracefully accept help from others, or they don’t eat.

Countless veterans—folks who served our country in uniform—being reduced to shame-bearing beggars because they’re hungry.

And I notice that there are tens of millions of folks in our country who don’t understand any of this. They don’t get it.

Trump and DeVos and company actually represent a large swath of the American public who can’t comprehend shame over hunger.

And so, you get shit like DeVos alluding to “free lunches not being free” with scarcely an inkling of it hurting kids + families. You get Trump not giving a single damn about Meals on Wheels. I’m not sure he even knows what the program does.

And you get millions of Americans who grew up in relative comfort telling the impoverished and hungry that their shame is deserved.

I don’t know, folks. Does this seem like what America should be? Is this the America you want? Hungry kids, seniors, and veterans?

I hope not. I would like to believe, for all our differences, we can agree that hunger is non-negotiable. Yet still I hope.”

 

Tests Can’t Measure the Character of Students And Other Reasons Your Kids Aren’t Numbers

Invariably, in many social situations, I am asked that same ubiquitous question many people face: “So, what do you do for a living?” And when I answer that I am a teacher the reactions are varied.  “Wow, that must be exciting!”  “Do you guys still use red ink?” “How do you handle those kids?” “I wouldn’t have the patience.” Some people have even said, “I’m sorry.”

While there may be some lightheartedness involved, conversations about education usually ensue because everybody in the community has a stake in the public education system: students attend schools, parents support efforts, employees hire graduates, and taxpayers help fund buildings and resources. But there are those who really question the path that public education has taken and lack confidence in our young people and their role as future leaders. It is with these people that I talk about West Forsyth and the Lewisville-Clemmons community. In fact, I can speak glowingly of all our schools here in the Winston-Salem / Forsyth County system. I can go even further than that. I can brag about all of our public schools here in North Carolina.

I am not here to compare schools, but having spent the last ten-plus years at West Forsyth gives me insight into at least one of them. The fact that West Forsyth is recognized as a high-performing school and that our students pursue worthwhile postsecondary endeavors speaks incredibly well, but our students are more than achievers in academics. It’s because they succeed in being good people that helps set this school apart. I am more than confident that many people who read this post can substitute another school’s name in West’s place and still speak the truth.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, once said, “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” Most all of the young people I see every day understand the meaning of those words and the character they show inside and outside the classroom is a reason that we should celebrate the work our schools do.

In a country where we identify schools through acronyms like NCLB, EOCT’s, EOG’s, SAT’s, ACT’s, AP’s, ABC’s, and AYP’s, it’s reassuring to know that our young people also define themselves with more standards than those of an academic transcript. Don’t get me wrong; the academics are important, but if we want to educate the complete student, then we must honor character, and our students are very honorable because they distinguish themselves by their character and the impression they leave on others. If that is a criterion for having faith in this next generation, then the students I matriculate with every day at West have instilled confidence within me. The students I come across in other schools instill that same confidence within me.

When you as a teacher begin to see the third and fourth sibling from the same family in your classes, or have been sent wedding invitations from former students, or have embraced a family member at a funeral for a previous pupil, then you have been at the same school for a long time, or better yet, become a member of a community that loves and nurtures its own.

When you receive notes and visits from students who have long past graduated, then you know you have made an impression, hopefully a positive one. And when you are met by a parent whom you do not even recognize but wanted to thank you for what you taught his/her child, then you know that you are in the right profession. And when the first child of a former student graces my doorway for class, then I will be more than glad to talk of his/her parent’s adventures in school, possibly with some embellishment.

My own daughter now attends West as a freshman. There was no need to show her around campus or introduce her to the administration or the teachers; she already was familiar with West. That’s because she already was invested in one of the cornerstones of our community: the public high school.

 

 

mlk

Malcolm’s Wish For World Down Syndrome Day (3/21)

Every year on March 21, the Down Syndrome International sponsors for the world community a WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY. You can read more about it here: https://worlddownsyndromeday.org/.

The date is a direct reference to genetic condition known as Trisomy 21 (three #21 chromosomes) which is commonly known as Down Syndrome.

But Malcolm does not thin much about the fact that he has a little bit more genetic material than most people do. In fact, he could care less as long as he feels included just like other kids.

So Malcolm asked me to tell you that he wants people to more inclusive and accepting of what are really minors differences we all have because whether you have Down Syndrome or not, we are more alike than different.

That is unless you are not redheaded and blue-eyed like over 99% of the world which makes Malcolm part of rarest minority in the world in that regard.

And he wanted me to share some pictures of him that show how uniquely alike he is to other kids.

And here’s to the fact that Malcolm never really needs a special day to just be.

Any day will do.

Musings With Malcolm – Time To Get a New Baseball Glove To Match the Hair

If you keep up with just a few of the postings about our little fireplug, you may have noticed that we have been in a bit of spring training. Why?

Baseball season is about to start.

For Malcolm, that means the Challenger League that for years has been running at Southwest Forsyth Little League with the tireless efforts of great people with big hearts and infinite patience.

For me, it allows a dad to share his favorite game with his boy.

And an excuse to go shopping for equipment.

Malcolm’s glove from the last two years has taken a little bit of a beating and to tell you the truth, he has grown some – finally. At last weigh-in, he was a little over 70 pounds of pure muscle driven by a love to play.

If you do not know about the Challenger League, kids of all ages who have developmental and physical delays come together to play baseball and they are assisted on the field by typical developing kids who run with them, field with them, and simply guide them through the process.

Everyone gets to hit at least twice.

There is no losing team. Just winners.

Malcolm goes to run, drink water, and talk to the ladies. And wear red.

glove4glove5

 

Yep, that’s his batting helmet. Sometimes he wears it at home when he plays on the Wii. Or sleeps. Or just hangs out. Sometimes he makes me wear it.

But since seeing his favorite baseball and softball teams at West Forsyth already take the field, we needed to go ahead and get that new glove.

Malcolm picked it out himself. Rawlings of course.

And it is RED!

glove3glove1

Like the hair. Like the fire in his belly. Like the flames that burn the field when he runs after a hit like this:

At least until he sees a lady he wants to say “Hello” to.

Boy has priorities.

By the way, #7 is also the number of Mickey Mantle, one of the greatest switch-hitters to ever live. But more importantly, we went and got ice-cream afterwards.

Only one hand is needed for eating a cone. Glove was on the other.