Showing posts with label deviance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label deviance. Show all posts

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Public schools fail . . . to fail as badly as private sector

Public policy in education has come to this in Louisiana -- and too much of the rest of America.

What is "this"? "This" is a Brookings Institute report on research showing students who "win" Louisiana's school-voucher lottery and escape their "failing" public schools . . . lose. Big time.

From Brookings:

The affected students had won a voucher to attend, at no cost, a private school in Louisiana. Nineteen states have such voucher programs, with Louisiana’s the fifth-largest in the country. The vouchers, averaging $5,311 per student, must be accepted as full tuition at the private schools that participate in the program; schools are not allowed to ask students to “top-up” their vouchers if the school has a higher sticker price. Further, schools can’t pick and choose among the voucher winners. Instead, they have to take any student who holds a voucher.[ii]

Nationwide, 141,000 students use a voucher to attend a private school.[iii] Louisiana’s voucher program launched in New Orleans in 2008. It was expanded to include the entire state in 2012. Students from families with incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty threshold are eligible for the voucher as long as they attend a public school the state has labeled as low-performing. Over half of Louisiana’s public schools fall into this category.

Researchers have long attempted to understand the effectiveness of private schools. It’s a difficult task, because parents choose their children’s schools, either by living in a certain school district or by applying to a private or charter school. The challenges are identical to those in evaluations of charter-school effectiveness: kids who attend private school are different from those who attend a public, neighborhood school, who in turn are different from those who attend a charter school.[iv] When comparing school performance, researchers struggle to distinguish differences in schools’ effectiveness from variation in the types of students who choose those schools.

A voucher lottery provides an unusual opportunity to measure the effectiveness of private schools. The lottery serves as a randomized trial, which is the gold standard of research methods. Random selection means that lottery winners and losers are identical, on average, when they apply for the voucher. Any differences that emerge after the lottery can therefore be attributed to the private-school attendance of the winners.

The results were startling. The researchers, a team of economists from Berkeley, Duke, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that the scores of the lottery winners dropped precipitously in their first year of attending private school, compared to the performance of the lottery losers. The effects were very large: roughly a quarter of a standard deviation in math, social studies, and science. There were no effects on reading scores. On a per-year basis, these negative effects are as large as the positive effects that a similarly-designed study found for charter schools in Boston (the authors of the Louisiana study are my collaborators in the charter research).[v]
HERE'S HOW you get to the abject cluster(expletive) that exemlifies "this," and here's where you like go from "this":
1) We declare public education a failure, blaming it for not magically taking the sociological deviance amid the student population and turning it, alchemist-style, into 24-karat gold. And MIT scholarships.

2) We take a page from our highly successful Vietnam playbook: We must destroy this village in order to save it.

3) As part of the destroy-to-save process, we starve public schools of funds so we can give it to a motley crew of private and charter schools . . . because private sector.

4) We sit back and watch the chaos ensue as the private sector f***s the whole thing up worse than the public sector at $5,500 a head, if not more.

5) Wait! A solution to make the whole thing work just like we know it can! Double down -- with taxpayer money -- on what hasn't yet worked.

6) Look! A liberal! Git a rope!

7) Pay no attention to that social scientist aggregating data sets.

8) Look! Pinko-commie-fag academics talkin' trash about free enterprise and educational choice! Grab your guns!

9) We'll surely get the right charter- and private-school partners this time!

10) Well, shit.

11) Pay no attention to the poverty, chaotic lives and toxic culture of "that part of town." Public schools! Bad!

12) Avoid "that part of town."

13) MY kid's private school is pretty good -- a bargain at $9,500 a year!
14) Raise property tax on my house by $100 to fund those failed government schools?!? What, I'm made of money???

ON THE other hand . . . don't worry. Be happy. Donald Trump will fix it all.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Whatever happened to shame?

shame noun \ˈshām\

: a feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something wrong

: ability to feel guilt, regret, or embarrassment

: dishonor or disgrace
Shame is a good thing.

Shame is what keeps us from being monsters. It's the thing that puts in touch with our fallen nature, with the reality that we're not OK. Not all the time.

Blessed is the society where shame is possible, where standards are in place that form a context for shame -- for what is shameful and what is virtuous. Shame, properly understood and properly enforced, is the thing that allows us to get over ourselves.

A society without shame is a land of sociopaths. A society without shame is one of monsters. A society without shame is in desperate need of reformation -- or, if reform is not possible, destruction -- for the well being of the rest of humanity.

Western culture is fast losing any sense of shame. It is on the edge of the abyss and its cultural "elites" are hellbent on pushing it over the edge, given it has decreed there are is no good or bad, only diverse choices that are appropriate for the almighty individual. Personal autonomy trumps all -- except, of course, those things that People We Don't Like advocate -- and it's those who deem themselves too enlightened for shame that get to captain the S.S. Anything Goes upon the Sea of Moral Relativism.

IT IS in such a society that "voice of her generation" Lena Dunham can admit in print that she, at age 7, explored her little sister's vagina, that she later did "anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl" so her sister would let her kiss her on the lips for five seconds or just "relax on me" and do so without an inkling of shame. Admit such behavior as if she were copping to raiding the cookie jar or throwing spitballs in class.

It is also in such a society that you can be cavalier about such and then be outraged when others . . . aren't.

"The right wing news story that I molested my little sister isn't just LOL- it's really f***ing upsetting and disgusting," Dunham emoted via her Twitter account. She was just getting warmed up.

"And by the way, if you were a little kid and never looked at another little kid's vagina, well, congrats to you," she added amid her Internet "rage spiral." By the way, congrats to me. And my family might not have been as patently weird as Dunham's, but it was right up there.
Still, to dismiss Lena Dunham as an insulated and spoiled child of Manhattan’s ruling class is to misunderstand her story entirely. If there is such a thing as actually abusing a child through excessive generosity and overindulgence, then Lena Dunham’s parents are child abusers. Her father, Carroll Dunham, is a painter noted for his primitive brand of highbrow pornography, his canvases anchored by puffy neon-pink labia; her photographer mother filled the family home with nude pictures of herself, “legs spread defiantly.” Self-styled radicals from old money, they were not the sort of people inclined to enforce even the most lax of boundaries. And they were, in their daughter’s telling, enablers of some very disturbing behavior that would be considered child abuse in many jurisdictions — Lena Dunham’s sexual abuse, specifically, of her younger sister, Grace, the sort of thing that gets children taken away from non-millionaire families without Andover pedigrees and Manhattanite social connections.
WELL, I CAN certainly understand where Dunham's unfamiliarity with shame came from.

What I can't understand is why people so insist on taking all their cultural cues from weirdos they don't know like Dunham and any number of other freak shows in our celebrity obsessed society instead of those good, unfamous people they do know. Then again, evil is a mystery.

What eventually becomes of cultures that worship evil and deify notorious freak shows merely because they're famous freak shows is less of a mystery: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

Hoss, we in trouble deep. It's harvest time.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Sob-sistering toward Gomorrah

I hate sob sisters. Sob sisters will lead you straight to hell -- but only after a rest stop in Gomorrah.

I hate uncritical reporting. I hate it when sob-sister reporters jerk the tears so hard that they forget to ask a few fundamental questions that, oh . . . everybody would like answered as they watch the values-neutral, fact-agnostic schlock that passes for news today.

Local television is the worst. It just is. Local TV reporters will rot your capacity for critical thinking. And then they'll send you to hell. As a moron.

Channel 7 in Omaha devoted all kinds of time Tuesday to a woman who just couldn't see why the cops had to shoot her fiancé to death when all he was doing was threatening officers with a couple of weapons -- one of them a shotgun he aimed at them while using his 3-year-old son as a human shield. Here's a less tear-soaked account from today's Omaha World-Herald:
Tyree Bell
An Omaha man was mentally ill and suicidal when he pointed two guns at police from his front porch, prompting four officers to open fire in the early hours of New Year's Day.

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said Wednesday that one of the man's guns turned out to be a pellet gun; the other was unloaded. But police couldn't determine that until Tyree Bell, 31, had been killed in the Police Department's second officer-involved shooting in five weeks.

“We still have to treat that weapon as being loaded,” Schmaderer said.

The standoff at 3727 N. 42nd St. began at 4:11 a.m. Tuesday with Bell holed up in the house with his girlfriend and twin 3-year-olds. The children's mother escaped as officers arrived to investigate a domestic disturbance involving an armed person. Bell later let his daughter run to the safety of officers who surrounded the house.

After nearly two hours of negotiating, an armed Bell emerged from the house – his son in his arms to serve as a human shield.

Officers “were in peril, as they could take no action for fear of harming the 3-year-old,” Schmaderer said.

It was about 6:20 a.m. Bell had become more agitated, Schmaderer said.

He returned to the house, put his son down and reappeared on the front porch, pointing both guns at police, the chief recounted. That's when the officers fired “numerous” times at Bell, Schmaderer said.

Bell died of multiple gunshot wounds shortly after he arrived at Creighton University Medical Center. His son was unharmed; he toddled out of the house after the shooting and was swooped up by an officer.

Bell at no time attempted to surrender, the chief said. Alcohol and drugs likely compounded his suicidal behavior, Schmaderer said.
Frame from video recorded by a police-cruiser camera

IDIOT COPS.  His girlfriend told them the gun was unloaded.

And if you can't stake your life on the word of a woman possessing the good judgment to shack up with -- and have three children by -- a felon who had a three-page rap sheet, outstanding warrants and numerous convictions, including several firearms violations, on what exactly can you stake your life?

From the decidedly tear-stained report by KETV television Tuesday night:
Levette Spracher’s new year starts with the unthinkable.

“It wasn't right,” Spracher said. She talked to KETV Newswatch 7’s Natalie Glucklich just hours after her fiancé, Tyree Bell, 31, was shot by Omaha police during an armed confrontation.

Spracher says early Tuesday morning, she and Bell had an argument and, for Bell, a painful discussion about the future.

"He cried and I [could] see it in his eyes, it's like, he was giving up,” said Spracher. “I mean, I actually looked and I felt his pain; he was giving up.”

Spracher says her fiancé struggled with depression and schizophrenia. He’d been convicted of terroristic threats and assault, among other crimes. Spracher says Bell assumed the worst after someone called police to their house near 42nd and Pratt.

“He was like, ‘Man, they’re going to kill me, they're going to kill me,'" said Spracher. “I was like, ‘No, they're not, no, they're not.'"

Spracher says she ran outside to tell officers her fiancé was armed with a shotgun.

“I said, ‘It’s not loaded,'" said Spracher. “It wasn't loaded.”
BECAUSE someone that right about men couldn't possibly be that wrong about whether a gun was loaded or not.

Listen, I'm sorry Spracher and her kids are traumatized. I'm sorry she lost a boyfriend and three children lost a father -- even a whacked-out, felonious one.
I'm sorry Tyree Bell made such a terminal mess of his life. And I'm sorry that Bell is dead and that four cops will have to live with killing someone -- even justifiably -- for the rest of their lives.

What I'm most sorry about, though, is that contemporary journalism, just like contemporary American society, finds itself completely unable to deal with uncomfortable facts. Like, for one, that this poor woman made some catastrophically bad choices involving men -- or at least a man. That she compounded her error by shacking up with that massively troubled individual who had no capacity for obeying the law, then gave society a gift that is likely to keep on giving by having three children with him.

Those three children's long odds in life just got a lot longer, thanks to being witness to a human spectacle that's just about as ugly as they come -- a trauma that will likely torment them all their lives, a torment they're apt to endure absent the kinds of cultural and mental-health resources they so desperately need.

What I want to know is where that story is? You know, the little story that tells the big story of underclass deviance (in the sociological sense), and how it makes every noble program government can devise and every good deed and heroic effort by pastors, teachers, charities and social workers -- let's be honest here -- an absolute crapshoot, more likely to spectacularly implode in fantastically expensive futility than not.

AND HOW about how our culture not only eggs this sort of deviance on, but now is being driven by it? And where's the story about how inner-city black folk were just the canaries in the coal mine, and that this kind of foolishness is turning a lot of working class white folk into poster children for social anarchy, too?

There are two big reasons why you won't see those stories on the 6 o'clock news, or in the Daily Blab. For one thing, they're hard, and journalists are lazy -- and budget constrained. And for another, we might see too much of ourselves as we peer into the dysfunction within the Proles' District.

That will definitely harsh your mellow, man. Sin, after all, is short-term enjoyment, and we are a short-term people who love us some enjoyment. Consequences be damned.

What? You think the bat-sh*t craziness of Congress came from nowhere?

More after these words from our sponsor. Buy some stuff; it'll make you happy. Practice safe sex. Take Plan B if you don't. Be aware of your surroundings. Lock your car. Keep valuables hidden in your trunk. Avoid certain areas after dark. Film at 11.

Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When your president's a Muslin . . .

Don Mason, via Flickr

. . . what the hell is a patroit supposed to do?

No, the troo patroit must secdee! Because we must detsroy this contrey inn order to save it!

Monday, November 12, 2012

If at first you don't secede. . . .

The last Louisianian with such a bright idea ended up taking potshots at Fort Sumter, S.C., in April 1861.  

That didn't work out so well in the end for Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, for the sovereign state of South Carolina, for secessionist Louisiana or for anybody else in the Confederate States of America. "In the end" came almost exactly four years later, after the United States Army had smashed the South into rubble, destroyed its slave-based economy, plunged its people into privation and ripped out a region's false pride with the business end of a sabre.

All at the low, low price of about 700,000 dead.

But if at first you don't secede, try, try again. Especially if there's a Negro in the White House who also happens to be a commerniss and a socialiss and maybe the Antichrist, despite governing a lot like Richard Nixon . . . and the black sumbitch done got re-elected by them DamnYankeePinkoFags. (OK, the Nixon part might qualify Barack Obama for his Antichrist Jr., merit badge.)
Anyway, the Gret Stet of Louisiana done had enough of that un-American crap, so one true patriot in Slidell decided that the only rational response to such a brazen attack on everything the United States stands for . . . is to blow up the whole damned Union. 

Trust me -- this makes sense to people in Slidell.

UNFORTUNATELY, reports Nextgov, it also makes sense to people in 22 other states who don't have Slidell as an excuse for being dumbasses:
Residents of 23 states had petitioned the White House for permission to peacefully secede from the union as of 4 p.m. Monday.

A petition from a Slidell, La., resident posted to the White House’s We the People website the day after President Obama’s reelection seems to have started the trend.Nextgov first reported on that petition on Friday. The other 20 petition were posted over the weekend.

The Louisianan’s petition was mostly an extended quote from the Declaration of Independence suggesting the time had come for his state to “dissolve the political bands which have connected” it with the rest of the nation.

The majority of the secession petitions are carbon copies of the Louisiana petition with just the state’s name changed. A few petitions, such as this one from Texas, offered their own arguments for secession.

The Texas petition crossed We the People's 25,000 signature threshold for an official White House response around 3:30 p.m. Monday. All the other petitions were several thousand signatures shy at that point.

“Every petition that crosses the threshold will receive a response but we don't comment on what the substance of that response will be before it's issued,” a White House official said.

The majority of the secession petitions were from states that cast their electoral votes for Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the presidential contest rather than for the president. Six of the 21 petitions, however, were from states that broke for the president, including petitions from New York and New Jersey.

As of noon Monday, secession petitions had been filed by citizens of Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, Michigan, New York, Colorado, Oregon, New Jersey, North Dakota, Montana, Indiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arizona.

I KNOW . . . I know. This is bat-sh*t crazy. And it's been long settled that a state can't secede from the Union.

And President Obama -- no matter how much he might want Louisiana and Texas to get the hell out of his rapidly graying hair -- has no authority to let any state go anywhere, being that that would require a constitutional amendment.

In other words, the secession crisis of 2012 was over before it started. This, however, is unpersuasive in Louisiana, which right now wants to know whether people thought it was over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor. No, a stupid and futile gesture is required on somebody's part in the wake of Obama's re-election, and the Gret Stet just might give you a tax credit for it.

Check with Presidente Bobby Jindal.

MIND YOU, Louisianians who luv, luv, luv this petition are itching to extract themselves -- out of sheer pique over socialism, welfare Cadillacs and Obamacare -- from a country in which the hard-working, self-sufficient conservative pillars of the Gret Stet get to spend the livelong day sucking at the federal teat and bitching about how sour mother's milk has become.

Perhaps it's a fit of conscience emanating from a state that takes in $1.35 in federal funds for every federal tax dollar Washington collects from it. Maybe it's just the Louisiana "brain drain" having done a number on math skills -- after all, even with the taxpayer largess the state gets as recompense for a loveless marriage to Yankee tyrants, it still spends a smaller percentage of its budget on higher education than Haiti.

Wait till secession, when Louisiana's higher-ed budget drops overnight to about $273.86 annually. Then, the prospect of becoming another Haiti may well be a case of one's eyes still being bigger than one's distended stomach.

OR MAYBE all this secession noise might be a result of something as simple as mass insanity. My money's on this one. Besides, Louisiana has a long, sordid history of cutting off its nose to spite Washington's face, and not much of a history with civil society.

But if you're already nuts, you just as well engage in a little magical thinking. Post-secession policymakers in Louisiana would no doubt be optimistic that the sovereign state could soon -- maybe in a matter of just a few years -- be just as up-to-date as Port au Prince.

I mean, once Presidente Jindal's "kidneys for gruel" public/black market welfare partnership started turning a profit and contributing to the fiscal bottom line, the soot-choked sky would be the limit, right?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Who dat mad about dat Saints coach?

Sean Payton bought a house.

Well, lots of people buy houses, albeit lots fewer than before the economy blew up. But what makes this deal by the New Orleans Saints head coach stand out has to do with that old real-estate saw --
"Location, location, location."

In this case, the location of the Payton family's new residence is suburban Dallas.

But, according to Payton and the Saints, the coach isn't going anywhere. Well, professionally. Physically, the fam is hauling butt to north Texas, while Payton keeps a New Orleans-area place to crash during the workweek.

Most places, this isn't a massive issue. Bad PR form on Payton's part, but not a massive issue.

Then again, most places ain't Louisiana, and especially ain't New Orleans.

YOU'D EXPECT a certain amount of fan grousing anywhere. That's what sports fans do -- act like total fanatics. Likewise, everywhere has a certain set percentage of cranks and doofuses.

It's just that, in the Gret Stet, the percentage is a little on the high side.

OK . . .
a lot on the high side.

You can tell that when you're reading stuff like this in the newspaper. By someone employed there. Paid good money (well, at least
money) to produce stuff like this.

Thus, we have the spectacle of a "sports correspondent" for the Houma
Courier/Thibodaux Daily Comet writing with such vehemence agin' a carpetbaggin' coach that one almost can picture Red Man juice flying from his twitching lips as he beat the hell out of his keyboard:
It seems the Paytons never wanted to live in Louisiana from the outset.

As a life-long Louisiana resident, this move by the Paytons tells me that they never liked our state or our way of life.

We have to deal with hurricanes and the BP oil spill has hurt our economy, but Louisiana always bounces back.

It is going to be hard to believe Payton when he promotes New Orleans or Louisiana when his family lives elsewhere.

If I was a Louisiana company that uses Payton as a spokesman, I would drop him immediately.
THAT'LL SHOW that Yankee son of a bitch! I bet he thinks he's better'n us.

Oh, wait.
I don't look at this move as Payton's first step to eventually working with the Dallas Cowboys. I look at it as an insult to New Orleans and our state. I guess we are just not good enough for the Paytons.
THERE you go, podna.

Of course, by that line of reasoning (such as it is), you also could argue the Gret Stet and its benighted citizenry "are just not good enough" for thousands upon thousands of its native sons and daughters -- and I am among that ever-growing number -- who willingly have chosen to move not only their families but themselves the hell out of not only New Orleans, but out of Louisiana altogether.

It happens . . . particularly in states that live their civic lives (such as they are) at the top of all the bad national lists and the bottom of all the good ones.

In other words, fat, disproportionately violent and uneducated is no way to go through life. Or have your kids think is normal.

That's a cruel way to put it, but what the hell other verdict is being delivered by the cold, hard facts of demography? What other verdict is being delivered by the history of a state perpetually u
nable to effectively govern itself?

What other verdict is being delivered by endemic political corruption? By lack of opportunity for its college graduates (underrepresented though they might be as a percentage of total population)?

AND THEN you have the disaster area that is New Orleans. Oh . . . and there was a hurricane there, too.

Listen, all you have to do is look at the state budget, and then look at the kind of racial mau-mauing surrounding the potential merger of one really bad mostly black New Orleans college into a mediocre mostly white one -- and then wonder what the hell percentage is there in such a dysfunctional civic landscape?

You could, but folks in my home state would rather work themselves into high dudgeon that some fellow from California who went to college in Illinois has not come to see life in the Gret Stet as the ultimate meaning of life. Face it, some folk just ain't gonna embrace the suck.

And when you think about it --
which Louisianians don't . . . and won't -- perhaps the biggest part of that never-ending suck is that there is not one chromosome of introspection in the Louisiana genome.

Not one.

This explains a lot. Including, probably, Sean Payton's real-estate transactions.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Life in these United States: Shores apart

On the Jersey shore

"I'm the best thing in this town," she arrogantly declared after cops busted her for being a drunk nuisance Friday, according to an insider.

"She was bad-mouthing everyone who walked by her [in the police stationhouse]. She was saying 'I'm a star, you can't do this to me.'"

Snooki unleashed a boozed-up, expletive-filled rant after being arrested for disorderly conduct, and attempted to use her new-found fame as a "get-out-of-jail-free" card.

"You can't tell me what to do - I'm Snooki," she yelled at officers, according to witnesses. "Do you know who I am? I'm f------ Snooki. You can't do this to me. I'm f------ Snooki. You guys are going to be sorry for this. Release me!"

Not surprisingly, her harsh language didn't do the trick.

The pint-sized reality TV star was hauled away from the Jersey shore boardwalk in cuffs Friday as her oversized shades slid down her nose. A photo of her looking dishevelled with mascara running down her face while in custody also surfaced yesterday, as locals took stock of her unruly behavior and lashed out at the reality show cast.

On the Louisiana shore

"My world's been turned upside down," says Chris Wilson, a charter boat captain in Venice, La. "Our life as fishing guides and marina owners — and everybody down here. We used to fish every day. Now we ride around and look for oil, or ride people around, you know. They say we're working, they say they're paying us, but nobody's got paid yet ... I guess it's coming."

This quotation comes from photographer David Zimmerman's latest series, "Gulf Coast." A fine-art photographer based in New York and Taos, N.M., Zimmerman relocated to Louisiana just after BP's April oil spill and, for the past few months, has been using a large-format view camera to put faces to the oil spill. "For all the devastation I saw offshore," Zimmerman writes in his artist statement, "the worst of what I saw was onshore; in the faces and voices of the people who call this place home."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Playing with sugar daddy's money

Once upon a time, Grand Isle, La., was your average, everyday, sleepy Gulf Coast fishing mecca and tourist trap.

No more. BP changed that in a heartbeat.

Or . . . could it be that the BPocalypse -- this stress-inducing gumbo of lawyers, guns and money
(and a big, big oil spill) -- merely has broken down inhibitions enough, just like extreme stress or extreme drink can do to people, so that now it's just more of what it already was beneath a carefully constructed facade?

This is the kind of question we'll be pondering all across the Gulf for a long, long time as klepto-capitalism rides the waves, crying "Havoc!"

IF YOU'VE NOT been regularly reading the oil-spill dispatches of Mother Jones' Mac McClelland already, now would be a good time to start:
I hear about the race riot at Daddy's Money almost as soon as I arrive on Grand Isle, Louisiana. My friend and I are going to the bar tonight to catch the "female oil wrestling" oil-spill cleanup workers have been packing in to see on Saturday nights. When we stop by the office of the island's biggest seafood distributor, he tells us that two days ago a bunch of black guys and a bunch of white guys got into a big fight at the bar. It spilled out all over the street and had to be broken up by a ton of cops.

According to the Census, 1,541 people live in this slow Southern resort town. An estimated 2.9 of them are black. That was before the spill. The seafood guy gestures in the direction of the floating barracks being built on barges in the bay to house the lower-skilled cleanup workers, and says that people think the barracks will keep those workers—who are mostly black—from "jumping off" onto dry land and causing trouble.

That night, dozens of men in race-segregated packs crowd around to watch strippers dance around and then tussle inside the bouncy inflatable ring set up inside Daddy's Money. Female oil wrestlers need, obviously, to be oiled. Plastic cups full of baby oil are being auctioned off, along with the right to rub their contents all over one of the thong-bikinied gals. "I hope there's no dispersant in that oil!" someone quips. The bidding before the first match starts at $10; it ends pretty quickly when some kid offers $100.

"He outbid me!" the guy next to me yells. His name is Cortez. He bid $80. He has dollar bills tucked all the way around under the brim of his hat, and piles of them in his fist. He has spent $200 of his $1,000 paycheck already tonight. "I am coming here every Saturday from now on," he says. He gestures expansively at the scene—writhing women; hollering, money-throwing men. "Sponsored by BP!" he yells, laughing, then throws his arms around me and grabs my ass.

Upstairs, on the open-air deck, the supervisors and professional contractors drink. One comes over to talk; he calls me a Yankee when I don't get that when he says "animals" he means black guys. Another tells us about the crime-prone "monkeys." I have already stopped counting how many times I've heard the n-word on Grand Isle today.
THE LONGER I live away from Louisiana, the more I think I'd consider it a badge of honor to be called a Yankee by some good ol' boy.

That said, chances are, Grand Isle -- and the rest of the eroding, subsiding Louisiana coast -- will sink into the toxic sea before the spill-induced societal Armageddon has run its course there, giving way to the everyday, ordinary Louisiana pathologies that have proven so resistant to enlightenment.
"We'll be here as long as oil keeps washing up," the contractor says.

"So..." I laugh sort of helplessly. "A year?"

"Three years..." he says. "Five years..."

"Hopefully forever," the guy next to him says. "I need this job if I can't work offshore anymore." Last week, the emcee that accompanies the oil wrestlers yelled into the microphone, "Let that oil gush! Let that money flow!" The workers -— part of the new Grand Isle scenery of helicopters, Hummers, and National Guardsmen, serious people in uniforms and coveralls and work boots -- the workers around the wrestling ring, drunk and blowing cash from jobs that might kill them, cheered.
THE HUMAN CONDITION can be an ugly thing. And leave it to a titty bar in some oil-soiled backwater of a too-poor, too-ignorant and too-hateful Southern state to "kick it up a notch."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Shoot the messenger principal

Denial in the name of "school reform" is going to do no one any good.

And in Omaha, politically correct political posturing may have just turned into full-blown delusion. Unfortunately, Washington has the clout -- and state officials are craven enough -- to turn a public-policy psychotic break into a world of hurt for children . . . and for those struggling to teach them.

Here's the story: One day, Nebraska education officials are praising the excellence of four local high schools. The next, the state puts the schools on a "persistently lowest achieving" list, qualifying them for federal stimulus money aimed at lifting troubled schools out of the educational gutter.

To qualify for these stimulus funds, Omaha Public Schools must institute "reforms" at the excellent-yet-underachieving schools, reforms ranging from removing the "excellent" administrators to shutting down the "excellent" schools.

We are Americans. That means we do insane things, from destroying Vietnamese villages in order to save them from the Red Menace to closing "excellent" schools to rescue them from dissoluteness.

AND IN OMAHA, according to a story in today's World-Herald, Americans are about to elevate their "crazy" to a whole new level:
The full list includes 28 high schools, eight middle schools and 18 elementary schools. Two of the schools house both middle and high school students.

Included on the list are five Omaha area high schools Omaha Central, Omaha North, Omaha South, Omaha Benson and Bellevue East. Indian Hill Elementary School in OPS also made the list.

The designation could mean federal grant funding for the schools if their districts agree to reforms prescribed by the Obama administration such as staffing changes at each school building.

John Mackiel, superintendent of the Omaha Public Schools, expressed frustration Wednesday at OPS schools making the list.

The four OPS high schools made the list because they have graduation rates below 75 percent.

Mackiel sharply criticized state officials for labeling the schools in order to receive federal funding.

“I don't believe there's anything more reprehensible than gaming the system to access $77 million of federal money by accepting it and then labeling schools that two months ago you just celebrated in terms of the educational opportunities going on in those schools,” he said.

Schools on the list are eligible for a total of $17 million in grants, but there probably will only be enough money to serve schools with the greatest need of improvement. As a result, many of the districts with schools listed won't have to make difficult decisions on whether to remove principals or take other drastic measures.

Schools that accept federal School Improvement Grants would have to implement one of four models. The models range in severity from removing the principal to closing the school.

Nebraska sought and received a waiver in the federal rules allowing use of a graduation rate of 75 percent instead of the 60 percent called for by the federal government.

Nebraska Education Commissioner Roger Breed said no Nebraska high schools except for Native American schools would have qualified for funding at 60 percent.


Mackiel called it “a curious Alice-in-Wonderland contradiction” that in February, the Nebraska Department of Education performed an annual assessment of the district and issued a “glowing” report commending the leadership at South, North, Central and Benson high schools.

In the next 10 days, Mackiel said, graduating seniors at the four high schools will be awarded more than $25 million in scholarships, “but to see the list today you wouldn't know that.”
MACKIEL is right. Both Central and North, to name just two, are excellent schools. Both feature first-rate facilities, and Omaha North also is a magnet school.

What all Omaha's "failing" schools also happen to be are smack-dab in the inner city. What all Omaha's "failing" schools happen to be charged with is educating most of the offspring of the city's underclass.

These are the young victims of a failed culture, one which values many things, just not education, responsibility, achievement or familial stability. Back when I was taking just enough college sociology courses to be dangerous, one term of art for such was "deviant." Another was "dysfunctional."

As in "deviant behavior." Within a "dysfunctional environment."

According to the state -- and to the feds, eager to remedy a crisis, just not the right one -- the likes of Benson, North, South and Central are "persistently lowest achieving" schools because they graduate only 75 percent of the children who wander through their doors. According to the real world, Jesus Christ never performed a bigger miracle when he caused Peter to walk on water or fed more than 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.

Verily, I say unto thee if North, South, Central and Benson were more white, less underclass and a lot more suburban, the quality of teaching going on there would have the world beating a path unto them as the new MIT, if not the new Jerusalem.

But you cannot say that in America, because that would be impolitic.

IT IS BETTER for state and federal officials to ignore that Omaha, for example, has the third-highest black poverty rate in the nation. Ignore that its percentage of African-American children in poverty is atop the American hit parade of suck.

No, it is much more expedient to pretend that none of these things stack the deck against even the best educators and the best-resourced schools. It's a lot easier to downplay the fact that this kind of endemic poverty breeds real cultural deviance -- as opposed to America's everyday, middling cultural deviance -- and that a deviant hip-hop subculture glorifying Every Wrong Thing takes real cultural deviance and supersizes it.

Why, oh why, open up that can of racially-charged Whoop-Ass when you can just blame the schools instead?

Not acknowledging plain facts does not make them any less plain. Or factual.

It certainly doesn't make stigmatizing certain schools and punishing the educators formerly known as "excellent" any less of an insanely stupid starting point for embarking on the Sisyphean task of trying to fix broken people and a deviant culture.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The devil checks Craigslist

Let me please introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But whats confusing you
Is just the nature of my game

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
Cause I'm in need of some restraint

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste, um yeah

-- Sympathy for the Devil, The Rolling Stones

The devil, according to published accounts, saw George Weber his chickenhawkery and raised him one of Beelzebub's own knife-fetishizing disciples.

And in pretty short order, the New York radio newsman was dead -- his throat slit, among other things. As it turns out, the rough gay sex Weber was looking for when he placed the online ad, one police say was answered by a 16-year-old whack job, was rougher than he bargained for.

YOU SEE, the devil reads Craigslist, too. And he turned it into a two-for-one deal for His Satanic Majesty. One life extinguished, one life consumed and destroyed . . . not a bad day's work for the Prince of Darkness.

If it's gory details you want, look no further than the New York Daily News:

The troubled teen charged with stabbing WABC newsman George Weber during drug-fueled rough sex is a 16-year-old Satan-loving sadomasochist with a knife fetish.

John Katehis is also a hustler who stabbed Weber "50 times to the neck" and body, police said.

"He and Weber met online sometime last week and had arranged to meet," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. "There was going to be an exchange of money."

Katehis was charged as an adult Wednesday with 2nd degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon - charges that could send the tattooed teen to jail for a long time.


Katehis admitted stabbing Weber after answering an ad the newsman placed on the Internet looking for rough sex - but claimed self-defense. He was also carrying a dagger that cops do not think was the murder weapon, sources said.

"He saw the victim's ad looking for violent sex and said, 'I can smother somebody for $60,' but it got out of hand," a police source said.

It was not clear if Weber knew Katehis had an account on If he had seen it, Weber might have had second thoughts about letting Katehis in his home.

Katehis, who lives with his separated parents in East Elmhurst, Queens, posted pictures of himself with various blades - including one he held against his neck. He also issued a chilling warning.

"If you disrespect me then I will f-----g break your neck," he wrote.

On his site, Katehis called himself "Extremist, an Anarchist, a Sadomasochist" and said he enjoys "long conversations, drinking, bike riding, hanging out."

The teen also listed more reckless hobbies like "roof hopping, hanging off trains" and violent video games.

"I am a very easy person to talk to," he wrote. "I like to do crazy and wild things ... I'm always looking for a big thrill.

Cops found Katehis by combing through Weber's e-mail and Web browser history and tracking calls he made from his cell phone, sources said.

Katehis and Weber rendezvoused Friday evening and headed for the newsman's Brooklyn brownstone for sadomasochistic sex, sources said.

Weber, 47, whose ankles were bound with duct tape, was stabbed repeatedly in a frenzied attack that sprayed the walls with blood.
WHAT HATH the Sexual Revolution wrought? A lot of stuff like this.

A lot more parents who can't hold it together and who, in fact, can't even do anything about the little teen-age Satanist they spawned. The one still living under their roof.

Well, not anymore. Now he's living in central lockup.

Oh, but that's not the whole story of the kinky hookup gone wrong -- setting aside, of course, any question of which kinky hookup might be equated with sweetness and light. No,
for the really gory details, one must turn to the New York Post:
Katehis told cops that he and Weber drank Vodka and did cocaine before the situation turned violent.

He told police that Weber pulled a knife on him, he took it and stabbed the former radio newscaster.

Meanwhile, new details of the chilling crime were revealed.

According to investigators, the knife sliced through Weber's neck, back and torso so many times that it was difficult to get an accurate count by the time the body was discovered two days ago.

Detectives poked through neighborhood trash and peered into sewers yesterday in search of the murder weapon.

Weber's ankles were duct-taped and wounds on his hands suggested he tried to fight off his attacker, the sources said.

The newsman's family released a statement yesterday remembering him as "a truly caring person who loved and was loved by all he met."

VERILY, NOTHING says "a truly caring person who loved and was loved by all he met" like getting a 16-year-old Satanist all liquored and coked up -- allegedly -- as a prelude to some gay sex and bondage.

George Weber was one day older than I am. I now am 48 years old. He had a taste, say police, for sweet young ass . . . or whatever. Some teen-age whatever, to be precise.

Yeah . . . another "truly caring person" who apparently had him some "sympathy" for the devil.

Alas, the devil had none for him. Lord have mercy.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Beauty is not skank deep

For traditional Christians and modern Westerners, it's not a difficult task to find areas of profound disagreement with Islam and then beat those divides into gaping chasms of civilizational conflict.

particularly would be true in the years since violent jihadists flew jetliners full of innocents into skyscrapers full of innocents in a bid to poke a finger into the eye of the Great Satan.

That, however, does nothing to help us -- as Christians and modern Westerners -- come to the difficult realization that, in so many ways, we are the Great Satan.

Or, at a minimum, willing and enthusiastic dupes of Satan.

IN THAT LIGHT, perhaps it would be useful to explore one area where Christians and thoughtful Westerners can have common cause with thoughtful Muslims -- or at least ought to have common cause with those who profess Islam.

I would submit that the devil's greatest success among Western modernists has been in equating "freedom" with the grossest debasements of human dignity, which by extension are the most profound slurs against a Creator who made mankind in His image. The means of debasement are legion, but they all are rooted in denying the fundamental nature and dignity of -- and, yes, divine image within -- human beings by recognizing them solely as objects.

Not as people, but as things.

Satan's second greatest success among modern Westerners has been in convincing them to run right past the concept of "tolerance" into the abyss where what we profess has nothing to do with how we live.

As one who has toiled for a decade and a half as a volunteer in Catholic youth ministry, let me illustrate this concept from that vantage point.

It's not only possible but, indeed, probable to have large numbers of self-professed Catholic teen-agers -- teen-agers who have gone through Confirmation and made solemn promises therein -- to think nothing of dressing like hookers, defining a "good date" as one that ends inside the pants of a young woman, getting wasted every weekend or otherwise behaving in a manner indistinguishable from the most hardcore of nihilists.

THE STARK REALITY of what used to be known as Christendom is a spent culture in which belief is alienated from practice, humanity is alienated from its fundamental nature and, finally, humans are profoundly alienated from their Creator and one another. Its logical -- and inevitable -- end is Death.

I think that's a cultural critique that orthodox Christians and mainstream Muslims not only could both embrace, but also could see as grounds for cooperation.

Which brings me to "the Hijab Challenge."

The Hijab Challenge was the brainchild of a Muslim columnist for The Daily Reveille, my old college newspaper at Louisiana State University. Briefly, what Shirien Elmasraya did was, I think, brilliant --
an in-your-face throwing down the gauntlet to American society's notion of feminine "beauty."

DOES OUR NOTION of womanly "beauty" mainly involve who a woman is, or merely what standard equipment she comes with? Do we value what is divine, or do we prefer to turn a multidimensional imago dei into nothing more than a one-dimensional object -- a thing to be used for our own ignoble purposes:
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column challenging University women to wear the hijab - or headscarf - for a day.

A handful of girls took on my challenge this past Friday. They came to campus adorned by the beauty of the hijab.

They went to class, hung out with their friends and lived their daily routine wearing something they normally wouldn't wear.

But anyone who didn't know them personally would most likely assume these women were Muslim, and they were most likely oppressed.

In the past year and a half I've written, I've probably gotten more hate mail and hate comments below my articles online than just about anyone else on
The Daily Reveille's

Some of those who would comment would regurgitate over and over again that women in Islam are oppressed, we are backwards and we need to be liberated from our hijab.

I, in turn, wanted to liberate the people who hold these views from the oppression of media brainwashing and prejudice by challenging them to wear hijab for a day and see what it is really like - the result?

None of those who accused me of being oppressed took on my challenge. They are so afraid of reality and so embarrassed to be proven wrong that they did not even bother defending their claim by agreeing to participate.

So let it be known that your words never did and never will hold any weight with me.

Half of my life, I didn't wear hijab. I was oppressed by society and beauty magazines who told me and my peers that less clothes means more beauty.

To me, the hijab is liberating.

One of the women who decided to take on my challenge was Melissa Breen, mass communication sophomore.

"In order for people to truly be open-minded, they must be willing to step outside of their comfort zones," Breen said.

Breen's friend Sarah Berard, English junior, also decided to participate.

"In order to truly love and respect other people, you have to try to understand them. So as a Roman Catholic, for me, the hijab challenge was an opportunity to come to a better understanding of Muslim women," Berard said.

Michelle Richardson, anthropology junior, said it was a special cultural experience.

"It helped demonstrate to the world and to myself that you are not any less of a free, powerful woman for making the personal choice of wearing the hijab," she said.
WE LIVE IN A CULTURE that makes a fetish of "edginess" and rebellion. What that culture fails to appreciate is that the only revolt here is against truth. Make that Truth, with a capital "T."

Otherwise, what we preceive as "edgy" is merely pedestrian slavishness to a warped and dehumanizing status quo, and what we perceive as "beauty" is predicated on appealing to some of our uglier impulses. Thus blinded, it's difficult for the modern American to appreciate Ms. Elmasraya for the revolutionary she is.

And entirely too easy to laugh and say "Look at the backward Muslim" instead of acknowledge the rot in our own self-mutilated culture.