The whole truth is the truth that should count Washoe County School District

WCSD, it was reported the other day in the Reno Gazette Journal, increased by considerable amounts its graduation rate. Today, the newspaper reports, there is a “catch.” I, being a skeptic and a long term WCSD watcher, held back on questioning what the great numbers might indicate in terms of real achievement. I know I am perceived by some in “higher” places to be too harsh a critic of WCSD, a crank to some.
But, over the years, reporting from the District on improvements to its academic programs have far too often been erroneous, statistics manipulated to show gains when no meaningful gains were achieved. So, the new highest graduation rates in the history of the District, when reported, led me to wonder–of course.
Today, in the RGJ, a paper that will not allow me to link its stories to my posts, the graduation rate story was on the front page, the headline containing the word “catch” because the the graduating class being cited was held to graduation requirements different from those of previous classes. This, said the Superintendent, who has promised to boost the rate of graduation, should be looked at, the new graduation requirements, as a minor factor in the uptick.
There were other interesting asides that should make anyone who cares not only about how many but how good to give consideration to the meaning of the wonderful numbers being reported and to the way in which the superintendent goes about making little of what might be very much.

Obama signed Moreno Opioid Pusher Enabling bill and neither he or democrats who allowed passage had no idea about what was in the bill or what effects would be: Really!!!!????

A lot of people have a lot of explaining to do and MSNBC Live interview with Obama era drug czar should be eye opening as he explains that the passage of the bill Tom Moreno got congress to pass (without voice vote, without dissension and was signed by President Obama) got through, became administrative law, was because no one was paying attention. REALLY? Neither democratic congressmen and women nor the president! Could it be that some who are thought by good people to be on the right side may be swayed by the dark side if there is money involved? Neoliberalism at work here, people liberal on some issues but culpable in the government by corporation takeover?
I will post the clip when MSNBC makes it available. Here is a WAPO story that covers some of the same ground.

WTF writ even bigger: Considering entitlement of the worst kind


There are two issues that have been consuming most of my thinking these days and I do see the relationship between them to be of significance, both for understanding such things as causes and effects and for understanding sensible ways to conceive of remedies that might be better remedies than those that have not succeeded or only partly succeeded in bringing about meaningful resolution.

I posted the other day items that concerned aspects of American society that I loathe, the mistreatment of human beings by other human beings–here, in particular because of recent revelations about abusive behavior of powerful men toward women–and the indecency and inhumanity reflected in capitalism as it does business in the modern era, the drug distributors unconscionable streaming of opioid drugs into communities, the act killing people and making a great amount more miserable.

I blame our version of capitalism for both. Mr. Weinstein could not have done what he did, most likely, unless he was a wealthy and powerful man. Bad enough what he had been doing for years, the number of lives he hurt and those he outright destroyed. He and others like him had lots of rich and powerful friends, some of them in leadership positions in the society and keeping his friendship, hanging with Harvey was more important than doing what any good human being would do, find a way to make him stop what he was doing and make sure he and other like him were properly punished for their behavior.

Harvey bought people and the drug distributors bought people and, though there are predators who are not rich and wealthy, few of the first are able to live the best of lives while being the worst kind of people.

Hollywood, has we call it, is, of course bigger than Harvey Weinstein and the wrongfulness of Hollywood as a culture extends beyond the culture of Hollywood itself. The sports star culture, the music star culture, celebrity culture are elements of American society that are a part of its madness and not its goodness. But people who are stars in these cultures exert an incredible amount of influence on what the broader culture can be and is. It creates false notions of what leadership should be, of who should be at the center of the culture, who should have credibility in the culture.

And what is so devastatingly sick here is the fact that this ridiculous celebrity culture is not only at the center of American culture, it is the center of American culture and, because it is not necessarily a good culture or a smart culture or a caring culture, good and smart and caring have become personalities rather than real virtues of a meaningful society.

Weinstein, and Cosby and O’Rely, and Ails should never have been allowed to become big men in the society. Whatever their talents, they were not of the kind that should allow them to hold power, to have influence on the way people think and do.

I, personally, and fucking sick of this stuff because it is stuff that I have had to suffer as my reality for all of my life, form those days when idiots of another kind ordered water cannon and rifles to be turned on black kids down in the American south. I was told to respect generals and the presidents who hired them as they murdered thousands of young people for little more than the economic system that favored them and ego satisfaction. LBJ and Nixon said to those allowed to listen that they could not stand the idea of becoming the first American president to lose a way.

Yes, the problem is big people and disposable little people and this idea that this is a reasonable scheme of things is absolutely intolerable.

Even more intolerable is that fact that so many have and to continue to tolerate, even celebrate this dehumanizing society, some very much willing to think it the best possible and worthy of sending other off to die for it.

A story and

What is curious to me at this moment is the anxiety I am feeling as I contemplate publishing the short piece of fiction below.  I publish here, on lafered, a good amount of text and I hardly ever feel as nervous about what people may think as I do putting out there for others to read “Deidre EI.” Somehow it is about judgment of a different kind but what is different, I cannot tell.  Maybe it is that I hold art to be more sacred than argument and exposition, maybe, but a less than satisfactory answer in this now.  The story does feel, somehow, to be more personal than response to public debate.  Maybe “DEI” reveals something more about me than the other kinds of writing in which I engage but, that other writing, when I think about it, does reveal much about me, who I am and how I think. 

 This story, composing it, took something out of me.  I felt intellectually winded when I finished the first draft and I felt that what went out had been replaced with a kind of comfort I rarely have felt; something had left me, taken on a nature of its own, in a rather lovely way, but not without attachments of an inexplicable kind, a loving bond born of responsibility in its creation.

 Maybe that is it, that in this case, I feel a kind of responsibility that is different from that I feel when what I share with the world is about things more tangible, ideas that attach to events and actions that—I want to say—are real.  Here, I am dealing with what feels to be a deeper reality, a reality that exists in the depths that lie below what is real in that more tangible reality but that are essential to that other reality having and meaning worth an effort to respond.

Deidre EI

She created her own mystique and her own myths followed, she believing herself to be what she made everyone else know her to be.  She could never free herself of the self she made up for herself and she could not understand how it was that all who knew her didn’t really know her at all, herself included.  This state of existence was of and by her mind and reinforced by those who had mind of her, the slight and agile one dancing in a light that was pure, direct, and unshaded.

She was exposed, she, and frolicked in the attention until she gave herself some time to think about what she had created, who she had drawn herself to be and how irrelevant that self that  was she really, the possibilities and what she had done with them.

Possibilities.  But how, when you are pinned and wriggling on the wall, and the pin, the one you took from the a plate of pins, the pin you thought to be made of silver that, in reflection, shined only because it had been sprayed them with varnish, a cheap varnish that came off at a touch to exposing dullness so deep and so shallow that you could not possibly find your way beyond it inside yourself.

She did discussed herself, in broad terms, with herself but it wasn’t until she took, for herself, a breath that allow herself to float away, free. Glimmering were all she could achieve, now, at this height.  Pins made of steel may be dull but dullness does not diminish their power to hold well what they poke through and what they poke into and these walls were of matter that never lets go, give release only when smashed to powder by very heavy and well-aimed hammers.  She possessed no such tool, only a pair of nail clippers and a tiny screwdriver for setting time on her mechanical watch.

Deidre was spelled out and the spell was one she could not break. She was born with the name. Deidre, the I before E without the a preceeding C.  Hers did not conform.  She remembered school trauma, learning to spell names while learning the rules of spelling.  She was an exception and this she got confused with exceptional though she was not ordinary, not at all.  Her first song was not a lullaby.  It was a jazz piece, called “Evidence,” played on a throaty organ, notes robust and, enrapturing, comfortable, up to a righteous point, for they did not always float softly or sensibly sometimes mysterious, sometimes raw and disconcerting, and then meaningfully in ways she could not yet understand, at least as “understood” is commonly understood to be—when understood properly.

She grasped at those notes and, most often, surprisingly, grasped them, for moments at a time and sometimes some forever a given moment of her conscious would tell her reveal.  Notes written onto what she later came to regard as the score of her life.  Forever so long, “Evidence” was what she had to go on, most all of what she could find to explain to herself what sanity could be, as she was capable of understanding it and herself.  “Evidence,” notes and cords and an organ’s sound, a bass, a guitar, and staccato shots from insanely tight drum skins and thin cymbals.

When others began to notice her and she them, the hesitation was profound enough to get through at least several bars and, when through, there was left nothing so much, so good as to be real acquaintance, something else, something confused and muffled as it worked its way through “Evidence,” muted against time but audible enough to allow for connection of some kind but not of the kind necessary for empathy and meaningful communication.

Coping, she created an identity for herself without “Evidence” and this was the she she shared.  In time, it became the she she thought herself to be but, when “Evidence” entered her consciousness, made itself known, she knew, could sense at least, that her relationship to she and she to those she would know as far as knowing could go were not wholly real and, she did surmise, possibly illegitimate.  She lived made up because of “Evidence” and because there was little she could find to contradict it.

There is a forever field. What grows in it is temporary–and significant for the existence of the field cannot be explained except for what crops up there.  Some of what is there is organic, but not all.  There are rocks and bottles and shards of bottles and rusty tin from rusting tin cans.  There are, at times, too, fresh sprouts of vegetation that grow in its soil. Sometimes someone will, with intention, plant something there, sometimes it is organic, sometimes not, sometimes legitimate and sometimes unreal, sometimes truth and sometimes lies.

Draw a rake through the plot and find the evidence needed to sustain whatever reality makes of it to be.  Take the rakings and examine the debris, the detritus that holds to the ground.  Count, arrange, categorize, diagnose, infer.  That is how reality is sustained and that is how what is often the real is missed or ignored.  Cut oneself on a piece of the glass and what is something painful and not the glass.  Find a single spring flower in the dirt, but one, alone, and consider life too empty.  Or choose this, to consider the edges on the shard, hold one up to the sun and consider the colors of the different angles, their possibilities. Block out everything except for one flower. Contemplate color and shape, petals perfectly whole and perfect in the whole it shares with the other parts.  The boring part is the stem but, without it, nothing more would be.

The choice is a choice of what to know and of what to make of what is known.  Evidence is that there is a factor of mindfulness and degrees of engagement of mindfulness and, too, mindlessness that can be counted as nothing or something as relevant to understanding as something.  Understanding understanding is a kind of delectable agony, an impossibility that allows for lingering and states of ecstasy beyond simple, beyond the painfulness to nearness with the sublime.

Deidre waited. She waited until she was well into her life before coming to understand that “Evidence” was like a piece of glass that might be discarded for of its capacity to hurt and do harm.  Or it could be held up to the sunshine for discoveries on the edges and meanings concerning shapes and angles and what they have to do with how one sees into and through a minutes and hours and day and lifetimes.  She did what did.  She held a fragment of glass and pointed it toward the sun.  She turned to a flower growing near her feet and found in her mind and again discovered contrasts to helped her understand the fullness of her existence.  She saw sunrays split, refractions, tinted in the hue of a rum bottle’s pale green.  She saw a flower. Lit by the sun and then through the glass, at angles again, to distort, to make anew something more difficult now to get at the real, the real more malleable than, she thought, she could ever have imagined.

At this point she realized she and realized about she that she was someone quite different from who she had understood herself to be, this because of thoughts she was allowing herself time to think, in a moment on a field so empty that a person had to look hard for something to find.  This was evidence of not vacancy, but fullness detectable with eyes wide open and mind receptive to all and to nothing.  She was alive without much to live on but very much enough. She knew what it meant to be human, to have the choice, to choose the angles and the lenses and how one could and might and would use them in the moment in forever fields so vast that there would never be good reason to die.



Opiods are a very good thing

I rant and rave about capitalism and one might think from what I say that it is, if not the root of all evil, a very significant one at least. I argue regularly that this United States of America cannot be a democracy or a nation of laws if capitalism is allowed to continue to do what capitalism does, allow those who make money to buy influence in government so that they can make sure that legislation favors them getting even more money and does nothing to prevent them from using their money to buy influence of a kind no ordinary citizen can afford.
I know that “we all benefit” from the system, that our quality of life is the best in the world and, if one considers such things as “average” income or the kind of health care that is “available,” at least to some, there is some truth in this, for some.
But, if democracy is something that people in this nation born as a democracy (see the Declaration and the Constitution) care about, if they wish to defend democracy against the forces that exist that can and will destroy it, then capitalism, at least the brand that currently exists in the USA, needs to be understood to be democracy’s greatest threat.
The 60 Minutes program tonight is an important one, one that shows how money buys power and how the power of the monied is used to bring into being law that is against the best interests of the people.
The Washington Post story is part of collaborative effort with 60 Minutes to bring this story to light. Washington Post Article Companion to 60 Minutes story here.
Interestingly, terrifyingly, the new appointment to lead the Drug Enforcement Agency is the very man who brought to congress the bill, passed and signed by then president Obama that now prevents the DEA from enforcing laws to limit the amount of opioid drugs that can be put onto the market and that were intended to prevent illegal sales of these deadly and addicting drugs. This article is about this man 

Addendum to Reno News and Review WC1 post below

I may have been unfair in implying that individuals and organizations supporting WC1 may have been self serving and questioning whether estimates of the cost of WC1 projects presented to the public were intentionally deceptive in light of new estimates less than one year after the measure was passed that show actual costs to be 40 to more than 50% higher than those original estimates.  I have said that I was suspicious of the measure and the motives of its main supporters–building contractors and business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce from the onset of the campaign, in part because during my 30 years in Reno working in the field of education I had seen time and again these very organizations working to defeat measures to raise taxes to support the schools, measures related to the hiring of teachers (I had first hand knowledge of overcrowding in classrooms, teachers with impossible numbers of students if quality of instruction be a concern) and the ability of the district to attract highly qualified new teachers considering the rather meager salaries the district could offer because of the lack of funds to offer decent pay for the work performed).

I read the response to my questions as reported in the RNR article and may have been overly suspicious of the claims by district officials that the precipitous increase in the price for the construction work was a market issue, costs for construction of all kinds having skyrocketed in the time since WC1 had passed, the Chinese building boom being a significant factor as well as rising labor costs brought on by a shortage of construction workers following the end of our recession that forced workers to leave the area.

I did hear from a person who had reason to know about construction costs who affirmed to me that the incredible rise in construction costs was real, that the cost of building a building probably had doubled in a year even though there had, in the same amount of time, been no such jump in overall cost of living.

I trust that what I was hearing about construction costs was valid but I do have to wonder who it is that is profiting from the increased costs–the additional amounts of money being paid do have to go somewhere and, eventually to someone.  Someone somewhere in the chain is making more for what is being sold than was being made before.  I was told, for example, that the cost of cement has been rising steadily, this reflected in the new prices being quoted for the school projects.  The reason stated for such an increase was the Chinese building boom.

But the Chinese building boom has been going on for considerably more than a year and, when I looked for figures for the cost of cement over the last year, what I could find, a chart showing what the State of Virginia payed for cement for its public works projects over the course of the year, the change from November of last year to September of this year did fluctuate between $98 per unit to $103 per unit during the year, back down to $98 by September of 2017.  I had thought that cement was a product of local production but I was being told that its price was affected by international market forces so, I figured, the Virginia pricing I was seeing, percentage wise at least, should be something more than a localized phenomenon.  If the cost of cement for Reno area projects has risen so much beyond what cement costs in Virginia, why would that be and where is the money going?  Who is profiting?  Laborers in the cement industry?

I am trying to understand how market forces are affecting the cost of building schools in Reno and I will continue to do so.  I have asked the Washoe County School District for the information it received and used in making its decision to pay the price now being asked (by some one) for the construction work for which it is using WC1 funds to pay.

Am I being overly suspicious or is my curiosity spurred by questions of real merit?


Reno News and Review Takes Up Story Taken Up Here: Rising Costs for Building Schools Reasonable?

I wrote a few weeks back about a story that appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal, our town’s mainstream newspaper, about the continuation of the saga that began with the campaign to pass a bonding issue for construction projects in the Washoe County School District.  I noted that I had been skeptical of intentions of those who ran the campaign in support of WC1, a measure that would raised sales taxes to pay only for refurbishing and building new schools.  The RGJ story seemed a bit cagey to me because it began by telling of how the bonding potential had risen so that the District would now be able to generate more money to fund the building projects.

Back on what I have come to learn is called the “jump page,” several pages into the newspaper where stories are continued, the article began to discuss the fact that the projected costs for the building projects had risen by 40 to 50 percent.

I sent the blog piece to Dennis Meyers, my favorite journalist in our region, and he decided to mention me in the article he wrote about this subject.

Reno News and Review article on rising WC1 costs

Thank you Dennis for giving my concerns a more public airing!

Special Privileges for Religious Organizations and Individuals Because of their Religion but No Protection for Those Who Are Not Religious or Do Not Behave in Accordance with the Beliefs of the Religious.


Link to 20 “principles” guiding Jeff Session’s “thinking.”


When Trump took office, I put out several notes on this site and on social media regarding what was being planned by the Trump people to maximize religious freedom for the religious while taking freedoms away from those do not conform to the expectations of certain others who might use religious claims to interfere with the rights of non-believers or believers in something other than what some religious people would rather they believe in and act in accordance with,

That is one hell of a sentence, I know, but I do not have another way of explaining what the meaning of Session’s recent Justice Department pronouncement on what he calls “religious freedom.”  It deserves a reading, a fairly careful one so Session’s attempts at caginess are not missed.  Now, the government will bend over backwards to defend what it claims to be religious rights even if what is being established as religious right cancels out the secular rights that a sane reading of foundational documents provides ALL.

In Session’s idiotic interpretation of religious freedom, one can discriminate against others who are, by law, protected from particular kinds of discrimination by claiming the discrimination is base in religious belief, belief that does not have to be of or from any particular religion, or any religious teachings.  In essence, anyone can discriminate against anyone else even if law protects against such, by the discriminating person simply claiming that his or her beliefs necessitate such discrimination.

This is absolutely insane.  My religion, say, tells me that women and men should not work in close proximity so, it is my religious right to not hire women because men already work in my shop!  I do not need make reference to any teachings or authorities or even name the particular religion that prohibits men and women working together.  When it comes to showing cause, all I have to do is say “this is what I believe.”  Any prejudice, any bias can serve as reason for being unfair as long as I attribute it to my religion.

There is more there and most of it reflects a profound disrespect for individual freedoms under the law.  The Justice Department of the United States of America is making law that contradicts the letter and the intent of a Constitution that is intended to reflect in a code of law basic and natural rights that must, in a humane society, be afforded all.  Religion is protected but Constitutional law also protects the people from religion and it is the latter protection that Jeff Sessions, that nasty, hateful racist, is undermining to make lawful and the kinds of actions any good human who believe in democracy would find abhorrent.


Cultural offensiveness

I am still wrestling in my mind with my own posts concerning what I called cultural cleansing because I do understand that reminders of an ugly history remind those at whom the ugliness was directed of the offensive acts and of the attitudes and belief systems that inspired those acts.  But then, to be reminded and remain angry is important if the attitudes and beliefs are still alive and the acts against those offended and affected still occur though usually in a more covert manner.  Racism still exists and those who are its target continue to suffer.  American society is far from rid of racism and overt symbols of it do remind some not to get too comfortable with the “progress we have made” because to do so would ignore those who still are harmed by it.

Perhaps what should be done is to do what Oliver suggested, not in museums but on the monuments where they currently sit, put one them placards that explain the acts of those depicted, their attitudes and beliefs and what acceptance by large numbers of Americans of their attitudes, beliefs, and actions means for America, its past, present, and future.  The fact that these monuments were erected, that they were placed where they stand, that they were built to show appreciation for those beliefs and attitudes and actions, such aspects of their existence explained just might cause those encountering them to feel a proper degree of shame.

Cultural Cleansing and Jon Oliver

Interestingly, the big issue on Jon Oliver’s show tonight was the Confederate monuments and his take was that monuments honor that depicted by the monument and, therefore, should be taken down, placed in museums if we want to deal with them properly, affixing to them explanations of what they mean and/or should mean.

I say this, that they should be allowed to stand where they are because what they really say is something very important about the society that built them and placed them where they stand and if some celebrate the persons and/or events depicted, there is made apparent a critical problem that is about our now as much as the then in which they were erected: the public is incapable of understanding the real meaning of its heritage and that ignorance that existed then and, obviously, still exists now that causes some to understand the significance of these statues historically and the significance of our history for today.

Let the monuments stand and teach what needs to be taught so that at some point the ugliness that is represented in the existence of these pieces will be recognized for what it is, ugliness, and that ugliness will be tackled in a meaningful way, by ridding people of it, by building a public that is thoughtful and humane to the point where none will see glory in those ugly people and the events they in which they participated.

To get rid of them now is to forget too soon and to forget, like it or not, is to forgive.