Friday, February 15, 2019

Annals of Public Education

This particular sixth grade math class has had three, maybe four teachers, and they know I'm a sub. They're out for blood. They're drunk with power, knowing that if twenty two of them talk at once, what can I do? Keep them all in for lunch detention? Write all their parents?

The district has trouble finding math teachers, and it's not just subs when things fall apart early in the semester. It's right at the beginning, when someone is supposed to sign up for nine months of teaching these little monsters. The kids are actually quite innocent when they arrive, but they work themselves up into a frenzy of hormones when they sense weakness or lack of authority. And, they don't like math. They've had poor math education in the elementaries, and they know it's their weakness. They don't necessarily buy our pleas that it's important for their future. Or, they just get caught up in the fun of beating a sub.

"They're good kids," some people say, but the side I've seen of them hasn't been good. I've seen them using lotion as a weapon; taking little blocks out of a game and throwing them; crumpling up paper and throwing it at each other; leaving so much marker on a seat that other kids get their clothes marked; having to go to the restroom because their face is marked up, or their clothes, or there's lotion in their hair or hands, or any of various problems. They are certainly not doing their math homework. They don't know from averages. They can't answer simple questions. One can't read their handwriting. Their numbers don't make any sense, or, are copied from their friends, or both.

You may think all this is my fault, that perhaps I'm not stern enough for them. Yes, I guess that's true. I've been as mean as I could be, and it wasn't mean enough. I yelled and screamed, but they threw a little block at me when I turned my back. They stood on tables, and wrote on all the boards. They took whole boxes of kleenex out of the cupboards when I turned my back.

I'm too old for this, I might say. They don't think I'll make it, so they haven't given me the keys to the Synergy, or grading program. Without power over their grades, I'm just a sub - why should they listen? And, I have jury duty on Tuesday. Maybe I'll get a break from the whole ordeal.

Sixth grade math is not that hard. It forces them to think, though, and they've developed a resistance to that. They're too busy talking to think. They might be able to think at home, or maybe in a room with another teacher. At the moment, though, it's all-out war.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

In welding shop, with sexy hoe

Thursday, November 08, 2018

NM-2 One more update

Miracle of miracles, the last 8,000 votes were counted, and put Xochitl Small Torres on top. She beat Yvette Harrell by less than 2000 votes, but more than a razor-thin margin that would require a recount. She won and she's going to Washington.

This will make New Mexico entirely blue, in governor, two senators, and three congresspeople; it makes our congressional delegation the first to be all "people of color."

This sudden turnaround has gone somewhat unnoticed in the press. We found out from the Las Cruces Sun News, and the New York Times picked it up, but it went virtually unnoticed on politico or other sites that we follow. A turn of a seat is usually news, at least on the day it happens, but this wasn't - far overshadowed by the firing of Sessions, etc. The dust settles on the southern desert, and we have a Democratic congressperson, but the world goes on. I haven't heard either of their names mentioned at all today or yesterday.

I find New Mexico to be polite in a genteel, kind of southern way. A lot of the people say "y'all" and they don't call each other by first names for a long time, long after meeting, only with permission, etc., as is an old Hispanic custom. That's why they don't talk politics much. You have to get to know someone; you can't go around disagreeing with each other. It disrupts the harmony and the general rhythm of life.

Their margin was less than 1%, and I think on some level people won't forget. Two more years, and it'll be a whole new game. My own guess is that two more years and we'll be hurting economically; tariffs will have sunk in, and T will be mired in a corrupt and ineffective administration. The battle we are preparing for is the release of Mueller's report, but there will be more; the ever-shifting line, marking the center of American politics, will move one direction or another.

I find it very noteworthy that it landed here, in southern New Mexico, where ranchers share a sparse landscape with old Mexican-American families and an occasional set of young folks who move in for the same reason they've occupied Colorado, Arizona, and Montana. Really the ranchers dominate, but, in our case, we have a thousand mile border and this issue of $45 mil/foot wall. You'd think they'd welcome the jobs, but we don't; New Mexico's senators were the only ones, besides Kamala Harris, who voted against the wall. My own feeling about it is that walls will be outdated with the arrival of drones (which are already here) and since you'll need drone protection anyway, forget the wall and put it all into drones. A wall would be an utter waste of $45 mil/foot.

Or whatever. The price keeps going up, on account of the tariffs.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

NM-2 update

Our race was very close. A normally very conservative district, the vast majority ranchers, almost flipped blue, but the Democratic candidate, Xochitl Small-Torres, ended up losing barely to Yvette Harrell, Republican, by about 1900 votes. The last I heard, there were a few thousand left to count, all in Dona Ana County, Xochitl's stronghold, but I would think it would be unlikely that they'd count a few thousand, and have them all go to her. I think it's over. And I think you could point to a number of reasons she was unable to flip it.

The first was a merciless television campaign. Harrell got the support of a wealthy national organization that funded television ads for R candidates in crucial districts, and they flooded the airwaves. People in my hometown thought Xochitl would take their guns (not true), that she would do whatever Pelosi says (not true), that she would vote against Social Security (where this came from, I still don't know). Nationally, they had figured out what people's hot buttons were, and pressed them. It was undeniable that she came from a liberal, community activist (water-rights oriented) background, and they pushed that too, as if that were some kind of liability. Most important, the Trump base was energized; they all came out to vote. They were aware of the "blue wave," well afraid of its consequences, and they were all there on election day.

I generalize these reasons, and say, it probably happened all over the country. Record turnout at the polls. Highly motivated voters on both sides. Increasingly contentious and polarized electorate. More money pumped into the propaganda machine than ever. And the Republicans, by and large, are better at that than the Dems.

Frankly, I thought that Hispanic turnout would be more than it was. We live on the border, with a huge population of Hispanics in every county, particularly in the towns, like Roswell, Alamogordo, Carlsbad, and Socorro, but also in the smaller places along the border and over by the bootheel. the eastern part of the state has seen an oil boom, in places like Artesia, Hobbs, and Jal, and those towns are very conservative, I assume because they believe Trump is good for the industry. It's not clear to me whether there was record turnout in the oil districts, or, if increased Hispanic turnout would be good for the Dems; a surprising number of Hispanics are very conservative, and abandoned the Dems a few years back. I'm still studying the results in this area.

Nationally, I have few things to be happy about. I'm glad Scott Walker is out of there. The Iowa Nazi won another term but Iowa itself shifted more to the blue. A congressman I detest in my home district of Illinois won one more time. This time the Green influence hardly mattered. An interesting local race saw the candidacy of Gary Johnson, Libertarian, not make much difference. He got maybe 20% of the vote, and one could argue that most of it came from the red side, but the reds lost by about thirty anyway, so I don't think they're too mad at him. Most of New Mexico has gone blue, and the big news in the far west is that Arizona, Nevada, and even Montana are going that direction as well. It's a new dawn, with only Utah and Texas still staunchly in the red column, and it's possible to question even Texas. Things can happen, and it might be interesting in 2020.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Rise of Nazism II

I know two people who fell for the general resurgence of white nationalism as represented by the swastika, or the general blaming of Jews for problems of the white culture, or the nation, in this case the USA. I should say that there are plenty of white nationalists who are not Nazis, i.e. don't specifically blame Jews for everything, yet still attracted to the rigid order presented by a guy like Trump. There are also people who blame Jews for everything, i.e. Palestinians and Palestinian supporters, who are not so rigid in their idea of how a government should look, but who are simply anti-Zionist or firmly against the Israeli state.

But these two acquaintances give some idea of why we occasionally see the swastika these days: underground, of course, but spreading like a disease. You want to bring back Hitler? Simply kill people that aren't like you? That idea is not as unacceptable as it used to be. It's possible to say and think all kinds of stuff.

The first swastika I saw was on the site of a distant relative. He's white, uneducated, in sorry shape; in short, a kind of person who has fallen out of the system as we know it, with not much chance of making it. I don't know him well, not at all in fact, but that's all I know about him. How could he put that on his site? It was on a knife, as part of a picture of his dinner, but the message was clear: he's reaching for the times of Hitler. He's not ashamed to show that, or let us know.

The second is a guy I knew through Quakerism. He was a more complex case; he had joined the army, come back, sought out Buddhism and Quakerism both as ways to curtail the rage inside him. Who was he mad at? In the end he blamed the Jews. He just took on this whole conspiracy idea, that there are Jews among us, who want us to fall into decadence and dissension, who are behind everything from gay marriage (control of Hollywood) to the Democratic Party (George Soros, or whoever). I find this kind of thing unacceptable, but I kept him on my facebook; facebook itself would remove him occasionally, as he would forward things that were blatantly race-baiting, provocative, and untrue. He seemed to be attracted to the idea that the culture was crumbling, and something within it was at fault. That to be strong, and survive, we must seek our own tribe of like others.

White nationalism takes a different form in Europe, where each country has a distinct white identity, separate from the others, and takes measures to limit the degree that that identity can be compromised racially. In the US it's always been more of an open question; this place wasn't white originally, and was established on the idea that others could come here, as we, the white Europeans did. So there's a much more realistic chance that the white majority will cease to be a majority, and whites are seeing their majority slip away at every turn. Thus the popularity of a guy like Trump, who, in spite of his corruption and every other problem, turns around and curses the caravan, or even pays the caravan to keep walking, so he can win re-election. He stokes the white nationalist flames, and can't even say anything bad about a guy who walks into a temple and shoots people. He won't rally the country against white nationalism, or its rise, as he represents it, in a very direct way. He doesn't wear the swastika. But it doesn't matter; everyone knows what he represents.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

weblogs as a network

All these years, I've been using these weblogs. One reason I keep using them is that they are useful to me, in organizing my thoughts, in getting ready for a writing project, etc. Late at night, I'm tired, I want to write but am drained of creativity, I'll write on my personal weblog. I do something professional, and want to keep track of it, I put it here; this is where I keep track of various language-related interests. Recently I've gotten more alarmed about the downfall of the country, and I've put that here too.

They had another purpose, though, and that was to sell my books, or put my name out there. This has not worked. Or at least, it hasn't sold any books to speak of. It could be that you have to have thousands and thousands of views before people actually click on "buy," but in any case, they haven't made it to the last step; maybe I'm a crappy writer. Or it could be that weblogs tend to be a backwater of the web, and, if you don't keep "refreshing" them, they get even more so. Why should Google put them up on the search pages?

In the publishing business, I have another weakness; I publish only on Amazon, and have not really sought out other venues or ways to sell things. Amazon has millions of titles, and mine, selling as little as they do, are way down in the vast uncharted bottom of the sea. I thought I could use these weblogs to advertise a little, but here I have two new releases on Audible; I have a facebook page, an Amazon page and a Twitter, and still, I'm in some backwater. Either I'm a sucky writer, and everyone's figured that out, or, you have to pay some real money to get real people to see you. I don't know, really. My son has a YouTube channel; he makes plenty of money; I'm jealous, and still, I sit over here wondering if I'll ever get "discovered." It could be that I have only my own stubbornness to blame. Or it could be, I should just be more of an instagram poet.

But meanwhile, the weblogs have a steady trickle of traffic. My personal one leads (1094 visits/mo.), followed by this one (943), and the link-haiku e pluribus haiku (489). Music (363) and poetry (341) follow. Five more are over a hundred: boxcars (268), quakers (269), lubbock (247), ESL closet (216) and folk tales (169). I don't know if being over a hundred qualifies for anything. My sense is that maybe I have to push a little to get them to go anywhere.

They get stale; I go months, or even years, and don't touch them. When I get back up there I see an e pluribus haiku ad, outdated, maybe six or seven years old even. I don't have a regular system for updating them, and as a result, they get kind of ignored in the shuffle. I was looking through them in doing this research, and there was one I'd forgotten I had.

When I'm on my own, I do them mostly for my own gratification. If all they do is represent my current interests, or in the case of my personal weblog, my current rambling thoughts, love for family, nostalgia, etc., then at least it's all here, uploaded, and when the computer crashes, it's still here. I'm kind of organized on the blogspot. It's got everything I've thought and done, everything that's important to me. On that level, it doesn't matter if anyone sees them.

On the other hand, if you need 10,000 views to get one "click" or "like" or "buy," then I'd better get going, and in any case, it wouldn't hurt to have a little upgrade.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Rise of Nazism

The shooting in Pittsburgh hit close to home, because I used to live in Squirrel Hill, the neighborhood of Pittsburgh where it took place. I lived there only a summer, as I was staying with my brother (who lived there perhaps five or six years), but I remember clearly the people, Jews and others, who called the place home. The rise of Nazism means everyone becomes overly conscious of their identity, racial, biological, clan-associated, or whatever. If you're Jewish, you have to worry about your safety as you attend your temple or synagogue. I would think, if you're Muslim, same. Eventually you'll feel that way even if you go to a concert, or a bus station. Better take stock of the color of your skin, your background, your papers, etc., as somebody's watching and might just haul you off.

I track the rise of Nazism back to 9/11. People were electrified by the attack on the heart of our nation and they began to question whether it was ok to have diversity around, to let people in, to not fortify ourselves better against the scary violent world out there. Let's not confuse Nazism, which I take to mean absolute rule that tends to blame Jews for all our problems, and a more general tribalism, which is not anti-Semitic so much as just pro-white or pro- whatever group you happen to be born into. I see tribalism as taking over much of the world, with the Balkans first, eastern Europe, even central Europe, Brazil - it's a general trend everywhere. It makes people smaller, and makes them tend to close off from everyone they don't consider "one of them." And white folks in the USA are not the only ones guilty of it.

Nazism is a subset of tribalism, one where displaying the swastika is now a symbol of believing in killing Jews, getting rid of non-white people in an area, or preferring absolute rule by an iron-fisted steel-boot authority over the messiness of democracy or working together. We have the guns and the soldiers, we should just maybe use them? I think this underground rise of Nazi symbolism (it's still not considered acceptable to wear swastikas around, yet they have appeared in various places recently) is part of a deeper feeling among white folks that they're losing the ground beneath their feet, that the "white" country that they knew and loved might be slipping away from them. It's driven by fear. And that fear will get worse as Trump goes down: he loses elections, his corruption makes it impossible for him to stay in office, and the wheels of justice move in on him and his.

Trump himself is not overtly fascist, although he's shown contempt for democracy and the mechanisms the Constitution has set up to block absolutism or monarchy. He wants to use an executive order to remove birthright citizenship, but, if any president can by whim remove any law, what will happen with the next President? Or one who is similarly irresponsible on the left? Maybe the "coming out" of swastikas is not his fault, but in the sharp veer toward despotism it is clearly visible in the mirror. After Charlottesville he says, there are good people on both sides. Yes, and all kinds of good people were complicit in the Holocaust that killed seven million. They were ok people, and they sat around and lived their lives, and said nothing, and the smell of furnaces was right across the valley.