Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bye, T.I.

To be honest, I'm pooped. Not sure if there will be a lot of posting today. But Sunday, yo, I'll be back on my grizzly.

In the meantime, here's a memory of better days for T.I. as he prepares for a year-and-a-day stint in federal prison.

Here's to hoping sunny skies, gentle Gulf breezes and 80-degree weather can help shake me out of this malaise. Continue Reading »

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Real Road to Recovery

Instead of just saying "no," Congressional Republicans have finally offered a budget alternative. You're not going to believe this, but they're suggesting more tax cuts, eliminating wasteful spending and paying off the national debt.

Shocking, I know.

Nate Silver got an advance copy of this "Road to Recovery" budget, which includes a few more specifics since they initially left out things like numbers and budget estimates. Take a gander:

Continue Reading »

Real March Madness

Or more like February Foolishness.

No one has ever been quite like John Chaney. I miss having him around. John Calipari could probably live without him.

Continue Reading »

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In search of Eunice Chantilly

I'm almost certain that I have seen every episode of The Cosby Show.

Which makes me believe that, for whatever reason, the show's producers never bothered casting an actress for the role of Eunice Chantilly, Cliff Huxtable's old high school girlfriend and Claire's apparent nemesis.

I'm a little late on this, I know. But I have a suggestion for them:

You telling me that the Jackée Harry couldn't play a woman who was once a 17-year-old ninth-grader? I think not.

For it not to have happened, there must have been some beef between the Coz and Jackee in the '80s. What black actor or actress of note during that time didn't make some sort of guest appearance on The Cosby Show?

Either way, I think we were all denied a very special episode when Claire tried to cut a bitch. Too bad for us. Continue Reading »

Beyond the cage

Looking back on it all, it's not much of a surprise that any school run by Donald Moten would descend into virtual chaos.

In about five years under Moten, South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas faced allegations of grade changing, cheating on standardized tests and, most notably, pitting troubled students against each other in caged fights.

And it all makes sense when you take a look at his work history:

Moten was nearly 50 when he applied to DISD, but he listed a mere six years of work history on the application, even though the form instructs applicants to "Account for every year from high school graduation to present."

What did Moten omit from his work history? Well, his stint on the Dallas police force, for starters. It was a job that lasted only a few years, but was long enough for Moten to be involved in a fatal shooting of an elderly block captain and to later fake his own kidnapping.

... Now let's look a bit closer at the work history Moten did provide: A two-year stint at a Houston elementary school as a fifth-grade math/science teacher, and a four-year post teaching the same subjects at a Sherman middle school. That's it. A grand total of six years teaching experience. Why, exactly, did somebody at DISD look at that and see the skills necessary to be a principal of a large urban high school?

Good question.

When Moten was finally removed as principal of SOC in Sept. 2006, the school was rated "academically unacceptable" by the Texas Education Agency.

Among the reasons for the rating: only 25 percent of students passed both math and reading sections on Texas' standardized test for primary and secondary schools - 42 percent behind the state average; the average SAT score for students was 229 points lower than the state average; and only 7 percent of students were deemed prepared for higher education studies in English and language arts.

Sure, Moten wasn't responsible for all of these problems. But the school certainly didn't make many - if any - strides under his leadership. Well, except for basketball.

If anything, Moten's hiring at South Oak Cliff is more an indictment of the Dallas school district than Moten himself.

Again, how does an underqualified candidate like Moten wind up at a school where 68 percent of the students are economically disadvantaged, 79.4 percent are deemed "at-risk," and the student-teacher ratio was well above the state average? Wouldn't a school like SOC need an especially bright, dynamic and experienced principal to have hope of improving such a dismal situation?

Kent Fischer of The Dallas Morning News brings it home:

Some folks will probably wonder why we should even bother asking these questions. Moten is gone from the district. The cage fights are a thing of the past. SOC's new principal has the school on the upswing.

All true. But the fact that DISD is still, today, cleaning up Moten's messes is reason enough to ask how it was that he landed here in the first place.

Having lived in Dallas for three years and the Dallas-Fort Worth area for eight, I'm pretty familiar with the area and SOC. And reading about all of this - from Moten's work history all the way up to the cage fights - makes me plenty mad.

Many of those kids in that neighborhood - a pretty rough section of Dallas - are already behind the eight-ball before they ever step foot on the SOC campus. And they don't need people, particularly school administrators who are supposed to know better, making things even more difficult.

It goes without saying that those kids, their parents and the community deserved much better leadership than they received.
Continue Reading »

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Deep Thought

Maybe Chuck Todd is right. Maybe Americans haven't sacrificed enough. Continue Reading »

The war against workers

According to a recent undercover investigation, the Labor Department was also part and parcel of the "obstruction caucus" against workers' rights:

In a report scheduled to be released Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office found that the agency, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, had mishandled 9 of the 10 cases brought by a team of undercover agents posing as aggrieved workers.

In one case, the division failed to investigate a complaint that under-age children in Modesto, Calif., were working during school hours at a meatpacking plant with dangerous machinery, the G.A.O., the nonpartisan auditing arm of Congress, found.

When an undercover agent posing as a dishwasher called four times to complain about not being paid overtime for 19 weeks, the division’s office in Miami failed to return his calls for four months, and when it did, the report said, an official told him it would take 8 to 10 months to begin investigating his case.

Seems to me that now would be a good time to make it clear which public officials support workers, and which don't. Continue Reading »

Memory Lane

Do not seek financial advice from this man.

Continue Reading »

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The most dangerous place in the world

Might be Somalia:

Somalia won independence in 1960, but it quickly became a Cold War pawn, prized for its strategic location in the Horn of Africa, where Africa and Asia nearly touch. First it was the Soviets who pumped in weapons, then the United States. A poor, mostly illiterate, mainly nomadic country became a towering ammunition dump primed to explode. The central government was hardly able to hold the place together. Even in the 1980s, Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre, the capricious dictator who ruled from 1969 to 1991, was derisively referred to as “the mayor of Mogadishu” because so much of the country had already spun out of his control.

When clan warlords finally ousted him in 1991, it wasn’t much of a surprise what happened next. The warlords unleashed all that military-grade weaponry on each other, and every port, airstrip, fishing pier, telephone pole—anything that could turn a profit—was fought over. People were killed for a few pennies. Women were raped with impunity. The chaos gave rise to a new class of parasitic war profiteers gunrunners, drug smugglers, importers of expired (and often sickening) baby formula—people with a vested interest in the chaos continuing.

Somalia became the modern world’s closest approximation of Hobbes’s state of nature, where life was indeed nasty, brutish, and short. To call it even a failed state was generous. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a failed state. So is Zimbabwe. But those places at least have national armies and national bureaucracies, however corrupt. Since 1991, Somalia has not been a state so much as a lawless, ungoverned space on the map between its neighbors and the sea.

What I find interesting is that, according to this essay, nearly everytime the U.S. has intervened in the affairs of the country, things seem to worsen at a rate proportional to our involvement.

After our most recent interference, when the Bush administration handed guns to the the Ethiopian army, we've now reached a point where Ethiopia and neighboring country Eritrea seemed poised for another chaotic and deadly border war:

If the Shabab, which boasts Eritrean support, took over Somalia, we might indeed see round two of Ethiopia versus Eritrea. The worst-case scenario could mean millions of people displaced across the entire region, crippled food production, and violence-induced breaches in the aid pipeline. In short, a famine in one of the most perennially needy parts of the world—again.

The hardest challenge of all might be simply preventing the worst-case scenario.

That leaves me with a question: what, if anything, is our nation's responsibility in such a scenario? Is it possible for the U.S. to do something other than deepen the suffering there?

History would suggest not.
Continue Reading »

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hear Lo

Apropos of nothing really, Cee-Lo's verse from "Fly Away" on Goodie Mob's second album Still Standing:

Well, I'm from the dirty, filthy nasty dirty South
Some of you niggaz still think we soft (know they do)
And I swore, I wouldn't never write no rhyme like this
But now you're startin to piss me off, ha ha hah
Oh yesh y'all, Sugah he got that silky Southern drawl
Every tooth in my mouth, got gold on em' all
I'm 'eal strong, and we don't want no bad blood
But it is some, it is some
Nigga think he gotta, better mind frame then me
Nigga really think he got mo' game then me?
Gon' make me sick, they gon' think you slick
But fuck around and make me click like a magic trick, ha ha hah
Cause I'll prove your ass wrong bout me
We so deep and quick to stomp a nigga to sleep
And, uh, we dont' like to kill, but we will
Oh Lord this South is sho' nuff trill, now shit
When we on your side of town, we don't ask why
We abide by the rules that y'all live by
And see, you're welcome to come, you're welcome to stay
But any disrespect, we WILL make yo' ass fly away

For some reason, I needed that today. More a little later ... I'm in a bit of a crunch at work. When I get the time, I want to share a story about the time I actually met Cee-Lo in person.
Continue Reading »

Sunday, March 22, 2009


There's not many of us who fall into that category. And the least of those are the crooks and scam-artists and half-wits who created this deepening financial crisis.

So if they believe they need million-dollar "retention" bonuses to fix the mess they created, I say let them walk. We really can't afford the expertise they have to offer.

With that in mind, Kevin Drum points us to Charles de Gaulle:

“The cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men.”
Here, I'll go one better - Albert Einstein:

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
I find it highly unlikely that the only people who can rescue our sagging economy - AIG, for example - are the same ones who ran it into the ground.

For years, even decades, they've done an admirable job of bullying the American public into believing in the collective power of their financial genius. They could handle all the heavy lifting when it comes to futures or derivatives or stock options, we should just nod our heads and pass the collection plate.

And in theory, that makes sense.

What could Main Street know about our financial gears and levers and pulleys that Wall Street didn't? We were talking about business school stars, the best and brightest of our top colleges. People like me, well, I'm just a journalism graduate and something other than gifted when it comes to complex financial matters. They were the rightful gatekeepers of the American economy.

Except they weren't. Hilzoy explains:

A couple of years ago, it would have been hyperbole to suggest that we would all be better off if the senior executives at all our major financial firms were people picked entirely at random out of the phone book. Now, it's arguably true. People picked at random would, admittedly, be likely not to have been to business school. They might not know a lot about futures or derivatives or put options. But so what? At least they might have been more likely to know that they were clueless, and a few of them might have had the common sense to ask questions like: will housing prices really go up indefinitely?

In any case, what's the worst they could have done? Bankrupted their companies with ludicrously risky gambles that fell apart once markets went south? Destroyed trillions of dollars in value? Brought the world financial system to the brink of collapse? Left taxpayers across the globe on the hook for trillions of dollars Bankrupted entire countries?

Oh, right.

Right. Save it.

Everything they own in a box. To the left. To the left. Continue Reading »

Not fulfilling the dream

Via Dr. Saturday, Florida Rep. Corrine Brown:

The player's name is Percy Harvin. And why is she wearing that robe? Continue Reading »