T is for teachers taking action

There has been a tidal wave of teachers taking action in the the United States in 2018. Strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and for the first time ever, in Arizona have made headlines. Educators in the Grand Canyon State, many of whom are Republicans, believe it’s time to raise taxes.

The actions are not limited to teacher salaries but for money for supplies and equipment. This CNN article lays out the issue:

“Inadequate education funding has created the conditions that make teaching the daily struggle that has finally drawn teachers and families to the picket lines: unmanageable class sizes, inadequate resources and facilities, cuts to essential medical and mental-health school services and more…

“To be sure, teacher salaries are also a significant concern: US teachers are paid 30% less on average than other college graduates, and in most states, the average teacher heading a family of four qualifies for several forms of government assistance… According to the Economic Policy Institute, US teachers’ wages have declined relative to those of other college-educated workers since the early 1990s, when they were at their most competitive — and when teacher attrition was much lower than it is today.”

Of course, strategies to discredit teacher strikes have been developed. The “manual” to smear the strikers include “teacher strikes hurt kids and low-income families,” even though students have often supported their teachers’ position

I found this 2014 article Why Aren’t All Teachers Covered By Social Security? I contacted an author of the original report who notes the data statewide are still accurate, though there are some states where charter schools are allowed to opt out that would then be enrolled in Social Security.

A new Rockefeller Institute report highlights equity gap in New York teacher Workforce. “It found no statewide teacher shortage in New York, but school districts with high poverty rates and minority student populations are more likely to face challenges in recruiting and retaining qualified teachers.”


Here’s something from 1855 in Binghamton, NY, a cellphone picture off a microfilm because the print function was not working. It’s a recruitment flyer to get more teachers, and indicates the skills necessary for the task.

Finally, here are some teacher-created, classroom-tested lesson plans using primary sources from the Library of Congress.

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EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

If you’ve done business online in any capacity, you’ve probably gotten a notice, or several, that your software vendor/credit card provider, et al, has a new user privacy policy and/or terms of use. Here’s one from Bluehost that I just received. This has taken place to address the new standards introduced through the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a new European data protection law.

I have blogged about it a few times in our work blog.

Still, what does it MEAN if one is not in the European Union? Specifically, what should an American small business do to become GDPR compliant? It reminds me a little about the fears surrounding Y2K in terms of a lot of concerns but not always a clear course of action.

What I DO know I’ve purloined from various websites:

The GDPR is a new comprehensive data protection law that updates existing EU laws to strengthen the protection of personal data in light of rapid technological developments, the increasingly global nature of business and more complex international flows of personal data. The GDPR replaces the current patchwork of national data protection laws with a single set of rules, directly enforceable in each EU member state. The GDPR takes effect on May 25, 2018.

The GDPR provides EU residents with control over their personal data, such as the right to:
#Access information about how personal data is used – info regarding processing must be provided in a concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form
#Access personal data held by an organization – a company’s processing of personal data must be lawful and where it is based on consent, the consent must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous
#Have the purpose for which data is collected be specified, explicit and legitimate
#Have data be processed in a way that ensures appropriate security of the personal data
#Have incorrect personal data deleted or corrected; data must be accurate and kept up-to-date
#Have personal data rectified and erased in certain circumstances (sometimes referred to as the “right to be forgotten”)
#Restrict or object to automated processing of personal data – only data relevant for the purpose laid out can be collected and processed
#Receive a copy of personal data

You can find out more about it by going to the EU GDPR website: www.eugdpr.org. It notes: “The GDPR not only applies to organisations located within the EU but it will also apply to organisations located outside of the EU if they offer goods or services to, or monitor the behaviour of, EU data subjects. It applies to all companies processing and holding the personal data of data subjects residing in the European Union, regardless of the company’s location.”

I’ve tasked myself to try to figure out how this change would affect small US businesses. If you have more insight, such as a game plan that is NOT written in bureaucratese, PLEASE let me know!

“God is a capitalist” and other heresy

While I tend to believe in the broad diversity of expression within the Christian church, and honor it as a good thing, occasionally I find a version so utterly toxic that it irritates me greatly.

Such was the case when I read about weekly Bible studies held by members of the regime’s Cabinet.

“Ralph Drollinger’s own ministry declared him ‘not biblically qualified for spiritual leadership.’ And yet, he leads the… study group, organized by Vice President Pence and faithfully attended by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, CIA Director [now Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, among others.”

The Message is that
Governments and leaders “must send a constant message that sin will be punished”
Entitlement programs have no “biblical authority”
Liberal Christians aren’t really Christians, they’re “simpletons”
Catholicism is “one of the primary false religions in the world”
“Radical environmentalism” is a “false religion”
“God only hears the prayers of leaders and citizens who are upright, who live righteously through faith in Jesus Christ”
“God is a capitalist” and because of excessive environmental regulations in the U.S. “the economic benefits God intends from private property ownership have been greatly diminished”
“Righteous” people with government positions should not “compromise Biblical absolutes” and should hire only other “righteous” people

I could argue against each of these, some on First Amendment grounds, others as gross distortions of Biblical scholarship, but suffice to say that the exclusivity of this mindset of the faith I find disturbing.

Oh, and Franklin Graham states that Trump stopped sinning when he became President. I was looking up the Ten Commandments. There’s one that reads: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” Given his propensity for prevarication, one must assume that he has sinned at LEAST once in the last 15 months.

Meanwhile, lame-duck Speaker of the House Paul Ryan forced out House chaplain Patrick Conroy, though he was soon reinstated. Daily Kos cheekily wrote, it was reportedly for being way too Christian, unprecedented in House history in the middle of a session.

“In the prayer he gave back in November on the first day of the mark-up of the tax scam bill [he] gently nudged members to think about the meek.

“‘May all Members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great Nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.'”

Speaking truth to power – wasn’t that part of Jesus’ message? On this day of Pentecost, which makes the church the church, it will be interesting to watch which strains of the faith are considered genuine over time. I certainly have MY theories.

Music throwback: No More Tearstained Makeup

Before Motown artists Martha and the Vandellas made it big, they sang background vocals on several of Marvin Gaye’s hits. Martha Reeves worked as a Motown secretary. They experienced major success in the first half of the 1960s with Dancing in the Streets and their signature hit, Heat Wave.

Watchout!, released in 1966, is the fourth studio album and fifth album overall by the trio, and oddly the only one I own (present tense, in vinyl). The group at that point was Martha Reeves on lead vocals, Rosalind Ashford, and Betty Kelly, who replaced Annette Beard in 1963.

You can tell that the label had already decided I’m Ready for Love was going to be the hit, based on the different colored lettering on the record jacket. Jimmy Mack, though, was just about as big, and the one I remember more fondly. Both songs were written by the legendary Holland/Dozier/Holland songwriting team, who also created hits for the Supremes and Four Tops, who would leave Motown shortly thereafter.

Still, my favorite song on the album was the non-single No More Tearstained Make Up, written by the incomparable William (Smokey) Robinson. It’s the second verse that really nailed me:

Like a storm my tears have rained
since your shirt was lipstick-stained
and the stains that it contained were not my color.
No sponge has quite the power
to absorb the constant shower
of the tears pancake and powder could never cover.
But today as I look in the mirror
I see things a whole lot clearer.

Elvis Costello is also a fan of the song.

Listen to No More Tearstained Makeup
original here or here
a slower version, not used here
someone’s extended play here
Marvelettes cover (1970) here

Listen to
I’m Ready for Love, #2 soul, #9 pop in 1966 here or here
Jimmy Mack, #1 soul, #10 pop in 1967 here or here

Sister Marcia and her contribution to the genealogy talk

Even though she hasn’t been to our hometown of Binghamton, NY in over a decade, my sister Marcia has contributed mightily to the genealogy talk our cousin Lisa presented recently.

Lisa spoke at the Broome County Area History Conference on April 21 at the Bundy Museum. She came all the way from Washington, DC to introduce two families, one Black and one Jewish, which my wife, daughter and I attended.

As she wrote in the precis, our “second great grandfather, James A. Archer, a free Black man who, along with two other family members, fought in the Civil War. They survived and returned to Binghamton to raise families and start businesses.” In part because of other photos Marcia put online, Lisa was able to ascertain that the post-Civil War photo I’ve posted to this blog included not only James Archer, but the brothers of his wife, Harriet Bell Archer.

“In the late 1800’s the Archer family purchased a house on Maple Street, which became a hub of family activity for several generations to come.” That was the house my grandmother and mother grew up in.”

She also told about her great grandparents, Isaac and Sarah Berman, who were born in Latvia and Lithuania, emigrated, first to Denmark then to the US in 1913 and settled in Binghamton. Isaac “started an egg business that eventually turned into a trucking company that was the first to offer overnight service from the Triple Cities to Boston.

“Both families grew and in 1937, the two came together with the marriage of Ernest Archer Yates and Charlotte Berman, my grandparents, who faced their own challenges as an interracial couple.” Ernie was my grandma’s brother and Charlotte the third child of Isaac and Sarah.

This picture also came from Marcia’s collection, with Ernie and Charlotte together in the back row, my mother’s arm on Ernie’s shoulder. Given the presence of three of their four children, I peg the photo in 1945 or 1946. Someone in the audience knew Charlotte from her time in Binghamton before 1954, when she and the children moved to Queens, NYC after Ernie died unexpectedly.

When Lisa came to Binghamton, she had to take a detour off Front Street onto Gaines Street and pass another Archer property at 5 Gaines Street, where MY nuclear family lived in the 1950s and 1960s.

So Marcia, even though she was far away, was an important part of Lisa’s presentation. Happy birthday, baby sister.

What and why IS Armed Forces Day?

As a guy who loves celebrating holidays, I must nevertheless admit that I had had no idea what Armed Forces Day was, distinct from Memorial Day and Veterans Day, though I saw it on my calendar each year. And I never even thought much about it until very recently.

From TimeAndDate:

“On August 31, 1949, Louis Johnson, who was the United States’ Secretary of Defense, announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days. The event stemmed from the armed forces’ unification under one department – the Department of Defense. The Army, Navy and Air Force leagues adopted the newly formed day. The Marine Corps League declined to drop support for Marine Corps Day but supports Armed Forces Day too.”

Okay, so Memorial Day honors the war dead, and Veterans Day commemorates, well, military veterans.

“Armed Forces Day was a day for the military to show ‘state-of-the-art’ equipment to Americans. It was also a day to honor and acknowledge Americans in the armed forces. Parades, open houses, receptions and air shows were held at the inaugural Armed Forces Day.” It is celebrated on the third Saturday of May. It is also part of Armed Forces Week, which begins on the second Saturday of May.

Ah, so like that expensive parade scheduled in November that kind of remind me of the Soviet Union or North Korea? And how are we supposed to treat military contractors such as Halliburton, who made nearly $40 million from the Iraq war?

MilitaryInfo adds:

“Since Armed Forces Day is not a federal holiday, many military installations are available for public viewing for those wishing to take part in the celebration or to learn more about our country’s military. Some other ways to celebrate the special occasion include wearing red, white and blue; flying the American Flag, talking with or writing to a military member, donating to military-based organizations, or sending care packages for those serving overseas.”

About three dozen other countries have Armed Services Day, though not at the same time: June 30 in the United Kingdom, October 6 in Egypt. Here are some other dates.

Admittedly, I struggle with militarism, big time. I worry about what President Eisenhower, a former general, called the military industrial complex, “what Eisenhower called a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions… we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence… The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

May rambling: Red-Eyed Tree Frogs

Change Can Happen Faster Than You Think

Sierra Club secures 24,000 pages of EPA emails, calls logs, and documents which expose the culture of corruption in and around Scott Pruitt

NYSUT congratulates Albany Med nurses on the decision to unionize

Waging Peace: Two Billboards Outside Albany, New York

Speaking in Code: Two phrases that no longer mean what they used to

Roy Cohn, the Original Donald Trump

America’s Word is Worthless

‘Project Trumpmore’ to Carve President’s Face into Melting Iceberg

Federal Employees Face Cuts To Retirement Benefits And Pay Freezes

Cartoon: Circular Sarah

What ‘Daily Show’ host Trevor Noah means by ‘the 5:30 curse’

The point at which the US politics firmly pivoted toward the Right

It’s A Toxic Myth That Celibacy Makes Men Violent

Monica Lewinsky: What We All Can Learn from My Disinvitation Debacle

Ancient Mass Child Sacrifice May Be World’s Largest

Reply all: A telephone scammer makes a terrible mistake. He calls Alex Goldman

New Yorker cartoon: Late at night is my sacred time to catalog every single instance of when and how I am a terrible person

Is this the loneliest generation?

She was the first woman senator. Her term lasted exactly a day

Culture Cruise: ‘Homer’s Phobia’

Did Little Syria in Lower Manhattan Consist of Asian-Americans?

Their Ancestors Were on Opposite Sides of a Lynching. Now, They’re Friends

Free press: the future of Boulder, CO’s Daily Camera

The architecture of First Presbyterian Church in Albany, an article by Warren Roberts, who died this week, struck by two cars in Florida.

Science Marches On

Wait But Why: A thing happened while I was at the coffee shop

This Video is about Red-Eyed Tree Frogs? and How to Win

Ken Levine on the state of network TV

Internet Wading: The return

“Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!”

Why Whales Got So Big

Gone to the dogs

Names list offers origins, statistics and popularity rankings for people names

Now I Know: The Color Changing Building (and Democracy Experiment) and The Accident and the Musical Savant and Why Dippin’ Dots Never Became the Ice Cream of the Future and When the NBA Doubled Its Money and I Can’t Believe It’s All Butter

Magnolias In The Park

Credit and Debt Management

The Best Coffee in Every State

MUSIC

Confounds the Science – parody of Sound of Silence

My Last Day Without You – Nicole Behari

Dire Straits’ “Sultans Of Swing” Played on the Gayageum, a Korean Instrument Dating Back to the 6th Century

Birdsong – Kina Grannis

I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You – Louis Armstrong

I’m Not in Love – Don’s Mobile Barbers (UK surf act)

Slow Turning – John Hiatt

Coverville: 1215: Cover Stories for Adele and Captain & Tennille and 1216: The Irving Berlin Cover Story

Uptown Funk- Big Daddy

When I’m Sixty-Four -MonaLisa Twins

The Hamilton Polka – The Casts of Hamilton

Black Water – some Doobie Brothers and the Playing for Change Band

Riley B King – Keb’ Mo’

In The Mood – Henhouse Five Plus Two

Beatle For 13 Days

Hit Parade: The B-Sides Edition

Hey, 19, it’s anniversary

Like all good marriages, after 19 years, my wife and I have developed a division of labor. I know all the Cabinet secretaries in this administration, difficult because they’re so changeable. She knows what’s in our office secretary, amazing because I can’t find a damn thing.

I know all of the birthdays of the Beatles. She knows how much the mortgage payment is each month. (To be fair to me, the payment is made automatically from our bank account.)

I’m sure that I have inspired her interest in the areas of being aware of the news, of progressive causes, and the issue of inequity. She has pushed me to be more fiscally responsible; for good and ill, I wouldn’t own a house without her.

When went to see our investment adviser in 2017, she was excited and fascinated. Meanwhile, my eyed almost literally glazed over. But she helped point out that we were better off financially long term than I realized, hard to see when the day-to-day bills arrive.

This Blondie strip about housekeeping is absolutely true of her.

Sometimes, we get into that groove where one of us is talking and misspeaks, but the other one says, “Oh, I know what you mean.” This saves an inordinate amount of time.

We very seldom fight. I don’t know if that is a good thing or bad thing, but it is our modus operandi.

I see her family far more than I see mine. My nearest sister and niece are a thousand miles away and my parent are deceased. Meanwhile, her parents, a brother, sister-in-law and two nieces are less than 75 minutes from us. I used to be jealous, I suppose, but now I appreciate the comfort of the love from the in-laws, who are, to a person, generous of spirit.

I haven’t done the math precisely, but, at 19 years, I think we’ve been married longer than the length of time I went out with everyone else I ever dated, combined. Hmm.

When she goes out, she sometimes says “Don’t miss me too much.” I won’t as long as she come back.

S is for journalist George Seldes

Somehow, it wasn’t until the past few months that I heard of journalist George Seldes. This brief biography serves as a emphatic primer.

“The story of George Seldes is the story of the Twentieth Century. He has written 21 books and is the archetype of the independent and crusading journalist. He was a witness to and occasional participant in some of the most important events of this century.”

His interview with Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg, the supreme commander of the German Army during World War I was censored by the Allies. He reported from the Soviet Union for a year in 1922-23 until he was expelled “for not bowing to its censorship of the news.” He was also eventually bounced in Italy after reporting on the rise of Benito Mussolini. He witnessed the fascist dictatorship in Spain.

“Dissatisfied with censorship and the Right-wing bias of the American media,” Seldes and his wife Helen Larkin “started In Fact, the first publication in America solely devoted to press criticism. It was published from 1940 to 1950 and had a peak circulation of 176,000 before being Red-baited out of existence.”

From the Spartacus Educational bio: “One of the first articles published in the newsletter concerned the link between cigarette smoking and cancer. Seldes later explained that at the time, ‘The tobacco stories were suppressed by every major newspaper. For ten years we pounded on tobacco as being one of the only legal poisons you could buy in America.'”

I found his some of his observations, as noted in Wikiquotes appropriate today. “Never grow weary of protesting. In this sensitive business of dealing with the public which depends on faith and good will, protest is a most effective weapon. Therefore protest.” – Lords of the Press (1938)

And from the same source: “The failure of a free press in most countries is usually blamed on the readers. Every nation gets the government—and the press—it deserves. This is too facile a remark. The people deserve better in most governments and press. Readers, in millions of cases, have no way of finding out whether their newspapers are fair or not, honest or distorted, truthful or colored….”

From the Wikipedia: “Having both staunch admirers and strong critics, Seldes influenced some younger journalists. He received an award for professional excellence from the Association for Education in Journalism in 1980 and a George Polk Award for his life’s work in 1981. Seldes also served on the board of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).”

George Seldes was born in Alliance, New Jersey, on 16th November, 1890 and died at Windsor, Vermont, on 2nd July, 1995, aged 104.

For ABC Wednesday

Mother’s Day is NOT a day for melancholy, is it?

Since my mother died in February 2011, with me by her side in a Charlotte, NC hospital, there are periods that are harder than others throughout the year. November, her birth month, and February can sometimes be rough.

Mother’s Day is a mixed bag, emotionally. After all, I can celebrate my wife as the mother of our daughter, and my mother-in-law as the mother of my wife, and all those women, living and dead, who have been like a mother to me over the year.

This May, I attended a production of The Music Man at a high school about an hour south of Albany. My wife’s niece, and therefore my niece, was in the production, as she has for the previous five years, going back to 6th grade. It was quite good.

If you go on Sunday matinee, after the performance, the director thanks various folks individually. Then she says goodbye to the seniors, which is difficult for her each year, as they literally leave their shoes on stage.

One of the seniors, the one who played the mayor’s wife, really bonded with the director. Each of them had lost their mothers, I don’t know when, but recently enough that the sentiment felt really raw.

And damned if seeing them mourning their mothers on stage kicked up similar feelings for me.

Then there was that woman who got partially sucked out of a Southwest Airlines plane and soon died. At least two of the news networks reported on her husband telling her parents of their daughter’s death. But then he had to figure out how to tell their two children that their mom was not coming home. I had no reaction… ah, who am I kidding?

So this Mother’s Day is a tad more melancholy for me, for these reasons, or maybe something else, or for no discernable cause at all. Of course, I know that even if your mom’s alive, one can dread the commemoration.