Hey, Talking Heads, Listen Up.

Words matter. You know that as journalists and newscasters.

So please:

1. Do not use the word “caravan”. Say what that group really is. They are women, men, and children seeking political asylum from violence and threats of death

The word “caravan” is defined as group of Middle Easterners crossing through a desert. So when the asylum seekers are called a caravan, not only does it stoke fear of brown people coming from the South of the border but taps into Islamophobia as well.

2. When the President declared in a speech from the White House that the caravan is ” marching” towards us, correct that statement with words and/or photos showing that the asylum seekers are not “marching”. They are holding onto one another, walking or hobbling, and carrying their children for mile after mile. They are unarmed and hungry.

3. When the President goes on to claim that he understands women and speaks for women in this country and then articulates what women fear from the asylum seekers, laugh your heads off. When you stop laughing, show on the screen the list of women accusing him of assault and the list of women he has publicly humiliated with his savage tongue.

And maybe, after a commercial break, show a clip of an Obama or Biden rally where they speak the truth about the asylum seekers. Just for a contrast.

Our Hearts Are With You In Pittsburgh

 

A Prayer for the Dead of Tree of Life Congregation

   by Rabbi Naomi Levy

We are devastated, God,
Our hearts are breaking
In this time of shock and mourning.
The loss is overwhelming.
Send comfort and strength, God,
To grieving family members.
Send healing to the injured,
Send strength and wisdom
to their doctors and nurses.
Bless the courageous police officers who risked their lives
To protect innocent lives.

Shield us from despair, God,
Ease our pain.
Let our fears give way to hope.
Lead us to join together as a nation
To put an end to anti-Semitism,
An end to hatred,
An end to gun violence.

Teach us, God, to honor the souls we have lost
By raising our hands
and voices together
In the cause of peace.
Because Torah is a Tree of Life
And all its paths are peaceful.

Work through us, God.
Turn our helplessness into action.
Teach us to believe that we can
rise up from this tragedy
And banish the hate
that is tearing our world apart.
We must never be indifferent
to the plight of any who suffer.
We must learn to care,
To open our hearts
and open our hands.
Innocent blood is calling out to us.

God of the brokenhearted,
God of the living, God of the dead,
Gather the souls of the victims
Into Your eternal shelter.
Let them find peace
in Your presence, God.
Their lives have ended
But their lights
can never be extinguished.
May they shine on us always
And illuminate our way.
Amen.

 

Note: Naomi Levy was in the first class of women at the Jewish Theological Seminary and the first female Conservative rabbi to lead a congregation on the West Coast. Her path to becoming a rabbi began when she was 15 and experienced the tragedy of her father being killed in an armed robbery on a Brooklyn street as he walked home. She wrote the book, To Begin Again, which was the only book that spoke to me when I suffered the sudden death of loved one. May this poem reach those in Pittsburgh and be of help to any of you suffering now.

The Message For The 2018 Election

I am very disappointed in what the Democrats are doing to regain the House and Senate as well as in their efforts to claim some governorships. As the only political party that can return sanity to our current national life, they don’t have a big enough message.  I finally realized what that message should be when I read David Brooks’ analysis of the 2018 campaign season recently in The New York Times.

He critiques the Democratic Party for being inadequate to the current moment because it offers no counter-narrative to the immorality of Trump’s behavior and no unifying argument against ethnic nationalism.

I get that the slogan “Make America Great Again” attracts some people. I can buy that many Americans feel threatened by cultural changes and economic insecurity and feel that the solution to their fears is to bring back the past, whether that past ever really existed or not.  It is true that we are living in an oligarchy in which those with the most money, those in the top 1%, prosper, and the rest of us struggle. It is true that our neighbors and fellow citizens are increasingly people of color. It is true that racial and ethnic diversity is becoming the fabric of our nation. It is true that a married couple is not limited to being a man and a woman. It is true that more of our neighbors are doing their grocery shopping on Sunday rather than going to church. So the past looks simpler and neater to many people.

However, that past, at its best, was based on principles of kindness and fairness. In that past, we welcomed strangers and made them feel at home in our neighborhoods. We would never publicly make fun of people and scream “lock her up” as a solution to a disagreement. We wouldn’t call people names and let our children watch us doing it. We valued the truth and worked to find out the facts before making a decision or taking a side. We respected the commitments we made to the person we married and didn’t take lightly marital infidelity. We stood for something.

Those values are what the Democratic Party should put up next to the values espoused at Trump rallies. The message of the Democratic Party candidates should be: LET’S MOVE THE COUNTRY FORWARD WITH THE BEST VALUES OF THE PAST.

It is not the best of our past that Trump heralds and to what he wants us to return. He offers a past that is racist, closed, and full of fear.

It is up to the Democratic Party to remind the country that in this election of 2018, it is to the values of kindness, inclusion, moral leadership, honesty, and commitment that we must return. And we can’t return to them by voting for Republicans. We can return to them only by voting for those who oppose lying, name-calling, unkindness, unfaithfulness and racism. We must vote Democratic as our best hope for the present and as our only hope for our children’s future.

A Ray Of Light For The Country

If for some strange reason you are one of those people who has been feeling down lately because you have a Justice of the Supreme Court who lied under oath about what he wrote in his prep school yearbook and what he did about judicial appointments and knew about stolen emails while working in the White House, and you have a Senate that did not do its job, and you have a President who ordered a FBI cover-up, watch this video. It will restore your confidence in innocence and will remind you of nobler days.

Civics 101: Public Trust Will Be Lost If A Perjurer Is On The Supreme Court

The White House announced that only four people, none of them former classmates who have contradicted Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony,  will be interviewed by the FBI. In addition to the four people whom the White House named, the following individuals must be interviewed in ascertain if Brett Kavanaugh perjured himself when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27, 2018:

  1.  Elizabeth Swisher, classmate of Brett Kavanaugh at Yale
  2. Lynne Brookes, classmate of Brett Kavanaugh at Yale
  3. Daniel Lavan, classmate of Brett Kavanaugh at Yale
  4. Sean Hagan, classmate at Georgetown Prep
  5.  Renate Dolphin, public school student when Brett Kavanaugh was at Georgetown Prep
  6. Bill Barbot, alumnus of Georgetown Prep
  7. William Fishburne, classmate of Brett Kavanaugh at Georgetown Prep who managed the football team
  8. Alumnae of Holton-Arms School during the years that Brett Kavanaugh was at Georgetown Prep to check his statement under oath that Georgetown Prep students did not socialize with girls from Holton-Arms.

All of these individuals have come forward to tell what they know. The FBI should begin its investigation with them. The FBI can ask them if it is true what Brett Kavanaugh said about his drinking habits and true about the terms that Brett Kavanaugh said refer to indigestion and drinking games but his contemporaries say refer to sexual conquests. The FBI can find out if Brett Kavanaugh was telling the truth to the Judiciary Committee and to all of us in the country who were watching.

Some say that what happens in high school and college doesn’t matter. I disagree. But no one says that perjury doesn’t matter. And no one says that lying in a job interview doesn’t matter. And no one says that the integrity of the Supreme Court doesn’t matter.

There is plenty to investigate by the FBI about Brett Kavanaugh’s  truth-telling or perjury in more recent years.  Manuel Miranda, a Republican aide working with Brett Kavanaugh at the White House when files were stolen from the Democrats, could be questioned. Those who worked with Brett Kavanaugh when he was clerking for the disgraced Judge Kozinski could be questioned to see if Brett Kavanaugh did or did not know of Judge Kozinski’s activities with pornography that caused him to be removed from the bench. Brett Kavanaugh’s emails about judicial appointments while he was in the White House Council’s Office could be examined to see if they support his statements made under oath.

What needs to be determined by the FBI is if Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath.  Events can be lost to memory due to alcohol or due to those events not being anything unusual to the person being questioned. But perjury could be right before our eyes, right on national TV.

Demand of your Senators and demand of the White House that the FBI investigation be complete. Demand that the FBI investigation begin with the individuals listed above.

Determining if Brett Kavanaugh told the truth or perjured himself is essential for the integrity of the Supreme Court.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silence Speaks At March For Our Lives

Listen to Emma’s profound silence.

Remember the silence of students crouched in closets, hiding from the sound of an automatic weapon being fired in their school.

Think about the loudmouth lack of silence of the President of the United States as he played golf while Emma Gonzales stood without words.

Question the silence of the Members of Congress when students, teachers, and parents asked them to address  gun violence.

Listen. Listen. Listen.

Then VOTE. Vote in your precinct or vote by absentee ballot if you are away at school. Vote early if your state allows it, or vote on election day if that fits your schedule. Whenever. Wherever. However. Just do it.

Make Emma Gonzales’s silence speak for a new ethic, a new beginning for this country weary with the noise of greed and corruption.

 

Questions For The New CEA President-3

 

The Connecticut Education Association will hold elections for a new president in May. The two candidates for president of the CEA are Jeff Leake and Robert Smoler. Jeff Leake is currently CEA vice-president, and Robert Smoler is president of the Fairfield Education and Association and a math teacher at Fairfield Warde High School in Fairfield, CT. I have asked them twelve questions about issues regarding education that face us as a state. I have previously posted two sets of the candidates’ answers. Here are their answers to the third set of questions:

Jeff Leake

5.What is your position on standardized testing? What do you think about Connecticut’s current practices regarding standardized testing? Would you recommend those practices remain the same or be changed and, if so, how?

Standardized testing, although now disconnected from teacher evaluation, is still a burden for students and the learning process. Standardized testing has narrowed instruction and the student assessment process. We need to end every-year testing for our grade 3-8 students and implement representative testing (NAEP model).

6. What is your position on charter schools in Connecticut?
a. The original idea for charter schools was to create innovative, teacher-controlled learning spaces.

b. Charter schools have become for-profit business opportunities and have increased racial and economic segregation in our nation.

c. The proliferation of charters needs to end, and those presently operating need real and effective oversight.

 

Robert Smoler

5. What is your position on standardized testing? What do you think about Connecticut’s current practices regarding standardized testing? Would you recommend those practices remain the same or be changed and, if so, how?

Standardized tests, as they are currently viewed, are one of the great disservices to our youth and the education system as a whole. They do not measure achievement, but rather measure the ability to do well on a particular test that has inherent biases built into it. These types of tests also correlate to the relative wealth of a community. So, it is not doing anything to close the achievement gap.   If anything, it exacerbates it. Children in poor communities are likely to get a sub-par education as their faculty and administration must feel so much more pressure to “teach to the test.” These tests should not be used to reflect student capabilities, the effectiveness of teachers nor the quality of public schools. That said, they represent one of many data points that could be helpful in informing teacher instruction. To the extent standardized tests aid the instruction process, I am in favor of maintaining them in a limited manner. If these tests were to be used in any other way than informing instruction, then they should be eliminated.

6. What is your position on charter schools in Connecticut?

Public schools are treasures that need to be cultivated. They are central to our democracy. I am against any alternate education system that siphons funds out of the public school system or puts our schools under the influence of corporate entities. I also believe that when our public schools are properly resourced; they do a tremendous job educating students. Clearly, there are failing schools, but they are only failing because governmental entities have failed to recognize the unique challenges of these district, mostly poverty, and withheld the type of support from these districts that would allow them to succeed.

I’ve seen this movie before. When I was in the healthcare industry, managed healthcare companies came onto the scene promising to lower costs and improve quality versus traditional indemnity health insurance plans. In the early going, these plans were less expensive, not because they were doing such a great job, but because they were cherry picking the healthy customers and leaving the indemnity plans to insure the sick. Each time more healthy people went to the managed care plans, the cost of the indemnity plans went up until they were no longer affordable and they disappeared. At that point, the managed care plans had to begin insuring everyone and wouldn’t you know it, they became just as expensive as the indemnity plans were after a short while.

That’s what is happening in public education today. The charter schools are cherry picking the stronger students out of the public schools and as a result their scores look good. If charter schools ever had to educate everyone, no doubt their results would look the same or worse than that of today’s public schools. In fact, there is the risk that once charter and private schools have all of the students, they might find it unprofitable and pull out of the business, leaving whole communities without a mechanism to educate their children.