The Conservative War against Sheep

by Henry Farrell on May 18, 2011

What is it that the right has against sheep? Newt Gingrich’s “press secretary”: today.

bq. The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding. Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment’s cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles. But surely they had killed him off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.

It’s a relief to know that Newt has emerged unscathed from his gunfight with the clip-of-smoking-tweets-unloading cocktail-quaffing literati-sheep. But, to be frank, they don’t sound very hard. Would he be able to take on tougher ungulates, such as David Brooks’ “squadrons of venom-unleashing rabid command-lambs?”: Or, for that matter, Carly Fiorina’s evil red-eyed “demon-sheep thing in conservative’s clothing?”: Your guess is as good as mine, but I imagine that there’s a “Jeff Minter video game”: in it.

Update: “Chris Y”: composes a villanelle in comments.

In times when coward literati must
Send armed sheep minions into the attack,
A man emerges from the smoke and dust.

A lesser person could not take the flack,
The tweets and trivia put him to the rack
In times when coward literati must.

See him rise up above the snapping pack!
The ovine hordes, confounded, must fall back.
A man emerges from the smoke and dust.

Except it’s not like that at all. In fact
No air time, column inches did he lack
In times when coward literati must.

With all their aid and comfort, out of whack,
He couldn’t keep his damned campaign on track.
A man emerges from the smoke and dust.

I just don’t understand this wretched hack.
Perhaps he’s using PCP or crack?
In times when coward literati must
A man emerges from the smoke and dust.

Charter School Competition

by Jon Mandle on May 18, 2011

About a year ago, Diane Ravitch wrote a piece in The Nation called “Why I Changed My Mind”. The piece was a summary of the main claims of her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System. She reported that she had changed her mind about “choice” and “accountability” – or at least how these have been interpreted, especially in No Child Left Behind.

About “accountability” she wrote: “the emphasis on accountability for the past eight years has encouraged schools to pay less attention to important subjects and inflate their test scores by hook or by crook.” The most visible example of this – no doubt there are more that are less visible – was the scandal in the Washington D.C. schools that USA Today uncovered this past March.

About “choice” Ravitch wrote: “Now the charter sector sees itself as competition for the public schools. Some are profit-driven; some are power-driven. In some cities, charter chains seek to drive the public schools out of business.” She then noted that some charters have large marketing budgets. This has been the case in Albany, NY, where there has been extensive advertising for the charter schools, and the public schools system has increased its marketing budget in response – needless to say, diverting scarce resources from other goals. Even large advertising budgets need not indicate that they are attempting to harm or to drive the public schools out of business. But from today’s Albany Times-Union:

A group associated with Albany’s charter schools sent out multiple fliers and likely paid for a push poll to kill the Albany school budget.
At least three separate fliers were sent to Albany residents in the last two weeks that encouraged voters to reject the school budget and intentionally exaggerated a tax rate increase to mislead voters. A telephone push poll also asked city residents leading questions including if they were fed up with tax increases and wasteful spending.
Albany’s charter schools are currently reimbursed about $12,000 per student by the Albany school district. A defeat of the budget would have no effect on the charter schools, which received $30 million in Albany taxpayer money this school year.
Some of the money for the organization [which paid for the fliers] has come from Albany’s charter schools, which means Albany taxpayers may have supported an entity that has encouraged them to vote down the district’s $206.5 million budget proposal.

The budget passed by a vote of 3,555 to 3,382.

A year after I first trailed it, here is the Crooked Timber seminar on Sunnyside,
by Glen David Gold, who also wrote Carter Beats the Devil. Sunnyside is a vast, shiny, dark and funny novel about Charlie Chaplin, the birth of modern celebrity, America’s diffidence and then wild enthusiasm for World War I, two genius puppies and their fame-seeking GI owner, an apple-cheeked criminal prodigy, and a Detroit devotee of Ruskin’s attempt to rescue three Russian princesses from the Red Army.

I’m a little nervous of the pronouncement that this novel is about the themes it evokes and the questions it implies, not least because it might lessen the fun of reading it and hitting on these questions yourself. But I want to stake very firmly the claim that this book needs to be gobbled up, because picaresque is serious stuff.

Sunnyside made me laugh out loud in public and on my own, pepper Wikipedia with historical queries, plague family and friends with its insights and asides, and cry the embarrassing, heaving sobs of true loss, not the fictive kind. And, annoyingly, in the middle of a grand World War I narrative where faceless millions perish mostly off-screen, Sunnyside made me care very much if the dog makes it. [click to continue…]