Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Thank You Mr.President

I campaigned hard for President Obama in 2008, cried tears of joy when he was elected, and yet found myself in almost immediate opposition to many of his policies-not all of which could be blamed on Republicans. When it comes to issues like education and financial policy, I have more than a little ambivalence about the 8 years of the Obama Presidency. Yet I have a deep admiration for how he and the First Lady have conducted themselves as public figures, as parents and as our First Family. They have set a standard for dignity eloquence and grace under duress which will last a very long time. Facing levels of hatred, suspicion and contempt rooted deep in our racist history, they responded by creating a moral high ground for discussions of race and justice that we would be well to retain. The policy legacy of Barack Obama will be critiqued and discussed for years to come. But the huge positive impact he and Michelle Obama have had in providing a model of dignified leadership for families as well as our nation is something we can cherish for years to come. Thank you Mr. President.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Proud to Be A Loser

If being married to the same person for 43 years and still seeing her as the love of my life makes me a loser-- then I am proud to be a loser

If teaching at Fordham for 47 years without trying to move to an Ivy League school makes me a loser- then I am proud to be a loser

If refusing to apply for merit increments for ten years so my younger colleagues can get bigger salary increases makes me a loser- then I am proud to be a loser

If cheering on people I know-including former students- who publish more important books than I have makes me a loser- then I am proud to be a loser

If working with attractive people without viewing them as objects of sexual consumption or sexual assault makes me a loser- then I am proud to be a loser

and finally

If reaching the age of 70 with no ambition to gain great power or wealth makes me a loser- then I am so proud to be a loser that I will even wear a "loser" tee shirt and hat!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Subversive Thoughts About Crime and Social Policy

New York has half the murder rate of Chicago even though it has twice the population-and this is AFTER drastically reducing "stop and frisk."
Why? Two big differences come to mind
First, Chicago knocked down many of its large public housing complexes while New York has not (yet) taken that step. Doing that not only destabilized neighborhoods, it sharply reduced the supply of affordable housing, and put added stress on low income families
Second, New York City attracts far more immigrants than Chicago, undocumented as well as legal, and immigration works to REDUCE crime in decaying working class neighborhoods because immigrants bring energy, optimism and hope to places which have been neglected by business and government

We need to look very carefully at these two cities before defunding public housing and launching a crusade against immigrants. Both of those policy initiatives could have disastrous consequences

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why I Am Looking Forward to the New Year

I am starting to really look forward to 2017. I see a groundswell of resistance to bigotry and fear; a movement built and sustained at the local level in a way which makes people of all backgrounds feel welcome in our communities This will not be associated with any political party and political leader. It will be truly grassroots. And it will be unstoppable. I know my students will be on board for this. But so will many other people all over this nation. Hatred and negativity will not prevail. We will not let our vision of the country be determined by leaders who seek to divide us or people who target their own neighbors for intimidation and abuse. We have accomplished too much to go backwards. We will stand up for the best in our heritage and fight for a better future for everyone.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Paladino Affair is a Test of Our National Character

Let's get real. Carl Paladino is not an aberration or an outlier. About a third of the people in the country have racial attitudes resembling his, which they normally only share with close friends and family members or reveal in the relative anonyminity of socia media. Vulgar images and comments about the President and the First Lady, based on stubbornly persistent racial stereotypes, have been visible for some time to anyone who looked, listened or read bumper stickers, bathroom graffiti, or facebook and twitter posts.
But for a school board member and state leader of the Trump campaign to express those ugly feelings so openly presents a challenge to the 2/3 of the country who do NOT share those views. What are you going to do about this? Are you going to accept such racist bile coming out of the shadows and deforming our public discourse? Or are you going to clamp down hard on those who express those sentiments and remove them from positions of influence?
This isn't about free speech in any conventional sense. Mr Paladino has every right to denounce the President's policies in the most emotional even inflammatory fashion. But to use eroticized and racialized animal imagery in wishing for his death, and doing even worse for the first lady, crosses a line that no public official should be able to cross and still retain their job.
Such remarks are an incitement to civic violence. They make the society ungovernable.
But if the 2/3 of the nation decides to remain silent, we will head to that very dangerous place.
This is a test of our national character.Are we going to fail it?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Racial Disparities in the Drug War and the Election of Donald Trump

This semester, several of my students did research papers on the Drug War and police strategies used to pursue it. In all these papers, one point got across loud and clear-- that policing and incarcerating Black people in numbers disproportionate to their involvement in criminal activity, benefited many people who weren't directly targeted, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs with good salaries and benefits at a time when unionized industrial jobs were leaving the country.
The Racialized Drug War, whatever the array of motives that gave rise to it, therefore ended up becoming a jobs program for working class whites- not only in urban areas and suburbs where expanded police forces were concentrated, but in rural areas where new prisons were built to hold those swept up by the drug raids
This helps explain the immense hostility among working class and middle class whites to the Black Lives Matter movement- a hostility that contributed significantly to Donald Trump's victory in the last Presidential election
Black Lives Matter not only put the work of individual police officers under greater scrutiny; it called for long term reforms which might, if implemented, significantly reduce the need for police and prisons.
Those reforms would not only threaten the interests of real estate developers gentrifying our cities and reduce revenue produced by arrests for non violent offenses; it could lead to significant job losses in communities where prisons are located or suburbs where police officers live.
Challenging racially targeted, militarized policing, unfortunately, threatens many many people's livelihoods and interests
The election of Donald Trump was no accident..

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why Betsy DeVos, if Confirmed will be "Arne Duncan on Steroids"

When Ronald Reagan ran for President, one of the key components of his platform was abolishing the US Department of Education. Yet three years after he was elected, my student Ariana Cipriani points out, his administration issued a report "A Nation at Risk" that called for increased federal control of education!
The same thing could easily happen in the next few years with Betsy DeVos appointment as Secretary of Education. The kind of policies she supports, and which have been implemented in Michigan- vouchers, school privatization, de-funding of public schools in favor charter schools- will be fiercely resisted in states like New York, Washington, and Massachusetts. The only way to get traction for such policies in those states is to use federal funds and mandates to force their implementation, something which will require INCREASING the power of the federal government in education policy.
In short, Betsy Devos appointment promises the exact OPPOSITE of the position Donald Trump took in his campaign, which was to reduce if not eliminate federal control of education policy.
What we are likely to see, if she is confirmed, is Arne Duncan on Steroids- an aggressive proponent of charters and market driven education reform willing to use the full power of the federal government to force compliance with her ideas on state governments and local school districts.