Sunday, May 13, 2007


4LAKids: Mothers Day II Sunday, May 13, 2007
In This Issue:
GOVERNMENT BY BAKE SALE: Why we're reaching in our own pockets to pay for basic services.

Featured Links:
4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.
Today's SAT word: LOGORRHEA. Please excuse it

Pronunciation: "lo-g&-'rE-&, "lä-
Function: noun
Etymology: New Latin
: excessive and often incoherent talkativeness or wordiness.
—from ….who know there was "New Latin"?

Some things came across my desktop today that can't wait 'till next week, so I'm sending them out now.

► Because I suffer from the y-chromosome thing I couldn't have written THE POLITICAL CRUCIBLE OF MOTHERHOOD, but I wish I had. Happy Mother's Day everyone, whether you are one or just benefit from having one.

► GOVERNMENT BY BAKE SALE: WHY WE'RE REACHING IN OUR OWN POCKETS TO PAY FOR BASIC SERVICES speaks truth so clearly it cannot be contained until next week.

► The Time's blog entry APPARENTLY YOU DON'T HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW WHAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE DOING WITH YOUR CHILD complains about the First Amendment piece – as The Times should do (…though one would wish they held the California Constitution half so dear) – but hits the question squarely on LAUSD's pointy little head with: "One of the big complaints that parents, teachers, principals — well, everyone — has with the district is that it is so vast that word from on high often fails to trickle down to the troops. What conscientious administrator, after ll, would willfully violate their legal obligations if they fully understood them?"

With the school board election on the line it is incredible that LAUSD could allow this story to be so mismanaged! Maybe the upside is that NCLB, Standards Based Instruction, Open Court and Testing, Testing, Testing may have stifled imagination …but the unimaginable flourishes @ 333 Beaudry!

Nonetheless I STILL ask that you vote for Jon Lauritzen and Neal Kleiner on Tuesday. But no matter how you vote I echo the advice of today's lead writer and mom to her children:

"…damn it, don’t you ever, ever forget to vote!"


by Susan Gardner from the DailyKos blog |

Sun May 13, 2007 - The longer I’m more actively involved in politics, the more certain I am that the best preparation I ever had for participation was not the political science major I undertook in college, nor the journalism experience I had as a young professional, nor even the advisory role I filled in a (failed) Congressional primary campaign back in the 1980’s.

No, the most practical experience was provided by parenting.

From the moment a child is born, you are forced to put your own needs (primarily sleep, in the beginning) on hold. You immediately begin the task of balancing long-term and short-term goals, weighing, for example, the need to bring income in for the growing family against the commitment to spend time with your child, or your own requirement down the road a bit for rehabilitative solitude against the constant chatter of a toddler just discovering language. You learn to gauge your limits of self-sacrifice, the places where diminishing returns set in, where you’re being a plain old mean person because you’ve embraced the role of persecuted-by-sippy-cup-wielding-beings martyr. You learn to give more of yourself than you ever imagined yourself capable of giving, but if you want to bring your child to adulthood without you doing a stint or two in an asylum, you also learn to say, "No." Quite often, in fact.

More than anything, you learn to explain yourself, especially about those "No’s." Over and over, in a dozen different ways, using scores of different metaphors to get your point across, you begin to blend your child into a family culture, and later that of society, by articulating and examining your own deep beliefs about how we all hang together as a unit. You are forced to explain very, very consciously for the first time responsibilities to self and others, about the common good of the family, about why it’s important that your 10-year-old forego a slumber party in order to visit a boring grandparent. Add another child to the mix and you’ve truly set up a parallel with the single-issue political groups on a painful personal level, when you find yourself explaining to your daughter that the family’s financial commitment to providing piano lessons for her brother precludes at this time the ability to pay for an expensive summer camp she wants to attend. Oy. Such conflicts are constant and recurring, and they make the shouldering and shoving at the Democratic interest table look like a friendly game of contract bridge. You learn to barter, broker power or die.

In my own case, I went more whole hog on the parent thing than most here, I suspect. I have four children–two boys and two girls–with a 14-year age spread between the oldest and the youngest. I made the decision to stop working altogether for a decade-and-a-half to stay at home, which pushed us into living under the poverty level for a family of four ... when we were a family of six (a decision, I realize, not for everyone but one I am forever grateful now that I made). The financially possible was extremely limited, and this forced us as a family unit to find creative ways to entertain ourselves (God bless you, public libraries) and to provide for necessities. Again, an invaluable, practical political lesson when transposed to the political sphere. I also found myself relying on the older kids to help out with the younger, and while I admit there was a bit of grumbling during those years, they were surprisingly willing to take something of a leadership role in the family, testing their own capabilities and sharing their interests, enjoying being looked up to by their younger siblings–much like people-powered peer politics today. (Today, all four of them are each others’ biggest fans and admirers despite quite different lifestyles and choices. Although the piano lesson issue, I confess, will not die.)

And of course, there’s the constant reminder as a parent that you’re ideally modeling sterling character in action. Children are heat-seeking missiles for hypocrisy; try lying on the phone to get out of a dreaded social engagement while an 8-year-old is looking you in the eye. These little people, they keep you as honest as you are capable of being, not a bad reminder for the rough-and-tumble of high stakes political commentary and action.

But the biggest boon to surviving parenthood are the habits fostered, of thinking communally, taking responsibility for shared space, for communicating values, for advising practical action. Here’s a truism from a parent who is in the process of launching at long last her youngest into the world: You continue the pattern of caring for something bigger than yourself long after your day-to-day involvement with your specific children is over. I suspect this is a large gift to the progressive movement overlooked and unrecognized, and you see it played out as more and more women who’ve raised a family either enter electoral politics or take to political activism (think Nancy Pelosi and Cindy Sheehan). There is more to this than just biological imperative about making the world a better place for your own genetic progeny. The pattern of thinking, cooperating and sacrificing becomes part of your identity, as does the fulfillment and satisfaction one receives from living it out. Mothers (and some fathers, of course, but mostly mothers as our society functions now) have found that the qualities they exercised for years in the context of family dynamics—struggles for fairness, equitable distribution of such limited resources as time and money, shifting of broad attention from long-term goals to immediate crises (a child’s serious health problem), the need to get the whole "coalition" that makes up a family on the same cooperative page—these are invaluable skills in a human being. Transferring them for use in a larger public sphere feels not only natural, but at some level imperative.

In light of all this, I’m going to do a reverse on Mother’s Day, and honor my children instead of expecting cards and calls and carnations from them. For all my failings (too numerous to recount), they have made me a vastly superior human being than I would have been otherwise, pulling strengths out of me I never knew I had and giving me a ride on one of life’s greatest and most wondrous adventures. And if Markos can put pictures of his adorable infant and toddler on the site, I’m hoping I can get away with calling out my beloved kids by name—Matthew, Faith, Jackson and Micaela—and saying: You four have made my entire life so much more than it would have been without you. You have made me alive and aware, reflective and political, less selfish, more patient and a far more responsible citizen of the world than I would have been without the examples of your unique lives unfolding in front of me day by day and hour by hour.

As always, you four, thank you for being born. And damn it, don’t you ever, ever forget to vote.

SusanG (Susan Gardner)
Contributing Editor
Kos Fellow

• SUSAN GARDNER is a native Southern Californian, born in 1958. She attended Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and returned to California to work for the Riverside Press-Enterprise Company as editor and publisher of one of its large community weekly newspapers during the 1980’s. After taking a decade and a half off to raise a family, she returned to politics and writing via Daily Kos several years ago.

She’s also been a freelance editor and writer, general manager of a special education curriculum company and the exhausted mother of four children. She lives in Santa Barbara, California.

GOVERNMENT BY BAKE SALE: Why we're reaching in our own pockets to pay for basic services.
By Ezra Klein, Opinion in the LA Times

May 13, 2007 — ON APRIL 2, this newspaper reported that the Los Angeles Police Department had asked Philip Morris USA for a $50,000 donation to help fund its investigation into counterfeit cigarettes. That makes a lot of sense: If TV cop shows have commercials, why shouldn't real police work have corporate sponsors too (you know, aside from the obvious reasons of favoritism, bias and perverse incentives)?

For that matter, what's wrong with wealthy families in La Cañada Flintridge, San Marino and other communities holding constant fundraisers to pay for the unfunded needs of their local public schools — drama societies and marching bands and that sort of thing? Or with parents having to go out and purchase body armor on their own so that their sons are protected in Iraq? What's so odd about the crown jewel of the University of California graduate system, Boalt Hall Law School, having to move toward "privatization" so that it can raise more money and better compete with its private counterparts in an era when state funding has dried up?

What's so wrong, in other words, with hollowing out the public sector and replacing it with a pay-as-you-go society? It is the natural endpoint, after all, of the privatization craze, of the gospel of tax cuts and of the smaller-government-is-better-government mentality that has been on the ascendancy in the U.S. for nearly 25 years.

The New York Times recently offered a particularly striking example: Apparently there are about a dozen jails throughout California that offer pay-to-stay "upgrades." Inmates (or "clients," as they're known) who pay an extra $75 to $127 a day get a cell with a regular door, located at some distance from violent offenders, as well as the right, in some cases, to bring in an iPod, a cellphone or a laptop. The rich no longer need patronize the same jails as the rest of us. It makes you wonder whether Paris Hilton's unexpected jail time is a sentence or a scouting mission for new hotel expansion opportunities.

How has this come to pass? As the old adage goes, when the gods want to punish you, they give you what you want. Conservatives talk a lot about government failure, but over the last few years, it's really we who have failed government, depriving it of the revenue, the conscientious management and the attention needed for it to succeed. Undercapitalize a pizza joint and your customers will taste the poor ingredients, become frustrated by the long waits and grow repulsed by the grimy environs. Staff it with your unmotivated drinking buddies and the service will falter, as will the quality of the product. It's no way to run a pizza place, and it's certainly no way to run a government.

But that's exactly what we've done. With Proposition 13 and the famous California tax revolt, and with presidents whose entire domestic programs amounted to mindless tax-cutting, and with Congresses that have been happy to pass cuts and stack deficits, we have systematically deprived the government of the revenues it needs to provide basic services, even as we've come to need it to do so much more.

The Bush administration has only added to the problem. The president once said: "I was campaigning in Chicago, and somebody asked me, 'Is there ever any time where the budget might have to go into deficit?' I said only if we were at war or had a national emergency or were in recession. Little did I realize we'd get the trifecta." He's right. Not only have we spent more than $500 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan and untold more on homeland security measures, but we've created, in Medicare Part D, the most expensive new entitlement since President Johnson signed the Great Society into existence. We've also increased education spending through the No Child Left Behind Act.

And during all this, tax cuts have robbed the Treasury of $200 billion in revenue; the need for a two-thirds majority in the Legislature impeded the flexibility of California to raise state taxes to compensate, while Proposition 13 continued to handicap our municipalities. All that money has to come from somewhere. And the "where" isn't the high-profile initiatives that the media is watching — the Medicares and Social Securities (although they may suffer too) — but from the smaller, less-noticed, but critically important programs and departments that millions rely on.

If Congress must constantly approve high-profile emergency expenditures that funnel hundreds of billions of dollars toward Iraq, and states cannot pick up the slack, there will have to be cuts in funding for police and schools and jails and Pell Grants and the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs and the nation's infrastructure and all the rest. So is it any surprise that law enforcement is extending a beggar's cup to Philip Morris, public colleges are becoming less affordable and UC law schools are shilling for corporate dollars? And that it's all happening even as the globalizing economy demands ever higher skills, as ill and traumatized Iraq war veterans are going without care, as roads and schools are crumbling and myriad other minor catastrophes are underway beneath the notice of the national media but well within the range where they harm ordinary Americans.

Such unhappy outcomes are not merely morally unsettling, they're often economically inefficient. Government spending can be more than necessary, it can be desirable. It can step in, for instance, when the market fails to deliver public goods that society desires but private entities haven't figured out how to fund. (It's useful having a national military, right?) And it can use its regulatory power to ensure that competition works to increase well-being rather than to simply amp up industry profits.

UC Berkeley economist Brad DeLong once wrote that "sometimes government failures are greater than the market failures for which they purport to compensate. Sometimes they are not." The trick is knowing which is which. But if, like the Bush administration, you are blithely unconcerned with running an efficient, effective government, funding its necessary elements, presenting honest choices to the American people between tax cuts and social investment and staffing the whole enterprise with skilled professionals, you never need make those judgments as you have neither the resources nor the personnel to effectively deploy the central organizing structure of modern societies. And that's a shame.

Libertarian humorist P.J. O'Rourke likes to say that "Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it." Over the last few years, that's been true. But government can work, and increasingly, Americans appear to be anticipating its return. A new Pew Research Center poll finds that public support for a societal safety net and for government protections is at its highest levels in more than a decade — which suggests that Americans don't think bake sales are the way to fund their schools or that Philip Morris is really who they want subsidizing law enforcement. And in recent elections, the once popular "Taxpayer's Bill of Rights" amendments that seemed so unstoppable a decade ago are being rejected and, in Colorado, repealed, as voters finally tire of paying the costs in broken infrastructure and insufficient public services.

When asked what type of political system Americans would have, Ben Franklin famously responded, "A republic, if you can keep it." Well, he also bequeathed us a government, if we can run it. And somehow, I don't think the Philip Morris police department is quite what he had in mind.

• EZRA KLEIN is a staff writer at the American Prospect. His blog is at


From the Parent Alert section of the LA Times School Me Blog

May 10 — Los Angeles Times education writer Joel Rubin arrived at the troubled central Los Angeles school to do some follow up reporting on the district's ham-handed dumping of the school's principal. A security officer barred him at the public school's heavy metal gates, and district big wigs offered no help in assuring Rubin his legal right to be on campus -- apparently assuming that it's OK to keep parents and taxpayers in the dark as to what's going on with their children.

The LAPD has been falling all over itself to apologize for interfering with journalists' 1st Amendment rights and obligations following unpleasantries on May 1st. Chief Bratton seems to understand the importance of a free press in a democracy. LAUSD Superintendent David Brewer apparently doesn't.

Reporters covering the school district for the Times and other media outlets grumble often about principals and district bureaucrats who think their job is to make sure what happens on campuses stays on campuses. Fortunately for the public's right to know, they don't have that authority, as a School Me column made clear last autumn:

...The California Penal Code and the California Evidence Code are clear in stating that reporters have a statutory right of access to public schools. As the California Newspaper Assn.'s handbook on public access notes: 'The Legislature expressly recognized the right of certain individuals, including journalists, to visit school grounds for 'legitimate' purposes and mandated that the legitimate exercise of constitutionally protected rights of free speech and expression not be infringed.' "

Soon after arriving in the district six years ago, Romer showed that he understood the direct link between openness and reform by issuing a memo pointedly reminding everyone that a principal cannot keep a reporter off campus unless there is "reasonable and credible justification" for thinking the journalist's presence will disrupt or threaten campus safety. Merely worrying that educational activities could be threatened by a reporter's presence does not give a principal the right to say no, the memo says."
One of the big complaints that parents, teachers, principals -- well, everyone -- has with the district is that it is so vast that word from on high often fails to trickle down to the troops. What conscientious administrator, afterall, would willfully violate their legal obligations if they fully understood them?

Soon after former vice Admiral Brewer took over the district, the Times politely began asking him to save everyone a world of woe by reissuing the memo Romer had sent out to the his principals. The district's public information staff -- which sometimes seems to number one Public Information Officer for each of the district's 700,000 or so students -- assured the Times that such a memo would be forthcoming. Months later, it hasn't materialized.

Security guards and bureaucrats continue to violate the public's rights by barring reporters from schools and the district seems increasingly intent on protecting the public from any information that might prove unflattering to the district.

As it happens, the comparatively enlightened LAPD kept Rubin in the loop, telling him that the campus eventually calmed down. Is it any wonder, though, that many of Locke's teachers have essentially issued a vote of no confidence in the status quo, saying that they'd rather be working for Steve Barr's Green Dot Charter Schools?

The Times May 7th editorial on LAUSD's Student Discipline Policy has opened some interesting debate.

Life is too serious not to laugh: An 'ain't it the truth' cartoon on the perils of education from the New Yorker

Many of us will only have one seat the Community College District on our entire ballot! That's OK -- vote for Georgia Mercer and keep this in mind: COMMUNITY COLLEGE IS HIGHER EDUCATION!

Students who graduate from a community college with an AA degree earn 85% of the income of college graduates with a 4 year degree!

• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6387 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6383

...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• Register.
• Vote.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is President of Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is also the elected Youth & Education boardmember on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council.
• In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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