Wednesday, August 01, 2007

David Brooks Flip-Flops on Cultural Integration

In the most recent David Brooks column at the NYT website, I see a distinct flip-flop on the cultural integration that Mr. Brooks has exalted and even supported in the past.

Brooks compares the Poverty platforms of Barack Obama and John Edwards and frames the difference this way (and I won't even go into the ways that he short-shrifts both candidates' overall ideas):
As Alec MacGillis of The Washington Post observed, Edwards emphasizes programs that help people escape from concentrated poverty. Obama emphasizes programs that fix inner-city neighborhoods. One helps people find better environments, the other seeks to strengthen the environment they are already in.

Note that Brooks references Alec MacGillis' poorly informed May Washington Post column as if it was a fair and balanced article. In this forementioned article, Mr. MacGillis had hyperfocused on the portion of John Edwards' Poverty platform involving the use of housing vouchers.

Brooks says he's swayed by Barack Obama's platform on poverty reduction because he thinks that "Obama seems to have a more developed view of social capital." Brooks says,
Edwards offers vouchers, job training and vows to create a million temporary public-sector jobs. Obama agrees, but takes fuller advantage of home visits, parental counseling, mentoring programs and other relationship-building efforts....The Obama policy provides more face-to-face contact with people who can offer praise or disapproval.
Brooks categorizes a neighborhood as a "moral ecosystem". What he distinctly moves away from are his own opinions of the past about the ways that he believed the "moral ecosystem" in these neighborhoods (the ones he now apparently prefers the poor to be locked into) are not progressing because of a failure to break up zones of concentrated poverty.

Go back to September 25, 2005 when Mr. Brooks begins to bemoan social stratification that he claims is due to economic stratification. He chooses to point to education as the reason for the default line:
....economic stratification is translating into social stratification. Only 28 percent of American adults have a college degree, but most of us in this group find ourselves in workplaces in social milieus where almost everybody has been to college. A social chasm is opening up between those in educated society and those in noneducated society, and you are beginning to see vast behavioral differences between the two groups.......Educated parents not only pass down economic resources to their children, they pass down expectations, habits, knowledge and cognitive abilities. Pretty soon you end up with a hereditary meritocratic class that reinforces itself generation after generation....
We realize that inner-city schools, to this day and despite all the lip service, are producing horrific results and do not provide the average inner-city student with an adequate education. Is it any coincidence that wealthier school districts are producing better results? Brooks is quick to blame "the educational system" and loathe to seek other answers as to why these neighborhoods aren't progressing.

Forward just a bit to October 6, 2005, when Brooks again attacks the education establishment as the chief blame for inequality.
...The main problem is not that poor students can't afford college....Nor is the main problem that these poorer students don't have access to college....The problem is that students who enter college often find they are unable to thrive there....The new inequality is different from the old inequality. Today, the rich don't exploit the poor, they just outcompete them. Their crucial advantage is not that they possess financial capital, it's that they possess more cultural capital....The forces driving cultural inequality are powerful, and maybe insurmountable. But each generation of Americans seems to be challenged in its own way to provide its children with an open field and a fair chance.....

This time it's an inequality of opportunity to compete and, again, it's the educational system to blame. So how do these neo-underpriveleged people gain cultural capital?

Forward to October 9, 2005, when Brooks exuberantly offers his solutions,
I believe that social mobility is the core of the American experience. I believe that society should be structured so that as many boys and girls as possible can work, and rise the way young Hamilton and Lincoln did....If something is going to make American society more fluid and dynamic, then I am for that thing. That's why I love globalization, even while I am aware of its costs.....I can't believe people want to shield America behind the walls of "fair trade agreements."....I hated the old welfare system, which pushed its victims away from work. I love welfare reform, which encourages work. I hate government that directs ever more money to the affluent elderly, but I would love a government that gave poor children savings accounts at birth, which would encourage them to think about the future and understand that their destiny is in their own hands.....I love the charter schools and the forces of reform.........
Wow. So Brooks is gung-ho for outsourcing jobs so that poor people in foreign lands can compete, but try to get him to support John Edwards' idea to have our nation - the richest on the face of the earth - create temporary opportunities for the poor to make work work for them and the community of their reasonable get themselves and their own American children out of neighborhoods that are clearly not woking as a "moral ecosystem" should? What's good for the developing world is not good for the poor of Mr. Brooks' own nation.

In the same October 9 piece, Mr. Brooks chose to heap more blame on America's educational establishment for inequality in our communities.
I hate the forces of the education establishment, which protects its system even though after years and billions spent, African-American students still graduate from high schools at academic levels four years behind their white peers.
Wow. He really hates the educational establishment. To him, it seems like education in America is the root of all evil. Trouble is, I don't believe that for a minute. Do you?

I saved the best and oldest reference for last.

September 8, 2005, just after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.

Katrina was a natural disaster that interrupted a social disaster. It separated tens of thousands of poor people from the run-down, isolated neighborhoods in which they were trapped. It disrupted the patterns that have led one generation to follow another into poverty.

It has created as close to a blank slate as we get in human affairs, and given us a chance to rebuild a city that wasn't working. We need to be realistic about how much we can actually change human behavior, but it would be a double tragedy if we didn't take advantage of these unique circumstances to do something that could serve as a spur to antipoverty programs nationwide.

The first rule of the rebuilding effort should be: Nothing Like Before. Most of the ambitious and organized people abandoned the inner-city areas of New Orleans long ago, leaving neighborhoods where roughly three-quarters of the people were poor.

In those cultural zones, many people dropped out of high school, so it seemed normal to drop out of high school. Many teenage girls had babies, so it seemed normal to become a teenage mother. It was hard for men to get stable jobs, so it was not abnormal for them to commit crimes and hop from one relationship to another. Many people lacked marketable social skills, so it was hard for young people to learn these skills from parents, neighbors and peers.

If we just put up new buildings and allow the same people to move back into their old neighborhoods, then urban New Orleans will become just as rundown and dysfunctional as before.

That's why the second rule of rebuilding should be: Culturally Integrate. Culturally Integrate. Culturally Integrate. The only chance we have to break the cycle of poverty is to integrate people who lack middle-class skills into neighborhoods with people who possess these skills and who insist on certain standards of behavior.

The most famous example of cultural integration is the Gautreaux program, in which poor families from Chicago were given the chance to move into suburban middle-class areas. The adults in these families did only slightly better than the adults left behind, but the children in the relocated families did much better.

These kids suddenly found themselves surrounded by peers who expected to graduate from high school and go to college. After the shock of adapting to the more demanding suburban schools, they were more likely to go to college, too.

The Clinton administration built on Gautreaux by creating the Moving to Opportunity program, dispersing poor families to middle-class neighborhoods in five other metropolitan areas. This time the results weren't as striking, but were still generally positive. The relocated parents weren't more likely to have jobs or increase their earnings (being close to job opportunities is not enough -- you need the skills and habits to get the jobs and do the work), but their children did better, especially the girls.

The lesson is that you can't expect miracles, but if you break up zones of concentrated poverty, you can see progress over time.

In the post-Katrina world, that means we ought to give people who don't want to move back to New Orleans the means to disperse into middle-class areas nationwide. (That's the kind of thing Houston is beginning to do right now.)

There may be local resistance to the new arrivals -- in Baton Rouge there were three-hour lines at gun shops as locals armed themselves against the hurricane victims moving to their area -- but if there has ever been a moment when people may open their hearts, this is it.

For New Orleans, the key will be luring middle-class families into the rebuilt city, making it so attractive to them that they will move in, even knowing that their blocks will include a certain number of poor people.

As people move in, the rebuilding effort could provide jobs for those able to work. Churches, the police, charter schools and social welfare agencies could be mobilized to weave the social networks vital to resurgent communities. The feds could increase earned-income tax credits so people who are working can rise out of poverty. Tax laws could encourage business development.

We can't win a grandiose war on poverty. But after the tragedy comes the opportunity. This is the post-Katrina moment. Let's not blow it.

Now it seems that Mr. Brooks chooses to turn away from that post-Katrina moment and prefer to keep the poor with limits as to choices about where their children will live and be educated - even after all of his exuberant talk about how education is key to opportunity and how cultural integration is such a worthy idea and how he values work over welfare.

He is seemingly convinced by the older, more romantic notion that big federal government will accomodate the social policy funding with wide bipartisan support, as in the 1960s-era War on Poverty. The federal government significantly retrenched from its prior position of dominance in funding and directing community development activities decades ago. I cannot imagine hearing David Brooks advocating for bigger government when Obama would actually come looking for the dollars for failing inner city neighborhoods. Who is he trying to kid?

The fellow is all over the place on his philiosophy.
It sounds like a lot of flip-flop to me.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Robin Roberts - Stay Strong

My thoughts and prayers go out to ABC/Good Morning America's Robin Roberts, who announced this morning that she will undergo surgery on Friday for breast cancer. You can send Robin a personal message HERE.

Who Will Labor Endorse for 2008?

David Sirota, in a diary about the future of a populist momentum on the Democratic 2008 campaign trail that's "building like he hasn't seen in his lifetime".

He wonders what Labor will do about their endorsement of a Democratic candate in 2008. I think that he was spot-on when he said that John Edwards simply believes in the Labor agenda and isn't out there supporting them only for their endorsement.

I believe that the way that we citizens tend to view Labor is influenced by the way our leaders support Labor. If the leader's support seems genuine to us, we are more likely to get out more activism to more fully support Labor's causes. I am impressed not only with his level of longstanding support for and commitment to Labor, but also with the fact that Edwards, of all 2008 candidates, doesn't speak of Labor as something retrograde or static. I think that this was Dick Gephardt's problem. Edwards is new-school Labor - he sees the face of its successful future. He envisions a wider future with the Labor movement adapting to progress, globalization, outsourcing, et al. Dean had done much the same early in 2003, promoting foreign labor unions and saying that fair trade could deter terrorism. He was right then as Edwards is now.

Labor can endorse any candidate they choose, but why would they want to endorse a political power structure that has failed them in this new Century? Do they not realize that they can shape their future by being the big change that I'm assuming they seek?

To me, it seems that they are faced with a choice similar to that of which they faced in 2004, as you have mentioned. They were courageous (at first) and went with an endorsement for Howard Dean, as did Al Gore. Later, Dean's campaign was sabotaged by the powers that be when the droning dullards of mainstream media, the right blogosphere, and the DLC trounced Dean's campaign but for one innocuous scream. Labor lost a champion and a troubled AFSCME leader Gerald McEntee abandoned the Howard Dean campaign just before the 2004 Wisconsin primary. He made the dreadful mistake of classifying Howard Dean as "nuts." This is precisely how Labor has sabotaged itself in the past - by allowing the old power structure to come in and do their damage and then say that they agreed with them all along when, in reality, Labor knew they had a real friend in Howard Dean.

Labor has learned some lessons from 2004, but I'm not quite sure what the result of the education will be yet. As a citizen who supports them with my heart and mind, I hope they won't cut off their own collective nose to spite their collective face.

UPDATE: Steve Greenhouse of the NY Times says that Labor may sit back and wait before endorsing any Democrat. However,
...“If our board voted today, it would be leaning toward Edwards,” Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, said. “He showed up at a Goodyear picket line. He just called and said, ‘I’ll be there.’ That kind of stuff really rings home with our members.”

* While at Working Assets, don't miss Mr. Sirota's juicy piece: More Rocky Mountain Republicans Rejecting Grover Norquist-ism

Union Leader (NH) Editors - You MUST Be Joking!

I could hardly believe that the slanted screwballs at the Union Leader in Manchester, N.H. had the guts to actually say:
Here's the truth: John Edwards is spouting populist nonsense to try to scare people into voting for him.
Here's the real truth, people. These dorks endorsed George W. Bush in 2004. Yes, the Union Leader endorsed the biggest fear-mongerer of them all (except perhaps Rudy "Everything's 9/11-Connected and You're All Gonna Die Unless I'm Elected" Giuliani].... and the Union Leader tried to scare YOU into voting for the misleading "decider" Bush who not only regularly scared the heck out of you to get you to vote for him, but the inept mule messed his war up royally (the deliberate monarchical reference has deeper meaning).

The Union Leader is just an awful and loose-talking mess of a newspaper, endorsing Pat Buchanan in '96...then Bush in '04. Who do these chuckleheads think they're kidding?

Here you go, Union Leader. Listen, watch, and weep. Part of the change we Americans all need - reagrdless of party affiliation or ideology - is to see newspaper owners and editors in our communities called out for their blatant errors in good professional judgement.

You're one of the worst, Union Leader. You may think it's maverick, but I see your blatant bias as rash irresponsibility to your readers.

A Most Beautiful Garden

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth

- Dorothy Frances Gurney


I wanted to share with you a beautiful "secret garden" that I discovered at a private, stately home on Historic Hill while visiting Newport, Rhode Island this past weekend. Thanks to the residents for allowing me to come inside to share the beauty of their serene and colorful garden.

Monday, July 30, 2007

What we've lost in the course of two generations

From a post where Open Left's Chris Bowers worries because he says that the Clinton camp has "twice, in the last week, inaccurately gauged public opinion on a topic as being further to the right than it actually is":

Perhaps I would feel differently if I was from a different generation, but my formative political experiences have largely been about the failure of Democratic and progressive elites in stopping the conservative movement from continuing to rise. We never seem to win, even when we are in elected office. As such, one of the things I am looking for in the Democratic primaries is not only a candidate who can win, but who can reverse that pattern of defeat in governance.

I am from a generation that saw the rise of prominent social figures and political luminaries such as JFK, Rev.MLK Jr., and Bobby Kennedy. And I saw what happened to them and how far their idealism carried them in a hateful, divided nation. Later, I watched my mother as she exuberantly supported Hubert H. Humphrey and how she cried when he lost to Nixon. Still too young to join them, I saw the intelligence, the heart, and the nerve of the flower children in their generation's cause to end another unjust war. I saw college students at Kent State gunned down by our own countrymen for their idealism. I remember the awful images of Vietnam in black and white on my parents' television screen. I remember watching the Watergate hearings with my grandfather during the summer I was about to become a senior in high school and how he, while disgusted yet too intrigued to turn his head away, took the time to explain what was happening to me. In 1976, at the age of 18, I voted for Jimmy Carter in my first election. I saw Ronald Reagan come to power with a new Conservative movement with misled neo-idealists and their leaders who kissed, corrupted, and co-opted Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority.

Where Bobby Kennedy and MLK Jr. were remembered for their risk-filled fight for equality and civil rights of all Men and Women, Ronald Reagan is remembered for smaller government... being at the helm at the end of crumbling communism (with JFK, Carter, and others who set up the whole fall getting little to no credit). Sitting in the Oval Office on a Sunday morning, October 23, 1983 when 241 Americans, most of them U.S. Marines, were killed by a terrorist truck bomb. Still President when Pan Am flight 103 went down because of a terrorist's bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 35 Syracuse University students whose families never saw justice for the deaths of their children - and later were horrified to see George W. Bush make nice with devious Lybian leader Moammer Gahdafhi.

For all of this they wanted to put Reagan's likeness on the American dime.
Go figure.

You know the story from the post-Reagan years. Not too many brilliant profiles in courage-in-leadership, especially not from the Right. I think idealism and vision - the kind of vision that brings real, lasting, and necessary progress and not the kind lobbyists prefer to make - began to die off when they (whoever they may have been if you're a conspiracy theorist) began to literally kill off our most promising visionaries in this nation.

What passed for greatness after that was far from the vision of inspired men and women of the 60s Liberal era. What happened to the vision? Did it die with the murder-tainted innocence of a hopeful era? Do we teach our children to assimilate and not rock the boat because we're afraid for their well-being - - perhaps their very lives?

We think division in this country's something new, but it's not. I just think it's a lot more apparent today because of the expanded news media and the blogosphere.

What I think is particularly damaging is the people who complain about partisanship and label it as the disease that ails America. I believe the pattern of defeat in the Democratic party (pre 2006) was the tendency of Democrats to fall into the false framing of bipartisanship, traditional collegiality, and MSM-pleasing "centrism" (in parentheses because the media hasn't been shooting toward true American center on Iraq if you believe the polls). I use Senator Joe Lieberman's rise, thanks to being voted in by a majority of Connecticut Republicans and who now pushes the Iraq surge and gives lip service to a war in Iran that the majority of Americans say they do not want, as an example of how bipartisanship, by name alone, can be assigned a totally false value over common sense. I regret to see that our leaders (and the MSM who cover the horserace) seem to be regressing after winning a promising 2006 election. They have been far less than visionary and generally get a poor grade on action on ways they've chosen to try to end the Iraq war. "Going right", the direction that Glen Greenwald has caught Hillary Clinton's camp going (and they're not the only ones), is not going to help us bloggers, when MSM gets a hold of it, to convince anyone that our position is not heading toward the left fringe. This gives mouthpieces for the Right like Bill O'Reilly an opportunity to take so many undue potshots at us.

Hunter at Daily Kos can hardly wrap his mind around the audacity of O'Reilly and Fox News calling themselves a news network. I believe that the failure of our own Democrats to be strong in their vision these past five years have emboldened the owners of this new breed of media to think they can "destroy" real people out here on the blogs (like me):
Can you imagine any other news network mounting a multi-pundit jihad against a group of grassroots Americans, merely because they have the audacity to not support the Republicans? Can you imagine any other news network getting themselves into a bitter televised fight with a political community website?

Of course not. Because Fox News isn't "news" at all, and this is yet another example of why they should not be considered a legitimate news network, or even an "opinionated" news network. Actual news networks do not fabricate stories -- Fox News does. Actual news networks do not send pundits out in attempts to punish and/or sabotage grassroots political events of the opposing party -- it would be absurd. Only at Fox News, where a spectacular lack of ethics is after all the cornerstone of the efforts to manipulate the very news itself in order to prop up Republicans, would such things not get you immediately fired.

- Hunter

Nothing will change until our leaders change the tone and stop worrying about MSM's version of "partisanship" and "division".

In this country, it seems that we've always been divided on the things that matter. We're supposed to be a country that can withstand division and diversity of opinion and, out of it, create something that's actually healthy for our democracy. All we've seen these past twenty years are toxic results, a decided lack of vision, and unsatisfactory progress.

I came from a different generation, the one just before Chris Bowers' generation. After all I've seen, I have to ask many of our leaders: Why are we afraid of idealism and leading with bold vision these days? Why is our media money-jaded and controlled by private owners to the point where investigation is cut off in the editors' service of political bedfellows? Why are we made to see so often that they're working against us bloggers? Why do our leaders seem to be afraid? Who are they afraid of? What are they afraid of losing? An election? For all my eyes have seen, I'm afraid the country's losing its very soul.

The man in this video, John Edwards, has the kind of courage and vision I saw in JFK's time and the media is being complicit in framing him as a rich phony with only power in mind.

He says he won't let them shut him up.

I say good!

It's time for courage again.

Is this a returning breed?

Have we finally seen enough of the worthlessness from the empty promise of new conservatism from fat-faced hate-talk radio blatherers..and are we so sick of its vacuous political nature that we are returning to leaders who are looking well past the trees to see what could be possible beyond the forest?

This week at Daily Kos, my Idea Consultant colleague and fellow Spiritual Progressive David Beckwith said it well:

John Edwards is not promising you the world...he is delivering it. What needs being done...he is doing it. People in need cannot wait for him to be president, they need his help right now. And he is getting it to them.

I know of no one who is more deserving of the presidency, since we know he is not serving up empty promises. He is doing the heavy uplifting, and getting many other good and caring souls to help with this Herculean task.

We need an exemplar...especially after punishing the world with Bushworld Inc. Obama and Hillary are great and good people, but John is leading by example, and should be commended, not pejorated and smeared.

It has been said that when someone cares for another person, God cares for them too. Both of them. The caregiver and the recipient. I think most Americans realize that something of the sort is at play, and that caritas is indeed one of the sweetest and noblest acts a person can do.

There are people suffering today...this minute. We cannot wait for an election. Help us help John help people who need it.

Happy 30th Anniversary, John & Elizabeth Edwards!

I'm not the only blogger to be wishing John and Elizabeth Edwards a Happy 30th Wedding Anniversary today. Christy Hardin Smith has done the same..and has written an interesting post about the importance of the media sticking to the issues that matter, as I said this morning at Raw Story.

Here's hoping the Edwardses have a wonderful day - hopefully spent together at a place that's special to both of them whether it's home, a neighborhood Wendys eating double-cheeseburgers [see WSJ article], or the fanciest joint in any town they happen to be in today on the campaign trail.

Visiting Newport, Rhode Island

(Used in filming the Great Gatsby)






In an age of religious persecution and conflict, Newport stood out as a haven of toleration. Its earliest settlers came from Massachussetts where they had run afoul of the rigid Puritanism that dominated other New England towns. Their new social order in Newport was based, instead, on religious toleration and democracy. Newport's reputation for tolerance spread, attracting other religious groups from both sides of thr Atlantic, who shaped much of the town's future.

These early settlers separated church and state for the first time in history.



Excerpts from:
Pelosi sees two sides of Newport
Providence Journal
Sunday, July 29, 2007
By Nicole Dungca and Stu Woo
Journal Staff Writers

NEWPORT — The third most powerful politician in the country, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, visited a Bellevue Avenue mansion yesterday but first made a stop at a housing complex for homeless women and their children.

The San Francisco Democrat, the first woman speaker, heralded the achievements of women in politics at a women’s leadership reception held at Belcourt Castle and urged her audience to push for more influence.

She came at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who sponsored the address along with the Newport County Chamber of Commerce.
When Pelosi was first elected representative in 1986, there were fewer than 20 women in Congress.

“Now we’re in the 90s — Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate — and we still want more,” she said.

The crowd of about 150 at the ornately decorated castle included several female elected officials and business leaders, among them state Rep. Amy Rice, D-Portsmouth; state Sen. June N. Gibbs, R-Middletown; state Sen. Hannah M. Gallo, D-Cranston; and Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts.

During her 15-minute speech, Pelosi championed the work of women in Congress.

“It’s not just about [women’s] issues, as important as they are. It’s about women having impact on national security in our country. It’s about women having impact on the economy and budget system in our country,” she said.

Newport City Councilwoman Jeanne-Marie Napolitano said, “I was really impressed with her for the short time that she spoke. She said more in 10 minutes than some people say in an hour.”

Earlier in the day, Pelosi met with representatives from Newport’s Child and Family Services. The group toured the Supportive Housing Program for Homeless Women and their Children on John H. Chafee Boulevard.

Kennedy and other leaders in Newport wanted Pelosi’s visit to spotlight the services provided to women in need.

Keith W. Stokes, executive director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, pointed out the contrast between the image of affluent, tourist-based Newport and the working-class community of the City by the Sea.

“[The working-class] part of Newport is as much a part of Newport’s history and heritage as any mansion or any yacht. Here’s an opportunity for the third most powerful person in America to see a very important image of not only Newport, but of America — the working families,” he said.
[my emphasis..]

[..] Pelosi is no stranger to the state — she noted in her address that her grandparents met in Pawtucket.

Last year, Pelosi, before she was named speaker, attended a news conference with Kennedy in Woonsocket, in a show of support for the congressman after he acknowledged having a drug and alcohol addiction problem.

“It’s not just about [women’s] issues, as important as they are. It’s about women having impact on national security in our country. It’s about women having impact on the economy and budget system in our country.”