Friday, August 12, 2016

When the “Criminal” Hides Behind “Not Perfect”


Ask public officials in Oakland what their accomplishments are, and you will get a rapid fire list of Soviet-style awards and merit badges.  The problem issues will be articulated and the buzzwords for the “known to work” solutions will get named.  Something they have done will associate their names to “good work” with little discussion of how ineffective the institutions, programs, and non-profits are when looking at the big picture. 

Point this out and you will get the latest cliché on auto play:
“We can’t let the ‘perfect’ hold up the ‘good.” 
But maybe more often, the “not perfect” is really something “criminal”. 
Crime number one in the Oakland Unified School District is to have so many kids not finishing high school. 
Want to find these kids? You are guaranteed to find at least one of them a day at the courthouse, entering the revolving door of our failed prison and parole system.  Not finishing high school was only part of the trap opening up for them. Prison and becoming a convicted felon is this trap snapping shut. 
“Not perfect”?  Well, I can see why a careerist politician would want to call it this. 
Back in the real world, where we are prying numbers out of a system that does not want to provide them and does not want to count the dropout kids on their books as failures, we find about half of the Oakland youth who should have a high school degree, don’t have one.  This non-graduate half  is overwhelmingly black and brown youth who are overwhelmingly economically disadvantaged and are on track to have trouble finding good work. Our own OUSD Superintendent tells us that most of them will eventually find themselves arrested. 
What I do not see is the urgency, the sense of emergency, the will to do something at the level that might really make a significant difference.  Every year we totally fail hundreds of our young people who will have trouble finding a job and no trouble finding their way to a jail cell. 
And what do we hear?  Oh, the test scores are “most improved” and our graduation rate is, if not counting the dropouts, up a few percentage points.  And what about the school-to-prison pipeline?  The same crowd wants some kind of “perfect” solution with a lot of expensive and complicated planning to do something major.
The OUSD should declare the situation to be an emergency, transfer lots of people to the task of getting these young people back in school, and accept that such an effort will not be perfect.  What more of an emergency do we need?  Some of these kids will die in street violence, most will get involved in crime, and all will enter the job market with a strike against them.  If we had to close all kinds of administration offices for a couple months and go visit every family affected, it would be worth it. 
Seems we are selective about what is called “good enough”.  What is being done now about the failure to stem the dropout rate does not rise to the occasion in my book.  The dropout rate is a crime hiding behind “not perfect” and this crime has some siblings. 
There is, first and foremost, the high crime of making school a boring, if not somewhat oppressive, institution with a drudgery of desk work with a misplaced focus on standardized tests and test taking. When coupled with a neglect of the other aspects of school, public education becomes an irrelevant and negative part of being young. 
Where did we get the idea that school should not be fun?  Where did we get the idea that by making it possible for all kids to have a chance at college, no kid will get a chance at learning technical skills or Spanish, not to mention learning how our government works, how to apply for a job, how to type, how to use a computer, how to fix a computer, how to drive a car, how to fix a car, how to insure a car, how to get an ID, how to file taxes, how to open a bank account, how to rent an apartment, how to check a circuit breaker, what to do in case of an earthquake, and?, and?, and? 
Maybe if school offered more of the things related directly to our real lives, young people might find it useful to study them?  In point of fact, after-school programs that offer projects for the young people to make their own are shown to have improved student participation and lowered dropout rates.  In short, fixing the irrelevant school curriculum problem is part of solving the dropout problem. 
It is a crime to call the death of non “core academic” programming just “too bad” and “not perfect” while we spend so much money on test giving, administrative costs, and doubtful building projects. 
It is also a crime to overcrowd the classrooms.  More than any other aspect of our public schools, classroom oversize and lack of stable, trained, and sufficient support staff makes day-to-day school a lot less than it ought to be for our students and teachers. 
Classroom overcrowding is sluffed off as “well, not perfect” and then we go on as though somehow it is acceptable, or even workable.  Then we start looking at how to judge teachers and whole schools, often using only those test scores, while crippling them with an impossible situation of over twenty-five students per class.  Here is another emergency needing to be declared.  We are in a long-term budget crisis caused by Proposition 13.  Then what is our crisis plan?  Maybe it is the administration that needs to have staff cuts and we should transfer those folks to on-site school jobs?  If we are saddled with a long-term budget crisis, let’s at least choose which crisis to have and where to have it. 
Classroom overcrowding subtracts time and resources from the students who need extra help the most, and often causes students who do not have a crisis to get lost between the cracks. 
The last crime I will work on today is the crime of shutting down adult education before we had a new system to replace it.  This is a the crime of destroying decades of public investment in a system that served thousands of residents.  This crime was committed because "reality" was a short term budget problem that was solved by doing a long term damage to our educational systems.  Where do people do their high school equivalency prep?  Where do they learn English?  Where do they finish up their diplomas if they did not graduate?  Other districts, if at all.  For the most part, not at all.  The OUSD voted to throw those programs and people to the winds and just take the money. 
I don't even see the "good" in trading long term damage for hand to mouth, short term budgeting, but I say a crime was committed against our community when adult ed was killed in 2010. 
What do we do otherwise? 
I’m not sure what the downside of slashing administrative costs to build back up staff at the schools would be, but I am willing to risk the experiment.  To keep on as though “business as usual” is tolerably good, albeit admittedly “not perfect,” is to accept the unacceptable.  

Friday, August 5, 2016

A time for the practical in education


A time for the practical in education
English, History, Math and Science should all be taught with a foot in the real world. Civics, which deals with matters ranging from the entirety of our public lives, should be required. 
Long before the wars between charter and public schools, long before the anti-Mexican "English-Only” propositions, and long before the Christian Right stealth campaigns for school board, another problem had arisen within the U.S. public schools.  Somewhere along the line, teaching things practical or in an applied way was lost and abandoned.
If there is one thing that my fellow parents, school teachers and residents all seem to agree upon, it is that the K-12 schools should do a better job of teaching practical life skills and teaching the curriculum in the context of how it would be used in everyday life outside the classroom.
Yet we still have a focus on the theoretical side of almost every subject and a day-to-day practice of making students spend a horrible amount of time sitting at a desk getting ready for tests in classes that have one, and only one, real goal:  college preparation.  
Ask anyone involved and they will agree that we need to accent the applied, but when it comes to changing the school day, most of what results is an addition of some word problems and maybe an “experiment” or two in lab.
Anyone who has gone to trade school can recall the routine of learning based on doing projects.
Basic electronics?  We started by building a radio.  >From scratch.  The math, the materials, the science, all come into play when one winds a coil and sets the variables to capture a resonant frequency.  (that means tuning in a station)
But project based learning is hardly the only way to be teaching the practical.
All across the curriculum there exists possible links from the subjects we supposedly teach to what is going on in the world around us.  History can be linked to the morning news.  Geography, language, and art can be connected to our international place in the world.  Math can take us to electronics, but it can also take us to filling out a tax return or to calculating the actual dollar amount of the percentage of the gate won by a famous prize fighter.
For the most part, bringing relevancy to content is not a problem that needs loads of money to fix.  It needs teachers and administrators who are willing to open themselves up to a transformation that would keep the standardized tests from driving our kids back to their desks within the confines of the classroom walls. 
Time needs to be taken to modify the curriculum to get students out of their chairs and DOING THINGS and even MAKING THINGS -- activities that will help them grasp the concepts of their core coursework.  The work of curriculum development takes deliberate review of existing projects that have already been designed and learns how to use them effectively.  It is admittedly hard, albeit rewarding, work, and anyone who tells you that there are lots of insurmountable problems is just plain wrong.  Almost any trade or skills training program accomplishes these tasks every day.  There is not much new, just a need for new technology subjects and a sex and race discrimination free environment.  Fortunately, there is already a lot of work being done along these lines.  For a small example see: http://www.ct4me.net/math_resources_3.htm#Math&EverydayLife
Some other resources could be found looking for STEM applications to the “real world” of everyday life.
It will take some leadership to make this change to how we teach K-12 in Oakland.
To be more precise, this is a change back to a past era.  People my age and over remember shop, civics, home economics, and art classes, and much more.  In my child’s charter school we started to reintroduce such things in a small way. The kids benefited from it, and it was a satisfying feeling to see girls using bike repair tools to fix a flat tire and boys using a sewing machine to make a marble bag because we made all students do both.  The kids wanted to add "app coding" and wood shop. 
I would like to have us work our way back slowly, starting with small, but fun and practical, projects that every student could do as part of their current course work RIGHT NOW.  The reason for RIGHT NOW is that we are losing too many students for the simple reason that school work is often too abstract and boring.  Too many students believe that school has not been designed with them in mind.  Just ask them.  
We need to go back to the days when schools grew plants in milk boxes, did art projects with egg cartons, and pulled classroom discussions from current news events.  One of our biggest problems is that students of every age are not engaged, and when they get older a disastrous number of them drop out. School needs to become more fun.  Students need to feel that they are learning something worthwhile.  In short, school work needs to be relevant to the larger world around them.
There was an old word I used among my examples: “civics.”
We need to bring back and expand civics.   There are all kinds of matters relating to ordinary citizens and their everyday concerns that should be a study in and of itself. 
Most of us remember civics as being where we learned that a state has two senators.  Such basic understanding of our government is badly needed.  Our students and their parents need a better understanding of how our local government works.  As a political candidate for school board I get a lot of questions about what precisely are the functions of the school board.  I would like to see students have some form of civics taught throughout their studies, and once in middle and high school with an eye on preparing them to become good citizens and informed voters.  Schools are locations where students and their parents should be able to register to vote and are often where they do vote. 
But participation in civil society entails more than just voting.  We open bank accounts, file taxes, join the military, rent homes, apply for jobs, receive public services, continue our studies, use health care, and insure our homes and cars. Every reader could add something important to this list. No student should leave our schools without a bank account and an ID card.  Civics is where we can make such things happen.  Of all the things I have mentioned here, this one will cost real teacher salaries and the expenditure will be worth it. 
More practical education will help us keep students in school.
Browbeating the students to be interested in a tedious series of pointless exercises, such as regurgitating on standardized tests some facts that they might use “someday” when they compete for a college entrance that most will never see,  is a recipe for failure and poor classroom discipline, which is way too much of what we have now.
Project-based learning, along with electives providing “identifier projects” for the students to work on, have shown themselves to improve overall school results, starting with staying in school.  I promise another blog to talk about this more in depth. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Charter schools should not be voucher schools


Are our Oakland charter schools another version of public schools or are they private schools running on public money?

A couple recent news reports show that our charters are less public than they could be and more private than they should be.

A reporter from Los Angeles recently wrote about our Oakland schools and our charters asking if our local charter school movement plans to take over half the local students the same way the sister charter movement in Los Angeles does.  The locals are not talking and the Greater [?] Public Schools in Los Angeles are double talking, at least according to this article.

http://capitalandmain.com/latest-news/issues/education/oaklands-charter-school-tipping-point-0531/

A brief article in the East Bay Times tells us why our local grand jury declared our oversight of our local charter schools to be insufficient under the scope [?] of the law and also wonders what ratio of public to charter schools is intended and rightly asks if anyone has any plans for determining it. 

In both cases we are bumping into the big question of “Who owns the charter schools?”

If they are special public schools, on a special mission with some local freedom to run themselves differently, then WE OWN THOSE SCHOOLS.  Public ownership would make sense, because we citizen taxpayers do certainly pay for those schools.  Every day teachers take attendance that, in turn, calculates the number of taxpayer dollars that will go to each school.  This calculation works the same for a charter as it does for a normal public school.

The bottom line is that we the public own a bunch of charter schools, serving a quarter of our local enrolled students, and if the grand jury report is to be believed, we have almost no control over these schools.  The little bit of supervision we are supposed to provide, is not happening.

The Alameda County Grand Jury report is well worth reading.  It covers a few vital aspects of public government not being what they should. The section about Oakland Unified School District and Charter Schools starts on page 85.

https://www.acgov.org/grandjury/final2015-2016.pdf

The report points out that the charter schools were set up to provide space for school districts to try different ideas or provide a special program, but with the passage of time have evolved into schools that are just trying to be better than the district’s non-charter schools.  So how is this different from a voucher?  If these charters are not accountable to anyone except their own owners or nonprofit boards, then in what way are they public schools?  If your student is being treated unfairly by your local charter school, whom do you appeal to for help?

The situation is, of course, not so simply described.  Some charters work closer with the district than others, whereas some are more private than others.  The OUSD has the legal responsibility to watch over the fiscal operations of the schools and should be inspecting them and participating in their board meetings.  The office in the OUSD with this job is half staffed.

Both the article and the report touch on the role of outside organizations with goals of moving a significant number of our students into the charter, semi-private, model.  Moreover, both the LA article and the grand jury report point out that if privatization is going to be the model, or a significant part of it, there are problems with the current management structure and burden sharing.

And there remains the whole business of enrollment.  In theory, charters must accept students who enroll on a choice/lottery basis and not charge them tuition.  In practice this is basically true, but the charters have their own enrollment processes.  The big difference between the OUSD managed schools and the various types of charter schools is that the OUSD must accept every last student who comes to the door. This is historically what being a genuinely free, tax-supported, public school system is all about.

There may be a way to make the existing charter schools more like the charter schools we were initially promised.  Part of that way would be to have both kinds of school be held to the same standards and held accountable in the same way. The other way charter schools could be truly public would be in taking their full part of the community commitment to serve each and every last student.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Uncommon Enrollment: “School Choice” in lieu of “School Improvement”

Uncommon Enrollment: “School Choice” in lieu of “School Improvement”

Because I am now a declared candidate for Oakland Unified School Board member in District 1, I have decided to pay more attention to this blog.

And I start with “a fix in search of a problem” and “a problem begging for a fix.”

The problem is enrollment.

At a recent forum, two current school board members, including the one I am running against, talked to us about a vague proposal called “Common Enrollment.”  This is the “fix in search of a problem.”

Some of us raised our hands and spoke about the confusion that is called the current enrollment system.  More than a couple of us as parents had filled in applications for our children, only to find out that they had been lost and not entered into the “lottery” that passes for school choice in Oakland.

Other simple problems, such as not being able to file enrollment in the schools themselves, were also brought up by a few parents.

So I asked a simple question:  Will the school board hold a hearing on the difficulties with the current setup?

The answer was “good question” and the real answer is "No."

A public consultation about what the current parents, teachers and administrators would like to see in an enrollment system is also apparently not in the works in any real way.  Maybe something happens somewhere, but my son’s school has not sent me any invitation to anything such as this.  Nor has anyone else, unless there was some fine print I missed.

So here is the proverbial cart before the horse called “Common Enrollment.” Do not confuse this with the English words “common” and “enrollment.”  This is more of a Policy and/or a brand name with a whopping price tag.  It also comes with a strange feature that attaches the charter schools to the OUSD-managed schools on an opt-in basis decided by the charter schools.

If this sounds a bit one-way in favor of the charter schools, well, it probably is, and entirely so if they do not have to pay for it.  Some parents and teachers are concerned that Common Enrollment is a way to make it easier for students to leave normal public schools and go to charters.  They are probably right about that.

The idea that we make less of a mess of all this has its merits.  As one teacher pointed out at the public forum, the late-minute changes during the first weeks of school are very destructive to getting the teacher-parent community off to a good start.  The idea that neither the public nor the charter schools should be trapping in any parents or making it hard to prefer a school of either types also has its merits.  These are schools, not consumer speed traps.

Common Enrollment is offering us “school choice” in lieu of “school improvement.”  The idea that we shop for schools the way we pick out a restaurant has been taken too far.

Why would any parent, including myself, want to send their child to anywhere other than the local school?  This is the question and this is the problem to solve.  A better system to use computers to jump from a sinking ship is hardly a progressive solution.

Trying to make sure local schools have what the parents and students are looking elsewhere to find would be a much better problem to begin to fix.

Looking at all the options for running a school district enrollment process should include more than one group trying to make a sale.  There are other software packages out there.  I would like to see if there is not one that also integrates keeping student, parent and volunteer records in a systematic way, maybe that includes a district wide ID card.  (Oakland has a municipal ID card; maybe we could use that?)

But this Wednesday we will not be looking at what the parents and teachers think needs to be done to create an improved enrollment system.

We will not be looking at what other school districts do, nor how they do it integrates with their general computer database systems.

What we will be looking at is basically a sales presentation printout of a slide show.

If there is a business proposal on the table, such as a proposed contract from the Common Enrollment people who will charge us to use their “algorithms,” it was not attached to the “report” on the OUSD board meeting website.

And a discussion about why parents are not finding their neighborhood school good enough, well, I do not think this concern is on the schedule either.  Not yet. 
 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Not Hillary



A friend sent out a group email telling us he wants to support Bernie for president for all the normal progressive reasons along with some admiration for his long, dedicated career.  
 
Another friend on the list wrote us all a reply that said she would vote for Hillary mostly because she was smarter than Bernie and much more experienced.

My slightly edited response to THAT is what I am sharing here:  
 

-------------------------------------------

I don't think I could disagree more. 

By that experience and intelligence scale, the best President of recent times is HW Bush. 

Personally I suffered the death and destruction caused by the Regan Administration against Nicaragua and was a close witness to the horror of El Salvador and Guatemala.   

All of that with the support of the "moderate" Democrats let up by Hillary, Bill and Al Gore among others in the DLC translated into the Arkansas National Guard being the cover for the Contras in Nicaragua, the ARENA death squads in Salvador, the Rios Mont government in Guatemala city from their base in Honduras.  The same Honduras that had its president show the door by US led corruption of the political process and the small dose of military support to expelling him from his own country from a US air base as decision maker Hillary Clinton 'served' as Secretary of State in charge of the CIA at the time.   

If that is experience, I want nothing of it.  Personally I feel a deep sense of outrage that will only go away when the image of student bodies stacked in my machine shop after a Contra attack fades, along with the other things I saw during those five years.  Is that another thing that Americans can just say "oh, well" about?  This government sure kills a lot of people around the world and it gets pretty glibly explained away.  Hillary has been an actor and an official helping to run that show.   

That is the personal, emotional side of political awareness.   

The analytical side should have room to put in a framework for the rise in drone strikes, the disasters in Libya, Syria, Iraq and. and and, to understand why there was a bailout for the banks, but not the mortgage holders, why there is only carbon control on coal, and only in lip service, why the civil rights of Americans, and our lives, stop with a police stop, why Snowden is in exile and why Manning is in Leavenworth after a year of torture in Quantico, why the Occupy protests were shut down by the police in over twenty cities on the same week, why more people have been deported from our nation than ever before, and maybe we get some kind of an idea of who Hillary is and has been from her Democratic Leadership Committee and Walmart days and up until now and what kind of criminals run  our nation.  She is not just part of this group, she is one of its leaders.  

 The democracy that we live in is the one where Hillary was a guest of honor when Obama and Romney had that TV show called a debate while the Green Party candidate was in the basement chained to a chair.   

Any explanation of how all of this is OK does not get my support. 

I don't give a damn about the people involved, how smart they are or how good their CV looks.

What we are missing is the ethics. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Giving Tuesday?

Giving Tuesday?  

Today my email box is starting to have a number of appeals in it telling me that TODAY is Giving Tuesday, as some sequence of what we consumers are supposed to do as part of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, both of which I had no trouble ignoring.  

Seems groups that I like and others that I have learned to recognize as too corporate to be of any value any more both wrap themselves up in Giving Tuesday like a used car sales floor with an American flag and a balloon sending us all glossy emails with logos, photos of some guru or some other eye catching glitz all bringing us to a prominent click point called DONATE.  

Every time I see these DONATE buttons I keep clear in my mind that if you want to find an international corporation with a rogue trader who lost millions of dollars, that includes Greenpeace.  

Of course that was just an exceptional day.  Not an exception is the inflated weight of the CORPORATION aspect of a Non-Profit Corporation.  Once upon a time Greenpeace actions were about conviction, now it may still be for some, but for others, it is about brand recognition.  

Being a member of Greenpeace is about DONATE and not much else.  Their employees stop and lecture us about some activity in South Asia that they are marketing, but in the last 15 years, I have never had a response to giving them my card from the local Green Party asking to talk about environmental issues here in Oakland.  All the young people could do was keep trying to get me to sign over my credit card on the clipboard based on the logo decorating their t-shirts.  

As a former board member of a local non-profit that advocates for Oakland youth and police accountability I attended the annual dinner last month.  My job was to fly the flag and make sure that the new board had my public support.  They had a guest speaker who was not really part of the crew but was considered an "awesome" speaker.  "Awesome" meant that she was aggressive at hustling this crowd of people who had already paid $50 a piece for bad flautas, for more money.  

In her pitch she said that "to be more effective you need more money" to which I say "not just" and "money for what?"  

Usually that "what" is paid advertising.  In 21st century America we do not move people, we advertise to markets.  

Money can do a lot of things.  When your organization follows DONATE to get lots of cash, you can do a lot of what cash can do.  You can brand, you can publicize, you can sell ideas, you can lobby.  

But you can not build a movement and right now we need a movement more than anything else.  To get a Police Commission in Oakland, we need more than ads and a moment with a council member.  We need a movement of the people to make sure we put civilians in charge of the police instead of the other way around.  We need citizens to stand up and vote, not vote marketers to squeak out a sale.

To be more effective we need more of us, especially the younger ones of us to be active producers of our political life and not consumers of political product.  

The only thing you can do if you get swallowed up by that DONATE button is become just another political product and another brand fighting for market share and infotainment attention.  

In a real organization members own the organization, they vote, they elect, they belong.  They will also donate, but it has a different meaning than when a 501(c)3 board hires a canvassing firm to meet their numbers.  You can donate all you want, you will never get a movement, not even an organization that is owned by its members, and they will never be able to move away from the system that they have become part of, use the methods of, and finally depend on for their position of influence.  Greenpeace had grown big and influential, but are we doing anything effective about the environment?  Is it a movement or a gesture and posture? 

One could ask the same question about the other Giving Tuesday emails in my box.  

Let's see, the Theatre group I love and have loyally supported for 25 years has chimed in.  Giving Tuesday seems like a good idea to somebody over there.  Will that help us with the ever aging and dwindling audiences?  This is the same group whose posters we reprinted and put up in our area year after year for nine years, and every one of those years it seemed like a big surprise to them that they had supporters in the area around the park where they put on a show.  Were we ever organized to build up support and audience even when we asked?  Of course not, but I get about 3-5 appeal letters from them a year.  So many in fact that if I missed a year it was because the number of DONATE appeals confuse me, and I could not remember if I had DONATED that year or not. 

I still love them, I will still send in an annual donation. 

A much less loved group who will never have a dime of my support is right there in the DONATE line, not that I saw an email from them.  Pretty shameless for a PAC backed by a billionaire to push for the privatization and characterization of Oakland Public Schools to put their hand out.  Maybe they think DONATE will make people feel like they are a part of something, sort of like the Pepsi generation.  Get someone to buy once, you are on the path to developing a brand habit. 

The cult that considers itself the leadership of our communities had a wonderful email full of things done by other people to associate with their DONATE button.

And there were a few requests that I totally support.  People looking for direct funding from the public to protect their independence from big money, people who DO have a membership owned organization, people doing honorable work that is being starved for cash.  For people like that I wish I had more money, and time.  There is a question though as to who gets jobs and support from our libraries, schools, jails and all that, and who is sent begging for funds to do what we as a society should make part of government's job.  We are still far from the day that the schools are funded and the armed forces are out begging for donations.  Many of the requests are valid and needed because of public neglect.

Quite a few other brands have followed along and if enough of them do it, Giving Tuesday will become ‘a thing’ on the consumer calendar. It probably already is.  (I think that I have 8 emails now, maybe 10, my partner has over 20 and needs to ask for support for the good work she does).  Ever feel trapped into a method and offered few other ways to support good work? 

If the only way to vote for what gets done is with dollars, then we should not be surprised that most what is getting done, looks good to those who have most of the dollars.  Consumer democracy is democratic how?  No surprise then that so many needs of those with the fewest dollars are left begging.

I should be thankful for Giving Tuesday.  It reminds me that I should ignore all those emails in my box, and go back out and do something. 

Something with other people, 

face to face.  

No charge. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

When do we get to say we told you so?

When do we get to say we told you so?  
 
What did we say?  
 
We said that people like the Mujahedeen, the Contras, and UNITA were bad news, and would continue to be bad news long after the short term politics were forgotten.  Supporting groups like that was akin to keeping a violent vicious guard dog that might kill someone.  Sort of like the right wing that denies evolution and climate change or the police that shoot to kill as a policy.  That dog can only be trusted the length the leash it will sooner or later get free of.  
 
Who did we say it to?  
 
Mostly we were talking to the people who were not making these decisions.  We were telling the common public that it was time to oppose and object.  It was on a long list of things we have been saying should be opposed and objected to.  If we had a message to the less than one percent who really make the choices that govern our lives, that message was: stop! You are going too far, even for you who seem to not know the limits of decency or even the limits of the possible. 
 
Who was 'we' to say it?  
 
It was the left in all its forms.  I was part of it, ridiculed in my youth for warning that Jimmy Carter was getting us into generational trouble and that the situation in Afghanistan was a nightmare that would continue long after the Soviet Union woke up and went home.  It was only one of many warnings, about wealth, religious fanaticism, the environment, civil rights and many other international affairs.  
 
I just wrote a blog saying that despite his great speech before congress, President Holland leads a government that is part of the problem.  We had no peace, it gave people no justice and now we plan to fix that with more war and injustice?  
 
And we have a world media that chokes on the word "imperialism".  
 
Continuing a lifetime of working for some kind of alternative (and at times getting some of it) I find myself reading emails the break the heart.  
 
One old leftist teacher writes me that she is overjoyed to see her native France join the US effort in Syria with airstrikes against ISIS.  In her dry French way, I think she has told me that my blog ended our friendship of twenty years.  Yet she was one of the people who once joined me putting out the warning that events like this were going to happen as a direct result of what the US and France was doing in North Africa and the Mid-East.  If such a person can now get swept up in the logic of violence, I ask myself how well we learned the lessons we once gave and how well we understand what we should know full well by now.  When are we going to face the realities of what our governments are doing?
 
Another email written in French, with a Moroccan accent, does not endorse the vicious circle, but instead tells of the death of a friend's son, a child he saw born and helped raise in one of the attacks last Friday in Paris.  That young man was lost to a war that his parents and friends had committed themselves to keep from happening.  
 
Other emails from kindred spirits range from talking about how France was ALREADY part of the (legal?) air strikes inside Syria against ISIS, about how it is not so great to be a Muslim in Europe and caring people who don't know that part of the world asking WTF?  We tell each other we knew.  Not exactly this, no, but we knew something like this would happen, yes.  We tell each other that we told them so.  There is no satisfaction in having been right. 
 
I have one friend in Paris who is the child of Holocaust survivors. He and I met working in Nicaragua and have been in solidarity ever since.  He writes me about anti-racism actions in France, supporting the people of Palestine and members of the Israeli Army who refuse to oppress.   I write him about running for office as a Green, trying to get some control over the Oakland Police and my fight against a media that chokes on the word 'imperialism’.  
 
In that time we have raised young men, little different from Amine, son of Taoufiq, lifelong friend of our buddy of my friend Youssef, who just died in a night club caught in the cross fire between two monsters.  
 
We knew, we know and we told them so.  
 
And we need to keep saying it.