Should This Teacher Have Been Fired?

We’re in a whole new era of once-private behavior spilling over into the public domain via social media. The rules are fluid, and as is usually the case, applied differently to men and women.

Case in point: A young female math teacher in Long Island, reportedly highly skilled and on the verge of getting tenure, sent a topless nude photo of herself to her then-boyfriend, a colleague she was dating. The photo became public, her students began passing it around, and she was suspended from her job and then fired. She is suing to be reinstated, or for compensation on the loss of her job.

Anthony Weiner went to jail for his online sexting photos, which he sent to minors — despite his political power as an elected official. Jeff Bezos basically told the National Inquirer to buzz off for his indiscreet pics, and has seemingly suffered no adverse consequences — his marriage was already on the rocks.  Bezos came at his battle from a position of wealth and power that gave him defenses most of us will never have. This young woman lost her job over her topless photo, and will have trouble getting another one in her field. She had no cards to play, really, not even the protection of tenure.

By now we all know, have to know, that compromising photos — and I’m revealing my age when a call a nude topless pic a “compromising photo” — sent online, even to a single trusted person, are likely to wind up circulating on social media forever. People can also be victims of doctored photos, made to look like nude pics of them; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has had fake nude photos of her posted to the Internet. You can question this young teacher’s maturity, or her judgment or her choice of men — although apparently not her intelligence or teaching ability.

We’ve all had teachers. Many of you have been teachers, or have worked in school buildings with teachers. Some of you are parents, or trusted aunts, uncles, or grandparents. If you were this young woman’s principal, or served on the school board whose members ultimately made the decision, would you have fired her? Why or why not?

Lyra McKee: The Lingering Toll of The Troubles

“The Troubles” is the name for the long violent struggle between mostly Protestant Northern Ireland, part of the UK, and mostly Catholic continental Ireland, which is independent. The Troubles formally ended in 1998, with the Stormont Agreement. But clearly the strong ethno-religious differences have never really been resolved, and Brexit is stirring them up again.

Lyra McKee, a very promising 29 year old journalist, was killed during riots in Derry, or Londonderry — the city’s name depending on which faction you belong to. The city is Derry to Catholics/nationalists and Londonderry to Protestants/unionists. McKee was apparently not necessarily the target of the new IRA; she is said to have been standing too close to a police car that was a target.

Read this brave, articulate, and wise letter to her younger self in the London Guardian, and tell me if you share my sense of loss at such a tragic and unnecessary death.

Getting to Know Seattle: From Old to New

Seattle neighborhoods are known for Craftsman homes, built at around the same time as my stucco Tudor home in Rochester, NY — late 1920’s, early 1930’s. The Craftsman homes are not usually very large, and they are often on small lots — making adding to their space difficult. But they are filled with fine architectural detail and skilled wood work. These are features you don’t get in newer condo buildings in downtown Seattle — even at a 1M price point for a two bedroom. The home I live in now, belonging to daughter Sara, is a fine example of the period.

Slowly, the Craftsman homes are being razed and replaced with modern structures — more space efficient, but they change the character of the neighborhood. I passed these homes today on my way downtown, on opposite sides of a steep street.

Old giving way to new…

If you had a choice, which place would you live in?

What Bothers Me Most About the Mueller Report

Jonathan Freedland, writing for the London Guardian, hit the nail on the head. What the Mueller report reveals is that guys who cheat and play dirty win over guys who follow the rules.

Time after time, Mueller made judgment calls that helped the president. Sure, Trump wanted to obstruct justice – but he was blocked by aides who didn’t “accede to his requests”, so, for Mueller it didn’t count (as if obstruction has to be successful to be a crime). To allege obstruction, one has to know the intention of the alleged obstructor and that requires an interview with the accused: but when Trump refused to speak to Mueller in person, the special counsel decided not to use his legal right to subpoena the president, because that would have caused a “substantial delay” and the pressure was on to wind up the investigation. But who exactly was demanding Mueller wrap up? Why, it was Trump and his cheerleaders of course. Mueller emerges as a ref who allowed himself to be bullied by an especially belligerent star player.

But this is about more than a mere difference of personalities, with gangster Trump running rings around his boy-scout pursuers. It’s about a difference in political culture. For the Trump presidency, exposed in all its ugliness in the Mueller report, is predicated on a willingness to shred the rules and norms that sustain liberal democracy – and it relies for its success on the unwillingness of liberal democracy’s guardians to do the same.”

The bottom line is that those of us who viscerally oppose Trump in all his sleazy outrageousness have no tools as yet that are capable of containing him. That applies to Congress, the judiciary, the press, and ultimately to us, the voters.

One thing that I think might work — and I hope the Democratic ticket in 2020 uses it — is to apply the psychological strategies that help narcissistic patients manage their behavior, only in reverse. I hope the Democratic candidates use those tools to provoke Trump, spin him out of control whenever they can. Dirty politics? I suppose so. In the era of Trump, that’s what we all become.

Aretha Franklin

I had a choice on Thursday night to watch Anderson Cooper on CNN and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, or go to SIFF, our independent film theater here in Seattle, to see a documentary about a young Aretha Franklin. I chose the latter.

The documentary Amazing Grace, which shows Franklin performing at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles, in 1972 is described by reviewers as “transcendent”, and indeed it is. The film, recorded by director Sidney Pollack, sat in the can for all these years due to technical problems with the original recording. Pollack failed to synchronize image and sound, making it impossible to watch the film. Contemporary digital technology allowed correction of that original error, and now, all these years later and months after Franklin’s death, we have Amazing Grace.

If you want to see the Queen of Soul singing black church music at the height of her vocal power, unadorned by a glitzy set and with a community black gospel choir as her backup, this is your film. I don’t know if it will be in wide distribution, but go wherever you need to. This is an incandescent experience.

One of the reviewers commented on how tired Aretha Franklin looked, in that hot church, singing her heart out. She did look tired. She was just thirty in the documentary. She was the single mother of four children, on tour, already a Grammy winning vocalist, already with the title Queen of Soul. This album took her back to her church roots. When she sang Amazing Grace, title song of the film, the backup choir was beside themselves in ecstasy. Reverend Cleveland, who was accompanying her on the piano, slid into a chair, put his head in his hands, and sobbed.

In case you’ve never been to a black church worship service, they are all in with gospel songs. Black church singing is a whole body and soul experience. That’s what you see here.

Don’t miss this.

If you can’t see Amazing Grace, at least revisit Franklin at the end of her career, at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1994.

The Big Reveal

I’m absolutely disgusted at the flimsy results of the Mueller report. Analysis is early yet, but here’s what I see so far:

From the get-go, Mueller defined collusion/collaboration/conspiracy, or whatever you want to call the overwhelming number of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, as “the presence of a formal agreement.” No one thought that even Trump or his dullard son Junior were that stupid.

Simply by saying “I can’t remember” and stonewalling an interview with Mueller, Trump gets to skate on the obstruction of justice charge. Is this how we’re going to treat white collar criminals now, or only Trump?

Obstruction failed, according to the Mueller report, when underlings refused to carry out Trump’s orders. That’s like a mob boss hiring a hit man who fails to kill the target, then having law enforcement exonerate the boss of any crime.

AG Barr and the Republicans in Congress know that as long as they have formal power and a cult-like coterie of Trump supporters, what Democrats or anyone else thinks doesn’t matter.

The message is clear to foreign powers who want to continue meddling in our elections: as long as the meddling is in Trump’s favor, there will be no consequences and no attention paid.

Speaker Pelosi has a difficult path ahead. Polls show that people are tired of the Russia investigation. That said, there has been serious damage done to the integrity of our elections. Democrats won the House in 2018 based not on Trump’s failings, but on health care and confronting the bias of the tax cuts in favor of the rich. What do the Dems focus on now, leading up to 2020?

Totally aside from Trump, we have a serious problem of cyber security, protecting the right to vote, and warding off foreign interference in 2020. Trump has diverted the Department of Homeland Security to focus not on that, but on the ragtag caravans at our southern border. He has no idea about cyber security — he doesn’t even use a computer. Nor is he willing to acknowledge the foreign thumb on the scale that tainted his election.

We have tax cuts that favor the rich and increase inequality, conservative judges well out of the mainstream, and deregulation that fuels the damage of climate change. Other than that, according to Trump and his lackeys, things are just fine and we should still be thinking about locking Hillary Clinton up.

We’ve gone from incompetent and self-serving to disgusting. And yet Trump might still win a second term.

The London Guardian on the Big Reveal

OK, this is an opinion piece, not news reporting from the London Guardian’s Richard Wolffe. But none of the thousands of words that will be written or spoken about The Big Reveal will say it better.

The gravitational singularity of the Trump Hole provides a stark contrast between the principled, rational and precise arguments of Mueller’s lawyers and the brazenly, barkingly mad bullshit that emerges from Donald Trump and everyone who surrounds him.”