Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Diane Ravitch on Education pt.2

February 27, 2017


As for testing you could eliminate all the standardized testing and just say tell us your parents income and we’ll tell you where you fall on the spectrum. So we’re not helping children by labeling them.

Why don’t people change their minds, it’s the ideology of the free market.


You know, we went through this period of saying democracy has now conquered the world and the free market has conquered the world and we should oppose all government bureaucracy. Well, that’s really saying that private is always better than public. And in a healthy society, you have a private sector that’s strong and you have a public sector that’s strong.So there’s a big move on and has been for a long time to make education a commodity. In higher education, the states have been shifting the burden of cost to students. And there are some countries that recognize that higher education should be free because education is a human right and we shouldn’t expect children and young people to pay for human rights.

Education should be a right

Why is education not a human right in this country? It should be, but the word education never appears in the U.S. Constitution. That’s number one. And number two is that a lot of people have the view that education somehow is a privilege and not a right. And I think that what we have to continue arguing for — and I think one day we’ll persuade people — is that education is the most important investment we can make in the future of this society.

And that means that this society, and particularly right now, we look around and Los Angeles and California is a great place to see this, we’re a multicultural society. We have to educate all children. We can’t just educate the privileged children. We can’t just educate those who are in the top half.
So that means that we have to see our society in the future is one where the investment in brain power, the investment in thinking skills, critical thinking skills, that has to be spread across the spectrum to all children.

But that’s controversial right now because what we’re going to see during these Trump years is a push to privatize public education, not a push to equalize education.

To my way of thinking, every child deserves to have a high-quality school within reach of them. They shouldn’t have to say, well, we’re going to close your neighborhood school and there’s a good school an hour away, but you don’t have transportation to get there. That’s no choice at all.

Diane Ravitch and Charter schools pt 1

February 22, 2017


Diane Ravitch was Assistant Secretary of Education from 1991-93 under President George H.W. Bush and member of the National Assessment Governing Board under President Bill Clinton. Born in Texas, she attended Houston public schools as well as Wellesley College and Columbia University. She’s now president of The Network For Public Education and Research Professor of Education at New York University. Her most recent text, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, was an impassioned but reasoned call to stop the charter school movement that is draining high-performing students and funding from our public schools.

Ravitch was invited by PBS host Tavis Smiley to think out loud about the new billionaire American Secretary of Education,Betsy DeVos who has spent her fortune on trashing public schools and promting charter schools.

Ravitch: She does not believe in public education. She has spent millions of dollars funding candidates who are opposed to public education. She has funded anti-public education people all over the country. She’s had huge influence in Michigan. Michigan is now not only an all-choice state, they don’t have vouchers.

But she tried to promote a referendum to put vouchers into the State Constitution and it was turned down overwhelmingly, 69 to 31. So she tried and failed on vouchers, but still there are hundreds of charter schools. Michigan is the only state in the country where 80% of the charters operate for profit and that’s the way she likes it.

Tavis: Why would an otherwise reasonable senator, no matter what party you were in, put someone at the top of the hierarchy who doesn’t believe in the system they’re overseeing?

Ravitch: They didn’t want to disappoint Trump, but, secondly, she and her family are among the biggest donors to Republican politicians in the country. She and her family have given about $50,000 each to half the Republican members of the Senate. And several of the people on the committee that approved her had received $50,000 to $60,000 each from the DeVos family.

So you’re talking about people who are masters of dark money and masters of being Republican contributors, and they were not going to let her down.

Ravitch’s history is interesting.

I was invited to join the first Bush administration as Assistant Secretary in charge of research and counselor to the Secretary, the Secretary then being Lamar Alexander who was from Tennessee, and I have great respect for Lamar.I was involved in very right wing think tanks at Hoover Institution and two others.

I was in favor of testing. I was in favor of school choice. I supported the original idea of charters. But about 2005, 2006, after No Child Left Behind had been in effect for half a decade, I began to look at the results and say this is not working. It’s not helping kids. It’s turning schools into testing factories.

I began to hear documented case after case where charter schools were failing and one of the think tanks I was on was sponsoring charter schools in Ohio. Every single one of them was a failing school, and I said, “But this isn’t what I expected. So I began writing critically about what was going on and then I decided I would write a book about what I had learned. And I wrote a book in 2010 called “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education”.

I cut my ties with all the think tanks. I found myself for a time kind of out on a limb all by myself and then I discovered I had a lot of new friends. And I felt very comfortable in my skin because if not for public schools, I wouldn’t be here.

My family — my mother was an immigrant from Moldova. The proudest thing she ever owned was her high school diploma from the Houston public schools. I was one of eight children. We all went to public schools. I’m not sure what the world would have been like for us had we had the kind of system that Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos want.

Breaking news: Frederick Douglas lives

February 2, 2017


You can not make this stuff up.

A notorious non-reader Donald Trump has no idea of who Frederick Douglas was.

The good news is that President Donald Trump opened Black History Month by mentioning the renowned abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The bad news is, he doesn’t seem to realize he’s dead. “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice,” Trump said at his “African-American History Month Listening Session,” which he hosted at the White House.

Whether it was a misstatement or genuine ignorance of who Frederick Douglass was, or, perhaps, one of Trump’s notorious “alternative facts,” is not clear. What is clear is that the spirit of resistance for which Frederick Douglass is best remembered is alive and well, and is directed squarely against the Trump administration.


The chosen people

January 27, 2017

Jonathan Ofir, an Israeli musician, conductor and blogger a writer based in Denmark. -is getting us ready for the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Dclaration


Ofir below uses a fairly arcane word “volkisch”—tribal and ethnonationalist., Arab marginalization, racist. Meron Benvenisti the former Deputy-Mayor of Jerusalem uses a similar word to describe Israeli democracy “herrenvolk’ —a democracy where the majority disenfranchises the minority; it smacks as the German suggests, a ‘master folk, exceptional people, innately superior, as in 19th cntury colonialism, those who would bring superior gifts to the locals.

In much of Gideon Levy’s writings he harps on the idea seemingly very much alive in israel, that many regard themselves and Jews in general as “chosen” and “eceptional” and ‘we can do anything we want and international law does not apply to us.”

Here is Ofir
The Zionist venture was from the outset meant as a völkisch nation-state colonialist project. Whilst the Balfour letter regards a ‘national home’, one should not be too naïve about what this would eventually mean. In fact, Herzl’s diary entry from 1895, saying that “We shall have to spirit the penniless population (the Arabs) across the border … while denying it any employment in our own country”, could have already betrayed the real goals of Zionism from the outset. The reason why such designs were generally obscured from the public as far as possible (and still are), is already outlined in the continuation of Herzl’s mentioned diary entry, which states that “expropriation and the removal of the poor [indigenous population] must be carried out discretely and circumspectly”. These notions of ‘discretion’ and ‘circumspection’ lie at the heart of the reason of how Zionism managed to get so far in its diplomatic efforts to secure international and imperial powers to aid its cause.

Nor should one be in doubt as to the designs of Balfour himself. In 1919 he responded to Lord Curzon, that “in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country …. The Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land”. (In Geoffrey Lewis, Balfour and Weizmann, 2009). –

Joe McCarthy in Israel

January 17, 2017

Israel should be very thankful for its newpaper Haaretz, curreently read by 4% of the  citizenry. The majority (40%) get their info from fishwrap called Israel Hayom, a gift from the American idolator of Benyamin Netanyahu Sheldon Adelson


Today’s editorial speaks for itself and mocks the idea  of Israel as a democracy.

The Knesset Interior Committee last week advanced a bill that, if passed, would forbid the granting of entry visas or residence permits to foreign nationals who have called for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of Israel or the settlements.
The private member’s bill was sponsored by MKs Betzalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) and Roy Folkman (Kulanu). Folkman explained that the bill “Is directed primarily at organizations that work against Israel,” that is, promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions, and that “all told the law changes the prism from the current situation in which visas are automatically granted … to a situation in which entry will automatically be barred unless the interior minister decides to permit it.”

That “all told” is not innocent, but disingenuous. The true purpose of the bill is to impose a sweeping sanction on anyone who doesn’t accept the Israeli occupation policy, and on anyone who believes that a boycott of the settlements or of Israel – which facilitates the settlements and their prosperity – may help halt this 50-year-old injustice. It’s not concern for Israel that is motivating the bill’s sponsors and its supporters, but the silencing of foreigners who oppose the occupation.
Folkman’s dissembling was revealed in a shameful fashion, when during the debate in committee, a representative of the Justice Ministry suggested exempting Palestinians with residency permits who live in Israel under family unification procedures. To this request, committee chairman MK David Amsalem said, “Why should I let someone into my home who denigrates and undermines the state?” while Smotrich added, “Whoever isn’t embarrassed to accept a favor or privilege while spitting in our faces during a probation period should be the first to lose his residency permit.”
So it’s clear that the true purpose of the law is to be a disproportionate whip against whoever criticizes Israeli policy, even if we’re talking about Palestinians whose lives are rooted in Israel and whose residency permit is in any case held as collateral. It’s not far-fetched to assume that the next stage will be preventing the entry of Israelis living abroad who express support for boycotts. Equally absurd is the possibility of any Jew living abroad who supports boycotting the settlements will be entitled to immigrate to Israel, but will not be able to enter the country under the new law.

If the bill indeed passes its final readings and is implemented, a “blacklist” will be input into the border inspection computers and anyone appearing on it will be stopped at Ben-Gurion Airport. This, together with enforcement of the Anti-Boycott Law, which applies to Israeli citizens, will turn Israel into a model of McCarthyism.




Boycotts for political reasons are a legitimate tool that falls under the protection of freedom of political expression. Nationalist and messianic MKs must not be allowed to turn Israel into a closed, reclusive fortress. This unnecessary bill should be removed from the Knesset’s agenda.


Gideon bible on way out

January 15, 2017

Shocking news from the hospitality industry.


Gideon bibles are on their way out!

A staple in every hotel, the free bible by your bedside is becoming a thing of the past.
According to a new study by hospitality analytics group STR, the percentage of hotels that offer religious materials in rooms has dropped by almost half in the last decade– from 95 percent of  in 2006 to just 48 percent this year.

“It’s because the religious books don’t fit the personality of the brands,” Marriott spokeswoman Felicia Farrar McLemore told the Los Angeles Times when speaking about the dramatic change.

According to some industry experts, hotels are trying to appeal to younger American travelers who tend to be less religious than their parents. The casual Bible placement has also declined to avoid offending guests of other faiths, say industry experts.

The trend of removing Bibles from hotel rooms is also affecting properties overseas.

Travelodge hotels in Britain removed Bibles from their rooms in 2014 “in order not to discriminate against any religion,” the company said.

Arthur John Faye, the hip billionaire of Loveshack International Hotels has stepped up to the plate.The owner of 300 hotels across the world and in Scarborough, Faye a lapsed member of the New Democratic Party is replacing holy writ with Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States.



A dual citizen of both Canada and the USA, Faye was chagrined at how dumb Americans were about their own imperial history.

“We’ve been fed patriotic crap for decades. No country is safe from our intervention anywhere. We have made common cause with every tin pot dictator in the world as long as he kept the resources flowing our way. We don’t want to know.just keep singing the Star Spangled Banner.

Who keeps the Middle East in turmoil?

Does anybody in Mississippi or Texas know that Israel receives more of America’s foreign aid budget than any other nation.The US has, in fact, given more aid to Israel than it has to all the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean combined—which have a total population of over a billion people.What gives?

Why are we propping up such an affluent nation? $250 billion since 1948.What gives? All we get from this is the hatred of the Arab world.
No American wants the truth—we’re too busy watching Bachellorette, NFL football and other nonsense. We are an empire and Zinn lays it all out.

Also as soon as Trump is inaugurated I am adding Noam Chomsky’s The State of Our World to the mix. Every bathroom will have a copy.”

Friedman gets “anti-occupation” religion

January 13, 2017

Was the USA under Obama friendlier than any other US president in modern memory, Gideon Levy was asked by Amy Goodman. Note longtime Israel backer Tom Friedman suddenly getting “anti-occupation” religion as the world’s media has finally caught up with Israel’s brutal occupation.


Many of us have been using similar metaphors as to what constitutes real friendship when you find a friend losing his bearings, his morality and sense of justice. Do you praise him or take his bottle, pills, drugs away from him. A friend lovingly intervenes.Friedman has made a career of staying silent—until the obvious hits him right in the face.

Gideon Levy responds,” You may call it friendly, and I would call it very hostile, because supplying Israel with more drugs just to get Israel satisfied is not friendship. It is hostility. And I think that President Obama, as great as he is, he really thought that, with Israel, it will go only with carrots. And we know by now that the last thing you can do with Israel is treat Israel with carrots, because Israel learned in those years, in those eight years of Obama, more than ever before, that it can do whatever it wants. The United States is still in its pocket.



Many times when you were watching the relations between Israel and the United States in the recent years, one could even ask himself, “Who is really the superpower between the two? And who is really the friend of whom here?” because, as Tom Friedman wrote just today in The New York Times, you don’t supply a driver with more alcohol, you don’t let him drive drunk. And Obama let Israel drive drunk.

The centennial Classic

January 3, 2017



There I was at the Centennial Classic,outdoors with 2 of my grandsons watching the Wings and the Leafs.1% centigrade,sun shining, 40,000 fans chanting Go Leafs Go.I sit and watch the game.This should be a Leaf win with Green, Abdelkader, Howard and Helm out.

Good time was had by all. A dull game for 2 periods then 7 goals in the last. Leafs win in overtime.
Forget the score, an unimportant event in this vale of tears.

Pro hockey, who cares who wins or loses when there is so much human misery afoot. OK if  that is your livelihood but in the grand scheme of things, a mere bagatelle.

But check the price of the ticket $345.00. You are not seeing things.
Now I did not pony up for this. Let’s just say I know somebody on the inside.
The thrill was with being with Johnny and Dougie and even singing Sweet Caroline with them.

The whole megillah bothered me—the awful many decibel rap music blasted at us, the requisite fly over—am I in the USA?—must be because a “hero” is introduced, not a nurse in the emegency award but a Canadian soldier. Last year to my disgust and I wrote  the president Brendan Shanahan he should know better—they actually rolled a tank up the ice at the ACC.Holy Henry Kissinger!

The stupidity, the politics of  empire and violence  has crossed the 49th parallel.

My mind went back to the early 50s when i would purchase a .50c standing room ducat, race up to the Greens and enjoy the game, usually watched in the Blues after the first period. I actually longed for the day that the old anti-Catholic bigot Connie Snythe started the game at exactly 8:30 PM…and the 48th Highlanders would play.


Get with it Gramps, time has passed you by.

Goodbye Honest Ed

December 31, 2016



If anybody asked where I grew up I would simply say Honest Ed’s. everybody knew about Ed’s outrageous bargain store at Bathurst and Bloor. The legendary store closes today after 68 years, a veritable Toronto ikon.

Mirvish was a great character, a down to earth business guy, very loyal to the immigrant population who were looking for bargains—first the Italians and Jews and then the Portuguese and Jamaicans They all loved Ed.he remembered what it was like to be an immigrant. His dad had come to the USA first from Kiev and when Ed was nine moved to Toronto and located in the largely Jewish area of Dundas and Bathurst.
I often ran into Ed on his birthday—which was the same day as mine.He would throw a party outside the store and treat the folks to free hot dogs.

When my first book Shabbes Goy: A Catholic Boyhood was launched in 2001 the Mirvishes, Ed and son David insisted I launch it at David’s great bookstore across the road. Who was I to say no.? They loved it because it was a local story. Not only did the Mirvishes buy the first two copies but they took out ads in the Globe and Mail! I never spent a dime promoting it.
Bathurst and Bloor will never be the same. Mirvish had a great run there and parlayed it into refurbishing the beautiful Royal Alex theatre. Both Toronto originals.



America: “the family is broken.”

November 13, 2016

The arrogant and ignorant clown takes the reins as only 54.5% of the dumbed down electorate votes..


And on cue the humble Leonard Cohen exits this earth. With Trump at the helm, for Leonard, its Closing time. He’s seen enough. Cue one more time his prophetic homage to America, Democracy id Coming to the USA, “the cradle of the best and the worst

It’s coming to America first,
The cradle of the best and of the worst.
It’s here they got the range
And the machinery for change
And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst.
It’s here the family’s broken
And it’s here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.