Archive for guest post

Repackaging Failure


Guest post by an anonymous teacher in the Cleveland, Ohio school system.

The Cleveland Metropolitan school District has come up with the "Cleveland plan" to improve what are considered to be our failing schools. As part of the Cleveland plan they have designated several "Investment Schools" which will receive a shake up in their staffing along with a rebadging. The question remains as to what else if anything they will receive as part of this plan.

As with so many times in the past the majority opinion is that this is simply another sleight of hand move by the mayor and the CEO of the Cleveland schools to draw attention away from the real problem while simultaneously keeping the blame upon the teachers and the schools themselves. Interestingly enough several of the new personnel at CMSD were brought on board at the district as recently as just last year. What do they have in common? They all came from the same charter school background in the Metropolitan DC area.

There has long been a feeling among Cleveland teachers that the ultimate intent of our district is to turn the majority of our schools, if not all of them, into charter schools within the next 10 years. Interestingly enough just a few months ago I happened to be eating lunch at one of my favorite restaurants downtown within earshot of two people who were obviously in an informal job interview. One was someone who works for the school district, as I heard several of our schools mentioned by name, and the other was someone who was being looked at for what appeared to be a management position. The person from the district on more than one occasion stated that within the next five years the majority of the schools in the district would be running on a charter School model.

We had our staff meeting last week and the chief academic officer was there to brief us and supposedly answer questions. The briefing was rather circuitous and there were not a lot of specifics except the fact that staff would be required to reapply for their jobs through an interview process. Emphasis was made on getting parents involved, improving student attendance and participation, etc. These are things that we've been working on steadfastly for years using everything at our disposal besides costumed monkeys riding dwarf ponies wilst spinning plates on sticks..

Almost all of the questions asked by teachers during the course of the meeting revolved around our inability to do just these things and the feeling that we have had very little if any support for the administration on these issues in the past. Instead of assisting the district constantly hammers us about our poor test scores and poor daily attendance rates.

This is a very lower lower-class neighborhood. Many of our children come to school daily in filthy clothes and not having had breakfast, sleep, or a variety of other necessities. The lack of any alternative vocational or employability skills training was also brought up in questions. Truly this is the link pin to bring our neighborhood and others like it up from a pressure cooker of disinterest, crime, and subculture to a working-class neighborhood where people have the ability and the inclination to invest in their children's future literally and figuratively.

Upon direct questioning as to how much more money was going to be put directly into the school as a "investment school" the CAO skirted the question by simply saying that it would be determined by the school board.
We've seen small schools, academies, and school improvement grant (SIG) schools. The commonality among all of them is the fact that no effort is made to address the needs of school discipline, culture, and mutual respect. Just last week we had a virtual riot at my school with a group of approximately 6 students showing up in the parking lot two hours after school commenced. They were brought inside by security and questioned. Another student from the opposing faction then pulled the fire alarm causing everyone to spill out into the parking lot. At this point several flights erupted simultaneously including one in which a young lady produced a tasser from her purse and began tasing other students around her. A student in the opposing group produced a padlock and began hitting girls in the head with it causing serious gashes on several. When parents were contacted and after police arrived the biggest complaint from the parents was as to how the school could've let this happen. None seemed to be angry with their children or to question why their children were purposely inciting a riot on school grounds and using weapons. The parents actually knew that the fight was being precipitated on Facebook yet they failed to inform the school or take any effort to intervene themselves.

I'm honestly at a loss as to how we can change this culture that we produced which makes it okay to solve every problem with a fist, a knife a taser or a gun. Our leaders tell us we have to have high standards, create a welcoming environment and been understanding of our students diverse needs. We do this and much more. Who we are helping by telling each and every one of them that they are going to college is a question I'd like to see answered.

In the meantime we can continue to smile and recreate ourselves every couple of years while our students continue to end up wearing ankle bracelets, getting high every morning, starting fights and ending up in in jail or worse.


Benghazi Smoke Screen


Another guest post by the one and only Will Durst.


Up until about an hour ago, most Americans thought Benghazi was the guy who palled around with John Cassavetes back in the 60s, but now it’s obvious we’re talking about the foreign policy arm of a multi- ramped tar pit the President has found himself swimming- up to his armpits. Yes, friends, it’s pity time at the White House.

After flogging the issue nonstop since September 11, the Fox News Team’s persistence finally pushed the story of the Libyan Embassy riot that resulted in the death of 4 Americans over the cliff into the public consciousness. Space available only because both Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty are on hiatus.

The hue and cry from the right is demanding many questions be answered. Was the protest planned or spontaneous? Did the group that initiated the attack have any affiliation with Arab terrorists? Who altered the talking points; the CIA or the State Department? Where were the drones? Queens? Wasps? Chigger mites? How many angels can dance on the head of a bent and broken Romney/ Ryan pin? What would Cheney do?

Having taken all this in, the American people responded with what can only be characterized as even more penetrating questions such as: “Who cares? What difference does it make? Aren’t we stuffed to the gills with enough partisan gobbledy goop already? Does anyone really give an albino rat’s ass? Isn’t there a seafood buffet around here somewhere?”

The revelations have been as startling as mint jelly on lamb. Tragic violent events occurring in the Middle East? Oh no! Not that. Perpetual infighting amongst government agencies? That couldn’t happen here, could it? Republicans accusing a Democratic administration of not being patriotic enough? What are the odds?

Next you’ll tell me the Justice Department investigation of the Justice Department’s seizure of AP reporters’ phone records will lead to the Justice Department concluding that the Justice Department did nothing wrong. The public’s eyes are glazing over like a 5th grader lectured on the nutritional aspects of broccoli rabe.

Haven’t we been told for the last twenty, thirty years that Libya is a godless pit of iniquity and now they want us to heap truckloads of blame onto our own guys because someone got killed over there? After they themselves voted down additional money for embassy security? Another example of that whole “dynamite the front steps then complain what a pain it is to climb into the house on a rope ladder” school of logic.

But the GOP remains convinced they have the administration on the run, and is calling for all sorts of investigative committees and dedicated inquiry boards and pretty soon it will be special prosecutors and court rooms full of hopping kangaroos and then pointy sticks and barbed wire and dungeon doors with keys specifically designed to be thrown away. Just in time for the midterms.

And if everything goes according to plan, Hillary Clinton and her nascent 2016 Presidential run will wither and rot behind the same Benghazi charges. But the Republicans must know how tricky this sort of maneuver can be. As with all smoke screens, you have to pay real close attention to which way the wind blows, or you could easily end up choking on the same stuff you’re spreading.

Recipient of 7 consecutive nominations for Stand Up of the Year, Will Durst’s new one- man show “BoomerAging: From LSD to OMG” is presented every Tuesday, at the Marsh, San Francisco. Go to… or for more info.


Your Number's Up


Guest post by David Garber


I have fun with numbers... sometimes they're shocking, other times they're very amusing. I'm not good with them, I just enjoy them. So, with that in mind, here's a few you might want to use at your next social gathering.

0. The grizzly bear is the official state animal of California but no grizzly bears have been seen there since 1922. Maybe it's time for a new state animal -- The elusive Darryl Issa cretin is my suggestion.

48. That's the percentage of all Americans who are currently considered to be "low income" or are living in poverty. Remove Mitt Romney and the Koch brothers from the calculations and the number is substantially higher.

600. That's average number of cans of soda each American consumes in a year. Only 22% of those aluminum cans are recycled. What's the matter with you people? Cans don't grow on trees!

2.4. That's how many times more the average person in the US spends on health care than in the UK. It's evident that the difference must be in dental preventative hygiene.

Montana has three times as many cows as it does people. That might explain why politics in that state is "udderly" ridiculous.

66. No, not Route 66 -- Today, 66% of all Americans are considered to be overweight. Remove Chris Christie and Rush Limbaugh from the equation and it's down to 47%. Still to high.

25. That's the percent of all U.S. employees with Internet access who visit pornography websites while they are at work. So next time you go to the office, look around and see who's smiling -- and who's perspiring.

52. That's the percentage of children living in Cleveland that are below the poverty level. I guess we should ask Betty White why her show's called Hot in Cleveland. Doesn't sound like things are so hot to me.

167,000. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, that's the number of Americans who have more than $200,000 of student loan debt. But don't worry. The Republicans are trying to pass a bill to double interest rates on student loans. If they're successful, the average student will be paid off just in time for social security.

-- There are 19 million new cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia in the United States every single year. With our US population of 320 million, we'll all have one of those diseases in 16.5 years.

Okay, hope you had fun with numbers like I did.

For the past 25 years, David Garber has been serving as the show runner and or writer on some of television’s biggest hits… Saved By The Bell, Power Rangers, 227, Bill Cosby Show and many other network series. His writing and producing have also netted David two very prestigious awards:the PRISM AWARD and the TV CRITICS AWARD – TV SPECIAL OF THE YEAR. Currently he’s authoring a short story series called “A Few Minutes With…”


Enough Already


Guest post by David Garber


It's bad enough that for the past five years, Congress, led by the Republicans has failed in their duties to provide us with the services they were elected to give us.

Instead, they have lied, stonewalled, blocked, sabotaged filibustered, prevented job growth, killed sane gun control, and generally driven this country into the toilet. A comfortable place for the old, white, hacks of that party, but not for the rest of us.

What we got instead is no immigration plan, no tax reform, a gigantic fiscal cliff, more tax relief for the rich, less air quality restrictions, a phony Benghazi scandal, a made-up IRS bruhaha, and a cut back in social services, especially for the poor. On a scale of 1 to 10, Congress is mining record negative numbers and falling fast.

Oh, one other thing they did do -- actually 30+ time now -- they voted on bills to void or vacate the Affordable Healthcare Act. 36 Votes. Are you crapping me?

When are these asshats going to get it. We want action on pressing matters, not political issues... We want fairness, not partisanship.

Isn't it about time we start taking names and arm ourselves with our votes to see to it that these lackies and political slackers are driven from office? Let's start at the top. Boehner, McConnell, and work our way down as they come up for re-election.

Let's stop rewarding obstructionism. Get with the program. Down with asshats -- let's "Dump the chump!"

For the past 25 years, David Garber has been serving as the show runner and or writer on some of television’s biggest hits… Saved By The Bell, Power Rangers, 227, Bill Cosby Show and many other network series. His writing and producing have also netted David two very prestigious awards:the PRISM AWARD and the TV CRITICS AWARD – TV SPECIAL OF THE YEAR. Currently he’s authoring a short story series called “A Few Minutes With…”


Why We Are Not Following The Following


Guest post by skippy the bush kangaroo (@skippybkroo)

nobody likes good tv as much as we do, and nobody is as thrilled with the evolution of long-form story-telling on television as we are. add that to the fact that mrs. skippy loves kevin bacon, and we were incredibly excited to see the new fox tv series starring mr. bacon, known as "the following."

 photo following.jpg

"the following" which airs on mondays nights on fox-tv, tells the tale of an imprisoned serial killer played by james purefoy, who manages to communicate with his cultish acolytes on the outside to manipulate them into gruesome, bloody and shocking murders at his behest, like some sort of cross between charles manson and hannibal lecter. bacon plays the fbi agent who originally caught purefoy's character, and is now back on the case to try to figure out...wait for it..."the following."

now, we have no problem with explicit violence in service of a good scary or interesting story. we think breaking bad is one of the greatest piece of popular entertainment of all time, and we are big fans of dexter, justified, and the walking dead as well. but the difference between those afore-mentioned shows, the following, is simply this: "the following" sucks.

and it sucks in a big, big way. firstly, all the cops are really, really stupid. secondly, all the bad guys are really, really smart, and really, really evil. and that's about it. what other, little characterization there is seems to be lifted wholesale from a thousand previous police procedurals (bacon's character is world-weary! and alcoholic! purefoy's character is charismatic! and handsome! the black guy gets killed! almost right away!).

but wait! there's explicit violence, just like on those cable shows! stabbings! immolations! eye-gouging! and all in the name of edgar allen poe, who is supposedly the inspiration for all these killings, in the worst mis-reading of the works of american literary giant since disney animated the legend of sleepy hollow.

the problem with all this gore-nography, as we call it, is that there's nothing else very interesting in the show to hang it on. breaking bad isn't about drug dealers killing each other; it's an intricate study of the moral breakdown of a man already being beaten by the system. dexter isn't about slicing people up, it's a complicated analysis of the definitions of good and evil within each of us, asking if the indulgence of one can serve the other. and walking dead has zombies, so...

we expected so much more from kevin williamson, the creator and executive producer of the following. williamson wrote the scream films, which happily played with the tropes of horror movies even as they worked as a horror movies themselves. but in the following, williamson doesn't do anything with horror/serial killer tropes, other than steal them from thomas harris and criminal minds. even ryan murphy at least has fun juggling horror tropes around in american horror story. williamson seems to be writing this crap in his sleep, or else farming it out to some junior high creative writing class somewhere.

last week's episode was a prime example: the fbi followed (no pun intended) the clues to a specific individual's house. he wasn't home, but his wife was. the fbi interrogated her and decided she didn't know anything about the murderous cult her husband was involved with. now, at this point, we literally shouted at the tv "yeah, sure she doesn't! like paterno didn't know about sundusky!" but the fbi let her go back to her house, and sent one agent (the afore-mentioned one black guy in the cast) to guard her. even worse, he felt really safe turning his back on her in the kitchen where they keep all those knives and cutting implements. well, if you couldn't see his extremely bloody death coming a mile away, then we've got an original story about killing a man and hiding his still-beating heart under the floorboards to sell you.

there is something to be said for the subplot of two straight (bad) guys who pretended to be gay to get close to the ex-wife of purefoy's character in order to kidnap her son, only to later realize that maybe they liked being gay, but there's an evil girl involved who doesn't like them being gay, so she stabs one guy, who goes out and kidnaps an innocent lady and beats her up and keeps her in the basement. well, ok, there's really nothing to be said for that subplot, now that we write it out and look at it.

we are sorrier than you know to say this show is a turkey. we like to think that television has entered a second golden, or at least a silver, age of story-telling, with shows that demand actual attention paid by its audience, and multiple views of every episode to suss out the nuance and layers of human interaction. lost, the sopranos, fringe, as well as the shows mentioned above, are great examples of complex, substantive examinations of human folly.

"the following" is just a pale imitation, a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. if you ask us if we are going to keep watching it, we'd quote poe's raven.



Oh People, Please!



Do nothing or don't care?  For the 112th Congress, we saw both.

Our elected representatives aren't totally inept.  After all, they found ways to get themselves off unemployment and on the public payroll.  That's not do nothing. That's do something.  They try to cut down on government employees. That's not "do nothing", that's do something. They try to eliminate the social safety net for those who need it.  That too is not ""do nothing," that's do something.  And who says that a fish doesn't stink from the head down?  They say to kill a snake, remove it's head. Congress, for what it's worth is a poisonous viper. And here's where removing it's head alone isn't good enough.  We need to fillet it and remove all of the venomous sack inside of it -- the Right Wing Tea Party poision.

These elected officials are people who are trying.  I know they are.  They spend all their waking moments trying.  But trying what? 

Truth is, they're one trick ponies. They're trying to get reelected on the backs of everyone else.   Even before they step into their offices for the first time, officially sworn in, they're out fundraising so they canraise their awareness of public issues along with their re-election coffers.  They're not studying the Constitution which most of them have never fully read. They're out looking for new innovative ways to be returned to their uni-directional jobs (that of breaking the middle and lower class).  Working one out of every three days a week and having a full staff and expenses to handle their "official" business.  God, that seems like it must be very taxing.  Did I just say taxing?  Why not just eliminate those and all our problems will go away?  Except for the taxes that pay their salary, of course.

Let's consider that.  We're facing tax increases in a few days.  Do our elected officials care?  Not really.  They're on Christmas break -- one they can afford to take and will most likely write off come tax time, as official business. They've got a job and if the government were to shut down today, how many representatives will we put out on unpaid furlough?  None.  Yet we do that to teachers responsible for our kids.  We may soon be arming those teachers, but pay them for the work they do?  Oh, Mister -- Please! 

And when things get tough and we need to tighten our belts, let's just cut food for the poor.  But eliminate the three martini lunch for the representatives?  Oh, Lady -- Please! 

And when it comes time to find money for public transportation and clean energy exploration, do we consider trimming the bailouts and freebies to the smoke spewing oil companies?  Oh, People -- Please!

It's not too late to see changes made, but letting bullies have their way didn't work in the 20's - 60's with the mob, I didn't work in '70's through the new millennium with irresponsible spending cuts.  Can we start using some sanity and correct this while there is still a north and south pole -- at least with snow and glaciers?  Before animals and people become extinct because we just don't care that our air is filling up with carcinogenic waste and industrial bi-products?  While there's stilla bright sunshine that doesn't require our needing goggles and full protective body suits because the atmosphere has been punctured, endangering life as we know it?

They say that Styrofoam takes hundreds, if not thousands of years to biodegrade.  We won't be there to see it -- but I bet the "Don't Care" Congress will be.  And if you're lucky enough to make it that far, bring your checkbook.  They'll be looking for a political donation to be reelected.

Let's consider sweeping away the trash once and for all.  Maybe a few treasures will be lost away along with it, but we're used to paying a price for improvements -- and even now for keeping the status quo.  Do nothing?  They have.  Don't care?  That's for sure.  Welcome 113th Congress.  You've got some very small shoes to fill with some very large feet.

For the past 25 years, David Garber has been serving as the show runner and or writer on some of television’s biggest hits… Saved By The Bell, Power Rangers, 227, Bill Cosby Show and many other network series. His writing and producing have also netted David two very prestigious awards:the PRISM AWARD and the TV CRITICS AWARD – TV SPECIAL OF THE YEAR. Currently he’s authoring a short story series called “A Few Minutes With…”


Idioms for Idiots



Just listening to Fox News and MSNBC yesterday, I thought I was at a Chinese restaurant and had just opened up a package offortune cookies.  Hardly an original comment among them  Here's some of their pundit's wisdomTheir bon mots were flying off the shelves.  They were a dime a dozenRelating to the fear of going over the (Fiscal) Cliff the best they could offer was we've reached the 12 o'clock hour and we've jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.

The Republicans were so eager were they to stick it to the man (Obama) on raising the national borrowing ceiling, getting his back up against the wall, they were trying to have their cake and eat it tooIt's a bitter pill to swallow.  The "do nothing" Congress is in a pickle, 'they're damned if they do and damned if they don't."  They are between a rock and a hard place.   Congress made their bed and now they have to lie in it.  And they're not so eager to reap what they sow.

They claim they've been burning the midnight oil to find a solution to keep things from going from bad to worseDrastic times call for drastic measures.  We're no longer on the fence nor are we on top of the worldWe're in the doghouse and the dog days of summer are approaching.  For too long it was out of sight, out of mind.  Now we have to sink or swim.  No more bandaid cures.  Looks like Republicans are going to have to bite the bullet.  They made their bed, now they have to lie in it.

Maybe a few less axioms and bromidesand a few more ounces of prevention and we'd have have a pound more of cure.  When Obama and Boehner met last year to work out a "grand deal" the result was this upcoming fiscal dilemma -- the perfect storm - these Draconian cuts called the sequester.  By not accepting Obama's overly generous offer back then, the Speaker is now kicking himself in the backside because a bird In the hand is worth two in the bush.  He punted the ball down the field because he was blinded by the bush tax cuts, and couldn't see his hand in front of his face and accept 'yes' as an answer."

He probably had a chip on his shoulder which now, for many of us has become a blessing in disguiseWe're heading back to shore.  We're going to return to yesteryear -- the Clinton years.  Jobs were plentiful.  People didn't complain about their taxes, they found a way to pay them, rich and poor alike.  And we had surpluses in the Fed with a stock market that flourished.  So let's not rush out the crying towels.  Boehner may get a taste of his own medicine if he loses the Speakership.  According to the tea party, he was nothing more than a wolf in sheep's clothing  and he's going to now be receiving a slap on the wrist, or perhaps more -- getting what he deserves.  Hopefully he'll take it like a man.  He did nothing with his rhetoric but add fuel to the fire and show his actions speak louder than words. He did nothing and that's what we got in return.

As we race against the clock we find ourselves all in the same boat.  Perhaps it's better late than never that Obama makes The Boehner bend over backwards and pay the piper.   But I won't be sobbing crocodile tears or crying over spilt milk.  We're strong -- built American tough and we can take it.  Will we survive?  It's anyone's call.  But thanks to the 112th Congress now it time to face the music.  Truer words were never spoken.

Writer/Producer David Garber

For the past 25 years, David Garber has been serving as the show runner and or writer on some of television’s biggest hits… Saved By The Bell, Power Rangers, 227, Bill Cosby Show and many other network series. His writing and producing have also netted David two very prestigious awards:the PRISM AWARD and the TV CRITICS AWARD – TV SPECIAL OF THE YEAR. Currently he’s authoring a short story series called “A Few Minutes With…”