The idea that opportunity for education should be based on your ability to learn and not on your economic class status is a warm-and-fuzzy one, but in reality, it just doesn’t happen. A short piece by Dorothy Wickenden in this week’s New Yorker explains how getting into college is much easier for the rich — both liberal and conservative. From the article:
Yet, according to the Century Foundation, only three per cent of students at the hundred and forty-six most competitive colleges come from families whose levels of education, jobs, and income put them in the bottom socioeconomic quarter. Seventy-four per cent come from the top quarter. More startling, recruitment of minority and low-income students actually fell in recent years. In response, some collegesâ€”including Harvard and Princeton and some of the most influential small liberal-arts collegesâ€”now offer substantial subsidies to freshmen whose parents earn less than a middle-class income, and these schools are also working harder to seek out such candidates.
Nevertheless, the most selective colleges are still overly generous to applicants from the kinds of family least in need of a leg up in life. Legacies, the children of alumni and alumnae, have long had an easier time getting in. On top of that are the development casesâ€”the term of art for the often less than academically stellar children of celebrities, wealthy executives, and influential politicians. As Daniel Golden, a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, explains in his new book â€œThe Price of Admission,â€? Ivy League college presidents, admissions deans, and trustees spend a great deal of time and effort soliciting these lucky students, many of whom are admitted with S.A.T. scores three or four hundred points below those of some rejected applicants. [full text]
Greetings to all from Miami, Florida, from whence I was born and traveled yesterday–as did my brother, Roy–to surprise my mother, who is about to celebrate the 36th anniversary of her 39th year. (Feel free to break out the abacus.) A brief part of my winged journey, of course, involved running the gauntlet of airport security, a prospect that had caused me not a little anticipatory trepidation. Having a rather overdeveloped superego (that’s psychobabble for conscience), situations in which I am confronted with burly authoritarian types eyeing my person and belongings with studied suspicion make me somewhat uncomfortable. I feel undeservedly guilty and imagine myself blurting out that Jimmy Hoffa is buried in my basement or that “I shot the sheriff but I did not shoot the deputy.” This sense of guilt is augmented by the perp walk I and my fellow travelers/suspects are compelled to perform in our stocking feet, as we are herded through various high-tech security devices. (Bradley International Airport, from whence I flew, is now outfitted with those portals which blow air at you and sniff for traces of explosives. It was a blast!) Fortunately, despite my guilty countenance and my impure and decidedly left-wing thoughts, I managed to pass muster without incident.
The same cannot be said of the impish traveler in Milwaukee who was detained and questioned for 25 minutes on Tuesday by Transportation Security Administration officials because he “wrote ‘[TSA secretary] Kip Hawley is an idiot’ on the clear plastic bag that he was ordered to put his liquids into.” In the course of his surreal exchange with these officials, he was reportedly told by one fellow that his First Amendment rights did not apply there. Oy vey. For more on the story, check out the post on the Boing Boing weblog.
Contrary to the insistent rhetoric of the Bush Administration, the War on Terror has not made the world safer. As Bush’s own administrative top analysts in security are trying to tell him, the Iraq war is increasing and spreading terrorist activity. From the report:
The unclassified document said:
â€¢ The increased role of Iraqis in opposing al-Qaida in Iraq might lead the terror group’s veteran foreign fighters to refocus their efforts outside that country.
â€¢ While Iran and Syria are the most active state sponsors of terror, many other countries will be unable to prevent their resources from being exploited by terrorists.
â€¢ The underlying factors that are fueling the spread of the extremist Muslim movement outweigh its vulnerabilities. These factors are entrenched grievances and a slow pace of reform in home countries, rising anti-U.S. sentiment and the Iraq war.
â€¢ Groups “of all stripes” will increasingly use the Internet to communicate, train, recruit and obtain support.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, a U.S. ally in Washington for a Thursday meeting with Bush, found himself drawn into the political dispute. He was asked in a CNN interview about an assertion in his new book that he opposed the invasion of Iraq because he feared that it would only encourage extremists and leave the world less safe.
“I stand by it, absolutely,” Musharraf said. “It has made the world a more dangerous place.”
Bush has tried to label this newly disclosed report as “naive and mistaken.” If the President will not listen to his own top security analysts, what hope is there for stability in the Middle East? Why are we making the world a more dangerous place?
This editorial by Harold Meyerson in today’s Washington Post explains how Republican moderates are performing a necessary job for the GOP as “foot soldiers” in their plan to take the country further in the “wrong and strong” direction.
By Harold Meyerson
Sen. Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, is seeking reelection in his heavily Democratic state by insisting he’s not really a Republican, or at least not part of the gang responsible for the decade’s debacles. He didn’t even vote for George W. Bush in 2004, he protests. He cast his vote for George H.W. Bush — a kinder, gentler, more prudent, less strident Republican.
It matters not a damn whom Lincoln Chafee chose to support for president. His vote was one of roughly 435,000 cast in Rhode Island in the 2004 presidential election, and roughly 122 million cast nationwide. The election in which his vote did matter was that for majority leader of the Senate. There, he was one of just 100 electors, in a Senate nearly evenly divided. After this November’s elections, control of the Senate may well hang by a single vote. [full text]
Chafee may voice opposition to the Bush agenda, but that opposition is almost always without teeth. Voting against the Iraq war was courageous, but real change would have entailed voting for a Senate leader who would not have supported the ongoing effort. Voting against the Alito nomination was good, but it was his vote for cloture, and his lack of support for the filibuster, that made the Alito appointment a reality.
The problem here in Rhode Island is that I don’t think most people are looking at the larger picture of the composition of the US Senate when they consider whom they will vote for in November. I think most people are remembering Lincoln Chafee as the Senator who got us significant funding for various projects. I think most people also see him as a fairly strong advocate for improving health care, education, and environmental issues. But as Meyerson points out, these issues all suffer greatly when the Republicans maintain control of the Senate.
But this begs the question: can Rhode Islanders feel hopeful about the prospect of a Democratic majority Senate taking the country in the right direction? I think Rhode Islanders have suffered a significant sense of disillusion with the ability of the Democratic party to hold strong to a clear set of values. This may be partially the result of our 80% Democratic legislature in the state, which often seems out of touch with the values of ordinary citizens, as evidenced by the tax cut recently passed in Rhode Island for people earning $250,000 or more. Further, the significant history of corruption in the state — situations in which deals are arranged with little public knowledge or participation — further alienates ordinary citizens from the “party of the people.”
This election is about whether people have hope for the Democratic party to take the country in the right direction. I’m still hopeful. My fear is that many Rhode Islanders are not.
There’s no need to give President Bush the boot. He already has it…wedged firmly betwixt his palate and trachea. The man’s got sole, I’ll give you that, but he has somehow mistaken it for barbecue. A couple of days ago, Mr. Bush appeared on Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer and, when queried about this period of horrible violence plaguing Iraq, proceeded to insert his foot in his mouth by making the comment above. Leave it to our grammatically and historically challenged President to mistake a period for a comma. Perhaps he was commatose when he uttered such a crass and thoughtless statement, which would seem to reduce the hundreds of thousands of casualties, living and dead, of this terrible conflict to mere pixels. Regardless, he should be ashamed (although I seriously question whether he has the capacity for such a feeling). Fortunately, a number of individuals such as Cindy Sheehan and CNN’s Jack Cafferty have taken the Commander-in-chief to task for his unconscionable remarks. He certainly deserves a swift kick in the asterisk.
Ed Achorn raises important points about the entire course of the state’s investigation of The Station Nightclub fire and the lack of justice in the Derderian plea bargain decision:
NO DEGREE of punishment of those responsible for the Station nightclub fire could ever compensate for the agony and loss of life that night. But the 100 dead and the scores of the maimed, and the families who suffered horribly for them, were owed one thing: the truth.
It is the truth that Rhode Island officials at all levels — the attorney general, the all-powerful legislature, the governor — have failed to deliver.
Nearly four years on, the public still does not know — on the record, and under oath — why the people who are charged with protecting it failed so egregiously, leading to the catastrophe of Feb. 20, 2003.
Atty. Gen. Patrick Lynch did not even try to charge the West Warwick public officials involved in the case, saying state law shields them. He went after only the nightclub owners and the band road manager who set off indoor fireworks that night, blissfully unaware that flammable foam surrounded him. [full text]
Tomorrow night on NPR’s Radio Open Source, the topic will be the Rhode Island Senate Race and they’ve asked me to join the conversation! According to one of the program’s producers, they are interviewing Rhode Island bloggers who “can offer a perspective about Rhode Island living that will differ from what those enmeshed in the political landscape might say.” So wish me luck in my 15 minutes of radio fame, and be sure to listen to Radio Open Source Tuesday at 7 pm.
I am elevating Geoff Schoos’ comment on the plea agreement for the Derderian brothers because it gives needed insight into how this agreement harms not only the victims and their families but also the general public:
It is unconscionable that a plea agreement was entertained, let alone formalized, and then for the architect (Attorney General Patrick Lynch) to deny any involvement in it. It is inconceivable that Attorney General Lynch was out of the loop in the most emotionally charged and high profile case to be prosecuted by his office.
A plea agreement is the legal equivalent of â€œhedging your betsâ€? at Foxwoods. Originally conceived as a means of clearing overcrowded court dockets of â€œrun-of-the-millâ€? cases where the facts were clear and the outcome was not much in doubt, it has now morphed into a means where both sides work out a deal to avoid a loss. The prosecution can claim a â€œwinâ€?, the defense can claim that it courageously saved the day for its clients and the judge can find solace in not putting the victims through a process that relives the misery of their lives that began the night of the Station fire. All that gets lost under this scenario is the examination of the facts of the case and the ever elusive â€œsearch for truth.â€?
Trials are about more than the conviction or the acquittal of defendants. At their best, they reflect the communityâ€™s attempt to right a wrong against one or more of its members. The title of a case, â€œState vs. ____â€? or â€œPeople vs. _____â€? reflects the view that an offense against one of us is in fact an offense against all of us. Itâ€™s not just the individual victims or their families that cry for justice, itâ€™s all of us. Therefore, in a very real way, this plea agreement with its lenient sentence recommendations, apparently accepted by Judge Darigan, is not just a slap in the face to the victims and their families. It is a slap to all Rhode Islanders who looked to this trial for an exposition of the facts that led to this tragedy, the punishment â€“ if appropriate â€“ of the guilty parties, and a sense that â€œjusticeâ€? was served.
All of that is denied the victims of the Station fire and their families. Over the summer I had the opportunity to meet with a family member of a victim of the fire. She was the mother of a woman who died at the Station nightclub. During our brief conversation, she was outraged that Daniel Biechle was given a plea agreement that resulted in his imprisonment for only four years. However, she held out some hope that her daughterâ€™s death would in some measure be vindicated by the trial of the Derderians. Other than that faint hope, she had lost all interest in any governmental institution and struggled each day with her loss. Judge Darigan is wrong when he says that this deal would spare the victims and their families from having to relive the pain of their lives â€“ they have nothing left from which to be spared.
And after all this, who can blame the woman I met and others like her for feeling like forgotten pawns to be sacrificed in a bigger chess game.
There is hardly time to organize public protest as this decision is scheduled to be finalized Friday, but if you want to let your opinion on this be known, you can call Patrick Lynch’s office at 274-4400 x2359.
Patrick Lynch, Attorney General for the State of Rhode Island, is claiming he is not responsible for a plea deal being offered to Michael and Jeff Derderian, the owners of The Station Night Club, where 100 people were killed in a fast-moving fire on February 20, 2003. You can read the full interview with Lynch here.
Like many people, I find this to be one of the starkest and most disgusting examples of judicial failure I have ever seen. Patrick Lynch is the Attorney General. If he can’t take responsibility for the decisions coming out of his office, he does not deserve the authority that the office affords. He is either lying, or he is completely incompetent.
“We were failed basically at all levels,” said Gahan, listing town and state inspectors, the Derderians and, now, the judiciary.