The Greatest Sin of MLK

Martin Luther King JrShould kids look up to Martin Luther King Jr as a role model? You might think they should, but that’s just because you are another liberal Frankly Curious reader with no more sense than God gave a donkey — and not one of the smart one, but one who went to school on the little bus. You see, it turns out that King was not a perfect man. You may have heard about extramarital affairs. In addition to this, King was much shorter than Malcolm X. How can you look up to a man who is so short. (Disclosure: Martin Luther King Jr was exactly my height.)

All of that might have been overlooked. But did you know that MLK was a plagiarizer?! Thirty-six years after he got his PhD in systematic theology, a Boston University committee found that, “There is no question but that Dr King plagiarized in the dissertation by appropriating material from sources not explicitly credited in notes, or mistakenly credited, or credited generally and at some distance in the text from a close paraphrase or verbatim quotation.” Can you imagine?! The man didn’t properly footnote his dissertation!

It is important at this point to note that it is because students tend to take these kinds of shortcuts that there are dissertation committees. In my experience, dissertations are not given sufficient scrutiny. But there is a good reason for this. Most people are far more interested in whether the new work is important and correct. Most of any given dissertation is just a retelling of what work has gone before. And in this case, the same committee that found that King had plagiarized also found that his dissertation made an important contribution to scholarship, which is the only thing that matters.

There is little doubt that King’s dissertation has been picked over more than almost anyone’s in history. The reason for this is doubtless good and bad. There are those who want to diminish him, because let’s face it: there are a lot of people who still don’t think African Americans should vote. But on the other hand, there are many who just want to know who the great man was.

And now we know: Martin Luther King Jr was a man, like so many others. But he was also a man who did great things. And his worst doesn’t even rise to the level of my worst. And it is in the noise compared to men like Ronald Reagan. So yes: children should admire Martin Luther King Jr. We all should. We should admire him for the great things he did. And the fact that he was a little lose with his dissertation citations and his marriage vows doesn’t mean a thing.

Education Reform: Help Those Who Don’t Need It

Libby NelsonLibby Nelson wrote a great article over at Vox this week, Ranking High Schools Tells You Which Schools Are Rich or Selective. It isn’t about the Education Reform movement. But it does show the lie to it. The article is based on The Daily Beast ranking of the 700 best high schools in the United States. And surprise: the best schools are the ones that are rich or only let in the best students.

But don’t forget: the issue is teacher tenure and nothing upsetting to the power elite like school funding! We have an educational system that, like most of our society, is set up to help those least in need of help and to let those most in need of help languish as we tell them, “Anyone can make it in America; if you haven’t made it, it is your own damned fault!” It is pathetic and I can’t think about it without thinking what an idiot Jonathan Chait is.

Of the top ten schools on the list, only one has a student body where over half the students (63%) get free or reduced-cost lunches. It is the School of Science/Engineering in Dallas. And it is selective. The best students from throughout the Dallas area go there. So it isn’t surprising that 100% graduate or that 98% are college bound or that 100% take Advanced Placement courses. These are largely students that would do this in any environment.

Diane RavitchWhat we are seeing is that the policies of those in the Education Reform movement have already succeeded at mostly separating the best students out of the normal public school system. This allows them to scream all the louder about how the public school system is not performing for our children. The whole thing is based upon the fact that poor children don’t do as well as rich children for the normal environmental reasons as well as unequal funding of schools. And the Education Reformers have managed to make the situation even worse for the average poor child.

If we lived in a rational country, we would look at The Daily Beast rankings and decide that we had to do something about inequality in our educational system. Instead, we just seem to shrug, “What are you gonna do?!” I suspect that among conservatives, the unstated belief is that the rich are just better than the poor and that’s why their kids do better. It’s all just status quo apologetics.

At her blog, Diane Ravitch recently wrote, Researcher: Success Charter Chain Built on Hyperbole. It notes that the Success Academy charter schools have just lied about who they serve and how well they perform. For example, they claim that they serve the same number of special needs students. But, in fact, while less than 1% of their students have special needs, over 10% of the public schools in the area have special needs students. They do this same kind of misrepresentation in many other ways. I think we would all agree that, just as The Daily Beast rankings show, if you only pick the best students for your school, you will do better.

It is annoying to have to discuss these things. Whenever I do get into an argument with people in the Education Reform movement, they always say the same thing: we can’t do anything about school funding, but we can do something about teacher “tenure”! So it’s the same old American idea: it is better to do something, regardless of how bad it may be, than to do nothing at all. And in the case of Education Reform, the people who determine what can be done are billionaire “philanthropists” like Billie and Mindy.

In 50 years, when The Daily Beast ranks the top high schools in America, it will find the same thing: the best schools are filled with rich and specially-selected students. And the only thing that will have changed is that teachers’ unions will be long gone, teachers will be paid a lot less, and the poorest students will be served even worse than they now are. But not to worry! Rory John Gates III (Billie’s great-grandson) will get a great education!

Charlie Pierce’s Clever Names for Things

Charles PierceCharlie Pierce is a great political observer. He is also funny as hell. In fact, I think he is more of a humorist than he is anything.

I’ve taken to noting different names he has for people, places, and things. Usually they are pretty clear, but sometimes they take a bit of unpacking. Many of these go back years. I’m not sure that they are all his, but I figure most of them are. Some of them like “Tiger Beat on the Potomac” are widely used.

I will add to this over time as I notice them.

Big Chicken: Chris Chistie
Brogressive Man-Crush Senator Aqua Buddha: Rand Paul
C-Plus Augustus’ Excellent Mesopotamian Adventure: (Bush’s) Iraq War
Clinton Guy Shocked By Blowjobs: George Stephanopoulos
The Combover Trump: Rudy Giuliani
Douglas McArthur McCain: John McCain
El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago: Donald Trump
Flying Hackarama Brothers: John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
Fred Hiatt’s Home Depot For Bad Ideas: The Washington Post
FREE MONEY (!): Medicaid Expansion
Fracksylvania: Pennsylvania
Girl With The Faraway Eyes: Michelle Bachmann
Goggle-Eyed Homunculus Hired by Koch Industries to Run Their Midwest Subsidiary Formerly Known as the State of Wisconsin: Scott Walker
Governor Goodhair: Rick Perry[2]
Huckleberry J Butchmeup: Lindsey Graham
Human Bowling Jacket: Paul LePage
International Man of Luggage: Edward Snowden
Manson Family of American Geopolitics: Cheney family
Mausoleum of Unemployables:
Mitchell Brothers: Charles and David Koch[1]
Mrs Greenspan: Andrea Mitchell
Nine Wise Souls: Supreme Court
Obvious Anagram: Reince Priebus
Ol’ Weathervane: Anthony Kennedy
Our Lady Of The Magic Dolphins: Peggy Noonan
Padishah Emperor of All Crazy People: Louie Gohmert
Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods: Sarah Palin
Senator McDreamy: Scott Brown
Senator Professor Warren: Elizabeth Warren
Squint and the Meat Puppet: Morning Joe
Tailgunner Ted Cruz: Ted Cruz
Tiger Beat on the Potomac: Politico
Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver: Paul Ryan

[1] The Mitchell brothers were titans of pornography in the Bay Area. At the age of 45, Artie, the younger brother, was murdered by his older brother, Jim. Jim spent three years in jail after being convicted of voluntary manslaughter. After that, he went back to the porn business. But he had at least one great idea: he wanted to change California’s nickname to, “The Prison State.” That would be much more appropriate than “The Golden State,” which refers to gold we no longer have and our extinct bear.

[2] I’ve learned from someone who goes by the name psoas at MetaFilter that “Governor Goodhair” is original to Molly Ivins. This article was never meant to be a fan page for Charlie Pierce, but rather just a way of keeping track of his colorful language. I suspect I could do the same thing for Ivins, if we had sadly not lost her so young.

H/T: commenters below!

Life and Death of Steve Biko 37 Years Later

Steve BikoSteve Biko was a political activist who worked against the apartheid regime in South Africa. In the late 1960s, he helped to form South African Students’ Organization and was its first president. By 1972, his political activities were so successful that he was thrown out of college. And the following year he was “banned” by the South African government. That meant he was forbidden from speaking to more than one person at a time. And he was confined to his township. And he could not write for or speak to the media.

Let us take a step back from this. In the United States at this time and for another decade and a half, conservatives in the United States spoke of apartheid South Africa as though it were the shining light of democracy in Africa. According to these conservatives, the rulers of South Africa were the modern incarnations of the Founding Fathers. But we all know what was really going on. The rules were white, so it didn’t matter what they did. And the oppressed were black, so it didn’t matter what was done to them.

Despite these restrictions, Biko continued to organize. The Soweto Uprising was highly successful, and was put down by the regime with its characteristic restraint by setting dogs on the school children and then shooting them. At least a couple hundred where killed and over a thousand wounded. After this, the regime decided that they really needed to go after Steve Biko, even though he was not directly involved.

On 18 August 1977, Biko was arrested at a check point under a law that ought to sound familiar to Americans who have been paying any attention to events in America over the last several decades, Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967. He was tortured for 22 hours. This resulted in Biko slipping into a coma. Then he was chained to a window grill for a day. Just short of four weeks later, he was transported 700 miles to a prison that had hospital facilities. He died the next day — 12 September 1977 — 37 years ago today. Wikipedia provides the following tragic but entirely typical conclusion, “The police claimed his death was the result of an extended hunger strike, but an autopsy revealed multiple bruises and abrasions and that he ultimately succumbed to a brain hemorrhage from the massive injuries to the head…” You know: the police never do anything wrong. And they can never be held accountable regardless, “After a 15-day inquest in 1978, a magistrate judge found there was not enough evidence to charge the officers with murder because there were no eyewitnesses.”

The one good thing about Biko’s death was that it really did publicize just how awful the apartheid system was. Over 10,000 people came to Biko’s funeral. So he was a martyr to the cause that he had worked his whole adult life for. So I can see the beauty in his life and ultimate sacrifice. But it mostly just fills me with rage.

Here is Peter Gabriel’s song “Biko”:

Never Gonna Give Up Barry White

Barry WhiteOn this day in 1944, the great singer and songwriter Barry White was born. Above all, he created great sounding music that generally transcends any particular genres, although I guess we would have to classify his work as generally soul. Added to his music was his amazing bass-baritone voice. I still listen to him a lot.

He was born in Galveston, Texas. And in his teens, he became involved with gangs and ended up serving four months in jail for stealing car tires. There is a story that may be true that he heard Elvis Presley on the radio while in jail and it changed his life. Regardless, after getting out of jail, he started performing music. In fact, he was in a band that released a single when he was only 16 years old. He went on to work for Del-Fi Records, developing talent, writing songs, and eventually producing. One of the acts he discovered was Love Unlimited — a trio of female singers, kind of like The Supremes.

A couple of years later, he was developing music for a male singer. As a result, he put together a three song demo tape with himself singing. People at 20th Century Records (where he had moved to a couple of years before) loved what he had done and convinced him to record an album that became, I’ve Got So Much to Give. And the rest really is history. He went on to earn over a hundred gold records world wide.

Here is a very unusual (but still great) version of his top-ten hit “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up”:

Happy birthday Barry White!