May 22, 2015

Democracy is rowdy

 From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2009 

So Rep. Joe Wilson is a jerk. That's no excuse for his critics to get all prissy about his calling Obama a liar during his congressional speech. After all, now you know Joe Wilson is a jerk.

That's the way it's meant to work, but does less and less, in part because America has become so sanctimonious about proper political behavior and so indifferent to good political policy. One reason is that it's a hell of a lot easier to discuss what Wilson said than what is in the health care legislation. Politicians, the media and the public love these diversions. They're so easy to talk about and make it so easy for others to keep doing the real stuff behind the scenes.

I blame C-SPAN for some of this. I suspect the network is one of the main reasons we now have covert filibusters without the need for anyone to make a fool of themselves for 12 hours on national TV.

But it is also a larger part of our society, a growing emphasis on propriety even as our culture deteriorates. That's not uncommon. Think how stuffy the Brits got before their empire fell apart. The politesse of collapse.

If politics was as pompous and priggish as it is today, I never would have gotten interested in it. It's one of the reason I prefer watching the British parliament to the U.S. Congress; its members haven't given up their humanity just to look better on TV.

And it's not just Britain. Here are some news quotes culled from a number of countries:

The Legislative Assembly in Tonga has accepted apologies from two members before its two week adjournment. The apologies came from Akilisi Pohiva and Etuate Lavulavu for contempt of the house stemming from deliberations over a proposed bill on the rights to protect a person's name for commercial purposes. Mr Lavulavu said the bill followed false accusations that King Taufa'ahau Tupou had 350-million US dollars in his personal possession and the bill was drafted to protect him. Member Uliti Uata responded by saying the king was already protected by Clause 7 of the constitution. Mr Pohiva then picked up a law book and threatened to throw it at Mr Lavulavu over his reasoning for the bill. Mr Lavulavu then challenged him to throw the book so he could then hit Mr Pohiva. The Assembly is now adjourned for two weeks for the annual visits of members to their constituencies."

Parliament descended into high farce today after the word lying was banned in the Lower House. Acting speaker Brenton Best ruled that no member of the Tasmanian Parliament could use the words liar, lie or lying anywhere within the House of Assembly. Twice the parliament went to the vote to test Mr Best's unusual ruling, with the Government using its numbers to defeat the Greens and Liberals who disagreed with the ban. Past practice in parliaments around the world is that while no MP can call another a liar or accuse them of lying, the words are able to be used in general debate. But this afternoon Mr Best ruled that none of the words relating to the act of lying could ever be used in Tasmania's Lower House, in any context of any debate. . . Both the Greens and Liberals objected violently and loudly to Mr Best's interpretation of the standing orders that disallowed the L-word ever to be used in the House. "This is extraordinary; we can't use the L-word ever?," Mr Booth asked incredulously. . . "You lot are bringing this House into disrepute; this chamber should be a bastion of free speech - [how can] you suggest the word lying cannot be used at all?" Mr Gutwein said."

Catcalls and charges echoed through the West German Parliament today as it gave a rowdy and heated foretaste of the domestic political struggle shaping over German unity. Among many exchanges of insults, opposition Social Democrats called Chancellor Helmut Kohl a rabble-rouser and accused him of handling reunification as his private business. Members of the Chancellor's party, the Christian Democratic Union."

A scuffle broke out in Taiwan's rowdy parliament over an opposition bill on Tuesday, with lawmakers exchanging punches and a flying mobile phone leaving one with a bloodied eye. The fight erupted as lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and its ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, tried to stop a vote on an opposition bill to create an independent media watchdog. Chang Sho-wen, a lawmaker from the main opposition Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, was hit in his left eye by a mobile phone, witnesses said. Blood gushed from his face and the lawmaker was rushed to hospital."

In what appears to be a continuing trend from the Australian House of Representatives Question Time session November 2, a further six Federal Opposition members and one Government member were ejected during and just after Question Time. Anthony Albanese, having been warned earlier to Question Time was the first removed, and after Opposition members had interjected "Boring, boring!" to an answer from the Australian Treasurer Peter Costello describing the Opposition stance on the industrial relations reform as a "scare campaign", the Speaker Neil Andrew issued a "general warning". . . Edwards said "You're a fraud, Abbott!" and he was also removed.

India's Parliament on Wednesday elected its first-ever female speaker, the daughter of a former deputy prime minister and an untouchable - a member of India's lowest caste. Meira Kumar, 64, was elected unopposed and immediately assumed her post. . . Lawmakers thumped their desks to cheer Kumar as she was congratulated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and L.K. Advani, the leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. . . The speaker's job is a difficult one in India's often rowdy Parliament. Previous speakers were often forced to issue sharp reprimands or walk out when members shouted slogans and bickered, especially over contentious legislation.

The telecast of the question hour in Malaysia's Dewan Rakyat (parliament) is to continue despite rowdy scenes being caught 'live' during a 30-minute coverage. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he was "ashamed" after the first television coverage of parliament proceedings last week, when the new session began on a chaotic note following the March elections. . . However, Indian origin lawmaker Karpal Singh said the public outcry at the parliament's proceedings was "unwarranted" and that it should be "seen in a perspective". "We need a parliament which is robust," he said. According to him, lively exchanges and repartee enliven what would otherwise be mundane and dull proceedings. "I have been a member of parliament for 26 years. One of the dullest places on earth is the parliament," he said.

Months of political crisis for South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun reached a climax Friday, when lawmakers headed by the country's conservative opposition party voted to impeach him for violating election law and for incompetence. . . The vote Thursday followed two days of high drama, involving the reported suicide of a businessman Roh accused of corruption, the attempted suicide of a Roh supporter, the setting alight of a car on the Assembly steps, and brawling inside the chamber. Overnight, rival groups of lawmakers tussled for physical control of the speaker's podium in the Assembly - the only location from which the speaker can call for a vote, according to national law.[]
Philip Rucker and Ann Gerhart of the Washington Post added some poignant moments from our own past in a story about Wilson: "Wilson's surprising moment drew renewed attention to the Palmetto State's history of colorful politics. Historians recall the state's then-Democratic Sen. Strom Thurmond wrestling Sen. Ralph Yarborough (D-Tex.) in 1964 over a civil rights nomination, and Rep. John W. Jenrette (D-S.C.) and his then-wife Rita having sex on the Capitol steps in the 1970s. . ."

Today every politician learns first and foremost how to be appropriately insincere. And when they screw up, they say they "misspoke" or used a "wrong choice of words."

One of the problems with this is that it makes it harder to tell the fools from the wise ones. When everyone uses the same spin, when everyone - if you will - lies, then how do you tell them apart?

Which is why, for all their other faults, I still bless the British for their parliament. In Britain at least, the prime minister doesn't just pay only occasional visits totally spun and rehearsed and with no questions allowed. And it was in Britain where the speaker of the House once issued one of the finest parliamentary pleas ever: "Order. Order. Order! . . . Your behavior disfigures our proceedings."

Jazz break


May 21, 2015

Democratic senators who helped push anti-American TPP

The 13 Senate Democrats who voted with Mitch McConnell to shut down debate on /

Embedded image permalink

How Bernie Sanders is doing with his speeches

The Hill - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) netted of $1,867.42 for two paid speeches and a television appearance last year, according to according to financial disclosure reports.

The total reflects a paltry sum compared to the millions of dollars collected over the same period by former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, against whom Sanders is vying for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The highest-valued Sanders appearance, a spot on comedian Bill Maher’s HBO show “Real Time with Bill Maher” in November, was worth only worth $850.

Financial disclosure reports show he gave the money to a charity, a non-profit called Northeast Kingdom Community Action that helps low-income families in Vermont.

Why LA's new minimum wage isn't what it seemed

538 - The Los Angeles City Council  voted to raise the city’s minimum wage to nearly $10 an hour.

Oh, sure, the headlines in Wednesday’s papers all said the council raised the wage floor to $15 an hour. That’s what the actual ordinance says, too. But $10 is a more accurate reflection of what low-wage Angelenos will actually experience.

There are two reasons for this. The first is inflation: Los Angeles’ minimum wage won’t go up to $15 tomorrow. Instead, the hike will be phased in over the next five years. Assuming inflation holds more or less steady, $15 an hour in 2020 will be worth the equivalent of about $13.75 today.

But the bigger issue is that $15 doesn’t go as far in Los Angeles as it does in most of the rest of the country. Not even close. According to data from the Council for Community and Economic Research, it costs workers about 40 percent more to live in Los Angeles than in the average American community. That means that $15 in LA is the equivalent of less than $11 in the U.S. overall.

Bill O'Reilly's daughter claims he abused his wife

Nation of Change - During a recent custody battle between Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly and his ex-wife, a forensic examiner reportedly testified that their young daughter witnessed O’Reilly physically abusing his wife. Although O’Reilly denies the allegations, the judge granted his ex-wife full custody of their children last month. While O’Reilly has denounced domestic abuse on his show “The O’Reilly Factor,” he has neglected to inform his audience of the accusations against him.

On November 2, 1996, Bill O’Reilly married Maureen McPhilmy and together they had two children, Madeline and Spencer. The couple separated in 2010 and finalized their divorce a year later. They initially agreed to share custody of their children, but McPhilmy returned to court in February 2012 seeking full custody of her children after O’Reilly allegedly violated conditions of the agreement.

According to a recent article in Gawker, a court-appointed forensic examiner testified at a closed hearing about an incident that O’Reilly’s daughter, Madeline, claimed to have witnessed. Roughly a year before her parent’s separation, Madeline reportedly saw her father grab her mother by the throat and drag her down a staircase while tightly gripping her neck. Madeline was nine years old at the time and believes her father did not know she was watching.

Poll: Majority of Democrats would repeal First Amendment

You Gov - YouGov's latest research shows that many Americans support making it a criminal offense to make public statements which would stir up hatred against particular groups of people. Americans narrowly support (41%) rather than oppose (37%) criminalizing hate speech, but this conceals a partisan divide. Most Democrats (51%) support criminalizing hate speech, with only 26% opposed. Independents (41% to 35%) and Republicans (47% to 37%) tend to oppose making it illegal to stir up hatred against particular groups.

Support for banning hate speech is also particularly strong among racial minorities. 62% of black Americans, and 50% of Hispanics support criminalizing comments which would stir up hatred. White Americans oppose a ban on hate speech 43% to 36%.

Israeli defense minister cites Nagasaki and Hiroshima in discussing action against Iran

Mondoweiss - Two weeks ago, Electronic Intifada reported public comments by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon in which he cited Hiroshima and Nagasaki as role models in responding to Iran. Ya’alon suggested that Israel might have to nuke Iran in order to prevent a long war: “at the end, we might take certain steps.” 

.... A man asked if democracies are “at a strategic disadvantage” in dealing with a threat like Iran. Ya’alon disagreed, and without prompting, brought up the possibility of Israel nuking Iran:
Now those who claim that this battle is not fair because democracy can’t fight back tyrannical regime — not talking about terror organizations–  I don’t agree with it.
In certain cases, we might take certain steps that we believe that these steps should be taken in order to defend ourselves. I mentioned the discussion about the interception of the rockets’ positions on civilian houses. We decided to do it.
I can imagine some other steps that should be taken. Of course, we should be sure that we can look at the mirror after the decision, or the operation. Of course, we should be sure that it is a military necessity. We should consider cost and benefit, of course.
But, at the end, we might take certain steps.
I do remember the story of President Truman was asked, How do you feel after deciding to launch the nuclear bombs, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, causing at the end the fatalities of 200,000, casualties? And he said, When I heard from my officers the alternative is a long war with Japan, with potential fatalities of a couple of millions, I thought it is a moral decision.
We are not there yet. But that what I’m talking about. Certain steps in cases in which we feel like we don’t have the answer by surgical operations, or something like that.
Chemi Shalev of Haaretz and Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, who has worked at Huffpo, retweeted the piece. Eli Clifton tweeted:
Israeli Def. Minister is using WWII and nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a moral guide for dealing w Iran
Jon Schwarz pointed out:
It would be pretty big news if Iran’s Defense Minister were asked about Israel & he started talking about Hiroshima
But there has been no coverage of this story in the mainstream media. It’s a blackout, conscious or not.
So the mainstream media are once again covering up crazy/scary/rightwing Israeli attitudes. Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times, for instance, is of the opinion that only a “small strain” in Israeli society is for holding on to the West Bank. It’s no wonder that the Times hasn’t covered Ya’alon’s frightening statement.

DEA abusing passengers on Amtrak

The Atlantic

Is the USDA rigging science in favor of Mosanto?

Common Dreams - More than 25 farmworker, environmental, and food safety organizations sent an open letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture demanding that the agency investigate reports that its scientists are facing retaliation and suppression of their research on controversial neonicotinoid insecticides that pose a danger to pollinator and human health.

The letter follows a petition filed in March by the advocacy organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility charging that "USDA scientists whose work carries with it policy implications that negatively reflect upon USDA corporate stakeholder interest s routinely suffer retaliation and harassment."

PEER executive director Jeff Ruch told Common Dreams that the petition was drafted "based on the experiences of 10 USDA scientists" who allegedly faced retaliation and punishment for research on neonicotinoid insecticides and glyphosate, which is included in Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide, as well as related topics, including genetically modified crops.

According to the petition, consequences included suspension without pay, threats of irreparable damage to careers, and "demotion from supervisory status and a reprimand after the scientist provided testimony before Congress that did not reflect agency preferences."

"Each one of these actions delivers a powerful message to all colleagues," said Ruch, who argued that retaliation against researchers stems from the coziness of the agency with the industry. "The USDA never met a biotechnology it didn't embrace," he said.

Stupid Washington Post tricks

Stephen Stromberg, Washington Post-  [On TPP] Obama has had to fight a lonely battle against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), unions and anti-trade activists, with mere fact and logic his most notable allies. More responsible Democrats should be trying to sideline these voices instead of running in fear of them.

Boy Scouts President Says Ban On Gay Adult Participants 'Cannot Be Sustained'

Huffington Post

Five big banks settle currency & interest rate manipulatiion for $5 billion . . .but no jail time

Slate - Under a deal announced by the Justice Department, five major banks will plead guilty to manipulating global currency markets and interest rates, and will pay more than $5 billion in combined penalties as a result. None of the traders involved in the crimes, however, has been indicted.

Under the deal,  Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, and the Royal Bank of Scotland will all plead guilty to conspiring to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros. According to federal authorities, traders at those banks used coded messages to share customer orders via online chat rooms, while also misleading their clients about the true price of currencies...

NY Times -  “If you aint cheating, you aint trying,” one trader at Barclays wrote in an online chat room where prosecutors say the price-fixing scheme was hatched...

In the invitation-only chat room known as “the cartel,” the stakes were high. “Mess this up,” one newcomer was warned, “and sleep with one eye open.”

Obama sends more bombs to Israel

JNS - The United States has proposed a $1.9 billion military package for Israel amid growing concerns over Iran. The massive package, which was announced by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency and must be approved by Congress, includes 750 bunker buster precision-guided bombs and 3,000 Hellfire missiles, among several other items.

How boomers had it better than their parents and their kids

We Know Memes

Recovered history: Real filibusters

Sam Smith, 2009 - I was fortunate enough to have covered a number of real filibusters. Once I reported that "This afternoon it was JW Fulbright who said the issue of discrimination was non-existent -- raised every four years for political reasons." Fulbright at the time was participating in a southern filibuster that had already been going 69 hours, far longer than any previous effort.

Among those also taking part were Sam Ervin and the rambunctious, hard-drinking Russell Long who managed to hold the Senate floor for eleven hours. This, however, was no record. Senator Wayne Morse had once gone over 18 hours and two years earlier, Strom Thurmond had held the floor for more than a day.

Thurmond reportedly described to Rep. Wayne Hayes in some detail how he managed this feat without having to relieve himself, noting that he had taken saunas, avoided liquids and so forth. Hayes listened thoughtfully and then said, "Strom, I can understand how you went that long without pissing, but what I can't figure out is how someone so full of shit as you could have done it."

One filibuster would drift into another and the hours turned into days. A group of reporters gathered around the minority leader, Everett Dirksen, in the middle of a night and one asked, "How are you doing?" The Wizard of Ooze told us he was doing all right "but at some point I suppose I shall have to lie down and let Morpheus embrace me . . . After two weeks the flesh rides herd on the spirit."

How various religions view evolution and the environment

Washington Post

The hazards of headline writing


Jim Romensko - John Roderick of the indie rock band The Long Winters is running for Seattle city council and needs to have someone on his campaign staff explain that the headline writer isn’t his enemy. (Also, Roderick’s name is spelled correctly in the Seattle Times story.)

I asked the Seattle Times if it wanted to respond to Roderick’s Instagram gripe, and assistant managing editor/standard & interactivity Leon A. Espinoza sent this statement:
We are sorry John Roderick, the frontman for the indie rock band The Long Winters, saw any kind of political gamesmanship in our Local cover headline (“Burgess, rocker top fundraisers so far in bid for council position”). None was intended. Headlines aren’t designed to convey every detail, but are intended to draw readers into a story. Identifying a prominent council member by name and a lesser-known opponent by a most-interesting detail (he’s a rocker) is more likely to draw readers into the story, which serves readers, the story, and the players in the story well.

California Medical Association ends decades long opposition to end of life bill

Mercury News - Setting a nationwide precedent that might influence other states, the California Medical Association on Wednesday announced it has reversed its decades-long opposition to legislation that allows physicians to help seriously ill patients end their lives. So the powerful lobbying group is now officially neutral on California Senate Bill 128, the End of Life Option Act.

The decision to terminate a life "is a very personal one between a doctor and their patient, which is why CMA has removed policy that outright objects to physicians aiding terminally ill patients in end-of-life options," Dr. Luther F. Cobb, the association's president, said in a prepared statement.

"We believe it is up to the individual physician and their patient to decide voluntarily whether the End of Life Option Act is something in which they want to engage," he said. "Protecting that physician-patient relationship is essential."

SB 128, sponsored by Sens. Bill Monning, D-Monterey, and Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would permit doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of a pharmaceutical drug to those with less than six months left to live. Modeled after laws in Oregon, Vermont and Washington state, it would also make the process subject to state oversight.

With CMA's move, Monning and Wolk on Wednesday appeared to be more confident the bill would make it through both the Senate and Assembly. "This is a major breakthrough -- a game changer," they said in a joint statement. "This comes as the result of months of productive discussions with physicians, psychiatrists, oncologists, family physicians and palliative care specialists."

Jake Tapper to speak at Clinton Foundation event. . . Wait, forget that

USA Today - Until late Tuesday afternoon, the Clinton Foundation website listed CNN anchor Jake Tapper as a "speaker" at a Clinton Global Initiative event scheduled for June 8-10 in Denver. After USA TODAY asked CNN about the event, Tapper's name was swiftly removed from the Clinton Foundation website.

Last week, ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, once a political operative for former president Bill Clinton, was widely attacked after he failed to disclose $75,000 in donations to the Clinton Foundation even as he covered the Clintons.

Tapper has no comparable connections to the Clintons. But by participating in the event next month, while Hillary Clinton is running for president and the foundation is in the news, he too could face criticism for an overly cozy relationship with the Democrats' most likely 2016 presidential nominee.

Links: Peace and war

War Department
Torture Veterans
War on terror: Misnamed, misfought, misthought
Behind the Paris killings
Backing off of hate
The good thing about war
Essays on war
Mission creep: the militarizing of America
Spooks & spies
All war all the time
The biggest threast to us: ourselves
Why is the military sacred?
A speech CSPAN didn't like
American Friends Service Committee
War is a Crime
World Beyond War
Daniel Ellsberg
Tim Shorrock
Spy Talk
Guide to how we helped create ISIS & other terror groups


We read to discover that we are not alone. ---- Shadowlands, a film about C.S. Lewis

Better policing: A community justice center

Center for Court Innovation - Located in southwest Brooklyn, the Red Hook Community Justice Center  is a community court that seeks to reduce local crime and incarceration  while improving public confidence in justice. An official branch of  the New York State Court System, the Justice Center features a multi-jurisdictional courtroom where a single judge handles low-level criminal,  housing, and juvenile delinquency cases. The Justice Center also houses an array of onsite social services, youth programs, and community  outreach initiatives. The Justice Center is the product of a public-private  partnership that includes the New York State Court System, the City of  New York, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, and dozens of city  agencies and non-profit groups.

With funding from the National Institute of Justice, the National Center for State Courts  completed an independentevaluation of the  Justice Center in 2013.
Major findings

The Justice Center increased the use of alternative  sentences: 78 percent of offenders received  community service or social service sanctions,  compared with 22 percent among comparable  cases processed at the regular criminal  courthouse in Brooklyn.

The Justice Center reduced the number of  offenders receiving jail sentences by 35 percent.  In addition, there were significant differences in how the Justice Center used jail compared  to the downtown courthouse. At Red Hook,  almost no defendants (1 percent) received jail  at arraignment. Instead, jail was reserved as a “secondary” sanction, for offenders who were  noncompliant with their initial community or  social service sentences.

Adult defendants handled at the Justice Center  were 10 percent less likely to commit new crimes than offenders who were processed in a  traditional courthouse; juvenile defendants were 20 percent less likely to re-offend. Further analysis  indicated that these differences were sustained  well beyond the primary two-year follow-up  period.

There was a sustained decrease in both felony  and misdemeanor arrests in the police precincts  served by the Justice Center. Similar phenomena. were not apparent in adjacent precincts,  where arrest patterns remained highly variable  throughout the observation period. Although  precise causality cannot be established, crime (as measured by arrests) went down in Red Hook in a  way that it did not in surrounding areas.

Evaluators concluded that the Justice Center  had improved perceptions of procedural justice,  reflected in the fair treatment of defendants throughout the courthouse; the “respectful two-way interaction” between judge and defendant  in the courtroom; and efforts at building citizen  trust through community outreach.

For each of the 3,210 adult misdemeanor  defendants arraigned at the Justice Center in  2008, taxpayers realized an estimated savings of  $4,756 per defendant in avoided victimization  costs relative to similar cases processed in a  traditional misdemeanor court – a total of $15  million in avoided victimization costs. After factoring the upfront costs of operating the Justice Center, total resource savings in 2008 were  $6,852,477; savings outweighed program costs by  a factor of nearly 2 to 1.

The Justice Center’s efforts to achieve a close  and meaningful engagement with the local  community were successful. Based on interviews  with residents, community leaders, and offenders,  the public perceives the Justice Center not as an  outpost of city government, but as a homegrown  community institution.  

Let 'em play

From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 1986 - This spring I graduate again from high school, this time vicariously, and one of the major lessons of this return trip has been a deepened appreciation of the role that sports and other extra curricular activities play In education. I no longer think of them, in fact, as extra-curricular at all. The category seems oddly discriminatory and, despite the skill with which academia bedizens its petty prejudices in the cloak of wisdom, it is anti-intellectual as well. To suggest that sports, drama, art, politics or community service are external to the curriculum of an educated person borders on yahooism. Absent these elements, education becomes a brutish parody of what it says it is, a motley collection of facts without context, without integration either with one's own body and soul or with any human community.

I suspect, in fact, that some of the less appealing characteristics ascribed to the stereotypical yuppie are the result of a failure of this integration. The roots, in part, may be found in an education that, at best, did not value extra-curricular activities highly enough to see them other than as the first in an endless series of performances separating the successful from the not so.

For, in truth, extra-curricular activities can be a bad form of education. Micro-Lombardis of high school football have perverted the learning of discipline, cooperation and effort into a tool of self-aggrandizement. Arts programs have modeled themselves on Hollywood or Broadway. And there are campus politicians who have mainly learned the worst that politics have to offer.

Such problems, however, are not addressed by "no pass, no play." Rather they reflect, in their own way, the fact that extra-curricular activities have been assigned to the slums of education instead of given the place they deserve as part of the basic curriculum.

If school activities were not so arbitrarily divided, if the relationship between what goes on in and out of the classroom was considered and respected, we might not find so many dichotomies. Academics might be enticed to face the issue, for example, of why schools teach the evils of totalitarianism in history classes and venerate it on the football field. Or why students in English class are made to read poets and novelists who lived and died in penury while encouraging show business values on the school stage.

Of course, "no pass, no play" is not new. I encountered it myself in college two weeks after I had been elected station manager of the campus radio station. I was informed that since I had also been selected for probation I was barred from any extra-curricular activities. Although I had to give up my administrative position, the invisible nature of radio permitted me (as with a good many of my similarly distressed colleagues) to continue full tilt on the air -- under a pseudonym. I spent just as much time at the station, but I got my grades up as well. The main lesson I learned from no "pass, no play" was how to buck the system.

It was not a bad lesson, but it certainly was not the one that the academic community had intended, just as I suspect that the lessons learned from the current crop of "no pass, no play" laws will not be the ones intended.

Among the lessons that may be learned will be how society discriminates against those who do not fit its mold - either because of ethnic background, economics, physical or mental idiosyncrasies, or inclination. And since extra-curricular activities are too often used as early imprimaturs of success, the very student who is failing in the classroom will be forced to fail a second time outside the classroom as well.

If, on the other hand, one views these activities as part of the core of education, then barring participation becomes as stupid and futile an act as banning students from English because they are flunking math. Further, one begins to see the connections between these activities and the conventional academic subjects, connections that can be exploited to make both more valuable. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of extra-curricular activities is that they provide a rare course in applied knowledge. The student in the classroom is tested primarily against a single criterion: the judgment of the teacher. Despite the enormous utility of this, it is hardly a typical example of how knowledge is used in adult life.

To take a simple case: consider a problem that you as a parent perceive at a school. Now think, truthfully, how you would describe and argue your feelings about that problem with the principal, a teacher, your child, another student, your spouse, a friend who has a student at the school, a friend who has a student at another school, a friend without children. The same knowledge you possess, the same feelings, must be translated in a variety of different ways to have either meaning or effect.

It is in the extra-curricular activities more than in the classroom that this sophisticated use of knowledge occurs. In the classroom, knowledge is organized according to a curriculum and in this sense the term extra-curricular is quite right. For in out-of-class activities, knowledge is acquired or transmitted much as in adult life -- in a random, unorganized fashion that provides both excitement and frustration to that life. Learning to deal with this disorderly flow is an important part of becoming an educated adult. Further, extra-curricular activities provide training in what some psychologists have come to call social intelligence, which can include not only understanding the information that words give us, but the enormous variety of non-verbal data available to us ranging from interpreting the mood of a group to comprehending the meaning of a turn of the lip. To train students to only understand words and printed symbols is to cheat their education.

For the parent, there is a special virtue of extra-curricular activities: they permit the parent to enter the school life of the student in a manner no academic course offers. The parent relies on report cards, an occasional term paper and teacher conferences for some feeling of the what happens in the classroom. If my experience is at all typical, further investigation into the academic environment tends to produce curt, glib or over-generalized responses. But with extra-curricular activities, the interest of the parent is actively sought, whole dinner-table discussions can actually occur, and feelings can be truly expressed. Thus the extra-curricular activity becomes a rare experience that both parent and student can share, especially at a time when words on other subjects may be hard to come by. To a school administration this virtue may not seem a high priority; to parents, and even students, it can be priceless.

Further, I think many parents presume a broader and less rigid limit to education than some educators do -- certainly more so than do many school boards and system administrators. Parents often define education in a non-curricular way -- blending academic, social and cultural goals and values. It may sound vague to a professional but it is really only an amateur's holistic vision. And it is a form of fraud for professional educators to suggest that these goals can be met without the aid of extra-curricular activities.

My own experience of late has been with drama and sports. I have found in them advantages that are either absent or weak in my childrens' classroom learning or which have supplemented or strengthened what has occurred in the classroom; advantages that have led me to regard these activities not just as a source of sharing or pride, but as evidence that my sons' schools are doing what they claim. As in the classroom, not always has the the lesson been learned, or learned well, but at least it has been taught.

In sports, my sons have learned to work in a group, to cooperate, and to understand and value their peers for a variety of reasons. In some cases this appreciation may come from their peers' skill, in other cases their determination, helpfulness, or supportiveness. They have learned that in real life the penalty for failure of effort may not merely be a bad grade and annoyed parents and teachers, but the disappointment of a whole group whose respect and friendship you seek.

While learning to try harder, they have simultaneous learned how to fail. I watch my sons' teams go down to defeat and think back to Little League years when a bad loss could cast a pall on the house for a whole day. No longer. They have also learned that success may not be an individual triumph at all, but a joint mystery, as with a soccer team that won its league championship not because it was blessed with stars but because this highly individualistic group of players developed a remarkable ability to make each other do better than they normally would and to become one for a common goal. It was more than a championship; it was a priceless lesson in the power of a community. to raise itself up collectively.

Sports also teach the importance of concentration; they require the absorption and use of a wealth of small data under extreme stress and time limits. They teach respect and understanding of the human body. And at a critical time of learning about one's self, they can provide a confidence that may not be so easy to come by in other arenas.

Drama, like sports, requires a concentration equal to anything in the classroom. Like sports, functioning within a group is critical. Like sports, the lessons learned are not only applicable to traditional academic courses, but to becoming an educated adult.

One of these lessons is the ability to memorize. It is remarkable that, given the repeated need to memorize in school, so little time is spent developing the skill. One of the few places in school where one can learn how to memorize is during the production of a play.

Further, good drama teachers can introduce their students to sophisticated forms of character analysis that one would find in professional theater schools. One of my sons was given an exercise that involved figuring out what the characters were really thinking while they were saying their written lines. This sort of study not only produces better actors and actresses but better English students. Once you have seriously acted a part in a play, whole new understandings await in your reading of other literature.

Drama also requires a level of perfection that can only come after one understands the importance of failing over and over again until you get it right. Even the brightest student, used to skimming material and spewing out the correct answer, can be brought to earth by this requirement. A good drama teacher will make even the best try to be better.

Finally, drama encourages the development of self-confidence at an especially timely moment. For both psychological and practical reasons, being able to "perform" may be one of the most useful things one learns in school.

Of course, extra-curricular activities can be abused by both students and school. But often this is because of a tendency to use them as a form of star-shopping, a tendency that "no pass, no play" only accentuates. If one is conscious of the danger, however, it is not hard to avoid. At my high school, there was not one spring play but a whole series of them. Every senior who wanted a significant part in a play got one, indeed was urged to take one. Every year, there would be surprises, as someone not considered a "drama type" turned in an especially good performance. I think many of us who were not "drama types" are glad today that someone pushed us into tryng it at least once.

As I await another high school graduation, I think back about the teachers who were the real influences of the last twelve years. And the names that come to mind include, far out of proportion, coaches and drama and music teachers. I can't conceive of those 12 years without them, nor without them would I have considered that my son had received a decent education. Those school boards around the country that think otherwise are not raising educational standards, but lowering them by removing a part of what should be the basic curriculum of any student whatever their grade in math or English.