August 2011
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Month August 2011

Davide’s Renaissance

Photo by Adarsha Benjamin

Davide’s Renaissance
Giuseppe Veneziano
Painted bronze
270x140x185 cm

Corporations are getting better and better at seducing us into thinking the way they think—of profits as the telos and responsibility as something to be enshrined in symbol and evaded in reality. Cleverness as opposed to wisdom. Wanting and having instead of thinking and making. We cannot stop it. I suspect what’ll happen is that there will be some sort of disaster—depression, hyperinflation—and then it’ll be showtime: We’ll either wake up and retake our freedom or we’ll fall apart utterly. Like Rome—conqueror of its own people.

David Foster Wallace, The Pale King 130 (2011).

How kids are faring in the recession

Julianne Hing at Colorlines reported on the findings of the Annie E. Casey Foundation 2011 Kids Count Data Book (which tracks indicators of child welfare such as poverty, infant mortality rates and school achievement) showing that one in five U.S. kids are living in poverty, but “for kids of color, the numbers are much worse. More than one in three black kids—a full 36 percent of black youth—live in poverty and 31 percent of Latino kids lives in poverty.”

What’s more, researchers are beginning to track the links between poverty and kids’ psychological and educational development. Researchers at Cornell University have found that kids who grow up in poverty are deeply affected by the instability of their home lives, and those environmental stressors hamper their ability to excel in school. It seems intuitive, but there’s growing evidence that there’s, in fact, a causal relationship between family income and kids’ academic success.

NYT: Parents’ Minor Marijuana Arrests Lead to Child Neglect Cases

The New York Times reports today that “[h]undreds of New Yorkers who have been caught with small amounts of marijuana, or who have simply admitted to using it, have become ensnared in civil child neglect cases in recent years, though they did not face even the least of criminal charges, according to city records and defense lawyers. A small number of parents in these cases have even lost custody of their children.” Mosi Secret, No Cause for Marijuana Case, But Enough for Child Neglect, N.Y. Times, Aug. 18, 2011, at A1:

The police found about 10 grams of marijuana, or about a third of an ounce, when they searched Penelope Harris’s apartment in the Bronx last year. The amount was below the legal threshold for even a misdemeanor, and prosecutors declined to charge her. But Ms. Harris, a mother whose son and niece were home when she was briefly in custody, could hardly rest easy.

The police had reported her arrest to the state’s child welfare hot line, and city caseworkers quickly arrived and took the children away.

Her son, then 10, spent more than a week in foster care. Her niece, who was 8 and living with her as a foster child, was placed in another home and not returned by the foster care agency for more than a year. Ms. Harris, 31, had to weather a lengthy child neglect inquiry, though she had no criminal record and had never before been investigated by the child welfare authorities, Ms. Harris and her lawyer said.

“I felt like less of a parent, like I had failed my children,” Ms. Harris said. “It tore me up.”

The article also reports that marijuana is “the most common illicit drug in New York City: 730,000 people, or 12 percent of people age 12 and older, use the drug at least once annually, according to city health data…. Over all, the rate of marijuana use among whites is twice as high as among blacks and Hispanics in the city, the data show, but defense lawyers said these cases were rarely if ever filed against white parents.”

Now I am a was

(via this isn’t happiness)

WSJ: On the tykes’ menu

Alina Dizik, Baby’s First Words, ‘What’s the Puree of the Day?’, Wall St. J., Aug. 4, 2011 at D1:

When a peacefully sleeping infant grows into a wailing, flailing toddler, it can quickly put the kibosh on dining out. So cafes and shops are cooking up healthy, gummable dishes, hoping that serving the tiniest diners will turn their parents into loyal customers.

On the tykes’ menu: pureed squash, organic chicken and even “babe-a-ccino” — a coffee-free cappuccino. Some restaurants are venturing into toddler territory for the first time, while others with a dedicated clientele of new parents are protecting their market by expanding kids’ menus to include options for babies as young as eight months.

For Alberto Gonzalez, founder of GustOrganics, a casual New York restaurant, the baby-food revelation came three years ago.

“One of the managers used to see the mothers ordering regular food and processing the food to feed their babies,” he says. Now the restaurant prepares organic dishes including a tenderloin beef puree with zucchini, carrot and bay leaf, and a dessert of banana and dulce de leche puree. Dishes made from scratch, without additives like salt, typically take 35 minutes to prepare, he says.

… At Seesaw, in addition to the Danish- and Korean-inspired kids’ menu, Ms. Gabel offers the “babe-a-ccino,” steamed milk with cocoa powder in a cappuccino cup, and the “tiny-ccino,” a miniature version served in an espresso cup. All of the porcelain coffee cups are still intact, says Ms. Gabel, who owns the cafe with her husband.

Happy Days

Samuel Beckett by Alex Martinez (Notting Hill, London, England, UK)

(via this isn’t happiness)

WINNIE: That is what I find so wonderful, that not a day goes by — to speak in the old style — hardly a day, without some addition to one’s knowledge however trifling, the addition I mean, provided one takes the pains. And if for some strange reason no further pains are possible, why then just close the eyes — and wait for the day to come — the happy day to come when flesh melts at so many degrees and the night of the moon has so many hundred hours.

Happy Days, a play by Samuel Beckett


Lissette Gutierrez chose a pair of $1,495 Louis Vuitton shoes at Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan.

Correction: A picture caption on Thursday with an article about a recent increase in the sale of luxury goods misidentified the brand of shoes that a shopper, Lissette Gutierrez, planned to try on at Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan. The $1,495 shoes are Christian Louboutin, not Louis Vuitton.

Slipping below the water-line

Record Numbers Are Receiving Food Stamps, N.Y. Times, Aug. 3, 2011, at A13:

The number of Americans receiving food stamps rose to a record 45.753 million in May, up 2.5 percent from the previous month, the Department of Agriculture said. Recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program subsidies for food purchases were 12 percent higher than a year earlier, the Agriculture Department said Tuesday in a statement on its Web site.

This is up from 43.6 million last November, at the time “nearly a year and a half into the economic recovery.” (WSJ: Some 43 Million Use Food Stamps, 2/3/11)

Blake Walmsley

(via Diagram)

NYT: Last Days, Perhaps, for Group That Sued for Poor School Districts

Missed this article a couple months ago from the NYT City Room blog (6/8/2011):

After a series of setbacks, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the advocacy organization whose victory in a historic lawsuit brought billions of additional dollars to poor school districts in New York State, has run out of money to sustain itself, the organization said.

The organization’s last remaining employee, Helaine K. Doran, will leave the group’s Lower Manhattan office this month and, essentially, lock the door behind her.

While its future is not yet certain, the president of its board of directors, Luis Miranda, said on Tuesday that the group was in talks to merge with the New Jersey-based Education Law Center, which two weeks ago won a $500 million judgment in its own long-standing school-financing litigation, known as the Abbott case.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in San Antonio Indep. School Dist. v. Rodriguez,1 advocates in 45 states have brought actions challenging school finance systems under their state constitutions with challengers prevailing in 26 of the 45 cases that resulted in a judicial decision.2 Overall though, “progress has been fitful, and the victories often short-lived and generally incomplete, and even after all these years of litigation unacceptable inequities remain the norm in the majority of states.”3 Even in New York, where the Court of Appeals affirmed that the state’s constitution requires that every public school child in the State of New York has a right to a “sound basic education” defined as “a meaningful high school education,”4 Michael Rebell, executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity which brought the litigation in 1996, lamented: “We really came to the decision that if we could get a functioning lab in every school, decent class sizes, gym facilities, an adequate education in every school – to get there is such a huge battle. . . Maybe in 20 years, if we ever get that, somebody else can say that they want to go for equity. But that’s not our battle.”5