Always Punch All The Nazis – the Clam on the “Alt-Right”

So we here in Clam Nation came up with a hot take on Charlottesville a couple of days ago. Because a reaction seemed necessary, and when words are failing us video of Nazis getting punched are always welcome.

But there are words to put to this. Normally, we look to our leaders. Our elected officials. But since the Racist Cheeto in the White House made it crystal clear who his sympathies lie with (and, bluntly, it’s the Nazis), it lies upon the rest of us to say something appropriate. I’m a minor-league elected official at best (I’m a City Councillor in Salem, and I’ve pretty much peaked there), so for our purposes, I’m it. Sorry. But I’m also the closest thing to a conservative on the Clam roster.

There’s a lot of people saying that we need to give peace a chance. Talk to people. Communicate. I think that’s a noble and wonderful sentiment, but it’s not going to help the rest of us here. We’re not talking about the fringe of mainstream beliefs here. We’re talking about people who are actually Nazis. They identify as them. They wear swastikas. They hate blacks. They hate Jews. All the traditional hatreds and a few new ones based on demographic trends. They preach the elimination of all those people, and a twisted version of Christianity based on radical separatism and a perceived musclebound Christ who rewards the strong and punishes the weak. They called themselves the “Alt-Right” for a long time, because it was cute and Internet-trendy. They appropriated Pepe the stoner frog. They make a lot of adorable racist memes. And now they’ve uncloaked themselves. They’re Nazis.

Image result for charlottesville nazis

News flash: Self-described Übermenschen can’t even make their own torches

This isn’t your average everyday protest movement, then. Sure, Occupy has some assholes. So does BLM. But you know what? Their movements are based on actual injustices in society, and some of their members go to extremes that we disapprove of as a society in order to make their point. What injustices are Nazis suffering in this society? White people aren’t exactly disadvantaged.

No, these are Nazis. Your grandparents (and for some of you, your parents or great-grandparents) went overseas and died by the tens of thousands to stop the existential threat to humanity that Nazis presented then. It was a just cause to stop them.

We have top men working on this. Top. Men.

Newsflash: It’s still a just cause.

We live in a nation that is by design one that gives wide latitude to opposing views. You don’t have the guaranteed right to live in a bubble. Facebook and Twitter prove that every day (they also prove confirmation bias). The government cannot prevent you from spouting horrid opinions and appalling fictions. You don’t have to subscribe to Dianna Ploss’ Facebook page and watch her spew nonsense to her cardboard Trump doll. Government can’t stop her from posting, but they can’t make you watch it, either.

There are no such restrictions on society. Let’s stick with Ploss here – she can’t make us watch her drivel. She also can’t make Facebook host it. If enough people complain about it, Facebook may well take it down. They’re more concerned with nipples than nonsense, so that probably won’t happen. But when it comes to Nazis, we’ve got a choice and a moral imperative. Nazis need to be exposed, unemployed, and destroyed. Their apologists must be exposed and shunned. Antifa isn’t a hate group – it’s what decent Americans need to do.

America has a proud history of destroying fascism. A year ago, a lot of us warned you that this was the future we as a nation was hurtling towards. In MA, we got it right. But just enough people were fooled between “but her emails” and two-plus decades of ultra-partisan warfare to go for the man with the syphilis-rotted brain, open racist animosity, and horrifying behavioral history because he had an (R) next to his name on the ballot to give him the Presidency. Now we’re paying the price.

Image result for post apocalypse

From here in, everybody should take a good long look in the mirror. Think a few years in the future when you do it – who do you want looking back at you? A person who let this happen, or a person who did everything in their power, regardless of party, to stop the Nazis and their apologists from repeating history here? Normally, the federal government would have our backs. They clearly don’t. So it’s up to us. Some day we can get back to the normal Republicans and Democrats, and look back at this time as the era when society was “scared straight”. If, and only if, we do this right.

Which side will you be on?

On Housing – thoughts from the Clam’s token politician on the eve of the Fuller vote

Affordable housing.

 

Those two words seem to scare, anger, and confuse most people. Dunno why, though. It’s something every community needs, and precious few have enough of it. Affordable housing also isn’t really so much a specific government program (because lord knows we’re living in an era where, ever since one of our Grand Old political parties picked up a prion disease and started to see their brain dissolve into pudding, convincing themselves that Governmenting Is Bad) as it is a development goal to make sure that communities can have people of all sorts living there. The people who eat in restaurants AND the people who work there. The supermarket shoppers AND the supermarket workers. The Gym members and the gym workers.

 

Everyone needs to live reasonably close to their jobs. The people who sell you your coffee, deliver your newspaper, mow your yard, and help you live your upper middle class lifestyle don’t come from another dimension through a wormhole each day, returning to their tenement universe at night. Nope. They live in your town. If they get priced out of living there they’ll leave. And then the businesses you depend on won’t have employees. There’s more people who need affordable housing, too. People juggling school and work. Single parents. People in entry-level jobs.

She doesn’t live in a pod. She lives in an apartment. And you tip her badly, you cheap bastard.

People in government, too. I don’t know about Gloucester, but do you have any idea what a veteran parking enforcement agent (meter maid) makes? In Salem, after nearly 20 years, ours make about $44k. That’s also what an entry-level firefighter makes here. Make it to Lieutenant? We pay you $67k.

 

A new police patrolman isn’t paid as badly – they make about $54k. But that still doesn’t go too far in a world where rents for a 3-bedroom apartment go for between $1500 (one single listing on Realtor.com when I searched Gloucester today) and $2500 per month.

 

Your friendly local GOP will tell you that affordable apartments are all set aside for “illegals” or “them”, or “welfare queens”.

Saint Ronald The Spender, after fighting the Welfare War

Affordable housing is for you. And a community that lacks it starts to die, from the inside out.

 

There’s a fiction out there that 30% of your gross income should be the guideline for what you pay in housing costs. So let’s look at that number, shall we?

 

Assume, for a moment, that you’re a firefighter that’s moved up a couple of grades. And you make $60k per year. Pretty good coin, right? So that means you should be able to afford $20k per year in rent or in mortgage+property taxes. That equals about $1660 per month in housing expenses.

You know, these guys? All the feels.

First of all, looking at that Gloucester market (and I don’t know what you pay your firefighters, but it’s not going to be a lot more than Salem – if at all), when I ran the listing tonight there was ONE apartment rental of 3 or more bedrooms at that price. One. Now I’m sure there’s apartments that are on the market by word of mouth, or on Craigslist, or other channels. I’m not pretending that a single web search untapped an entire real estate market for me.

 

But that’s pretty slim pickings, however you look at it. Now assume the taxes paid on that salary (around $15k or so), and you’re looking at, after everything, perhaps $25k per year for that firefighter. Out of that he’s going to have to pay for a car, food, gas, clothing, and a whole life. If he’s married and has a child, that’s going to help pay for childraising as well. Sure, his wife probably works too – and out of those combined salaries you now have (probably) 2 cars, childcare, and a zillion other increased costs.

 

And there are people out there looking at this financial statement and saying “I WISH I HAD IT THIS GOOD!!!”

 

Think about that.

 

Buying a house? That’s even tougher. For a personal example, my wife and I earned, between us, about $100k back in 1993. We bought a single-family house in Salem that spring for $185k.

 

One Hundred Eighty-Five. Thousand. Dollars.

And it looked like this. Really.

Today, it’s worth almost $600k on the open market. That’s a rough tripling in value. Did our salaries triple? Nope. Simply put, if we were in the market for a home today, we couldn’t easily buy our own home that we already have. Real estate prices have not followed the same inflationary curve that most consumer goods follow. If they did, our home would have a value around maybe $300k. High, but within reach. Instead, the $300k home needs a lot of work, may lack things like off-street parking, and is probably in a worse neighborhood. As crazy as rental prices are, home ownership is even tougher. Mortgages are relatively cheap nowadays, but a $320k mortgage will cost you (before taxes and, if you need it, PMI) about $1700 per month if you have amazing credit. Add your property taxes (mine are about $7200 per year – another $600 per month – so a home assessed for less might be half that, or $300 per month) and there’s $2000 per month or $24k per year to stay on the housing treadmill. Not including all the things you have to pay for when you’re a homeowner (repairs and the like).

 

It’s like a Red Queen scenario. You have to run faster and faster just to stay in the same place.

 

So part of the dilemma for Gloucester, Salem, and all sorts of other communities is how to serve these people. We need housing for our workforces. Only in a supply-side fever dream do we actually want a world where there’s a whole subservient underclass who can be shipped in and out of town daily.

Affordable housing, amirite?

Years ago, Massachusetts realized this. And they created the “40(b)” zoning law. To over-simplify horribly, it says this: communities should have at least 10% of their housing stock in the “affordable” category (and I won’t get into the exact way it’s measured – you can look it up). At last measurement, Salem was at about 14%, and Gloucester below 10%. What 40b does is give cities an incentive to place and approve projects with an affordable component – if that number is below 10%, a developer can buy a property, designate a certain portion of the project to be “affordable” by deed, and then bypass all sorts of local approvals and zoning restrictions that would otherwise apply.

 

In Salem, we’re above 10%. Our redevelopment is mostly concentrated around our old brownfields at this point, because we’ve filled just about all the rest of this city. And our boards have full powers over most of it.

 

You guys aren’t. The Fuller School is out there. So are a whole bunch of other open spaces in town. Just saying. Building market-rate housing will help affordability some, by increasing supply. But to really make a difference, you need to build the real deal. As a community, you can get serious about solving this yourselves, or you can try to raise up the bridges. But only one of Gloucester’s bridges is a drawbridge. The other one is fixed-span – and even though it’s under construction all the time, you can’t close it. So other people are likely to solve it for you. There’s money to be made in housing, after all.

The Real Bowling Green Massacre: Journalist and Salem City Councilor Josh Turiel Digs Up The Truth

Today, with the passing of time we thought we could finally get the full story of the infamous Bowling Green Massacre documented properly for the public, fresh off Kellyanne Conway’s assertion that the real media glossed over this tragic event. Well, your Gloucester Clam isn’t just any media source – we’re renegades out to get to the truth behind the Bowling Green Massacre. We contacted the principals and arranged interviews with as many of the people involved as possible. Most agreed to participate. The following is a transcript of the conversations we had.

 

Dustin Henderson, Endicott commuter student: “So me and Chad (Balazzo, also a student) came home after we got wings at the Dog [The Dogbar restaurant] and it was just total chaos.”

Chad: “Duuuuude.”

Dustin: “There were, like, 20 people in our apartment because fackin Tim (Kelly, their third roommate) had scored some really amazing bud. And he was having a party and he hadn’t even texted us to tell us. Not cool!”

 

Tim: “Dude, I figured they’d get back soon enough, it was great weed but I knew they really wanted to go out for wings.”

 

Dustin: “”So I went into my room because it was really too loud with all the people in the living room. I was watching TV and Aqua Teen was going to come on next, and it was one of the MC Pee Pants episodes, so I wanted to be ready for it. I grabbed the bowl and opened the ceramic turtle I keep on top of my dresser, and… NOTHING.”

Chad: “Duuuuuude.”

 

Dustin: “I totally had weed in there. Fuck.”

 

Cody (Peters, a “acquaintance” of Tim Kelly): “So I was wandering around the apartment and the door was open, right? I saw this badass ceramic turtle, and picked it up to give it a look – it had some of the weed in it! So since the bowl was being passed around the other side of the room and never got to me hardly, I rolled one out for my side. I mean, sure nobody was sitting there but me so I smoked it solo, but shit happens, right?”

 

Dustin: “That was really good bud from Kentucky, too, and they just massacred it. How the fuck am I gonna score more of that?

At this point in the evening, Mo (Mohammed) Nadar (American-born), a friend of Dustin’s from Montserrat College of Art arrived with the plan of picking up Dustin and going to the Rhumbline.

Mo: “I don’t know, the Rhumbline is so, like, authentic, you know? No airs and shit? Not like the way Cabot Street in Beverly has gotten all pretentious. So I figured they were keeping things real over the bridge and I’d grab Dustin because he, like, lives right down the street from the Rhumb. And he usually has a stash in that turtle of his.”

Dustin: “Mo’s a solid dude, but he never has his own weed. Says it’s a religious thing. I think he’s, like, Iraqian?”

By this time the lack of weed was coming to a head. Lacking any more to smoke, attention turned quickly to the raging munchies that the partygoers all had.

 

Aimee (Grant), a survivor: “I saw someone with some hummus.”

 

She had assumed that Mo’s vaguely Middle Eastern appearance meant he had brought food with him.

 

Tim: “Aimee looked at Dustin’s friend Mo and said “Guys, he’s got hummus – he’s like, totally Arab!”

 

With this pronouncement, several partygoers surged towards the entrance where Mo was. In the melee, an Xbox was trampled and killed.

Xbox (this was recorded from Dustin’s Xbox Live account): “SYSTEM FAULT”

Already in motion, when the crowd realized that there was no hummus:

Aimee: “So I was wrong, he didn’t have hummus. My bad?”

Someone made the decision to go down the street for more food. People were trampled along with the Xbox.

Savannah Lolapalooza, Rockport High senior: : “By then the dust was setltling. Dustin had a thousand yard stare and was clearly covered in some kind of orange powder, which we later realized was hot Fritos.”

artist’s reenactment

Kyle (Marsh): “So it was like, loud, but it could have just been a truck backing up? You know? Like one of those beepers they have when they back up. But like a really, really loud one. So you couldn’t even hear anything else. And my friend Kendon is like, ‘Dude, get out of the way’ and I’m like, ‘What?’ and he’s like, “That truck is backing up and you need to move,” so I like moved but it was not in, you know, like the right direction because the truck was going to like, curve when it backed up because there was this post it had to get around and Kendon is still like, “Dude, get OUT of the way,” but now I’m like listening to the beeping and the guy is yelling at me, but I don’t think he’s yelling in English. Maybe it’s, like Mexican or, I don’t know, maybe Korean or something. Anyway, I’m standing there…”

(at this point in the interview Mr. Marsh was distracted by a nip bottle on the ground and went to stare at it for the next half-hour)

Dustin: “So with all the food gone and no more green to be had, we said ‘fuck it’, got in the car, and went back up to Cape Ann Lanes to go bowling.”

Chad: “Dude kicked my ass. It was a massacre.”

We asked for comment from Frederick Douglass, but he’d died more than a century before.

On education: from Josh Turiel, the Clam’s Token Elected Official

(even if he is from Salem, not Gloucester)

Question 2 is on the ballot this fall, and charter schools are a massively polarizing issue even among the left of progressives that tend to make up the Clam’s braintrust and much of our readership. Many progressives and liberals are on different sides of this issue. In short, Question 2 proposes to allow the creation of up to 12 new charter schools per year. Those schools would favor districts in the bottom 25% of statewide districts.

Advocates paint this as an issue of improving access to quality education for our most vulnerable students and families (a large proportion of whom favor charter school expansion). Opponents see this as taking away resources from our already struggling public schools and an attempt to privatize a public good.

In many senses, they are both right. Full disclosure though, after 9 years in our city’s public system my own son opted to attend Salem’s charter school for high school and we allowed that (a decision that spawned much Facebook abuse from some of Salem’s “characters”) and supported his decision. I’m a fan of our public schools, and I have done a lot to support them, but I’m no longer a public school parent.

My own opinion on this ballot question is that charter schools themselves are neither good nor bad per se. Gloucester had a very bad experience with their charter school, which was poorly run and wound up being closed down. Salem’s has been very positive with Salem Academy Charter – ranking in the top handful of schools statewide and well-managed.

In a perfect world, the presence of a charter school in a district can be used to spur innovation and growth in the public school district it lives in and gets students from. In practice, though, the district shuns the charter, and the charters take an elitist attitude over the rest of the district.

Dudes, you get your kids by lottery. They’re the same group the rest of the district gets. If you game the lottery, you ought to lose your charter. Period. I think some of this split has to do with outcomes, though. And that bugs me more than a little.

Education and knowledge are important in today’s world. But progressives tend to over-value secondary education. And they undervalue the use of actual work – the kind where regular people make and fix things. Charters are popular with many because they send a lot of kids to college. Well, college isn’t all that. If you have a career path that’s not served by college, then maybe it doesn’t make sense for you. Maybe the best answer is a trade education (something sadly neglected in today’s world), combined with an apprenticeship. Maybe it’s a general liberal arts college education. Maybe, just maybe, it’s a specialized college education combined with a postgraduate education in a specialty (law, engineering, architecture, medicine, whatever). And maybe I’m biased as a college dropout who went on to a career in corporate IT management before starting my own company 13 years ago.

enhanced-6600-1445317843-2

But anyways. The important thing is for every kid to have the best outcome for that kid. Not just whatever the workforce need is, or whatever is perceived to create the Renaissance Person. So, ultimately I do support charter schools as a solid educational alternative that ideally should be part of the educational system.

So Question 2 should be a no-brainer, right?

Wrong.

At the same time that charter schools are (I believe) a good part of the system, there’s a growing movement among both “education first” liberals and “privatize everything” conservatives to turn more and more of our educational system over to charters – and there’s also a growing movement to turn charter schools into a for-profit industry. I really don’t like that. As I mentioned above, in Salem we had a positive charter experience where community members basically brought the Salem Academy Charter into existence. Gloucester tried to do the same, but never was able to get their school onto a solid footing and has been without ever since.

basically the GCACS

Basically the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School

Since that time we set up an in-district charter for troubled students (New Liberty Innovation School, which transitioned this year away from being a charter and back into the system), and Bentley Academy (formerly the Bentley School – the school whose problems were what brought the Salem district into Level 4) was a political football – an incredibly divisive topic driven at least partly by the use of the aforementioned private charter companies to get the ball rolling.

Also of note is something that is both a fact and a misleading fact. Yes, money is taken away from a district when those students leave for a charter school. But it’s not like that money just vaporizes, “poof” into the sky. The Mass Taxpayers Foundation (a fairly centrist policy group) put out a study this past week saying that charters aren’t a drain on traditional public schools at all, and though I quibble over a few findings (mostly in the below paragraph, having to do with fixed costs), we are in a state where the “dollars follow the student” system is applied to ANY public-option school. Including School Choice districts (like Hamilton-Wenham, which has brought in large numbers of out of district kids), vocational schools like Essex Tech, and of course, charter schools.

That money is given to the charter school to educate the child. Basically, the same total pool of money educated the same total pool of kids. This said, there IS a cost to the public schools for this. We are not in a true competitive market with schools (not should we be). But public schools have to staff teachers, maintain and operate buildings, provide transportation, and manage all sorts of fixed costs that stay the same if the enrollment goes up or if it goes down a few percent. So if the Chapter 70 money from the state that goes into the school foundation budget equals $7500 per pupil (not an exact figure) and 300 students go to the city’s charter school, that equals $2,250,000 assessed from the city.

schoolsupplies-meme-599x375

Hahahhaa oh god it’s true sweet fuck

That $2.25m becomes the basis of the charter’s budget – it’s still going to educate your community’s children – in addition to any other grants or funding that school is able to obtain. But depending on things, your regular public school didn’t shed $2.25m in costs. Yes, they did have some costs come out. But not that much.

In their infinite wisdom, the Legislature came up with a funding formula to make up those costs to the district that loses to the charter. Which they don’t fund. Where the argument gets more traction in my view is in an overall comparison of school finances. And this is one of the fundamental flaws in charter school development nowadays  and the whole “for profit” charter school industry. Public schools in many communities are struggling. There are a lot of reasons for this. Demographic shifts. Special education requirements and costs (this is one of the loopholes many charters use – they have more leeway to send children with extensive special education needs back to the public school system). Increasing costs of owning/managing school buildings. Often restrictive teacher union contracts. The failure of the state to keep up with costs in their foundation budgets.

One more common objection to charters is that they aren’t overseen by elected school committees. Well, not every community elects their school committee (most notably in Boston, but regional vocational schools also appoint their school committee members as well). More importantly, charters don’t operate in a vacuum. They all appoint a board of trustees who have that oversight role. If they fail to do it, the state can (and in a few cases, has) stepped in to take oversight or even close the school. Massachusetts is good at this.

But charters aren’t all sunshine and roses. There are threats to the model, and that is a good reason to not just run away willy-nilly and build charter schools everywhere. And this is where the money is. An entire industry has emerged to build charter schools that run like a business, not like a community. And the financial companies and foundations (like the Waltons of Wal-Mart fame) with ties to the for-profit charter businesses are putting plenty of money into the MA fight. On the No side for big bucks is the MA teacher’s union – many of the charter schools are non-union so that’s an obvious place to defend.

The entire battle is a cluster. There are people who would rather see Trump in the White House than see a single new charter school. In our state, we’re doing better than most when it comes to charter management and oversight. But there’s also long waiting lists for charter schools all around the state, especially in districts where the schools are lower-performing.

Personally, I’m voting NO on Question #2, because I like having more brakes on the charter school system. I think there’s room to expand. But not much, and not quickly. And I also think both sides have a long way to go before we can get to a happy medium and run charters the way they can make the biggest difference for the state as a whole.

But our priority has to be on improving our public schools. That’s where the bulk of the resources should be going, that’s where the bulk of the kids are (and should be) educated, and that’s where the rubber meets the road.

Where the hell is our Clam?

“Hey, who turned out the lights? Anyone here? Knock knock…”

So, you may be wondering where Your Faithful Clam has gone. Truth is, we’re all pretty much still here but Real Life has gotten in the way of our trademark mix of snark, righteous indignation, and beautiful uses of pop culture references. So for the moment, they’ve left me – junior editor and Actual Elected Official Josh – with the keys.

Where are they right now? Well, Jim is in the middle of a massive client project that his small marketing company is managing. I saw him once, furtively wandering into a pho joint in Beverly (because Gloucester needs a good Vietnamese restaurant too, amirite). He looked haunted, as if he was on the verge of being a mammoth success and earning enough cheddar on this job to buy a brand new Subaru with ALL THE THINGS. He’s also kinda burned out from the damned Democratic primaries and is joining me on Team Cthulhu now.

KT moved (twice) and took on a new full-time job in the insurance biz. She now lives close enough to Official Clam Dirndl Wearer and Beer Goddess Brooke Welty that they’re quickly going from good friends to “it’s really maybe a little creepy at this point”. She’s working through post-divorce life and has an awesome boyfriend. She’s sick of the primaries too.

As for the rest of the Clamtributors? Adam headed off to Greenland in the hopes of experiencing an actual winter before climate change turns New England into Morocco. Len went to work for me in real life and had his creativity stifled. Anna is moving up to one of the identical cake decorating war shows, seeing what spunk and attitude can do to make a MB sheet cake spectacular. Jeremy was unable to be elected President in Massachusetts and has resumed warping the minds of America’s youth. And Steven has begun a retail business to see if every product can be sold with a 17% markup. Because we really like that arbitrary number here at The Clam, and it works so well for taxes.

Me? I’m just busy trying to keep the lights on here for the moment. We do have some terrific content coming up in the coming weeks, just not as fast as we’d all like to. Greatness takes time, y’all.