Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Tale of Two Cities: As True Here as in LA

Terrific post by a school teacher (writing on the DailyKos site.) He’s talking about the disparity between the lives of his students in the impoverished Watts neighborhood of LA and a wealthy LA suburb, but he could be talking about children in inner city Rochester and one of our wealthy suburbs. His main points: Poor kids face incredible barriers to survival, much less success. And don’t blame the public schools or teachers for problems created by inequality. Two of my favorite bits:

I don’t think the problem is that public education fails kids. The problem is that our public education system is asked to confront a problem that is bigger than it can possibly handle. Schools are where the rubber meets the road for all our social neglect. Poverty is the real issue here . . .

Terrorism is a terrible danger to be sure, but our tendency to get sucked into the drama of it distracts us from even more devastating and urgent problems like economic inequality and global warming: two issues that will cause far more upheaval, destruction and heartache than ISIS could ever hope to create. Indeed, the slow burning fuse of economic inequality is eroding the very foundations of our society. . . The American middle class is literally drying up before our eyes. We aren’t just a nation of “Have” and “Have Nots;” everyday we are becoming a nation of “Have Everything” or “Have Nothing at All.” We’re becoming an economically polarized nation like Brazil.

The Tale of Two Cities


How the books moved west

In the book publishing business in this country, new books are announced twice a year, in the spring and fall lists, and editorial calendars and publicity are planned around this cycle. Or at least they used to be. But why? I’ve been reading Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 by Mike Wallace and Edwin G. Burrows. They say New York publishers beat out their competitors because the Erie Canal gave them access to the hinterlands. They could get the latest books, hot off the presses, to customers in the interior faster than publishers in other cities. And so NYC became the center of publishing in America.

And the Erie Canal was not passable in winter. Hence the fall and spring lists.

The building of the Erie Canal was a public investment in infrastructure that had huge payoffs almost immediately. Getting people or goods past the Appalachian ridge and across a mostly roadless, heavily wooded frontier became much easier. The Erie Canal made Rochester a boom town. Imagine those books, along with goods from all over the world, floating up the Hudson, through the Mohawk valley and along the canal, rising at every lock, to Lake Erie and on to the Midwest.

old erie canal locks

The old Erie canal locks, now a spillway, where the canal crosses the Niagara Escarpment at Lockport.