Ms. Portillo's Justice

Five-year-old Alex Barton was misbehaving in his kindergarten class, so his teacher, Ms. Portillo, sent him to the office. While he was gone, she had a little discussion with the other students.

When Alex returned, Portillo, who has been teaching in Port Lucie for 12 years, directed the youngster to the front of the room and “asked him to listen to what the children didn’t like” about him. According to Alex, the children complained that he “eats paper, picks boogers … and bites his shoelaces,” and Portillo herself said, “I hate you right now. I don’t like you today.” Portillo next “polled the class” about whether to let Alex back in. Alex lost the class vote, 14-2, and spent the rest of the school day in the nurse’s office. That night, Alex “did not eat dinner [and] would not sleep in his own bed.” (Link)

CBS News has more on the story, with video.

Alex is autistic.

There are circles of hell for parents of some children, where we wander in low light, tally up our mistakes and regrets and try to see in the dark. They are nothing, of course, compared to the places our children go sometimes. My son surely does. He has an excellent memory. Remarkable, even. He can tell you what he felt while teachers held him down. Other things.

There are also circles of hell I have reserved for teachers like Ms. Portillo. Just saying.

You might imagine you know what I feel when I read a story like this. You don’t.

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End Game

I keep wanting to write a primer for those readers who don’t pay attention to U.S. politics, or maybe just keep an eye on it but skim the details.

The problem is, I usually start in Philadelphia in 1787, with casual conversations in Ben Franklin’s back yard over madeira (think Kool-Aid with booze). It gets longish.

So here’s the short version: Next Wednesday will be an important day.

The Republicans have a nominee. The Democrats have had an amazing, close race for the nomination between two historic candidates, but the Tuesday night election coverage is about to stop.

And what’s interesting (to me) is that we know pretty much what will happen, with one exception.

On Saturday, the Rules Committee will decide what to do with the delegates of Florida and Michigan, who had the temerity to move their primary contests up to January, in hopes of being influential (irony: This year, they should have stayed put. It might have made a huge difference). The Democratic National Committee said, “Fine, go ahead, vote all you like, we won’t pay attention to you. Nah nah. We’re not listening…” and the candidates pledged not to campaign there at all. John Edwards and Barack Obama even got their names taken off the ballot in Michigan. Clinton did not.

So, the committee will reinstate the delegates at half-strength (essentially making Florida more like Wisconsin and Michigan sorta Rhode Island).

On Sunday, Puerto Rico will vote for a nominee and Clinton will win, decisively but maybe not as huge as she likes. This is an esteem builder for Puerto Rico; they can’t vote in the general (i.e., real) election in November, but they like to play anyway.

On Tuesday, Montana and South Dakota will go into the win column for Obama, and the primary season is over. Obama will have won the nomination by virtue of getting a majority of the pledged delegates and the “super” delegates (mostly elected Democratic officials who get to vote and really, really don’t want to). Tuesday night or Wednesday, Obama will unofficially accept the nomination and praise Sen. Clinton, pledge to win in November, say some pointed but polite things about John McCain, and take a long nap.

And Hillary Clinton will have a decision to make.

So watch this carefully. It will be HUGE.

I like Hillary Clinton. I think she’s misbehaved during this season, but in a “politics as usual/winning is everything” sort of way. Some snark, some evasion, some really dumb statements. But nothing nasty, and I still like her and think she would have made a good President. And I can see her making a stirring, gracious concession speech, one that will be talked about for days.

Unfortunately, I can also see her doing something else. I can see her refusing to concede because Florida and Michigan have been gypped, she will say. All of those poor voters who took the time to vote and voted, as it turns out, mostly but not overwhelmingly, for her, are being disenfranchised, and until they get full delegates and voting rights at the convention the race isn’t over, not by a long shot. She’ll fight for them, all the way to the convention, taking it to the mat (or floor) if need be.

This would be bogus, of course. Mrs. Clinton is on record as supporting the decision to nullify Michigan and Florida, back when she was the heavy favorite. Again, this is just hardball politics.

But the Democrats have a history in years when there’s been wrangling and conflict at the conventions. That history is, basically, that they lose in the fall.

So watch for Wednesday. I have no doubt that Sen. Clinton sincerely believes that she is the best candidate, would have the best chance, and would be the best President. If she concedes, it will surprise a lot of people who think she’s ruthless, unconcerned with nothing but her own ambition, willing to take down her party’s chances in November for an almost nonexistent chance at reversing Obama’s victory, or at least ensuring his defeat and herself another shot in 2012. There are lots of people like this, and I look forward to them being surprised.

What I don’t look forward to is seeing them proved right. But that’s what to watch for, anyway. We’ll know in five days. Take that to the bank.

UPDATE: If you’re really, really interested in the whole Michigan/Florida thing, here’s a pretty good summary and explanation.

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Beth and I talked about Lucas yesterday, and I mentioned that he had a Ulysses Complex.

I have no idea what that means, actually (Google gets me some psychobabble so I stopped), but I heard it somewhere. Maybe it was another Greek.

What I meant, though, was essentially that when it comes to Lucas, it seems that there ain’t no mountain high enough. Lucas was part of Beth’s Scooby gang in high school, and he managed to drag her along on some mini-adventures. Or at least that’s what I understand (First rule of Dads: Ask a minimum of questions, especially if you suspect it might involve your daughter illegally entering another country on a whim. That’s all I’m saying).

I not only admire Lucas for his sense of adventure, but I love the way he cracks open stereotypes. Lucas is the kind of guy who would drive a car with a bumper sticker that said, “Bush Is The Devil,” and if you looked inside you’d see it packed with hunting and fishing gear.

He also plays a mean viola and speaks about a hundred languages.

A while back I followed Lucas’ year-long stay in Europe by way of his blog, and lately I’ve been living vicariously through his reports from Chile, where he’s been working for a few months. Other people talk about going to the ends of the earth; Lucas just gets on a plane and goes.

His stay is nearing an end, so if you have any adventure in your soul check out his blog. Read back, too; he provides unusual and perceptive insight into other places that you won’t easily find elsewhere. And stay tuned: I’m sure he’ll be going some place distant and different in the near future. Mars, maybe. Nebraska, who knows?

You can also read his mom’s blog here, and learn about her recent trip down south to visit her wayward son. You will very much appreciate toilet paper from now on.

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Quote Of The Day

“You can’t tell how far a frog will jump until you punch him.”

Sen. Hillary Clinton. Yeah. I have no idea either. But I’m saving it for the day that I really, really need to use it.

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Obama Explained

Still have a few lingering questions about the skinny black guy with the funny name who’s running for President? What’s the deal with the Muslim thing, and the flag pin thing, and the hand over his heart thing? Does he hate America, or what?

Those and other questions can be answered! In about 90 seconds.


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The Laughing Man

Mark Evanier has another one of his wonderful personal reminiscences, this time on Harvey Korman, who passed away yesterday at age 81.

Dick Martin, Sidney Pollack, Harvey Korman…almost like they die in three’s, isn’t it? (OK, that’s for my mom. Probably everybody’s mom.). I loved Korman on The Carol Burnett Show and in “Blazing Saddles,” and the news brought back lots of good memories, but I can’t compete with standing on Broadway in New York watching Harvey Korman spontaneously entertain under a huge sign featuring…well, just go read it for yourself.

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Vestigial Is A Hard Word To Spell

When I slipped on the stairs in 2000 and broke my tailbone, I became something of a coccyx expert out of necessity (it took two years to heal). And “necessity” is an interesting word here, since the coccyx is, apparently, superfluous. Extraneous. An evolutionary remnant, or God’s sense of humor on an off day. All I know is that it really, really hurts if you break it.

Although there’s this tidbit:

Whereas babies born with six fingers or toes are rare, he says, the coccyx can and often does consist of anything from three to five bony segments. What’s more, there are more than 100 medical reports of babies born with tails (italics mine; not that they were necessary, either).

Read about Five Things Humans No Longer Need (hint: The appendix isn’t on the list. But then neither is William Shatner).

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Miller Time

(Photo: Elise Amendola/Associated Press)

Mark Leibovich writes about Hillary Clinton’s recent tendency to end her long days with a libation or two.

On Wednesday night, after a late event in Rapids City, South Dakota, Mrs. Clinton strode to the back of her campaign plane nursing a generous tumbler of amber-colored liquid that turned out to be Maker’s Mark bourbon.

Mrs. Clinton steadied herself between two seats and held court for the diminishing pool of reporters who are accompanying her campaign in the last days of the primary season. Fernando Suarez, an “embed” for CBS news who has been traveling with Mrs. Clinton’s campaign since October, asked Mrs. Clinton if she had ever been to Mount Rushmore before ­ as she had been earlier in the day. Mrs. Clinton said she had in fact.

“Before you were born,” she added, looking at Mr. Suarez, who is 29, and noting that “I did a lot of things before you were born.” She swirled the bourbon in her glass and nodded mischievously.

“And thank god you weren’t around,” Mrs. Clinton continued. “Or I wouldn’t have enjoyed any of them.”

This makes me like her a lot more, somehow.

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Self Loathing

Michael Kinsley imagines Scott McClellan’s inner monologue:

And another thing: If I did not support the policies that I advocated—important policies, vital to my entire philosophy of government, such as making things up and challenging the patriotism of opponents—why didn’t I say something at the time? As I used to tell me, my door was always open to myself. But as far as I know, I never uttered a peep of complaint or disagreement. And I ask you: Who would know if I didn’t?

Spot on. I know expecting someone to raise a hand and say, “Hold on, boss. We can’t just lie to the American people about war. People can die and stuff. I mean, dude. I can’t work here under those conditions” is a fantasy. I just wish we didn’t have to listen to mea culpas while woulda-coulda-shoulda guys get rich.

Unfortunately for Mr. McClellan, currently the best way to sell a book is to appear on The Daily Show. Let’s hope Jon Stewart is in a bad mood that night.

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