MAKING AMERICA GREAT: MEET THE FACE OF REAL AMERICAN SOCIAL JUSTICE AND PROGRESS — Madison Cap Times Profiles Justice Castañeda, Executive Director Of Madison’s Common Wealth

http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/q-a-justice-casta-eda-brings-a-unique-life-story/article_c4be73c7-2b00-5afb-9655-fc30cb096a44.html

Jason Joyce reports for The Cap Times:

“As the executive director of Madison’s Common Wealth, Justice Castañeda, 37, oversees an organization that is involved in affordable housing development and management, youth and adult job training, business incubation and community engagement.

It’s a unique operation and Castañeda brings to the job a unique life story and approach to his work. In a discussion with the Cap Times, Castañeda discussed his background, the organization’s efforts in the Meadowood Neighborhood, where it will soon open a second office, and how the city can better support its community development organizations.

Were you born in Madison?

I was born at 23 N. Ingersoll St., at home.

And you grew up in Madison? Went to Madison schools?

I went to a lot of them. I moved a lot, like 19 times before I was 18 years old.

My academic career started at Red Caboose daycare center, graduated fifth grade at Mendota Elementary, graduated eighth grade from O’Keeffe Middle School and by the grace of God I graduated from East High School. As an educator, I realize I was probably somebody’s project. A teacher got together with a guidance counselor and said look, here’s this guy. Let’s try to figure out a way to get him across the stage.

It turns out Madison is a really hard place to grow up as a person of color, boy of color in particular, but my father had a very strong network of people who wrapped their wings around me. As much as I had to deal with, I had this very strong orbit.

And after high school, you went into the military?

I worked construction for a couple years. I was charged with a felony because when I was 18, I got into a fight at East High School and because two of the kids were 17, I was charged with physical abuse to a minor. It got dismissed. I think about it every day. If kids get into fights should they get felony charges? By the skin of my teeth I beat that charge, but I think about how my life would have been dramatically different with a felony because I wouldn’t have been able to get into the Marine Corps.

What did you get out of your service?

In the Marine Corps, all those basic needs are taken care of and you have time to reflect. I thought a lot about Madison and why I was so angry. It gave me space to approach education from a healthy space where I wasn’t worrying about things. I was able to take random classes. I had a lot of things to learn. I started liking school.

A couple lessons learned: Don’t go back to Madison. That’s 101. I still think that, for folks of color, if you can get out of here, stay out. Especially if you’re educated. You don’t realize it until you leave, but in Southern California where everyone looks like me, it was critical. So I stayed in San Diego. I started at UC-San Diego when I was still in the military. Going back to school when you’re 25, education like youth is wasted on the young. It’s a whole different experience. I got straight As, I got my degree and started working as a teacher’s apprentice in San Diego. I was teaching kids who reject the hypocrisy of mainstream educational processes and institutions. Call them what you will.

They told me you should think about grad school. I ended up going to Stanford for policy organization and leadership studies in the school of education. When I finished that Master’s degree, I didn’t feel like I was done. I then went on to MIT, on the GI Bill, and did another Master’s in city planning, looking at housing, community and economic development.

And you got pulled back to Madison.

I was looking for a case study and I just happened to know about Madison and how there’s been an inordinate amount of money put into things and, from every indicator, it’s only gotten worse, particularly for people of color here. How is that possible? I wrote a proposal to the mayor to come here and study this and I would do some work for him, but I was funded through MIT. This was 2012.

We looked at land use, including economic development, and family and children’s health. It was three years we worked on this. We came here, we stayed here, we rode the buses. I had a group and it was helpful they were not from Madison. I think there’s a lot that we take for gospel where someone from the outside would say, explain that to me. Explain why you think the center of the city is a place that’s not accessible to the majority. What’s the history of that? Who was able to own land there? How did they get access to it? We looked at not just organizations, but their boards. You find that it’s a very small group of people who have been making decisions for a long time.

People say Madison is 77 square miles surrounded by reality, but it’s really 77 square miles that epitomize reality. I was able to take this Madison work and put together a huge framework for community and economic development. I started doing consulting for foundations and think tanks around these national community development initiatives. Ninety percent of what I used came out of Madison.

And when did you start at Common Wealth?

It will be eight months on Oct. 1.

Common Wealth has purchased and rehabbed housing in the Meadowood neighborhood. What are your goals there?

I was working for the city when they started doing job training out there. They ended up buying buildings around Meadowood Park. Organizationally, people weren’t sure we should be working out there. The neighborhoods aren’t well designed out there. The low-income housing was not designed aesthetically for human beings.

 

What do you mean by that?

Human beings respond to light. They are not well lit. And the air doesn’t move. People always want to know how you get kids to stop hanging out at the gas station and I say put benches in so they’re not standing in the thoroughfare. People disagree with that, so I say get some of your friends and on a 90-degree day, go spend a weekend in low-income housing. There’s no protective, defensible spaces like porches. Places for people to practice the art of parenthood.

Yahara View Apartments (Common Wealth’s building on East Main Street) is the only low-income housing project on the isthmus and nobody even knows it exists. Why is it different? It was made for human beings. The porches on the Meadowood buildings aren’t porches. They’re jump-off egress points that are for the fire code. That’s almost insulting.

What you’re looking at with housing rehab is, does the building have integrity to begin with? Are you creating housing for humans? Imagine what it’s like for people to fall in love there. To thrive there. Is that the housing we’re building? Build housing as if human beings matter, for children to grow up and fall in love.

And are you increasing the housing stock? We have a housing shortage, so if you’re doing all this rehab, why not build more housing? And is this being supported by comprehensive community development efforts? I compare housing to the wheels on a car. The engine is the most complex part of the car, but without wheels you’re not going nowhere.

So Common Wealth has housing, we do business incubation, we do adult and youth workforce development, we have a comprehensive violence prevention effort. We have a huge investment on the east side, so our staff has grown from the east side. Now we have this component of 39 units on the west side. It can’t be housing alone. We have to bring everyone.

We made a lot of promises to people when we bought buildings on the west side. But we’re going to leverage everything Common Wealth does to support that work. And by the way, we’re going to get an office out there. I have old ties to Allied Drive, old family and friends. A lot of the people I grew up with on the east side can’t live on the east side anymore, so they live out there. So we’re going to be good neighborhood partners. Common Wealth opened in ‘79 and it’s taken 38 years to help stabilize Willy Street. This takes a long time.

I see Common Wealth as a Madison asset. It’s an idea. It was a bunch of rogueish, badass hippies who saw a problem and said we’re going to fix it and it’s going to be weird, but we’re going to do it and try these things out. It’s a Madison thing. Going around the country, I’m really interested in youth development and education and then I’m also into housing, land use and land trusts. And also I think we need to talk about economic development and industrial relations and people look at me like, “Yo, you’re crazy. There’s no such place.” And I’m like, you don’t know from whence I came.

In Madison, a common concern is you’ve got all of these groups doing good work, operating in silos and they are too busy to talk to each other. People on the east side don’t talk to people on the west side. Is there a solution for that?

One of the advantages of growing up all over this town is I know people all over town. With this problem, you’ve got the four Cs: Competition in that I’m competing against you to get something. Then cooperation, we can sit at the same table. Coordination: I’m going to use the sink right now, and when I’m done you can use it. Collaboration: You’re going to make the pie crust, I’m going to pick the cherries, someone else is going to make the filling and we’re going to eat the pie together. It’s really important we understand the iterations there. Generally, people want to go from competition to collaboration. But there are steps in there.

A lot of that is driven through funding cycles. Are the funding cycles at the various organizations like Evjue (the charitable arm of the Cap Times) and the Madison Community Foundation and United Way aligned? Because we’re always asking organizations that don’t have any money, run by folks who are just passionate, who don’t have formal education. We want them to do advanced coordination and collaboration. Is that being asked of the funding entities? The city, county, state, university? And the private sector? Are we asking those areas to align? How about someone design a structure to look at all these things collectively.”

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It’s fantastic that Justice was willing to return to Madison and help make things better for everyone, notwithstanding his reservations about the community from his youth. Some people are part of the problem; others, like Justice, are part of the solution.

Speaking of “the problem,” clueless, racist, old White guys like Sessions, Trump, and their GOP cronies are never going to improve conditions in minority communities, nor are they going to solve crime, gang, and drug problems with their wasteful and counterproductive “gonzo enforcement” that has proved spectacularly unsuccessful and counterproductive time after time. The only things they are doing is wasting money, making problems worse, driving ethnic communities into isolation, and throwing some expensive and socially damaging “red meat” to the racist White Nationalist “base.”

As I’ve pointed out before, making life better for all Americans, promoting social justice, increasing trust, and achieving community cooperation in law enforcement are painstakingly slow processes that take some real thought and reflection and an honest understanding of how America treats many in the minority community. There are no “silver bullets.” As I’ve said before, MS-13 started in the US and was exported by Reagan-era politicos who did not care about understanding either the causes of gangs or the effects of deporting gang members to a civil war torn El Salvador without a plan for helping to deal with what would happen on the “receiving” end. “Out of sight, out of mind” — but, not really. “What goes around comes around.”

PWS

10-01-17

 

HISTORY: Paul Fanlund In Madison Cap Times: How We Got From Nixon To Trump!

http://host.madison.com/ct/opinion/column/paul_fanlund/paul-fanlund-so-why-can-t-america-just-be-good/article_e8734a95-ed8b-5544-a32f-f5ee791264a3.html#tncms-source=behavioral

Fanlund writes in an op-ed:

“When Roger Ailes died, essays about him ranged from adoring to vilifying. As creator of Fox News, he was perhaps the nation’s most influential political messenger — or propagandist — of the past 50 years.

One aspect of any honest obituary, of course, was his misogyny. Ailes was finally forced out at Fox in 2016 after years of sexual harassing women employees. His 17-year-old son threatened his father’s accusers at the funeral, warning mourners that he wanted “all the people who betrayed my father to know that I’m coming after them, and hell is coming with me.”

But what I found most interesting in immersing myself in analyses of Ailes’ life was how little his craft had to do with liberal versus conservative ideology.

Rather, Ailes was perhaps the master of the dark art of inventing and relentlessly reinforcing hateful caricatures of political opponents — in his case, people of color, bureaucrats, university professors and, of course, the media.

His brilliant execution of that art culminated in Donald Trump.

Ailes, as is widely known, learned from Richard Nixon, for whom he worked as a young television consultant. Nixon launched his political career much earlier by championing “forgotten Americans,” lunch-pail-toting working men whose fortunes, in Nixon’s telling, were stymied by taxes and regulations imposed upon them by far-away elites.

The rest, as they say, is history. Nixon appealed to his “silent majority” to stand against anti-war and civil rights protesters. Democrats opened the floodgates to Republican demagoguery by advancing civil rights. The GOP today has broadened its pool of villains to include Latino and Muslim immigrants.

The 1980s brought jolly Ronald Reagan with his fantastical stories about welfare queens, followed by George H.W. Bush’s law and order and patriotism themes, and so on.

“Individual issues would come and go — acid, amnesty and abortion in 1972, and immigration, political correctness and transgender bathrooms in 2016 — but the attacks on liberals as elite, out of touch and protective of the ‘wrong people’ came from the same playbook,” wrote David Greenberg, a Rutgers professor of history and journalism, in a New York Times op-ed on Ailes.

OK, but why does it always work?

Why are so many — especially older, white, middle-class people — so susceptible to this toxic narrative when it is clear that the trickle-down GOP policies that follow do them so little good?

Maybe, I theorize, it has something to do with how we were all taught.

I’ve talked with many friends about the flag-waving jingoism of our pre-college education, in which our nation was portrayed as perfect, our leaders without fault.

My formal education began when Dwight Eisenhower was president, an era of unfettered national pride. We were a paragon of liberty and justice and never fought in unjust wars. It was as if someone decided that American children could not process the slightest balance or shade of gray.

In this frame, Andrew Jackson was, as Trump likes to say, a glorious “swashbuckler” like himself, not a president who drove Native Americans from their homes, killing thousands in the process. Nor were we ever taught that Jackson, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other forefathers owned slaves.

It seems the goal was always to convey “American exceptionalism,” or, more bluntly, reinforce a cultish sense of American superiority.”

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Fanlund’s entire op-ed, at the above link, is well worth a read!

Lots of folks don’t like it when we put US history in perspective. For example, during the “glory days” of my childhood in the 1950’s millions of African Americans throughout the nation, and particularly in the South, were deprived of the basic rights of US citizenship. This was notwithstanding the clear dictates of the 14th Amendment, which had been added nearly a century earlier.

The US and many state governments merely decided not to enforce the law of the land. So much for all of the “rule of law” and “nation of laws” malarkey purveyed by right wingers today.

Indeed, many southern states enacted discriminatory laws that were directly contrary to the 14th Amendment. And, amazingly, for the majority of the 19th and 20th Centuries, courts of law at all levels were complicit in enforcing these unconstitutional laws and ignoring the14th Amendment!

PWS

05-26-17

MARCH MADNESS: Badgers Haunted, Motivated By Memories Of Last-Minute Meltdown & Loss To Irish In Last Year’s Sweet 16 — Get My “Instant Pregame Mini-Analysis Here!”🏀😎

http://host.madison.com/wsj/sports/college/basketball/men/badgers-men-s-basketball-sweet-loss-to-notre-dame-a/article_b6812401-2cf9-54c3-857c-a546a9eb9b2e.html

Jim Polzin reports in the Madison Cap Times:

“The moment is fresh nearly 12 months later, partly because the pain still lingers for the members of the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team.

But even if there were a way for the Badgers to wipe the memory of a 61-56 loss to Notre Dame to end the 2015-16 season from their brains, it wouldn’t matter because their coach keeps bringing it up.

“It should stay in their minds since we mention it about every week,” Greg Gard said. “We referred to Notre Dame more than any past opponent, I think, since I’ve been here in terms of how it ended.”

It didn’t end pretty for UW, which self-destructed in the final minute against the Fighting Irish and watched its season come to an abrupt end in the Sweet 16.

The Badgers (27-9) have arrived at the same step on the NCAA tournament ladder a year later. They’ll face Florida (26-8) on Friday night in an East region semifinal at Madison Square Garden in New York.”

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Schmidt’s Instant Pregame Mini-Analysis

In an earlier post, http://wp.me/p8eeJm-tJ I highlighted the factors that could allow Wisconsin to go all the way to the Final Four:  experience, inside play, and Bronson Koenig. All three of those strengths were on abundant display in the first two games as the Badgers downed #9 Virginia Tech and then upset #1 Villanova.

The Badgers also minimized two of the three weaknesses that I thought could make them an “early out:” offensive inconsistency and turnovers.

The other factor was horrible free throw shooting. While the Badgers did have horrible free throw shooting (43%) against Villanova, fortunately it didn’t cost them the game.  Ironically, Villanova, a much better free throw shooting team (71%) missed a key charity toss down the stretch which would have given them a one point lead and might have changed Wisconsin’s strategy last minute strategy of having Nigel Hayes drive for a two-pointer.

Florida plays tough defense.  So, in addition to maintaining offensive consistency and getting continued outstanding play from Koenig, Hayes, Ethan Happ, and Vito Brown, the Badgers will have to hold down the turnovers and sink their free throws to escape the Gators.

Tune in on Friday night @ 10:00 PM on TBS to see what happens, live from Madison Square Garden in NY!

GO BUCKY!

PWS

03/21/17

 

Paul Fanlund In The Cap Times (Madison, WI): The Demise Of Experts?

http://host.madison.com/ct/opinion/column/paul_fanlund/paul-fanlund-are-we-facing-the-death-of-expertise/article_59e56bea-1af1-5d13-a100-79bd2cc46607.html

“I was in the lobby at the car wash, killing time, when I noticed a birthday card on sale depicting the U.S. Capitol dome with these words: “For a relaxing birthday, take a tip from Congress.” The answer inside was predictable: “Do nothing.”

Yes, to many, politicians are uniformly worthy of scorn. The card brought to mind a passage I had just read in a long essay in the magazine Foreign Affairs.

“Americans have developed increasingly unrealistic expectations of what their political and economic systems can provide,” wrote Tom Nichols, “and this sense of entitlement fuels continual disappointment and anger.

“When people are told that ending poverty or preventing terrorism or stimulating economic growth is a lot harder than it looks, they roll their eyes. Unable to comprehend all the complexity around them, they choose instead to comprehend almost none of it and then sullenly blame elites for seizing control of their lives.”

That’s a tidy if unflattering take on today’s populism: Droves of regular, hard-working taxpayers losing faith in government to address their problems or even operate honestly. It’s a complaint rooted in the Watergate era, one that gained currency and momentum through the years and today has begat President Donald Trump.

Hand-wringing around that trend is not new, but Nichols’ principal theme struck me as even more worrisome under this headline: “How America Lost Faith in Expertise.” Nichols is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and adapted his essay from his new book on the same subject titled “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters.”

To illustrate his thesis via anecdote, Nichols described a poll after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014 asking respondents to locate Ukraine on a map. Only one in six could, but that didn’t stop those who thought the country was in South America or Australia from being more likely than average to support military intervention. Pause on that: “I don’t know where it is, but let’s send troops.”

Such attitudes are becoming commonplace, Nichols wrote. “It’s not just that people don’t know a lot about science or politics or geography. They don’t, but that’s an old problem.

“The bigger concern today is that Americans have reached a point where ignorance — at least regarding what is generally considered established knowledge in public policy — is seen as an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to demonstrate their independence from nefarious elites — and insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

PWS

02/05/17