Sunday, May 31, 2009

Get 'em on the record

As we speed toward the convention, one thought occurs to me...we don't know how the leaders of the Commonwealth feel. Sure, we know how the leaders of the Party feel -- John Walsh was upfront about his desire to radically change the direction of the platform, and 3 separate members of the Democratic State Committee have told me it was written by a paid staffer of the governor's. They've made their intentions known.

And on a daily basis, it becomes clearer how progressive activists in our Commonwealth feel...hence the fury of organization on this issue.

But we don't know how the elected officials of Massachusetts will vote. They are Democrats, after all, and on Saturday many of them will be in the Convention Hall. Why not find your state representative or senator, and call said rep or senator to see how they plan to vote on this "platform"? You can email me what you learned or leave it in comments here.

Persons (in and out of the Legislature) whose plans particularly are of interest to me would include:

I have asked representatives of two of these figures, and have yet to receive a response...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fairhaven Democrats?

From 9 until 10:30 am this Sunday, the Fairhaven DTC will be having a breakfast. If anybody is interested in pushing the education issue there, please download the signature pages from the links below and track down delegates in attendance. Similar action will be happening this weekend in East Bridgewater and Arlington...

Signature page for Amendment: "We support comprehensive and authentic assessments of students, teachers, and schools beyond the limits of isolated high-stakes test regimes such as the MCAS."

Signature page for Amendment: "We support adequate funding for an accessible and challenging education for special needs, bilingual, and gifted and talented students;"

Friday, May 29, 2009

Amendment Two: Challenging education for all

Here's another fun game...can you tell the different between the two lists of issues below?

List AList B
  • Community-based addiction recovery
  • Civics education
  • Smart Growth development
  • Single-payer health care
  • Bilingual education
  • Clean-up of hazardous waste sites

Give up? Well, List A shows items still in the party elders' idea of a "streamlined" platform. List B are detail-level issues are gone from the draft.

Apparently, the items on List A represent broad-based stuff befitting a platform of "concise"statements, while List B is made up of items that Democrats perhaps need to be more "flexible" about. I see both lists as fundamental Democratic values, and it sure is hard to see any policy reasons why one list got wrecked, and the other survived.

More to the point -- surprise! -- I want to focus on education, surprise, surprise. I teach students every day from a wide range of opportunities, advantages, and backgrounds. My goal and my vocation is to get the absolute most out of every single one. For some reason, the Democratic Party no longer thinks that it is important that I try to do that by incorporating bilingual education. Apparently, the only group worth particular attention is special education. There is something inconsistent here.

The rejection of the proven technique of bilingual education represents a strong rightward step by the party. These students need dedicated, supported programs to ensure their success because of circumstances every bit as challenging and unique as those in special education. Furthermore, our party can no loner subscribe to the concerted ignorance of the overwhelming evidence that all students benefit from challenging gifted and talented students -- a position with virtually no downside (start here for data, the nread anything by Kulik and Kulik).

I stand for not just making education "accessible", but making it challenging to all students. To wit, I am asking for help in putting a second education amendment before the delegates. It reads:

amend sub-section j in the Education section of the Party Platform that currently reads

j) Accessibility for special needs students and adequate funding;

So that it now reads

j) Adequate funding for an accessible and challenging education for special needs, bilingual, and gifted and talented students;

I ask once again for your help to establish a head start on the 250 signatures we'll need. As per the procedure for the amendment on fair assessment, here is how you can help -- NOW:

1. Download the Microsoft Word document that is a signature page for this amendment.

2. Please notify me at that you have done so, and how many signatures, 1-100, that you think you can get. I will tell you how to find someone on the education team in Springfield who can collect your signature page.

3. Ask anyone you know who will be a convention delegate to the Massachusetts Democratic Party convention, June 6th 2009, to sign it.

4. Bring the signature page to the education team in Springfield, and we will convey it to the state party.

Amendment for fair assessment
Amendment for a challenging education for all

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You can improve the platform NOW...

  • "We support comprehensive and authentic assessments of students, teachers, and schools beyond the limits of isolated high-stakes test regimes such as the MCAS." -- The Massachusetts Democratic Party Platform, 2009 -- with your help.

Writing an education platform plank that ignores MCAS is like writing a health-care plank that ignores getting sick -- I don't think it's a "concise way" to "be clear what we want to achieve". It's pointless. I agree with the sentiments quoted above who see the wisdom in placing MCAS in its much wider context. So I am proposing that the education plank be amended to add the phrase
"We support comprehensive and authentic assessments of students, teachers, and schools beyond the limits of isolated high-stakes test regimes such as the MCAS."

But I cannot disagree with the results that John Walsh and David Axelrod get with their bottom-up approach, so I will imitate it.

I am asking delegates to the state convention to start moving this amendment now. If you are a delegate,you can sign this amendment -- and sign it now. Here's how:

1. Download the Microsoft Word document that is a signature page for this amendment.

2. Please notify me at that you have done so, and how many signatures, 1-100, that you think you can get. I will tell you how to find someone on the education team in Springfield who can collect your signature page.

3. Ask anyone you know who will be a convention delegate to the Massachusetts Democratic Party convention, June 6th 2009, to sign it.

4. Bring the signature page to the education team in Springfield, and we will convey it to the state party.

I realize this is different. I realize this may result in some signatures from people who don't make it to the convention for last-minute reasons. However, I am relying on the good faith of John Walsh that the state party will treat these signatures fairly. This shouldn't be about some education muckymucks "calling out the troops" but about people who know public education and care about it doing something about it.

And in any case, be rest assured we'll be out there with clipboards. Trust in God, but tie your camel tight, as they say in Morocco...

Signature Page download link

Monday, May 25, 2009

Answer: no, you can't tell the platforms apart

Even among highly informed voters, the 2006 Republican platform is seen as more closely aligned to current Democratic beliefs than is the draft 2008 platform.

Thanks in part to some good progressives highlighting the post, I've had a fair number of visitors to my little quiz widget entitled "Can you tell the platforms apart?" Forty-four people have taken the quiz to be exact. And the answer to the title of that post seems to be, nobody can.

[Update: The original poll is below the line, preserved for honesty's sake. Suffice it to say that I am reeeeaaalllllly bad at math, and I somehow got it into my head that 7 / 2 = 4.5 Of course, it's 3.5

In updated numbers, the mean score after 79 respondents is 3.96, or just under 4 out of 7. Better than 3.5, but still not much to write home about. The number of respondents who got 6 or 7 right out of 7 remains in single digits.]

Forty-four people took this quiz, the lion's share driven to it from other progressive blogs. We're looking at a sample that is much more politically informed than the average voter. Of those 44, the mean score (out of 7) for this quiz is... 4.27. Lower than half. Of course, this means that if all 44 people took this quiz by randomly guessing, the mean score would almost definitely be higher.

Even in this very informed sample, odds of telling the platforms apart improve if you don't actually read them. This process started with the state party chair declaring that Democrats don't really read the party platform; it may end with no Democrat wanting to read it.

Score# quiz-takers
7 of 71
6 of 75
5 of 716
4 of 710
3 of 78
2 of 73
1 of 71
0 of 70

This is just nauseating.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

On good faith

2008 and John Kerry's speech. 2006 and Gabrieli gets 15.0004% (well, just about) of the delegates' votes. 2005 and the PDA scorecard charter amendment. This is the history of the party leadership screwing over the party faithful at recent state party conventions.

Activists had grown used to state party chair Phil Johnston hearing something different than anyone else in the hall on convention voice votes. A 2005 amendment pushing for a "report card" comparing legislators' votes to the party platform was deemed "failed" to the surprise of those in the hall who could hear or count. How exactly Chris Gabrieli got to just a leeetle bit over 15% in 2006 is another question.*

Hope sprang that after a campaign built on trust and optimism, John Walsh and Deval Patrick would veer from tradition and manage the party conventions in good faith. This hope suffered a sharp kick in the nuts last year when John Kerry approached the podium with a speech that went well over the agreed-upon time limits. He then delivered every word of it against the rules of the convention. Why Kerry was so confident that the rules wouldn't apply to him will never truly be known. Why he thought he had the explicit or implicit permission of the state party to ignore the rules -- and how correct he was in thinking that -- depends on who you ask.

That's why the 2009 convention may be so crucial. People are riled up over this so-called "platform" that is being offered in place of the real thing, and people have grown used to expecting that the state party will screw them over, as it has so many times before.

First the good news. The party, from John Walsh down, has been surprisingly clear on the rules for the amendment process. They are promising fair play and a fair hearing. Questions to the state party on signatures, language, et cetera actually elicit much prompter answers this time around. Excepting the glaring and still unanswered mystery of why none of the platform testimony made it to the actual platform, this process has been...rather open for the MDP. More often than not, we're seeing good faith on the part of the party so far. (I will point out that this toothless and bland draft platform is more or less what John Walsh promised us when the process started.)

Second the bad news. It's going to be tough to keep that up the appearance of good faith. In all honesty, given the dynamics of this convention, two conflicts are arising that will leave somebod(ies) pissed off -- conflicts over David Plouffe and resolutions.

Before the platform fight developed, the big draw to the convention was to be hearing Barack Obama's chief organizer David Plouffe speak. So quite a few Obama-heads signed up. Now a decision may likely have to be made by delegates in the late morning whether to interrupt platform debate for a couple hours to hear Plouffe speak. The choices are pissing off old party activists uninterested in hearing Plouffe say things that Joe Trippi first said six years ago, or give Plouffe the shaft, shutting down the glamor part of the convention an pissing off new party activists in favor of crusaders debating arcana.

Also, after the platform is hashed out, amendments are usually offered to the party's rules of operation (the charter) as well as "sense of the hall" resolutions wherein delegates can declare their opinions on issues such as torture. Again, somebody will be pissed off -- exhausted delegates who don't see the point in announcing that Massachusetts Democrats believe or don't believe something -- or devoted activists who figure that a 10-hour convention is worthwhile if it gets this resolution done.

All this is against the background of a state party that has managed to tick off legions of progressive activists a year before a gubernatorial election. This machine/activist split was a big factor in Governors Celucci, Weld, and Romney, and only a good-faith convention can keep it papered over through another election campaign. The presiders are running a high-wire act this time around, and lots of people are hoping that they fall. I'm not one of them, but I'd rather they fall from the line than cheat to stay on it.

*I wanted Gabrieli on the ballot, but boy oh boy did things just barely work out for him. They also worked out for a state party which would have been humiliated by having a high-profile (and rich) candidate kept off the ballot by "party insiders" at some convention thing or other.

On taxes and toughness...weekend blather

  • Republican morons are rending their garments over the idea of accused quasi-terrorists being moved from Guantanamo to American supermax prisons, anything-goes houses where the most dangerous Americans in the world are housed. Some of whom, I rather imagine, have killed more Americans than any of these guys. I imagine I'm supposed to be scared at the idea one of the fellas might escape. Not sure why -- am I supposed to think that this guy is somehow going to find a way home to the other side of the planet, or that he'll resume his maybe-terrorist career right then and there? Because a dark-skinned man with a thick Central Asian accent would have no trouble buying large amounts of fertilizer in the wake of a terrorist escape. In any case, it cracks me up that Republicans believe that a recently escaped Afghani wandering around Marion, Illinois in prison garb, speaking almost no English, with no money, and unfamiliar with American cultural norms would be a real danger. I'm a lot more worried about what might happen with an escaped Charles Manson -- a man we know is a murderer who is familiar with American culture, educated, with a number of admirers still in this country -- than these guys in Guantanamo. Yet he's here, and they are there. Crazy.

  • At my second home at BMG, I explain why I have trouble taking Deval Patrick's tough talk relative to the Lege seriously, and why I don't think they have reason to take him seriously, either. He had a golden opportunity to change the face of the Legislature during last month's special election primary for Sal DiMasi's old seat. Deval and his people sat on the sidelines and watched the machine keep a vulnerable seat. Unless Patrick & Co. are going to give legislators notice that they will work to unseat them when possible, they won't be listened to.

  • For that matter, the more I think about the sales tax hike, the less upset I become. That's partially because I lived in Montreal, which features a total sales tax above 15% on most goods to pay for a crap health care system. Also, most of your essential expenses are not subject to sales tax in the Bay State -- mortgage or rent, supermarket food, health care, gasoline, heat, etc. The sales tax affect discretionary spending mainly, so it's not as if this is affecting working class folks in ways they can't avoid -- the way that an income tax hike would.

  • The only long-term solution to revenue shortfall is progressive income taxes, where everyone pays a fair share. Jamie Eldridge and Sonia Chang-Diaz pointed this out in the Globe recently.

  • Speaking of which, State Senator Chang-Diaz is emerging as an interesting case. On taxes, she is voting more with the governor's position and not that of the Legislative leaders. Given that the power rests with the leaders, and that Deval endorsed her criminally indicted opponent with a history of playing things fast and loose during the primary, she really doesn't owe him much. All of which leads me to presume that Senator Chang-Diaz is voting along her sense of what is right or wrong. Good for her.

  • I'm adding "Massachusetts Liberal" to my blogroll. Check it out for stuff such as this:

    What the GOP is apparently incapable of doing in Massachusetts is consistently recruiting and electing a farm team, people willing to run for state representative and senate. [Weld and Romney] lost interest in the job and put personal gain over creating a team that could actually develop into a credible minority party.

    MaLib does a great job tracing the history of failure that is the Republican Party's misadventures in Legislative elections. I would add that this is the closest comparison we have to the status of Deval Patrick's 2008 promises to remake the tired politics of Massachusetts.

  • Somebody who works for Tim Cahill put a lot -- a lot of resources into capturing the chairmanship of the Plymouth County Democratic League. Four years ago, that body was led by a guy named John Walsh. Huh. On the other hand, his campaign committee website isn't working at the moment...if anyone has a way to get in touch with Cahill via phone or email that doesn't require going through the treasurer's office, I'd appreciate it if you would send it to

Monday, May 18, 2009

Where we are on the MDP platform...

Here's what little I've gleaned on the reaction of the decentralized and hyrda-headed progressive movement in Massachusetts to the draft platform. (Confused? Go here. Unconvinced? Try this. Unsure of the next step? Check this.)

1. Most progressive are furious about this draft platform. Health-centered activists are angry at the watering down of the section on health, labor folks on the weak portion on labor, etc. And many are angry about the whole thing, but that part is more on principle than anything else.

2. In addition to sentiment for a no vote on the thing, many amendments are being organized on all manner of issues.

3. There are many people trying to co-ordinate reaction to all this, and many of whom don't know what many others are doing. I'm certainly one person unaware of others' actions and intentions.

4. It seems increasingly clear that a "no" vote on the draft platform would result in the continuance of the current platform, which is far better and far from perfect.

5. With all that in mind, it remains unclear if this draft platform will be introduced plank by plank or all at once.

More by week's end.

The bare minimmum

The four amendments that I think make a bare minimum of change we need in this thing:

Amend "High-quality, accessible health care services including support services to children and families" in "health care" to "Universal access to high-quality, accessible health care services including support services to children and families building upon the 2006 'Act providing access to affordable, quality, accountable health care'".

Amend the section "economic growth and labor" to include

We support laws and regulations that protect the right to organize workers, including employee free choice.

Amend the section "education" include:

"We support fair and comprehensive assessment of students, educators, and districts that goes beyond high-stakes standardized testing"

Amend the section "revenue and tax expenditures" to include:

"We support progressive income taxation, along the model of the United States income tax."

If you don't think the Democratic platform should include employee free choice, universal health care, fair assessment, and the progressive income tax...why do you think we need a platform at all?

(Placed as a comment over at BMG)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Can you tell the platforms apart?

I've been complaining about the centrism and blandness of the draft MDP platform for a week now -- and I'm not the only one. So it's time to lighten up with a game. Below are seven pairs of statements. One statement in each pair comes from the 2008 MDP draft platform, and the other comes from the 2006 Massachusetts Republican Party platform. They are all taken from the bullet-point "details" portion.

The way I see it, if you can't tell the difference at least 6 out of 7 times, there's something wrong with this platform. How did you do? What does that tell you?

World Ups and Downs, 5/11-5/17

A short pause in our platform programming to return to a hopefully weekly feature, World Ups and Downs. This is a view of the global movers and shakers for the past week, seeing which foreign countries managed to worsen or better the lives of their people. For a further explanation, see the original post...

moving UP
The government of India not only pulled off the logistical challenge of the world's largest election, but its people voted for sanity. The Marxists were slapped down, and a strong blow was landed against the bigoted BJP. Congress Party, in many ways the best of bad options, headed for a surprisingly comfortable victory. While the idea of a political dynasty on its fourth generation of adoration fits poorly with democratic principles, at least the voters of India spoke loudly in favor of a smart and sane approach to domestic and foreign policy.
Given American problems, it's easy to forget how precipitous the world economy makes life in other countries. In Zambia, for instance, the solvency of the society is linked closely to the price of copper. With fortuitous momentum swings in the market, and an IMF loan, Zambia may keep things together. Though press and activist freedom is far from where it needs to be, Zambia is rated "partly free" by Freedom House, and has a strong and improving record on electoral democracy.
moving DOWN
If things are getting so bad that an activist records a video in the event he is murdered, things are really bad. So is the case of Rodrigo Marzano. On the verge of preparing incendiary documents on government embezzlement and fraud when he was killed. Guatemala has shifted into full-on crisis mode in response, and the likely victims will be the people of Guatemala.

A sad case of a nation without the money to provide food, but plenty of funds to provide weaponry, as it sees fit. Largely Muslim Eritrea seems willing to carry on its rivalry with largely Christian Ethiopia (a country of which it was once part), in this case with a proxy contest in the failed state of Somalia. They don't seem to picky of the consequences, as long as they can perceive themselves as having "won".

United Kingdom

New Labor will likely end up as the New Opposition as scandal continues to beleaguer the government. The scandal has it all -- unapologetic privilege, $730 massage chairs bought with public funds, a widening net of links, and a media outlet chasing the story for all its worth. About the only person smiling is David Cameron.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


The previous post was a provisional one that I did not mean to publish today, and only if needed.

I appreciate everyone who has contacted me on the platform issue, but I'm not sure things have come to the point where it beneficial to take all the steps listed therein. Where things stand right now, I can see three options, and a decision will need to be made soon on which to pursue:

  • Suck it up, and allow the Forces That Be to replace our progressive platform with an anemic set of bromides befitting a timid red-state Democratic Party.
  • Push for a "no" vote on the entire draft platform, resulting in the continuance of the current (and much better) option.
  • Develop a short series of amendments to turn this draft platform into something palatable -- maybe one each on education, health care, labor, and revenue.

They all have upsides and downsides worth examining, and I'm open to ideas and feedback.

Nine R's: Make the MDP Platform Worth Reading

It ain't going to be pretty. I'll say that much. I'm being told from a few directions that discussion and debate was not tolerated when the Democratic State Committee was presented with the draft platform in late April. I've been to enough state party convention to be worried if those same folks will give a fair hearing to the little people questioning it.

But though the system may well set itself against us, I can't let this go without a fight. We need to present several hundred copies of amendments to the platform, and the signatures of 250 delegates.

Massachusetts is the leading voice of progressive policy in America.
The Democratic Party governs Massachusetts and presents itself as the progressive option.
If you believe the Democratic Party should base itself on progressive issues, we need your help.

And here is how you can help:
  • Recruit: Double your effectiveness by reaching out. Raise awareness of this issue with progressive groups whose advances and priorities are being ignored -- people who advocate for specific steps to better health care, public safety, education, fair and smart budgeting for Massachusetts. Talk to members of your town committee, co-workers and friends involved with the party. Tell them what's at stake.
  • Re-organize: Maybe you did it for Deval, or Obama. Maybe you did it for John Kerry. Or Hillary or Ed O'Reilly. But you know how to organize and a lot of those tools are still out there. We know how to use 'em.
  • Reach out: Contact your state committee member to find out how this happened, and where s/he stands on the new platform. Ask your town/ward chair if they want a progressive platform. Will s/he help, or at least aid you in contacting your committee's delegates?
  • Reply: Make sure the state party knows what you think. Mention this issue to fellow progressives.
  • Represent: Show your support of this campaign by displaying the topline (larger) or bug (smaller) logo at right on your blog or email signature.
  • Report in: If you are going to be in Springfield for the state convention on June 6th, contact us at my email:
  • Record: Write down broad-appeal, but progressive ideas that could be proposed. Even if it's the current platform. What will we offer instead of these glorified advertising slogans?
  • Recommend: Visit the entry for this issue on
  • Ready yourself: It may not be easy, it may not be pretty, but it should be loud and clear -- we are real progressives, and we want a real platform.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

This ain't Texas, shouldn't our platform make that clear?

You know, I like living in a crazy liberal state. I'm thrilled that marriage equality has come to Iowa, and that it may come to New Hampshire this month. Here in Massachusetts, we just passed the five year mark on it, but good for the Hawkeye State. Obama and Pelosi are talking about government programs to increase access to health care; maybe they'll go for a law like that we've had on the books for three years now...signed by the Republican governor. A Republican governor who was the last Republican of note in this state.

Massachusetts is on the leading edge of progressive politics in so many fields. If the Bay State does something today, other states may do it in three to five years. If the Bay State considers something today, other states may do it in ten years. The Massachusetts Democratic Party does the thinking around here, and now it turns out that the MDP bosses want the thinking to stop (if you're new to this issue, look here).

Does standing for "professional development for profesional educators" or "full implementation of health care reform" continue this tradition of leadership? No. I can barely even label it "thinking". This is what a computer working on a BASIC program called "political doubletalk" would spit out. A political printout, as it were.

The party bosses are seeking to wave the white flag just when progressives are beginning to gather real momentum. Maybe they're hoping Califronia or Vermont will step into the leadership role Massachusetts seeks to resign. Maybe they will stand for authentic education and assessment, health care for all, or employee choice. Those ideas are apparently now too lefty for the MDP to even keep on its palate. It seems that the burden of leading the fight for what's right has grown too heavy on the unelected officials atop the Democratic Party.

As always, I must disagree. If you disagree also, please email me at .

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Constitution of our party

Commentators that I respect have asked me on BMG and elsewhere why I am making such a big deal out of our party's platform. "KBusch", a commentator for whom I have the highest respect, states

the platform is no more than an inert, platitudinous, self-congratulatory hunk of blandness.

This is true in its own way. A party platform has never made a policy happen, or not happen. It's never signed a bill, put a cop on the streets, or cut a family's taxes. A platform does not keep party members from making bad decisions for the wrong reasons. And yes, its often full of self-congratulatory, platitudinous language. It's kinda like the Constitution.

Regardless of its flowery language, the Constitution didn't prevent the Trail of Tears, or torture. This common touchstone of American priorities, ideals and aspirations, isn't self-enforcing. It only matters if those governed agree that it does -- just ask the people of Somalia, a non-country that I'm sure has a few constitutions lying in drawers someplace. But a Constitution valued by its people is also a plan of action. America will be a Republic because we elect representatives and such. It secures our rights through a series of amendments, and so on. The Constitution doesn't end at the preamble -- it backs up the promises with a plan (and in language much more generic than most national constitutions).

The closest thing a political party has to such a statement of principles and a way to effect their implementation is the platform. It doesn't have to be complicated, but it should be more than a list of things we like, with no clear evidence of how they will happen. Take these gems from the draft platform:

Massachusetts Democrats Support Healthy and safe work places for all employees;


Massachusetts Democrats Support Fair and equitable taxes and fees;

Oooh! Fair taxation! That's what those nice people supporting Mike Huckabee believe in, too -- just ask them. And now, there's nothing in my state party's platform to disagree. Heck, every political party in the state supports these stated goals. Maybe "healthy and safe" or "fair and equitable" mean what Republicans think it means, or Libertarians. The party bosses don't want to tell us.

The current platform sets real benchmarks in every issue. The unelected bureaucrats atop my party -- who spend a lot of time asking me for money -- want to erase those benchmarks. They want a platform under which Deval Patrick can run, or Tim Cahill, or Christy Mihos. Carla Howell believes that eliminating the income tax is "fair and equitable". Carla Howell is now a Democrat!

We change this platform every four years, often enough that we can respond to the issues of our time. In education, NCLB and MCAS are issues of our time, and a political party should respond to those challenges, not duck them. And that is what we need to do. I have focused on education, because that is my interest. Maybe Health Care for All is satisfied with a platform that ignores Massachusetts' ground-breaking law on health care, and I am the exception. Maybe the unions are happy with a platform that is mute on free choice legislation, and I am the exception. I hope not.

I hope by the end of this week to start looking at options to replace this list of proffered pallatives with a statement of principles and plans befitting our progressive state. Until then, please keep emailing people you know in labor, health care advocacy, and every progressive fight. And please keep getting in touch with me at so I know who is ready to stand against the effort to dumb down the Democratic Party.

PS: I've created this as an issue on (title: A real progressive platform for Massachusetts Democrats).

PPS: Thanks to the good folks at RMG for adding me as a moonbat blog. I've hit the big time, Bay Sate style!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mass. Democratic Party eviscerates education plank in draft platform

Recently released is the draft platform of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, and it is frankly a wholesale abdication of progressive values on education. This document, which the Democratic State Committee wishes to put in place of the party's current platform after a vote at the convention, cries out for opposition for anybody who thinks being a Democrat means more than the letter after your name. On "test or fail" education, charters, bilingual education, increased funding for education, gifted and talented education, the separation of church and state in education -- on all of these issues, the state party wants to fold.

With complete disregard to testimony supplied from the education platform hearing, the Democratic State Committee is seeking to tear the progressive heart out of the party's education plank. Quite simply, the effort to implement this milquetoast shafting of progressive values must be opposed, on the convention floor if necessary. I urge anybody interested in education of Massachusetts students, be they student, parent, educator, or community member, to contact me at .

Below are the most egregious examples:

  • The current platform, set to expire at the convention, addressed the issue of the place of standardized tests in education, particularly the MCAS. The MCAS is a rather arbitrary standardized test administered by a well-connected private company in New Hampshire -- see here and here for more. The current platform opposes "high stakes testing, including the use of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests as the sole determinant for graduation from high school". All of that is gone. Support for "comprehensive, authentic, and multiple means of assessment for students, schools, and districts" has also been axed from the platform. Rejection of MCAS-based scholarships? Vanished. This draft platform is completely, 100% silent on the conservative, privatized "test or fail" approach to education. This means that the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee has released a document that moves significantly further to embracing the model whereby a student's success is measured by which bubbles s/he fills in.
  • The current platform supports "amendments providing assistance to poorly performing schools rather than the sanctions imposed by the federal Elementary and Secondary School Education Act, known as the No Child Left Behind Act." The draft platform is silent on George W. Bush's power grab on behalf of federal bureaucrats.
  • The draft platform ignores the issue of charter schools. Capping the number of these quasi-public schools, which have all the funding and protections of public education without many of their obligations, is mentioned in the old platform. This platform is silent on that issue.
  • The draft platform refuses to support bilingual education. It also ignored testimony I organized from several dozen professors, parents and educators in support of a challenging education for gifted and talented students. Special education students are singled out as the only ones needing specific support in the draft platform.
  • We have gone from "we support increased funding to our public higher education system" to "we support public higher education". Same on public libraries. I gather the state committee supports delicious ice cream on a hot summer's day as well.
  • One beam in Jefferson's "wall of separation"of church and state has been scrubbed as well: "We oppose any effort to change the state constitutional prohibition against public funding of private or religious schools, including the use of credits or vouchers." has been replaced by...nothing.

In short, this is a coward's platform, and I regret that I was out of state when this abomination was composed and passed at the state committee meeting. Perhaps the Massachusetts Democratic Party thinks its members will dumbly assent to this evisceration of liberal values in education. Maybe they think there is safety in gutlessly standing for puppy dogs, mom's apple pie, and not much else. These people clearly have no interest in taking a stand on anything to do with education.

I think they are wrong. If you agree, please get in touch with me at so we can organize to defend real public education -- a world-elite institution -- in this state. Please use all, part, or a snippet of this as you see fit on your own blog or email. The state party is trying to wave the flag of surrender on education, and we can't let them.

Below are side-by-side copies of full summary of the current and draft platforms.

Current platformDraft of new platform
Massachusetts Democrats believe that a high quality, publicly funded education is the cornerstone of our society, our democracy, and our economy.
  • We support funding for education programs from pre-kindergarten through higher education, and for opportunities for lifelong learning.
  • We believe closing the achievement gap among public schools is a 21st century civil right.
  • We support full funding for all mandated programs including special education and English as a Second Language programs.
  • In order to meet our constitutional obligation to provide for equal education opportunities for all children, we support increasing state aid to schools, through Chapter 70 .
  • We support the current cap on charter schools.
  • We support comprehensive, authentic, and multiple means of assessment for students, schools, and districts, as stated in the Education Reform Act of 1993.
  • We support amendments providing assistance to poorly performing schools rather than the sanctions imposed by the federal Elementary and Secondary School Education Act, known as the "No Child Left Behind" Act.
  • We support state funding to ensure that all schools provide small class size.
  • We support full funding for regional school transportation.
  • We support funding programs and establishing policies to attract, hire, and retain motivated, competent teachers.
  • We support on-going studies of educational practices and their value to students.
  • We support increased funding for METCO to continue its important role in minority student achievement and desegregation.
  • We support the implementation and full funding of high quality, universal early education and care, expansion of early education programs in our public schools, and state funding to ensure that all school districts offer full-day kindergarten to all families who want it.
  • We support state funding for after-school and summer enrichment programs for all children.
  • We support increased funding to our public higher education system, to ensure that we can attract and retain top-quality faculty and staff, and to ensure that all students in Massachusetts have access to an affordable, high quality, regionally accessible public higher education.
  • We support state and federal programs to provide grants, loans, and scholarships to college students, especially for those attending public colleges; but we reject scholarships based upon performance on the MCAS.
  • We support increased state and federal funding to build, renovate, and modernize our schools and colleges and libraries.
  • We support adult education and support increased state and federal funding to ensure that all adults have access to literacy or language classes.
  • We oppose the expanding trend toward hiring part time and contingent workers, especially adjunct professors, and the misclassification of contract workers, as a means of avoiding paying benefits and other employment guarantees.
  • We oppose any effort to change the state constitutional prohibition against public funding of private or religious schools, including the use of credits or vouchers.

We oppose high stakes testing, including the use of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests as the sole determinant for graduation from high school.

Massachusetts Democrats believe that everyone should have access
to high-quality educational opportunities from birth through adulthood.
We believe that our education system should successfully prepare
our children for life and work. Massachusetts Democrats are
committed to investing in public education because we know that it is
the cornerstone of our society, our democracy, and our economic
Massachusetts Democrats Support:
a) High-quality, universal preschool and full-day kindergarten;
b) Closing the achievement gap for poor and minority students;
c) High school drop out prevention programs;
d) Smaller class sizes;
e) Professional development for public educators;
f) High-quality after school and summer enrichment programs;
Massachusetts Democratic Party
Draft Platform
g) Expanded learning time;
h) The preservation and enhancement of our school and public
i) Civics education as an integral part of public school curriculum;
j) Accessibility for special needs students and adequate funding;
k) Closer relationship between parents, guardians, teachers and
l) Innovative programs to encourage recruitment and retention of
high quality teachers;
m) Public higher education;
n) College affordability and needs-based financial aid;
o) In-state tuition for all resident students who are admitted to
Massachusetts public colleges and universities; and
p) Adult Basic Education and English for Speakers of Other
Language programs.

(Cross-posted on Blue Mass Group, and whoever else will post it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A cheap laugh

This headline feed from the BBC made me chuckle:

From Bloggy blog a blog

As an Irishman, I have to agree wholeheartedly with the idea, mainly for the sake of the people who might otherwise try to visit or, God forfend, move to the UK.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Regrets I've had a few: Coulda doubled my money in a month

Bad case of bloggarrhea today. Anyway, I mused on March 8th about buying a basket of bargain financial stocks as an investment in the government's unwillingness to let the whole system fail. At the time, 1 share each of Wachovia, AIG, ING and Citigroup would have cost a grand total of $9.27.

Well since, then my Wachovia stock would have been rendered into cash, and plowed into shares of the bank's new owner, Wells Fargo. That is, I would have pooled the profit from the Wachovia sale to buy Wells Fargo stock, which was a stronger investment.

In any case, after two months this "bargain basket" would be worth $20.03 for one shared each. Even after I deducted for fees, I'd still have had a profit, and with a decent investment, I'd have doubled my money. Oh well. Maybe it's not too late?

These dangerous criminals belong in...the schools (?)

Check out this article from my favorite ICU patient, the Boston "Dollar" Globe:

A repeat of last week's mass student hooky that led to a stabbing, arrests, and traffic gridlock at Revere Beach could happen again, with worse consequences, if communications among public safety officials do not improve and if state funding for beach patrols dries up.
I've had more than one ignorant, sneering conservative dismiss the challenges of teaching as "breaking up spitball fights". After all, any idiot can teach these youngsters. Hey, when a number of them come together, you have at most minor problems. Anyway,

'the Blizzard of '78 paled in comparison to what descended at Revere Beach that day,' said Councilor George V. Colella, who was mayor in 1978.
That's right, these kids gathered in a group not far from the population of a large middle&high school. The results were a number of arrests, a near-fatal stabbing, and all manner of minor problems. Harmless in a school, mortal danger at the beach. These out-of-touch public safety officials ("They used MySpace!! How were we to ever find out what they were up to? For heaven's sake, they probably tweeted!") were taken aback by having to deal with what school staff face every day.

Indeed, these dangerous not-yet-adults should be safely (out of sight) at school, under the supervision of staff who likely have had little or no specific training in managing violent or borderline situations. I wouldn't mind learning that, something preferable to being force-fed the latest jargon pumped out by teacher colleges. You see, teaching is easy: all you have to do is get someone to learn who would stab and vandalize those around them if they had one day off from school.

True story: a middle school where I did some observation used to allow its eighth graders out a couple days early at the end of the year. The practice ended when the town police complained. They couldn't handle the challenge of these adolescents wandering the streets...the cops couldn't handle what us overpaid, idiot teachers do every day, it seems.

The roll-out continues

After the second video ad in the rotation was released, news that Deval!® will go on a product roll-out tour, as noted by BMG:

The Patrick administration has announced a series of 36 community meetings to discuss the budget situation, taxes, and all the rest of it.

This is pretty clearly aimed at influencing the current debate over taxation policy. I just can't escape the disappointment that we're seeing the only full-court press of this Administration not about equality before the law on the question of marriage, planning education for the 21st century, or other keystone policy issues. Rather, these rallies have sprung up only after Deval Patrick got schooled by DeLeo on taxes.

In any case, any day that the Guv is on the road is a day he isn't talking with members of the Legislature. True, he is "taking his case to the people". Which means a bucketload of phone calls and emails, which may budge a vote or two. However, in order for this to be a successful strategy in the long-run, the following would have to happen:
  1. Deval whips up his supporters on this issue;
  2. Those supporters organize and back a credible primary candidate;
  3. Said candidate defeats incumbent in primary, largely around this issue;
  4. This success happens on a wide scale, enough to balance off legislators he's lost forever due to the new taste for hardball.
Only if this happens -- only if Deval is able to follow through on the largely implied threat that "going over the heads of the Legislature" this entails -- is this a smart strategy. Otherwise, it's just another step to the conversion of Deval to yet another irrelevant governor.

I still maintain the smart thing to do would be to find friendly candidates in what remaining swing districts there are, and/or retirement districts, and build a cadre of loyalists among the freshman class -- something Deval and his people ostentatiously did not do in 2008.

If his people lack the patience or acumen for that, then the next best alternative is to lock people in a room and pressure them like nobody's business. Trade horses like a Ballinasloe huckster. And he's not going to do that while gathering applause in Franklin.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Deval's Latest Video

In case you missed it:

Thankfully, this time, the background is a lot less distraction, they've figured out that the shirt-and-tie look isn't working for Deval, and they have him sitting down. Plus, no attempt to zoom, so all improvements over hist first attempt.

The message is at turns conciliatory and confrontational, and there is something a bit weird to see the Democratic governor ask you to his part of the site so you can learn how to carry his water to the Democratic legislature. I can't help wondering what it means that Deval felt that it would be more successful to publicly pressure the legislature on the taxes, but didn't do so on the question of marriage equality.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

World Ups and Downs, 4/27-5/5

World Ups and Downs, a view of the global movers and shakers for the past week. For a further explanation, see the original post...

moving UP
Sri Lanka
Though there remain many humanitarian concerns, the fact of the matter is that one of the most lethal an durable terrorist organizations in the world, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, are about to be stamped out. This group more or less invented the modern approach of suicide bombing, and has inflicted thousands of casualties on Sri Lanka. Without doubt, Sinhalese discrimination against Tamils is a deep current in Sri Lanka, but the reckless violence of the "Tamil Tigers" means they won't be missed.

IndiaThat a country as disparate, disorganized, and complex as India can hold a federal democratic election is to be lauded. Though the choices are often not inspiring (at least 1/3 of the candidates have an arrest record), they are substantial. The great question, of course, is the fortunes of Mayawati Kumari, self appointed defender of the Dalit ("untouchable") caste who may upset the typical two party system of Congress v the BJP.

moving DOWN
The only thing worse than a failed state is a failed state with nuclear weapons. That the Taliban, a project of the Pakistani Military's secret service, is turning on its creators is simple justice. However, with no real unifying figure to lead the urban educated class, the prospect of a descent into chaos is strong in Pakistan.

Early indications are that H1N1, the "swine flu", may become a widespread but ultimately low-danger virus. The only American death at this point is a Mexican child brought to the US for treatment, and the death rate is tailing off in Mexico. Even "patient zero" managed to survive. However, the unholy scare of this pandemic brought the Mexican economy to an abrupt halt, and it may be some time before trade and tourism recover.


The shorter story is that Egypt has ordered the slaughter of its entire population of pigs in reactions to the swine flu, an unfortunately named virus that affects humans, and does not affect the quality or safety of pork. Of course, there's much more to that -- the fact that the pigs are raised and eaten by Egypt's small Christian population (pork if forbidden in Islam) means that this is essentially cover for a government attack on the small yet historical Christian community of Egypt. This indicates a sop to the ever-present radical Islamism that the Cairo government does its level best to keep tolerable.