Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama, talk, and action

I really like Obama. I really do, and so far I think he's done a fairly decent job. If somebody is forced to put out a fire he didn't start, it's not fair to blame him for getting everything else wet. He's handled the Afghan situation decently well, finding a way for the American military to basically ignore the Afghan-Pakistani border without the people in the two countries get upset as they'd have a right to. That takes finesse

However, I'm having trouble taking the State of the Union seriously, because a lot of it is talk we've heard before, without seeing much done to make it happen in the intervening period. There are a number of tools to deal with the Senate filibuster that have gone unused. If Obama pushed the public option, I missed it. Great Democrats such as Kathleen Sebelius and Janet Napolitano were sucked into the Cabinet and have pretty much disappeared from view. We're seeing a bad case of good intentions in bad times.

Ghosts of Jimmy Carter are in my peripheral vision when Obama's on-screen.

So, if I'm going to take the 2011 State of the Union seriously, 3 of these 5 things must be true:

-Guantanamo no longer holds foreign captives;
-Openly gay and lesbian Americans serve in the military;
-There is an exit date for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan;
-There has been a test vote on a public option in health care;
-Tim Geithner is long gone.

I don't care if this is done as a result of political considerations facing the midterms, or just because it's the right thing to do. But considering that numbers 2 and 5 can be done by Obama's office regardless of anyone else's disposition, this is an achievable list.

I'm not trying to put out a litmus test. If Obama wants to ignore a fair economic policy in favor of smart projection of American power, he can. If our president wants to ignore full rights for LGBT Americans, perhaps we can start respecting international conventions. But if Obama can't be bothered to do any of this...well, why should we vote for him?

PS: What real leadership sounds like:

You go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, you go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in. But we’re going to get health care reform passed for the American people.

-- Nancy Pelosi, aka the only federal Democratic leader with my full admiration.

11 Mass. Dems against religious equality

Note: I did not mean for the following article to be published until Monday. It requires editing and will be updated and significantly clarified then. A special apology to Representative DiNatale, who has corresponded with me.

A bill designed to promote majority religions in public schools pushed forward by eleven Democrats. A law built on the template adored by the "Concerned Women for America". The end result would be local officials deciding which faiths to highlight and implicitly endorse at graduations, competitions, and school events. Is this Texas? Alabama? Wyoming?

No, it's happening right here in Massachusetts through bill HB376 -- "An Act to Protect Religious Freedom of Students". You can find it here in PDF format. Any time spent following the far-right knows that "protection of religious freedom" is just right-wing speak for "promoting Christianity". It's the same thinking that a doctor can abandon his obligations and oath if he doesn't like his patient for religious reasons. This particular bill is designed to order schools to accommodate the promotion of religion at public school events. It's the usual foolishness of the far-right, but I just don't know why eleven Democrats in Boston would think that's a good idea.

The bill mandates that public schools implement:

A policy that allows for a limited public forum and voluntary student expression of religious views at school events, graduation ceremonies, and in class assignments, and non-curricular school groups and activities.

First, ignore the word "limited" -- everything, even the universe, has limits (heat death scheduled in several billion years). What this bill provides for is a small group of people (perhaps one) deciding the appropriate expression of religious views at public school events. This bill provides for the exclusion of non-religious students and students holding less common faiths at public events. Make no mistake, a public school allowing the expression of any certain beliefs has the impact of endorsing those beliefs to the detriment of those who do not agree. And let's be clear that if only one speaker is making religious declarations at a school event...which religion do you suppose will get the slot? If 90% of the fans at a softball game are Christian, what's the chance of a reading of the Qur'an starting the game? As for the 22% of Bay Staters without a religious affiliation, well, they're excluded entirely. For that matter, even if the Qur'an is read at a certain high school graduation, non-Muslim students are left out that year.

This failed in the bright red state of Oklahoma, where Democratic Governor Brad Henry understood that this type of bill puts school officials in the place of balancing the Constitutional freedoms of students.

Texas school boards are constantly fearful in navigating what school boards call "the rock and the hard place" of mixing church and state, but in a "limited manner". Of course, far-right groups such as the hate-powered Massachusetts Family Institute love this idea and want to see it happen. It's an easy way to push popular religions in schools at the cost of religious freedom -- a trade-off reactionaries of the world would love.

Make no mistake: students have ample opportunity to live their religious beliefs in public schools as things stand. They do not have the opportunity to use public time and resources to compel others to endure their proselytization. This bill would change that. No student should attend their hard-earned graduation, only to hear the invocation of somebody else's God as school officials applaud, all on that student's dime. Participating on the local high school football team should not include hectoring to change your beliefs. That is what this bill would do.

Now, I don't expect much from Republicans, but I would urge people to call the Democrats who signed onto this bill and ask why non-Christians in public school should be left out of part of their own graduation ceremonies and other events (numbers here):

James Dwyer 30th Middlesex
Bruce E. Tarr First Essex and Middlesex
Dennis Rosa 4th Worcester
James R. Miceli 19th Middlesex
Angelo M. Scaccia 14th Suffolk
Stephen L. DiNatale 3rd Worcester
Paul J. Donato 35th Middlesex
Kathi-Anne Reinstein 16th Suffolk
William Lantigua 16th Essex
Thomas J. Calter 12th Plymouth
Kevin J. Murphy 18th

Monday, January 25, 2010

Reading elections: Lessons from Japan

Today, a note on how implacably elections are reduced to a single-issue frame so quickly and easily. Many Bay Staters are reasonably irritated that outsiders (especially those in Washington, DC) are taking Brown’s victory last week as a repudiation of the health care reform process underway in the nation’s capital. While health care was an issue in this election, it was not the only issue. Such a view ignores Brown’s skilled campaign, the Coakley implosion, Democratic over-confidence, and a number of other factors in the result. Worse still, it led to a short press to force House passage of the Senate health care bill, almost regardless of the bill’s contents.

Many bad effects of the special Senate election stem not from the results themselves, but a widespread inability to view an election result as having more than one cause. Just as the Brown victory was likely a combination of the factors listed above (see Nate Silver’s dissection) but has been reduced to a health-care referendum by DC Republicans, it has been simplified a populist surge among Bay State Republicans, and a poor Coakley campaign among most Democrats. However, this tendency to over-simplify election results is not necessarily ideological, nor is it restricted to the American press. One obvious example is the tendency to view every Israeli election as turning on relations with the Palestinian government(s). The fact that Netanyahu was largely elected on economic concerns rather than relations with Fatah and Hamas was almost ignored worldwide. A smaller example presents itself today in the BBC’s summary of the recent election for the mayoralty of Nago on the island of Okinawa. I choose the BBC as the high-water mark of thinking English-language journalism, and even that august organization has failed the test today.

This election occurred against the background of change in Japan. Recently elected prime minister Yukio Hatoyama has declared an interest in a more equitable relationship with the United States, and has been seeking allies within and without Japan on that score. Meanwhile, the US military was well into plans to move a large base on Okinawa (a source of great tension with the surrounding Japanese) per government request, when Hatoyama was elected. His activism on this issue has led to some arch tension between the two countries.

Anyway, let’s get into the story. The prospective new site of the base, the city of Nago on Okinawa, held a recent election wherein a candidate opposed to the base won election, beating the incumbent by a 53-47 margin. And universally, this election is being back-labeled as a referendum on the incoming American base. If the BBC is playing the role of FoxNews, Hatoyama is playing the role of the Republicans, trying furiously to spin a victory of a distant candidate who shares a belief on one issue as confirmation that the people are on his side.

But there are many things at play here (a partial list of issues from the subjective Stars and Stripes for example). Japanese frustration with incumbency has reached levels beyond even the American public and is narrowly targeted at the Liberal Democratic Party, that of the former mayor of Okinawa. The victor, Susumu Inamine, was kept at arm’s length by the government throughout the campaign, the actions of a popular party that wants to claim someone else’s victory of their own only after the fact. At the same time, the LDP is identified with the assimilation of the unique religious and cultural traditions and dialect of Okinawa into the larger Japanese culture, a trend that concerns many Okinawans. Add to this the ongoing problem of the economy – the main point of discussion about the base in Nago wasn’t about the cultural disruption of the American military, but the economic impact of it – not to mention the ground-level dynamics of the election, something that was a major factor in last week’s result for Brown.

The fact is that this election result was the sum of an array of elements, and not one issue -- you have a complex beast that’s being oversimplified by media from outside the electorate.

Kinda like our own Senate election. One wonders how many frustrated Okinawans today are having words put into their mouths by the Japanese prime minister and the worldwide media, just as is happening here in Massachusetts. Something to keep in mind next time we’re told why an election ended the way it did -- at home or abroad.

PS: Not at all related, but worth passing on; I present to you the most professional newscaster in Australia. That's the danger of using a live feed as a backdrop.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Thoughts going into the weekend...

  • The Supreme Court is just making sh-t up with that "Citizens United" decision. I still don't see how money is speech (strange how the Canadian court can declare the exact opposite), or how corporations are persons. Next, the Supreme Court will decide that computers are actually trees. I think corporations should have to serve jury duty.

  • This decision now makes unions more important as far as the left is concerned. I wonder if their input on bills will be accorded more weight. Considering their strong opposition to the middle class tax hike included in the Senate bill, that's another blow to the "pass a crap bill and call it reform" camp.

  • If all this is true, anyone to the left of ExxonMobil's board of directors should be worried that union memberships in the private sector is shrinking -- by 10% this year.

  • The best idea I've seen on health care in the Browned-out Senate is fixing the Senate bill already passed through the 51-vote process of reconciliation. That's smart, and smart is better than desperate.

  • I'm thinking we have a tripartisan system -- Republicans, Senate Democrats, and the rest of the Democrats. This headline is pitch-perfect: "House doesn't trust White House or Senate on health care".

  • I'm not saying it would have changed the result of Coakley-Brown, but I feel that if Chuck Schumer were still head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee rather than nobody Senator Bob Menendez. This doesn't augur well for November.

  • If Republicans are electable in Massachusetts, and Deval has the market cornered on hope...what's left for Cahill? I predict he finishes below 20% on Election Day.

  • With Norfolk County Treasurer Joe Connolly out, Steve Grossman stands unopposed for the Democratic nomination for Massachusetts treasurer. Of anyone on the November ballot, my vote for him and Barney Frank will likely be the most enthusiastic.

  • Just how out of touch is the Obama White House? Their featured comic at the Correspondants' Dinner is...Jay Leno. As much as a bland comic can tick people off, he's done it. Why not just roll out Tiger Woods for some putting humor?

  • An 84-year-old woman is found alive after 10 days in the Haitian earthquake rubble. In the wake of the calamity, when so many need so much and have so little, at least there is hope.

  • After a half-hour of searching, I've found the text of the law named the "Education Reform Act of 2010" in some reports (PDF). I plan to be reviewing the text over the next few days.

  • In other news, 11 Democrats are teaming up with the hate-driven Massachusetts Family Institute in a Texas-style cramming of religion down the throats of Massachusetts public school students. More on that next week.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

This isn't the way to do it

For anyone still agitating that Democrats in the House must vote to push the Senate version to Obama's desk, let me remind them of two consequences:

1. It makes the "Nebraska exception" law. It was embarrassing enough that it was even in a bill (heck, even Senator Nelson was trying to backtrack it) but now the Democrats will write it into the books. This follows us into November and beyond.

2. The law hits people with medium- to high-value health plans with a 40% tax on those plans. Let me repeat this -- people with a good health plan will pay a 40% tax on the value of that. Some of those people are rich, lawyers and stockbrokers, etc. And it is virtually every cop, firefighter, nurse, doctor, and teacher in the country. Five groups that are middle-class and provide enormous union muscle and money to politics (of particular use in the wake of today's Supreme Court decision). If Obama and Pelosi decide that members of those five groups should pay hundreds, if not thousands, more in tax, there will far fewer Democrats on the rolls, at the polls...and in office.

Finally, anyone who still says that placing a new financial burden on the poor ("individual mandate") is synonymous with extending coverage, you're lying to yourself. You may as well just force all Americans to buy a computer, and announce who you've expanded Internet access around the country.

Three years ago, if someone you were asked which political party would force all Americans to buy health insurance from HMOs without a public option, place a huge tax burden that disproportionately affects government workers, and carve out a special exception for Nebraska...would you have said the Democrats? Amazing how people eagerly lower their standards.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thoughts on the "day after"

  • First off, everyone step away from the panic button. Just because the Democrats lost this special election doesn't mean that the entire agenda gets junked. Nor does it mean that we slap together a pile of cr-p, call it "health care reform" and pass it before Brown gets there (edit: or pass the crap that is the Senate bill through the House without even thinking). A morass that insists all Americans must funnel cash to a private industry is not going to help any Democrat on the campaign trail this summer and fall. Don't read too many implications into this odd election -- the last law passed in the midst of blind panic was the Patriot Act. Whoops.

  • Politically, it's better to fail spectacularly at Republicans hands than fail incrementally with Democratic help. In policy terms, the best thing is for Reid to grow a pair, as he'll likely lose his re-election anyway. He may as well go out as the Senator who implemented real health care reform after junking the filibuster. Seriously -- if there's a legislative chamber that requires a 60% supermajority on all laws (as the Senate has over the last few years, suddenly) anywhere in the Western world, I've not heard of it. Nuke it.

  • Moving on, there's plenty of blame for this loss to go around. Coakley, having forgotten about people like Weld and Romney, apparently felt that she didn't really need to earn anyone's vote in Massachusetts. Even the greats, Kennedy and Kerry, hustled against Romney and Weld for hard-won victories. She disappeared, and not just around Christmas but for several days in either direction.

  • But it wasn't just her -- if you see your candidate screwing up, you're supposed to do something about it, I thought. There are people whose job it is to tell candidates to get over themselves and hustle for votes, often called the party "elders". They were snoozing as deep as Martha, whether it was the staties in Charlestown or the muckymucks in DC. Would it have killed them all for someone -- someone! -- to take a poll? At the end, Coakley owns the loss because her name was on the ballot, but Democrats who should know better were as complacent as her.

  • Anyway, it's not all the Dems' fault. Brown came up with clever ads, got the help he needed across the state and nation, won every news cycle going away, courted the media smartly, interrupted any Coakley narrative, held his ground in the debates, and worked for the vote. You can be a Democrat with a sucky campaign and win -- just ask John Kerry after his victory over Beatty. Coakley gave Brown oxygen, and he used it in a way that connected with the electorate. Any Democrat who denies this is going to be caught unprepared as well.

  • The electorate didn't change its mind from 2008...the electorate itself changed. People who would have helped Coakley in a regular election didn't vote -- turnout was under 40% in major cities. This gives me hope for 2012, but expecting the Democratic base to show up without being told why is a fool's game, as we saw last night. This to me is the grand lesson about preparing for November, and how to handle the agenda going forward.

  • As to who takes on Brown in 2012, we'll have to wait and see. Here's what I expect: census indicates that some Congressperson must lose his/her seat. After some semi-public negotiation, one of them announces a run for Senate, and allows his/her seat to be re-districted out of existence out from under him/her.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Talk about the issues, Coakley

"How did it end up this close?" will be a question studied by academics and "pundits" for ages. There is no earthly reason that the typically measured electorate of Massachusetts would even be considering Scott Brown as Senatorial material, yet he's tied, perhaps leading, in the polls for Tuesday's election. So what's happening?

My answer is that the electorate of Massachusetts isn't considering Scott Brown as Senatorial material. They're not thinking of Coakley and Brown as possible Senators, but as celebrities.

Brown has masterfully guided this raise from any semblance of the issues, with a narrative-hungry media playing accomplice. When I call voters, they're not talking about health care, torture, or foreign policy. They're talking about the "negative tone" of the campaign and "it's the people's seat". This is a conversation where Brown has a shot, especially with his excellence at playing victim, and sending out his daughters to do the same. He's moved the question from who do you want doing the work of a Senator to who do you want to be Senator. It's a fine difference, but it allows him to move the conversation from the issues (where he loses) to random crap (where he does well). It may seem crazy, but George W Bush turned this strategy into two electoral victories.

The media, of course, has joined in, shelling Coakley with questions about the "negativity" of her campaign -- heaven forbid anyone point out what a nut Brown is -- and focusing on process stories. Unfortunately, bringing in Clinton and Obama makes it look that Coakley is playing down to Brown's level, hoping to borrow some charisma against his. Answering these silly questions rather that insisting that we talk about foreign policy or health care is a disastrous move. The race starting getting wobbly when the issues took a back-seat. The fact that Brown is too cheap and cruel to pitch in on his own employees' health care isn't as important as the fact that Coakley supports a regime where those employees don't have to rely on the goodwill of their bosses for affordable health-care. The fact that Brown breaks military policy by posing in his uniform for campaign materials isn't as important as the fact that Coakley supports a policy where the military isn't risking soldiers' lives by carrying out a dead-end mission in Afghanistan.

I personally find that the most effective thing in talking to voters is to stick to the issues. The message you send with your vote will be received that day. The consequences of your vote last two years. What consequences do you want?

Placing any limits on US government use of tortureYesNo
Women's medical needs override personal beliefs of doctorsYesNo
Returning tax rates of the rich to Reagan/JFK-era levelsYesNo
Expanding health care coverage of AmericansYesNo
Respecting entirety of Roe v WadeYesNo
Preserving equality in marriageYesNo

The values of Attorney General Coakley are the values of the people of Massachusetts. This is the reality that Brown is trying to drown out with noise about his pickup truck and tender feelings. This is the reality that must be hammered home over the next 48 hours, top to bottom.

PS: Future studies of "what happened" would also do well to examine the decision to keep the Mass. Legislature in session over this period to discuss attempts to throttle labor rights in connection with Deval's education bill. Had all these folks been organizing, instead of defending the idea that contracts should be enforceable by law, how would things have gone differently?

Friday, January 15, 2010

I make the National Review!

For all the wrong reasons, of course. The Scott Brown subpage at National Review picked up my last post here (via BMG) as "When Massachusetts Democrats stop being polite and start getting real". My biggest exposure since DailyKos picked up on a sarcastic remark I made almost exactly one year ago. I guess I do my best writing in January.

I was pleased that the writer understood the tone I was attempting, although he indicated so with a dated cultural reference. Naturally, National Review was mendacious about what I said, claiming (without any supporting links) that the agenda promoted by Brown was prevailing public opinion. Of course, polling is against the excise tax on good health care plans and oppose the War in Iraq and believe we've done all we can there. But who reads NR for the truth.

The best part, of course, is in the last line. Unwilling to give anyone else the last word, the post ends with an attempt at flippancy:

With this kind of support for Coakely, who needs negative ads?

A tip to this guy: it's tough to condescend if you can't spell a candidate's name right.

PS: Andrew Sullivan quotes my title, too. This should be my last blog post...I'm peaking.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Suck it up: Vote Coakley

Let's get this out of the way. You might not want to vote for Martha Coakley. You might think she deserves what's she's getting after an absentee, self-satisfied campaign (why should I bail her out?). You likely want to send a message to everyone from the attorney general all the way to every Democratic official in Washington, DC. Odds are you didn't vote for her in the primary. And, you might be wondering if it'll make a difference who wins this Tuesday.

You got every reason to be pissed, but it needs to be clear: not voting for Coakley is the same as voting for Brown. And voting for Brown is a very, very bad thing.
sabutai :: Yes it sucks. Yes you have to vote Coakley.
Pissed? Me, too. Not just because I supported Mike Capuano. I'm frankly pissed about Washington, DC. Things are going very wrong -- President Obama was absent from the process as the public option was killed, and would rather tax public servants in the middle class with so-called "Cadillac health insurance" then ask the wealthy to pay their fair share. Health care reform is heading toward a route where more money comes from the middle class, with about half going to people who need health care, and half going to the insurance companies. Oh, and Guantanamo is still open while American soldiers walk the streets in Baghdad and Kabul. Remember Employee Free Choice? Meanwhile, Harry Reid races to catch Ben Nelson's and Joe Lieberman's farts on Capitol Hill.

But I don't think Senator Coakley wants to torture people, give the obscenely rich a tax refund, or tell a rape victim to hospital-shop until she can find the care she needs. Senator Brown does. And the right-wing, desperate to believe it's been forgotten how they ruthlessly dimmed America's power and pride over the last eight years, is pouring as much corporate money as possible onto our airwaves. Disciples of failure are already slavering over bullrushing one of their own into the Senate.

So suck it up and vote Coakley on Tuesday. If you stay home on Tuesday, and a smirking Jim DeMint puts his arm around Senator Brown next month, will you feel good about yourself? Will you take pride in your "message" when Tom Coburn assigns Scott Brown the task of maintaining the filibuster on any health care reform? When you see Scott Brown publicly wetting his pants over terrorists getting American justice, or the latest moron who fails in an inept plan to hurt our country, will you think "Yep, I'm the reason he's there to embarrass Massachusetts on the Senate floor."

I think some folks are already getting a message. The mortal scare the DC Dems are feeling this week about the voters of Massachusetts -- Massachusetts! -- considering walking away. They can read polls, and they realize what they've wrought. Maybe Reid, Nelson, heck even Obama needs a primary next time around, I don't know.

But nowhere on the ballot will be an option to send a message to DC. Your and my only choice is to send a Senator. And that Senator should be Martha Coakley.

(cross-posted on Blue Mass Group)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Collection of thoughts....

  • It sure is strange to read high-profile blog posts and receive nationwide blast emails asking for help to move the vote in Massachusetts. After a lifetime of being taken for granted by American Democrats, it is a bit odd to be the receiver, not driver, of help. I'm not saying I want to be New Hampshire, where presidential candidates offer to scratch my a-- every day for two months, but it is nice.

  • Fact is, though, Coakley's a rotten candidate. After accepting the primary victory, she (and her team) seem to have gone into hiding. I've gotten zero mail from her, and nothing on the phone. Then again, it says something for these high-charging political consultants that my cell number has been my sole number for over 5 years, and nobody in the political universe has gotten their hands on it yet.

  • Obama lied to me. After promising not raise taxes on any family making under $250,000 Obama is backing a plan that would entail a tax hike. Obama backs a plan that would put a 40% excise tax on "Cadillac health care plans". My health care plan somehow qualifies, and my family makes less than a fifth of this $250,000 limit. Then again, my mistake must be in choosing public service that offers decent benefits to compensate for the low pay rate of qualified workers. I'd have been better off as one of those investment bankers who receive tender care from Obama.

  • It's crap like that that's leaving Coakley on the ropes. That, and the whole not-campaigning thing.

  • A local bank has come up with a cutesy campaign urging people to have a "game plan" for their retirement. The cutesy poster is accompanied by the traditional "x and o" format of a football play. Unfortunately for these geniuses, anyone the least bit versed in football recognizes the play as a Hail Mary -- the long-shot play you uncork only in desperate circumstances. Doesn't anyone in the banking world play Madden?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What does it take?

Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester just won't give up. You likely recall that Chester was the recipient of the infamous email wherein Secretary of Education Paul Reville urged his underling to approve an inadequate school because a refusal would:

cripple us with a number of key moderate allies like the Globe and the Boston Foundation

With Reville and Chester shoving their weight around, the application to open this charter school was approved. But playing Massachusetts education as their political plaything would come to undermine them. Upon request, the Massachusetts Inspector General reviewed the situation and agreed with the obvious, reporting that the school should never have been approved:

the process used in approving the GCACS charter was procedurally defective...granting of the charter was without authority of law

Wihtout Chester's obstinancy, however, we'd perhaps not have learned that his incompetence extended into a "Big Jim Rennie" style of skullduggery:

DESE and CSO officials apparently implemented a policy of disposing of virtually all documents containing the written records of individual DESE and CSO evaluators in determining whether the GCACS charter school application had met the criteria of the final charter school application; and 3) The OIG finds that DESE was not fully responsive to document requests made by the OIG and by legislators for records of DESE and CSO evaluators in determining whether the GCACS charter school application had met the criteria of the final charter school application.

So an illegal decision was made after quite possibly shredding key documents to prevent review, and efforts at oversight were given a stiff-arm. A hands-on executive would have dispatched Chester and Reville long ago. But Deval Patrick is a guy who stood by people like Dan Grabauskas and Jim Aloisi beyond belief. Hopefully, continuing pressure on the governor will convince him to engage in leadership and enact accountability among his allies/appointees. You'd think he'd with the others (and Marian Walsh), this corruption will not die out as a Republican State Senate leader Tisei is calling on Chester to step down.

Shredded documents...contravening the law...currying media favor for the boss...all in service of the private sector to the decrement of the public sector. Even Governor Patrick admits this charter venture is a loser, and has done a 180 by coming out against the charter. As for Mr. Chester, he said on Thursday that:

I recognize that the controversy surrounding [the charter school], whether grounded in truth or not, has created a negative perception of our process.

Oh, he does admit that there may be lessons to be learned in this episode. Tinpot bureaucrat dictators are always happy to learn lessons...when they get caught.

If Chester still has a job on January 31st, Paul Reville should be gone on February 1st.

If Paul Reville and Mitchell Chester both have jobs on February 28th, we can ask if Deval Patrick should continue in his.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Deval-bama turns into Monty Hall

With some Priceline thrown in.

I've explained elsewhere and in-depth my concern about President Obama's power grab on education. He's chosen to continue (and amplify) President Bush's attempt to accrue power to the presidency on education by trying to re-write policy with federal money that forms a tiny portion of education budgets.

Well, it's more nakedly ambitious than I expected. It's more like "Let's Make a Deal!" If a town promises to enter a certain program, they'll get an estimated amount of money (hopefully with more accuracy than the vanished funds once promised under No Child Left Behind), then be locked into an unrevealed set of requirements. See, Deval Patrick is loyally flogging public education districts around the state to sign up for Obama's "Race to the Top" program, wherein towns across the country compete to earn their tax money by most closely appealing to Obama's ideas about what public education should be. Well, Patrick's education department has announced that towns hoping to snare some of this bribe money must send an application to Boston within two weeks. In about a month, Obama will reveal the requirements of the program, and shortly thereafter Governor Patrick will reveal what towns have to do now that they've been chosen for the program.

This is worse than "Let's Make a Deal!". On the game show, you would win something, even if it were 50 pounds of cabbage. On Monty Deval-bama's program, you could win a bill and nothing more. It's kind of like Priceline, actually -- bid for something you're told is valuable, and hope that after you've sent in something of value you won't get shafted.

Deval is expecting Massachusetts towns to lock themselves into a program that promises an undetermined amount of funds in return for an unannounced set of requirements. For instance, a town could receive $100,000 in exchange for the requirement that it hold longer school days -- a move with uncertain research results that would likely cost that district more than $100,000 to implement. If the people of the town, represented through their duly elected school committee, don't want that it's too bad for them. If Obama decides that he wants 200-day school years, regardless of what the people of the various towns want, regardless that such a move won't cover the dollars he's shoveling out of his treasury, too bad. Of course, the hope is that if Deval waves money around in front of the taxpayers of various towns and cities with his right hand, they won't see what Deval is taking away with his right. Anyone who objects is interfering with education progress and sticking the townspeople with the bill.

In the end, though, Race to the Top ends with the town getting screwed, Deval getting a put on the back for pushing this through and Obama getting to push an agenda he can't get through Congress or the local School Committee.

It's Monty Hall meets Priceline. It ain't progressive education policy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I'll admit that my blogging pace was trailed off over the holidays. When "real life" returns in a couple of days, the usual pace should return. But as for now, two stories about political uselessness is Massachusetts.

Nate Silver finds that Stephen Lynch is the least valuable Democrat in the northeast. In his words:

On the other end of the spectrum are a handful of Democrats who have negative scores. They vote with their party less often than a generic congressman from their district would, even without guaranteeing that the generic congressman is a Democrat. In other words, these are people who potentially deserve a primary challenge -- on average, dumping them would leave the Democrats better off, even if there's some chance that they'd be replaced by a Republican.

According to Silver's fancy-pants statistical analysis, Lynch ranks at 247th most valuable Democrat in the House (out of 258). The second-worst offender from the northeast? Massachusetts congressman Stephen Neal.

The Massachusetts Inspector General finds that "the 2008/2009 charter school application and approval process administered by BESE and DESE ended in the granting of a charter to [the controversial Gloucester Charter] GCACS in violation of the provisions of law, regulation, and procedure." This was a complete clustermug mismanaged by Paul Reville in service of Governor Patrick's poll numbers...with absolutely no foreseeable consequences to his career. Hopefully Reville will deny the charter, but his disregard and ignorance of government means that I will wait until it actually happens.