Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Double Talk

In deference to Barbara Newport, I will strive for brevity, but that is all I will give her. If she’s got complaints about me on a personal level, she (or anyone else, for that matter) can contact me at my ever-available e-mail address. Otherwise, I’d rather see her attempt to address my facts instead of my personality quirks. It never ceases to amaze me how myopic and vicious Democrats can be. I have spent the last few months exposing the heart of the Democratic Party. Not one person responding to me has been able to contradict one item that I’ve presented. The record of the Democratic Party on Civil Rights for blacks and women, and most other issues, has been abysmal.

Chuck Gregory has ineptly but valiantly tried to hold his own, but like a bad marksman he keeps missing the target ~ or in this case, the point. At best, Chuck tries to excuse the Democratic Party’s bigotry and racism - ‘it was the Reconstruction’s fault’ is the best he can do. Yet again, Chuck neglects to address the point, which was that the Democratic Party stood in defense of slavery for a century before Reconstruction. He compounds his failure by trying to pull a fast one with history. The simple truth is that the Democrats in 1876 selected Governor Samuel Tilden (D-NY) as their nominee for President. A simple review of his record shows that Tilden pledged support for "white supremacy" and "home rule." Furthermore, an honest and full reading of the history of that election reveals that, while both parties engaged in massive voter irregularites, it was only the Democrats who used intimidation and violence to keep hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of blacks from voting which, as most historians agree, invalidates any statistical analysis of the popular vote: "had Republicans been willing to intervene in defense of black [voting] rights, Tilden would never have come close to carrying the entire South." ( A Short History of Reconstruction 1863-77, Eric Foner, Harper & Row, 1990, p. 245) Finally, the Republicans took the White House through a deal arranged with the Democrats. The deal gave political power in the South back to the Democrats, who "pledged to respect the civil and voting rights of blacks. These promises were soon broken and the white supremacist Democratic Party asserted total dominance of the South. By the 1890s, the Democratic hold on the South resulted in a complete denial of voting rights for blacks until the 1960s."
(http://www.americanpresident.org/history/rutherfordbhayes/biography/printable.html)
The deal was the only way to avoid re-opening the Civil War and conclude an election that was already far too ugly. In short, the Democrats held the presidency and the peace of the nation hostage in order to regain power - this has a familiar ring to it. Nice try Chuck, but no cigar. (FYI, Chuck, I studied history throughout my educational career, including college, and I continue to study it, which is why I can tell the difference between political agenda and serious historical analysis.)

Deception has for so long been a part of the Democratic make-up that it seems to have grown to include self-deception. The Democratic Party can’t see the forest for the trees. They think everyone is like they are. When Bill Clinton started his campaign with "it’s the economy, stupid," claiming George H. W. Bush was another Herbert Hoover, the Democratic Party followed along. Somehow they missed the fact that the recession had been over for months before Bill started, and that the economy was actually in good shape. Oddly enough, the same things were said about George W. Bush, and again the recession which he was blamed for was actually a carry-over from Bill Clinton. But then, it’s always the same from the Left: doom-and-gloom claims without the slightest shred of proof.

With Democrats it’s all in the language. For Bill Clinton, it all depended on what the word ‘is’ is and what you mean by ‘alone’ - he was never really alone with Monica, because there were so many other people in the White House at the same time! Having lost the presidential election (again), Democrats were beside themselves trying to figure out why. They turned to George Lakoff , professor of linguistics, who’s advice was, basically, ‘change your labels.’ One thing they latched onto was values. It’s a tough concept but rather than actually looking at their party’s core values, they just changed their labels. Democrats believe judges deserve a straight up-or-down confirmation vote, but then filibuster them all. Democrats don’t believe in litmus tests, but then require them of all appointees. Democrats aren’t pro-abortion, they’re pro-choice - pay no attention to their voting record on partial-birth abortions. Democrats believe the death penalty is inhumane and cruel, unless you’re an invalid who can’t move or speak, then there’s a "right to death with dignity." (Where’s that one in the Constitution?) Out of dozens of Democrat Senators in Congress, only two spoke out for Terri Schaivo’s life. They were both running for re-election, but that had nothing to do with it. By the same token, withholding food and water from terrorist prisoners in Gitmo is torture, but starving and dehydrating Mrs. Schaivo gave her euphoria.

It’s called "projection" when you...well... when you project your feelings, thoughts, beliefs, whatever, onto someone else. Democrats have been doing this for decades. It’s part of the self-deception. When Bush made campaign promises and kept them, Democrats were surprised. A politician keeping campaign promises was a new concept to them. FDR proposed the Social Security safety-net, but set the age to qualify two years beyond the average life-expectancy. He’s hailed as a visionary and a great humanitarian. Now that’s delusional. I have never seen a Republican bumper-sticker that "Clinton Lied, People Died," but while he was defending his lies the USS Cole was bombed, Blackhawks were falling in Mogadishu, Americans were dying, in fact some were dragged through the streets and hung from street signs. So many "Bush Lied" stickers, but to date no proof of lies.

I’ll never forget Alec Baldwin’s tirade on the Conan O’Brian Show where he went on for some minutes about how Democrats would be justified in stoning Henry Hyde, his wife, and his children to death. But that’s not vitriol, no. How about the commercials where Republicans burn churches? Or the one where that little girl suggests that a Bush re-election was like watching her father be dragged to his death again? Republicans just don’t work that way. The most frightening vitriol I’ve ever seen has come from the Left. I just don’t see the down-right meanness, so often ascribed to the Right, coming from the Republicans.

I’m not surprised that my letters get people riled up. Vermont is a "blue state" and Springfield is certainly a "blue town." Democrats call themselves the party of tolerance, but as with their other claims, it rings hollow. The "politics of personal destruction" became art with the Democratic Party and, time and again, when they hear something they don’t like they assault the speaker. To Democrats, it seems the truth matters much less than the fiction they’d like to believe.

So I said I’d be brief. I took a lesson from the Democrats - it all depends on what your definition of ‘brief’ is..

Monday, March 21, 2005

Swingin’ on a Star

"Oh would you like to swing on a star; carry moonbeams home in a jar; and be better off than you are; or would you rather be a mule?; A mule is an animal with long funny ears; he kicks up at anything he hears; his back is brawny and his brain is weak; he’s just plain stupid with a stubborn streak; and, by the way, if you hate to go to school; you may grow up to be a mule."

Why would you want to be a mule? I guess it’s fitting for the Democratic Party, though. Consider the current strife they’ve created over judicial nominations. MoveOn.org is a political action group that was organized to oppose perceived obstructionism by the Right when they tried to hold Bill Clinton accountable for his acts of perjury. On March 16, 2005 MoveOn hosted the "Rally for Fair Judges" and in a complete turn around is encouraging obstructionism by the Left. As Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) tells it, MoveOn’s making "sure the country doesn’t sell out to special interest groups." Excepting, of course, the ones that support his party.

Barbara Boxer had this to say to the MoveOn crowd: "Why would we give lifetime appointments to people who earn up to 200,000 a year, with absolutely a great retirement system and all the things all Americans wish for, with absolutely no check-and-balance except that one confirmation vote? So we’re saying we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required. That isn’t too much to ask. For such a super-important position, there ought to be a super vote, don’t you think so? It’s the only check and balance on these people. They’re in for life. They don’t stand for election like we do, which is scary."

Sen. Boxer is like a fish: ‘to fool the people is her only thought and though she’s slippery she still gets caught.’ The Constitution provides "checks and balances" for the different branches of government, not for political parties. She is also engaging in pernicious class envy. What matters is not how much a judge makes, but how well she represents the will of the people and whether she understands the Constitution. What is most damning for her party is her tacit admission that the 60 vote rule they’re braying for is not required by the Constitution: "we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required."

The Constitution provides a role for the Senate in selecting judicial nominees in the "advise and consent" clause. It also provides in Article I, section 5, for the Senate to make it’s own rules: "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish members for disorderly behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a member." The language makes it clear that the Senate is only required to use a super-majority in one case: to "expel a member." Unless, of course, you prefer the "it depends on what ‘is’ is" argument and then it means whatever you want it to mean in any given situation.

While extended debate has always been the norm in the Senate, the "filibuster" really came into being in the 1840s when Sen. John C. Calhoun (SC) used an obscure rule to block anti-slavery legislation by ‘speechifying’ till the bill was dropped. Calhoun was pirating the legislature and the practice was given the name filibuster, a Dutch word for pirate. In 1917, the Senate adopted the rule of cloture which allowed a 2/3 vote to break a filibuster. In 1975, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MN) said, "we cannot allow a minority to grab the Senate by the throat and hold it there" and the 2/3 super-majority was reduced to a 3/5 vote or 60 Senators. It is clear that the Senate can make and change it’s own rules and (as instructed by Article I, section 5) a 2/3 majority is not required for rules changes.

Democratic Senators braying about respecting "200 years of history" is like ‘carrying moonbeams in a jar.’ In the 51 years between 1949 and 2000 there were only 13 instances of a judicial nomination filibuster. In contrast, there were 14 judicial filibusters within Bush’s first term alone! Senate Rule 31 says: "when a nomination is confirmed or rejected, any Senator voting in the majority may move for a reconsideration." It is over 150 years old. According to Sen. Durbin, the "nominees...were rejected by the Senate" when, in fact, the Democrats used the filibuster as a substitute for a vote, thus violating Senate Rule 31, which allows for rejection of a nominee only by a simple majority vote.

Now Senate Rule 22 is really ‘swingin’ on a star.’ It allows for unlimited debate, provides for a vote of cloture (to end the filibuster), but also requires a 2/3 majority to amend itself, as well as other Senate rules. The problem is that Senate Rule 22 "is plainly unconstitutional" according to Lloyd Cutler who was White House Counsel for both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (no conservatives they) as well as many other Constitutional specialists, because it demands a super-majority where one is not required. Rule 22 also seeks to bind a future Senate which further violates the provision in Article I, section 5 for the Senate to "determine the Rules of it’s Proceedings."

Just like the mule with his brawny back and weak brain, the Democrats speak strongly but just can’t remember what they’ve said. On June 21, 1995. Sen Edward Kennedy (D-MA) said, "Senators who believe in fairness will not let a minority of the Senate deny [a nominee] his vote by the entire Senate," but that’s not what he said at the MoveOn rally. That same day, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) asked, "why can we not have a straight up-or-down vote on this without threats of a filibuster?" The next day, Sen Tom Harkin (D-IA) urged his fellow Senators to not "hide behind this procedure. Have the guts to come out and vote up or down." On June 18, 1998, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, "I would object and fight against any filibuster on a judge, whether it is somebody I opposed or supported...If we don’t like somebody the president nominates, vote him up or down. But don’t hold him in unconscionable limbo, because in doing that the minority of senators really shame all senators." Sen. Leahy has participated in over 15 judicial nominee filibusters. (Sen. Leahy, sir, have you no shame?) "I find it simply baffling that a senator would vote against even voting on a judicial nomination," Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said on Oct. 5, 1999. Only few short years later, in 2003 Daschle was leading filibusters on Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen at the same time! According to Time Magazine, Estrada "has not betrayed much of anything in the course of his controversial nomination hearings," which, apparently, is enough to black-ball him. On Meet The Press, Tim Russert asked Daschle, "why not let the Republicans have a vote? You can vote no, but just give them a vote the way you thought they should have in 1999." Daschle’s response was, "Tim, that should be the rule, but sometimes there are, as you know, exceptions to the rule." No mule was ever so eloquent: ‘sometimes there are exceptions to the Constitution.’

In 2002, the American Bar Association said that the "protracted delays in the judicial nomination and/or confirmation process weaken the federal judiciary by depriving it of the judges needed to resolve disputes expeditiously [and] contribute to dangerously crowded dockets, suspended civil case dockets, overburdened judges, and understaffed courts." Judge Charles Pickering’s confirmation was successfully filibustered, but Bush appointed him to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals as a recess appointment. Despite his sterling record on civil rights, the Democrats tried to ‘tar-and-feather’ him as an "opponent of civil rights." He did not pass the Left’s litmus test because he wouldn’t bend to the liberal special interest wind. In Judge Pickering’s opinion, "the bitter fight over judicial confirmations threatens the quality and the independence of the judiciary." The simple fact is, if you don’t subscribe to the liberal view, you need not apply.

In 1995, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said, "the Constitution is straightforward about the few instances in which more than a majority of Congress must vote: A veto override, a treaty, and a finding of guilt in an impeachment proceeding. Every other action by the Congress is taken by majority vote...Democracy means majority rule, not minority gridlock." Except in the case of those, "as you know, exceptions."

In a nutshell, it isn’t Republicans who’ve launched the Nuclear Option, but the Democrats. They are trying to hijack the judiciary because that is where the liberal agenda is legislated. It was Roe v. Wade, not legislation, that made abortion legal. School prayer and public religious displays are not the purview of ‘the people,’ but are decided in courthouses. In New Hampshire and New York City, the courts have decided how and how much we pay for education. Voters in several states have used the ballot box to make gay marriage illegal, only to be overturned by unelected liberal judges. The death penalty is legally provided for by Article 14 of the Constitution and is approved by many citizens, but liberal courts promote the rights of criminals over the will of the people. As an out of power minority, the Democratic Party has only one last means to power: the judiciary. In the last half century, Democrats have controlled the Senate, stacking courts with left-wing zealots. Under President Clinton alone they placed 367 judges. That’s power. That’s what they’re fighting for.

‘Now all the monkeys aren’t in the zoo; the Congress has quite a few; Ted, and John, and Hillary too; they could be better than they are; they could be honest and go far.’

[Swingin’ on a Star was written by Johnny Burke]

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Largely Nonresponsive

I wish that I could claim that I coined the phrase "largely nonresponsive" because it so clearly and ideally describes the Democratic Party, but I can’t. Wes Boyd, co-founder of MoveOn.org, said it, though not within the context that I would have said it.

Though it considers itself a massive grassroots organization, MoveOn is truly a fringe group of the far, far left of the Democratic Party, comprised of some 3 million people, most of them in their twenties, many in college. "The GOP is painting us as socialist radicals," claims Joan Blades, Boyd’s wife and co-founder, "and if you’d been reading any of their publications, you’d think that we’re a bunch of wildass lunatics." Considering MoveOn’s record, I can understand why: an internet petition to keep Bill Clinton from being impeached signed by 500,000; 6,000 international candlelight vigils to keep the US out of Iraq; backing Howard Dean as their primary front-runner and Dennis Kucinich as their second choice; and $60 million spent in advertising to defeat George W. Bush’s re-election. MoveOn’s top issues include the environment, military involvement in Iraq, campaign-finance reform, media reform, voting reform, and even corporate reform, but no mention is made of jobs, health care, education, or even terrorism. MoveOn is staging an ad campaign about Social Security with ads that, according to it’s Washington director, Tom Matzzie, target the president rather than the issue, which is typical, considering their ads during the election morphing the image of Bush into that of Hitler. Boyd sees MoveOn "as a broad American public...we assume that things that resonate with our base resonate with America." Contrary to what Boyd sees, Ed Kilgore, who works for the Democratic Leadership Council, points out that "there’s a built-in tension between the views of people who are part of MoveOn and contribute to it, and the people they’re trying to reach."
The goal of MoveOn is to control the Democratic Party: Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org said in a recent email "It’s our party, we bought it, we own it, and we’re going to take it back." Considering the fact that they strongly backed Dean for party chairman and he was given the job, I’d have to say they’re well on their way to realizing their goal. In the wake of the re-election of Bush, the Democratic Party felt the dis-connect with the American public, but failed to identify the break, correct it, and re-connect. The promotions of Harry Reid and Howard Dean are clear indicators of that. The party shares MoveOn’s myopia. MoveOn is remarkably unconcerned with who their ‘people’ really are. Demographics isn’t important to Wes Boyd, who notes that "when we talk to people in Washington, that’s the first question we’re asked...we’ve been largely nonresponsive."

"Largely nonresponsive." That about sums up the Democratic Party. Nicholas D. Kristof wrote an op-ed for the New York Times on March 16th in which he sings the praises of Hillary Rodham Clinton as the ‘Moses’ to lead the party to the promised land of winning national elections. Kristof’s logic is that it’s ‘responsive’ to follow one north-east liberal senator who won’t admit to being liberal and loses the election with another north-east liberal senator who won’t admit to being liberal. I just can’t wait for the coming election cycle.

Kristof’s piece is heart-wrenching in that he identifies the foibles of the Democratic Party but then doesn’t take ownership of them; rather, he tries to rationalize them. Number One on Kristof’s list is religion because "a Pew poll found that 60 percent of Americans pray" and Hillary’s "religious faith is longstanding." Was this the same ‘religious faith’ that led her to "bear false witness against thy neighbor" (that would be the 9th of the Ten Commandments) when she set the FBI on Billy Dale, or blamed "the vast right-wing conspiracy" for her husband’s lies and infidelity? Her ‘religious faith’ came in handy during her testimony when she swore her oath to God to tell the truth, but couldn’t recall what work she’d done for Rose Law Firm or find the records of such. Kristof quotes another poll "where 70 percent say that ‘presidents should have strong religious beliefs’." But it’s not ‘religious beliefs’ that matter, it’s moral and ethical values - it’s all in how you ask the poll question. The recently released private tapes show Bush is always Bush, private or public, whereas Kerry lies even to his private diaries, causing his biography to have to be re-edited and re-released. In the same vein, Hillary’s hidden face is legendary: the moon-lit beach dancing without music, the thrown furniture, the viciously vengeful nature. Kristof’s third point is that "the Democratic Party [comes] across as indifferent to people’s doubts about abortion or even as pro-abortion" and he quotes another poll which shows the party is wildly out of step with most of America. Of course, Hillary is "both pro-choice and anti-abortion" which I would guess means that she doesn’t think women should have abortions unless they’re pregnant.

Kristof admits that Hillary’s "negative ratings nationally were still around 40 percent at last count," but he ascribes it to ‘Hillary-hating’ and the dubious observation that "television magnifies her emotional reserve and turns her into a frost queen." It is so much more simple than that. He recognizes that Hillary would have a hard time in his own ‘middle America’ hometown, suggesting that "ambitious, high-achieving women are still a turnoff in many areas, particularly if they’re liberal and feminist." Of course, that’s backwards. Most of America is turned off by feminism and liberalism; ‘ambitious, high-achieving women’ have been a staple of the conservative movement for over twenty years - ever heard of Sandra Day O’Connor, Jean Kirkpatrick, or Condoleezza Rice? Kristof notes that "the makeover is working with New York State voters" without realizing that he’s hit the nail on the head - with the Democratic Party it’s always style over substance. Hillary is succeeding because of her "makeover," not because she really believes any of the positions she’s staking out, just as Bill Clinton was willing to concede many conservative positions while he was running for election. Hillary really is the perfect Democratic candidate because she is "largely nonresponsive" on the issues that really matter to most Americans, except when she’s running for election.

"Largely nonresponsive" also touches on a report in the March 13, 2005 New York Times which describes how "equipment capable of making parts for missiles as well as chemical, biological and nuclear arms was missing from 8 or 10 sites that were the heart of Iraq’s dormant program on unconventional weapons." The Times also notes that "the threat posed by these types of facilities was cited by the Bush administration as a reason for invading Iraq." This report, which is not new (Duelfer, and others, reported the same thing over a year ago), begs the question that if "there were no WMDs" how could they go missing? Of course, it wasn’t the weapons that were stolen, but rather the means to make them. Still, I wonder when we’ll hear the apologies and corrections from those who cried "Bush Lied!" Though I strain to hear them, they still remain "largely nonresponsive."

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Three Stooges

Again, Chuck Gregory, James Kraft, and Glen Williams are locals who write in opposition to me.

There they go again. Hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil. Chuck Gregory can’t abide hearing anything that contradicts his own worldview, so I’m a neo-conservative lackey. James Kraft is unwilling to look at what’s actually going on, so I’m just wrong. Glen Williams doesn’t like strong language, so I’m a "provocateur" and the facts I present can be disregarded.
According to Chuck, I have failed to "put into context the Democratic opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights bill." Chuck explains that "the institutionalized Democratic racism which was displayed in Congress up until 1968 was caused by the Union triumph in the Civil war." I want to make sure that I understand this, Chuck, the Confederacy loses in 1865 and it takes 103 years to work out the frustration? Chuck goes on that"faced not only with the loss of the war but also with the prospect of freed, educated, politically powerful and property-owning Negroes [etc] white Southerners expressed their fear and hatred in whatever ways they could." Chuck offers not one piece of documentation to bolster what amounts to his opinions on how the events played out. Nor does Chuck offer any evidence of Republicans "show[ing] the same attitudes toward minorities that the Democrats displayed forty years ago." Chuck, you may not like it, but history shows quite clearly that the Democrats have failed minorities and has held them in slight regard since the party’s inception. Chuck’s thesis is that the Republican Reconstruction created Democratic racism. I fail to see how that accounts for the historical fact that those who would become southern Democrats held American independence hostage in the 1770s (100+ years before the Civil War) in order to keep black slavery, thus insisting that all men are not created equal. Just so we’re all clear about this, Chuck doesn’t deny Democratic racism, he just puts it in context. Chuck suggests that "in today’s Congress...the Republicans show the same attitudes toward minorities that the Democrats displayed forty years ago." It’s easy to say Republicans are racists, Chuck, but I challenge you to prove it. Some years ago, Republicans soundly ostracized David Duke when he ran for national office, but Democrat Senator Robert Byrd is re-elected to Congress time and again, despite his humble origins as a recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan. Chuck, you don’t have to like history, but don’t try to revise it to suit your political goals, that’s just dishonest.

Mr. Kraft suggests that I’ve been "parroting the typical Republican anti-public education rhetoric" when I point out the problems that are clear to everyone. Was I mistaken or was it some worthy educational movie and not Polar Express that a class of Springfield students went to see? Were the numbers in the Town Report more "Republican anti-public education rhetoric" or did I misquote them? What exactly was the educational benefit to the Kwanzaa candles that Park Street Kindergartners made? Since when is quoting non-partisan documentation and respected education researchers "Republican anti-public education rhetoric?" It is a crying shame that Mr. Kraft won’t respond to the specifics that I pointed out but rather chose to hide behind the ‘typical Democratic rhetoric.’ Mr. Kraft, perhaps you should be less concerned with my credibility and more concerned with the credibility of the school system, or are you happy to "sit back and watch" that approach zero?

Glen Williams says I take "great license with logic, ‘facts’, and imaginings," but like Chuck and Mr. Kraft he doesn’t address the issues I raise. Did I imagine the international test scores of our students? Is the relationship between teacher and teaching illogical? Glen, I must say I’m very surprised at you. You seem to have quite a literary background yet you are stumped by how to "respond to the review of a critic who has not seen the movie, but creates his own version of what might have happened." The response is to describe what really happened or suggest an alternative version, but you don’t do that, possibly because you believe my suspicion was probably correct? Similarly, rather than address the issue I raise, you launch into an ill-conceived Bush-bash. Glen, I hate to break the news to you, but a majority of the country thought Bush did well enough to warrant being re-hired and (in case you missed it) current events throughout the world are proving Bush was right. I feel like a broken record, but it amazes me how often I have to repeat this: Glen, you may think I use a "bombastic approach," but that doesn’t excuse you from actually addressing the facts that I raise. You put ‘facts’ in quotes early in your response, but you don’t show how my facts are questionable. Exactly which numbers from the Town Report did I misquote? What facts did I get wrong or mis-interpret? "Teachers deserve respect" is not a "mindless bromide" and you only display your "professional" arrogance when you point out the "incredible number of wonderful professionals [who] retire without applause or thanks from a community that should have known better." Why should they get more plaudits than the town clerk, bank teller, grocery clerk, or secretary? Perhaps you don’t get it, Glen, but our children are not the best-educated kids in the world, they’re not even the second or third best. When do we recognize that problem? When do we fix that problem? How can we do either without finding out who and what is responsible? Now, Glen, you can go right on suggesting that "reasonable debate" means only ideas that agree with your own, but many people just don’t think the public school system is working. You are free to disagree with me, as you are free to question my logic and facts, but do it. Show me where I’m wrong, quote your sources, document your positions. What is most remarkable is that you don’t once factually contradict anything I’ve said.

Glen, you call for "a less bombastic approach," but I notice that you don’t hesitate to use bombast: "everything [you] know, think, believe and act upon, are universal truths," I yell "FIRE in a crowded theater," I ‘m a "voracious pundit provocateur," who uses "incendiary taunts," and "mindless bromides." In fact, Glen, in your 16-3/4 inch meandering you actually discuss education in less than 1-1/2 inch and even that is simply more "anecdotal" story-telling. I have anecdotes too, like the special-ed teacher I assisted who ordered me to falsify progress reports to insure his employment over summer vacation or the teacher who failed a student because she disagreed with him in class. However, anecdotes are subjective, so I don’t use them, instead I prefer objective facts. If you don’t like my facts, then don’t just put quotes around the word, actually have the intellectual honesty to contradict them. If you don’t like my conclusions, then provide alternatives. If you don’t like my interpretations, provide your own. Logic dictates that if one student fails, he probably didn’t do the work, but if most or all students fail then, logic suggests, the system didn’t do the work. Where’s the flaw in that logic, Glen? You were a teacher, Glen, so I understand your reticence to blame the system, but there are quite a few who aren’t. At least 38% instead of criticizing the system quietly send their children to private schools.

A little honesty goes a long way. If particular people want to delude themselves and suggest nothing is wrong with public education - fine, that’s their business. It becomes everyone else’s business when those people demand we all do the same. I deeply love learning and despise dishonesty. When I see failure praised as success, when I see political agenda supplanting public education, when I see angst and whining presented as reasoned discourse, I will speak up.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Chuck Roast

Chuck Gregory is a local fellow who doggedly tries to respond to my letters to the editor in our local paper (of which most of these posts are made up of). The following is a response to his reply to my "horse's mouth" letter, posted previously.

I have to admit to a grudging respect for Chuck Gregory. It isn’t often that one person can be so totally convinced of his own omniscience that he seems to have no need to check his facts before opening his mouth to drool. It’s become almost routine for him to call me to task as his lead-in to opining on something he is almost completely ignorant about, completely misinformed on, or intentionally misleading his audience about. Is it possible that he truly buys into the crack-pot conspiracy theories?

I’d like to have Chuck explain how the “Republican Agenda” is at fault for the failure of the American Public School - it’s been run by Democrats for forty plus years now. Chuck says “the success of the public school system is absolutely tied to the social fabric.” Fine, Chuck, but who’s woven that “social fabric” for the last half-century? It’s been liberal Democrats and what a wonderful job they’ve done, wouldn’t you say? Chuck criticizes me for supporting school vouchers (which I have never done in print nor in his presence - more proof of his omniscience), suggesting that would be my response to a situation he describes wherein a “Union Street school principal had to forcibly put on the bus a child who didn’t want to go home.” Chuck implies that there was abuse at home. Chuck, as you well know but aren’t honest enough to say, that principal could have scheduled a meeting with the parents and, if he suspected abuse, could have called Social Services to report his suspicion (which is what I would have done). Chuck ignored the Vermont principal I gave as an example of schoolhouse sexual predators when he lied about “none of them [being] in Vermont.” Furthermore, in complete disregard for the rising evidence of schoolhouse abuse (which I cite from Carole Shakeshaft’s Congressional report), Chuck blames parents as the primary abusers of children. So what Chuck is saying is ‘ignore schoolhouse sexual abuse because it sometimes occurs in the home too.’ I think that’s an irresponsible attitude borne of the refusal to recognize a problem in a beloved social program. And he says I’m a shill :)

Chuck wants us to consider Finland as a model for our education system. I wish he would, Finland has a system very similar to what we used to have. With typical disregard for truth, Chuck uses only the information he likes, disregarding what he doesn’t. Lizette Alvarez reported for The New York Times in April 2004 that in Finland “spending is a paltry $5,000 a year per student...there are no gifted programs and class sizes often approach 30...All teachers in Finland must have at least a master’s degree [and] they are no better paid than teachers in other countries.” Some in America would call this ‘draconian cuts in education.’ Finnish students in early primary school are required to learn art, biology, civics, environmental studies, two additional languages, as well as the nationally recognized language (Finnish or Swedish), geography, history, mathematics, phys ed, and (God forbid) something they call religious knowledge. After ninth grade, Finnish students are strenuously tested and their test scores determine their future education, they are either matriculated into a college prep program or they take vocational studies. So, please Chuck, do not try to compare our Public Day Care System to a system committed to education.

Chuck notes that I consider Finland a socialist country, and I do, because it is. I fail to see Chuck’s point, other than that socialist countries do “it” so much better than we capitalist slobs (‘it’ being, I guess, everything). However, there’s a price to be paid for socialism, one which it’s proponents, like Chuck, are loath to admit. Helena Pentti, a Finnish Economist, wrote that “an employee on an average salary will pay approximately 35 percent in tax on their income.” Here in capitalist-employee-hell the average salary will pay 21 percent in 2004. Seppo Penttila, professor of Tax Law at the University of Tampere, Finland, notes that “Finnish taxes levied on earned income are extremely high by international standards, with the tax rate ranking among the highest of all OECD countries.” The reason the tax rates are so high is precisely because they have a socialist government that mandates untenable social programs, especially in the area of employment. It is remarkable how otherwise intelligent people don’t recognize the relationship between staggering taxation and soaring unemployment: when businesses are squeezed to pay overly generous workers’ compensations, they do not keep large work forces and are very slow to hire new workers to meet increased demands (which in turn depresses their ability to compete), and as a result many workers are left unemployed. Finland is a perfect example of this according to the Jan. 2, 2005 report from the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat), which placed Finland’s unemployment rate at 8.9% (where it’s been for over a year). In comparison, the US unemployment rate is at a low of 5.4% (a level lower than ever Bill Clinton managed). Chuck, if you’re going to take a position, at least take the time to learn something about it and don’t waste the time of our good readers with your ill-conceived political drivel.

I was shocked to see Chuck admit that “Bush may not have lied about Iraq.” It is a pity that Chuck couldn’t stay with the truth when he said Bush “certainly lied about his support for education.” No lies from Chuck are more easily exposed than these: “Bush vehemently fought a reduction in classroom size from 44 to 26 students when he was governor of Texas....abandoned his other initiative for Texas educational reform...[and as President] cutting funding for both” Head Start and vocational education. Classroom size in Texas was a result of a lack of teachers - there were 63,000 teaching vacancies, but only 41,000 could be filled. However, despite the scarcity of teachers, under Bush’s watch, according to Jay Greene’s New York Times article (Texas Education Miracle No Mirage) class sizes were reduced from 15.9 students per teacher to 15.2. Greene also reports that under Bush, per pupil spending increased. During Bush’s term as Governor, the percentage of teachers with masters degrees decreased. Conversely, the percentage of teachers with less than six years’ experience increased. Oddly enough, the NAEP scores for Texas during Bush’s term increased. According to David Grissmer, a researcher for Rand who did an analysis of Texas education, “Texas students ranked high nationally, particularly in the fourth-grade math, and black fourth graders in Texas made bigger gains than fourth graders in any other state on the math portion of the national test.” As for “cuts,” well, that’s the expected liberal spin where budget increases that don’t rise to the requested levels are called cuts - I don’t know about you, but when the boss gave me a smaller raise than I wanted, I didn’t call it a cut in pay.

Chuck doesn’t like it when I quote sources and document facts, he calls it a “smear technique.” Yet does he give his sources or document his daft claims? While he’s using pejorative language like “neo-conservative” (a label that means nothing), “smear,” “shill,” and “greedy parvenue,” I simply point out the facts that others have documented and studied. As I said earlier, I don’t have Chuck’s omniscience, so I don’t have the documented information at my fingertips to blame parents for the ills of the public education system as he does. Last I checked, most parents don’t work in the schools, so I find it hard to blame them for the failure of public schools, as Chuck does.