Sunday, November 30, 2008

Quid Pro Quo

One of the rationales for why Mayor Michael "Moneybags" Bloomberg is such a wonderful steward for New York City is that he has more money than God and is above all that dirty, money-grubbing kind of stuff less wealthy politicians have to engage in to run for the office.

The idea is, Bloomberg can bankroll his own campaign and ignore the needs of political donors, cronies and associated other hacks who corrupt more pedestrian politicians.

Only one problem with that rationale - it's wrong.

Bloomberg may bankroll his own campaigns and may not need to beg political donations from wealthy NYC movers and shakers, but that doesn't mean his administration isn't susceptible to a Rangelesque sense of entitlement:

The Bloomberg administration was so intent on obtaining a free luxury suite for its own use at the new Yankee Stadium, newly released e-mail messages show, that the mayor’s aides pushed for a larger suite and free food, and eventually gave the Yankees 250 additional parking spaces in exchange.

The parking spaces were given to the team for the private use of Yankees officials, players and others; the spaces were originally planned for public parking. The city also turned over the rights to three new billboards along the Major Deegan Expressway, and whatever revenue they generate, as part of the deal.

The e-mail messages between the aides to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Yankees executives were obtained and released by Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, Democrat of Westchester, who questions whether taxpayers were adequately protected in the city’s deal with the team.

Mr. Brodsky said what emerges from the e-mail correspondence is a sense of entitlement ingrained in Bloomberg officials. He said that the city appeared to be pushing for use of the suite for not just regular-season games, but for the playoffs and the World Series, and for special events like concerts, too.

“There’s this ‘Alice in Wonderland’ quality to the question of, what is the public interest here and who’s protecting it?” said Mr. Brodsky, who conducted a hearing on the issue of public financing of sports stadiums this summer. “We can’t find the money for the M.T.A., or schools, or hospitals, and these folks are used to the perks and good things of life, and expect them.”

Gee, that's a good point Mr. Brodsky has there.

It's kinda like when Bloomberg announced some pretty draconian job and program cuts earlier this month but refused to make the same kinds of cuts in his own office and doled out raises to some of his high-level cronies in the Transportation Department.

Or like when Bloomberg said it is very important that Wall Street executives at AIG, Citigroup, and other companies that have received hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout money continue to receive their end-of-the-year bonuses despite driving their companies to near bankruptcy and ruin.

Silly New Yorkers, accountability for performance is for teachers in the New York City public school system, not for Bloombergian cronies on Wall Street who have lost hundreds of billions of dollars in writedowns and losses this year alone.

And taxpayer-sponsored stadiums and tax rebates are for wealthy Bloombergian cronies while higher taxes and cuts in services are for middle and working class New Yorkers.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bad Economy?

Private schools are not concerned. The rich can always be bailed out by the likes of you and me, and they still have money.

The American Way

Michelle Rhee, DC Schools Chancellor, has over the last few weeks been plastered all over the NY Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek and Time (Various deep thinkers of the caliber who've fixed our economy now seek to fix education, and these news stories are, of course, a completely unrelated coincidence). Ms. Rhee's basic premise is that the only variable in education is the teachers. She knows this, of course, because she taught for two years herself.

During Ms. Rhee's two-year career, she was able to overcome every obstacle through sheer elbow grease and determination. There are, unfortunately, no records whatsoever to document Ms. Rhee's claims, but her word ought to be good enough for you, America (It certainly appears good enough for MSM reporters).

The problem with teachers, according to Ms. Rhee, is they have too many job protections and she cannot fire them whenever she pleases. This irks her, as she had no problem firing the principal of her daughter's school. Why shouldn't she be able to fire her daughter's teacher as well, that bitch, should she give too much homework?

It's well-established that working people have it rough these days in America. The only solution, in Ms. Rhee's view, is to make things worse for teachers, the last bastion of unionized employees in America. After all, Ms. Rhee's primary focus is children, and what kids need is consistency. Therefore, if there are no good jobs left, kids will know what to expect. We Americans have had it up to here with working people having job security, health benefits, and freedom of speech. Let them go to Canada or Europe if they want that socialist nonsense. This is America. We need to let teachers, like everyone else, be fired whenever Michelle Rhee feels like it.

That way, our kids will know that they too can be fired when Michelle Rhee feels like it. After all, we need them to work hard and keep their mouths shut, so that they can pay taxes and bail out failed corporations like the rest of us. When I was a kid, the guy across the street from me worked in a Taystee Bread factory, owned his own home, and supported a family of five while his wife stayed home and cared for them. Now he'd need two incomes to do that. And there's no good reason we can't dial back salaries, pensions, job security, and privileges enough to make it three, using good old American know-how.

So let's have more thoroughly uncritical coverage of Ms. Rhee and her utter lack of accomplishment. If she says she knows what she's doing, that ought to be good enough for anyone.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Protection of Marriage

I was in DC a few years back, and on the metro there were all kinds of people handing out flyers and going to a demonstration about "protection of marriage." Actually, though, it wasn't about that at all. It was really about manipulating the prejudices and ignorance of the public at large so they'd vote against their interests, for Republicans who'd lower taxes on people making more money than they ever would.

Now there are places where they're concerned about the protection of marriage. Take South Korea, for example. Actress Ok So-ri is looking at an 18-month stretch for the crime of adultery. No scarlet letter nonsense over there, it's off to the hoosegow and we don't want to hear your excuses. Now it's true that this law has been sullied by vindictive partners looking for revenge, and it's true that this appears to be the only sort of instance in which their law is applied.

But if you really want to protect marriage, you need to toss adulterers in the pokey. And to be fair, you can't leave it at that. You have to jail the divorcees as well. True, these measures seem archaic and draconian. But whether or not gay people tie the knot has nothing to do with protection of marriage. What Rosie O'Donnel does or does not do won't affect my marriage and it won't affect yours either.

Measures outlawing divorce and adultery won't be popular, and they won't garner you nearly the number of votes among the ignorant yahoo segment your candidates may require (and no, I don't think everyone who voted for W. is an ignorant yahoo, but without them he'd never have made it, even with his brother's state, his daddy's court, and Katherine Harris).

But if you're for protection of marriage, and you're not willing to jail adulterers and divorcees, you're full of crap.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Reasons to Be Thankful

To all my teacher friends and readers--you have the best job there is, sullied though it may be by parties I won't mention today. Note where their notions of how the country (and our profession) should be run have led us.

To all Americans--another party I won't mention today, the one who pardons one turkey while others are slaughtered behind her back, won't be next in succession for President of the United States.

To everyone--one of my students said, "The past is history, the future's a mystery, and today is a miracle." I'm happy to be part of that miracle, and honored that everyone reading this has come along for the ride.

I'll be on the road today, en route to a family reunion many miles away, but I wish you all a safe, healthy, and happy Thanksgiving.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

All My Rowdy Friend Have Settled into Neocons

Hank Williams Jr. wants to become a US Senator.

I'm Lost in This World

So declared one of my writing students yesterday, apropos of nothing. Most kids were busily trying to create paragraphs that would fool teachers into permitting them to pass the English Regents exam. I was perplexed.

"You're lost in this world?" I asked.

"I am," she affirmed. She was smiling as she made this declaration, so I thought perhaps she'd just had enough of writing about pasta. I couldn't blame her, as reading about it was making me hungrier by the moment. If anyone got between me and a plate of rigatoni, they were toast (though a crusty artisan bread would've been preferable).

"What you need is a map," suggested a helpful student. "Then you'll know where you are."

Another said, "No one uses maps anymore. You need a GPS."

I like my GPS, which has gotten me out of Darkest New Jersey many a time. But my lost girl just kept writing. I don't know if I can help her resolve her existential dilemma.

But I'm confident she's gonna pass that test in January, and at least that will get her one step closer.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Forgotten but Not Gone (Yet)

Alan Colmes is leaving Hannity and Colmes. Apparently, he sees a contribution in his work:

I feel as though we have a Democratic President, House and Senate; I feel like my work is done," he tells TVNewser.

Doubtless Mr. Colmes feels he's shown Fox News viewers the error of their ways. Oddly, I don't subscribe to the Fox slant and I still found Mr. Colmes one of the least persuasive figures I've ever seen on what purports to be a news show. It appears Fox may allow Sean Hannity to fly solo, as it's almost impossible to find a talking head of Colmes' caliber.

In any case, we can certainly look forward to more first-class TV from the inimitable Sean Hannity.

The Mystery Ms. Weingarten Cannot Solve

Leo Casey, noted UFT big shot, has written yet another article about how wonderful Green Dot Schools are, and how privileged we are to have them in the Big Apple. I commented on the piece:

I certainly appreciate your informative posts about Green Dot. I am particularly fascinated by your assertion that Green Dot’s “just cause” provisions are better than tenure, since new hires can take advantage of them.

I’m very interested in how these provisions work. Kindly tell us how many teacher positions this “just cause” provision has saved. Also, how many times has it been used?

Green Dot’s website proclaims its teachers have neither tenure nor seniority rights. Oddly, it neglects to mention that its teachers have protection superior to tenure.

By the way, do you think it benefits working teachers to have no seniority privileges?

Thank you in advance for your response.

Alas, Mr. Casey, despite my gracious thank you, has thus far declined to respond. And here's the response Edwize saw fit to run:

It looks like being caught in an outright misrepresentation on the Green Dot Charter School makes some folks want to change the subject.

This is a misleading and false accusation, much like the one Mr. Casey made when he blamed me for the words of the LA Times editorial board (suggesting teachers throw tenure out the window to join Green Dot). It refers to a piece from the ICE blog, a piece I had nothing whatsoever to do with, which Mr. Casey refers to as "groundless speculation and factual misinformation." The writer refutes this in the comments, but meanwhile, on Edwize, Mr. Casey declines to respond to the membership he is paid to represent.

My question is simple--if Green Dot openly refutes tenure, and the UFT claims they have a system that's better, how does it work in practice? Didn't they check before agreeing to partner with them? I've seen no evidence to suggest this.

I've asked repeatedly, and no one from the union has seen fit to respond.

And there's the other question--Green Dot openly rejects seniority, the UFT has not offered any justification or rationale for that, so do they think it's a good thing? Have they considered it?

It appears they have not.

So I have to ask, if the UFT leadership has not bothered to examine such fundamental questions, if they don't plan, if they don't think things through, how can they deal with someone like Joel Klein, who clearly has his eye on the future?

And if they refuse to respond to serious basic questions from real working teachers, what on earth are we paying them for?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

ATR Rally Tomorrow...

...and the details are right here.

Finally, Realistic Economic Analysis

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Not to Be Missed

Why New York parents should be grabbing their torches and pitchforks.

The First Scandal

President-elect Obama puts mayo on a corned-beef sandwich.

Trouble In Bloombergville

Ruh, roh.

New Marist poll out yesterday shows only 51% of those surveyed would vote for the little dictator, Mike Bloomberg, over 37% who would vote for Congressman Anthony Weiner in next year's mayoral race.

Bloomberg beats Comptroller Bill Thompson 52%-32%.

Ignore the numbers for Weiner and Thompson for a minute and just focus on Bloomberg's.

51% want to vote for him against Weiner? 52% want to vote for him over Thompson.

Those are very scary numbers for an incumbent - just ask any number of GOP incumbents who enjoyed such numbers last year what happened to them this year.:

The slim lead "can be troublesome for an incumbent," said Marist pollster Lee Miringoff who added that "51% is about as slim a majority as you can have at this point."

Now does this mean the little dictator won't cruise to victory?

Of course not.

He's set to drop upwards of $120 million on the race, most of which will be spent on negative ads to turn Weiner and Thompson into unacceptable alternatives.

If I had to bet the mortgage of the farmhouse on the election, I'd still say the little dictator will win next year.

But the poll does say one thing.

People noticed the backroom wheeling and dealing he pulled last month to overturn term limits for city officials without putting the change to a vote and don't like it - even former supporters.

As Wayne Barrett said in the Village Voice this week:

Last month's 29-to-22 council vote to do Bloomberg's bidding was the most tawdry moment in city politics I've ever seen. More camera crews and reporters attended the vote than any other session in City Council history—some said the passage of the bill was as close as we would get to a mayoral election in 2009.


The Bloomberg who came into office as the anti-politician, promising to transform city government, has been transformed himself. Some of us liked him precisely because his wealth insulated him from the kind of horsetrading that diminished his predecessors. But seven years later, Bloomberg has not only proved himself to be a master politician, as hungry for power as anyone we've ever seen, but he's also ended up putting nearly everyone who deals with the city deep into his political debt.


Private School for the Obama Girls

President-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle have chosen to send their daughters to the Sidewell Friends School, a "prestigious academy that has educated generations of this city’s elite."

I've written before about a notion a right-wing friend of mine had, that public schools would improve overnight if we required that politicians who administrate them send their own kids. Can you imagine Michael Bloomberg or Joel Klein sending their kids to classes of 34? Can you imagine their kids learning in trailers and closets, or running around in buildings stuffed several times their capacity? It's not hard to imagine that would become an emergency akin to, say, building a new baseball stadium.

On the other hand, as President, Barack Obama will not directly administer any public school system. Furthermore, as children of the President, his kids will need extraordinary care and protection. I sincerely hope the school they've chosen can provide it. And were he to have chosen the DC public schools, his children would've become pawns in the union-busting plans of Michelle Rhee. While it would be nice to see the President's children in public schools, it's a good thing that conversation was sidestepped.

Personally, I think he made the best decision under the circumstances. What do you think?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ay Caramba, Dude

Hillary accepts Secretary of State position.

It's a Dirty Job, but Someone's Gotta Do It

This week we're doing a task from the English Regents in my class. Actually I found a Kaplan book with mock exams and tried one. I'm really tired of having to read all the sample comps available on the net so as to catch those of my kids who think copying off the net is the best preparation for a two-day writing test.

Kaplan has a piece about the role of pasta in Italian culture. It's a little less detailed than what NY State usually provides, and has the added drawback of making everyone who hears the lecture impossibly hungry. Nonetheless, we plod on toward the test in January. It's discouraging, though, that some of these kids have either never studied or never grasped basic English grammar and usage.

I did a quick review of present and past tenses in English, hoping it would take in my newcomers. Still, they present me with sentences that make me want to rip my hair out and scream. I'm not sure that would be the best path to merit pay, but what do you say to a kid who poses a question like this:

How can Italians used to pasta?

What you do is you walk away for a moment, regain your composure, and return to say, "I'm sorry, but I don't understand that." The kid looks at you blankly for a long, long moment. Then he smiles the smile of one who's been enlightened, furiously moves his eraser, and presents you with the new and improved version:

How did Italians used to pasta?

He's so happy you don't know how to tell him you still don't understand it. So you move to the next kid and save that conversation for later. You move on, and you see this:

The food is the important thing of human being, every person must eat food every day.

And really, who can argue with that? I did read somewhere that food was an important element of a balanced diet. If only I could make the kid narrow the topic to Italian food and culture rather than all food and culture, if only I could make the kid identify subtopics, if only I could understand anything else the kid had written...

Well, New York State says these kids need to pass a test designed for native speakers of English. New York State doesn't recognize that people need at least a couple of years to master a new language. New York State doesn't recognize that it takes a few more years to acquire academic language.

So folks like me, who could help these kids acquire English faster, who could seduce these kids into loving to read, must force these kids into writing bare-bones, minimally acceptable comps that pass the Regents exam they should not have to take.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Know We Said We Fixed It Last Time, and the Time Before That. But This Time We Really Mean It. Trust Us. Okay?

Leo Casey, resident propagandist at Edwize has yet another post about what a great job he and Ms. Weingarten are doing for the ATRs. It's odd he needed to do that, since he wrote last April that the "hold harmless" clause would mean principals could hire senior teachers at no additional cost. Doubtless it didn't occur to Mr. Casey at that time that principals could hire two newbies instead, and might prefer to do so.

In fact, it's odd that Mr. Casey needed a "hold harmless" clause at all, since he and Ms. Weingarten enthusiastically endorsed the 05 contract which was directly responsible for the ATR mess. Here's Edwize writer City Sue on the beauty and wonder of the clause that caused the entire mess:

In fact, there’ll be more transfer opportunities. The only thing is, like in the real world, you’ll have to sell yourself. See a vacancy? Just apply! All vacancies will be declared, not just half. No limits on how many jobs you can apply for. No release needed from your principal. No limits on how many teachers can transfer out of a single school. No discrimination in hiring allowed, not even for union activities — or age, race, etc. No involuntary transfers. It’s a free market, for those who dare! And for excessed teachers, there’s always a job for you back home (in your school or district) if you can’t find anything else.

Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way for the hundreds of teachers consigned to perpetual substitute teaching. I corresponded for some time with a young woman so demoralized by her time in the absent teacher reserve that she quit. I'm afraid Mr. Casey's agreement is a little too late for her.

So will the agreement help? Perhaps. Unfortunately, everything I've seen suggests that in the chess game between Klein and the UFT aristocracy, Mr. Klein has a long term vision that Ms. Weingarten and her patronage mill sorely lack. Ms. Weingarten's flunkies were wrong when they said the "open market" system would help. They've posted several articles on how successful it is, noting the number of transfers and pointedly ignoring those teachers stuck in the ATR brigade. They said the "hold harmless" clause would help, and it didn't.

Perhaps principals will now hire ATRs, and if they do, it will be a good thing. But what about those who will inevitably be left behind? Will they provide more fodder for The New Teacher Project, Joel Klein's bought and paid for propaganda project?

Sadly, it's hard to trust Mr. Klein, and worse, it's just as hard to trust the paid mouthpieces of Ms. Weingarten. Que sera sera. But along with the rest of my colleagues who actually do this job, I'll be watching.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ms. Weingarten Draws a Line

When you're Randi Weingarten, part-time head of the UFT (and part-time head of the AFT) it takes a pretty big event to get your attention. But Michelle Rhee, the Chancellor of still-awful DC schools, has determined that the woes of the school system she administrates are largely due to job protections and regular raises for teachers. It's well known that what's important is children. What children need, of course (when they grow up), are more jobs from which they can be fired for no reason whatsoever.

So Ms. Weingarten has decided to meet with Ms. Rhee. And nothing is off the table except vouchers, which Ms. Weingarten has determined are bad. Things that are on the table (which Ms. Weingarten has apparently determined not to be bad) are loss of teacher tenure and merit pay. After all, who can determine better than Michelle Rhee whether or not teachers deserve to keep their jobs? She, like Ms. Weingarten, knows all about being a teacher, having taught for a year or two herself.

Ms. Weingarten is a new kind of union leader, and she is most definitely not some cigar-chomping union thug. For one thing, Ms. Weingarten thinks nothing of rolling up her sleeves and giving away twenty years of gains for less than cost of living. Now the cigar-chomper might say something like, "What are you, nuts, to offer such a crappy deal?" but not Ms. Weingarten. She gets her entire patronage mill out to campaign for it, to vote for it, and doesn't regret it for one solitary minute.

But the question really is this--what motivates AFT President Randi Weingarten to get involved with a local, and not even the one she still runs (part-time)?

The Washington Post seems to know:

...she criticized Rhee's consideration of measures that would release the District from its legal obligation to bargain with the Washington Teachers' Union. These include seeking revival of the city's ability to open nonunion charter schools, and legislation that would declare a post-Katrina-style "state of emergency" that would effectively allow Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to create a new, union-free school system.

Obviously, once Rhee and Fenty decide to go this route, that would be trouble for Ms. Weingarten. Ms. Weingarten would perhaps have to oppose it, and as she's lacked the gumption to oppose mayoral control, unilateral repeal of term limits, the school-based pay that condemns senior teachers to ATR status, or even Joel Klein for education secretary, how could she oppose this? People might get mad at her, or think she's an old-time cigar-chomper, or even a socialist.

And regardless of all that, there are dues to be collected. Don't you think for one minute, Michelle Rhee, that you're gonna mess with the collection of dues. You can have tenure, you can have merit pay, but there are conventions that need to be funded, and who's gonna pay for that once you deny our members of their much-treasured dues checkoff?

After all, just because we give up on tenure and merit pay in DC, it doesn't mean we have to do so anywhere else, right? Michelle Rhee doesn't exist simply because we gave up everything we possibly could in NYC, does she? Are these things related? Will there be consequences for our giving up everything en masse?

Nah. Of course not. You go girl!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Are There No Prisons? Are There No Workhouses?

Someone I met yesterday told me an interesting story. She and her husband have three kids, and they make less than three thousand dollars a month. One of the very few benefits of living on an income like that, apparently, is Medicaid. This is particularly helpful to them because they have a young daughter with leukemia. The treatment is brutal and it seems once they get through with one thing, they move onto another.

And somehow, even though Governor Paterson's cuts haven't been approved yet, Medicaid is paying less. I know a dentist who told me they've cut payments to the point where she can't even pay her supplier. And the woman with the sick child just got a bill for three thousand dollars her family doesn't have. Worse, it appears more may be coming.

A comment yesterday suggested the New York State plan that covers sick kids only works until the kids get really sick, and once that happens they're on their own. Just about every other industrialized country in the world covers its people. We, on the other hand, spend all our money fighting pointless wars and bailing out banks.

Here in the US, we have laws to protect credit card companies from losses when people go bankrupt. But we have none to protect people from losing all they own due to catastrophic medical emergency.

The guy in the picture might as well be running this country. I hope our new leader does better by us.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Children First

Governor Paterson is facing a huge budget deficit, and he's boldly stood up and sacrificed schoolchildren and Medicaid recipients in order to help make up for it. When he took office, he very publicly announced that taxes on the rich were out of the question. After all, rich people are accustomed to having money, and would certainly notice if they had less of it. Schoolkids and Medicaid recipients can always wait for it to trickle down, and may as well get used to it now.

Mayor Bloomberg is following in the Governor's footsteps, and in the spirit of "Children First," has cut budgets for children immediately:

Smaller schools such as the Center School on the upper West Side will take a hit of about $20,000 while larger schools such as DeWitt Clinton in the northwest Bronx will lose close to $400,000.

It gets worse next year: Public School 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, will see a cut of about $115,000 this year and an estimated $285,000 next year.

Interesting that the Tweedies are always pitting the needs of teachers against the needs of children. Actually, both teachers and children need well-financed, well-supplied schools, but the adults who run the schools are denying them all. And apparently, the facilities in the city are too clean and well-maintained, so they're taking action on that front as well:

There will be a $4.1 million slash in school maintenance spending on top of the $10.5 million lost in the spring. The overall repair budget has been cut by $95 million in the last 10 years, according to the custodians union, which has meant a reduction of 1,100 cleaners.

Parents at PS 184 in lower Manhattan donated air conditioners and raised money to have the building rewired last year.

"They only have a bare bones maintenance and repair budget," said Tony Tung, a member of the PTA. "They can't cut any more."

Of course they can. After all, Mayor Bloomberg's already committed to dumping tens of thousands of kids into trailers well past their expiration dates, so what's a little more dust and grime going to do? Fortunately, Mayor Mike has left ample funds for important projects, like these:

Among the programs funded by the $352.8 million are in-class testing, an $80 million computer system to track student progress, and the Education Department's controversial report cards, which assign grades to city schools.

After all, how could the Mayor devote any serious money to class size or overcrowding reduction during bad times? What better evidence for this than the fact that during better times, this mayor and chancellor did nothing whatsoever to alleviate these problems?

Fortunately, more important projects will benefit all New Yorkers, and baseball will not be affected in any way by either state or city cuts. Times are tough everywhere, and you certainly can't be frittering away valuable funds on classrooms when there are still seven unsold luxury boxes at New Yankee Stadium. The rich really need that money--which is just one more reason to balance the budget on the backs of the working poor.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Forgotten but Not Gone

Lots more right here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Because They Deserve It

The cost of the federal government bailout of Wall Street and the financial industry (called TARP - Troubled Asset Relief Program) will total somewhere between $2 and $3 trillion dollars by the time it is all over.

The program was supposed to help homeowners in over their heads not default on their mortgages as well as bail out financial industry players like AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Citigroup, GE financial services and others who overleveraged themselves as much as 40-1 during the Bush credit bubble/housing bubble and now face insolvency and bankruptcy.

This week the Bush administration, backed by the banking industry, decided that the program would now only be used to bail out banks and financial sector players and not modify mortgages for homeowners struggling to make payments.

The argument the administration made, through Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, is that bailing out insolvent homeowners will create a "moral hazard" that will

persuade some people to stop making mortgage payments in addition to helping people who already have stopped making payments. The industry argues that this would translate into higher interest rates because investors would demand compensation for the increased risk of loan defaults. That, in turn, would limit the number of people who can afford mortgage loans.

Now I think you can make a pretty good argument that by bailing out homeowners who own homes with values artificially inflated by the housing bubble and salaries that cannot cover the mortgage payments, you are ultimately extending the economic downturn resulting from the bursting of the housing bubble.

After all, housing prices still remain, on average, too high across the country for the salaries people are, on average, making.

Until home prices drop or salaries rise so that the ratio between home prices to salaries goes back to its historical ratio, some overleveraged mortgage owners are going to have trouble making their payments and are going to go belly-up on their mortgages.

Which means home prices will continue to drop, the home builders industry (and the ancillary other industries that do business with it) will continue to slump, and interest rates will continue to rise even as Uncle Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve drop the fed funds rate below 1%.

That said, why should future American tax payers have to front the bill for all these financial sector companies like AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Citigroup, et al. who made bad bets on the housing bubble and now want the government to cover them for their mistakes?

Especially when many of the men running those companies don't seem to be tightening their belts the way working and middle class Americans are?

For instance, the boys running AIG, the largest insurer in the United States, have been particularly egregious in coming to the government to gobble up bail out money (so far $150 billion and counting) while continuing to pamper themselves with manicures, pedicures, spa visits and the like. Even a Republican Congressman was disgusted by the display:

"This unbridled greed," said Cong. Mark Souder (R-IN), "it's an insensitivity to how people are spending our dollars."

But now Mayor Bloomberg, the little mayor who engineered a backroom putsch last month to ensure that he will remain at City Hall for another four years, disagrees with Congressman Souder and says that Wall Street executives at companies being bailed out by tax payers deserve end of the year bonuses and other perks and compensation.

Never mind that they drove their companies to the brink of bankruptcy (and I would argue that some of them will eventually go bankrupt anyway, regardless of the amount of money the government throws at them), Bloomberg says they deserves their bonuses.

And what bonuses they will be!

Before the government bailout, bonuses for Wall Street employees were going to be cut by 70% this year. But now that tax payers like teachers, cops, auto workers and the like have provided $2-$3 trillion in bail out funds for the financial sector, bonuses will only be cut by about 40%.

It's good to know my hard-earned tax money working in an overcrowded, decrepit New York City public school can go to helping out the poor guys at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley spend money on expensive cars, spa treatments, real estate, cocaine, hookers and whatever else these crooks like to consume.

To quote Mel Brooks, it's good to be the king!

Bloomberg is backing up his Wall Street cronies at the exact same time he is telling working and middle class New Yorkers they have to pay higher taxes (including property and sales taxes) while accepting huge cuts in services (education, parks, senior citizen services, libraries, dental clinics for the poor, etc.) And he is also going to raise the price of fees the city charges for parking and other licenses.

You see, Bloomberg's Wall Street cronies, who greedily raked in trillions of dollars over the past few years by lending out money to people who shouldn't have gotten loans and mortgages, then packaging those "toxic" loans and mortgages and selling them to investors, hedge funds and the like, all the while overleveraging themselves at a rate of 40-1 - they deserve bonuses.

You New Yorkers who try and pay your bills, ride an overcrowded, decrepit subway system to work, walk on dirty, disgusting New York City streets, send your kids to overcrowded, decrepit schools - you deserve higher taxes, higher fees, and cuts in services.

The only good news out of all of this is that Bloomberg's popularity has always been tied to how well the city economy is doing.

The last time Bloomberg's popularity fell below 50% was in 2002 when Bloomberg made some "tough" cuts to services and raised taxes and fees in order to deal with the economic fall-out from 9/11 and the 2001 recession.

The state and the feds helped cover city shortfalls, eventually the economy turned around and the little mayor became very popular with city voters.

The difference this time around is, Bloomberg is up for re-election just as he is calling for the tax and fee hikes and service cuts, the feds and state are carrying too much debt to help the city out and voters aren't all that enamored with the little mayor after his backroom putsch to overturn term limits.

So if nothing else, by backing his Wall Street cronies at the same time he is telling the rest of us to tighten our belts and stop whining, he may be providing another weapon his political opponents can use against him next year during the mayoral race.

Given that he is going to spend $100 million or more on his re-election bid, his opponents are going to need all the ammunition they can get.

UPDATE: Atrios notes that while TARP will no longer be used to help out overleveraged homeowners, it will be used to back gift cards for the holidays.

Whew - that's a relief!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Trouble Paying the Bills?

Why not send them a drawing of a spider instead?

The Circuit City Model

I wonder how many people would be willing to put their lives in the hand of Michelle Rhee. It appears the teacher union is not, but Ms. Rhee plods on nonetheless. "I'll give you a big raise if you only let me fire you whenever I feel like it" is not the most persuasive argument in these troubled times.

Naturally, it's inconvenient to have highly paid employees. Of course, you can offer them a gazillion dollars next year if they only sign contracts enabling you to fire them before having to ante up, and it makes a hell of a sound bite. And it's remarkable how many put their faith in Ms. Rhee, with a record of no discernible accomplishment, and an inability to even document her five minute teaching career was remotely effective.

But it's certainly true that if Ms. Rhee gets a chance to dump any teacher she feels like, her city could save wads of cash. She's not the first to do this, though. For example, take a look at what Circuit City did. The illustration above, from The Consumerist, shows what happened after it announced that it was "firing everyone who knew what 1080p meant so that they could hire cheaper labor." Oddly, rather than achieving immediate success, it worked itself right into bankruptcy.

At times like these, it's perhaps wise to question the wisdom of Rhee-Klein style corporate models. You may not have heard, but Circuit City is not the only company that's gone belly-up over the last few months.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.
- Frank Zappa

Teachers Lose Even More Executive Perks

Traveling Teacher just emailed me a school announcement regarding DoE policy. Apparently the Tweedies, in their infinite wisdom, have decreed all travel expenses must be declared 30 days before said travel begins. If, for example, you find you need to eat while on safari for Joel Klein, you must declare exactly how much it will cost you at the restaurant your group selects. The memo was not clear on how much tip it deemed appropriate.

Furthermore, should you find yourself in, say, New York City, you need to submit your parking expenses 30 days in advance. "I plan to spend one hour and fourteen minutes at that location, and at $24.63 per hour, that comes to precisely..." Perhaps this will work for math teachers with crystal balls.

What about travel expenses, though? If, for example, I require four gallons of gas at $2.55 per, then I have to requistion $10.20 from the frugal Tweedies. But what if gas hits 4 bucks again between then and now? Am I stuck paying the difference? If it goes down 30 cents, will the black-suited Tweedie patrol hunt me down like a dog until I cough up that buck-twenty?

It doesn't matter much to me, since the most I ever travel on the DoE's dime is never. But what will this mean to attendance teachers, or others who visit homes?

I don't much envy them right now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Let's Go to the Carnival!

It's right here at the Core Knowledge Blog.

Watch Your Ps and Qs (And Don't Neglect those Other Letters Either).

Schoolgal posted a comment last night that got me thinking. Now I generally hate when people do that, but it happens so often lately I probably shouldn't complain. In any case, here's the offending statement, in all its glory:

I wish teachers who comment on The Times would take the time to spellcheck.

Amen. In fact, I wish the whole world would take the time to spellcheck (though I grudgingly forgive my poor students who haven't yet learned English), and I further wish people didn't need it at all. I also feel that anyone who spells "writing" with an extra "t" should be placed in the stocks. Finally, I'd like to give a big shout-out to the guy in my Master's program who spelled "grammar" with an "e."

What a maroon. And he's probably the guy Schoolgal is talking about.

OK, I will get off my soapbox now, but feel free to weigh in on this vital issue.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Worthy Petition...

...courtesy of Pissed Off Teacher, or you can just sign here.

Don't miss the NY Times Blog commenting on the rumors of NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's possible appointment as Secretary of Education. One of Klein's Tweedies trots out the old canard about interests of adults running counter to interests of children. This would be more effective, of course, had Klein and Bloomberg not spent the last half-dozen years packing children in like sardines into trailers, toxic waste sites, and other dreary corners of our fair city. And while Chancellor Klein can certainly lay claim to the accomplishment of making things worse for working people, his spokesperson once again fails to note that working people are what the bulk of NYC's 1.1 million kids will grow up to become.

I've been largely silent on this, as I doubt President-elect Obama really wants to make such a boneheaded appointment. Working people have it tough enough in this country, and I honestly think he knows it. I also think Klein's ascent would produce more scrutiny on his record, which would be damaging not only to the PR myth he and Mayor Mike have been promoting, but also to the credibility of the new President-elect.

However, the petition is well worth signing. I've spoken to some who think moving up the chancellor will give NYC a break. If you believe that, let me assure you Mayor-for-life Mike Bloomberg can always find someone as bad or worse.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What About Joe the Senator (No, the other Joe the Senator)?

From Politico's Arena, some great comments and interaction.

What do you do with a Senator who's been out campaigning against his own party? Do you continue to let him run Senate committees? Do you make him run smaller ones? Do you give him a time-out?

Personally, I have no idea what you do. But here's my favorite comment:
As a Republican, I think that the Democrats should strip him of his committee chairmanship, throw him out of the party, and make very, very clear that they don't want him to vote with the Democrats ever again.

I Do My Bit

I'm a firm believer in lower class size. I watch my kid in classes that have never exceeded 25, I watch classes I teach, and I see clearly that bigger is not better. I can give more attention to fewer kids, and not only "differentiate instruction," but address individual needs in smaller classes.

Now some folks offer empty talk, meaningless agreements, and nod their heads solemnly about this issue. Teachers like me, though, take action.

For example, in my Regents prep class, I had a student who couldn't write a coherent English sentence. I checked her writing on a daily basis, and she hadn't mastered, for example, the subject-verb agreement I'd have forced down her throat if she'd had the misfortune to have attended one of my boot camp-style beginners' classes. Yet on the final day of our multi-day composing, she'd arrive with a composition written in perfect native English.

I checked on this kid, and she'd received a 95 in level 4 ESL. This was odd since she'd have failed level 2 with me. Her teacher, though, was highly impressed with the kid's homework, as it appeared she'd worked hours over it. It appeared to me she had someone else do it for her, and that particular strategy would earn certain failure in my class. So the kid complained about my unreasonable standards, my mistrustful nature, my miserable attitude, and voila! My class size was reduced by one.

A kid in my literature class complained he didn't understand the reading. I checked his homework and it turned out it was about the previous day's reading. I told the kid this suggested he hadn't done the reading, but he told me to check his quiz, which would prove otherwise. Sure enough, he'd passed the quiz. But when I checked the paper of the guy sitting next to him, he had the same answers, the same mistakes, and even the same misspellings.

I found the kid in the cafeteria, presented him with both papers, and extracted a full confession. Then I called his home. The kid was outraged. He went and complained about me, claiming that I had singled him out, that I was unfair, that I was this, that, and perhaps even the other thing. So they dropped him, and my class size was reduced by another.

Another kid cut my class repeatedly. He came late almost every day. He refused to do work in class. He failed tests. He failed to hand in test papers. I told him that he'd have to change his habits or he'd fail the class. His response was to go to an administrator and demand a new teacher. If he didn't get one, he'd stop attending entirely. The administrator told him that was out of the question, so the kid made good on his threat and didn't show up for a week.

But once the kid made good on his promise, the administrator saw he meant business and changed his class. And my class size was reduced yet again. I've no doubt it will be reduced further as I continue my relentless campaign of rampant injustice.

As you can see, plenty of people talk about reducing class size. But teachers like me, we do something about it.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Evil Democrats Push Awful Programs

It appears that Barack Obama may be moving to address the nation's financial woes, but not via the time-honored American approach of tax cuts for gazillionaires. You may recall that during good times President Bush urged tax cuts for the rich, and when times got bad, both President Bush and Maverick Johny McCain urged continuing tax cuts for the rich.

It's well known that giving more money to rich people is the only way to improve a struggling economy. The non-wealthy are generally happier and more productive when they have less money and fewer options. Also, any money left over should be devoted to fighting wars, filling no-bid contracts, and bailing out needy banks and corporations.

Apparently, President-elect Obama lacks these time-tested insights, and is gambling with risky programs like providing health care for children, even if they're poor. President Bush wisely vetoed the SCHIP bill, since it's well-known that poor children contribute far less to the economy than rich parents.

Furthermore, the Democrats are looking at tax cuts for the middle class, which would have the effect of giving people making under 250K money that might otherwise go into the pockets of millionaires. It's well-known that people making under 250K are likely to fritter away cash on food, shelter, or other such frivolities, and are therefore less likely to invest in stocks or hedge funds. It's unfortunate that the Democrats will have options to pass proposals simply because more people voted for them than their opponents, but it's unlikely they this problem will be corrected under the incoming administration.

In fact, Mr. Obama is considering broadening health care not only to children of the bootless and unhorsed, but to their parents as well. Healthier parents will be more likely to vote, and thus may contribute to the perpetuation of these awful programs. In fact, their spawn, with their diseases treated, may grow up and also vote to support these horrible programs.

Naturally, Fox News will continue to advise non-rich people of the dangers of being healthy and having more money. Regrettably, News Corps, its parent company, is down 30%, this quarter, and this year does not appear at all promising.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The "Center-Right" Myth

This seems to be the new talking point. The US is "center-right." I know what that is--it's George W. Bush calling himself a "uniter, not a divider." We all know how that worked out.

Perhaps, for those who toss out this concept, it's a consolation prize or something. Still, I don't recall any "center-left" talk after W. and his cronies stole the 2000 election (in his brother's state, with the help of his Daddy's court). Did they steal Ohio in 04, or was it just one of those things when residents of Democratic districts had to wait ten hours in the rain just to cast their votes?

We'll never know for sure. But here's what we do know--throughout Bill Clinton's tenure, the extreme right, the ones now trying to identify with the center, focused on non-issues, nonsense, and idiotic personal attacks. Bill Clinton having sex while smoking a cigar, eating pizza, and talking to a senator. Bill Clinton getting a haircut. Meanwhile, eight years of peace and prosperity are roundly ignored. This guy got a haircut, and invested in Whitewater, whatever the hell that was. Folks like Joe the Plumber in Sarah Palin's "real America" were firmly persuaded.

And what about the last eight years? A war in Afgnanistan that never catches the architect of 9/11, and now faces a resurgent Taliban. Never mind that Bushies ignored warnings that may have precluded 9/11. And there's another war predicated on WMDs that didn't exist, on ties to 9/11 that didn't exist. Sure, it continues to bankrupt the country, but it was good for Haliburton and Blackwater. Never mind that W. declared victory five years ago. Let's talk about Barack Obama's ex-preacher. That's the real issue facing American today.

And now these demagogues, trying to shore up the troglodyte vote, are criticizing the choice of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff. Why can't Obama pick a centrist, like Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly? It's particularly ironic since one of McCain's guys was on CNN a few weeks ago complaining that Obama was affiliated with anti-Semites. Never mind that he couldn't name them. Never mind that McCain funded the guy they wanted to use to smear Obama with. Never mind that his first appointment happens to be an Orthodox Jew, rather than one of the terrorists he supposedly pals around with.

Why don't we simply ignore the economic meltdown caused by years of deregulatory policies, pointless endless war, and indifference to the middle class? Let's talk about gay marriage. Let's talk about how Barack Obama is a Muslim. Let's talk about how he's a liberal, or an anti-Semite, or a terrorist.

Let's just pretend the last eight years never happened, and pretend that Fox News and the New York Post are center-right. Let's pretend most Americans don't want health care for all, and that they want the ultra-rich to be the beneficiaries of our tax policies. Let's continue to screw the poor, screw the middle class, allow catastrophic medical emergency to be the number one cause of bankruptcy. Let's continue allowing credit-card companies to write their own bankruptcy laws.

After all, we're "center-right." That's why we elected the guy the "center-right" alternately labeled a socialist, a terrorist, the most liberal Senator in the country over the guy who, despite assertions otherwise, firmly supported the status quo in this country. You know--the "center-right" guy.

Obama, like our country, is not "center-right." And he's not socialist or terrorist, or even the most liberal person in the country. He is who he is--our next President. And it's important to note he became President the old-fashioned way--by getting more votes than his opponent.

Related: Media Matters weighs in

Friday, November 07, 2008

Professional Development Day

A venerable teacher passes away and meets St. Peter at the pearly gates of heaven. St. Peter leads the teacher through a poor looking neighborhood with small, run-down houses. “Is the is where teachers go when they die?” asked the teacher.

“No,” St. Peter said, “This is where lawyers go.” They continued walking and came to a community of middle class homes in mediocre repair.

“Is this where teachers go when they die?” the educator inquired again.

“No, this is for the doctors,” answered St. Peter. Finally, they arrived at a magnificent mansion within a beautiful grounds. The teacher looked around in amazement at his good fortune, but paused when he noticed that not a single person was to be seen. “Where are all the other teachers?” the instructor asked.

“Oh,” said St. Peter, “Today they're in Hell. It’s a professional development day.”

Thanks to Schoolgal

Thursday, November 06, 2008

When Times Get Tough...

,,,it's fewer seats for kids in Mayor Bloomberg's New York (just like when times are good).

Game Over Man, Mkay?

Technology in Mr. Bloomberg's New York

Thank goodness we agreed to come in on Election Day so we could get down to the important work of--well--whatever it is that we're supposed to get done on that day.

At our school the focus was on technology, and we learned many things. First, we got a lecture about computer tablets from the very same guy who lectured us about computer tablets last June. There were a some minor differences. For one thing, he didn't trash smart boards, as we were due to receive instruction on smart boards that afternoon. Once again, there was no time to actually use the things as he spent the entire session repeating all the important things he'd told us the last time. Naturally we, the exact same group, were thrilled to sit through this crucial lecture a second time.

Technical glitches abounded, and I watched seven minutes pass as he booted up his computer. I wondered what an observing supervisor might write about me were I to do that in a classroom. But I didn't need to worry.

One new nugget the guy shared with us was that a TV had been stolen from the trailers, and that my students and I would never, ever be able to actually use any of the technology I'd spent all day being lectured about. I've been teaching over 24 years. Only once did I have a computer in a classroom. That was when I was assigned to teach word processing. On the first day of that class, only one computer worked, and not all that well. On the second it joined its companions in death.

We have wi-fi in my school, even in the trailers. I asked if I could bring my laptop and hook it up to the school network, so that we might have internet access--we could look things up in the encyclopedia or the dcictionary, for example. I was told that was too dangerous. I could infect the whole system with a virus, and then we'd have to blow the whole school up and start from the beginning (Oddly, Holiday Inns let me use their networks whenever I wish). I told them I practiced safe software, but it was a no-go.

If I don't go to the trailers I'll be assigned to half rooms with no room for my kids, let alone technology. So it's the dark ages for me and my kids.

Thanks, Mayor Bloomberg. It's just one more feather in your cap.

What I fantasize about is a whiteboard, a low tech marvel on which I can use a pen rather than chalk. I find my handwriting is actually legible on a whiteboard for some reason. I had one for a short time, but the guy across the hall from me, a high-level, key-toting assistant to the social studies AP, claimed he was allergic to chalk and had me booted out. It was disappointing because his room didn't have AC--only a noisy fan. The second day I was in the room he stole the noisy fan for his air-conditioned room.

I often wonder how he survived that deadly chalk allergy during his first twenty-five years of teaching. Alas, he retired at the end of the year and now I'll never know.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

In Yet Other News...

...there's a new Carnival of Education, hosted by none other than Examiner par excellence Lorri Giovinco-Harte.

Another View

Don't miss The Onion's coverage here and here.

A New Broom Sweeps Clean

Splish Splash John McCain took a bath
all about a Tuesday night,
You betcha Sarah Palin's all wet ya
reject her ignorance and blight.
Bling Blang we fired the whole gang,
Dumped 'em all and found our way,
Tring Tripe Plumber Joe fix a pipe,
Find a real job today...

I don't know about you, but I'm very proud to be an American this morning. Congratulations to Barack Obama, and congratulations to the United States of America.

Apologies to Bobby Darin

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

So Long, Been Good to Know Ya

MSNBC says it's adios to NC Senator Elizabeth Dole, recently notorious for despicable attacks on her opponent.

One Word


I don't know what is going to happen in today's election.

Judging by the most recent polls (the national polls have consolidated into a range of Obama +7 with Barack leading in all the Kerry states from 2004 and a good chance to take 8 Bush states from 2004), it could be a pretty big win for him.

Dems also look like they will pick up somewhere between 7-9 Senate seats and 19-29 House seats.

Back during the 2004 election, GOP strategist and Bush guru Karl Rove bragged about creating a "permanent Republican majority" after that election cycle that would keep Democrats in the minority for a generation to come.

Former House Speaker Denny Hastert used to brag about how the only bills that would pass his House were ones that were supported by "the majority of the majority." In other words, Dems need not apply for any part in the legislative process.

For a while there, after 9/11 when GOPers could be pull the "terrorism card" out of their front pockets and wave it to attract all kinds of voters - from rural southerners to suburban soccer moms to former UWS Jewish liberals now turned neo-cons - it looked like the Rove plan was going to work.

Republicans had streamlined the election process to their own advantage by stoking their base, turning off as many swing voters as they could with negative campaigning and Swift Boat ads and suppressing traditional Democratic voters with all kinds of election schemes including phone jamming of opponents GOTV effort and illegal purging of voter rolls.

Never mind that the Republican effort was essentially undemocratic and dare I say fascist in nature (and yes, suppressing your opponents' turn-out, demonizing your opponent as a terrorist, and stoking your own base with Orwellian-type "Moments of Hate" count as fascist in my book) - the point was to win narrow victories election cycle after election cycle.

After each win, patronage was doled out to keep the base happy and opponents were punished and silenced (think the U.S. attorney scandal when GOP attorneys were fired because they didn't play along with the Bush/Rove election tactics.)

And of course the mainstream media could be cowed into going along with all of this, selling the administration's plans and wars and all of that because Republicans know how mainstream reporters and news outlets hate to be called "liberal".

Plus the GOP house news organizations - FAUX News and the Drudge Report - could be counted on to pass the GOP spin off as gospel.

But then some strange things happened:

9/11 started to fade a little as a political GOTV card;

The Iraq war went on and on and on and casualties got worse and worse and worse and the reason given for the war - Saddam's alleged ownership of weapons of mass destruction - was found to be false and known to be b.s. by the administration even before the war started;

And Hurricane Hatrina drowned a city while President Bush vacationed and raised funds with John McCain in Arizona and people watched horrified as citizens of the United States of America were stranded and starving at the New Orleans Superdome and the federal government seemingly couldn't (or worse, wouldn't) do anything to help them;

And it all went downhill from there for the GOP.

President Bush tried to privatize Social Security but was beaten back by suddenly energized Dems.

The Abramoff and ancillary scandals took down a couple of GOP Congressman.

House Majority Leader Tom Delay had to resign his seat under indictment.

Dick Cheney's chief of staff Scooter libby was found guilty in the CIA leak case (and then pardoned by his president).

By 2006, when Dems swept to power and retook both the House and the Senate (albeit a slim, non-filibuster majority in the Senate), it became clear that Karl Rove's dream of a permanent Republican majority (and more importantly, a permanent Democratic minority) would not come to pass.

But I always figured Dems would have a hard time maintaining their majorities - after all, they had won House seats in many ruby red districts and the Iraq war was still a divisive issue that split some in their coalition (especially the conservative Blue Dog Dems) and most of the time what happens one election cycle gets reversed a bit the next anyway.

But that doesn't look like it is going to happen this year.

As Charlie Cook noted on MSNBC a while back, tidal wave elections happen only once every ten years or so - think 1974 for Dems, 1980 and 1994 for Republicans - but we are now witnessing two straight tidal wave elections that are sweeping Republicans out of power.

We may also be witnessing a minor realignment in the political body of the country.

Republicans are fast becoming the party of the anti-intellectual (i.e., "Joe the Plumber" and "Sarah the Governor"), evangelicals and southern rural voters.

Once New England was full of moderate and liberal GOPers - if Chris Shays (R- Conn) loses tonight, there will be not one Republican House member in New England. If John Sununu loses in New Hampshire tonight, only Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine will remain from the GOP/New England Senate contingent.

Note too that Arizona, John McCain's home state, seems to be in play this year because Hispanic voters are overwhelmingly supporting the Democratic Party - a consequence of the Republican Party's emphasis on immigration reform, border fences and deportation (it should be noted that McCain, Bush and Rove all opposed those policies, knowing full well what a growing Hispanic population could do to the electoral map in a few cycles.)

Note also that people under the age of 35 are overwhelmingly voting for Dems this year and consider themselves much more liberal than the Gen-Xers who came of age during the Reagan years.

Also note that after the Bush administration bailed out Bear Sterns, AIG, Fannie and Freddie and spent $2.25 trillion on the nationalization of the financial industry, the charges that Barack Obama is a "socialist" who is going to turn the country "red" hold water only with the dumbest of the dumb - namely the people at Palin rallies with Joe the Plumber signs.

If Republicans are not careful, they may become a "southern party" with their base of operations housed in Mississippi and Alabama - not a good place to be if you want to be come the majority party.

Now does this mean that Republicans are going to be a permanent minority for the next generation like the Conservative Party in Britian?

Of course not - if nothing else, Dems have consistently shown a wonderful talent for snatching defeat from victory and I would argue that no matter what happens this year in the election, most people are simply voting against the last eight years rather than anything else. The wars, the economy, jobs, inflation, disappearing 401(k)'s - that's what people are voting this year. So whatever happens this election year (and it is still not in the books yet), it certianly can be reversed next cycle.

But I would say this. Note that John McCain - a once-proud "maverick" senator who bucked his party on the Bush tax cuts (he voted against them in both 2001 and 2003), global warming (believes it exists, unlike Sarah the Governor), and religion (he once despised the Moral Majority types and they despised him in kind) felt the need to embrace tax cuts he doesn't believe in, oil drilling his doesn't support, and religious bigots he despises (think the Palin pick) in order to get the GOP base to rally around him.

Had McCain run as a real "maverick" - you know, the guy he was in 2000 - this election would be an even bigger rout than it already seems like it is going to be because the traditional GOP base - the evangelicals and the anti-immigration bigots - would have stayed home

So picking Plain and selling his soul garnered McCain some votes. But ultimately these very interest groups which McCain needed to have this year to stay respectable will become an anchor around the necks of the GOP in the future.

How do they appeal to suburban liberal moms who support gay marriage and abortion rights and also to the Sarah the Governor types who think Mr. Jesus is coming back on a white horse in the next few years to send all the abortionists and gays to hell?

How do they appeal to the Lou Dobbs and Tom Tancredo bigots who want to deport every brown person they see and make English the official language of the country and not scare away Hsipanic voters in the southwest?

Hell, with Hispanics almost 35% of the population in Texas, George Bush's home state could be a swing state in the next election cycle - never mind what Hispanic voters will do to politics in New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona.

You can see why Republican Party apparatchiks seem so worried this year.

The Republican coalition put together by Reagan and extended through Gingrich has seen its death knell under Rove and Bush. Perhaps another domestic terror attack would allow the Repubs to exercise power again (and I believe I remember that somebody in the McCain campaign actually said something very similar a few months ago.)

But otherwise they have some sorting out to do. They have to rebrand.

Otherwise they will become the party of Mississippi and Alabama and few other places where they fondly look upon the Andy Griffith Show as "history".

Now it's not my job to help 'em do the rebranding, but I'm sort of hoping in the coming post-election/GOP civil war, the Sarah the Governor/Bill Kristol types beat out the more moderate Bobo Brooks types.

I mean, who wouldn't want to run against the woman who cites living next to Russia as foreign policy experience and calls herself a blue collar hockey mom while spending $150,000 on clothes from Saks and Neiman Marcus? Who wouldn't want to run against a politican so stupid she couldn't name one other Supreme Court decision outside of Roe v. Wade and thinks Social Security and national health insurance are "red" policies that most Americans don't support (polls say otherwise)?

Given the kind of popularity Palin has garnered in the GOP this year, I suspect she will have lots of fans in her party who push her as the leader of the party post-2008.

If that does happen, the Republican Party will be as beholden to their special interests (evangelicals/bigots/stupid people) as the old Democratic Party of the Mondale era was to theirs.

Now if I were them, I would look more toward the populism of Mike Huckabee than that of Sarah Palin - Huckabee refuses to demonize immigrants, doesn't bludgeon people with his religion and genuinely seems to be an inclusive sort of guy despite believing homosexuality is an abomination and creationism science. On the economy, Huckabee speaks to the worries and concerns of middle and working class Americans and refuses to shill for Wall Street.

But I just don't think Huckabee's brand of populism will appeal to that last branch of the GOP I haven't talked about just yet - the "socialists" on Wall Street at Lehman and Bear and AIG and WaMU and Wachovia and all those other Republican-friendly financial institutions that got bailed out by the Bush administration this year.

Those guys hate the Huckster and his brand of populism and that hurts his chances to lead the party (especially since they're the "money" guys and provide most of the campaign financing.)

And the other "leaders" of the party - St. Rudy (spent $22 million for 1 delegate vote), Mitt Romney (evangelicals think Mormons are "cultists") and Fred Thompson (is he still alive?) all seem too flawed to take over the reins of the Republican Party.

With Tom Delay under indictment, Denny Hastert and Bill Frist in retirement, George W. going back to the ranch to pick brush, DeadEye Dick Cheney going on a permanent hunting trip, Karl Rove at FAUX News and all the others flawed, it seems to me the leader of the Grand Old Party post-election becomes - Sarah the Governor.

Boy, won't that be something.

Maybe they can change the GOP emblem from an elephant to a dead moose?

Sarah the Governor likes moose hunting, doesn't she?

I'm Too Nervous to Make Predictions...

...after 2000 and 2008. But Karl Rove, no longer well-positioned to steal the election himself, foresees a decisive win for Obama.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A New American Tune

Lead-tainted Facepaint for Kids

Now available at Walmart.

Ms. Cornelius Holds Court...

...and reveals everything you need to know about spreading the dumbth.

Maverick Johny Takes a Cue from Ms. Weingarten

Lately, we're hearing a lot about how that risky Barack Obama might be (gasp!) a socialist. This, apparently, is a very bad thing. If you're an American as old as I am, raised in the cold war, you were taught that our great enemies were the communists. The communists wanted bad things, like the destruction of America. Now that can't be any good. What is socialism? Well, apparently, it's communism lite. Perhaps it means the partial destruction of America. Well, that can't be any good either, if you ask me.

So when every industrialized country in the world but us has health care for its citizens, people say it's socialism. Not only that, but people have to wait to see doctors (which no one in this country ever has to do), and things are not perfect like they are here in the US of A. Let's not improve on what the other countries do--let's just keep the same crappy system we've always had and screw those 47 million uninsured. Never mind that Americans are literally dying from lack of coverage. Policy experts like Joe the Plumber know better.

Those nasty socialists, now, want to redistribute the wealth. What does this mean? It means that Barack Obama wants to take hard earned cash from Joe the Plumber and give it to poor people. I mean, sure, Joe the Plumber only made 40 thousand bucks last year and he'd actually do better under Obama's tax plan, but that's not the point. It's the principle of the thing. What if Joe wants to buy a 250K business? True, it's rougher for him to get a loan now that our economy has collapsed under the weight of just such loans, but taxpayers could always pay if it didn't work out.

Wait a minute. Isn't that socialism? And didn't Maverick Johny just vote for it?

No, Americans. It's only socialism if we squander our money helping the poor, giving the middle class a tax break, or investing in the health of our citizenry. Covering high-risk idiotic unrealistic loans by short-sighted predatory lenders is just the price of our free market. And while many will say labeling your opponent a socialist (or a terrorist) is bottom-of-the-barrel desperation intended to frighten the ignorant and uneducated, that can't be the case.

After all, UFT President Randi Weingarten, a slam-dunk favorite, didn't hesitate to use that same tactic against her largely unknown, hugely outfunded and out-organized opponent in the UFT election. I mean, she didn't even bother to debate her opponent, Mr. What's-his-name, and still managed to turn out almost 25% of working teachers in the general election. Clearly Ms. Weingarten is not a socialist herself.

But if Ms. Weingarten can play the socialism card when she's way ahead and largely assured of victory, how can we criticize Maverick Johny when he's facing such a discouraging electoral map?

Special thanks to David Bellel for the photo