from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Saturday, January 31, 2004

About electability:

Ralph Nader told the Wall Street Journal on friday that if dean were the Democratic nominee, he would probably not run.

Now, I wold not expect Nader to run as well in 2004 and he did 2000 - far too many progressives are aware of the damage that did -- he had promised not run seriously in any state where he might swing the reulsts, but he got irritated when he was excluded from the debates, and so he campainged far more aggressively than he had originally planned. On raw numbers, his vote total exceeded the margin of Bush over Gore in two states, Florida and New Hampshire, and even NH would have been sufficient to give the election to Gore. Of greatr importance, his vote made a number of democratic states far too close for comfort, specifically Oregon, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Thus one criteria of electability should be that one's candidacy keeps nader out of the race - that solidifies Blue states and puts in play several Red states - beyond FL and NH, one can also consider NV and possibly OH as well, both states in which Bush did not do that well.

I hope if the issue of electability is borught up on Sunday Feb 1 on Meet The Press that Gov Dean has been prepped to make this point. And for any Dean supporter talking to wavering voters, this is a point well worth making.
Okay -- so as this is set up I can't allow comments. Boo. I will, when I have time, try to figure out how to make this truly a dialog, and not merely my thoughts cast out into the blogosphere.

In the meantime --- some quick political thoughts (remembering that I still support Dean):

1) by not spending money on TV this week in the 7 Feb 3 states, Dean may preserve enough money to fight another week or two. He is still raising money at a pace of around 200,000/day, which probably puts everyone else (except maybe Kerry) to shame. If he does not win something on Feb 3, he will see endorsements start to peel away, but that will not necessarily stop him. As long as he stays in, Kerry will have to debate, and remember -- Kucinich and Sharpton are going nowhere. Can you imagine Sharpton turning his focus on the John Kerry who talked about walking away from affirmative action? Or Kucinich pointing out directly that leadership in Congress was his getting over 100 Congressmen to vote against the war, not sheepishly voting for a war resolution that lacked the clauses Kerry says were important - that if he really felt so, why didn't he fight for such language [and Kucinich WILL make such a charge if given the chance).

2) the stupidest thing the Democratic party could ever do is to try to shut down the process and anoint a candidate. I woold be saying that if it were Dean posisbly poised to run the table. There are several reasons for that. First, it would allow the Bush machine to immediately unload and start defining that candidate, who probably would be unable to reply, even if he (as have Dean and Kerry) opted out. Second, it would mean losing all the free attention that the press has to give so long as there is a perceived contest, free attention that keeps the Democrats in front of the public to be sure, and by that process sucks up air time away from Bush appearing as presidential.

3) Remember that in the Newsweek poll last week all 5 of the major Democrats (if you could consider Lieberman major) were at least within the margin of error of the poll versus Bush. The president has problems of his own. This raises two points. First, there may not be a significant difference between the Democrats as to real electability: either Bush will tank on his own, or if he were to totally recover, it is possible that no one would be electable. For both of those reasons, the really smart thing to be doing is to vote on the issues. Oh, what are those? All the things being swept under the carpet by the press and the process. What mandate does one have if the only platform on which you have run is "I'm not the other guy?" And ultimately one has to give a positive reason for poeple to support you, especially if you are simlutaneously asking them to elect Democrats to House and Senate seats to enable you to achieve your legislative agenda (what's that? you know, the things you'd want to actually DO if you were president!).

4) I'd really like to see someone take Kerry to task for political plagiarism. I remember that in 1988 Joe Biden went down when John Sasso, staffer for Dukakis (who fired Sasso for feeding this to the press) pointed out to the press that the Biden line that he was the first in is family for a thousand generatins to go to colelge was a rip-off of a line used by English labor Party leader Neal Kinnock. Today (SATURDAY, January 31), Kerry on NPR was heard to rip off yet another Dean line - the (not-so-)good Senator was heard to say that we are going to build the largest grassroots political movement in American history. One thinks that some enterprising media type could put the together the tapes showing case after case of Kerry ripping off lines from Dean .. which of course raises the question -- does he (Kerry) actually believe what he is saying? if so, when did he have his "Road to Damscus" conversion, since he was saying none of this until about 3 weeks ago. If not, how can anyone in the political press take him seriously, especially since they should know his mediocre legislative record in the Senate, and his inability to abide by his word when he broke out of campaign spending limits when losing to Bill Weld. Or is it because he has been around so long that the rules simply don't apply to him?

If you get from this post that I have a visceral dislike of the junior Senator from Massachussetts, I must compliment you, dear reader, on your acute observational powers. He may get elected, but quite frankly the more you know him I am sure the less you will like or respect him -- he may get elected, but he is not "electable." And by far he has been the angriest candidate in this campaign: listen to his tone of voice, and wathc his body language. Because he is the last Democrat elected to the Senate in 1984 to run for president (having been preceded by among others Harkin, Simon and Bob Kerrey) he seems to think he is entitled, totally ignoring others elected before him who have never run. I do not think he is qualified to be president temperamentally and I think he lacks intellectual honesty. Thus I acknowledge that I cannot support him even with a passive vote. Since I live in Virginia, that probably does not make a difference, any more than it did when I refused to vote for Mondale [again, because of things that I knew] in 1984. A Democrat who needs to win Virginia in order to win the presidency is not going to win the presidency.

A man I greatly admired, the late Archimandrite Sophrony, spent WWII in a cave on Mount Athos in Greece. He once wrote that during the war he prayed that the less evil side might win. I am not as saintly or holy as he. When someone tells me to pick between the lesser of two evils, my response is that you are still asking me to affirm evil, and that I will not do.

My wife has just found out that I am now posting to a blog. When she gets home, I know several things:

first - as the professional editor she is, she will catch every typo and criticize every grammatical mistake

second - she will ask me why it took over a month after she first suggested blogspot for me to do this.

and for the record -- I don't know how the clock on the blog is supposed to work, but it will be 9:17 PM EST when I hit the POST button for this message
My first content post.... this will be on education. It is one reason I support Howard Dean, but that is not my main focus.

No Child Left Behind is an atrocity. There is only one good idea in the entire bill, and that is the disaggregation of test scores by subgroups. When one test purports to be a measure of schools, systems and teachers it will fail to be an adquate measure of the performance of any of them. The real purpose of tests should be to provide feedback: if I give a test and many of my students have trouble with a particular groups of questions, there are two possibilities (a) the questions are confusing or poorly framed, and/or (b) I didn't do a very good job of teaching it. In either case, I need that feedback quickly so that I can adjust instruction FOR THOSE STUDENTS. Under NCLB you have one set of high stakes tests towards the end of the year, which probably will not be scored in time to make any remediative instruction for the students that do "poorly." That lack of meaningful and useful feedback is a sufficient diqualifier for me. Furhter, the law requires testing in reading and math for children as low as 3rd grade, and anticipates possibly adding tests for Science. Given the statkes for schools and shool systems, you will see an elimination of art and music and social studies, none of which are tested, and science until it is tested, in order to concentrate on raising test scores. That will deny children in schools that do not perform well access to the fullness of what a good education could be.

Of course, all of this is meaningless in one sense, since the clear intent of the Republicans who pushed for this law is to gut public education - already we see Republican legislatures in Utah and Viriginia moving to opt out of receiving Federal education funds so that they do not have to conform to the the testing requiements of the law. Of course, that will mean eliminating the Federal Title I funds (which some conservatives have always opposed) from schools that even with those funds often have insufficient money to meet all the needs of their students.

Those Democrats like Ted Kennedy and George Miller who could snookered by Bush on this, hping that by agreeing to his demands they could get more money for education, should be ashamed of themselves.

Like the attempts to pack the Courts with people from the totally inappropriately named Federalist Society (ironic given some of the opinions written by John Marshall and the writings of Hamilton, Madison and Jay), this education law is a brazen attempt to strip away the social progress of the last 70 years of the 20th Century - remember, many of these people think the New Deal was the worse thing that ever happened to this Country.

And don't forget - Karl Rove's political hero is Marc Hanna, the architect of the election of William Mckinley. Of course, Hanna made one big mistake, and that was changing running mates for the election of 1900. But then, (a) he didn't know an anarchist would kill McKinley, and (b) he probably had no idea that T. Roosevelt would actively go after the Trusts, or create the first real environmental movement in this country.

That's enough for this post.

Since I have not figured out how people can post comments on this, rude remarks are welcomed at kber@earthlink.net Please make sure that your title line begins with teacherken so that I will know that you are a real person, otherwise either you won't ettrough my spam filter, or if you do, I may delete your mesagge without opening it.

Peace all!!
I have spent so much time posting to Blogs run by others, and senidng out messages on list servs, that I have finally taken the advice of my wife and created my own blog. This will contain my views on various subjects, most especially education (I am a teacher..) and politics (.. of Government, among other things, and I am an active Dean supporter still as of January 31 2004). I will try to post at least once a day, and perhaps more, as time warrants, and I encourage dialog from others.

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