Monthly Archives: March 2020

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid

When Bill Clinton was running for president against George Bush 1 the economy was not in great shape. Now Clinton and Bush had divergent ideas about the role of government, voting rights, social issues, etc. But Clinton’s key adviser told him to minimize those issues.

He had one phrase that he reminded Clinton of every day.

“It’s the Economy, Stupid”.

Talk about the economy. The failure of the Reagan-Bush supply side economics. Emphasize the economy. The economy. The economy.

It was good advice. Clinton won and by the end of his second term the US was actually paying DOWN the national debt. That ended, of course, when the Supreme Court told Florida to stop counting votes and installed Bush 2 as POTUS. He went right back to supply side and, well, you know the rest.

Now, we are engaged in a real crisis, not just an economic downturn. In fact, The MIPOTUS (Mentally Ill President of the United States) inherited the best economy since the end of World War 2. The crisis we face is a pandemic, not an economic crash.

Our current person in charge (I cannot force myself to call him a “leader”) has spent the last 3 months concerned about one thing and one thing only. The economy. No, I take that back. He has been concerned with the Stock Market. Period. Which is part of the economy, but hardly the entire economy. He has identified himself as the man behind the Obama boom he inherited. As the man who created a great economy from nothing. A legend in his own mind.

To such an extent that he and his sycophants have all but ignored the pandemic. We can easily go back to his various statements about how it was a hoax or a plot or was being overblown by the “fake news”. As long as the stock market looked good, he was unconcerned.

February . We have it under control. It will disappear. It will be like a miracle.

Now, due to the inaction and hubris of those in charge, we see the economy on the verge of a major shutdown. It is temporary, of course, because it is caused by a medical emergency, not an economic one.

But still, every chance he gets, the man in the bubble talks about how we had the greatest economy on Earth, until this pandemic hit.  There will be plenty of time to dissect all the incompetency and corruption that has led us to this point. And there is plenty.

But what needs to be done now (actually 2 months ago) is an honest, open explanation of what the government is actually doing to help the states and cities fight this war. Instead of vague comments about how he is doing a great job, perhaps listing specific, reliable actions he is taking at the national level would help ease some of the fear. Of course, the problem is that the federal government is doing very little. The anti-big government mentality still holds sway. Let the states worry about it, not our problem.

To Mr. Trump and his cadre of ass kissers: It’s not the economy, stupid.

It’s a pandemic. It’s a national emergency. If you cannot handle it perhaps now is the time to announce you will not seek re-election. Then, perhaps, you can sit quietly in Mar-a-Lago and let the experts take over. The “best of your ability” is not good enough. It’s killing people.

 

 

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Filed under Clinton, economics, Economy, government, healthcare, Neoconservative, Politics, POTUS, president, SCOTUS, Society, Supreme Court, Trump, United States

Crisis Control

In my over 30 years of teaching I worked under a number of superintendents. Some were hands on, others were aloof and undemanding. Some were pretty smart. Some were not so bright. All were political animals.

The superintendents remained superintendents by pleasing the school board. The school board, unfortunately, was elected from the community. Which means many of them had one issue. The plumbing contractor who wanted to keep and expand sports programs. The parent who had her kid in Special Education was determined to see that those programs were expanded. The used car salesman who thought teachers’ salaries were way too high.  The nurse who was determined to see better health education in the schools. The stay at home mom who bemoaned the fact that organized prayer had been banished by the courts. And once in awhile an educator someone manged his or her way onto the board.

This conglomeration of non-professionals made it fairly easy for a conman to make his way into a position of power. When an opening occurred he would swoop down with his overblown resume and slick his way into a job. School boards are pretty easy to con.

I am thinking of a conman superintendent I worked under who I shall call Georgy.  Georgy had the gift of gab. A master of the bull. An artist with an ability to speak for half an hour and say nothing. He had slimed his way into the job and proceeded to remake the school district into his personal monarchy.

He started by convincing the school board to build him a brand new headquarters overlooking the nearby lake, away from all the school buildings. At great expense. Keep in mind that this school district would fight tooth and nail every year to keep salaries down and cut corners. With about a 30% of students on free or reduced lunch programs. Not exactly a suburban school awash with funds. But you get the picture. Like I said, school boards often are not made up of the brightest bulbs in the pack. They are elected.

At any rate, what Georgy wanted (or needed to justify his existence on the Earth) were low failure rates. No child should fail. No student should fail If a student failed, that meant the teacher had failed. Sounded good to the school board.

So, how do we get students to do better Not to fail?

Lower class sizes so there will be more personal attention? More staff? More support staff? After school remediation programs? Outreach to homes with at risk students? More stringent policies for extracurricular participation? Innovative programs to meet the needs of a diverse population?

Well, those sound good, but they have one problem. They all cost money. And a school district strapped for funds, which just built an administrative castle on the lake, is not one flush with excessive dollars to spend on…well…kids..

So, Georgy’s solution was simple. Q. How do we keep kids from failing? A. Don’t give them failing grades. What could be simpler.

Georgy wanted to put into place a grading system that would not allow a teacher to give a high school student (we aren’t talking about the grade school, tykes here) no report card grade lower than a 60. No matter what the student did, or did not do.

Georgy’s philosophy was that no student should ever be in a position at the end of the school year where their grades were so bad that they could not pass. How does this work? Well, if Johnny did most of his work, tried hard and wasn’t too bright and managed a 65, he could pass. If Billy did half his work, failed most of his tests and missed one day a week he might earn a grade of say, 40. Automatically that grade should be raised to a 60 on the report card. If Maryanne skipped half the days, handed in no work and failed every test she should be awarded a 60 for those 9 weeks of work.

So, in the end, the final evaluation did not look that bad. Any student could “succeed”. On the report card.

Of course, the problem with this, to those trying to teach kids, was apparent. Foremost, without being fairly evaluated, a whole lot of kids would do nothing. And pretty soon they would catch on that doing nothing was really not so bad when it came to evaluations. Of course, the teachers’ prime goals are to help kids actually learn things. Valuable things. To do homework so they can be helped to do better. To have an accurate evaluation so we can help them truly succeed.  So, this system reinforced the opposite.

Then, when the report card went home the parent might be confused. It seems like my Maryanne is doing not too bad. I mean, for someone who skips half of her classes. Who never seems to do homework. Who never studies. I have been warning her she will do poorly. Evidently, as a parent I was wrong. She isn’t passing, but she is pretty close. A report card is assumed by the parents to accurately reflect a student’s achievement. So the parents know how their child is doing. With this policy, parents do not really know how their youngster is performing.

As an aside let me talk about Ron Page. Ron Page was the Secretary of Education from 2001-2005 under George W Bush. He got that job mainly based on his success in the Houston school district. When Page took over as superintendent of schools the Houston district was in disarray. Test scores were well below average. Even for Texas. So, just imagine. He privatized some schools, brought in charter schools, instituted a “contract” system modeled on business, gave bonuses to teachers for good test scores. The result was staggering.

The “Houston Miracle ” ensued. Test scores soared. Everyone was happy. The “No Child Left Behind” theories of the Bush administration were based on Page’s success. Everyone was happy. Almost.

There was on assistant principal in one of the Houston schools that could not figure out what was going on. Why were test scores suddenly high? The schools were not doing anything different. The student body had not changed. Attendance rates had not changed. Why the sudden magnificent test scores?

A little investigation resulted in the answer. Under the “leadership” of Superintendent Page vast numbers of students were simply prohibited from taking the tests. Teachers identified those who had little or no chance of doing well and they were opted out of testing. The students who would be failing were simply not counted. The superintendent was happy. The school board was happy. Many teachers were happy (they got bonuses based on test scores). The kids were happy. The only loser in the system was honesty. And in the long run the kids who were being deprived of an education.

Back to my Georgy. Georgy was the master at managing the educational crisis. Not the REAL crisis, but the public relation crisis. Not what was actually happening, but rather how to “message” what was happening. Managing the mess

Of course, under Georgy student achievement did not improve. Under Mr Page in Houston student achievement did not improve. They did not identify the problem as one of education, but one of messaging. The message improved.

Georgy would fit well in today’s White House. We have a real crisis. A health care crisis. It needs to be managed . It is not being managed.  The current “leadership” is attempting to manage the message, not the crisis. Manage the talk, don’t walk the walk. No bad news. I am doing a great job. It’s all there in the message. But a virus, like a good education, does not respond to a message. It responds to action.

To manage a crisis you have to recognize the crisis. To the current superintendent of the United States the crisis is not how to manage the virus. The crisis is how to manage the message. I say, just give it a 60.

 

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Filed under Education, government, Politics, Society, Trump, United States

The Smoke Filled Rooms

I remember when we did not have primary elections. At least not very many of them. In the “old days” it was the party leaders who made decisions. They got together  in those smoke-filled rooms and selected the candidates.

Of course not all the leaders agreed. There were conflicts and favors asked for and given. There was back-stabbing and lies . The old men of the political parties fought it out behind closed doors, for the most part, and ended up manipulating the political conventions to nominate a ticket. Sometimes there were “floor fights” on the convention floor.

But all the participants were loyal members of the party. And all wanted to win the presidency.

Now, of course, we have multiple primaries. On the surface it sounds more “democratic”. Let the people vote, Let the people decide. Now we see some problems with that system.

Some states, for example, have “open ” primaries. So anyone can vote for either party. This has the effect of allowing Dems to disrupt GOP primaries and vice versa.

Some states allow anyone to change parties at the polling site. Again, that can mess up a primary as folks who are not devoted to a party can have the same voice as the guy who has worked for the party for 30 years. Being a member of the party means less and less.

But the worse part about the primary system is what we saw happening in the GOP in 2016. And in the Democratic primaries this year. While well-meaning, the primary process encourages more radical elements of the party to have a greater say in choosing a candidate. Get people hyped up, give them some nice phrases, appeal to easy solutions to tough problems and the idiots will vote for you. (Yes, most people are idiots).

I prefer the “good old days”. The time when the party leaders, responding to pressure within the party and to common sense, decided who the nominee would be. So, let’s look at some of the candidates who might never have won a primary contest but did get the nomination of the party.

In 1860 the Republican convention was held in Chicago, Illinois. A small group of party leaders, mainly from Illinois, were able to manipulate the convention and push a young , funny looking lawyer to the forefront. They stole the nomination for “Honest” Abe Lincoln. He turned out to be a pretty good president.

Other men who were selected by the party leaders in deals made in “smoke-filled rooms”?

Try these on for size. US Grant. Teddy Roosevelt. FDR. Harry S Truman. IKE. JFK.

Whether liberal or conservative, these guys ended up being pretty good presidents. Without going through a primary election vetting process. Most were selected by the party leaders in each state. As candidates that were real leaders and had a lot of common sense.

Which brings me to Andrew Cuomo.

I have watched Cuomo for many years. He has been vilified by the NRA and pro gun groups. And by conservatives in NY in general. For much of his term he has had to deal with a split legislature. He worked with both sides. He made decisions about educational testing, then when the data showed it was not working, he changed his mind. He has always been a liberal who has been able to get things done. Effective.

This makes we wish for the good old days. Days when the political conventions were not signed, sealed and delivered by primary voters. When the party leaders at the biggest smoke-filled room, the national convention, could choose the candidate they felt was best.

Does anyone doubt that if we did not have a primary system who the Democrat nominee would be? And who the next president would be? Maybe the DNC should throw open the convention and let the delegates for for whomever they want.

The next president of the United States, without a doubt, would be Andrew Cuomo.

Give me a smoke-filled room.

 

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Filed under Politics, Society, United States

Virus Cures a la Trump

I don’t know why I watch. But I do. It is the same reason, I suppose, folks gawk at accidents. A bit morbid. Curiosity. How bad is it?

I am referring to the “news” conferences of Mr Trump regarding the coronavirus. You know, the big Democratic hoax! My wife won’t watch him any longer but I find him fascinating.

We must face the fact that the GOP has given us the first mentally ill president. A total narcissist. The man with the biggest brain.

Well, yesterday he talked about the “immediate” cures that are available. Specifically about a drug used to control malaria. A drug used to control malaria. Malaria.

OK. Well, malaria is not caused by a virus. Or a bacteria. It is a parasite. It is a parasite that a person may get if they are bitten by a mosquito carrying the parasite. It is not transmitted by sneezing or coughing or screwing. So, it has no relationship in any way to a virus. Especially an unknown virus.

But the good news about the anti-malarial drugs is that they are safe. If you have malaria they will fight the parasite and not kill you. A plus. So, Mr Trump  considers malarial drugs a good fit to fight SARS-like virus. Hey, it could work! You never know? What have you got to lose.

As usual, the man with the biggest brain is thinking “outside” the box. In the “box” is science, technology, common sense, data, intelligent thought and “book learning”. The man outside the box rejects all that. So, I thought I would join our commander-in-chief in this time of crisis and also think outside the box. After all, you never know. So,here goes some possible coronavirus cures. Hey. You never know.

Tom’s of Maine Toothpaste Cure. Take some toothpaste (Tom’s of Maine has been found by the FDA to be safe) and stick it on the end of a pencil. Shove it up your nose until blood oozes out of a nostril. Repeat on other nostril. It’s possible that this may force the virus out of your body. Hey, you never know.

Norland Potato Cure. Buy some Norland potatoes. They are the red ones. Russets will NOT WORK for this cure. Cook 7 potatoes with 4 quarts of olive oil and dishwater. Rinse and drain. Mash the potatoes with chopstick. DO NOT USE A FORK. That is very important. Smear the potatoes between your toes and under your armpits. Let sit for 3 hours. This cure may kill any coronavirus through osmosis. You MAY be cured. Hey, you never know.

The Singing Cure. Find a copy of the words to “Jeepers, Creepers”. Standing on one foot and holding a banana in your left hand, sing the words backwards through three verses. Immediately afterwards peel the banana, eat the peel and place the fruit of the banana in a cup of boiling Ooolog Tea. That should destroy the virus. Hey, you never know.

The Smashing Cure. Put on the tightest running shorts you can find. Also, the heaviest snowboots you have in your closet . (If you have no snowboots you can substitute high heel shoes). Put 3 ice cubes in your mouth. Run as fast as you can into the nearest tree. Walk backwards 30 feet. Run as fast as you can into the same tree. Walk backwards 30 feet. Repeat until..A. the ice cubes in your mouth have melted….B. Your teeth have fallen out ..or C. You go unconscious. This cure should dislodge and expel any coronavirus in your body. Hey, you never know.

I could go on, but I won’t. The point is, cures for the coronavirus are ALL AROUND US. Just think outside the box. Use your biggest brain. Be a real leader.

 

 

 

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Filed under government, healthcare, logic, Politics, POTUS, Trump, United States

Oh Captain, My Captain

Captain Don was steadfast and strong. He was the man in charge. He was the man in control. He was given control of the Titanic and he was doing it his way. The best way.

He inherited a crew of tried and true sailors. He fired them. Then he  hired the best crew and the best mates. Well. A whole bunch of them left so he hired some more. They left. So he hired more of the best men.

And off he sailed.

One day his first mate came to him and said. “Captain, my, captain, the best captain in the world. One of our crew has spotted an iceberg. On a collision course with the Titanic”

Captain Don replied. “Fake news. A hoax. There is no iceberg. Stay the course.”

A few hours later, the same mate came to Captain Don. ” Captain, my captain. The captain with the biggest brain in the world. The iceberg is closer now and we still have time to steer the ship to a different course. See, look to the north, you can see it in the distance.”

Captain Don peers to the north. His gaze is steady. His jaw juts out in defiance.

Captain Don speaks. ” That is no iceberg. It is an ice cube. See how tiny it is? How foolish you are. A hoax. Fake news. Such a tiny ice cube can do us no harm. Stay the course.”

A few hours later, the iceberg looms closer and closer.

The first mate. “Captain, my captain. The smartest, bravest captain  with the biggest brain. And best brain. The iceberg is going to hit us. We can not get out of the way. What should we do?”

Captain Don. ” Well, why didn’t we see the iceberg sooner? Where was the man in the crow’s nest. He must have been one of Barry’s men. A member of the Deep state. Out to get me.”

First mate. ” Oh captain, my captain. The sexiest, smartest most brilliant captain in the world. Actually it was your budget cuts that eliminated the man in the crow’s nest. The early warning system we used to have. What should we do?”

Captain Don. ” Put everyone in lifeboats. Time to evacuate.”

First mate. “We only have 20 lifeboats for 20,000 people. What shall we do?”

Captain Don. “What? Why so few boats. The former captain Barry refused to buy more boats? It is Barry’s fault. Damn him. Well, put me in a boat and find my friends. Get them in boats.”

First mate. “Captain my captain. The truth is that Captain Barry left you with plenty of boats. Actually  it was you who sold the lifeboats, cheap, to your friends in the boating industry. We had enough lifeboats. No longer.”

Captain Don. ” Lies. All lies. Fake news. Fake iceberg. I take no responsibility. Not my fault. Not my fault. Where is my lifeboat? I’m out of here. You’re in charge”

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Filed under government, gun control, Politics, POTUS, Society, Trump, United States

The Roller Coaster

It looks like the next election will be a choice among 3 old white guys. But 3 old white guys with significantly different views of the role of government in our lives. WHAT? You mean all old white guys are not the same? Who knew.

This race got me thinking. Always a problem. Thinking about roller coasters.

Roller coasters have always made me sick. Literally. I haven’t been riding on one in probably 30 years. They make me nauseous. Some people like them. Thrilling. Up and down. And up. And down. And up. Not for me. Give me Mr Toad’s wild ride in the teacup.

We have been on a roller coaster for 4  years. Many people wanted the roller coaster. They wanted to shake us up. Make some of us sick. Excite us. So we have seen what 4 years of riding a roller coaster brings.

Now, some folks still like the roller coaster. Four years are not enough. They want four more years of the up and down. They want to ride it forever. The swirls and twirls and thrills as the scenery screams by. And the folks on the roller coaster are also screaming. Some with joy. Others in horror.It’s a blast!

Why did I get on this thing? What was I thinking? Let me off!

So, now we have three choices.

We can stay on the roller coaster for 4 more years. Up and down. Vomiting. Thrilled to death. Wheeeee!

There are some folks want to get off one ride and jump right on another one. We can get off the roller coaster  and look around. Hey , look at that. It’s a Tilt-a-Whirl. Not as bad as the roller coaster. Tilting up and down and round and round. Tilting. Looks like fun. OK, maybe it’s still a bit unsettling, but at least it’s not the roller coaster. I will probably be okay.

Then there are folks like me. Still staggering from the roller coaster. Waiting for my stomach to settle down. Looking for a bench. A nice bench by the pond. Stop and sit. Have a hamburger. Sip a Coca-Cola. Relax.

We have a choice. Ride the roller coaster for 4 more years? Try out the Tilt-a-Whirl for 4 years and see how that settles the stomach? Or take a long rest? Take a break. Take  a breath.

As for me, I don’t need any more amusement park  rides. I am not amused.

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Filed under Bernie Sanders, debates, Elections, government, Joe Biden, Politics, Society, Trump, United States