Monday, October 20, 2008

Test Score Mania

Once again in August, newspapers around the state and the country decried, "Our Failing Public Schools." This obsession with test scores has been drilled into our perception of schooling in America since A Nation at Risk in 1983. The pervasiveness and extent of this test score psychosis was evident in the last 2008 Presidential Debate between Senators McCain and Obama. Bob Schieffer asked the following question:

"The U. S. spends more per capita that any other country on education. Yet, by every international measurement, in math and science competence, from kindergarten through the 12th grade, we trail most of the countries on the world. The implications of this are clearly obvious. Some even say it poses a threat to our national security. Do feel that way and what do you intend to do about it?"

Outrageous! Print journalists, national media, Schieffer, Obama and McCain should all be challenged vociferously for blindly accepting the basic premise of the question, "by every international measurement-we trail most of the countries of the world." Have we all abandoned our ability to think critically, to be skeptical of such broad assertions that are based solely on test scores? Have we forgotten Mark Twain's common sense about numbers, "Figures don't lie, but liars figure?"

Why are these dire pronouncements about America's test score results accepted to blindly, with no scrutiny, no questions asked, no challenges issued? This is not only true for the media and the general public, it is also true of educators. For decades, educators and their professional organizations have simple cowered and acquiesced to the onslaught of negative rhetoric about our failing schools. Is it just that bad news is more titillating than good news and always carries the day? Or is it that the implied precision of the test score data reported and the complexity of statistical analysis so intimidates us the we're afraid to question?

What kinds of questions and challenges am I referring to?

We need to ask about "by every international measurement" to make sure we are not comparing apples and oranges! Are we certain that these international tests are exactly the same in every country? Are they given in exactly the same way in every country? Are they given to the same exact group of students in every country? Are they scored in the same way in every country?

For example, are these tests different or modified in any way from one country to another? Do we know if students in one country are allowed more time on the test than in other countries, or if they are allowed to use calculators in one country and not another? Are the 4th grade or 8th grade tests given to comparable groups of students in every country or do some countries test older student or separated, "tracked" students? Are rich and poor students included comparably in all countries? Are public and private schools included comparably in all countries? Are the tests scored exactly the same in all countries or do some score by hand and others by computer? Who reports out the scores from each country? Are the scores reported out exactly the same way in each country or do some report the average score of all 13 year olds and while others report the average score of the just the 13 year olds that took the test?

At the very minimum, the same kinds of questions need to be asked about comparative test score date and the test score mania that has resulted from NCLB (No Child Left Behind). I have written and blogged before about my concerns with NCLB before, so I won't cover the same ground here. But there are several questions that need to be asked about NCLB in addition to those already raised about international test score comparisons.

Do we really want the very worth of a child to be summed up in a single score on a single test given on a single day? That's how it feels to that child who is told year after year that he/she failed the test again. Do we really believe that when a single sub-group of students fails a single test section on a single day that the entire school should be reported as failing to make AYP (adequate yearly progress)? Ask football players how fair it would be to compare players from different schools that get to design their own goal posts - and then move them from game to game? That's NCLB!

Have we forgotten the myriad of studies that demonstrate the correlation between SES (socio-economic status) and student achievement? One thing this obsession with testing has clearly identified is an achievement gap between rich and poor. It's no surprise that the achievement gap correlates directly with the income gap between rich and poor in our society?

Do we really believe that public schools should be held accountable - even punished - for an achievement gap they did not create and they cannot close?

Earlier I quoted Mark Twain's "figures don't lie, but liars can figure" adage. Yes, I was suggesting that NCLB and the incessant, accountability pounding our public schools have taken for decades originated from a less than forthright motivation. Here it is!

Former Assistant Secretary of Education Susan Nueman, one of the architects of NCLB,
admitted that some in the Bush Administration wanted to use NCLB to destroy the public educations system and replace it with a privatized system. According to Neuman, others in the Bush Education Department saw NCLB as a "Trojan Horse" for the choice agenda. "There were a number of people pushing hard for market forces and privatization," she said. How about comparing what the market forces, privitized and unregulated, have done to our financial system and economy lately? Do we really want our children's education vulnerable to these kinds of excesses?

With hidden agendas like this underlying the political rhetoric of such significant and high-stakes educational policies, shouldn't we be skeptical of the integrity of the data reported out in support of these policies? Couldn't even apparently precise test score data be manipulated for political purposes?

Newman now says she regrets the Administration's use of humiliation and shame as a lever for school reform. "Vilifying teachers and saying we are going to shame them was not the right approach." Neuman recently signed the Economic Policy Institute document entitled, A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, which states that much of the achievement gap between rich and poor, "is rooted in what occurs outside of formal schooling." (Time Magazine, June 8, 2008).

I believe all children can learn! I do not believe that all children can be made, taught, or shamed into getting the same numbers of answers correct on a single test on a single day!

That's the NCLB mandate. Do we really want this concentration on reading and math, to the growing exclusion of science, social studies, the arts, phy ed, and extra-curricular programs? NCLB and this kind of test score mania destroys the morale of kids and teachers, the joy of learning itself. These hidden agendas - unchallenged - will also destroy the public schools, which are the bedrock of our democracy!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Who is Lilly Ledbetter?

After the Wednesday, October 15, last presidential debate between Senators Obama and McCain, one might ask - who is this Lilly Ledbetter anyway? Senator Obama referred to her in the debate discussion about the criteria for presidential nomination of judges to the U. S. Supreme Court.

I first blogged about Lilly Ledbetter on June 13, 2007.

Lilly Ledbetter began work at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in 1979. She retired in November 1998, after earning thousands of dollars less than male colleagues who were doing similar supervisory work. She did not know about the pay difference at the time or when it began. She had no way to learn about it because Goodyear kept salary information confidential.

When Ledbetter finally became aware of the pay discrimination, she filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC and in November 1998, she filed sit in Federal District Court. The jury found in her favor and awarded back pay and damages. Goodyear appealed and the Eleventh District Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision because she had not filed suit within the 180-day timeline in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Ledbetter requested a writ of certiorari and the Supreme Court agreed to hear her case. In May 2007, The Court ruled 5 to 4 against her in Ledbetter v.Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. The five justices in the majority were Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia, and Kennedy - all Republican appointees to the Court. Justice Alito delivered the court opinion, saying that Ledbetter should have sued when the pay decisions were made instead of waiting beyond the 180-day statutory limit.

Justice Ginsburg's dissent from the Court's opinion was joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, and Breyer and argued against the 180-day limit being applied to pay discrimination. Justice Ginsburg argued that pay discrimination often occurs in small increments over large periods of time and the pay information of fellow workers is typically confidential and unavailable for comparison.

Any wonder why the issue of appointments to the Supreme Court is so critical in this election?

Soon after the Court's decision, the U. S. House of Representatives passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. However, a similar bill in the U. S. Senate, sponsored by Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy and Republican Senator Olympia Snow, is opposed by the Bush Administration and has been effectively blocked by the Republicans in the Senate. They have enough votes to deny backers of the bill the 60 votes needed to bring it to the floor for a vote.

Senator Obama supports the bill; Senators McCain and Coleman are counted among the blockers!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Times They Are NOT A-Changin'

The AP recently picked up a June 30, 2008, Duluth News Tribune story by Janna Goerdt about my experiences with job discrimination and retaliation in public school administration. These experiences and the litigation that followed are described in my book Plaintiff Blues. Goerdt's well balanced and professional article included an interview with Charlie Kyte, Executive Director of the Minnesota Association of School Adaministrators. However, Kyte's quoted comments and attitudes are reminiscent of the good ole boys back in the good ole days!

When asked about women in the school district superintendent's position, Kyte said, "It's a traditionally male role. One of the challenges they run into is trying to manage a family and manage the time needed to be a superintendent," Kyte said. "You put in so much time, it's hard to be in that traditional 'mom' role." Kyte also said parents in a few Minnesota communities "are still male-centric; they see themselves as being led by a male." If he knows of a female superintendent interested in applying at such a community, Kyte said, he tries to steer them elsewhere.

By all accounts, Kyte is a good leader and spokesman for education in Minnesota. So where do these remnants of past stereotypes come from? Are they so deeply ingrained they seep through our conscious filters? Regardless of the explanation, those comments are classic examples of the glass blocks used to construct the proverbial glass ceiling. After years of post-graduate degree work and thousands of dollars in tuition and books, any qualified woman who applies for the superintendency knows full well what kind of time the job entails. Imagine how it feels to put that kind of time and effort into your career, only to be "steered elsewhere" (however well-intentioned) because some folks don't want your kind - women - in leadership roles? It's no wonder only 14% of 2007-2008 Minnesota school superintendents are women.

And what a put-down to husbands and fathers! Throughout the years, with both of us working full time, I had the full support and encouragement of my husband to get the degrees and apply for the jobs. He had my full support and encouragement to start his own, success business. It's a partnership after all. We both worked, we both raised the kids, shopped for groceries, did the laundry, mowed the lawn, cooked the meals, washed the dishes, etc. Our two sons have wonderful wives and both families share in earning, parenting, cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc. There's no longer such a thing as a traditional "mom" role! There hasn't been for a long time.

But these comments were made today, not the yesterday of 50 years ago. Worse yet, they were made by one of Minnesota's chief education spokesman and leaders.

We have a long way to go, baby!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Supreme Court Restores Habeas & Hope

When Congress passed (with both Republican and Democratic support) and President Bush signed the Military Commission Act of 2006, I despaired for civil liberties in our country. Two branches of our government had stripped away the most essential human right, the writ of habeas corpus. So fundamental that the founding fathers included it within the text of the U.S.Constitution itself. With the MCA, two branches of our government failed the basic test of civil liberties. That high-stakes test occurs whenever there are threatening or frightening events, when the balance between security and liberty is most fragile. 9/11 was such a test and we failed. As I wrote in July and November 2007, it's when we fail these tests of our fundamental principles that the terrorists win.

I remember a Phil Ochs tune we listened to in the 60s. Knock on the Door included timeless lyrics: "In many a time, in many a land, it all began with that knock on the door. Now there's many new words and many new names, the banners have changed but the knock is the same. And open your eyes and see what they do, when they knock over there, friend, they're knocking for you." John F. Kennedy said, "The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened." We better protect our liberty today. Who's to say what knocks tomorrow will bring - and for whom?

Finally, on Thursday, June 12, 2008, the U.S.Supreme Court ruled by a narrow, 5-4 margin, that the habeas corpus provision in the Military Commission Act is unconstitutional. Our precious system of check and balances proves up again. But by just one vote! No more cavalier attitudes toward appointments to the Supreme Court when the write of habeas corpus hangs by one vote!

However, Justice Scalia's dissent in the case sent shivers down my spine. He wrote, "It will most certainly cause more Americans to be killed." That has to be one of the most injudicious comments by a sitting Supreme Court Justice ever! Such fear mongering is the purview of politicians, whose rhetoric is directly related to their next election, not Supreme Court Justices appointed for life.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Concerns about School Choice

In my 34 years as a public educator, both teacher and administrator, my experiences with school choice were in smaller or rural public schools in NE Minnesota. However, my concerns about school choice relate to public education in general. I wrote Myths of Educational Choice (Praeger 1993) to fully describe the complex social, political, and economic issues related to school choice. My concerns apply to all the across-the-board, unrestricted Minnesota choice programs, including PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Options), open enrollment, and charter schools. The theory behind school choice is that competition will force public school to improve. By definition, competition means winners and losers. A brief look at the winners and losers in school choice highlights my concerns.

Who are the winners? Those students/parents who chose out of educational necessity win. They are gifted or talented students who have run out of the curricular choices in their home district. Those qualified few may benefit from the PSEO program or enrollment in a larger school district with more advanced curricular choices. Why not limit PSEO options to highly qualified students rather than open the floodgates for students/parents looking for two free years of college, whether they are ready and able or not! Why not limit open enrollment to educational need rather than introduce chaos into our entire public education system, which is the bedrock of our democracy?

Other winners may include troubled or failing students who just need a second chance or a different approach. However, there were many alternative programs prior to Minnesota's school choice legislation, so this is no justification for wholesale school choice programs.

Neighboring school districts win when students chose because the get the windfall profits as the state aids follow student enrollment. Schools now have to allocate precious resources to advertise and recruit for enrollments.

Taxpayer groups and politicians win with school choice because choice is cheap! They can proclaim choice as reform and a way to improve public schools, without providing adequate and equitable funding for public schools.

However, the losers in school choice are my primary concern. Too many students leave their resident school for reasons that have nothing to do with a better education. They go to college before they are ready and then fail to graduate with their class. When parents/students leave for casual or temporary reasons like romance, athletics, proximity to after school jobs, or parents daycare convenience, community commitment and connection is lost. Worse yet, many students lose educational progress when unregulated charter schools fail due to mismanagement.

But students who stay behind are the big losers. Many of these parents/students have no choice. Economics or geography keep them trapped in their losing local schools. These schools are forced to cut programs and increase class sizes to balance budgets decimated by lost foundation aids that follow the students leaving.

The losing school districts can't pass revenue referendums when voters' kids attend neighboring schools. For example, St. Louis County School District voters rejected the last two revenue referendums by 226 votes in 2006 and 402 votes in 2007. This is a geographically huge, consolidated district in NE Minnesota. It is bordered by 19 neighboring school districts and four post-secondary institutions. Could these failed referendums be due to the fact that over 600 resident students do not attend district schools? That number represents annual revenue losses of close to $4 million. Why vote to raise your school taxes when your kids are not attending their local public school?

In brief, while a few may benefit from school choice, their choices diminish the choices and quality of education for the majority who don't or can't choose. It's important to note here that neighboring districts or charter schools are not required to accept and educate all students as are resident districts. Thus, many handicapped or learning-disabled students have no choice.

The Minnesota Constitution, Article XIII, states, "It is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools." There's nothing uniform happening to Minnesota's public schools with school choice! Choice means competition and competition means winners and losers. There should not be "losers" and inequity inherent in the laws governing Minnesota's public education system.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Minnesota Nursing Home Crisis Shameful

Hubert Humphrey said, "The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadows of life - the sick, the needy and the handicapped." We're not doing especially well for those in the dawn or the shadows of life, with school programs being cut across the state, the number of uninsured rising every year, health insurance and medical cost skyrocketing, and the injured veterans struggling with an often incompetent bureaucracy to receive the timely care and benefits they deserve.

However, we're failing miserably with those in or approaching the twilight of life! All across the state, newspapers and media outlets are covering the crisis facing our nursing homes. The May 3, The Star Tribune editorial indicated that a third of the state's nursing homes might be at risk for closure in the very near future. The Bemidji Pioneer stated that the nursing home industry is on the verge of collapse. The years of little or no increases in state reimbursements for qualified Medicaid residents in nursing homes are the crux of the crisis.

In 2007, a rural NE Minnesota Hospital and Nursing Home received state reimbursements of $129 per Medicaid resident per day, but the costs for the state mandated level of service to these residents had risen to $178 per resident per day. That amounted to a $1.5 million shortfall for 2007. 2008 will be even worse. Costs go up, revenues don't. Yes, there were 2% increases for nursing home reimbursements in 2005 and 2006, but those minimal increases were far short of the increased costs and they followed 2 years of funding freezes in 2003 and 2004.

These kinds of minimal increases that are dependent every two years on the current political will are shortsighted and only delay the inevitable. Unfortunately, the planning horizons for most politicians seldom exceed their term of office. The consequence of these politically expedient freezes and/or miniscule increases is that the nursing home industry is now so far behind, it may too late for many. Where will our parents go when they need 24-7 skilled nursing care?

The fundamental problem is with the rebasing formula for nursing homes. Rebasing is the state process of regularly recalculating the actual costs of service for hospitals and other state-funded services. Reimbursements are then adjusted accordingly. However, rebasing has not been done for Minnesota nursing homes since 1994!

Where will Governor Pawlenty and the other short-sighted politicians, who have balanced the state budget on the backs of our elderly, be when the baby boomer tsunami strikes? Their terms of office will be over and they will have moved on to bigger and better opportunities. They will not be here to explain the lack of adequate long-term care facilities or to answer for their shortsightedness.

Friday, March 21, 2008

NCLB and the Dropout Crisis

Approximately 1 million American high school students should graduate each year. No one can be certain of the actual numbers - of graduates or dropouts - because no one is tracking that data. No reporting nationally, by state, district, gender, or ethnic group. For good reason! It's embarrassing - to the school, to the school district, to the state, and to the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) Administration. Current estimates put the national graduation rate at best, at 70%. That's a conservative dropout rate of 30%. That's appalling! That's more than 300,000 students who enter adult life having failed the right-of-passage in our society.

The dropout rate is much higher in some states, localities, and ethnic groups than others. Where is that you ask? Poor is the operative term. Poor in material resources, poor in environmental resources, poor in health care, poor in SES (Socio-economic Status), poor in spirit. All the NCLB emphasis on high-stakes, test score accountability totally ignores this dropout crisis. The best analogy compares NCLB to the mile race. Test them rigorously every tenth of a mile - but pay no attention to who crosses the finish line.

Worse yet, NCLB is a major contributor to the dropout crisis. Poor performing students are hardly encouraged to stay in school under the high-stakes, consequence-laden NCLB testing regime - particularly when there are no NCLB graduation standards! Schools would rather lose those students than have their school fail to make AYP (Annual Yearly Progress). As for those students themselves, which students are going to come back year after year to be tested one more time and be told, one more time, they failed?

Tracking this crisis is the first step. Set graduation standards and require AYP. However, it's not as simple as one would think. As I explained in Plaintiff Blues, education data and statistics are not equal, district to district, state to state. As one example, if there are 100 students in a senior class and 96 graduate, that's a 96% graduation rate, right? What if that same senior class had 120 students back in 9th grade? Where did those other 24 students go?

There has to be an established reporting protocol and mandated reporting of graduation and dropout rates before we'll get a handle on the magnitude of this crisis - and find out who is really being left behind!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's the Money, Stupid!

"Money is the root of all evil" is a concept that's been around forever. It's probably more accurate to quote the Bible, "For the love of money is the root of all evil." I Timothy 6:10. Just because it's an ancient concept does not mean that it has no currency today. It's not the money itself but what men do to get it that's at the root of it all.

Aside from the recent bailout of Bear Sternes, coupled with the decades-old S & L bailout we're still paying for, estimates are that we are stuck in $2-3 trillion dollar war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the good old economic analogy, "guns or butter," imagine the common good those trillions could have accomplished: social security fixed, medicare funded, energy independence implemented, inner city schools fixed, mortgages saved, etc.

But bailouts and wars are good for the economy - and vastly better for a few than for the many. Those same few take their billions and spend it to further insure and protect their interests. They lobby to block solutions to major problems and contribute obscene sums of money to political campaigns to make certain new policies and programs never interfere with their profits.

If you consider any of the major problems facing us, it is not difficult to figure one which of the few, big money interests will be working against any reasonable solution. If it's health care solutions, the drug companies, insurance companies and medical supply companies will be doubling timing to protect the status quo that is working so well for them. Energy independence, carbon emissions, global warming - count on the oil and power industries to spend billions and more to protect their present investments, including those in Middle Eastern oil.

Perhaps the worst and most comprehensive evil generated by the love of money is the selling of our democracy. Today only a billionaire can run for national office without the money from the few big money interests - whether corporate or PAC. And how naive to suppose that there's no quid pro quo with those huge contributions. The buying and selling of congresssmen is a relatively unregulated, open market. Until we get the money out of the political process, we should expect little in the way of real solutions to serious problems. It's the money, stupid!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bush + Deregulation=Bailout for Big Guys

We must have forgotten the massive Savings $ Loan Bailout of 1989. Reagan and Bush 41 were the presidents who presided over the deregulation of those S & L's and the largest corporate bailout in our history - $32 billion for 30 years! By 2020, that will approach $1 trillion! That money keeps coming from taxpayers and goes to the people who bought those 30 year bonds. And the rich get richer!

FYI, another son of Bush 41, Neil Bush, was involved in that crisis, as director of the Silverado Savings and Loan. That one alone cast taxpayers $1.6 Million. The cause of the S & L crisis? Deregulation that opened the door to wild and speculative real estate investments.

However, the costs of that bailout were more far-reaching than even those staggering figures suggest. The real costs were felt yesterday, when the Federal Reserve Board bailed-out Bear Sterns for $30 million. Bear Sterns was one of the biggest cowboy investment banks plundering the sub-prime mortgage business - our current crisis. The S & L bailout of 1989 sent a clear message to the cowboys out there. It's green light for greedy, high-risk, speculative real estate investments. If you get in trouble, the government (that's us, the taxpayer) will bail you out. Don't worry, no one in this Bush administration is minding the store and there will be no heavy handed regulation - or any at all for that matter!

Meanwhile, once again, the John and Jane Doe's are losing their homes all across the country. Will we ever see a bailout for the average taxpayer?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Who Is Don Siegelman?

Don Siegelman is the former governor of Alabama. So what does that mean to me and the rest of the world? Siegelman is currently in jail and it is all of our interests to understand how and why that happened. On Sunday, February 24, the CBS program 60 Minutes told his story. He was selectively prosecuted for political reasons by the Bush Justice Department - with back channel coaching from none other than Karl Rove.

Over 50 former U. S. Attorneys (both Republicans and Democrats) have gotten involved in trying to undo this injustice. If this kind of abuse and misuse of the Justice Department is allowed to stand, the country and the rule of law are in serious trouble. I have written two previous posts about the aggregation and consolidation of power in this administration. The first, on May 24, is about Bush's politicization of the justice system. The second, on February 9, documents Bush's signing statements as his administration builds his Imperial Presidency.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Love to Hate Hillary?

The current and insidious mythomania building around Senator Barack Obama's candidacy for U. S. President is a relatively new phenomenon compared to the virulent, decades old, and vicious fabrications directed at Hillary Clinton. Just a cursory browse on the web can find over a million sources accusing her of murder, burglary, adultery, lying, blasphemy, criminal intimidation, harassment, killing cats - even of being a communist, a sociopath, and a witch!.

There's no reasoning with these Clintonphobes. There's no changing these paranoid, psychotic mindsets. There's just no basis in reality.

The media is almost as bad. If Hillary speaks assertively, she's too shrill or she's a bitch. The standard joke is that if Obama has benefited from Black History Month, too bad there's not a White Bitch Month for Hillary! If she speaks moderately or with emotion, she's too feminine, too weak, or she's faking it. If she dresses conservatively, she's too masculine. If she doesn't, she's too provocative.

Her laugh is called a "cackle," her voice "grating." She's had way too many plastic surgeries (none of course, but how else can she look so good at 60!) Her hairstyles are criticized and her eyes are analyzed. In fact, watching her "evil" eyes is a favorite sport with her most rabid adversaries.

Even for more reasonable folks, she has to walk a very thin line between strength and vulnerability, masculinity and femininity, constraints that simply don't apply to men. She is criticized by some for being a feminist, others for not being one. She's either an extreme lefty or a pro-war hawk, godless or fundamentalist, a victim of Bill's affairs or an enabler. She's an opportunist, cold and calculating. Other candidates have "well run" campaigns, her's is the "Clinton machine." Negative connotations abound and surround her media coverage daily.

Worst of all, in the minds of many, she's brilliant and ambitious! (Qualities that are expected and admired in the men running against her.) How dare she!

Where does this stuff come from? Men, of course! NOT SO FAST! That cursory browse of the web reveals as many women (particularly professional women) Hillary haters as men. Why is that? In what way is she so threatening to other women? Some say they can't support her because she is too polarizing, too divisive (reinforced of course, by the other campaigns.) Isn't this just a more sophisticated version of the age-old tactic used against women - blame the victim?

Is it simply because she is a woman? Or a Clinton? Is it sexism or misogyny? 17th century Salem reincarnated? Where's the reason or logic for this level of malicious, personal character assignation? Isn't there a level of subconscious enmity underlying this phenomenon that makes it unfathomable - and all the more frightening?

Answers anyone?

Obama Bashing

(According to Cheney, the book is the Bible!)

I just received an email that said in caps, URGENT! READ THIS AND FORWARD TO ALL YOUR CONTACTS! DO IT NOW!!! HEED THIS AND PRAY!!!

So I read it--and couldn't believe it! The variety of false, bogus, and totally fabricated attacks on Senator Obama are too numerous to list. Besides, just describing them one more time would risk perpetuating the mythomania that's rampant out there. This email concluded with, "The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest level - through the President of the United States, one of their own!!!!" UNBELIEVABLE.

The falsehood most emphasized in the email and in a myriad of similar mythology on the web is that Obama was sworn into the U. S. Senate on the Koran, not the Holy Bible. It would have been totally appropriate if Obama was a Muslim and was sworn in on the Koran and I gave Congressman Keith Ellison enormous credit for the courage of his convictions when he did so (on a Koran owned by Thomas Jefferson!)

However, it is well documented that Obama joined a Christian Church long before he ever ran for office in Illinois. It is also officially documented that when he was sworn in to the United States Senate by Vice President Cheney, his hand was on the Holy Bible. Check the official picture of that swearing in ceremony above.

Is this kind of insidious attack anti-black? Anti-Muslim? Or just plain anti-American? The tactic does reveal some knowledge of history - wasn't it the Nazis that taught us if you tell a lie often enough, they'll believe it?

It's time for reasonable, rational citizens to stand up against these kinds of lies. This stuff goes way beyond, "All's fair in love, war, and campaigning!" Recall the old adage, "All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing." Better yet, since religion is part of this myth, recall Dante's warning, "The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality."

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Signing Statements - Unconstitutional???

Bush Ignores Congress, Courts, and the Constitution!

Fact: On January 30, 2008, President Bush issued the latest of his now famous signing statements. This signing statement was attached to the military budget bill, which had four provisions Bush indicated that he will enforce only if he wants to. According to Bush, these provisions impinge on his constitutional powers.

The current provisions he signed statements against:

1. Authorizes a commission to investigate fraud and waste by military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the commission given the power to compel government officials to testify.

2. Provides protection from reprisal for those who expose such waste, fraud and abuse in military contracts.

3. Requires that intelligence officials provide requested military documents to Congress within 45 days or explain why they are being withheld.

4. Prevents money authorized by Congress for military purposes to be used to establish permanent military bases in Iraq.

Bush has issued these signing statements for over 750 laws, including affirmative action provisions, 'whistle-blower' protections, torture bans, requirements for detailed reports to Congress on the Patriot Act, and protections against political interference in federally funded research. His justifications have been either that the law is unconstitutional or it encroaches on presidential power.

Far more that any previous president, Bush is concentrating executive power at the expense of Congress and the Courts. What happened to the Founding Fathers' carefully crafted balance of power? Have the Framers' "checks and balances" simply been cancelled?

Doesn't U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 3 - The President, "shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed," - mean anything anymore?

U.S Constitution, Article l, Section 8 - The Congress shall have the power, "to provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States," "to declare war," "to make rules concerning captures on land and water," "to raise and support armies," "to make rules for the government and regulation of land and naval forces," "to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia," - mean anything anymore?

Marbury v. Madison (1803), the Supreme Court's decision establishing the principal of judicial review (power to determine the constitutionality of a government action) for the Court, not the President, - mean anything anymore?

Check out the depth and breadth of Bush's actions. We owe it to "ourselves and our Posterity." Google "signing statements" and read about the decline of democracy as we have known it. The most thoroughly researched article was by Charlie Savage in the April 30, 2006, Boston Globe.

Through his myriad of signing statements, Bush has asserted all three governmental powers: to make, execute, and judge the laws. Is Bush the President who would be King? Is President Bush now, effectively, above the law? Are we headed for an imperial presidency? Will the next president willingly give back power to Congress and the Court - or continue the concentration of power?

The crisis here is not this specific signing statement or this particular president. Those of you who think this post is anti-Bush, consider how you'd react if this concentration of power is in the hands of - say President Hillary Clinton? The crisis is the future of our Constitution and the Rule of Law! Will anyone - Congress or Court or Citizens - check or roll-back this imbalance of power?