Friday, February 22, 2008

Hubris and the Clinton Demise.

From McClatchy :
She had everything going for her. The most famous name in politics. A solid lead in the polls. A war chest of at least $133 million.

Yet Hillary Clinton now finds herself struggling for political survival, her once-firm grasp of the Democratic presidential nomination seemingly slipping away.

What happened?

Barack Obama, for one thing, a uniquely gifted speaker with a face that appeals deeply to the Democratic Party. He also had a better-organized campaign.

But Democrats say that Clinton, whose central theme is her readiness to be president, also made blunder after blunder. She chose an inexperienced campaign manager, crafted a message that didn't match the moment, fielded poor organizations in key states and built a budget that ran dry just when she needed money most.

"She got outmaneuvered," said Mark Mellman, a Democratic strategist who isn't aligned with any of this year's candidates. "Her campaign allowed her to be outmaneuvered on several fronts."

"To think that someone named Clinton with $130 million could end up here is amazing," another neutral Democratic strategist said. He spoke only on the condition of anonymity to permit more candor, as did many party insiders quoted here who dare not offend the still-powerful Clintons.
That last line is particularly galling. But if Hillary Clinton continues to implode, people will no longer fear her and her husband. Oh, how the mighty fall

Speaking of Candidate Spending Habits

The New York Posts noted teh Clinton Campaign spent $95,000 at a deli in West Des Moines Iowa. The NY Post notes:
Clinton's latest campaign filings reveal how a sprawling, top-heavy campaign organization splurged on posh hotels and pricey consultants but still struggles to define its message against Obama, a charismatic opponent whom Clinton's camp now calls the front-runner.

The $95,000 charge came at the Hy-Vee store in West Des Moines, a grocery and deli chain that is a fixture in the state, on Jan. 1, just two days before Obama stunned Clinton by beating her in the Iowa caucuses.
As I said, not wise spending habits.

Fun With FEC Reports

I know that the media makes a big deal out of the monetary horserace, but you can learn an awful lot about a campaign by looking at their FEC reports. The February 20 reports filed by the candidates make for some interesting reading if you delve beyond the summary pages. You can access the reports here.

First there obvious measure of a campaign's health is their income. In this race, Obama is clearly superior. He pulled in $36.7 million in January alone. Hillary Clinton brought in a total of $19.7 million but $5 million of that was a loan to her campaign. (by the way, only loans from candidates can be "written off" without running into legal problems since a candidate can spend as much of their own money as they want, but classifying it as a loan allows for the spin of saying that the candidate is not trying to "buy" the election with her own money. It is a bogus legal fiction, but there it is. also, if it remains a loan, then Hillary's donors will be paying her back--ugh.) McCain brought in $12. million, of which $950,000 was a loan that has to be paid back since it was not a loan from the candidate.

Second, there is the spending habits. For example, Obama spent $17 million on ad buys and $1.9 million on payroll, just over $2 million on travel and around $500,000 on consultants (as listed). Hillary Clinton spent $4.5 million on travel, $2 million on salaries/payroll, $1 million on consultants, and $11 million on media buys.

Third is the indebtedness. A word here on debts for the FEC. A debt is not necessarily a loan, in fact it usually isn't a loan. A debt is simply money owed, usually an unpaid invoice(s). Here Hillary Clinton is in deep. Obama owes in total debts just over $1.1 million. Hillary Clinton owes $2.1 million to her strategist Mark Penn (yeah she overpaid for that service), almost $1 million to MSHC Partners (a media consulting firm); and $240,000 to Mandy Grunwald's firm. Thus in addition to the $1 million she paid to consultants in January, Clinton owes her consultants a minium of $3.2 million. Talk about consultant heavy.

Obama is not only running an effective fundraising machine, he is running a tight financial ship. That keeps costs and overhead down while at the same time allowing funds that are raised to be spent on real campaign activities, not on consultants or rediculous travel.

As I said, lots of fun an information to be found.

Frederick County Teachers Want More Pay--But Are Well Paid Now

On Wednesday, the Frederick County School Board heard testimony about the FY 2009 budget. Among those testifying were Frederick County Teachers Association President Gary Brennan and Vice President Carol Dagan, both arguing for "competitive salaries" for county teachers.

Now don't get me wrong, Brennan and Dagan have every right, even the duty, to plead their case for more money for teachers. But let's take a look at some facts. The Frederick News Post conveniently links to a table of Frederick County Public School Salaries. With the FCTA arguing that teacher salaries are not "competitive" you have to wonder, what is FCPS doing paying our teachers poverty wages? Well, lets take a look at the teacher' salaries at three county schools, Ballenger Creek Elementary, Urbana High School and West Frederick Middle School.

Ballenger Creek Elementary has 42 teachers, including music, art, special ed, intervention and PE Teachers. The average pay for these 42 teachers is $59,489.74. The median salary is $61,061.50, which means that 21 teachers make more than that amount and 21 less that $61,000. The top salary is $82,555, three teachers make that salary. The smallest salary is $31,925, two teachers earn that much. The total teacher payroll (salaries only) is $2.49 million out of a total school payroll of $3.17 million, or 78.5% of payroll on teachers. The average length of service for the teachers at this school is 11.3 years. The median is 9.5 years. There were four new hires in 2007 and 9 teachers (21%) with three or fewer years of experience.

West Frederick Middle School has 68 teachers. The average pay for these teachers is $60,989.23 and the median salary is $60,586.50. So there are not a lot of highly paid teachers or lesser paid teaches skewing the salary range, the salaries are pretty well distributed. The top salary is $90,971, with three teachers making that salary, and the lowest salary is $21,550 by a targeted intervention teacher who is apparently working part-time given a six year length of service with FCPS. The total teacher payroll for West Frederick (salaries only) is $4.14 million out of a total payroll budget of $5.42 million. The teachers at West Frederick have an average length of service of 11 years and a median service of 10 years. Only one teacher is a new hire in 2007 and 11 teachers (16%) have three or fewer years of experience.

Urbana High School has 96 teachers. The average pay for these teachers is $57,247 and the median pay is $53,886. The top salary is $90,971 and the lowest salary is $30,687. The average and median salaries are a bit lower at this high school compared to the elementary and middle school sampls because the average and median length of service in FCPS is significantly lower. The average length of service is 8.7 years and the median is 8 years. There are 20 teachers (20.8%) with three or fewer years of experience. The total teacher payroll is just shy of $5.5 million out of a total school payroll of $7.1 million.

Take note that these are cash compensation salaries and do not account for the substantial benefits package that teachers receive, including generous pension and health care benefits.

So, teachers at the three schools noted above had a average individual income of between $57,250 and $60,500. The median income, again for these individuals, was between $53,886 and $61,061. Economic data for Frederick County indicates that the median household income in November 2007 was is $60,507 and the median family income is $67,879. Using the lowest median teacher income for the three schools, teachers are making 89.2% of the median household income and 79.3% of the median family income--all by themselves with a generous benefit package. In Frederick County, males had a median income of $42,378 versus $30,564 for females. In our teacher pool for these three schools, female teachers (146) are making a median income of $55,558 on a median experience level of eight years. Male teachers (60) make a median salary of $59,023 on a median experience level of nine years. Thus female teachers in Frederick County are making a 81.7% larger income than the general female population in Frederick County. Male teachers are make 39.2% more money than the general population of males in Frederick County. In all of Frederick County there are 413 teachers employed by the FCPS making better than $80,000 a year.

This analysis is done on just three schools in Frederick County. A larger county wide assessment is worth a look to examine all the teachers, full or part time, in the county, but I suspect the numbers would not be all that different.

For all the bluster about teachers not being paid a competitive salary looks to be pure bunk, particularly when compared to the incomes of the rest of the county. So if teachers are being well compensatd with 413 invididually making some 30% more than the median household income, why then is the School Board even considering more than a cost of living increase in salaries?

The union can ask for more money, but it seems to me that teacher salaries in Frederick County are not only more than sufficient for our area, they are more than competitive with the every other industry in the county.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

NY Times on Obama Fundraising Edge

It is the small online donors:
On Wednesday, the Obama campaign will report to the Federal Election Commission that it collected $36 million in January — $4 million more than campaign officials had previously estimated — an unprecedented feat for a single month in American politics that was powered overwhelmingly by small online donations. That dwarfed the $13.5 million in January that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York is expected to report Wednesday and the $12 million Senator John McCain’s campaign said he brought in for the month.

The details of Mr. Obama’s January fund-raising illustrate just how much his campaign has been able to chart a new path for the presidential race. He brought in $28 million online, with 90 percent of those transactions coming from people who donated $100 or less, and 40 percent from donors who gave $25 or less, suggesting that these contributors could be tapped for more. (Donors are limited to giving $2,300 per candidate during the primary season.) More than 200,000 of the campaign’s nearly 300,000 donors in January were first-time givers to Mr. Obama.
Prof. Rick Hasen said that the key statistic is the $100 or less number. In reality, the key statistics is last sentence. If accurate, that 200,000 people will be asked to give again, even if is is $25. Related, how many of the remaining 100,000 givers were "repeative small donors" meaning they had given less than $100 before?

As I have said before, the small donor is the key to winning an election. Big donors see their contribution more as an "investment." Small donors are believers. They generally don't have the money to make a lot of contributions, but when they do, you can bet bank on that person voting for the candidate they give to and they are usually more committed, see for example, this quote.
The campaign’s online donors have also come to form the backbone of its vaunted grass-roots operation across the country, with information about new donors quickly transmitted to organizers on the ground to enlist for phone banks and other volunteer efforts.
Small donors have an advantage not only in surefire support, but in the "repeat business" and "contact cloud" category as well.
In Birmingham, Ala., Matthew Lane, 38, logged into his e-mail and received that message. Although he earns less than $20,000 a year as a storyteller in public libraries and as a freelance writer, he decided to give $25 on top of a few small contributions he had made dating to March 2007.

“The campaign has been so incredibly grass-roots, it does sort of feel like you are making a difference,” Mr. Lane said, “even in giving in small increments like that.”
Maximum dollar donors can only go so far and even if they agree to help raise money for you, their effectiveness only goes so far. But a big small donor base is much more effective in the fundraising busiess because not only can the donor give a little bit more later, the contact "cloud" is much larger. A person who contributed $25 or $50 knows more people who can give that amount than a $2,300 contributor knows people who can contribute $2,300. The small donor also has fewer personal qualms about mentioning contributions to their friends and their sales pitch is more sincere since they believe it and aren't just trying to sell it.

I think looking back, the Obama fundraising operation will not only be marveled at in its efficiency, but will be modeled after in the future. It is impressive.

but Will It End his Wine-Blogging

Lawrence Lessig announced the formation of an exploratory committee to look at running for Congress. National Review Online has more. But what I want to know is whether he will stop blogging. Although technology law is not a massive passion of mine, Lessig's site is a wonderful first stop for really good information.

Of course, assuming Lessig wins, will Democrats in California forgive him for having clerked for a free marketer like Judge Richard Posner and Democratic boogey man Antonin Scalia?

Obama's Smackdown of Clinton Continues

The calls for Hillary to step aside are going to start to get louder as Obama racked up his 9th and 10th wins in a row last night. The news for Hillary Clinton is not good. Even after Clinton went negative, Obama still grabbed a 17 point victory in Wisconsin and blew the doors off Clinton in the Hawaiian caucuses, which was expected.
After a week of sparring that included the first negative ads of the campaign, Obama emerged victorious in the critical general-election battleground state of Wisconsin, and was treated to favorite-son status with a lopsided win in Hawaii, where he was born. For the second week in a row, the senator from Illinois made inroads into the coalition that Clinton (N.Y.) has counted on to carry her to the nomination -- women and white working-class voters -- while rolling up big margins among white men.
Criticisms of lack of substance, of all rhetoric (and plagarized rhetoric at that) don't seem to stick to Obama. He makes the Teflon Presidency of Ronald Reagan look like super-velcro. Nothing is sticking to this guy.

Which makes me wonder a little. Obamaa's primary focus of his campaign has been on change, hope and a different kind of politics and it is working like a charm. The Clinton era is dead and gone and the Democratic voters are announcing that change with a deafening roar.
Have we really turned a corner in politics? I am not ready to say yes. But in two weeks the primaries will take to Texas and Ohio. John McCain will almost certainly wrap up the GOP nomination. He is already talking like the nominee and dismissed Hillary Clinton and focused on Obama last night.

Obama is on a roll. I saw a news report last night (On Fox News I think) that talked about the hundreds of precinct captains Obama has in Harris County Texas (which is Houston). Houston and the Dallas-Ft.Worth areas are the biggest population centers and Obama is leading in that state. He is drawing massive crowds at rallies and has an impressive organization on the ground. He has the same in Ohio, although according to the polls he is slightly behind in the Buckeye state.

The Wisconsin exit polls revealed the weaknesses of the Clinton Campaign and my previous comments about Hillary's reliance on women is coming true. Her ship is sinking and you will soon hear the abandon ship call go out-for her to step aside and let party unity take over.

Gary Hart: Unintended Consequences in 2008 election | Politics West

Gary Hart on the primary system, superdelegates, and rules made in reaction:
Now, all of a sudden, pundits and bloggers are raising Cain about "party bosses" and "the will of the people" and so on as if no one had ever really thought through the system that was created 25 years ago. And to heighten the drama, there are two states, Michigan and Florida, that broke party rules organizing the timing of primaries and no one seems to know what should be done with them. Sen. Clinton skirted the edge of the rules and campaigned in those states and now claims their delegates; delegates that could make the difference in the nomination. Sen. Obama observed the rules and did not campaign and he would be prejudiced by such an outcome.

This analysis is not to propose solutions. It is to encourage party officials and politicians to think ahead, to consider the consequences of decisions made in reaction and in haste.

Nominating a future president is too important to be left to "Gee whiz, how did we screw this up?" kinds of responses. Our country's future and our leadership in the world are at stake.

So, whoever the nominees are and whoever gets elected, perhaps both parties ought to hold long retreats later on in which mature, disinterested, patriotic adults take over our political parties and operate them as the kind of serious political institutions our citizens deserve and our country requires.
Hart proposes that people spend sometime thinking about solutions, but doesn't offer one.

I hope to have one outlines in the next couple of days.

Nothing New Here, Move Along

Sean Wilentz and Julina Zelizer offer an op-ed in the Washington Post, A Rotten Way to Pick a President which offers nothing new in the way of criticisms of the manner in which our presidential candidates are chosen. This kind of piece is a common place filler for the op-ed pages at this time of an election cycle.

True, the manner in which the primaries and caucuses are run is filled with strange incentives, bizzarre rules and arcane procedures. But the procedure has been pretty good for America in that the selection of candidates is out in the open, the candidates are tested prior to the general election and everyone knows what they are getting.

Bob Bauer, as usual, has a sharp pen for Wilentz and Zelizer:
Wilentz and Zelitzer conclude, confidently, that their case against the current system is “glaringly clear.” This is what it is not. What is clear is that any system will cause unhappiness somewhere, on one or the other ground, and frequently for no reason better than that the critic did not like the results. It may be true, as these distinguished historians stated, that "we could still get it right in 2012.” The first step is getting right the analysis of the problem and the appraisal of alternatives. We’ll have to wait longer for that.
Is the process too long? Sure. Does it put too much importance on teh early states? You bet. Does it mean it is over too soon? Well that is obviously not the case for the Democrats this year, but in other years yes. Do we have a viable alternative? Not that I have seen. Wilentz and Zelizer have no option to offer and do little but waste some ink and newsprint that the Post couldn't otherwise fill.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Althouse: Why I'm voting for Obama in the Wisconsin primary.

She had promised and now she delivers.
Now, I've read through the posts and caught up to the present. Have I traced a journey? There is no clear narrative arc as there was in "How Kerry lost me." It's just a slow warming. And we're only at the primary, so there is much still to happen.

There is also the corresponding arc of my reaction to Hillary Clinton, which you can see some of here. As I said above, I haven't liked her, but I pictured myself voting for her anyway — back when she was inevitable. But Obama's growing power allowed me to cast off my resignation. And along with his growing power — after that win in Iowa — came her phony emotional ploys, the garish emergence of Bill Clinton, and the racial insinuations from the Clinton campaign. That drove a wedge into my neutrality, and my opinion broke for Obama.
Prof. Althouse's decision sounds a little like a vote against Hillary Clinton as much as a vote for Obama. While that may be true of a lot of people, I just wonder how many other people.

Could Obama Be Added to This Song By Living Colour?

Living Colour-Cult Of Personality. It already includes Mussoulini, Kennedy, and others.

I still love this song and it has always resided on my iPod.

Note (3/4/08): I fixed the title of the post.

Maryland's Plan for the "Mortgage Crisis"

Today Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (D) called for an "emergency work-session" with mortgage lenders to "help find solutions to the foreclosure crisis." The call included a laundry list of ideas to "help middle class families:"
  • new emergency regulations requiring reports from mortgage loan servicers detailing their efforts to help homeowners facing default and foreclosure, which for those playing at home means that the new regulations are not subject to the standard notice and comment period required when regulations are issued--they are issued as is without any thought or justificaion.
  • lenders will be required to give the state a list of homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages (yet another piece of information that is not something I need the government to have)
  • creates a zero percent interest bridge loan program to help people facing foreclosure to stave off the foreclosure (adding to that family's debt--how exactly is that helpful???)
  • and "sweeping reforms proposed for the mortgage industry, including raising the bar for licensing, tightening lending standards and eliminating defective products from the market in Maryland." (and thereby making it more difficult to get a loan)
If this is O'Malley's definition of help, I'd rather take my chances with the mortgage lender--at least they have a vested interest in getting paid and therefore are predictable in their actions.

The bridge loan program in particular strikes me as a stupid idea. No matter what, even with the zero percent interest rate, any bridge loan is adding to the debt burden and thus the financial woes of a recipient. If they didn't have financial problems, they would not be in a position of facing foreclosure. Again, how is this helping in the long run.

One of three things is going to happen with people who receive these loans.
  1. The debtor will be able to get back on their feet and get their finances cleaned up, thus repaying the bridge loan and/or their regular mortgage. I suspect this will happen in less than a quarter of the cases, and probably less than ten percent--but again that is a guess.
  2. The recipient will not be able to get out of foreclosure trouble in the long run and their house will be foreclosed upon. All the bridge loan did was stave off the inevitable for a couple more months. The reasons are likely many, but the crux of it will be they have more house than they can afford and/or more debt than they can service.
  3. The recipient will be unable to stay in their house, default on the loan, get foreclosed on and also not be able to repay the state. In this case, the debt is either written off by the state or remains uncollected for a long period of time. In short, the State gave away tax money to a homeowner who was a bad credit risk to begin with and the consequences of that bad lending decision come to fruition.
What is completly missing from the "reform" equation is any changes in the housing market itself.

As pointed out here, there is a connection between zoning regulations and housing prices (and thus mortgages). If you reduce the zoning regulation burdens you can reduce the cost of housing and thus avoid the foreclosure crisis.

Of course, that is not going to happen. The zoning regulations keep housing (and thus property) values artificially high. That in turn keeps property tax revenues artificially high and there is nothing like a reduction of tax revenues to make a Maryland politician tremble in fear.

According to the Governor's office, "Prince George’s County continued to have the highest number of foreclosure events, with 2,732. Montgomery County had the second highest number of events, with 1,310, while Baltimore City ranked third with 1,268 events." What do these three jurisdictions have in common, high housing prices and lots and lots of restrictive zoning regulations, oh and a fair number of people who probabaly can't afford the house they live in--obviously. Hmmmm!

The Mortgage Crisis and Restrictive Zoning

the two go hand in hand and as demonstrated herethere are economic and political consequences.

Education Meta-Debate

Over the weekend, in the Washington Post Outlook Section had a "debate" about the state of American intellectual heft. Susan Jacoby leads the anti-intellectual charge with The Dumbing Of America. Jacoby leads with the now expected "the sky is falling" quote:
"The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself." Ralph Waldo Emerson offered that observation in 1837, but his words echo with painful prescience in today's very different United States. Americans are in serious intellectual trouble -- in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations.
of the three charges Jacoby levels, only the low expectations charge may be relevant. Of course, noticeably missing from Jacoby's missive is how we have lowered expectations--but I will grant that perhaps we have lowered expectations. When it comes to "anti-intellectualism" Jacoby has only one charge to make--Americans don't read as much as they used to.
First and foremost among the vectors of the new anti-intellectualism is video. The decline of book, newspaper and magazine reading is by now an old story. The drop-off is most pronounced among the young, but it continues to accelerate and afflict Americans of all ages and education levels.

Reading has declined not only among the poorly educated, according to a report last year by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1982, 82 percent of college graduates read novels or poems for pleasure; two decades later, only 67 percent did. And more than 40 percent of Americans under 44 did not read a single book -- fiction or nonfiction -- over the course of a year. The proportion of 17-year-olds who read nothing (unless required to do so for school) more than doubled between 1984 and 2004. This time period, of course, encompasses the rise of personal computers, Web surfing and video games.
Let us assume that Jacoby's statistics are cited correctly, the decline of novel reading does not indicate a decline in reading. I read a lot, and I can tell you that the last novel I read was eight months ago. However, in that eight months since the novel, I have probably read in the neighborhood of 20 books, largely about the founding of our nation and the political thought of the time.

Nor does the fact that 40 percent of people under 40 haven't read a book necessarily troubles me. On one level, there is the rise is the number of full length texts available on iTunes for purchase, or books on CD (which is how I "read" a large number of history books on my previously long commutes).

Simply put, the mere fact fewer people are reading doesn't indicate a decline in intellectualism.

Jacoby's second point, the erosion of general knowledge, on the surface seems alarming. Jacoby makes a political swipe at the same time:
People accustomed to hearing their president explain complicated policy choices by snapping "I'm the decider" may find it almost impossible to imagine the pains that Franklin D. Roosevelt took, in the grim months after Pearl Harbor, to explain why U.S. armed forces were suffering one defeat after another in the Pacific. In February 1942, Roosevelt urged Americans to spread out a map during his radio "fireside chat" so that they might better understand the geography of battle. In stores throughout the country, maps sold out; about 80 percent of American adults tuned in to hear the president. FDR had told his speechwriters that he was certain that if Americans understood the immensity of the distances over which supplies had to travel to the armed forces, "they can take any kind of bad news right on the chin."

This is a portrait not only of a different presidency and president but also of a different country and citizenry, one that lacked access to satellite-enhanced Google maps but was far more receptive to learning and complexity than today's public. According to a 2006 survey by National Geographic-Roper, nearly half of Americans between ages 18 and 24 do not think it necessary to know the location of other countries in which important news is being made. More than a third consider it "not at all important" to know a foreign language, and only 14 percent consider it "very important."
As I said, a political swipe, but let's take a step back and look at the differences between America of 1940 and America of 2008. In 1940 there were half as many nations in the world as there are today. Today, general knowledge is at the fingertips of anyone who needs to find it. The fact that today's children have access to satellite enhanced maps does not indicate a lack of intellectual curiousity, rather it is a rational response to the availability of general knowledge, such that it is deemed unnecessary to carry that knowledge around in one's head when one can easily look it up. While it can be argued that the reliance on "looking it up" may impact a person's thinking, it is neither anti-intellectual or anti-rational in thinking.

Jacoby calls the lack of knowledge and the "arrogance about that lack of knowledge" as anti-rational. Jacoby asserts that the lack of knowledge and anti-rationalism undercuts "discussions of U.S. public policy on topics from health care to taxation." But Jacoby asserts something of a chicken and egg argument in her thesis and ignores the general trend of the American body politic.

If our leaders engage in soundbite politics, why then should voters be expected to pay more attention to longer discourses on public policy? If Americans don't pay attention, why should our political leaders engage in those lengthy policy discussions? Which is the primary cause and which is the effect? I don't know and I will be that Jacoby doesn't either.

However, what is remarkable is the ability of the general population to see past their "ignorance" and their "arrogance" about their ignorance and generally make pretty good decisions on a political level. Yes, I decry the nanny state and I rail against big government programs and pork barrel spending, but the general public seems happy with the concept and if it progresses too far, there will be a backlash. The American electorate is remarkably good at finding the center, not willing to move too far, too fast in one direction.

Finally, Jacoby herself points out a larger question. If America is a bunch of dunces, why do we as a nation think that? Could it be that a bunch of elitist, novel-reading, non-video-watching, ivory-tower, intellectual snobs tell us, the average Joe and Jane, that we are dunces?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Clinton Scheming for FL and MI Delegates

When Florida and Michigan Democrats defied Democratic National Committee rules and scheduled their primaries in January, the DNC responded by saying the delegates selected in those primaires would not be seated at the convention. In Michigan at least, every other Democratic candidate aside from Hillary Clinton did not petition to be on the ballot and indeed Clinton was the only candidate on the Michigan ballot. Candidates likewise said they would not campaign in Florida and they didn't--although Clinton held a rally on the evening of the primary date. Now that she is behind in the race for delegates, Hillary Clinton suddenly wants the Michigan and Florida delegates to be allowed to, well vote for her, but Clinton will have to get around the DNC to do so.
Clinton's campaign insists the delegates should be seated in accordance with more than 2 million votes cast in the two states last month.

"I think that the people of Michigan and Florida spoke in a very convincing way, that they want their voices and their votes to be heard," Clinton told reporters. "The turnout in both places was record-breaking and I think that that should be respected."

Clinton did not object to the DNC stripping the states of their delegates when the decision was made last year. Some of her backers were on the committee that made the decision to do so and actively supported it.

"Now, when they believe it serves their political interests, they're trying to rewrite the rules," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said in a call with reporters.
And Plouffe is right. If the roles were reversed, Clinton would be fighting tooth and nail to have the delegates blocked. The stunning hypocrisy smacks of desperation will almost certainly result in a lawsuit.

Despite my conservative nature and general disagreement with Obama's politics, I would love to have the opportunity to work on a lawsuit to stop Hillary Clinton's hail mary. The blatant unfairness of it all should just strike everyone as wrong.

I am seeing that crime coming and it will not be pretty.

Houston Dynamo Getting Feilhaber

U.S. International midfielder Benny Feilhaber has not been getting much playing time with English Premier League cellar dwellers and relegation bait Derby County, despite solid perfromances for the U.S. Men's National Team. So the rumor is that MLS side Houston Dynamo have approached Derby about a possible loan of Feilhaber to the MLS Champs for the season.

If so, Feilhaber would likely see more playing time than pine time, and would give Feilhaber the chance to prove to Derby that he deserves more playing time. Plus he would be fit for the start of the Championship League for next year, assuming he doesn't get dealt during the summer transfer window. As an added bonus, playing for the MLS would keep him close to the U.S. which might consider him for one of the over age slots on the U.S. Olympic team, which is played by the U-23 team but three over age players are allowed.

GMU Law School Will Have First Year Course In Constitutional History

A required course that is, that will focus on
a large number of important original legal sources familiar to the founding generation, ranging from Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights to the Federalist (and Anti-Federalist) Papers, along with constitutional debates at the Philadelphia Convention and in the First Congress.
To be honest, my law school did a very poor job dealing with constitutional history and it is an important part of understanding both where our law originated and where it is going now.

Modern constitutional law classes focus largely on the development of the law since just before and then after the Warren Court. Sure cases like Marbury v. Madison, Dred Scot, Lochner and a few others from the pre-World War II era are covered, but not nearly in teh level of detail of the Warren Court and beyond. the constitutional history I learned in my undergrad days (I wrote a thesis about Anti-federalist/federalist thought) gave me more background than anything I studied in law school. In fact, when Justice Scalia spoke to my constitutional law class, he was shocked that the Federalist papers were not part of the curriculum (an omission my con law professor quickly rectified) and was similarly shocked that most of law students before him, save for about a dozen of us, had never read the Federalist papers, let alone any of the Anti-Federalist papers.

I wonder if any of Blackstone's Commentaries will be included in the GMU course as it was probably the one series of books that every lawyer in America read in the late 18th Century.

Deserting a Sinking Ship

One of the ways you can tell if a ship is going down is to watch the reaction of people who have been riding that ship, if they start looking for ways to get out, you can be sure that they think teh ship is sinking, even if on the outside it doesn't look that way. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), endorsed Hillary Clinton in October of last year is now reporting that he will do something very different:
Representative John Lewis, an elder statesman from the civil rights era and one of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most prominent black supporters, said Thursday night that he planned to cast his vote as a superdelegate for Senator Barack Obama in hopes of preventing a fight at the Democratic convention.

“In recent days, there is a sense of movement and a sense of spirit,” said Mr. Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who endorsed Mrs. Clinton last fall. “Something is happening in America, and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap.”

Mr. Lewis, who carries great influence among other members of Congress, disclosed his decision in an interview in which he said that as a superdelegate he could “never, ever do anything to reverse the action” of the voters of his district, who overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama.
This last statement is particularly important. While Superdelegates are technically free to cast their votes in any way they choose in the convention, the truth is that many are politically savvy enough to vote with their constituents, like Lewis. As I said before, abandoning the voters would likely result in the immolation of the Democratic party, in one way or another.

It is interesting that the once willing passengers on the Clinton supertanker are starting to jump ship like it is the Exxon Valdez or the Titanic.

Hillary Clinton herself is getting desperate. She is changing tactics, with sharp attacks and a new populist tone previously unseen in an attempt to stop the bleeding among blue collar Democrats, largely white men and women. Yesterday the United Food and Commercial Workers Union endorsed Obama. The massive Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is set to endorse Obama today. With Ohio on the horizon, the endorsements means that UFCW and SEIU will unlease its political operations in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. Wisconsin's SEIU has already endorsed Obama. Clinton is on the ropes as union households look more and more to Obama.

Black voters have already abandoned Hillary. White voters are leaving. With the SEIU and UFCW endorsements, Hispanic voters (many of them belong to these two unions) are probably leaving as well. Obama doesn't have to win Hispanics outright, he just has to stay even, but he might win that constituency as well. The exit polls in Wisconsin are going to tell teh tale about union households.

Lewis' change of heart, or rather desire to stay in office, may be the biggest problem for Hillary as it indicates that superdelegates are going to take good hard long look at how their constituents are voting and will likely vote in that manner. Since the overwhelming number of superdelegates are indeed elected officials, it would be political suicide for them to abandon the desires of the constituents in favor of someone else. Here is where Obama's many wins in the smaller states is going to help him out. The Superdelegates who decide to follow their constituents' lead are going to start moving to the Obama column, both out of a desire to avoid a convention fight and to save their own political hides. Look for more and more superdelegates who are elected officials to make similar pronouncements in the next couple of weeks. The defections will increase the pressure on Hillary Clinton to get out of the race.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The American Dream: Alive and Well

You just have to set goals, realistic goals.

Read this story.

Pretty amazing stuff about priorities, hard work and determination.

Sure this kid had a safety net, but he never used it and spent over two months living in a homeless shelter.

It is possible and it can be done. It always makes my life look at lot less complicated when I look that these kinds of stories.

Regulations Increase the Cost of Homes in Seattle

At twice the rate of other cities.:
"Backed by studies showing that middle-class Seattle residents can no longer afford the city's middle-class homes, consensus is growing that prices are too darned high. But why are they so high?

An intriguing new analysis by a University of Washington economics professor argues that home prices have, perhaps inadvertently, been driven up $200,000 by good intentions.
Between 1989 and 2006, the median inflation-adjusted price of a Seattle house rose from $221,000 to $447,800. Fully $200,000 of that increase was the result of land-use regulations, says Theo Eicher — twice the financial impact that regulation has had on other major U.S. cities."
Color me shocked.

Every regulation has a cost and it is usually an unintended cost that is most damaging. The land-use regualtions surely didn't intend to increase housing prices, but that is what you get when you meddle too much with people's right to use their own land.

Iraq A Losing Issue for Democrats

Eye-Pooping poll results:
7. Do you believe that Democrats in Congress have a better plan to resolve the Iraq War then President Bush?

Yes 18%

No 71%

Undecided 11%
Of course with a 15% approval rating for Congress in the same poll, it is not hard to see why Iraq is turning into a loser for the Democrats.

Clinton Inevitability Bitting Her Hard

From the New York Times, asking some good questions (for a change):
The Texas and Ohio presidential primaries, on March 4, have become must-win contests for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, her advisers say. So why is she just opening campaign field offices across those states?
Um, because she thought she would have the nomination sewn up by now--remember the whole inevitability thing?
The primary in Pennsylvania, on April 22, is also a crucial battleground. So why is her campaign telling its most prominent supporter there, Gov. Edward G. Rendell, that there is not enough money now for his proposed piece of direct mail to voters?
In part because she is running out of moeny, having spent so much time raising general election funds she can't use.

Here is another reason, perhaps: Several
Clinton donors put the blame on the campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, and said that Ms. Doyle’s shortcomings as a long-range planner was a factor that led her to be replaced on Sunday by another longtime Clinton aide, Maggie Williams.
But honestly, I don't buy that Doyle is the reason the Clinton camp is in such problems. The problems always redound to the canddiate and the fact of the matter is that Clinton herself worked so hard to create an air about her that she was going to be the nominee that no on thought to think beyond Super Tuesday.

Now she has to to and she has very little money, almost no organziation and is now behind. This is a true test not only of her as a candidate but of the Clinton machine. For a decade and change, they have been the top of the Democratic pyramid. Now their primacy is being challenged and it will be an interesting two months to see if she can survive.

Eddie Johnson Looking to Make Fulham Debut Soon

American Striker Eddie Johnson is hoping to make his debut with the Fulham first team soon, after having played in a private friendly and a full 90 minutes with the Reserve team recently.

Johnson has been training with the Cottagers for a couple of weeks now and still has a week full of training to impress Manager Roy Hodgson even further before the teams next match agaist West Ham United on Feb. 23.

I would expect to see Johnson make an appearance as substitute, perhaps against West Ham as the Hammer's defense tires a bit and Hodgson implements Johnson's speed with perhaps Brian McBride's experience and height up top.

Vice President Bobby Jindal?

Can we at least let the man be governor of Lousiana for a couple of years first?

Although, it wouldn't surprise me to see Bobby Jindal's name bandied about as the nominee in say 2016.

"Secret" Money in Campaign Funding

It is irresponsible campaign finance media reporting like this that just drives me insane:
A torrent of secret money is flooding into the leading presidential campaigns, with more than $118 million, or one-quarter of the total raised in this cycle, banked without disclosure of who gave the funds or where the donations originated.

The money is coming from hundreds of thousands of donations of $200 or less, which have been widely praised for democratizing the system for funding White House bids. However, the surge in low-dollar gifts has come at the cost of transparency, since federal law only requires campaigns to itemize donations when a donor gives more than $200.

According to an analysis being released today by a Washington think tank, the Campaign Finance Institute, Senator Obama of Illinois led the pack with such small and secret donations, pulling in about $31 million during 2007. Rep. Ron Paul ran second in small gifts, raking in more than $17 million. At the end of the year, Senator Clinton and John Edwards, who has since dropped out, were essentially tied for third in unitemized, small contributions, with each candidate raising about $11 million.
The law says that amounts of less than $200 don't need to be itemized. The whole stated purpose behind campaign finance disclosure laws is to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption. Fine, then a calculation was made that amounts under $200 were so small that the risk of corruption was considered nil and thus the rule.

Now the $200 limit was created in 1974, when campaign finance reporting was done largely by hand, including typing the reports. Now in teh modern age of computers and sophisticated databases, it is possible to have a lower disclosure threshhold. But really, if $200 in 1974 was considered a level under which no corruption was possible and the average congressional campaign cost under $80,000, how can $200 be corrupting with the average congressional campaign costs in excess of $800,000 and the presidential campaings will cost $250 million each?

The thing that chages me, in addition to the inflmatory headline, is that it takes four paragraphs before anyone learns that the "torrent of secret money" is in fact actually legal.

Is Obama Really the Liberal Reagan? - Capital Commerce (

Is Obama Really the Liberal Reagan? A good question.

From the political standpoint, that remains to be seen. Reagan gained the support of a large contingent of conservative Democrats who became knows as Reagan Democrats (some of whom later became Republicans). But will Obama get a large GOP cross over so that we have Obama Republicans? Again, it remains to be seen, firt Obama has to become the nominee.

But also, Reagan's economic policies made a great deal of sense to the common sense, conservative Democrat. Have we created an entire generation of big government republicans who will respond to Obama's big increases in social spending?
I wonder what Obama voters are really voting for? They want the United States out of Iraq, to be sure. But what beyond that? Well, consider this: I've heard Obama supporters say that Obama will be "their Reagan." That's interesting because whenever Democrats compliment our 41st president, they almost always focus on his personality (infectious optimism and generous spirit) rather than policy (slashing taxes and confronting the Evil Empire). But do voters have any expectations beyond Obama's optimism and his vow to bring America together? Are all those young voters, independents, and frustrated Republicans really voting for greater government involvement in the healthcare system and huge tax increases—in essence, Reaganomics in reverse? People knew what they were getting when they voted for Reagan. Obama? I'm not so sure.
I am not sure either.

Instructivist Reform Does Not Address Poor Kids Needs

The debate about Sol Stern's City Journal article on how to best go about reforming our public schools continues. While I tend to think of the debate as it played out in City Journal's pages as largely without effect, Lisa Snell of Reason Magazine is adding her two cents to the debate, pricipally by undermining Stern's citations of the Massachusetts Miracle as the model for an instructivist reform, that is improving the content standards. Writes Snell:
Stern talks up the "Massachusetts miracle," where the state scored first in the nation in the latest 4th and 8th grade math and reading on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the nation's report card for student achievement and standardized benchmark for every state. The state's average scores on the NAEP have also improved at far higher rates than most other states. However, there is a more nuanced explanation for the uptick in student achievement in Massachusetts. We might ask, "Miracle for which students?"

To be sure, having the highest scores in the nation and highest gains on the NAEP, as Massachusetts does, is an admirable achievement. For a fuller picture of what is happening, however, Education Week's 2008 Quality Counts report for Massachusetts offers more context. Quality Counts notes Massachusetts ranks very low in terms of progress on the student achievement gap between low-income and higher income students. Massachusetts ranks 46th and 50th for the poverty gap—the difference in NAEP scores between students eligible for the free-lunch program and non-eligible students. In 4th grade NAEP reading scores, for example, Massachusetts has a 29.1 point gap compared with the national average of 26.8 points. In fact, the reading gap in Massachusetts has grown by almost 3 points between 2003 and 2007 on the NAEP. For 8th grade NAEP math scores, the state has a 31.4 gap compared to the 26 point national average.

In Massachusetts, middle class and wealthy children have clearly benefited from a focus on content and standards. However, it is less clear how this curricular focus has benefited the most disadvantaged students in the state, who are now being left even further behind.

Students with wealthier and higher-educated parents are thriving under a strong standards-based regiment. But content standards have had little impact on one of the most intractable of education dilemmas. It has not closed the achievement gap between lower and higher income students, where not even 50 percent of these students score proficient in reading or math.

That's the major reason why school reformers shouldn't place too many eggs in the "instructionist" basket. Families still need school choice. Public schools, especially in low-performing urban districts, still need competition, which gives students a right of exit to higher performing schools and gives public schools an incentive to improve in order to keep students enrolled.
As I noted in "A Pox on Both Their Houses," the debate between instructivists and incentivist (those who favor market based reforms like school choice) is largely lacking in any imagination as the two sides begin to calcify their positions as to what is important.

However, in the place where the rubber meets the road, the urban districts, the battle lines are not nearly as clearly defined. Indeed, you will see charter schools and other choice programs working with both a market approach and changes to content standards, in the same facility. The truth of the matter is that a combined approach is probably the one way in which a true change in the education of poor, minority and otherwise disadvantaged kids will occur and the achievement gap actually closed.

The debate will continue to rage as each side tries to find support for its position. Yet, we may be decades away from finding out which side is right and may even never find out. Educational entrepeneurs, on the other hand, will eventually find a way and they are the true direction finders.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

First, Anna Nicole Smith, Now Sex Toys

The Supreme Court could get a sex toy case soon. I am having a hard time picturing the Justices dealing with a case about sex toys.

Chickens Come Home to Roost for Clinton

It's not my headline, but it is a good one.
Obama has won 23 of 35 contests, earning the majority of delegates awarded on the basis of election results. The remaining 796 delegates are elected officials and party leaders whose votes are not tied to state primaries or caucuses; thus, they are dubbed "superdelegates."

And they are not all super fans of the Clintons.

Some are labor leaders still angry that Bill Clinton championed the North American Free Trade Agreement as part of his centrist agenda.

Some are social activists who lobbied unsuccessfully to get him to veto welfare reform legislation, a talking point for his 1996 re-election campaign.

Some served in Congress when the Clintons dismissed their advice on health care reform in 1993. Some called her a bully at the time.

Some are DNC members who saw the party committee weakened under the Clintons and watched President Bush use the White House to build up the Republican National Committee.

Some are senators who had to defend Clinton for lying to the country about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Some are allies of former Vice President Al Gore who still believe the Lewinsky scandal cost him the presidency in 2000.

Some are House members (or former House members) who still blame Clinton for Republicans seizing control of the House in 1994.

Some are donors who paid for the Clintons' campaigns and his presidential library.

Some are folks who owe the Clintons a favor but still feel betrayed or taken for granted. Could that be why Bill Richardson, a former U.N. secretary and energy secretary in the Clinton administration, refused to endorse her even after an angry call from the former president? "What," Bill Clinton reportedly asked Richardson, "isn't two Cabinet posts enough?"

And some just want something new. They appreciate the fact that Clinton was a successful president and his wife was an able partner, but they never loved the couple as much as they feared them.
There is no love lost in the Democratic primary--which it why it is so fun to watch.

Michelle Malkin $1.4 Billion Stimulus Package--For Mexico

If you believe all teh doom and gloom about our economy (and I don't--at least not all of it), then Congress working on a stimulus package is to be expected, but why then is the White House pushing a $1.4 billion stimulus package for Mexico. Michelle Malkin gives us the news.

Public Humiliation As Punishment

From ABC News, believe it or not, kids are cognizant of what other people think of them, particularly their peers. So, is the punishment by holding signs explaining behavior effective?

I would think so, assuming other attempts to correct the behavior didn't work out so well. I would argue though that an 8 year old is too young for this kind of punishment, but a teenager is not.

A Democratic Bloodbath in the Future?

Rick Moran writes:
But I suspect that beginning this week, the calls will start coming for Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race in the name of party unity. Obama is creating an aura of inevitability about him by winning every single contest since Super Tuesday. Those victories have come all over the country and have been by huge margins. He has won 80%-90% of the black vote. He has consistently won among white males – an astonishing achievement for a black man. He is carving up the Democratic base and winning among all income groups, all levels of education, union households, and every age group except those over 60.

If Obama has a knock against him during this brilliant run of victories beginning on Super Tuesday when he won 13 states to Clinton’s 8, and continuing on through his last 8 straight wins since then, it is that the Illinois senator has failed to win any of the 10 largest states in the union save his home state of Illinois. This is significant because traditional Democratic general election strategy relies on the huge electoral vote harvest available in those states to be competitive with Republicans on election day.

Clinton’s argument to Super Delegates is that since she is more capable of taking those large states, she should be the nominee. Most of Obama’s victories have come in states that will probably not go Democratic in the fall. The true test, Clinton will plead, of who is most electable — and that will be the criteria most of the Super Delegates will be weighing — comes in those states where most Democratic voters are concentrated; the large states on both coasts.

It is a compelling argument and probably the only one she has left. But Obama will have his own counter-argument. It is he who will have won the large majority of primaries and primary votes. It would be undemocratic, he will say, to choose a candidate who finished second when the people spoke but was handed the nomination by a quirk in party rules.
It is that "quirk" in the party rules that could lead to a massive revolution in the Democratic party. Obama could run the table for the rest of the primaries, but with proportional assignment of delegates, Clinton could keep it close and then win the nomination on the backs of the Superdelegates.

Then the bloodbath would begin.

The superdelegates, those 700+ elected officials and party elites who can support any candidate they choose might be swayed by Hillary Clinton's last ditch appeal. But there are two possible outcomes of the super delegates ignoring the will of primary voters.

1). Those voters, including large numbers of young, first time and minority voters (remember the superdelegates are largely older and white), will revolt and start voting the superdelegates out of office, rightfully noting that they are a relic of the past and should be discarded as beholden to a bygone era. A new Democratic party would rise populated by people who have moved beyond identity politics. Make not mistake, they would still be quite liberal, but their liberalism will not be based on race or cultural consciousness, but on other factors.

2). Those same voters, disenfranchised by the super delegates will abandon the Democratic party in droves. Sure, some will still vote for Hillary clinton in November, but the surge of new activism created by the Obama campaign will surely ebb and Hillary Clinton will be castigated (and rightly so) for having caused the demise of the modern Democratic party.

Can the Democrats, who are poised to take over in November, afford to have the Superdelegates neglect the will of the voter?

Potomac Primary Fall Out

Obama wins big and the Post is notes that the lines demarcating the Obama and Clinton "bases" were obliterated yesterday.
For more than a month, the grand coalitions of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama battled to a draw: women, rural Democrats and the white working class pairing almost evenly with African Americans, young voters and affluent, educated whites.

Then came Virginia and Maryland.

Obama's thrashing of Clinton in the two states yesterday raised the possibility that her coalition is beginning to crack, three weeks before she reaches what will probably be more friendly territory in Ohio and Texas.

Obama won among men, among women and among union voters. He won big among the affluent, educated voters in the District's suburbs, but he also won convincingly among rural voters and small-town Democrats.

Celinda Lake, an independent Democratic pollster, noted that the class divide that once demarcated the Obama-Clinton battle lines was obliterated in Virginia and Maryland. In Virginia, Obama carried the vote of those earning less than $50,000 by 26 percentage points. In Maryland, the gap was 24 percentage points.

Clinton still pulled more votes from white women, but that advantage was neutralized by Obama's popularity among white men. Even Latinos, who helped deliver Nevada and California to the senator from New York, split about evenly between Obama and Clinton -- although the number of Hispanic voters was much smaller.
So the real question is not Obama's ability to appeal to white women, but his appeal among Latinos. With three weeks to Texas and Ohio, the Clinton "base" may be done for. Obama has taken the lead in the delegate count and clearly the momentum is on his side.

The Hawaiian caucuses next week are assumed to be for Obama (he has won every caucus) and Clinton is making a play for Wisconsin, but this weeks momentum and Obama's appeal in Milwaukee and Madison may put him out of reach for Clinton.

McCain and the Presidential Public Financing System

The Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web Today (from yesterday) discusses the Presidential public financing system (and links to my post from 2007) and the fact that John McCain will forgo the public matching funds. The move is not all that surprising in terms of funding his campaign since his Democratic opponent, whether Obama or Clinton, will surely forgo public funding and the limits on spending that come with the public funds.

But with McCain deciding to skip public funds, and he is one of the most vocal, and most ironic, proponents of campaign finance reform and there are certain questions about the "hypocrisy" of a campaign finance reformer deciding to use private funding for his presidential campaign.

But so far as I know, McCain has never advocated for full public funding. He has never advocated against as far as I know either. Rather, McCain's beef has always been what he sees as the corrupting influence of soft money, that is unregulated contributions to the political parties from corporations and unions (pejoratively termed special interests). In that regard, McCain Feingold banned such contributions to the national parties (they had been banned from giving directly to candidates since the early 1900's).

But we can talk about the Presidential public funding mechanism, but in my view it is largely a dead beast. As I said last year:
We are still left with two facts--1) the cost of campaigning has gone up-significantly, since the creation of the program; and 2) fewer Americans are checking the box on their tax forms, leading to fewer resources to be given to candidates.

Mr. Dunkerly also notes that 28 states (and I will accept his count although I am pretty sure it is an overstatement) have a public funding mechanism. But those states, assuming the count is accurate, are not the big states, with the most expensive media markets. New York, California, Florida, Texas and Illinois do not have a public funding program on a statewide scale. Which brings us back to fact 1 from above--the cost of campaigning has outstripped the reach of a public system. Were a public funding system put in place one of two things would happen--the cost of campaigning would continue to skyrocket since there is essentially no market mechanism--that is the difficulty of raising funds for a campaign, to check the costs of the media market. This would of course lead to the demand for greater public funding, continuing the spiral. The second scenario would lead to getting the Federal Communications Commission involved in setting prices for political advertising. Advertising costs on TV and radio are driven by market forces and if the FCC starts altering that, the blow back from the radio and TV community is likely to result in a regulatory war that we would just as soon avoid.

But even assuming the presidential funding system can be effectively reformed, we are left with the question of whether it should be reformed. How a campaign is funded is not the pivotal question in our electoral system, but rather whether or not the candidates we are presented with should be entrusted with the office they seek. A fully funded candidate with a bad message, bad leadership skills and bad policies will not win and will even lose to candidates with less money but more appeal to voters.

In the end, even though money matters in elections, on election day the only thing that matters is the voters and their beliefs and thoughts--not the beliefs and thoughts of the moneymen.
Coverage of the money "war" is an easy path to take for the media since it allows for an easy comparison, or rather allows for an easier comparison. At the presidential level, the comparison though is a bit false. Yes, a canddiate needs money to compete, but that is not all they need and when it comes down to the final two major party candidates, the money factor is less and less important than message and appeal.

While I don't like John McCain's policies on campaign finance reform, it is not hypocritical of the man to forgo public funding. He has never championed the public system and it seems rediculous to criticize the man on this issue when there many other policy areas with more fodder than this one.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Gizmo High

Over the weekend, I saw this in the washington Post talking about the technolust of some school administrators. Teachers at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA have taken to calling their school "Gizmo High" for all the technology that is given to them.
Last September, we moved into a new $98 million building in Alexandria, one of the most expensive high schools ever built. Natural light floods the classrooms, and each one is equipped with a ceiling-mounted LCD projector, which transfers anything I can put on my laptop computer -- from poetry readings at the Library of Congress to YouTube interviews with Toni Morrison and other writers -- onto a large screen at the front of the room. Students' behavior seems much improved: A cafeteria that looks like something out of an upscale mall has had a curiously pacifying effect on them, as has the presence of 126 security cameras.

So you'd think T.C. teachers would be ecstatic. But it's just the opposite -- faculty morale is the lowest and cynicism the highest I've seen in years. The problem? What a former Alexandria school superintendent calls "technolust" -- a disorder affecting publicity-obsessed school administrators nationwide that manifests itself in an insatiable need to acquire the latest, fastest, most exotic computer gadgets, whether teachers and students need them or want them. Technolust is in its advanced stages at T.C., where our administrators have made such a fetish of technology that some of my colleagues are referring to us as "Gizmo High."
The problem of course is that some teachers, and not just the older teachers who are as author Patrick Welsh put it "immigrants to the internet world," don't like all the technology. The measure of teacher quality is now how "paperless" their classroom is.

While incorporating technology and technological concepts into classroom teaching should be encouraged, and some teachers are moving in that direction to the extent they can, the conundrum is this: unless the teacher learns how to use the technology to its maximum potential, it can easily become a distraction, or even worse, a drag on teaching.

Some teachers are objecting that the use of computers is hindering the ability to develop relationships with their students and colleagues, even their principal:
Apparently administrators really do believe that computers are the key to building relationships. The human voice and face-to-face contact have been replaced by e-mail and Blackboard, a computer program that allows teachers and students to communicate via the Internet. I've always thought that in some ways schools should be like families, but as one experienced teacher puts it, "We're becoming like a correspondence school where all communication is faceless."

You can walk around T.C. and peer into offices and classrooms and see administrators, guidance counselors and teachers staring at their computers instead of interacting with students. To some, T.C.'s principal of two years seems more comfortable in cyberspace than in face-to-face interaction. His preferred method of communicating with teachers seems to be via e-mail, and some say they think he doesn't know who they are or what they teach.
If the latter sentence is true, then you have a management problem and not a technology problem.

But as for "We're becoming like a correspondence school where all communication is faceless," I think I will have to side with the technologists here. As Bill Ferriter wrote not too long ago:
Many teachers that I meet seem resistant to digital dialogue simply because electronic relationships "don't feel real" to them---and I can't say that I blame them. After all, most of today's teachers have grown up in an era where technology just didn't play a very significant role in one's day to day life---and anytime email constitutes the extent of your digital interactions with others, you're bound to be skeptical about the value of a relationship built online!

But is it possible that those teachers are making judgments about what kinds of relationships are "real" by looking through their own (somewhat tarnished) digital lenses?

Think about it----our students have spent their lives connected. They've sent thousands of instant messages and texts. They have personal web pages and blogs. They play online versions of video games with "partners" thousands of miles away. They spend hours behind a computer screen, plugged into an iPod or talking to someone on their cell phones, don't they? They've got webcams and they're not afraid to use them!
So the fact is that while relationships may not be face to face doesn't make the relationship any less meaningful and the students themselves don't really distinguish between a face to face relationship and a "virtual" relationship.

But we are still left with the question of whether the technolust will actually improve learning? T.C. Williams may or may not provide an answer. But as I have said it in many contexts, technology is no substitute for substance. I have said it when it comes to politics and when it comes to education. Technology is a tool, it is not an end unto itself. If a teacher can be just as effective with a whiteboard and dry erase marker, why should they have to use the latest and greatest technological tool?

Obama Draws 18,000 At Maryland Rally

A crowd of 18,000 students and supporters packed the Comcast Center at the University of Maryland College Park yesterday.
A crowd of about 18,000 people yesterday greeted presidential hopeful Barack Obama with a thunderous enthusiasm usually reserved for rock stars and basketball games against Duke.

Those both faithful and critical seemed star-struck by the Illinois senator. Most waited for hours in the biting cold to enter Comcast. Inside the stadium, some seemed almost religious in their fervor, chanting, cheering wildly and even breaking into tears.
Ther fervor is there.

Hillary Clinton Campaign Shake-Up

Quite frankly, it is probably over due, but who the heck is Maggie Williams.
"She's never run a political campaign, but she has run a staff and isn't afraid to crack heads," a Democratic booster said.
Maybe a staff head-cracker is needed, but you would want a little more experience in the manager and not just blind loyalty.

BTW, Couldn't the press get a better picture?

8 Questions From Potomac Primary

From The Washington Post: The responses are mine not the Post's

1) Will a Sweep by Obama Make Him the Front-Runner? Although it should, it won't. True he will be ahead in the delegate count, but he doesn't want to be tagged as the front runner because that alters expectations. The current expecations are that either a) Hillary will stage a comeback, a la her husband, or that the candidates will run even. If Obama is a front-runner, it puts him in a position he won't like.

2) Will the Clinton-Obama Race Split the Party? Only if Bill Clinton opens his stupid mouth. Both Obama and Clinton seem to step back from the ledge when the rhetoric gets too heated. The most plausible reason is that Obama himself understands there is a very small margin of increased support in pushing the envelope and then ratcheting back as it wins him some new supporters who come over and take a look, but doesn't ostracize his fence-sitters. Hillary Clinton probably stops when her negatives take a big spike.

3) Will Edwards Endorse Someone Soon? Why should he at this point? Right now, the endorsement would get lost in teh noise. The best bet for him, in terms of playing kingmaker, is to hold on until the weekend before Ohio/Texas or Pennsylvania. But more importantly than an endorsement for Edwards is what does he get out of it. A VP slot is probably not in the cards, but some other high level position quite possibly is in the offering.

4) Will Obama Catch Clinton Among Superdelegates? Yes. If for no other reason than the Super delegates themselves cannot afford to offend a growing segment of voters who don't want these "elites" making the final choice. If the superdelegates are even perceived to go against the grain of the primary voters, look for a wholesale decimation of those individuals in the coming elections.

5) Does a Long Democratic Contest Help McCain? Of course. It helps versus Obama a little more since he has a smaller bank roll of general election money as compared to Clinton. But the longer they battle it out, the more time John McCain has to find independent voters to support him and solidify his based amoung conservatives.

6) Will McCain Prove He Can Win Over Conservatives? Not this week. Watch for Huckabee to do well in Virginia, perhaps even win and to run pretty strong in Maryland. Amoung the half dozen conservatives in DC, he will do okay as well. However, McCain has some time to appeal to conservatives and with Huckabee still in the race, watch for some rightward shift in McCain.

7) How Long Will Huckabee Keep Going? He knows he can't win and right now I think he sees his role as one to pull McCain further right. Probably within the next couple of weeks you will see him step down, but it will be a crucial few weeks for McCain.

8) Which Local Politicians Will Be on the VP Short List? MD Governor Martin O'Malley had aspirations, but if he can't deliver MD for Hillary, you can forget it. Mark Warner would make an excellent VP for Clinton or Obama, but more for Obama. Warner can provide a little more centrism for Obama, a southern tilt and a great deal of executive experience. The problem is that Warner is thinking about the Senate race to replace John Warner. VA governor Tim Kaine is a dark horse possibility.

On the GOP side, Bob Erhlick might be on McCain's short list. Although Ehrlich endorsed Rudy Giuliani early on, Erhlich has exective and legislative experience, a history of dealing with an objecting legislature and is more conservative than McCain. I used to think George Allen had a shot, but McCain can't afford the macaca references which might offend centrist voters which he is clearly going to be banking on.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Not the Right "Fit" But The Right Guy

Joanne Jacobs has the story of Junior High School 22 in the Bronx, a largely Hispanic and black school with a Hasidic Jew principal, whose tactics include "classic counterinsurgency tactics" and the fact that his first langauge is Spanish.

Imagine that, perhaps instead of trying to cater to teh identity of students you start to implement discipline to help them learn. Whoda thunk?

Super Delegates on the Minds of Dems

If this post from Wathcblog's Democratic column is any indication, "rogue" super-delegates are not going to be tolerated very well.

Do I See A Theft Coming?

From BizzyBlog:
Write it down: The only way Hillary can win the nomination is if she steals it. She could conceivably do that by having the DNC “rehabilitate” Michigan and Florida with their current results (BOOHOO (obama) will beat her like a drum in both states if the do-overs being considered are held), and by rolling and cajoling super-delegates. But if she steals it, she will ultimately learn that the damage done in doing so made the prize not worth winning.

Yes, I’m officially predicting that Hillary Clinton will not be the next President of the United States.

Soon, barring a “successful” theft, her most important priorities will be how to avoid a non-embarrassing appearance at the convention, and a non-humiliating exit from the national stage.
Watch out.

Smart, Real Smart

Apparently, Homeland Security doesn't like the backlog of immigration applications so they are considering giving permanent status even though FBI background checks aren't complete:
the Department of Homeland Security is preparing to grant permanent residency to tens of thousands of applicants before the FBI completes a required background check.

Those eligible are immigrants whose fingerprints have cleared the FBI database of criminal convictions and arrests, but whose names have not yet cleared the FBI's criminal or intelligence files after six months of waiting.

The immigrants who are granted permanent status, more commonly known as getting their green cards, will be expected eventually to clear the FBI's name check. If they don't, their legal status will be revoked and they'll be deported.
We can't deport the people are here illegally, how in the world are we going to deport people who DHS said were legal and all of the sudden aren't?

As the Instapundit said, this will be uncontroversial.

Education Bill would Punish Parents of Class Disruptors

I got an interesting comment/email from a Delegate Gerron Levi (D-PG County) who is a sponsor of HB 1122. The bill will seek to punish parents who can't get their children to behave in school or even attend school. From the email:
[the bill] would deny the state's child tax credit to parents that fail to ensure two things: 1) school attendance in compliance with state law; and 2) no more than one suspension per year for disrespect insubordination and classroom disruption, the largest category of suspensions in the state and every county, except four. I am trying to identify those who might be interested in this approach. I am trying to spark a conversation about how parent/family and community involvement are key to reaching the achievement and other education goals that have been set.
For years we have tried to use a carrot approach to getting parents involved in their child's education and for most parents that has worked.

But in reality, most classrooms are disrupted by only one or two kids and they are usually the same kids. Suspensions result (although far fewer under NCLB as schools are punished for having too many students suspended) and other disciplinary actions. This really impacts the bottom line of many taxpayers, but whether the bill has a chance of passing is a whole other matter.

Cross posted at Red Maryland

Rep. Tom Lantos Died

According to, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) dies earlier this morning. Lantos is the only Holocaust survivor to ever serve in Congress.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Clinton Threatens to Boycott MSNBC

Talk about being sensitive.

Bill Clinton: "I don't want to be the story"

Since when?

The Consequences of the Self-Loan

With reports of Hillary Clinton loaning her campaign $5 million dollars, this is a question that some Clinton donors may have to think about:
But it also requires judgement on the part of the donor. At the end of any losing campaign, when a candidate realizes he is going to lose ahead of everyone else, he may begin raising money to cover at least part of the loan. Caveat donor.

While reports are that Hillary Clinton has raised $8 million since Super Tuesday, my first question was how much of that was candidate money? My second question was, how much of it is designated to the general election, and therefore unusuable right now?

Mark Steyn At It Again

With a fine question. Relating to recent prouncements on Sharia law in England and Canada (among other Western nations):
Or, to put it another way, it's clear Canada, Britain and much of Europe have boarded the Sharia Train. What makes you think it's a stopping service that'll allow you to disembark at a station halfway down the track, rather than an express service to an inevitable destination?

Not Highly Qualified Teacher May Get Fired

Washington DC Teachers who are not highly qualified may be highly unemployed soon.
Hundreds of D.C. public school teachers who have yet to prove their competence under No Child Left Behind guidelines could find themselves out of a position next year, Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee told The Examiner this week.

The chancellor said teachers need to act fast to attain a “highly qualified” rating required by No Child Left Behind, or they will be left behind without a job.

“We’re putting a lot of effort into making sure those who are not highly qualified understand what they need to do,” Rhee told The Examiner. “At the end of the year, those who have not gotten their paperwork in won’t continue.”

Being highly qualified is an extra step beyond certification that ensures instructors are suited to teach their particular disciplines.
Of course, the teacher's union is upset:
Joel Packer, director of educaton policy and practice for the National Education Association, said his group’s position is that highly qualified status is a worthwhile goal, but failure to attain that status should not always be cause for firing.

“It’s a shared responsibility,” he said. “If there’s a teacher that refuses to take the steps, that’s one thing, but if someone’s made a good faith effort and not gotten support that’s different.”
First, in any given school system there is likely to be a small percentage of teachers who are not "highly qualified." Most school sytems will grant time to attain the status, even being generous with the time. However, the requirement for highly qualified teachers has been around for six years, it is not a mystery.

Second, I don't think DC is simply going to fire anyone who has attained the level without a review of why they are highly qualified. DC doesn't any lawsuits on that score.

Still, I say good. If the teacher is unmotivated to even get the process going to obtain the highly qualified tag, then they are probably unmotivated to perform their main function--teach.

Educational Rhetoric and That Old Meme About Being in Schools

Teh Eduwonk has a good debating post about the rhetoric behind the NCLB debate and social studies/science education. Like most posts at that blog, it is worth reading.

But in reviewing the comments, I am struck by this statement--yet again--that commentator X needs to spend time in schools to understand schools. In this case,
Eduwonkette needs to spend some time in real schools--high and low performing. It's hard to write about schools if you don't spend any time in them, and if you don't don't understand what high-quality instruction actually is.
Eduwonkette is an anonymous blogger for reasons that are her own. However, to presume the Eduwonkette does not spend her time in classrooms is more than a bit presumptuous. Afterall, for all we in the public know, Eduwonkette may very well be a teacher, a principal or otherwise engaged in the education of our children.

But it is the tone of the comment that always offends me, that in order to truly understand education, those of us who comment and care about education must be in a classroom to truly understand education. A premise who logic is quite faulty. Let's apply that logic to two matters, one very common and one a little more esoteric.

Let us take automobile safety. Now automakers pay lots of really smart engineers and scientists a lot of money to design safety features and cars that are not just marginally safer but truly safer. These smart people (usually with lots of initials after their names, like Ph.D) truly understand car safety and could probably talk about in layers of jargon and code-speak that the average everyday driver would not be able to understand absent all those letters after their name. But that does not mean that average Joe and Jane driver don't understand car safety. After all, a car that protects them from injury or serious injury in a car accident is safe. They can understand that seat belts, crumple zones, air bags, and certain construction methods protects them, they don't have to understand how.

Similarly, if you have spent anytime reading this blog, you will know that I love soccer. I have played and hope to get back to playing soccer. That gives me an insight in to soccer that non-players don't have. However, playing soccer does not make me an expert at the game. Likewise, there is a friend of mine who has been confined to a wheelchair most of his life, who probably has more soccer knowledge in his pinky toe than I will ever amass. He lives, loves and breathes the game but has never played it. He has studied the history, the developements and the players (past and present) of the games so much so that it could be considered an unhealthy obsession. He can analyze players and teams, break down their performance and everything else without ever having played in even a neighborhood pick-up game. In short, he is an expert without being a practitioner.

What I am trying to say is two things that point to the fallacy. You don't have to be an expert at the process of teaching to understand its outcomes. When you look at most of the debates surrounding education, the goal is generally to improve the outcomes of the educational process for everyone. However, like the Joe and Jane driver, they don't have to understand all the engineering involved to understand the outcome of a safe vehicle. Likewise my friend has studied soccer and is intimately familiar without haveing played the beautiful game.

In short, you don't have to be a practitioner of any field to be able to offer an informed and educated opinion as to its mertis. Outcomes of a process are important and it doesn't take special expertise to evaluate outcomes. Similarly, intensive study can yeild insights into a field without actually being a practitioner.

Drew Carey Talks Middle Class At

I loved the Drew Carey Show, I love the fact that Drew Carey loves soccer (he is part owner of the new MLS Seattle Franchise, and I love the fact that he makes sense. See, Living Large

Conservatives and the Future

A few days agothis post appeared at National Journal's The Corner talking about all kinds of excuses whey the conservatives are not going to be truly represented in this election, with McCain generally ceded the nomination with Romney's departure. James Antle talks more about the candidates and the general dearth of real conservative, viable candidates. And of course, talk radio is up in arms about McCain and the lack of a conservative candidate.

But the question for conservatives now is whether to support McCain or let a Democrat win by default because the Republicans won't turn out in numbers enough to vote against the Democrat. Of course, at times like this it would be easy to say, well we shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good and conservatives should support McCain because the alternative may be unthinkable.

Well, to a certain extent I will fall into that camp as will a number of conservatives, if for no other reason that I believe if you didn't vote in teh election you have no right to complain about the results. But by the same token, conservatives can still send a message even if they are out of power. Sure, the conservative movement has suffered a set back. But we suffered one in 1960-1964 and for nearly two decades we were a backwoods organziation that survived to come on strong with Ronald Reagan. We can come back and here is how.

1. We simply cannot cede the battle ground. On every issue, on every piece of legislation, on every policy, conservatives must stake out their position, based on conservative principals and keep talking about it, to everyone who will listen and even to those who don't. I have seen the result of failing to expound on our principals first hand--witness Maryland.

2. We must start to recruit conservatives now for the next 10 elections. Let's face it, we don't have a deep bench of conservatives at the top of the pyramid and it may take a little longer to get some there. But politics is a game of long term and if we believe our message to be the right one, and historically it is, then we can't forget to build the ranks of leaders at all levels. It is not just our "bench" of top leaders like Governors or Senators, but also the "minor leagues" of local government, state houses and state senates where future leaders are made. We also must not forget business and education.

3. Keep the idea machine going. Unlike 1964 when think tanks like the Heritage Foundation or Hoover Institution did not exist, we still have idea factories like these think tanks working. What the Stanley Kurtz argued is correct, we need to do more to get these conservative thinkers in the faculties of large scale universities and the only way to do that is to allow academics to use think tanks as a stepping off point to tenure track professorships.

4. Do not get discouraged. In every long term human endeavor, there are dark periods. This is a dark period for conservatives. That doesn't mean we are defeated, but this is a time to take a breath, take stock and make a plan.

This is not to say we should just give upon McCain, but really if conservatives want a choice in 2012, we need to have an operation running now.

English Premier League to Add International Round of Matches

Teams will play 39 matches and the extra game will be played outside of England.

The move, which is aimed at solidifying a growing worldwide fan base will mean that EPL teams will show off at stadiums across the world, based largely on how much money a city is willing to pay to host a match. (although the release doesn't say that).

The Bottom Half of the EPL Table Is Quite Close

Heading into this weekend's games, Fulham Manager Roy Hodgson notes that Fulham have to treat every game as vitally important which it is. Fulham are just three points from escaping the drop zone. The bottom five teams have the following matches this weekend.

No. 16 Sunderland Hosts No. 15 Wigan--these two teams are tied on points and Wigan sits higher on goal differential. A draw will give each team 24 points for the season, a win by either tean will vault them in to a relatively more stable position. This is a critical game for both teams and probably worth the watch if you can get it.

No. 17 Reading will Travel to No. 4 Everton. Reading, quite simply have not been playing well at all of late. Everton is far behind the top three league leaders but just one point above Liverpool. Everton would like to win in order to remain in a qualifying spot for next year's UEFA Cup competition. Reading might be in for some trouble.

No. 18 Birmingham will travel to Boleyn Ground to face No. 10 West Ham United. Right now, Birmingham sit at the top of the drop zone. A win and a tie between Sunderland and Wigan would mean that Birmingham can leap into a three way tie with the Sunderland and Wigan, but would like be on top of the three way tie due to a much better goal differential. But West Ham have been solid, if not spectacular this year.

No. 19 Fulham will travel to Riverside Stadium to meet No. 13 Middlesbrough. Boro sit just seven points above Fulham and just five points above relegation zone. Getting a result for Fulham will get them on step close to escaping the drop zone. A win for Fulham and a Birmingham los and a Reading loss would would get the Cottagers out of the drop zone on goal differential over Reading.

No. 20 Derby County will host No. 11 Tottenham Hotspur at Pride Park. Right now, Derby would need a miracle and a very long list of injuries to opposing sides to claw their way out of relegation. Derby did earn a point last week against fellow drop zone dwellers Birmingham, but Hotspur have been playing, well hot recently, including a draw last week against then league leaders Manchester United.

With thirteen matches to go for all sides, the bottom 10 of the league table, between No. 11 Tottenham (29 points) and No. 19 Fulham (19 points), are separated by just 10 points. With the league championship being a three horse race between Arsenel, Manchester United and Chelsea (which Chelsea must win this weekend to stay in that hunt), and the spots 3-10 pretty well separated from teh bottom half of the table, the most intense action will be taking place at the bottom of the table.

Remaining schedules and at this point the luck of the scheduling draw will make a big difference in what happens to the teams fight to avoid the drop.