Saturday, October 4, 2008


UPDATE: In case the below post is not clear, what this means is that there will be no new posts at this blog. Everything will be posted at from now on.

Starting today, I will be blogging using Wordpress instead of Blogger. The new-ish Rhetorical Wasteland can be found here.

It's the same blog, and all the posts and comments appear to have imported successfully. (Images, not so much. If I have time, I'll transfer some of the more recent, but this might just be a consequence.)

Please update your RSS feeds accordingly; I think this will work:

Eric Stoller is ultimately responsible for this move, like it or not, and will therefore get all the blame if anything goes wrong.

[LCSD] Everyone should read this

A comment left over at LT's blog:

After Monday's board meeting you won't have any allies left at the district or the hish [sic] school and your reign of error will be over LT.

That's a little disconcerting. We're talking veiled threat/vengeance/black helicopter territory here.

Placed in context, it also suggests that there is something major planned for Monday, like the removal of the Superintendent.... and the LHS Principal?

Friday, October 3, 2008

[LCSD] Liveblogging the next board meeting

I will, of course, be liveblogging the next LCSD board meeting if at all possible. There's a good chance I'll be working that evening, so that may not happen.

If there were Internet access in the Elections Office in the Linn County Courthouse, I'd liveblog the vote count too, but there's not. I asked. I'll post a link to the webpage where they will report the results when I find the link.

Electoral Map

Based on polling, if the election was held today, this is what would happen.

The big question, as always, is turnout.

GT revampification & miscellaneous newspaper thoughts

According to GT Publisher Mike McInally, the GT is undergoing several changes:

First, on Friday, you will notice some major changes to the Entertainer: The weekly publication now will include a somewhat abbreviated version of the TV listings that used to appear in Sunday’s TV book.

Here’s how the combined Entertainer and TV book will work: One of the covers will be the Entertainer cover for that week. Then, if you flip the publication over, you’ll see the cover of the TV book. It sounds a little odd, but I’m betting it will seem natural when you see the combined product on Friday.

We will stop publishing the TV book that used to be part of Sunday’s paper.

This is a move that allows us to save some money; like businesses everywhere, we’re doing everything we can to keep a close eye on costs.

Translation: They either didn't make enough money last fiscal year, or worse, they didn't make any money; in either case, Lee Enterprises told them to cut costs somewhere.

(As an aside, whether or not they needed to cut costs really does depends on how much money they didn't make. Newspaper companies, including Lee, have been notorious in the past for seeking relatively high profit margins, so I'm leaving open the possibility that this cost-cutting is actually to increase existing profit, not to get back to making a profit. Anyone have the answer?)

Speaking of cost-cutting, here are a few mores changes listed in the piece (I have reordered and numbered them):

1. The job of compiling [the Entertainer's] calendar listings falls to Brandon Goldner, a journalism student at Linn-Benton Community College who also moonlights as the G-T’s afternoon receptionist. He’ll be busy.

2. We’re rolling the Home & Garden section into the Lifestyles section, a move that should allow us to retain the content of each but package them together.

3. A redesign of the G-T to go along with a move to slightly narrower newsprint.

Given the state of the newspaper industry, and given that we're talking about Lee Enterprises here, it seems clear that there was a mandate to significantly cut costs. My question is this: How much control were GT staff given over deciding where to cut costs and what changes to make?

For that matter, is the GT ever going to replace any of the staff that's leaving? AFAIK, Jake TenPas didn't do much besides edit the Entertainer, and Nancy Raskauskas already works at the GT. Is this change workload-neutral for her, or is this another case of more work, less people?

... don't get me wrong. Most of the time, I like the GT, and I like the people I know who work or have worked there. And I am pleased to see that, at least according to this editorial, there are no staff cuts taking place as part of these changes (aside from the aforementioned practice of simply not replacing people who leave). But, like many other people, I don't see how shrinking the newspaper (literally and figuratively) is going to help increase subscriptions.

Of course, maybe I've been making a mistake in assuming there is a way out. Maybe what's happening really is a downsizing of newspapers due to the ability of readers to get their news other places, like the Internet. Maybe it really is inevitable, and it's just going to be painful, and no amount of focusing on local coverage (my preferred solution) is going to help, at least not in the short term.

Oh yeah: Are similar changes coming down the pike for the DH and LE? Inquiring minds want to know.

[Nerdy Goodness] Pandora


Corvallis City Council Ward 6

From the GT:

Ward 6 Candidates Joel Hirsch and John Detweiler and Ward 1 incumbent Bill York and challenger Mark O’Brien took questions from the G-T’s editorial board and the audience.

When asked about which city services might be at risk if the council was asked to make cuts in lean budget times, Detweiler suggested Parks and Recreation as a potential place to start.

“I don’t know why the city is in the recreation business,” he said. “I’ve never needed it. I don’t know why I’d want it.” [emphasis added]

Hirsch couldn’t have disagreed more.

“Parks and Recreation is not only a valuable service, with as much as it costs to register a (softball) team, it’s also a good business for the city,” he said.

Good grief. Logically, the problem here is that Detweiler's not on the City Council to represent his own personal wants and needs; he's on it to represent those of his constituents, and I bet more than a few of them like having Parks and Rec. Plus, you know, it's Corvallis. I can't imagine this town without a vibrant Parks and Rec program.

Then there's the sheer silliness of this comment:

When asked about the current council’s tendency to enact resolutions pertaining to national issues, such as the recent council support for a U.S. Department of Peace, the Ward 6 difference was black and white.

Detweiler said such resolutions were “a waste of time.”

“It’s a feel-good thing and there’s a lot more to governing the city than making people feel good,” he said.

Hirsch disagreed.

“I think part of governing the city is helping people to feel good,” he said.

I agree with Hirsch, and this also makes me miss Stewart Wershow, just a little. Click here to see a ward map, and if you live in that area, please vote for someone besides Detweiler.

I'm lucky - I live in Ward 5, which is represented by the awesome Mike Beilstein, who happened to be walking the neighborhood a day or two after I move with voter registration cards. Convenient, that.

[Hering] It's just.... good

The only quibble I have with this editorial of Hering's is that he fails to mention the obvious reason Sizemore got this measure on the ballot: It would deprive the state of money. Specifically, of $4-8 million per year, according to the state Elections Division. But the writing is decent, and Hering actually uses logic and evidence, for once. It's like a real editorial!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Slow-mo party fracture

Steve Benen on some of the politics of the bailout earlier this week:

Let me get this straight. The Republican president supported the bill. The Republican Senate leadership supported the bill. The Republican House leadership supported the bill. The Republican presidential nominee supported the bill. And the Republican National Committee runs an ad insisting that Obama's bailout package "will make the problem worse."

I'm so numb to this stuff I have no outrage left. I'm just confused. be fair, the Republican rank and file dissented just enough for the first attempt to pass the bill in the house failed. But I think that only sort of proves my point about the party fracturing.

....the left hand is campaigning for the bill and the right is campaigning against it, and there's no cognitive dissonance whatsoever. Funny.

Whose Free Market?

Prompted by this post and the related article, I am kind of curious about something:

When people refer to the free market, whose free market is it? Is it free for companies and corporations, or free for consumers?

Clearly, the two have different interests, so it can't magically be free for both: Corporations want the most profit possible, and consumers (among other things) want to spend the least amount of money possible for goods and services. Those two priorities are in direct contradiction to each other. (Cue tortured wingnut logic that tries to explain how that isn't really so.)

So when crafting government regulation, where should the priority lie? As exemplified in the article linked to in the post, the so-called 'Google' position is that the most freedom should come at the consumer end, whereas the 'AT&T' position is more interested in seeing freedom for corporations to do what they want vis-a-vis telecommunications. The former position requires government regulation of telecommunications to achieve end-user equality, whereas the latter suggests that no regulation is best, even though that leaves companies free to create end-user inequities.

Another way of looking at what market is currently more free, from the article:

The country is now served almost entirely by three local phone, four cellular, and four cable companies.

Compare that to the number of software companies out there. Yes, there are behemoths and monoliths on the software side - Microsoft and Google probably being two of the most notable - but the barrier to entry for software is so small compared to telecommunications it's insane. The key about this is that it's not an accident. The software underlying the Internet is neutral and publicly accessible, and is only so because the US government regulated that in the early 1990s when it was developing the Internet in the first place.

End result: The structure of the Internet is regulated. This has resulted in awesome software innovation and innovation in how we use the internet. The telecommunications market is not as regulated, and has devolved into a few crappy, giant companies who now want to end the existing regulation regarding how consumers/end users use the internet, which will inevitably stifle innovation.(Imagine if you had to pay to use Facebook, not because Facebook wanted you to, but because Comcast would charge you for visiting That is precisely what the net neutrality debate is over.)

The other point about this I wanted to make is that Obama at least knows what he's talking about when it comes to tech policy. McCain's campaign has a bunch of people who have lobbied for Verizon or AT&T. I have a sneaking suspicion which will lead to a better policy, and ultimately end user, outcome.

My other rather strongly held opinion on this, of course, is that the Internet should be treated not as a market commodity, but as a public good. Changing that underlying assumption - which I think Obama's policy goals get at - would make a world of difference.

[Hering] You would think....

... that Hering was just a random dude, not the editor of a newspaper:

It’s as though the headlines are removed from daily life. Yet they begin to have a debilitating effect. They worry people, and worry changes behavior, which in turn might well have the effect of slowing down business and jobs.

I mean, it's a valid point. But he's in a better position than 99% of the population to do something about it, so just firing off an editorial seems like the least he could do to work against this trend.

Also, would it kill him to lose the omniscient voice for this kind of editorial? Removing himself from the picture when he's talking about journalism is just strange.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

[Hering] It's not what you think - OK, maybe it is

I submitted a letter to the DH a few weeks ago. To the best of my knowledge, it's never been printed and I was never contacted by the newspaper about it. It was in response to this Hering commentary. Here is the letter as submitted:

While I would like to say that Democrat-Herald Editor Hasso Hering has trouble telling the truth because the truth is complicated, in this case, it's not, and plenty of other media outlets got it right.

In Hering's Saturday, September 13th commentary ("There's always more to stories"), he claims to debunk the now-infamous 'Bridge to Nowhere' story by noting that once Alaska Governor Sarah Palin saw how much attention was being given to that particular earmark, she dropped her support of it.

That's all that you'll hear from the editor. However, that's not the whole story. The very relevant fact that Hering fails to mention is that Palin only dropped her support after it was clear that Congress was not going to approve that particular earmark. In other words, she claimed to have been supporting the winning team the whole game when, for the first three quarters, she was rooting for what turned out to be the loser - and it was all on record.

For a record of how many times Palin and the McCain campaign have repeated this lie and the media outlets that have debunked it see

Hering complains about lying in politics, but then fails to tell the truth. How strange.

Dennis Dugan


I wonder why the DH declined to publish it?

More Palin

dday on Palin:

2) Given that the gobbledy-gook answers that randomly generate at are actually starting to be less surreal than what comes out of her mouth, have we reached a subject that is invulnerable to parody?

3) Do we really know whether or not Sarah Palin is Sacha Baron Cohen's greatest role?

A yes to the first, and I wish the second could be answered in the affirmative as well. Alas, I think a yes to the first precludes that.

[LCSD] Parents and professional educators

Spurred by the statements made by parents in the last several weeks, this post of LT's and the comments, I had small realization just now:

Parents, welcome to the world of professional educators.

Let me expand on this a bit: Where I appear to differ from some of the folks involved in this debate, I think, is that I am willing to assume (and in some cases know) that many of the teachers, administrators and other educational professionals are doing everything they can to educate students in the Lebanon Community School District. Yes, there will be exceptions, but they are exceptions and not the rule for a reason.

Teaching doesn't pay that well. No, seriously: For a minimum of five years of college and two degrees (Bachelors and M.A.T. in Oregon), there are much better-paying jobs that have shorter hours and less stress. In other words, teachers are not in it for the money. Ergo, there is some other reason people go into teaching (bearing in mind that most upper-level administrators start either in teaching or at least in education as well). I would suggest that it's because almost to a person, professional educators are in it because they genuinely want to see students succeed. Hell, even as a sub I got a thrill when I saw students master something, or figure something out that had previously eluded them. It seems to me that those moments are one of the thing teachers live for. (And yes, the fact that I got excited when students learned probably means I wouldn't totally suck as a teacher. Probably.)

What that means, to me, is that professional educators are doing the best they can under the circumstances. (See, of course, Tim Helland and Mark Martens for two good examples. I can think of others, but I'll save the name-dropping for some other time.)

And what circumstances are those? Well, this is where my realization intersects with LT"s recent posts on the math situation, Mark Martens' experience with progress reports, and a long-standing belief of mine about modern American culture: Basically, students at the HS level are exposed to a myriad of influences, among them parents, other family, friends, teachers, (perhaps) church and the media (broadly construed to include at least television and the Internet). Not all of those influences weigh equally as teens age; I'd suggest that peers and the media become more important, with parents and church often becoming less important. Combine that with the fact that one's peers and the media are not the influences talking about the importance of education, and it becomes easier to see what kind of environment teachers are working in. And this doesn't even account for what happens when one's parents are not wholly supportive of their child's education. I'm lucky in this regard - the support (and expectations, natch) of my parents never wavered. I know others are not so lucky.

In other words, the environment in which teens in particular are existing and learning is very different than it used to be. And this difference is, in some ways, not good for education. But it's the reality that professional educators are living with.

(And as a side note, just to get it out of the way: A blanket call to go back in time is delusional. It's not happening. A more nuanced call to revitalize certain elements I might listen to, but the mythical 1950s are never coming back. Period.)

The thing is, many, many professional educators see that changed reality (and whatever else you think about Robinson, it's clear to me that he sees the changes and is trying to do something about them). They see the changes. They've read the research. They've learned new methods of teaching to try and work in this new environment (what do you think the TOSAs are doing?). But it's clearly not working in some areas - like math, and not just at LHS, but statewide.

The point, though, is that they're trying. They've always been trying. They'll continue to try, because that's part of why they went into teaching. And, as in every other profession, they'll continue to occasionally fail, because it's hard damn work, and they're working in an insanely difficulty environment, and no one's perfect. And on top of that, there are real and legitimate disagreements regarding the best way to educate students in the 21st century. There is no consensus about the best course forward.

(As another aside, I've been saying for some time that one of the downsides of how things have played out and are continuing to play out in Lebanon is that the real issue - how to change education to deal with a globalized, 21st-century, Internet-laden world - is not being addressed. I think this might slowly be changing, and that it mirrors the last several years of national politics, strangely.)

So, if it seems like things are FUBARED on the HS math front in Lebanon right now, in some ways, yeah, they are. But don't assume it's for lack of effort on the part of teachers or administrators - and, more importantly, don't think it will be simple to find solutions. At the least, we know this is a statewide problem, and we can assume that people all over the state have been working on it for years, not just the LCSD. And as the saying goes (even if I am just making it up): There is always someone smarter than you working on this problem, and if it hasn't been solved yet, what makes you think it will be so easy?

Does that in any way mean parents shouldn't be involved? Of course not - if there's one thing that's clear, it's that parents should be more involved (though I will note that the nature of that involvement is left open to debate). But what it also means is that I think parents need to come to the table with the assumption that the professional educators in Lebanon are doing the best they can. Please note that this does include the possibility that 'the best they can' may not be good enough to produce results, or good enough for parents, or good enough for administrators, or all three (and, therefore, how that leaves the door open for professional accountability). Personally, I think an American culture that doesn't value education is a HUGE and negative influence on learning these days, and that simply going back in time is not a realistic solution. But in any case, it's not fair to teachers to fail to recognize the effort they put in, and in a lot of the comments I've seen made about the math situation, that lack of acknowledgment is exactly what I see. I know were I a teacher, it would not be going over well with me.

So, to wrap up a long post: Parents, if you are frustrated by the state of things, and by how it's proving difficult* to fix things, how do you think teachers feel? Do you think they blow it off? That they don't worry about this? Of course they do - and they'll do their entire careers. Acknowledging that they are trained professionals, and that this is an incredibly complex situation, while simultaneously knowing that parents have an important role to play, seems like a good idea from here. Lebanon's getting an ugly introduction to how hard the field of education can be to work in**, and so far, it seems like plenty of folks are not reacting that well.

*Neither this sentence, nor anything in the whole post, should be construed as suggesting that it's not OK to work with or replace teachers who are failing to do an adequate job, however defined. But it's also a lot more complex than 'their students are failing, therefore they are a bad teacher'.

**To be fair, I also want to point out that there are undoubtedly other things going on here - Finch's apparent unwillingness to communicate being one of them. So I'm not trying to suggest I've identified Everything That's Wrong With Lebanon. Rather, I wanted to try and get one aspect that I think has been under-discussed.

[LCSD] Question

Since I don't play by the Palin Rules, I think this is fair game. In an LE story out this week about math scores in the LCSD (short version: K-8 is great, HS is terrible, and Sand Ridge isn't doing so hot, coming in 4% below LHS in regards to the number of 10th-graders who are passing the state test), PIE Business Manager Mary Northern said this:

“Sand Ridge is another choice for parents,” Northern said. “We're not just about grades. If parents are happy, and if kids are happy, that's what is important.”

First, the apparently-obligatory caveat: This is not intended as an attack on Mary Northern, the person. This is a critique of a statement she made in public. Like it or not, she is publicly representing PIE here.

That said, the question I had immediately upon reading the above: Do the parents of Sand Ridge students agree with the statements made by Northern here? As well, do the supporters of PIE and Sand Ridge who do not have children at a PIE school agree?

Here's why I ask: This statement reads to me as a way of moving the conversation away from the fact that the Sand Ridge math scores at the 10th-grade level are even worse than those of LHS, and I would think that a lot of the Sand Ridge supporters who have been talking about the quality of education at Sand Ridge would be interested in knowing why these math scores are so low.

The rest of the quote interests me as well. I like the fact that Northern is talking about more than grades. This is good (if strange, since the story was about state assessment scores, which are not grades). However, I am little leery of what she uses as an example that's not grades: Happy parents and happy students. There are two reasons:

1) Happy parents does not automatically equal well-educated students. In an ideal world, yes, it would - but we're not there. So I'm left wondering what that statement means (besides being a dig at the LCSD, of course). Heck, I would argue that in some cases, unhappy parents are good, because unhappy parents - as the current math situation at LHS is demonstrating - are usually not complacent parents, and are therefore paying attention and getting involved.

2) Happy students. This is interesting to me because in the one day I subbed at Sand Ridge, I spent quite a bit of time listening to HS-age students complain about how unhappy they were with the administration. I'm not saying the situation hasn't changed, or that all students were unhappy, but that the reality I saw then is not what Northern is describing. I should also note that the complaints I heard from students were quite legitimate: There were unwritten rules, they could never talk to the Principal (I assume this has changed), and that they couldn't get transcripts, even as juniors and seniors, so they were having trouble applying to college. (This point is sort of moot, course, since PIE will have no HS students this year. But it may still be relevant insofar as younger students are concerned.)

The other reason that statement is interesting to me is that what makes students happy is often less work to do. Again, I am sure there are students for whom this is not the case. However....

Anyone who supports PIE and/or has a child at Sand Ridge want to weigh in? Are the low OAKS scores a concern of yours? Why or why not?

P.S. The less-than-charitable response I had to Northern's comment was something like "Are you f***ing kidding me? That makes it sound like you don't care about grades or achievement, but just about making people happy so they stay. Doesn't that run up against everything else Sand Ridge supporters say about the quality of education offered?"

[LCSD] I consider it ironic...

...that the same people who oppose the recall and criticize Robinson and Finch for refusing to share information won't even identify themselves as working against the recall in public.

It's their right, of course; however, I still think it's funny. Whether or not it seems hypocritical is left up to the reader.

Grumpy Embroidery is Awesome

I think the 'hack' one is my favorite, but I like them all.

Good example of a bad poll

From Media Matters:

Summary: A Time/SRBI poll asked likely voters with an "unfavorable opinion" of Sen. Barack Obama to respond to various "reasons that voters give us for having an unfavorable opinion of Barack Obama," which included: "He's really a Muslim and not a Christian"; "He's an elitist who doesn't understand the needs of ordinary people"; and, "He's not as patriotic as he should be."

These are leading, biased questions, and rather useless because of it. Anyone trained in this stuff will tell you that you won't get honest results when you plant the options in the heads of the people taking the survey.

As well, Media Matters notes that similar questions were not asked of McCain.

Somewhat humorously, this reminds me of the questionnaire being circulated in Lebanon about math.

It's like saying: "So-and-so is a giant loser. Agree or disagree?" rather than saying either "what is your opinion of so-and-so" or "rate the success of so-and-so on a scale of 1 to 10." The language has to be neutral - results will change depending on how the question is phrased.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bailout Vote Breakdown

The NYT has a nice graphic.

More Palin

Of concern to McCain's campaign, however, is a remaining and still-undisclosed clip from Palin's interview with Couric last week that has the political world buzzing.

The Palin aide, after first noting how "infuriating" it was for CBS to purportedly leak word about the gaffe, revealed that it came in response to a question about Supreme Court decisions.

After noting Roe vs. Wade, Palin was apparently unable to discuss any major court cases.

There was no verbal fumbling with this particular question as there was with some others, the aide said, but rather silence.

I'm not discounting the possibility that this is true. Shit, even *I* can discuss a court case or two, though certainly not well.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Preznit Economypants

Steve Benen:

* As of today, the Dow Jones is lower now than it was the day Bush took office in 2001.

I'm not a fan of using the DJIA as a measurement for success, personally, as it doesn't include quality of life, or, you know, the majority of Americans, but damn. By his own standard (remember the CEO President? How's that working out?), Bush is a miserable failure.

... the DJIA on:

January 3rd, 1992: 3,201.48
October 14th, 1996: 6,010.00
January 14th, 2000: 11,722.98

Today, September 29th, 2008: 10,365.45

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The guy that got the economy right

The New York Times profiles Nouriel Roubini:

On Sept. 7, 2006, Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University, stood before an audience of economists at the International Monetary Fund and announced that a crisis was brewing. In the coming months and years, he warned, the United States was likely to face a once-in-a-lifetime housing bust, an oil shock, sharply declining consumer confidence and, ultimately, a deep recession. He laid out a bleak sequence of events: homeowners defaulting on mortgages, trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities unraveling worldwide and the global financial system shuddering to a halt. These developments, he went on, could cripple or destroy hedge funds, investment banks and other major financial institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The audience seemed skeptical, even dismissive. As Roubini stepped down from the lectern after his talk, the moderator of the event quipped, “I think perhaps we will need a stiff drink after that.” People laughed — and not without reason. At the time, unemployment and inflation remained low, and the economy, while weak, was still growing, despite rising oil prices and a softening housing market. And then there was the espouser of doom himself: Roubini was known to be a perpetual pessimist, what economists call a “permabear.” When the economist Anirvan Banerji delivered his response to Roubini’s talk, he noted that Roubini’s predictions did not make use of mathematical models and dismissed his hunches as those of a career naysayer.

Here's hoping that, unlike all of us who were right about Iraq, Roubini gets listened to in the future.

[LCSD] Mary Northern

I just ran across a comment from Mary Northern on last week's LE editorial. I am, frankly, floored. Speechless. I'm going to try and go through this comment, but know that my initial reaction was something on the order of 'holy shit'.

Caveat: While it is technically possible this is not actually Mary Northern, I see no reason to think it's anyone but her. Someone correct me if you know better.

The first two sentences:

" I am only guessing that AK wrote this piece and I have to ask you PLEASE!!! if you are going to try to presume to know something about what you are writing about you should research the facts!!!!

Yes, she used that many exclamation points. Nothing technically wrong with that, but it's generally the province of the ironic or the immature.

So what facts is Northern presuming the Express doesn't know? Let's see:

"at the expense of the other eight public schools" Do you have any idea how much money Lebanon is able to keep extra because of the Charter School??? Not to say anything about the jobs were created. They will be able to keep about $400,000 this year alone not to say anything about the other years we have been in this district. The district keeps about $7,200 for every Sp. Ed. student that we educate, we have about 15 now I think. The district keeps $1,200+ for all the other students. The district was even making about $.10 a carten on our kids milk. So now we buy direct.

Whoa. I'm going to assume the numbers Northern quotes are correct. I have no reason not to. There are, however, other facts that seem relevant here. For example:

1) If PIE did not exist, most (but not all) of the students at Sand Ridge would be attending LCSD schools - and the LCSD would keep all of the money.

2) There is a cost associated with sponsoring a charter school. It takes time and energy on the part of LCSD employees, for one - and given PIE's inability to file the necessary paperwork with the state regarding the registration of teachers and administrators, it seems to have taken a substantial amount of time on the part of LCSD employees. This time has a monetary cost.

The state is not stupid, or at least not completely stupid; when the charter school law was passed, I'm sure this realization was part of the reason sponsoring districts are allowed to keep up to (I think) 15% of the per-student dollar allocation from the state, depending on the age of the student. I'm not sure anyone has done the math, taking into account exactly how many hours each LCSD employee has spent working on charter school business, but it's clear that the money the LCSD keeps of the per-student allocation is not pure profit, but used to cover the cost the district incurs.

3) I don't know what the deal was with the milk cartons. Not sure why it was included in the comment. To me, it makes Northern sound even more irrational and angry. I should note, too, that this has nothing to do with whether it is true or not. Assuming it was true, then PIE did the right thing - but then once it's done, you drop it and move on. No reason to get apoplectic over milk, right?

4) The job-creation bit is arguably the same as the per-student allocation bit: Most of those jobs would be in the LCSD if PIE didn't exist. Those students don't just disappear.

5) The overall assumption that Northern seems to be making is that PIE and the Sand Ridge students came from nowhere, and therefore, any money the LCSD keeps is both unfair to PIE and pure profit for the LCSD. Needless to say, this is wrong. There is a fixed pool of students in the LCSD, so (again, most of) the students at Sand Ridge would otherwise be in the other eight LCSD schools. I have to wonder if Northern gets this and is just being cynical in her comment, or really doesn't get it. I only bring up the latter possibility because she sounds so unhinged and angry in her comment.

Anymore, there's more to the comment:

I know there is a math problem going around but come on!!!

Based on the test scores I've seen, Sand Ridge might have the biggest math problem of all. Also, how is this relevant? And why are there so many exclamation points?

AK you have been very one sided since I've been in Lebanon, you need to just report the news correctly, unbiased.

I'm not sure exactly what Northern is referring to here, as the comment was left on an editorial, which means that the writer is allowed to put their opinion in. If Northern is upset that the Express is not framing the issue as "the LCSD is stealing from PIE," maybe that's because it's not true.

I tend to hear often from anti-Robinson folks that the Express does not report the news correctly, but I rarely hear a specific example of an instance where the Express failed to report something newsworthy. Remember, just because it makes Robinson look bad doesn't mean it's newsworthy, and neither is the newspaper obligated to adopt the framing of the issue that a particular reader wants.

(As an aside, I've also noticed that many of the people who are upset with the Express have no idea how a newspaper works, and the things they get upset about are a newspaper being a newspaper. More on that at a later date.)

The remainder of the Northern comment:

Everyone knows you have had a problem with Rick, get over it!! Rick has nothing to gain here, Rick is for the kids, Rick is for the teachers and staff that have to put up with bad politics. Recalling Rick and Josh would be a big mistake they are some of the very few that are fighting for what is right!!! You tell me what they have to gain?

1) What does 'get over it' even mean in this context? Northern fails to address even a single reason the Express has given in its editorials regarding why the Express is supporting the recall. Maybe that would be more helpful than 'get over it'.

2) Northern's characterization of Alexander is pretty much in line with what I've heard from other Alexander supporters. I've heard it enough to believe it's a genuinely held belief on the part of many. That said, I want to offer two caveats: First, that this characterization is not held by everyone. Lots of others folks I talk to don't think Alexander is for teachers, staff or students (and there are varying opinions as to what he's really for or about). The second caveat is that to an extent, Alexander's intent doesn't matter. It's his effect on the district that matters, and on that count, I - and many others - would argue that he's been a terrible board member. I have been surprised by the number of people I talk to that personally know Alexander and swear up one side and down the other he's really trying to do what he thinks is the right thing. That's better than the alternative, but it's not good enough. If good intentions were all it took, we wouldn't be in this mess, would we?


Northern's comment scares me a little. Either she's totally cynical about how things work, and understands the points I made about where the money comes from and where it's spent vis-a-vis the LCSD and PIE and is just trying to put one over on people (or work the refs), or she - disturbingly - doesn't even understand how the relevant state laws work and why they exist.

Either prospect is not good. I have never met Mary Northern, and am not going to pass judgment on her character (or her intentions, natch). However, I can say that I think this comment is a very, very bad presentation of her and by extension, PIE.

I've seen several comments in other places that suggest that Northern really does view things as us-vs-them, LCSD-vs-PIE. This is not helpful, if true.

Parking at OSU

I have a question: What authorizes OSU to kick everyone out of staff and student permitted parking lots on game days and then charge for those spaces?

I've looked at the OSU Parking Services website as well as the OARs that govern OSU parking (yes, they exist, and there's a fair amount of them), and in neither place do I find anything about the university's right or ability to kick people out of parking spots they have paid for.

This is, in some ways, a moot point, as I'm not a student. But I work across the street from a staff parking lot that was filled with tailgaters at 5 PM Thursday.

That, and last year I was told OSU required all staff and students to move their cars from permitted lots by 3 PM so OSU could charge tailgaters for use of those same spaces.

The longer I am around OSU, the more Parking Services seems to be completely independent from any oversight, which is actually kind of surprising for OSU.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Just read the whole damn post, but in case you don't, read this much:

The at-home mission does not take the place of scheduled combat-zone deployments and will take place during the so-called dwell time a unit gets to reset and regenerate after a deployment.


They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.


The US military has given the first public display of what it says is a revolutionary heat-ray weapon to repel enemies or disperse hostile crowds.

Called the Active Denial System, it projects an invisible high energy beam that produces a sudden burning feeling.

A Reuters journalist who volunteered to be shot with the beam described the sensation as similar to a blast from a very hot oven - too painful to bear without diving for cover.


The agony the Raytheon gun inflicts is probably equal to anything in a torture chamber - these waves are tuned to a frequency exactly designed to stimulate the pain nerves.

I couldn't hold my finger next to the device for more than a fraction of a second. I could make the pain stop, but what if my finger had been strapped to the machine?

Bailout Shenanigans

Tristero over at Hullabaloo has an insight about the bailout BS:

This isn't about obstreperous Republicans blocking a needed financial bailout because it doesn't fit some whacked ideology. This is about a campaign bailout. McCain's campaign bailout.

It's about winning elections, not governing a country. This, of course, creates problems, since the winner has to actually, you know, govern.

This has been a bad week for politics

The massive financial bailout and the scary shit surrounding it aside, can you believe this shit:

National Review's Mark Krikorian notes that (1) Washington Mutual became the largest bank to fail in American history yesterday and (2) its last press release touted the fact that it was named one of America's most diverse employers...


While juxtaposing these two facts -- (1) WaMu has a racially and ethnically diverse workforce and (2) WaMu collapsed yesterday -- the National Review writer headlined his post: "Cause and Effect?" He apparently believes that the reason Washington Mutual failed may be because it employed and was too accommodating to large numbers of Hispanics, African-Americans and gays.

I think this is a good time for a Friday Fuck You. Sometimes it really is the most accurate response.

Fuck you, Mark Krikorian.

... it's obvious to everyone that the reason WaMu failed was not a bazillion small errors caused by bad employees, but gross mismanagement at the upper management level (that also happened to occur at lots of other companies who didn't follow WaMu's lead on this), and that its hiring practices, therefore, had nothing to do with it, and thus the reason I am so pissed is that not only is this racism and heterosexism, but it's so obviously wrong on the merits, right? Krikorian is making shit up in order to justify an incredibly prejudiced set of beliefs: That people of color and non-heteros can't work at a bank. What the fuck?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

[LCSD] Concerned Parent Questionnaire

Lebanon Truth hits the two main problems with the concerned parent questionnaire. The first: of the fundamental polling principles is that you need to question a representative sample in order to obtain useful data.

Even if the people behind the questionnaire tried to do this, there's no guarantee they'd be successful in finding a representative sample - especially with the lack of demographic questions on the questionnaire itself.

Of course, I would be amazed if there was even an attempt to distribute the questionnaire to a broad cross-spectrum of people. Instead, I suspect it will be distributed organically - which means it will fall disproportionately into the hands of people who are already pissed, skewing the results significantly.

The second:

Polling questions are supposed to be neutral on their face...

Many of the questions in the questionnaire are not anything even remotely resembling neutral; instead, they are rather leading. Given that, there is no way this is anything resembling a statistically valid survey.

One point that LT does not address is that surveys should be on a single topic or themed. Even broadly construed, this questionnaire is all over the map, addressing questions about the Superintendent, the LHS Principal, teachers in general, the high school math program, and more. This is a problem, as this is not a comprehensive survey of all things LCSD.

Given who is likely to fill it out, I would not be surprised if (a) the results of the questionnaire are very anti-Robinson and anti-Finch, and (b) individuals who are anti-Robinson and anti-Finch wave them triumphantly and claim they are evidence for something, regardless of their validity. Don't get me wrong - there will be great anecdotal evidence that comes out of the questionnaire. But anecdotes are, by definition, single instances of something, and not useful on a macro level.

I do think that some form of more neutral polling or a survey around similar issues and questions in the LCSD would be interesting. I don't think there is money floating around for it, however.

Oh, and as for the questionnaire itself? Check it out:

[LCSD] Who is funding the anti-recall campaign?

Word has it there are both anti-recall shirts and large (4' x 8') signs around Lebanon. Lots and lots of them.

Neither of those things, especially T-shirts, are cheap.

So who is footing the bill? With CARES, it's obvious - most of their donors have been named. They formed a PAC and followed state laws regarding political donations.

So who are the benefactors for Alexander and Wineteer? I'm not saying they or their supports have broken the law - I suppose it's feasible (someone correct me if I am wrong) for someone to just spend their personal money on a bunch of anti-recall lit - but it's sure interesting that they seem to have at least as many financial resources as CARES.

I wonder if Mr. Alexander's stated belief in transparency extends to who is paying for all this stuff or not?

Anyone out there have any information?

As a result of the third comment, I went online and found the 2008 Campaign Finance Manual for Oregon (PDF). A few minutes looking through it suggests that the commenter is exactly right. The conclusion I am drawing is that either Alexander and Wineteer should be filing with the state, or their mystery benefactor should be filing with the state, or both. Check out page 74 of the manual for penalties. I'm no expert, but it looks like if no one is filing anything for the anti-recall campaign, then they could already be in trouble.

One additional (and interesting) note: I've looked all over ORESTAR for any record of any mention of the names Alexander and Wineteer, and I cannot find them, either in candidate filings or as related to any existing or discontinued committee. It's entirely possible that either I'm missing them, or that any records that do exist are so new they've not been posted online yet. However, if past history is any guide, I'd guess that neither them nor their supporters have actually filed.

My somewhat hypothetical question: If violations in campaign finance law are discovered, does that change anything about the election, or are the penalties merely assessed after the fact?

UPDATE 2: In response to the fourth comment, it's possible that individuals have all donated small enough amounts to the anti-recall campaign to avoid having to file. However, if the total value to the candidate is over $300, then the candidates - and both Alexander and Wineteer count according to the manual - have to file, and again, I found no record of that happening.

[LCSD] Math Score Comparisons

CARES member Tre' Kennedy was handing these out at the last board meeting. I'm not going to go in depth, but I did notice a few things when looking them over (click each table to see a larger image):

1) The Sand Ridge scores are not very good. The last two tables in particular paint an ugly picture.

2) Lebanon's math scores are above the state average until 10th grade, when they drop precipitously.

3) Oregon City and Forest Grove are doing something right. It seems like a good idea, like some parents are doing, to figure out what they're doing differently.

What do you all think?


From the WSJ:

In what is by far the largest bank failure in U.S. history, federal regulators seized Washington Mutual Inc. and struck a deal to sell the bulk of its operations to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

And to think, the nice man who I had to talk to get my money out of WaMu last week assured me that nothing was wrong.

Capitalism! Fuck yeah!

[LCSD] "In defense of LHS math teacher"

An LHS student writes a letter to the editor. My favorite part:

Mr. Helland not only grades in such a way that gives ample time for his students to better comprehend what he is teaching, but he offers his time as well. He offers his own personal time to help students with individual problems well before and after school, during lunch, and even during any free periods a student may have. This gives students with other commitments, such as a job after school, a way to meet with him. Failure to get help from Mr. Helland, or even getting less than a ‘C' in his class is more likely from lack of trying and not lack of opportunity. This is called accountability.

Oh snap!

[LCSD] City-wide wifi for students

This is awesome:

LEBANON — The city of Lebanon has partnered with the Lebanon Community School District on a project to share Internet access.

Lebanon, having expanded its wireless internet access points to around 80 transmitters throughout the city, will tap into the schools’ fiber optic lines to increase wifi connection speeds.

Increased connectivity will hopefully allow more students to access the Lebanon schools’ networks through the citywide wireless to view online course materials and assignments.

“I’m just super excited about this whole thing,” said Brian Bray, director of technology for the Lebanon Community School District. “It helps eliminate the digital divide.”


“With a cheap laptop and a wifi device, any kid can use this wifi to access the Internet,” he said.

Good for Mr. Bray. This might put Lebanon ahead of many - even most - small towns when it comes to internet access for students.

[LCSD] Observation

My addled brain is too gone right now to come up with much else, but:

The Lebanon recall election is mirroring national politics in that I see a ton of misinformed people shouting at the top of their lungs and focusing on character assassination more than anything else.

This is not intended as a compliment.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Good column on Obama

From Nicholas Kristof in the NYT:

Here’s a sad monument to the sleaziness of this presidential campaign: Almost one-third of voters “know” that Barack Obama is a Muslim or believe that he could be.

In short, the political campaign to transform Mr. Obama into a Muslim is succeeding. The real loser as that happens isn’t just Mr. Obama, but our entire political process.


What is happening, I think, is this: religious prejudice is becoming a proxy for racial prejudice. In public at least, it’s not acceptable to express reservations about a candidate’s skin color, so discomfort about race is sublimated into concerns about whether Mr. Obama is sufficiently Christian.

The result is this campaign to “otherize” Mr. Obama. Nobody needs to point out that he is black, but there’s a persistent effort to exaggerate other differences, to de-Americanize him.

Comments suggesting that Obama is, in fact, Muslim, a terrorist, the Antichrist, or anything else so stupid will not be published.

... Noting, of course, that it would be perfectly OK if Obama was Muslim.

h/t cnd

Tuesday, September 23, 2008



Even the deepest purse has a bottom, and the point may be approaching where the costs of propping up the world's largest debtor nation (i.e. us) begins to outweigh the benefits.

The national debt is owed, in no small part, to banks in other countries. What would happen if the rest of the world - or even, say, the Chinese - decided they wanted their money back?

I'd make a crack about structural adjustment programs, but the Republicans already pursue those with vigor.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Awesome.

Literally no one in America thinks the economy is getting better. (See the the third table down.) Also, Bush's approval rating is down to 19% - and yet, I still predict the Democrats will capitulate and bail out a bunch of financial institutions that f*cked up with no meaningful oversight and no guarantee of future good behavior.

As Atrios says: Capitalism! Fuck Yeah!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Short Timeline of US Government Bailouts

Via Majikthise and from Pro Publica. Check it out (no excerpt because it's a table).

[LCSD] Going off the rails on a Sunday evening

From Lebanon Proof:

For years this community has been held hostage by a controlling interloper who was able to schmooze his way into the hearts and minds of some of the pivitol community leaders.

Make no mistake, Mr. Robinson is a very smart man. He probably did his homework to such an extent that he would know which church to attend, which insurance agent to choose, which clubs to attend, which stores to shop in and which neighborhood to inhabit in order to meet the people he would need to win over in order to provide a buffer for himself and his unorthodox leadership style that he had tried to implement and failed in two prior communities.

When he goes, the ripple effect and the aftershocks will be intense and painful...but the alternative is much more dangerous.

This statement is so strange I don't even know where to begin.

First of all, it's simply untrue to phrase the 'community held hostage' claim as a universal, declarative statement. That would imply that it's a fact. It's not - it's LP's opinion, and while it may be shared by others, there are also plenty of people who disagree with that characterization of things. I also see very little evidence for this claim being true: What, exactly, is Robinson using to hold the community hostage? What did he have in the beginning that the community needed that got him his contract? I can't think of anything.

Oh, right: That's because the rolling contract is common. Also, if the hostage characterization comes from the belief that since Robinson isn't leaving because the 'whole' community wants him gone he is therefore somehow holding the community hostage, maybe that's because a) the community isn't united on their opinion of Robinson and he sees that, and b) the reasons people give for opposing Robinson may not make much sense to him. I know they don't always make sense to me. Also, possible: c) that Robinson believes it would be bad for students to have Alexander and Wineteer running the district.

.... one thing that just struck me is that LP might be referring to Robinson using himself as a hostage. As was guessed last week, if the board is trying to buy Robinson out, then maybe he's demanding something in return that the blogger knows about, and that's what the blogger is referencing. Who knows?

Second, I want to address the use of the term 'interloper'. I'll be blunt and concise: To think that the Superintendent has to be from Lebanon is just stupid, and we need to get over it. This does not mean that Robinson has to be Superintendent, or that Lebanon can't produce someone who would be a good Superintendent.

Rather, it is to note that I want to unearth what I think is an assumption that is floating around Lebanon: That Lebanon and Lebanon alone is best suited to determine what needs to happen to educate students in Lebanon.

Again with the blunt: This is wrong, and dangerous. Lebanon - and by Lebanon I mean the residents of the community - should have a say in how education in Lebanon happens, but it should not be the only say. It should not even be the final say. Education professionals and experts - some of whom will come from outside - are the people who have dedicated their lives and careers to the field, and are in the best position to relate educational outcomes and educational practices. Of course, parents still have the right to determine what they want for their child's education, but that doesn't necessarily extend to dictating how the local school district works.

I don't know of any other industrialized country that grants such a level of control to something as local (or so lacking in traditionally-defined expertise) as a school board.

Bear in mind, I have said before, and still believe, that there is a role for people without advanced degrees, and people from the community. This is not a call to blindly follow anyone with a PhD. But the opportunity for expertise in the form of a Superintendent is there, and I would hate to see Lebanon move forward by hiring a Superintendent but leave all meaningful authority in the hands of a school board - any school board. Remember, a school board is there for oversight, and is, frankly, an historical anachronism, left over from a time when a local oversight board was necessary due to a lack of speedy communication.

Let me also say it another way: Even in the Age of Internet, it is nearly impossible for a small community to know what outcomes needs to be in place in the education system that will enable students to be successful in the (globalized) working world. It's very difficult to get the necessary prospective from a place like Lebanon - and I say that as someone who lived there for the first 19 years of his life. The expectation the US has developed at this point, for better or worse, is that a) students need to be prepared to work in a globalized world, and b) education experts and professionals are the best equipped to know what is required to make that happen.

Contra that, the implicit belief I've seen from a lot of the anti-Robinson folks that the school board, this school board, can do a better job running the district strikes me as misguided and dangerous. Face it: While people from Lebanon may have had a good idea what students needed to learn to be employable in Lebanon thirty, forty, or fifty years ago, times have changed. There are a lot more out-of-town or even out-of-state employers in Lebanon now, and a lot less mills.

Third - and possibly most ludicrously - who in their right mind thinks Robinson actually scoped the district and made all his decisions based on his ability to manipulate local folks into being his friend? Were I Robinson, I'd consider that one of the nastier personal attacks I'd faced here.

Consider that for a second: The blogger LP is claiming that someone actually developed a plan to subvert a whole community and was willing to subsume his entire personal life to do it. Actually doing that would take quite the evil person, and gives Robinson a lot more credibility than he deserves. I don't think Robinson is that malicious, but I do think that if we take this view as being common among anti-Robinson folks it has some explanatory power.

Come to think of it, this is the second time LP has intimated that there's some sort of shadowy thing going on in Lebanon - the first time was when they suggested that CARES and the myriad of PACs is a conspiracy (rather than either innocuous or designed to increase tax write-offs).

Come on, people. First, I don't think CARES or Robinson has enough ill will or free time to create that kind of conspiracy, and second, I am reminded of something a political science prof said to my intro class back in 2001 or 2002: You don't need to resort to conspiracy to explain something when there's a group of people that all believe similar things involved. Their common actions stem from their shared beliefs, not some kind of secret master plan.

This is not designed to suggest there can't be conspiracies; clearly the two are not mutually exclusive. But Occam's Razor seems to apply here.

Bottom line on this one: I think LP is giving Robinson both far too much credit and assuming he's far more evil than he actually is.

Fourth, the last sentence that I excerpted: "When he goes, the ripple effect and the aftershocks will be intense and painful...but the alternative is much more dangerous."

I can read the first part of that sentence two ways. The first is rather benign: That whenever someone has been in a position like Robinson's for a decade, in a district that's undergone the changes Lebanon has, the person's leaving will make a noticeable difference. That difference can be good or bad, depending, but it will be there. The second way of reading the statement is not benign: That LP is (intentionally or not) lowering expectations. If Robinson leaves, and for some reason things go very poorly either in his absence or with a new Superintendent, LP's statement is the first step in claiming that it will either be Robinson's fault or the fault of Robinson's network of sleeper cells supporters. In politics, it's usually called shifting the goalposts.

The second part of that sentence is kind of frustrating, and just kind of silly. "Get rid of Robinson, or else!" claims his detractor. Or else what? Can the board not provide oversight? Can concerned citizens and parents not work with the remaining board members to provide oversight? It's not like Fisher, Shimmin or McUne is anywhere near being in Robinson's pocket.

Fifth - and finally - I have been asked plenty of times if I have any idea who the person behind Lebanon Proof is. I have avoided speculation both on this blog and in my contacts with others until this point, mostly because I had no idea. People have suggested it to me that it is either attorney Paul Meadowbrook or former LHS teacher Lyndon Brown. I had also wondered if it was former PIE Chairman Jay Jackson.

After the last few posts, I think I can narrow my guess down a bit (It could, of course, be someone who has not been so publicly active in the LCSD recently, and I don't want to rule that out): I think it's either Jay Jackson, or more likely Lyndon Brown. I think Meadowbrook would be more straightforward and less, um, venomous; he also doesn't seem to be as personally invested. The last few posts also suggest a level of anger that Brown is rumored to have attained in regards to Robinson and the LCSD.

To be clear: This is speculation. I don't know who the blogger is. And back when their posts contained interesting (if context-free) facts, like the number of administrators and non-classroom teachers in the district, I was happy to let it lie. However, the last several posts have struck me as being increasingly divorced from reality, which flies in the face of the claim made on the blog that it differentiates truth from innuendo, not when it uses words like 'tyrannical' and 'hostage'. Those are subjective judgment calls, not facts, and while it's fine to print both, it's not OK with me to fail to differentiate and present subjective opinions as facts. Hence my publicly guessing - and if I'm right, neither Jackson nor Brown has anything to lose, as one just resigned and the other is retired.

Also, this is post #900. Woo hoo!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Preznit takin your turkee

When I said this:

This is also, in a way, the continuation of one way of reading neoliberalism: The privatization of profit and the publicization of risk. Only in this case, it's being done in the open - the risk is being publicized (that is, the bill is being footed by taxpayers) after things went bad.

I didn't think it would be taken so literally:

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration on Saturday formally proposed to Congress what could become the largest financial bailout in United States history, requesting unfettered authority for the Treasury Department to buy up to $700 billion in mortgage-related assets.


A $700 billion expenditure on distressed mortgage-related assets would be roughly what the country has spent so far in direct costs on the Iraq war and more than the Pentagon’s total yearly budget appropriation. Divided across the population, it would amount to more than $2,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States.

All those political philosophy classes I took seem more relevant than ever right about now. Sadly, this is depressing, not exciting.

So I'll say to Bush what I refrained from saying to Hering yesterday: Fuck you.

... if the Dems fold/cave/go along on this one, there's no doubt I'm fucking voting for McKinney. This is insane.

Also, Atrios retains his ability to spell it out like no one else can:

Again, the problem is that lots of bad loans were made, lots of people made highly leveraged investments in those bad loans, and still more people bet on those loans by insuring them. The loans are bad. The mortgages are not going to be repaid in full. Housing prices are not going to magically shoot up 50% over the next 6 months. People gambled and lost and now the Democrats are racing to bail them all out.

In case that I'm not being clear enough, what's happening is that the US government just proposed giving $700 billion to a bunch of companies that knowingly made bad deals. Crony capitalism doesn't even begin to describe it.

UPDATE: Atrios finds this bit in the text of the act submitted to Congress authorizing the spending:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Why anyone in their right mind is going to do anything but kick the ass of the folks who submitted this is beyond me. Nevertheless, I predict that Democrats will take this 'bill' seriously.

Normally when people bury their head in the sand for so long, they suffocate

Shorter Hering: I can't be bothered to actually figure out what's going on with the financial system, so I'll just call for a return to the 1950s (and thereby conveniently avoid mentioning the political party responsible for this debacle).

My only consolation is that there are people writing for a national audience who actually pen stupider things. Not many, but they exist. Call it a silver lining.

Reproductive Health, Lebanon, the FBI, etc.

From the DH story on the loss of the building that housed the Lebanon Pregnancy Alternatives Center:

The FBI says it is investigating the fire jointly with the Lebanon Police Department and has authority to do so under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.

Now, at first glance, the name of that act sounds to me like it was written to guarantee access to - let's be honest - abortion clinics (pro-choicers are not exactly notorious for shaming anyone who enters churches, now are they?). Given that 'pregnancy alternatives center' is synonymous with 'anti-choice center that will do everything but provide actual reproductive health,' I was a little surprised that such an act would cover something like the LPAC in the way the FBI is claiming according to the story. So I looked up the act. Check this out:

§ 248. Freedom of access to clinic entrances

(a) Prohibited activities.--Whoever--


(3) intentionally damages or destroys the property of a facility, or attempts to do so, because such facility provides reproductive health services, or intentionally damages or destroys the property of a place of religious worship,

So.... I think it's reasonable to conclude that whoever wrote this act wrote it to include so-called pregnancy alternatives centers, specifically Christian ones (are there any other kind?). After all, why the hell else would a reference to 'a place of religious worship' be in there?

And after all, it's not like such places actually provide meaningful reproductive health services beyond 'here is how to care for your baby once it's born'.

It's an interesting false equivalance, as well: Something like Planned Parenthood provides the full gamut of reproductive health services, including, I believe, information for those who want to remain abstinent and who want to carry to term. Something like the Lebanon Pregnancy Alternatives Center doesn't seem to provide birth control or even mention abortion, much less abortion referrals, as an option on their website (which I will not link to). Clearly, the two are not equal, yet they are treated as equivalent under this law, apparently.


Spontaneous Combustion

Clued in by LT's post, I went looking for a particularly bad Hering editorial. And I found it:

It is a common refrain that Oregon high school students are not good enough in math. But most of us have no idea what we are talking about.

If we did know, we would probably shut up. Because most of us are no good at math either, at least some of the math that high schools try to teach in the junior and senior years.


Here’s the problem with math in 2008: Most people can get through life perfectly well after they forget whatever they learned in trigonometry and calculus. They forget it because they don’t need it.

You need no quadratric equations to work in most trades, professions and other service industries. You can be a production supervisor, a health care specialist, a real estate developer or a politician without knowing the first thing about the properties of conic sections or the zeroes of polynomials.

To say he misses the point is to be far more charitable than I feel at the moment.

Hey, Hering? It's the 21st century. Complaining isn't going to change that. Might as well get used to it.

I have never, ever seen someone write so much about themselves and pretend it's even remotely generalizable.

..... I'm going to stop here, because otherwise it's going to degenerate into me calling Hering all sorts of names not fit for a family blog such as this. Let's just say I agree with LT on this one: This is an insulting and idiotic editorial.

Friday, September 19, 2008

[LCSD] A thought or two about the recall


If I'm Jim Robinson, and the board that wants to negotiate with me over my resignation stands a chance of losing the two members who dislike me most, why in the world would I agree to anything before I find out if said board members will be recalled or not?

Similarly, if I am Fisher, Shimmin or McUne, and I also know there's a chance that Alexander and Wineteer will be off the board in three weeks, I would be damn loathe to do anything that might end up in a lawsuit and/or have other consequences that I'd have to deal with, especially if it was started by the maybe-departing board members. At best, I'd want to own - literally and metaphorically - any decision that was made between now and October 7th, just in case.

In other words, it would seem prudent on the parts of everyone but the two facing the recall to put on the brakes until after October 7th. The opposite is true of Wineteer and Alexander, of course. They have every incentive to get as much of their agenda enacted before the vote as possible, on the chance they get recalled.

By the way, I have no frackin' idea how likely it is for the two to get recalled. I am aware of no relevant precedent, and no one's done any formal/scientific polling on this one. I do know that CARES is putting a lot of effort into this, and I don't know how much effort Wineteer and Alexander and their supporters are putting into opposing it.


From Columbia Journalism Review:

The Associated Press retracted two government-issued photographs last night after a photographer in Texas alerted the agency that the photos in question appeared to be doctored.

Bob Owen, chief photographer of the San Antonio Express-News, notified the AP that the photos of two deceased soldiers, who died in Iraq on Sept. 14, were nearly identical. Upon examining the photos, Owens noticed that everything except for the soldier’s face, name, and rank was the same. The most glaring similarity, Owen told CJR, was that the camouflage patterns of the two uniforms were “perfectly identical.”

Apparently the Army did the photoshopping.

Via Majikthise.

Can't. Stop. Laughing.

While I've been following the recent economic news with my usual mixture of glee and despair, I've also had one thought rattling around in my head just about non-stop the last few days, and it's time to get it out:

When the government buys* and owns things like AIG, it's textbook socialism. When the government announces an even bigger plan (and the AIG buyout cost taxpayers something like $85 billion!) to buy a lot of these failing assets, it's socialist to the core.

I hope the irony of that, and of how hard Republicans and so-called free market supporters are cheering for it, is not lost on anyone.

Also, see this point from Kevin Drum:

...I will, of course, note for the record that if Uncle Sam can afford to spend a trillion bucks or so rescuing Wall Street, it would be nice if they could spend a trillion bucks shoring up all the poor saps losing their homes because they can't make the payments on those option ARMs they were talked into buying during the boom years. We could do it if we wanted to, and the risk wouldn't even be appreciably different from the Wall Street bailout.

Fifty bucks says anyone who brings this up on cable TV gets shouted down and called a Commie, the massive corporate bailout underway not withstanding. This is America, dammit. No one** gets a free ride!

UPDATE: This is also, in a way, the continuation of one way of reading neoliberalism: The privatization of profit and the publicization of risk. Only in this case, it's being done in the open - the risk is being publicized (that is, the bill is being footed by taxpayers) after things went bad. In that sense, it's a big FUCK YOU from political and economic elites to everyone else. We're all going to get our own piece of Big Shitpile©, and there's really nothing we can do about it.

*Obligatory disclaimer: For the purposes of this post, I am agnostic on whether or not the buyouts are a good thing. However, we should at least acknowledge that the so-called free-market capitalism touted for decades by the Republican Party would simply let all these companies fail. The fact that Bush, Paulson, Chris Cox and Ben Bernanke are diving in with both feet means that they don't believe the ideology they push, or are really, really dumb. I'm not ruling out the possibility of both being true.

**Unless you're under 12 years of age or worth more than, say, $500 million.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

[LCSD] Alexander's "public records request"

Also in my inbox this morning: correspondence between Mr. Alexander, Mr. Robinson, and the Linn County District Attorney's office regarding Mr. Alexander's request for copies of the "districts [sic] check register" before every board meeting:

Alexander's letter to the Linn DA requesting the same:

The Assistant DA's letter to Robinson:

Robinson's letter to the Assistant DA:

As was noted in the email to me, writing to the DA on November 2nd because one has not received the check register for October seems like jumping the gun. It's entirely possible the financial records for the previous month had not been reconciled at that point.

In any case, Alexander also said this in his statement:

Twice I had to ask the District Attorney to intervene and obtain supposedly public documents.

Technically true, though I think the additional context of seeing just what he was asking for, at least in the one case, is useful. Although, it's possible that Robinson was going to send the October register along anyway, and simply hadn't yet - I just don't know. Frankly, I'm not even sure what asking for the just the check register is good for. There's a lot more that needs to go along with it to make sense of the district's financial records.

To me, it would seem more prudent to ask for a meeting with the District's Finance Director and have that person explain the budget and monthly expenditures, then ask questions or look directly at the check register if one is not satisfied with the answers. But that's just me.

The other thing I want to note about these documents is that there are multiple spelling and grammar errors in both (rather short) documents sent from Mr. Alexander. I don't care what level of education Alexander has or doesn't have, or whether or not he was actually using a typewriter (it looks like it to me, at least on the letter he sent to the DA); there is no excuse for that.

[LCSD] Information!

My inbox had some interesting stuff in it this morning. First, a graph showing the dropout rate for LHS for the last ten years:

Rick Alexander's statement opposing his being recalled:

School performance is down; drop outs and transfers remain high.

"High," of course, is a relative term. It would be perfectly within the realm of reason to suggest that Alexander believes that 4.6% is still too high, even though it is less than half of what it was a decade ago. However, the use of the word "remain" suggests he doesn't believe it's falling.

You can draw your own conclusion about how informed Mr. Alexander is about the number of students who are dropping out.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

[LCSD] Recall Statements for Wineteer and Alexander

These things are pissing me off not as truthful as they could be. I'm going to fisk annotate them (I'm nowhere near Robert Fisk's level of ability). Italicized comments in brackets are mine.

I will say that I have retyped these, and while I hope any mistakes are in the original, there is a possibility they are mine.

Josh Wineteer's statement noting his opposition to being recalled:

Voters concerned about poor school performance, demoralized teachers and an unaccountable administration elected me [and I have failed to buoy teachers and achievement has increased under my nose despite my best efforts]. The recall petition is full of distortions, half-truths and innuendo. [Oh, good line. Too bad he's both wrong and fails to offer any evidence of his claim. From what I've seen, the recall petition was pretty accurate.]

I voted last year with colleagues Alexander and Shimmin to nonrenew Superintendent Robinson. I asked hard questions about abysmal school performance that administrators can't or won't answer - including the high school math "emergency" just declared. [Speaking of half-truths - Wineteer is only aware of the math situation because of a parent. He was not asking hard questions before this - he wasn't asking any questions about school performance at all! Even now, I haven't seen him ask the most obvious question of all: What is happening in other districts, and what are other districts doing about it? Wineteer doesn't seem to know or care.]

True to form, administrators refused at a recent public meeting to allow parents - almost 50% of whose children are failing algebra 1 and may not graduate - to speak. [Again with the half-truths. Parents were not given a chance to speak to the whole group, but were given a chance to speak in small groups. And Wineteer had a hand in hiring Finch! And a 47% failure rate in one trimester is not 50% of parents, which is what Wineteer's written word implies, whether he intended it or not. Furthermore, the 'may not graduate' line is pure fear-mongering.]

Time is running out on our children who deserve a quality education that will prepare them for college and beyond.

By standardized tests and many other measures school performance is inexcusably low. [Really? WHAT OTHER MEASURES, JOSH. NAME THEM. I'm not disagreeing that performance can and should be better, but I would love to see what other metrics he's referring to here. I think he's stretching the truth, because the only other things I can think of are in-district assessments, which are arguably standardized tests, and grades.] Central office and high school administrative staffs are bloated, diverting needed dollars from the classroom. [The high school? Bloated staff? Yeah? NAME THEM. Go ahead. That's right - he can't, unless he actually thinks they need fewer administrators, which would be incredibly dangerous.] The status quo fails kids and thwarts change. [What, like several years of two school board members trying to get rid of a Superintendent, to the detriment of students? That status quo?]

Eliminating independent school board members who press for change will not turn this district around. Thank you for your support. [Josh, are you implying McUne, Shimmin or even Fisher aren't independent? It seems to me all five of you are independent. Independence - from what, anyway? - isn't issue here. Your failure to do your duty as an elected school board member is the issue.]

Rick Alexander's statement opposing his recall:

I was elected on the premise of open and accountable government. The peoples [sic] business should be conducted in public view. [Interestingly, I am not to dispute that Alexander thinks he's seeking this. He is just abysmal at it. As well, the statement is belied by his years spent adding things to the agenda at the last second and then wanting to vote without any public discussion. That's neither open nor accountable, nor is it in public view, unless you think the Korner Kitchen Kounts. It doesn't.] As a board member I asked some tough questions and alarmed powerful special interests. [Does he think he's in the US Senate, for fuck's sake? "Powerful special interests?" "Tough questions?" Alexander's questions are tough to answer because they rarely make sense - and I am at most board meetings to try and hear them. Again, I'm not going to dispute his intent, at least not on this, but if his intent was really to ask hard question, he is terrible at it.] I am an elected official [yes, Rick, this is why you are being recalled. That doesn't happen to appointed officials. Congratulations.], but I can't get answers to many of my inquiries. [I would like to know what inquiries he's referring to. It's certainly possible this is true, but again, I'm skeptical of his ability to ask the right questions - or his willingness to read the documents he gets in response to his questions. 'Bull in a china shop' is not a compliment here.] Twice I had to ask the District Attorney to intervene and obtain supposedly public documents. [I am going to assume he's talking about Freedom of Information Act requests, and that he's being honest. However, that's not a reason to not recall him. Whoops.]

The recall petition was a mixture of half-truths and innuendo. [Where I have heard that before?] School performance is down; drop outs and transfers remain high. [I was told today that all three of these statements are at best exaggerations, and at worst actually provably false - especially the drop-out rate, which I was told has dropped from roughly 11% to under 5% in the last decade or so.] Morale is low [take some responsibility, dude!]; teacher turn-over is high. [Higher than average? Higher than comparable districts? If true, why? Can we get a reason, at least an attempt to link it to something, anything? No? OK, but without something, there's no reason to believe you when you inevitably point the finger at Robinson.] We have lost millions to mismanagement. [And when were you going to clue the rest of the world in to this amazing discovery? Is it perhaps because it has all the provability of a Sarah Palin campaign claim - that is to say, none?] These problems demand that we reconsider the Superintendent's leadership. [I actually like this line, rhetorically speaking.]

The opposition actually paid people to collect recall signatures, which is a first in Linn County history. I serve with no salary and have no economic ties to the district, yet people in the shadows are willing to pay to banish me. [Oh, good writing! Too bad the major donors were named in the DH, and too bad the two things aren't really related, and too bad Alexander fails to acknowledge that many people do not want to be named as opposing Alexander for fear of harassment - I know, I know, people say the same thing about Robinson, but since Alexander is going to talk about his opposition, I'll stick to that for now.] As a voter, you have a choice. [Good. Yes. Frame it truthfully.] The status quo, which is failing our kids, or support a fellow citizen whose sole objective is open, accountable [Oh! Off the rails! No! Bad Rick!] government and educational excellence. I will stand up for our students and against the special interests. Just send me back into the fight.


Look, the most charitable thing I can say about these two statements is that it's entirely possible that Mr. Alexander and Mr. Wineteer believe every word of what they are saying.

That doesn't change the massive gap I see between their statements and their actions, but it does offer an explanation.

A slightly less charitable way of explaining things would be to note that both are making a cynical ploy to the public, relying on the fact that their supporters simply won't believe any evidence offered in opposition, regardless of the source. Or that they both believe they can lie to the public and there isn't enough time between now and the election to get hit with the backlash.

Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like what's happening with the McCain/Palin campaign - they can lie with impunity, because many of their supporters choose to ignore the word of experts or the press when that word contradicts what the campaign says. Alexander has convinced many of his supporters (not without help from Robinson) that the District Office can't even be trusted to provide basic facts.

Heck, Alexander even stole some stale political rhetoric: "Tough questions" and "powerful special interests."

As an aside, let me note that the phrase "special interests" is a simplistic form of what's called a political dog whistle - it is a reference that provokes a near-Pavlovian response in some people and means different things to different crowds. The fact that the phrase 'special interests' is, in and of itself, devoid of meaning doesn't matter (in fact it is essential) - it is the response in the person who hears it that indicates that the goal has been achieved. Think about it: Special interests are never really defined as anything but a group the listener doesn't like. Certainly Alexander never defines them; he lets the reader decide for themself what they are, which is really convenient; the reader can just plug in whatever group is disliked and convince themselves that Alexander is working against that group. No facts ever need enter into the process. And it can mean something different to everyone who hears it.

At any rate, what remains is that I don't see how those statements bear much resemblance to reality - and, more importantly, neither of them do anything to convince me that Alexander or Wineteer (especially Alexander) are qualified to sit on the school board. Alexander can spin himself as a noble public servant all he wants, but the fact remains that he's been near-piss-poor in his elected position for years. Wineteer is hardly better.

As a rule, I try to offer multiple side of an argument and not refrain from pointing out mistakes where I see them based on the person making them. Certainly I think Robinson has made his share (and Finch is apparently trying to top Robinson in the 'perceived poor communication' department). But, as I've said before, Alexander and Wineteer are not good school board members. They do not even have the credibility to get rid of Robinson. There is no reason to keep them on the school board - remember, they can be replaced with people who really do ask hard questions of the District, but who also bother to read the documents provided by them and learn how to use Robert's Rules of Order, and can understand that legal advice is not given at random, or - gasp! - for whom 'accountability' is not synonymous with 'gotcha'. [Actually, Wineteer has been a lot better since he became Chair and the recall effort was announced. Maybe he's learning.] It's not some strange either/or where Alexander is on one end of the see-saw and a literal tool is on the other. Promise.

Commence flaming.

If I have time tomorrow, I will try and post the recall statements in full, without my comments.

I will also try and find time to address the math question a bit more - someone, I believe from CARES, was passing out data at the school board meeting, and I got my hands on it. No promises, though.

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