Saturday, September 6, 2008

September 5th, 2008 Daily Show

The first segment is insanely good.

The link goes to the whole show.

Palin, Family Values, Campaigning and Family Policy

Friend JC writes in regarding the intersection of Sarah Palin's family and the election....

If Sarah Palin wants to keep her family/children as an untouchable subject in the political world, then she shouldn't be parading the crew out at political events or using them as props in her speeches and in developing her political persona. You can't have it both ways. If you're running on "family values" than your own personal family values are absolutely fair game for fair criticism, especially due to the double standards she holds for her and her family. She's out there saying that you can be VP with 5 children under 18, including an infant, including a disabled child, including a pregnant teen, but fighting against supports for other working mothers, such as subsidized childcare and extended familial leave policies. I don't think that it's anti-feminist to admit that working mothers simply cannot to do it all on their own. They require extra help and adjusted circumstances. Working men need these things too, but women's needs are greater, due to the fact they're the ones gestating, giving labor, and breastfeeding the child, a process that takes up at least a year and ideally more like 3 years. She seems to shun assistance for her family, which demeans the way the vast majority of American families live their lives.

There are plenty of political issues that make Sarah Palin an easy target for democrats, but pointing these out only helps secure left-leaning voters. If we want to capture independents and fed-up Republicans, we need to show the hypocrisy and lies inherent in the Republican party and their candidates. The criticism doesn't have to be personal, it just needs to be pointed. Sarah Palin claims to be just like you, but she's not, for X, Y, and Z reasons (wealth and privilege among them). Sarah Palin claims to support famllies, but her decisions and policies, such as cutting funding for social programs don't support this fact. Sarah Palin's daughter has choices Sarah Palin doesn't think your daughters deserve. Sarah Palin is an extremist who doesn't believe in contraception and thinks rape victims of any age should be forced to carry to term their attacker's offspring. John McCain used to believe the opposite of most of those (and OMG there are so many things he's changed his position on in the last 4 years!) and now he agrees with Palin? How can you trust a man like this? Dems need to start getting personal, because the Republicans already have. And that doesn't mean they have to be nasty, but they need to fight hard. The media isn't doing their job, so the Dems have to be the ones to bring out the skeletons in their closets.

The only thing I'd add is to make it crystal clear that the only reason Sarah Palin could succeed as governor of Alaska, or as VP, with her family is that she has staff take care of damn near everything: Shopping, laundry, child care, etc. That's a luxury almost no one has, so the next time you hear someone saying "well, Sarah Palin can do it," just remember that it's actually Sarah Palin with substantial help - help that the rest of us don't get. It's not Supermom; it's Supermom and Friends.

The other alternative is that she really is refusing that help, and thus neglecting her job. There's just no way to do both.

Role reversal; or, in which a Republican reveals he knows something about McCain's health the rest of us don't

From a DH letter, about the McCain-Palin ticket:

Just look at her record as governor of Alaska. That is the kind of leadership we can expect from John McCain as our leader.

Hmm.... what's the phrase... oh yeah: WTF?!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Democracy Now producer Nicole Salazar films her own arrest

As noted where I found this, trigger warning.

Shameless - eager, even! - plug

Le Patisserie, a bakery in Corvallis, has a website.

If you are ever in Corvallis, stop by. It's amazing. The only place I've ever had better pastries is France itself.


Sometimes he's just on:

Can the super-rich former governor of Massachusetts — the son of a Fortune 500 C.E.O. who made a vast fortune in the leveraged-buyout business — really keep a straight face while denouncing “Eastern elites”?

Can the former mayor of New York City, a man who, as USA Today put it, “marched in gay pride parades, dressed up in drag and lived temporarily with a gay couple and their Shih Tzu” — that was between his second and third marriages — really get away with saying that Barack Obama doesn’t think small towns are sufficiently “cosmopolitan”?

Can the vice-presidential candidate of a party that has controlled the White House, Congress or both for 26 of the past 28 years, a party that, Borg-like, assimilated much of the D.C. lobbying industry into itself — until Congress changed hands, high-paying lobbying jobs were reserved for loyal Republicans — really portray herself as running against the “Washington elite”?

Yes, they can.

Read the rest.

McCain's speech

I didn't watch it, but here are some reactions:

A roundup of TV personalities, courtesy Washington Monthly.

Steve Benen:

And that, ultimately, is why the speech didn't work. McCain simply didn't have a vision or a policy agenda for the future. He has his character, and his biography, and he hopes that's enough. The message of the night, and practically the entire convention, seemed to be: "Vote for John McCain, not because he's right, but because he's John McCain."

To be fair, what else can he do? The Republican party is dictating the policies in the platform, even though those policies have never worked. McCain can't effectively sell himself (I hope) as any kind of significant change from the current administration as long as he's supporting the same policies.

All that's left for Republican candidates to do these days is spin furiously, turn out their base and attempt to discredit their opponents. Sadly, it's proven to be a somewhat effective strategy. (Note that it does not include providing any kind of actual leadership or vision.)

A caveat: This strategy, with this particular platform (being driven by the Christian Right and all), does put the Republican business community in a bind; while they see how Bush's policies are a long-term disaster (the Dow reportedly dropped something like 350 points after Palin's speech), the incredibly amounts of profits being made in the short term are proving to be enough of a bribe to get them, on the whole, to keep their mouths shut.

A second caveat: "spin furiously, turn out their base and attempt to discredit their opponents" and "does not include providing any kind of actual leadership or vision" sound like part of Mr. Alexander and Mr. Wineteer's efforts to avoid being recalled and their time on the school board. Heh.

The stupid burns like toxic chemicals on my skin


If you look for a good reason to ban field burning in three years, you will look in vain. There is none.

Given the news and editorial coverage of this issue in the past, it's clear that Hering simply doesn't believe that concerns involving the environment or people's health are "good reasons." There's really no other way to explain this, since both issues have been in the DH this summer.

It would have been nice had he noted and rebutted the two obvious reasons, however.

The real gem, though, is this:

Through its laws, Oregon insists that farmland be used for nothing else. That implies an obligation to let farmers do their work the best way they know how.

This is, to put it mildly, stupid. If that was the case, farmers would have long since polluted the air and ground with nasty chemicals and through burning. One specific industry is not going to miraculously self-regulate themselves when it comes to the environment, especially not grass seed farmers (sorry, former bosses!). Why does Hering think field burning was reduced? What about developing less toxic fertilizers and pesticides? I can pretty much guarantee the industry didn't just decide to stop for the good of others - they were forced to bear costs they had previously externalized (namely, pollution) by a public agency tasked with looking out for the good of everyone, most likely the state.

The other implication - that only farmers know what works best for farmers - is equally stupid. Like no former farmer has ever worked for the state, or gone through the same educational programs?

If Hering is really upset about the low level of discourse in this country, maybe he should look in the fucking mirror some time. He's certainly not setting the bar any higher.

Note to the DH

I get that the income from web ads isn't making up for circulation decreases.

However, any ad that expands to cover part of the page when you scroll over it?


Please stop.

In which CARES drops off signatures, Alexander spins like a top, and I ramble a lot

From the Lebanon Express (it should be noted that the DH got there first):

Chief petitioners for recall attempts against Lebanon School Board members Josh Wineteer and Rick Alexander submitted about 2,100 signatures to the Linn County Clerk's office on Wednesday.

Given that they needed something like 1400 signatures, it seems likely there's going to be an election.

Then, in what's otherwise a pretty straightforward story, we get this bit:

"There's nothing to gain. They've voiced their position loudly. It's a single-minded agenda to attack and blame the administration," [CARES President Tre'] Kennedy said. "Because it is the only thing they care about, nothing is getting done; we're not talking about education."

Alexander said the recall will be a referendum on education in Lebanon.

You have to give some credit to Alexander: Like the Republican party these last few elections, Alexander is trying to make a recall effort directed squarely at him about something else, anything else. He'd much rather the recall being a referendum on Robinson instead of his own actions.

We can argue until the end of time about whether or not Superintendent Jim Robinson is doing a good job. However, the recall is not about Robinson. CARES has been very, very consistent in saying that; I've looked at their website, and it's pretty focused on Alexander and Wineteer's actions.

Furthermore, rumor has it that CARES doesn't necessarily support Robinson at all, or at least there are split opinions about him.

So, following Alexander's train of thought down the rabbit hole a bit: How does the community provide feedback to the Superintendent? (In other words, what if this is ultimately a referendum on Robinson via two board members?) At least three ways: Electing school board members, through the audience comment section at school board meetings and through direct communication with Robinson and other DO staff. The school board, in turn, can evaluate the superintendent and provide direction and feedback (up to and including contract non-renewal or firing for cause).

But wait!, you might say. We elected Alexander because he wants to go after Robinson. It's the will of the voters! It's working!

To an extent, that's true - but process matters. The problem is that Alexander especially doesn't seem to care about protecting the district from legal liability or doing things in a transparent, democratic, deliberative fashion. In fact, as others have argued, I would suggest that Alexander and Wineteer's actions have actually made it harder to remove Robinson as Superintendent of the LCSD. The two have poisoned the well: Anything they do at this point that's a move against Robinson is going to generate questions about their motives and methods. (See the end of this story for one example of this.)

In other words, the actions of Alexander and Wineteer have removed them as viable agents for legitimately removing Robinson. When that argument was first put forward, I didn't like it and didn't agree with it. However, I now think it's correct, and that it leads to a really counterintuitive conclusion:

Getting rid of Alexander and Wineteer is the first step in removing Superintendent Jim Robinson.*

How strange is that?

*I should note that in many ways, I'm agnostic on the question of whether or not Robinson should stay. He has certainly rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, but he's also the only person at the district level (because individual teachers are certainly trying) who I see as trying to implement a curriculum that will prepare students for life in the 21st century. I don't see anyone else even talking about it - certainly the board has shown themselves both unqualified and disinterested in such a conversation, instead spending a lot of time reacting. The district may be struggling in certain ways, but at least Robinson's trying to face the future** head-on.

**This reminds me that I need to do a post about how this whole thing with the Superintendent and school board is really intertwined with Lebanon losing its identity as as logging town and struggling (like so many other places) to adapt to globalization/the 21st century/etc. Someone should write a book on this, actually. Mom, are you reading this?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Another journalist bemoans blogging

I've seen several pieces along this line:

BEIJING — The unofficial end to journalism as I know it may have come earlier this week, when my Globe and Mail sporty colleague Matt Sekeres and I were at the triathlon venue in the north end of the city, waiting for the event to start.


The race was about an hour away when young Mr. Sekeres said the five words I have most come to dread: "I'm going to blog this."

Let me first say that I think such pieces are mostly crap. Mostly.

That said, the most charitable thing I can say about the effect of blogging on journalism is.... it's not having one, not really, contra to what Ms. Blatchford is saying.

Look, blogging is a tool. The internet is a tool. If either of them cause the death of journalism (or of longer forms of writing, or anything else), it's because people chose to use them in ways that are/were detrimental to past journalistic practices.

Clearly blogging can augment and enhance traditional journalism; just as clearly, traditional journalism (especially newspapers) were suffering before the Rise of Blogs. Pieces like this one are often really about journalists upset about their own loss of privilege and prestige. For example:

It is not true that anyone can write. It is not true that anyone can write on deadline. It is not true that anyone can do an interview. It is not true that anyone can edit themselves and sort wheat from chaff.

Implicit in this is that writing/news production should be left only to professionals, and that we, the riff-raff, have no place in such an enterprise. I call bullshit; ten seconds on this site should convince you that the media is not perfect, and that sometimes, the great unwashed masses can correct the professionals.

(As an aside, there are a lot of things floating around now that are easily accessible that, when measured against traditional standards, are not that good. However, the fact that I can blog, and that a few of my friends can read it, means a hell of a lot to me. Anyway.)

I guess what I'd say - in addition to noting that journalists and journalism would be better off as populists rather than elitists - is that Ms. Blatchford paints with far too broad a brush here. She would get a lot more mileage if she bothered to be more specific about exactly how journalism is hurt by blogging, while simultaneously acknowledging that blogging can have a positive influence on the act of journalism, and b) that journalism - and even newswriting specifically - is suffering from a lot more than the appearance of blogs. As is, she's written a nice tantrum, but there's nothing new or compelling here.

h/t TG

teh Stupid

Two items of note today:

Rep. Westmoreland calls Obama ‘uppity'

Fake Soldiers Used In RNC Video

If "shocked" is an emotion, I'm still human, even after eight years of this shit.

Daily Show on Palin and Sexism

Warning: The bits involving Sean Hannity and Dick Morris might make your head explode. Especially you, Brazeale.

Palin: SSDD

I found two posts fact-checking Palin's RNC speech; the second in particular does a thorough job:

Obsidian Wings

Reality-Based Community

Based on the amount of lying she did in her speech tonight, she'll be a great replacement for Cheney, and fit in well with other Republican elites.

Like many others, I am constantly astounded that the media gives people a free pass when it comes to facts.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Palin: Counterintuitive Analysis

Found over at Obsidian Wings:

Many observers, not least on ObWi, have remarked that McCain is a gambler, a “hunch player,” and that the naming of the unvetted Palin is just the latest and most conspicuous example of this flaw. It bespeaks (we say) a lack of judgment, the very quality McCain is supposed to exhibit supremely over the untested Obama.

But in the context of American politics, I fear, this analysis is wrong.

Around half of the American populace, based on the elections of both 2000 and 2004, actually likes hunch players, prefers them to smartass “experts” and intellectuals who have demonstrated competence in the classroom or in life. It is hardly a coincidence that the Republican nomination falls yet again to someone who drifted through the lower depths of his college/academy class.

This is not a bug, but a feature. Many Americans, perhaps a majority, have come to distrust open displays of intelligence, and prefer to rely on “character,” by which they apparently mean “capable of making decisions without stopping to consider the consequences.” Hence Iraq, hence Palin. And pointing this out – pointing out, for example, that Palin is completely unproven in both national and international policy – is irrelevant. So what? She's a “soulmate” of McCain (as Putin once was of Bush?). We can trust her. She has character.

Lots of 'murikans voted for GWB in 2000. Not enough to win, mind you, but a lot.


There's something wrong with this story, but I can't quite put my finger on it. What gives:

Jeff Merkley says he agrees with the Supreme Court decision that Americans have a constitutional right to keep handguns at home.

The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate made the point in response to a question Tuesday during an editorial board interview at the Democrat-Herald.

That's pretty much the whole story. It reads like Hering took the prerogative to put this in the paper as a news story, but it doesn't feel like a news story.

Not quite sure why. Maybe it's because it's not a full writeup, but a "Hering authored a news story that does nothing but note that Merkley clarified an answer he gave to a Hering editorial" sort of thing, and omits anything else (with the exception of a sentence or two at the end, on an issue that might only be related because Hering cares).

It's just strange.


Obama's done lots of stuff -- teaching, state legislature, writing books, etc. -- but "community organizer" seems like an odd one to fixate on.

Follow the link to see what Billmon thinks the GOP was getting at. I think Billmon is right.

Protest is illegal

Via Don't Tase Me, Bro!, this Indybay story:

Berkeley, CA -- At 10:30 am on Wednesday, August 27th, the UC Berkeley police, plainclothes FBI agents, and an Alameda County sheriff raided at gunpoint the Long Haul, a long-standing community library and info shop. Police spent at least an hour and a half searching the premises without allowing Long Haul members entry to their building. More than a dozen computers and other equipment were seized in the morning raid. Having made no attempt to contact Long Haul members, agents forced their way into the building by entering a neighboring non-profit office with guns drawn. Police refused to provide a search warrant until after the raid was over and property was seized.


Most of the computers taken were removed from an un-monitored public space where people come to use the computers just as they would at a public library. The remaining computers were taken from closed offices where they are needed for the day-to-day operation of the work done by members. Offices were rifled through, and a list of people who had borrowed books from the library was checked, as was the sales log. The warrant, which was produced after the raid, had little relevant information (claiming the officers were searching for 1 - Property or things used as a means of committing a felony; 2 - Property or things that are evidence that tends to show a felony has been committed, or tends to show that a particular person has committed a felony).

DH Coverage of the LCSD Board Meeting

Board wants more input on math

Online school to be alternative

Board: Skateboards now OK

The first commenter on the third story gets it wrong: Students will now be allowed to bring skateboard on campus, which the staff hopes will actually facilitate using them to ride to school. Under the old policy, since they weren't officially allowed on campus, there was no place to store them, and thus a disincentive to ride them to campus.

Come to think of it, the attitude with which Robinson approached the skateboard policy change - it would allow the SRO and HS staff to do less policing, and he framed it as a good thing - surprised me a little. It was welcome, but it was surprising. I suspect that one's on me.

LCSD School Board Meeting Summary

When I liveblog an LCSD meeting, it kind of sucks my energy to do any kind of analysis. That said, here are some random outcomes/thoughts:

1) The board is learning to work together, filling in each other's gaps. (One could also read this as people covering for Rick, which is true, but only part of the story.)

2) The very, very tense discussion between parents, teachers and administrators regarding the math emergency suggests that there hasn't been a lot of communication between teachers and this particular group of parents. I hope the planned meeting at LHS regarding math is utilized to increase communication between the two groups.

3) Rick still has poor impulse control. Either that or he still genuinely believes that discussion is not needed once he figures out what he wants to do. Either one is problematic for a school board member.

4) The following comment drove me ballistic:

"8:39 PM: Alexander: This town isn't about secrets... when a board meeting happens, most people know what's going to happen."

This from the guy who developed a serious habit of adding items to the agenda after the meeting started. Granted, he's not done it quite some time, but I think the point still stands: He can't possibly have been serious.

5) The board passed everything unanimously. Come to think of it, I think they passed everything in front of him.

6) Despite Robinson's detailed explanation of all the things the LCSD is doing on the math front, Robinson came across as spinning. Hard. And I think the audience knew it. I read the audience as interpreting the declaration of emergency as happening because the district was getting bad PR.... and I can't say I disagree.

7) From teachers, parents need to reach out more to teachers. Teachers already work long hours and are willing to work with parents. Or so I've heard from teachers - and again, I can't say I disagree.

8) Wineteer's style as chair is to let people talk a lot more. Every person who commented during audience comments spoke for more than three minutes, and during the math discussion, parents were talking directly to Robinson and the board, even a few teachers.

9) I can't believe Alexander said this:

8:35 PM: Alexander: We're behind the curve; we talked four years ago about an alternative school, and "the answer was SAS". "How many more students will be thrown under the bus?" [emphasis added]

Were I a teacher, I'd be furious at this comment, coming from a board member. But what do I know?


9a) It's worth nothing, as Robinson did, that SAS applies to K-8 students, not to the high school, which is where the math scores are hurting (they are, if I remember correctly, above the state average for K-8 students). So Alexander's comment makes little sense on top of being insulting.

10) It was suggested to me last night that the above comment by Alexander was just grandstanding, caused by his facing a recall vote. I think that's really plausible - in fact, I can't remember him doing anything outrageous since CARES declared they were seeking a recall of he and Wineteer. I keep vacillating between "he's laying low and trying to survive the recall" and "when is the other shoe going to drop?"

11) 8:53 PM: Alexander, regarding the possibility of a contract for alternative education: "We'd be better off giving the money to a charter school [than put it towards an alternative education contract]; maybe they could hire another teacher with it!"

That comment practically stands on its own. I will say that it's factually wrong, as the charter school and the alternative online school do not fulfill the same function.

Conclusion: I'm sure there is more, but it's late and I'm tired.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Liveblog! LCSD Board Meeting, September 2nd, 2008

I forgot to put up a warning post earlier, but I'll be liveblogging tonight's LCSD board meeting. Watch this post.

Away we go! Going put new material at the top of the post this time rather than the bottom. I lied; it's staying at the bottom.

Note: Things in brackets are my voice.

7:10 PM: The board is staying in executive session longer than usual. Kelley has reported (in fact reported at 6:50 or so) that the Chair expects them to start the public meeting a few minutes late.

Laura Baker, a parent who filed a complaint about the math program at the high school (rumor has it that the filing of the complaint and the fallout had a role in the district's declaration of an academic emergency; more on that later, maybe), is circulating a packet that contains the DH story on the declaration of academic emergency as well as a copy of her complaint. Good move on her part. She is also circulating a sign-up sheet for people who want to be kept informed of what happens on this issue. Not a bad idea, but I didn't sign it.

7:20: Meeting starts.

7:21: Audience comments. Unsurprisingly, Laura Baker is first. Immediately turns around and notes that it's not about teachers; instead, it's about kids. Directs individual comments to each board member - notes how helpful they've all been.... with an odd pause when she got to Mr. Alexander (though she did offer the most praise for him). Baker: "I went to school here; we know it's a good place." Keeps calling the board "you guys." Notes that once the formal complaint was filed, it was only two days before the declaration of academy emergency showed up in the paper. [She hits three minutes; Josh notes it, and at least ten people in the audience offer to give her their minutes.] Baker: Asked board members if teachers are afraid to come forth to Robinson, board, etc. "Every one of them said they were afraid to come forward with consequences of jeopardizing their job".... shocked that this has been going on so long..... noting that parents are hiring tutors.... reiterates that it's not about teachers..... OK, she's going off the rails a bit here: Makes a connection between paying a tutor a lot of money and the suggestion they should get good grades.... her voice is very emotional.... she's standing and addressing the audience now. Makes the claim that the audience "can all do math." 7:29: Going off about cell phones in the classroom... "there was other things that happened in the classroom" but since Finch and the Board know.... trails off. Wineteer politely asks her to finish, noting the board agenda item. Audience applauds.

7:30 PM: Dean something - notes that he brought up the math problem years ago, and is incredulous that it hasn't been handled yet. "All this community is looking for is an administration with honesty, integrity and leadership qualities, and right now I don't see that." audience applauds.

7:31 PM: Steve Wallace.... two kids.... thanks board and Robinson for listening and declaring an emergency.... notes that kid @ LHS is an IEP student. What he says his son experienced: "teacher is a desk jockey".... "helped groom the athletic fields".... "teacher so far behind on grading that he couldn't offer a grade".... "teacher had not read his [IEP] file" when we went and asked him how our son was doing. Wallace: why did the declaration take so long?

Observation: The crowd is really, really taking it to Robinson - they see this as being uncovered and they see RIGHT THROUGH the declaration of emergency.

Wallace: "I question how teachers are going to fix this if it's been a problem for the last eight years." [Dennis: With few exceptions, the entire math staff at LHS has turned over in that time.]

7:34 PM:" Paul Meadowbrook: 1st-grader & 12th-grader. "We weren't active until our 8th grade teacher warned us about what was going to happen at the high school with the academy system." Had paid tutoring.... got a B.... tutor said he thought she had gaps.... [I bet his daughter feels great about that] .... ended up taking class at LB she'd already had [this is pretty common].....

[Observation: How does Lebanon compare to other schools IN DETAIL? Both grades and assessment scores, plus changes over time, and accounting for demographics.]

Meadowbrook: Robinson thinks the solution is for teachers to talk to teachers... we don't have curriculum [WHO DOES HE THINK DEVELOPS THE CURRICULUM? IT'S TEACHERS TALKING TO TEACHERS.]

7:38 PM: James Sundell from Oregon Education Association [he is the NEA Rep, I think both for classified and certified staff]. Rehashes classified bargaining status.... notes joint request for mediator in August... mediation is 9/16 @ 5 PM... major areas of concern: salary - 3.77% behind in COLA over last five years.... For 08-09 district has reduced the workdays for ~135 classified employees, which is 2.14% reduction.... [goes on for some time with statistics and detailed percentages]

[Josh hasn't cut anyone off since Laura Baker got permission to run over.]

Alexander: How did you arrive at the 1.3 million more figure for the LCSD?
Sundell: Oregon Dept. of Ed website; simply added state school fund grant and local revenue estimate, then compared to previous year.

7:44 PM: Lonnie Harris: Goes on for some time about conditions, tough economic conditions (gets lots of support from audience), need for raise, need to get custodians back. Audience applauds when she finishes.

7:48 PM: Lyndon Brown: Patron and taxpayer of this district. Why was the agenda not on the website until this afternoon? Could district please make sure it's up by Wednesday so people can do research and ask informed questions?

End of audience comments. Josh thanks commenters.

7:49 PM: Consent agenda is approved unanimously as is.

7:52 PM: Super's Report, District Goals #1 and 2. Vanilla. One interesting note: Contract a private company called LifeTracj to survey graduating class of 2008 - like exit interviews, but more complex. Also beginning to do some research on retention (or the lack thereof): Who leaves and why. Working with a prof from George Fox.

7:54 PM: Shimmin asks about a goal that was in previous reports but not present in this one: "Schools will enhance communication and involvement with parents." Quote: "Which of these addresses that?"

Kelley pauses, slowly walks up to board table, says "I may have omitted that."

Oops - and the audience knew it. Easily suggests that parental involvement is not a concern of the District Admin; possibly not the intent, but given everything else, that's how it's going to be read, no question about it.

7:56 PM: Skateboard policy. Suggested change from confiscation to allowing students to use them as transportation, but not on campus (and must put them directly into lockers). Suggestion comes from building level. Robinson seems to endorse.

Wineteer: Scooters? Like skateboard with handle?

Robinson: Locked up with bikes.

Wineteer: Easy to steal.

Robinson: ..... we can make changes if you'd like.

Shimmin: How is this enforced? What is the process for dealing with violations of the skateboard rule? What is the time of confiscation?

Robinson: Anyone at duty, teachers, administration, school resource officer, etc.

Shimmin: Has this been a problem in the past?

Robinson: We've been in the position of having to police, which creates perhaps an unnecessary problem.

Wineteer: I don't see how this separates between riding on campus and off.

Robinson: See line X..... notes that they can't be used anywhere on campus.

Shimmin: Sidewalk is public property.

McUne: Runs interference, explains the policy to Josh [that little interaction is reminiscent of Josh explaining things to Rick].

8:02 PM: Josh motions to pass the policy, board passes unanimously.

8:03 PM: Josh: Let's proceed with caution on the academic emergency item; "this conversation could get large."

Robinson [who is addressing the parents directly and looking very, very serious]: "You need to understand context for declaration." [Immediate rebuttal to audience accusation that declaration was suspicious.] Notes math curriculum committee.... Northwest Education Labs... 2+ year contract.... been working in elementary schools.... met for the first time this year with HS teachers.

Robinson: "We're not about creating any kind of coverup or hiding data. That's not what we're about." "Have been working to make curriculum better and give teachers the skills they need." Declaring emergency is a way to say "our best efforts have not worked." [To parents]: "You need to be part of [the solution]." "We're in fact ramping up from a considerable effort we've been making all along." Brought two math coaches from elsewhere in the district to work at LHS.... number of initiatives underway to ensure that we get the problem solved. "The fact that you are concerned only adds to our urgency." [I BET IT DOES.]

8:07 PM: Robinson: Math teachers are meeting every week to develop common, standards-based grading criteria.... based on work they are able to do.... not extent to which they get all homework done, but "how well they do the math."... may be some discretion left for teacher effort [brave to admit, but good for him[.... but overall has to be based on work student has or hasn't done.... piloted end-of-course test this year with some teachers.... helps standardize curriculum. [Observation: This is the most I've ever heard Robinson speak at once, and it's about education policy and curriculum. He speaks my langauge - not only do I think he's on the right track, but his style is one I'm familiar with. My guess is that it's the education.] Robinson: Will be putting student homework and grades online, so parents can track progress of your students.... this will be for all subjects, not just math. [Like Blackboard for LHS; I just hope it's not actually Blackboard.]

Robinson: Also responding to NCLB AYP data, state scores. [Concluding] Like I said, this is the culmination of a ramping-up progress that's been going on for years; 'we need your support." "Teachers are doing all they can to make it right; they work very hard." [Asks for input from staff]

Parent raises hand and asks "how can I help?"

Robinson FUMBLES THE ANSWER... then notes that parents should keep track of their student's grades, then not hesitate to take it to both teacher and administrator.

Parent: Peer tutoring?

Robinson: Hasn't come to my attention; maybe address on the 10th re: LHS?

8:16 PM: Mark Finch: Linkcrew. Upper-level students mentoring new students; students get training, is a year-long commitment. Small # of students. "Setting up an after-school support program for kids." "We'd love parents to come help volunteer".... teachers will run after-school hours, so parents don't need to be subject experts. [Is stumbling a little - voice is threatening to break. Sounds really nervous.] How do we identify kids earlier and prevent downward spiral.... counselors now running small support groups for struggling students during advisory... two teachers piloting two new styles of teaching, from Northwest Labs... more focused on conceptual, the why, before the process.

[Observation: No one has talked about comparator schools or the possibility of larger changes in society - or blame in general. Interesting and new.]

Baker: Very concerned about placement of students, especially given failure rate.

Robinson: Law changed. Freshmen will have to pass exit exams, current 7th-graders must pass exit exams.... class of 2014 will need three years of math, two years beyond Algebra I.

Parent who spoke in audience comments: Why didn't we hear about any of this before?

Wineteer: Why are we declaring a state of emergency now if scores are four points higher than in past years? If we have a Student Achievement System, what does it do?

Robinson: First, it's not in effect at LHS. Second, students getting to LHS are coming in with higher scores. Third, we present AYP data at board meetings and make data public.

Parent: Talked to administrators at LHS, was blown off. Why?

Robinson: I can't explain that.... I do know that if you come to me, I will talk to you. After I wrote this declaration, invited all faculty at LHS to meet and confer so they were in the loop. My personal perception of that meeting was that high school faculty were on board, they knew there was an issue, they are looking forward to doing that work.... also want to acknowledge that not only do we list data that causes concerns, but I want to expressly note that I am addressing parental concern.

Audience: What about those who can't afford a tutor?

Robinson: Dollars have been redirected to LHS to help with that.

Baker: [Holds up giant file] "This is kids who have come to me with Ds and Fs. How is it fair to have 40 kids in a classroom now... when we have all these Ds and Fs and all these new kids coming in?"

Robinson: We can adjust staffing; also, it just won't happen.

[Robinson is having to explain basic functions of the school to the audience, who clearly hasn't done their research. Admittedly, I have experience working at LHS, but still - these are questions that should be answered in meetings with teachers and administrators or other meetings with the superintendent, not at a board meeting.]

Unknown Student: What do I do now? What happens? I don't know math and I want to go to college.

Baker: "She is a prime example of what we're running into." Kids would stop going to class and just give up.

Parent: I have an A student who met with a math teacher often and it worked

Robinson gets overrun by the audience.... retreats to boilerplate language.... has been forced to say "there is a whole system in place to deal with employees who don't get it done." "I have a great deal of confidence in our math folks; I am turning to them to find solutions." [This is the closest anyone has come to assigning blame, which is good.]

[!!!! The parents and teachers are actually TALKING TO EACH OTHER DIRECTLY. THIS SHOULD HAPPEN MORE OFTEN - it is very enlightening !!!!]

Wineteer: I can tell there is a lot of emotion here. This deserves a separate time with the board's full attention. Can we have another session just about this?

Robinson: Such a session should include faculty and teachers.

8:35 PM: Alexander: We're behind the curve; we talked four years ago about an alternative school, and "the answer was SAS". "How many more students will be thrown under the bus?" [OH SHIT. MORE ON THIS LATER.]

Baker: Session at LHS; everyone is invited to come and learn about what's going and what is happening.

Wineteer: Can we attend as a body? Fine, it can be a special meeting, but we should all be there.

Robinson: Solutions should come to board from teachers, parents, district administrators.... I think we have taken on an agenda that is sufficient...

Wineteer & Robinson: Hammering out logistics for meeting w/ school board members present.... "calls for some unprecedented attendance by the board."

[Wineteer is just calling on board members now - protocol is changing =)]

Baker: We need student input as well. Parents want to be there, need to be there.

8:39 PM: Alexander: This town isn't about secrets... when a board meeting happens, most people know what's going to happen. [WHAT PLANET IS HE ON? NOTE TO SELF: GET TRANSCRIPT OF THIS, CHECK FOR ACCURACY.]

8:40 PM: Alexander moves to schedule a special session September 10th; LAURA BAKER CUTS HIM OFF and asks what time works for parents; Jennifer Walter notes how hard that is on teachers, and Laura Baker says "it's not about the teachers, it's about the kids." [This starts a whole side conversation about what the role of the board can be and how it intersects with public meetings law.]

8:44 PM: McUne and Fisher: Meeting is a good idea, but we need to make sure and do it right.

8:46 PM Audience member: Where do we obtain curriculum, what are others doing that works, we want to come prepared with good questions. Is there a website we can look at?

Robinson: Each course syllabus should be made available to the public each year... those can be made available sooner, if they are ready. Will soon be available on a regular basis.

8:47 PM: Parent: Was told that transferring classes was not an option; last year, daughter failed her first class after being told there was no place to transfer to. Teachers and counselors told student there were no other options.

Robinson: Can move between systems for two classes

ENTIRE AUDIENCE: "We were told no!"

Robinson: It's not a no because of the academies, but because classes fill up.

Wineteer cuts everyone off. [I WONDER WHAT SHERRIE SPRENGER THINKS?]

Wineteer: Meeting regarding math crisis is 6 PM, September 10th, HS auditorium, media will be informed that board expects to attend.

Robinson: That ends my report, Mr. Chairman. [That's priceless - he was deadpan.]

8:50 PM: 10-12 audience members leave; many in audience are talking.

Wineteer asks audience to be quiet.

8:53 PM: Alexander, regarding the possibility of a contract for alternative education: "We'd be better of giving the money to a charter school [than put it towards an alternative education contract]; maybe they could hire another teacher with it!" [Not only is he wrong on the merits, but it's more evidence that he supports the charter school over the district he's running. Second, as an audience member near me muttered, "what makes him think the charter school would accept him?"]

8:57 PM: Motion made and seconded to approve contract - I was responding to blog comments =)

Fisher: We have an obligation to help students, even those that get expelled from a district school. This contract will give them another option, another way to to make grades and succeed.

McUne: Concur with Chris; any options we have for kids is good. Do we have any estimate of the number of kids that are involved in each alternative education option?

Robinson: Generally between 30-50 total for all programs.

Alexander: Where's this done at? [sic]

Zarate: Online, so wherever there is a computer. Can even happen at LHS. Students receive online mentor; McUne notes that there is a lot of material support.

Zarate: All teachers teaching these courses are highly qualified in the State of Oregon. They are teachers.

Fisher: Does this include math? [No one answers]

9:01 PM: Motion to approve contract passes unanimously.

9:02 PM: ACT Results - LCSD piloted a program with ACT. LCSD is sticking with ACT; "is a curriculum-based measure that really looks at college readiness;" SAT just indicates if student is ready for college, but says nothing about how well a student will do once there. ACT does provide that information.

Zarate: Got results. Tim Geoghagan (sp?) is working at DO position, is testing coordinator. Will present test results.

Tim presents scores. LCSD is competitive maybe a point or two lower than state and nation, but competitive.

Tim: Juniors, 2008 pilot: LHS scores are much lower than the state averages.

Robinson: Need to note that state average is made up of volunteers; we required all juniors to take it. [IF THIS IS TRUE, THEN ONE CAN'T MAKE THE COMPARISON - WHY IS THIS EVEN UP THERE?]

9:07 PM: Robinson: It's a bit of an unfair comparison; college students vs. all of ours.

Tim: See the first graph - it compares those who took it voluntarily. Much better comparison.

9:11 PM: Tim: I went to a private school; both that and my reading suggests that the aforementioned math problem is universal, it's not just Lebanon - and I'm proud to be in a district that's working so hard on this.

[By now, there are about two rows' worth of seats empty]

Reed School: Alexander: "I don't want to add any more man-hours to the proposal. Second, there used to be a restoration group. What happened to them?"

[Why did he not bring up the restoration group before now?]

Robinson: The restoration group folded due to lack of support. The question of adding labor to the current proposal is still in the same cost ballpark.

McUne: Adding 200 labor hours @ $20/hour = $4000 more to the proposal; I thought the limit was $17,000. I thought original purpose was to simply reallocate existing costs. I support the original proposal.

Alexander: Make as motion?

McUne makes, Alexander seconds - to approve as noted with deletion of 200 man-hours.

Wineteer: Any discussion?

Linda Darling: If I may, at the last meeting, you approved a facilities plan.... some discussion of budget years and allocating funds for it follows.

Motion passes unanimously w/out 200 labor hours.

Wineteer: If there are any further needs, you can always come back.

9:18 PM. Financial Report. Everyone looks tired/bored, though the board is listening attentively.

9:22 PM: Board policies. OSBA has offered revisions to IKF; just received on Friday.

Wineteer: Have five policies that can be approved tonight if we subtract IKF, which needs reworked in light of OSBA input.

McUne: Move to approve final reading of all outstanding policies but IKF.

Shimmin: Second.

Audience laughs at Wineteer in a very good-natured way at his having to read all the policy letters out loud as part of the motion.

Alexander: Did we include IKF [DOES HE EVEN LISTEN AT ALL?]

Motion passes unanimously.

Wineteer: We are looking at September 15th for Executive Session @ 6 PM and Math meeting at LHS @ 6 PM on September 10th. Next meetings are October 6th, November 3rd, December 1st. Thanks for coming.

[Meeting ends.]

Paging Doctor Crazy

LTE in the DH:

A matter of evolution

I, and other scientists who have studied many living creatures over the years, have discovered that there is more to the evolutionary process than that which controls life on this planet.

Mutations occur constantly. Those that enhance the ability of the organism to better survive in its environment are passed on; while the others of lesser value die off.

The dominant theme in all forms of life is perpetuation of their species. To do this, in most species, the females give off a pheromone (hormone) designed to attract males. It is also suspected that this occurs with humans. Unfortunately human mores run contrary to this evolutionary thrust by creating laws regulating sexual activity within the bounds of marriage and fidelity.

Also, unfortunately, scientists have not yet developed a hormone, nor do they intend to, that counteracts this essence generated subconsciously by females. One cannot justify rape, but scientists can understand male behavior being influenced by this secretion.

Our society must legalize prostitution but place it under strict medical control. I have no doubt that this action would markedly reduce the number of rapes that our society is experiencing.

Allan Jay Silver, MD, Albany

Jesus H. Christ. There are so many things wrong with this letter.... starting with the fact that someone let this guy have a medical degree. I hope he's retired.

... am I misreading this? Is he actually suggesting that men rape women because they can't stop themselves due to pheromones?

Palin: An Observation

Far too many lefty bloggers are concerned with a) the fact that Palin is really unqualified and b) how offensive/craven McCain's pick is in terms of historical precedent, departure from the modern political norm, etc.

Instead, they need to realize that the vast majority of voters are several more degrees removed from political elites than your average (white, suburban, male) lefty blogger. Just because you're taking this as a personal affront because McCain is deviating from the political norm doesn't mean that other people feel the same way. Not only is the Republican base happy about this (and therefore more likely to turn out in November, which, for my money, is going to be one of two deciding factors in the campaign - the other being Obama's ability to register and turn out voters), but it's stupid to assume so-called swing voters won't buy into the McCain-Palin ticket.

Shorter me: Class-privileged lefty bloggers need to get over themselves and their preconceptions.

UPDATE: Alternative shorter me: Don't expect to win just because you're right. If making arguments on the merits worked, GWB would have never been Preznit.

Is that fair? Of course not - ask anyone involved in any kind of social justice movement.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now arrested at RNC Convention

Good links here.

Can't say I'm surprised. A little scared for what this represents, but not surprised.

UPDATE (9/2/08 at 1:10 PM): Goodman has been freed.

Lebanon Math Scores

I've been thinking about this and this on and off all weekend, as well as having conversations with others about it. I don't really have much to say, but I do wonder about this:

According to figures from Finch, the principal, 47 percent of Lebanon High School students failed Algebra I in the third trimester of the 2007-08 school year. Another 21 percent squeaked by with a D.

Finch said he did not check other classes or other trimesters for comparison.

First, the third-trimester thing. It seems to me that that's not going to be very representative (LT has another data point that supports this claim), since the third trimester is going to have the highest percentage of students who have already failed Algebra I at least once, which is going to create a skewed view of the scores, since the repeat rate for failing is pretty high. As well, I thought math classes at LHS were all two trimesters long - Algebra IA and IB, for example. I don't recall any IA classes being taught in the spring trimester, so what this probably really means is people who are failing IB.... right?

Oh, and yeah, those are high failure rates. That should go without saying.

The second thing is the assertion that Finch hadn't checked other trimesters or classes. Unless the LCSD is using incredibly outdated technology, it shouldn't have been hard to find more data. So either Finch did check, and told less than the whole truth, or didn't check, which is a mistake. Alternatively, I suppose he could have asked for more data but not had it by the time the story ran.... but why not just say that? I find it hard to believe Finch - or someone in the district - doesn't have that data on hand when the district declares an academic emergency.

In any case, as bad as the scores from the third trimester of last year are, what would seem to be more important (and more statistically significant) would be either the trend over three or more consecutive years of third-trimester Algebra I scores, or even the trend of scores by trimester over the course of the whole year. One data point has limited value.

Of course, there is this:

Although the number of students receiving passing AYP math scores improved slightly last year over the previous year - from 48.62 to 50.34 percent, the standard is 59 percent. In 2006-07, schools met standards if 49 percent of students passed the assessment tests. The percentage will continue to increase every two years until 2014 when 100 percent of students will have to pass.

This is another way in which NCLB is a pile of garbage: Standards change every year without any regard for what's actually happening on the ground. And it will never be the case that 100% of students pass a standardized test. That's a fantasy. (That we should be getting rid of asinine standardized testing altogether is a whole different blog post.) The other thing is the rate of increase: from 49% to 100% in seven years? Seriously? That's the stuff of legends.

One last thing: If I remember correctly, the majority of the math teachers at LHS who were teaching low-level math classes when I was there were very young and, as a group, very new. This was true with only one exception I can think of. I'm not suggesting that this alone can explain the scores, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't a factor.


From Tapped:

Now today comes the news that Palin's 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. In the news release, the McCain campaign made sure to state that:

Bristol Palin made the decision on her own to keep the baby, McCain aides said.

While it's obvious why they made this statement to assure the public that Bristol was not coerced into keeping the baby (after all, she does have a parent who is a staunch opponent of the right to choose and is currently on the Republican presidential ticket), as my significant other pointed out, there's some serious hypocrisy at play here. I mean, John McCain and Sarah Palin don't believe women have a right to choose. It's absolutely absurd for the campaign to emphasize the fact that Bristol "made this decision," and then push for policies that take away that choice.

If I were, say, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, or anyone else with a brain, I would be hammering home this hypocrisy starting today. Choice-for-me-but-not-for-thee takes on extra-special meaning when coming from people who support anti-choice public policies.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Palin, Uknown

From Huffington Post (but via OG and Daily Kos), it appears that the McCain campaign didn't do much - if any - vetting of VP pick Sarah Palin:

On Saturday, a Democrat tasked with opposition research contacted the Huffington Post with this piece of information: as of this weekend, the McCain campaign had not gone through old newspaper articles from the Valley Frontiersman, Palin's hometown newspaper.

How does he know? The paper's (massive) archives are not online. And when he went to research past content, he was told he was the first to inquire.

"No one else had requested access before," said the source. "It's unbelievable. We were the only people to do that, which means the McCain camp didn't."

Not only is this inconceivable by traditional political standards, but it adds even more credence to the argument advanced by my coworker that McCain make the pick late in the week and as a snap response to the events of the Democratic National Convention.

John McCain: Picking the second-in-command of the most powerful country in the world on a whim. As a reaction. And yet we're to believe it's Obama that lacks the judgment necessary to be President.

Chase Allgood

Friend and friend of a friend (and long an amazing photographer) Chase Allgood has updated his web presence (though I hate that phrase), so check it out. I won't steal any of his pics and repost them, because they're too good. Just know that I really, really like Leveraging Future Histories #1 and #13 as well as Friendly Way #5.

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