Friday, October 31, 2008

Those Wacky Parents

Over at the NYC Parent's Blog, they've gotten their hands on the Daily News story that appears to have been killed by the Tweedies. Ellizabeth Green ponders the significance of this action here.

Debate Number Four

Watch the candidates really do battle, and stay tuned for the surprise challenge at the end:

What Do They Have to Do?

I hang out with a bunch of rednecks most weekends, with people who play banjos, and many who do even worse things. I usually keep my mouth shut about politics because after all, good banjo players are few and far between.

But sometimes I can't help myself. The GOP has had it their way for most of the last eight years, and when the Dems finally took the house back but were limited in what they could get done:
With Democrats clinging to a 51-49 advantage, the Senate became the place where signature legislation went to die. Republican stalling by filibuster became the norm. A record 92 filibusters were conducted this session of Congress.

We've seen what the deregulators could do with the economy. We've seen the rich get richer, while most of us watch prices go up far more quickly than our salaries. We've seen endless, pointless war which costs us ten billion a month we don't have. In fact, the national debt clock, temporarily retired when Clinton retired the debt, now has to be redesigned in order to accommodate the unanticipated extra digit. Honestly, short of bombing our own country, it's tough to imagine what else the neocons could have up their blighted sleeves.

I was heartened, however, that a banjo player of my acquaintance, one who vehemently supported W., has finally come to his senses, saying, "He just doesn't care about people like me and my family." He's going to vote for Barack Obama, even if it means that the uber-wealthy may end up paying a few extra points in taxes. I was also heartened by the picture above (which I filched from Andrew Sullivan).

I'm willing to make that sacrifice as well. I regret I don't make enough that my taxes would rise, but if Ms. Weingarten manages to negotiate a 150% raise next year, I'm willing to do my bit.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Battle Between Kids and Grownups Rages On

The longer I teach, the more resourceful they become. For a few years now, I've been helping ESL kids pass the English Regents. I used to have them write at home, but it got to be a huge chore sorting out all the nonsense kids printed directly off the net, often with the addresses intact. I then decreed no more homework, and all writing would be done in the classroom.

But the kids found that all the English Regents exams, the ones I used for practice, were right there on the net. Why bother taking notes on those nasty listening passages when you could just copy them verbatim from your computer? Unfortunately for them, I had the text, knew it quite well after having read it aloud over ten times, and refused to accept verbatim renditions that still failed to address the questions.

But next they got more tricky, and started copying the sample comps from the teachers' guides off the net. I knew the styles didn't match, so I printed them out. Even when confronted with word for word identical essays, some kids denied copying. One even got transferred out of my class, citing how preposterously unreasonable I am.

It's really extra busy work for me having to print out all this stuff and check against it, but I hate it when kids get over on me. I'm told Kaplan makes mock-Regents exams that are sold at bookstores. I'm gonna try them out, as I think going to stores and buying books will prove beyond the pale for most teenagers.

I thought I was lucky that I had a literature class to balance this, but it turns out they've found ways to cheat there too. Sometimes I'll have them summarize the reading for homework (as many kids won't read unless you make them write too).

But yesterday morning, when I decided to check homework very carefully, I noticed one kid writing much better than that particular kid could write. I bullied her into admitting she'd copied it from the net. Then I read the same thing twice more. I went to an office with a working computer and printer, and I tried Sparknotes. Drat! No luck. Cliff Notes. No good. Then I typed the lines into Google and found Bookrags.

So that's where they steal from nowadays, what with the demise of Classic Comics and all. Bookrags seems an apt name, as it encourages kids to treat books like rags, like a chore, like taking out the trash.

I hope I can show them they're wrong. But till I do, I'll keep catching as many of them as I can.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Parent of the Year

Yesterday morning it was raining cats and dogs, and the occasional larger creature. My daughter's friend from down the block knocked on our door. She had missed the bus, and her mom had told her to walk. She's a sixth grader, and her school is two or three miles from here.

My wife said sure, she'd get dressed and drive her. But the mom, roused from her warm bed, said no, let her walk, it will teach her a lesson. There wasn't much to do once she'd denied my wife permission to drive the kid, who went off crying into the miserable cold rain to trek off to school.

I don't suppose the mom was doing anything illegal. I can't help thinking it ought to be. While I don't imagine the girl will wake up late anytime soon, I can't imagine putting my kid through such a thing on a day like that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Just a Few Hundred Million Bucks

That's what the new Pepsi logo cost. Kinda makes ya wonder what we paid for that glitzy UFT logo we got. I hear it was a bargain at a mere quarter mil.

Let's Romp Naked Through the Christchurch Schools

There's a sentence you don't see every day. But apparently, it's one that popped through the minds of four young men who decided it was something they needed to do. This district seems to be in New Zealand, and I don't suppose they were having the same rainy, awful weather we had today in the Big Apple.

The district responded by adding security guards. That'll show 'em.

Here in NYC, it would be probably be blamed on teachers, provoking a new study group so that Joel Klein and Randi Weingarten could devise a new merit pay program. If no more young men romped naked through the halls, it would be declared a resounding success. If the incident were repeated, the program would be expanded until the nature hikes stopped altogether.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Unreceptive Parent

I often call homes, and frequently advise colleagues to do the same. Sometimes they do. Other times they don't want to. Sometimes they tell me it doesn't work. Rarely, though, do I hear stories like this one:

Cheri Fry, 30, is accused of screaming profanities, threats and racial slurs at Traner Middle School Principal Lauren Ford during a discussion about her son's involvement in a fight.

Police said that while Fry was being transported to jail, she said she wanted to punch the principal in the mouth "so you really have something to arrest me for."

David Coleman, 46, is accused of using profanity and making threats during a Monday phone call from his daughter's teacher at Hug High School in Reno.

Some parents don't want to hear anything negative about their kids, I guess. And I suppose it's no surprise that their kids are just that much more likely to get into trouble at school. Why shouldn't they, if Mom and Dad are unlikely to acknowledge, let alone respond to, anyone claiming they're at fault for anything?

I suppose I've been lucky not to have my life threatened the many times I reported kids' progress to their parents. Have you ever been threatened by a parent, other than your own?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Children First

Diversity is the latest apparent victim of the rampant overcrowding that typifies Mayor Bloomberg's "Children First" program. You know that program--first put them here, then put them there, then in the corner, on the windowsill, in the closet, on top of each other, and everywhere else. If that fails, bring in a few trailers and dump them out back.

Is this de facto segregation?

Schools like PS 199 on the upper West Side have seen their black and Latino population decline. At PS 199, the figures have fallen from about 30% in the fifth grade to about 10% in kindergarten. PS 150 in Tribeca saw a similar drop from 32% to 7%.

You see, there's just no place to put these kids. I'm proud to say, though, that my school accepts absolutely everyone from absolutely anywhere. In fairness to Mayor-for-life Bloomberg, I doubt diversity or lack thereof has anything whatsoever to do with any calculations on his part, or that of the Tweedies. There's just no place to put these kids.

There's no place in their buildings, and there isn't any in mine either. And that is the problem. Twenty years ago the city would've rented an annex to house the overflow in a school like mine. Now they just shovel em' in and dump 'em anywhere. And that is simply unconscionable.

It's unfortunate that the media has yet to come to this conclusion, or doesn't care about it, or is stuffed too far down in Mayor Bloomberg's admittedly deep pockets. But it's obvious to anyone who spends any time in real city schools.

For this, Mayor Bloomberg merits not a third term in Gracie Mansion, but a first in prison.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Vet Who Did Not Vet

Don't miss this...

Friday, October 24, 2008

You Can't Win With Some People

Ms. Bright has been my colleague for some time now. She has her good qualities, and one of them is knowing precisely which buttons to push with the kids. One of her worst qualities, unfortunately, is knowing which buttons to push with me. I always hate it when people figure me out and announce it to the world.

In our extended-day school, I taught beginning ESL periods nine and ten. Naturally I was in the trailer, and Ms. Bright somehow always found the parking space right outside my door. While I was welcoming the students, she would call out to me.

"Mr. Educator?"


"I just wanted to let you know that I'm leaving now."

"Oh, thank you, Ms. Bright. Thank you very much for letting me know."

"Don't mention it," she'd say.

Then she'd get in her car and start it up. And a moment later, she'd get out and call me again.

"Mr. Educator?"

"Yes, Ms. Bright?"

"I just want to let you know that I'm getting in my car now, and I'm going to drive away and go home."

Then she slammed the door and sped away. Sometimes I wanted to shout, "I get paid more than you," but I somehow knew what her response would be.

"I'm younger and better-looking than you are."

And really, how could I deny that? So I'd just go in and face the kids, who found the entire ritual hilarious. And no matter how many times she did it, they never got tired of it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

He's Not Leaving

The City Council holds a "vote" today to decide if the city's term limits law can be extended to three four year terms from the current two so citywide officials, City Council members and most importantly, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, can run again.

The fix is in on this vote, of course. Mayor Mike has bought off the opposition, threatened or bribed them to give him what he wants - another term as mayor.

So if and when the City Council gives the mayor what he wants and allows him another term, what should we start calling the "Little Mayor."

It seems to me "mayor" doesn't work so much anymore.

Maybe we can call him Dear Leader? Or Big Brother? Maybe King Bloomberg? Or Uncle Mike?

Any other ideas what we can call him?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another Day in Mr. Bloomberg's New York

In today's Times there's a story about Robert Grandt, a school librarian who promoted a book written by his daughter. Not only did he put it on display, but he wrote a little blurb about it wherever school librarians write little blurbs. When students inquired about it, he gave them copies free of charge. However, one of Mayor Bloomberg's particularly astute Tweedies determined the librarian's daughter might be making 20 cents on each copy of the book the guy gave away.

Naturally, they could not allow such an outrage. So they threatened to fire Mr. Grandt, presented him with a $1,000 fine (which his wife managed to negotiate down to 500), and made him sign an affidavit saying he violated some crucial ethics code. What was Grandt's excuse for this dastardly and cynical act?
"I was just so proud of my daughter for writing it.”

Can you imagine?

On the same page there's a story about how the city council will vote tomorrow on extending term limits for Mayor Bloomberg and the very members of the council who are voting. Though the people of NY have voted term limits up twice, Mayor Bloomberg says it would be too complicated to ask them again. Plus Ronald Lauder, a gazillionaire colleague of Mayor Bloomberg, says it's OK. So really, who cares what the people think?

As long Mayor Bloomberg is standing firm on keeping those awful unionized teachers accountable, he can do whatever the hell he feels like, however the hell he feels like, and whenever the hell he feels like doing it. After all, you have to give those plebians something to aspire to.

The Eye of the Beholder

A couple of my classes just finished reading The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexandar McCall Smith. If you haven't read it (or its sequels), I highly recommend it.

My students had mixed reviews. Some of them didn't like it so much.

"It was so-so," said one kid.

"Well, what book did you like better?" I asked.

"All books are so-so," the kid said. Apparently, he prefers video games, and finds this whole reading thing overrated.

"I liked Dracula better," piped up one of my better students.

I liked Dracula too, though it was kind of an apples and oranges comparison, at least to me.

"What did you like better about Dracula?" I asked.

"There were more SAT words in it," she replied, with absolute seriousness.

It's true the Detective Agency series has fairly simple and straightforward language. As I clearly don't appreciate what's important, I found that one of the book's strong points.

Without giving much away, the book discusses a failed marriage. This provoked a couple of great comments from kids. One kid said, "You lose your eyes when you lose your heart."

Another said, "Love is blind. Marriage is an eye-opener."

Yet another declared, "After your first love, then you get mature."

Let's hope that's all it takes. I'd hate to think they'd need to burn through a marriage just to grow up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Dire Omen

During hard times, Billboard favorites lean toward the maudlin, according to Professor Terry F. Pettijohn II:

Looking at Billboard No.1 songs from 1955 to 2003 for a study to be published in the journal Psychology of Music, Dr. Pettijohn found that in uncertain times, people tend to prefer songs that are longer, slower, with more meaningful themes.

"It's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water,' and 'That's What Friends Are For,' " he said. "In better times, it's more likely to be faster, upbeat songs like 'At the Hop' or 'My Sharona.' "

This is just one more reason for us to get this economy on its feet. How many of us want to hear Feelings, or that Bobby Goldsboro gem Honey? Do we really need another comeback for Frankie Avalon? Do we really want our children to suffer through another Along Comes Mary? Does anyone actually understand that song anyway?

It's time to get our house in order, America. Someone has to stand up and say we've had all we can stands, and we can't stands no more.

Monday, October 20, 2008

On the Bright Side

Here are ten cars you can live in after your home is repossessed.

Be Cool (and Stay Warm)

Get a North Face jacket, just like the kids wear (How on earth do they afford them?) for 20% off.

Ms. Weingarten Takes a Stand

Take heart, UFT members. Sure, you're working more days than anyone in the area, and you're still being paid less than your neighbors. It's certainly true that our canny leaders managed to negotiate the worst contract in my 24 years as a teacher without even demanding cost of living to compensate for the massive givebacks they agreed to.

As a result, 1400 teachers, many through no fault of their own, are stuck in the limbo of the ATR brigade, regularly vilified by both the press and Mayor Bloomberg's puppets (transparently masqueraded as independent organizations). Thousands of others are teaching a sixth class (which is not a class, according to the UFT) and perpetually walking that hall patrol.

And sure, the UFT declared victory on the class size issue after making a toothless, unenforceable agreement that's had no effect whatsoever. NYC's 1.1 million kids study under unconscionable conditions, in hallways, closets and trailers, saddled with the highest class sizes in the state. And with typical lack of vision, the UFT has agreed to use test data to rate teachers, perhaps actually believing it would not actually be used to rate teachers.

I could go on. But this week, Ms. Weingarten and her gang were in court fighting for your right to wear buttons in school. Personally I don't wear buttons anywhere, and if I did, I probably wouldn't bother to try to influence my students, few if any of whom can vote anyway. But the point is that this is where the UFT has chosen to draw the line.

For what it's worth, they lost, but the court affirmed your right to place political messages in teacher mailboxes and on staff bulletin boards (although I'm not precisely sure how that will work out if you oppose Ms. Weingarten's Unity monopoly). That, perhaps, is another victory, just like when Teacher's Choice funds were reduced by almost half.

Keep voting for the likes of Ms. Weingarten, teachers, and we can guarantee more of the same.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Looking into the Big Apple?

Better watch out for that apple tax. I've always used a PC, so I can't really say whether it's excessive or not. I'm writing this on a $450 laptop I bought on special at Best Buy, as I personally believe in spending as little as possible on computers. Friends of mine who use Macs swear by them, though.

I happen to know Reality-Based Educator has cursed and kicked his poor old PC, but I don't believe he's anted up for a Mac yet. Is it worth it?

Notes from the Bizzaro World

Here's a peek at the oval office under President Sarah Palin. Feel free to open the doors and cabinets. Click on the pictures too, and get a feel for the place.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Maverick Johny's Target Audience

When I teach kids to write, I always tell them to keep their audience in mind. You can't address your friends the same way you address your English teachers, especially when they're reading your compositions.

So who is it Maverick Johny is looking to impress with his talk about the evils of taxes? Barack Obama has a plan that will reduce the taxes of everyone earning less than $250,000 a year. He doesn't appear to be courting the resentful billionaire segment of our population, and neither does MJ. So who is Maverick John trying to persuade?

It appears he's after the same folks who actually believe Bill O'Reilly is looking out for them, and yes, that includes Joe the plumber. Never mind that Joe isn't actually a plumber, that he doesn't make nearly $250,000 a year, that he doesn't own the company he talks about (or have any realistic chance of buying it), that he doesn't pay the taxes he already owes, or that his first name isn't even Joe (Maverick Johny's vetting process is less than perfect).

Still, some day, Joe the plumber might own this company. In fact, he might become a billionaire. Maybe he'll win the lottery. Or maybe he'll find a machine that can core a apple, produce a successful infomercial, and become wealthy overnight. Hope springeth eternal, and that's the sort of hope Limbaugh, Hannity, and O'Reilly want you to foster. Never mind the reality-47 million Americans without health insurance, the flat income, the jobs shipped overseas, or all those folks going bankrupt due to catastrophic medical emergency.

Have Americans finally had enough of their divisive nonsense? It's hard to say. Maverick John is now making robocalls of the same sort he found so despicable when they were used against him. He's given up his integrity and dumped his "straight talk" in favor of whatever desperate nonsense might propel him over that awful Barack Obama.

Has America wised up, or are we still a nation of Ralph Kramdens? I'm hoping for the former, but only time will tell. And the day after Election Day will only be the beginning.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Don't Miss...

... the debate edition of the Carnival of Education, hosted by everyone's favorite Eduwonkette.

Now Even More Mavericky

Last night Maverick Johny outdid himself. After opposing the GI Bill, the one that granted our military men and women more realistic college benefits (which passed despite his opposition), after voting against GI benefits at least 28 times, he finally found something for them to do. Let's make them teachers, he said, and let's get rid of all that nasty certification and education required to do the job.

It's remarkable how many people think that a six-week course, or no six-week course, or reading a pamphlet or standing on one's head qualifies someone to teach 34 teenagers at a time five times a day. Frankly, I don't think MJ himself is up to the task.

I certainly don't begrudge GIs the right to become teachers, though. That's why, unlike Maverick Johny, I strongly supported the bill that would give them a college education, so that they could become teachers, or whatever else they so richly deserve a chance at.

But the thing that really caught my attention was when MJ spoke about that old "health of the mother" nonsense the liberals kept rolling out. Why would that nasty Barack Obama insist on protecting the health of the mother when there were fetuses to be protected? Can't we just let mothers drop dead so that fetuses can come into the world unblemished?

Because that's what the GOP is all about. We'll stick with you right up until you're born, but from there on in, you're on your own, kid (unless you're an investment bank or something). No health care for you. Unqualified inexperienced incompetent teachers, but let's hope at least they aren't unionized. Perish forbid that nasty Barack Obama should open up the health plan US government employees have to Joe Sixpack, Joe the Plumber, or any of the regular Joes Maverick Johny supposedly pals around with while driving his 13 cars between his nine homes.

But at least we know MJ will stick with ya right up to and including the moment you're born. It's high time we elected a President who cared about what happens next.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Last Debate

I'm watching the third and final presidential debate tonight and Senator McCain keeps reminding me of somebody, but I can't quite put my finger on it...

...oh, yeah - now I remember...Captain Queeg.

At any moment, I'm expecting Senator McCain to take out little metal balls and start babbling incoherently about stolen strawberries and disloyal officers.

Seriously, giving this guy the nuclear football is one helluva scary proposition.

The only thing scarier than giving McCain the nuclear football is giving Governor Palin the nuclear football.

UPDATE: Looks like lots of other folks on the Internets thought McCain was nuts too.

Same goes for the focus groups conducted by CNN, CBS, and FOX News.

Hey, It's Only Money

As of today, the cost of the banking/financial system bailout has been $2.25 trillion dollars.

Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture estimates that the total cost of the bailout will be somewhere between $4 and $6 trillion bucks.

And you'll note that after all of that money thrown at the problem, the credit market is still frozen and financial markets are right back where they were last Friday - hitting bottom.

Add the price of the bank bailout to the costs of the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war, both of which have been added to the federal deficit/credit card, and you have an awful lot of money the small government Bushies have borrowed/printed over the past eight years to pursue their policies and/or stem the damage from same said policies.

And what will be the consequences from all that borrowed and/or printed money in coming years?

Just take a look at the picture for a preview.

Right now we have deflation in lots of areas, particularly housing. But you can't print all this money and toss it from a helicopter the way they have been doing without serious consequences.

Why I Voted for Obama

by special guest blogger Yo Miss! (formerly in Bushwick)

I voted last week. I marked my absentee ballot for Sen. Barack Obama. I stamped it, dropped it in the mail, and listened for the smooth sounds of the wheels of democracy chugging along as it fell into the mailbox. It was a nice moment, as I had been dreaming about voting for Sen. Obama since his game-changing speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Just a moment ago, in fact, I received an e-mail from the campaign telling me that I was one of the first 100,000 people to "own a piece of the campaign," meaning that I was among Sen. Obama's first donors for his Presidential campaign. I was incredibly proud when I read that e-mail, and while I know he's looking for money, I also know that we still have 3 weeks left in a campaign that is increasingly contentious (to put it mildly) and that money is still needed to print signs, drive voters to polling places, make phone calls, and keep the dream of a new kind of President alive. Y'all accept MasterCard, right?

Why did I vote for Sen. Obama? In the four years since I have first become acquainted with the man's beliefs, my reasons have multiplied and developed many times over. His speech in 2004 was a thing of rare beauty--hopeful, honest, and without cynicism--in American politics. Intrigued, I read his first book and was again amazed by what Sen. Obama seemed to offer: moral clarity and courage without ideological blinders, confidence without smugness, and above all an openness and curiosity about himself and the world that will now enable him to hold his ground with anyone else on the world stage. I thought, as surely many others did, "This guy should run for President." We were already staring down the barrel of a second Bush Presidency that would be ruinous in every imaginable sense for our country, and the stirrings in this country for change had begun.

In 2006, I read Sen. Obama's second book, a more overtly political vision of where our country is and where it could be, where it should be. Gov. Sarah Palin has suggested that Sen. Obama hates America, but she clearly never read the man's own words in either of his books. I'm not sure why an America-hater would admire so many American politicians, why an America-hater would want to lift up the political discourse in this country, why an America-hater would believe that American voters deserve better than pandering. Sen. Obama's adult life has been devoted to public service, and while it may not look like Sen. McCain's service or Sen. Clinton's service, I fail to see how turning down six-figure salaries from large law firms to go out and work on the streets of Chicago on behalf of the poor and voiceless is not an example of sacrificial service in the interest of all that is good about one's country.

But my support for Sen. Obama never seemed so urgent or so real until I taught middle school social studies in New York City. In my classroom, there are many students who do not come from "Joe Sixpack" families. They are, like Sen. Obama himself, being raised by single parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings. Or they are immigrants, starting kindergarten speaking Mandarin, Spanish, or Russian. Or they simply don't look like the America some of us grew up with, and against them we may see used the same tactics as those currently being used to smear Sen. Obama. "She's from Pakistan," an opponent might coo, fifteen or twenty years down the road, when one of my students runs for City Council. "That's where the TERRORISTS are from, you know." Never mind that this girl may have lived on a quiet street in Flushing for almost her entire life, reading teenage-girl novels and wearing blue jeans and watching American Idol. Just as Sen. Obama spent most of his life in Hawaii, in Kansas, in California, in New York, in Illinois--a diverse collection of American experience. I hear the anger of my students about how Sen. Obama's life is portrayed as un-American, and it's not hard to understand why: Because if his experience is not American, then neither is theirs. They, too, could be smeared as unpatriotic, as exotic. They would be the subject of the question, "What do we really know about this guy?"

The children I teach need a leader, a hero--not because they are poor, or nonwhite, or immigrant, but because their American experience, their uniquely American experience, is being held up as strange, even wrong. I cannot imagine what these children must hear and subsequently feel when a childhood spent among people of non-Christian faiths, of nonwhite skin, of non-American nationality is looked upon and spoken about with suspicion and denigration, because that, in some respect, is the life of every single child I teach. My children have amazing dreams, amazing life stories, some of them, at the tender ages of twelve or thirteen, and a big part of the American dream is that anyone here can grow up to be President....right?

So, as corny as it sounds, think of the children. Think of the children in American schools--because I can guarantee you that they are watching and listening to this election very closely. They are passionately interested. They hear their parents worrying about paying the bills, or they have watched boyfriends or girlfriends or older siblings go off to Iraq. They can hear the subtle racism and fear-mongering in speeches and rallies. I doubt they will easily forgive or forget the casual disregard of their lives and their American experience by politicians who would do or say anything at this point to win. If you really believe that America is about more than skin color, more than national origin, more than what one's family looks like--if you really believe that America is a collection of ideals, ideals of freedom, fairness, and hope for everyone born here or coming here with thoughts of a better life--then please question what you hear, even from yourself, and consider very carefully what your vote means for the Americans of the future. The Americans that may have been born somewhere else, Americans who may not "look like you," but whose dreams are probably very much the same.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Oh No!

Fred Barnes is horrified at the prospect of Obama winning along with a Dem-dominated Congress. First of all, card-check might pass, resulting in a rise in unionized workers for the first time since Reagan became President.

Even worse, those who benefit from unionization might actually have to pay dues to those who represent them, even if they don't feel like it. I've always been amazed at those who push that "right to work" nonsense. I don't support the war in Iraq, I don't support the agenda of GW and pals, yet I have to pay taxes anyway. When taxes become optional, then I'll discuss "right to work."

As if that's not enough, the prospect of a totally right-wing Supreme Court is seriously in jeopardy. Who will vote to not count votes?

The worst part of all, though, is this:

What about Obama's health care plan? He's described it as step or two away from a single payer, government-run health system like Canada's. While expensive, its chances of passage would be quite good.

Wouldn't it be awful if all Americans had health coverage? How on earth would people go bankrupt due to catastrophic medical emergency (which can't happen in most industrialized countries)? Isn't it enough that our taxes are just as high as those in countries where health insurance is a right? We should be honored to know that our taxes pay for endless, pointless wars and bailouts of good ol' banks that spent our money like drunken sailors.

Is that really the worst case scenario, Mr. Barnes? Perhaps we'll even move back to that awful Clinton economy. Perish forbid. Clearly you and your Fox Network pals know what's good for us.

Quote of the Day

"We've got them right where we want 'em."

John McCain

Monday, October 13, 2008

Email from NYC Council Member John Liu

Dear Friends,

Opposition to legislative overturn of referenda establishing term
limits has been mounting. However, expect the Mayor and the City
Council Speaker to launch their counter-offensive beginning tomorrow
as public hearings and the Council vote approach in the days ahead.

Public Hearings at City Hall: Thursday, October 16 at 1:00 PM and
Friday, October 17 at 10:00 AM.

Register your opposition as thousands already have at

Thanks to Schoolgal

Quote of the Day

"Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt."

-Herbert Hoover

Happy Bank Nationalization Day

Last week the Dow Jones lost 18% for the week, the worst one week performance in its history.

Over the weekend, European Central banks announced a plan to partially nationalize bank losses and guarantee loans between banks as well as allow governments to buy stocks in distressed financial firms.

The United States is expected to follow suit, with the government taking equity stakes in "healthy" banks and financial firms while continuing to provide funds to buy up "illiquid assets" (i.e., crap that nobody in their right mind wants to buy because they don't know what the worth is.)

Wow - it's Bank Nationalization Day everybody - if you're a big financial firm and you've either lent out money to people who can't or won't pay it back or bought up securitized debt from same said people, the government has got some money for you!!!

In other words, don't worry about your losses, taxpayers and/or the government printing press will make them all magically disappear.

And how did the stock market react to the bank nationalization news?

Why, it gained 11% in just one day, almost 1000 points.

Down 18% last week, up 11% today.

As Atrios would say, wheeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!

Funny thing, though. These same "capitalists" and "free market proponents" who applauded the bank nationalization moves today buy buying up nearly every stock in sight consistently scream holy terror whenever anybody talks about a national health care system in this country.

You see, national health care is "socialism". The Bush administration buying up trillions in crappy assets and debt obligations and pawning them off on the tax payers while saving the backsides of all these Masters of the Universe on Wall Street - that's just free market capitalism getting a little help from the government.

It's a shame the same permabull hucksters who helped create this mess (turn on CNBC any time of day and you'll see 'em) won't admit the irony here.

But Barry Ritholtz at the Big Picture found it though:

Who ever would have predicted a quip such as this one 8 years ago:

“The Bush administration, which took office as social conservatives, is now leaving as conservative socialists.”

-Allan Mendelowitz

These are truly interesting times . . .

Indeed they are.

Well, at least the guy in the picture can get work down on his Lexus now.

Tomorrow's Neocons

This is an important article. Here's a conservative, in the New York Post, saying McCain, now that his aura is fading, was wrong for the Republicans--he's not a true conservative. Also, President Bush is at fault for not following true conservative ideals. Now it's true that some conservatives, notably Andrew Sullivan (who has long supported Obama), have been saying such things sincerely for some time.

Nonetheless, the majority of prominent conservatives have been very public supporters of President Bush and his ruinous policies. They championed the Iraq war, and called us unpatriotic for opposing it. They claim the surge has worked as though a less violent war is a success, even if the war itself is as pointless and endless as ever.

They supported the deregulation that's led us to the current financial meltdown. They supported tax cuts for those who least needed them, whatever the status of the economy, even as they mortgaged the future of our children. They fought tooth and nail to ensure Americans wouldn't have the health benefits available in other industrialized nations, and made sure that Medicare prescription benefits helped the drug companies rather than the taxpayers.

But now they need an out. And what is it? Of course, it's acknowledging the massive failures of GW Bush, but preposterously claiming they took no part in it. In fact, the guy who wrote this article also authored an anti-Obama book--but now that it appears not to have been effective, is pointing his finger at ol' Maverick Johny, the person his party selected as its standard-bearer.

In the coming Obama presidency, we'll see a lot of this finger-pointing and denial, as the GOP blames Democrats in general, and President Obama in particular, for the mess its own policies have created. The right-wing talking heads will talk it up just as eagerly they've taken up the cause of Maverick Johny and his unending smear campaign.

But it's nonsense now, and it will be nonsense then too.

From NYC Educator's Mailbox


With the new school year, the Department of Education and its trained media have resumed their favorite all-season sport: teacher bashing, and more particularly teacher-union bashing. The latest round began with a triple-barrel assault last month from the New York Post, Daily News and the New York Times blaming the UFT for the fact that the NYC Department of Education is refusing to assign some 1,400 teachers to classroom positions.

Now a follow-up editorial from the Post (October 5) says: “Can anybody seriously doubt that the United Federation of Teachers stands as the chief impediment to meaningful reform of the New York City school system?” They claim that “ the city is paying out some $74 million a year –- and rising – to teachers who are too incompetent to teach.” This is a slanderous smear.

Chancellor Klein tried to float this last spring with a ballyhooed study by the New Teacher Project, which is funded by the DOE. As for its “report,” any Statistic 101 student could make mincemeat of the cooked-up figures that prove nothing, or the opposite of what they claim. Their main target is the teachers who have lost their positions due to the closures of schools or programs and who are now in the “Absent Teacher Reserve.”

In fact, teachers who were “excessed” (in DOE-speak) are some of the most experienced, talented, and dedicated educators in the NYC school system. Many have been working among the neediest students in schools that have been systematically starved of facilities and funding by a DOE that has illegally diverted to other purposes millions of dollars mandated by the state to reduce class size.

Someone has to set the record straight, and it’s up to us, the teachers, to do it. We are calling upon our union, the UFT, to hold a mass citywide rally demanding that the Department of Education give positions to all ATR teachers who want them and that no new hiring take place until these teachers, and the teaching fellows who are at risk of termination, are placed. We also urge the UFT to fight the smear campaign about ATR teachers. We need to reach out to the parents and communities who are allies in our struggle.

Here’s the real story that the DOE and the media won’t tell you.

  • The number of teachers in the ATR has ballooned in the last several years, going from under 800 at the start of the 2006-2007 school to almost 1,400 reported ATRs this September. The actual figure is likely much larger. This is not because NYC teachers have suddenly become more “incompetent” but because the DOE has stepped up its closure of schools. And there’s a reason behind their madness.
  • Teachers are in the ATR pool because of a corporate scheme to “restructure schools” and cut the budget by excessing senior teachers who receive higher salaries. Under the new budget formulas, teacher salaries are paid for by each principal, which gives them a financial interest in lowering “personnel costs.”
  • This is what you get when you have a school system run not by educators, but by lawyers, privatizers and corporate money counters. The DOE just hired George Raab, III, former managing director of investment banking (!) at the failed Bear Stearns Wall Street bank to be the Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Education for $200,000 a year (check it out at As CFO of the DOE, he can run our schools into the ground!
  • Meanwhile, classes are more overcrowded than ever. According to the latest figures available (February 2008), there are over 27,000 NYC students in classes that are larger than contractual limits (NYC DOE, 2007-08 Class Size Data Report). And according to a report of the New York State Education Department this school year “53.9% of New York City schools reported that either class size or pupil-to-ratio increased in 2007-08” (NY SED press release, September 15).
  • So while thousands of students need teachers, there are thousands of certified, capable teachers who are being kept out of assignments by a Dept. of Ed. intent on enforcing its “principle” of total principal control of hiring in the schools. The ATR “problem” is of the NYC Department of Education’s own making. They are tearing up the lives of 1,400 dedicated educators, to be sacrificed on the altar on the Klein/Bloomberg “business model.”
  • The crisis of ATR teachers stems from the 2005 contract when the UFT gave up seniority transfers which guaranteed teachers a right to a position. Now, the DOE wants to go after teacher tenure and the “no layoff” clause in the contract. Bloomberg and his minions are making ATRed teachers into scapegoats because they want to get rid of any form of job security.
  • The media are howling about the city paying millions to teachers who supposedly sit around doing nothing. In fact, the large majority of ATR teachers are teaching every day and in difficult situations. Many are working in the same or similar job as they had before -- only now they have no security in their positions. Others are working out of substitute teacher pools, having to teach out of license, coming in cold to face a classroom of students whose individual strengths, difficulties and interests are unknown to them.
  • Now the DOE has created an additional problem by hiring 5,400 new teachers, yet many of these have not been given assignments either. More than 200 of the teaching fellows have been given till December to find a position or be “terminated.” We must support these new teachers, many of whom left jobs and families behind to travel to NYC, only to be thrown into this “Catch 22” situation.

ATR teachers are under attack The DOE is forever trying to break the contract with talk of forced “unpaid leave” after a year. What they are actually angling for in the short run is to turn “buyouts” into push-outs. The mayor and his education chief are trying to use the situation of the ATR teachers as a battering ram against the union as a whole. We cannot wait this one out. There is no “least bad” option.

We must stand up for our ATRed colleagues, our union, and for the students who are already suffering the consequences of the DOE’s endless “reckless reorganizations.”

Assign ATR Teachers Before New Hiring Takes Place! Stop the Smear Campaign Against ATR Teachers! Stop Union-Busting! Stop Teacher Bashing! Bring Back Seniority Transfer Rights!

And here's a petition you can circulate.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

In the Red

Christopher Buckley, novelist, National Review columnist, son of William F. (among other things), endorses Obama.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Earth to Joe Beercan

The GOP continues its "regular guy" approach, despite years of ignoring the regular guy in favor of the top 1% of the population. It presents a guy with 9 homes and 13 cars as Everyman, because the other guy, born to a single mom, managed to drag himself to Harvard, where he ran the Law Review, and managed to defy all expectations and topple the mighty Clintons. How can we trust someone like that?

Bob Herbert has a message for you:

For the nitwits who vote for the man or woman they’d most like to have over for dinner, or hang out at a barbecue with, I suggest you take a look at how well your 401(k) is doing, or how easy it will be to meet the mortgage this month, or whether the college fund you’ve been trying to build for your kids is as robust as you’d like it to be.

There's really nothing wrong with looking around and deciding to do what's best for you and your children. Some of these issues may be more important than whether or not gay people get married, or whatever nonsense McCain and Palin are spewing this week, when you get right down to it.

Thanks to Schoolgal (for the cartoon)

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Get Schooled

Today we were writing about electric guitars, in response to a NYS Regents lecture about the history of the instrument. I'm actually interested in electric guitars and know a little bit about their history, but this particular lecture left me cold and the kids confused. There were lots of references to people like Jimi Hendrix (who was associated with a Gibson Flying V rather than his trademark Stratocaster) and Bob Dylan, which did little to tune my kids in.

Nonetheless, today I started reading a kid's paper, and found she had written the following:
For over hundreds of years during the 20th century Americans invented the electric guitar.

Sometimes when I really don't know what to say, I get this flustered look. I couldn't find words for several moments, and the girl (a very nice girl despite that sentence) began to give me instructions.

"Calm down, Mister. Take a deep breath. Count to ten. Do you want me to bring you some water?"

It took me longer than it normally would have to recover because I actually followed her instructions to the letter. Then I calmly asked her what a century was, which she knew, and asked her why she would have written such a thing.

She apologized and rewrote it into something comprehensible and coherent.

But I always feel like I must be off my game somehow when I unquestioningly take instructions from 16-year-old kids.

From NYC Parents Blog--Billionaires for Bloomy

Check out this new video on term limits from Billionaires for Bloomberg (below).

Meanwhile, the Working Families Party has gotten involved -- their new website is called

Here's a piece on the NY Times blog about the WFP involvement -- with a quote from Dan Cantor, the head of the party:

This is not necessarily about where you stand on term limits or whether or not you think that Mike Bloomberg has been a good mayor. This about the rules of the game. And you don’t get to change them at the end of the fourth quarter just because your team wants to keep playing....The media and business elite in New York seem to not be willing to hear the voices of regular people," Mr. Cantor said, accusing the publishers — Mortimer B. Zuckerman, of The Daily News; Rupert Murdoch, of the New York Post; and Arthur Sulzberger Jr., of The New York Times – of trying to create “a 21st century Tammany Hall.”

And see this article from today's metro, showing that many members of the NYC Council are wavering, after receiving lots of phone calls from their constituents.

Make your voice heard; call your Councilmember; that is unless you want to leave it up to the Billionaires to decide.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Angry McCain

I hate to use the same picture twice in the same week, but it really captures John McCain's personality quite well.

Here is a story related by Michael Kinsley about McCain gambling told to him by his friend, Jeff Dearth, an investment banker and former publisher of the New Republic:

McCain’s game is craps. So is Jeff Dearth’s. Jeff was at the table when McCain showed up and happily made room for him. Apparently there is some kind of rule or tradition in craps that everyone’s hands are supposed to be above the table when the dice are about to be thrown. McCain—“very likely distracted by one of the many people who approached him that evening,” Jeff says charitably—apparently was violating this rule. A small middle-aged woman at the table, apparently a “regular,” reached out and pulled McCain’s arm away. I’ll let Jeff take over the story:

“McCain immediately turned to the woman and said between clenched teeth: ‘DON’T TOUCH ME.’ The woman started to explain...McCain interrupted her: ‘DON’T TOUCH ME,’ he repeated viciously. The woman again tried to explain. ‘DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU’RE TALKING TO?’ McCain continued, his voice rising and his hands now raised in the ‘bring it on’ position. He was red-faced. By this time all the action at the table had stopped. I was completely shocked. McCain had totally lost it, and in the space of about ten seconds. ‘Sir, you must be courteous to the other players at the table,’ the pit boss said to McCain. “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? ASK ANYBODY AROUND HERE WHO I AM.”

This being Puerto Rico, the pit boss might not have known McCain. But the senator continued in full fury—“DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU’RE TALKING TO? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?”—and crisis was avoided only when Jeff offered to change places and stand between McCain and the woman who had touched his arm.

Yikes - do we really want this guy's hands anywhere near the nuclear football?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

How Much Is the Fine?

That's what Maverick Johny asked Obama last night. How much is the fine? What if businesses don't provide health insurance? Will they be fined? Hardball reported small businesses would be exempt. Should big businesses get away with not insuring their employees? Who is Maverick Johny looking out for?

Barack Obama replied that he wanted all children to have health insurance. Apparently he's going to insist on it. He said it was not expensive, and that SCHIP, which Maverick Johny voted against, could help (and when Obama's President, he won't veto it, like Maverick John's bud, GW).

But Maverick Johny boldly pressed on with his question about the fine. After all, why should parents have to pay fines, simply because they don't view their children's health or physical well-being as priorities?

For once, I agreed with MJ. They shouldn't have to pay fines.

They should be in prison. Or someplace worse.

Not to Be Missed

Donna Brazile

The Fix Is In

Mayor Bloomberg is busy working out a deal with fellow gazillionaire Ronald Lauder. Mr. Bloomberg, who feels himself to be indispensable, wants to extend term limits to three terms. Mr. Bloomberg finds it too cumbersome to consult with the voters, who decided (twice) two terms would be enough.

You may recall Mr. Lauder ran for mayor against Saint Rudy. After losing, he made sure Rudy's sainthood would last no more than eight years by putting his money behind a term limits referendum that won by a huge margin. However, Mr. Lauder now wants term limits extended only for Mayor Mike. Mr. Lauder apparently believes in the best democracy money can buy, and has already sunk millions into his deeply held convictions, the convictions he holds always. Except, of course, now, when he breaks them.

Doubtless they can work out something. Mayor Mike has already agreed that, after he and Lauder defy the public will, Mr. Lauder can be on a commision and decide what's good for the public. The results of Mr. Lauder's decision, however. will not take effect until his buds no longer reside in Gracie Mansion.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Don't Miss...

...Elizabeth Green, ace education reporter from the now-defunct NY Sun, guest blogging at Eduwonk.

Bailout Nation (Continued)

Last week Preznut Bush signed the $700 billion dollar bailout bill into law.

Yesterday the Dow plummeted 800 points during the day, recovered somewhat and ended down about 370.

The Dow is now below 10,000 for the first time since 2004.

I guess the bailout plan hasn't exactly solved all the problems in the stock market.

Compounding problems, the credit market remains frozen and seem to be getting worse:

“There is a growing recognition that not only has the credit crunch refused to be contained, it continues to spread,” said Ed Yardeni, an investment strategist. “It’s gone truly global.”

Stock futures are flat this morning and the traders on CNBC are all talking about feeling better about things, so maybe we'll get a calmer day on Wall Street today, but ultimately it looks like the financial crisis has not been solved by last week's bailout plan and the government is going to have to do more bailing out:

WASHINGTON — As pressure built in the credit markets and stocks spiraled lower around the world on Monday, the Federal Reserve was considering a radical new plan to jump-start the engine of the financial system.

Under a proposal being discussed with the Treasury Department, the Fed could buy vast amounts of the unsecured short-term debt that companies rely on to finance their day-to-day activities, according to officials familiar with the discussions. If this were to happen, the central bank would come closer than ever to lending directly to businesses.

While the move would put more taxpayer dollars at risk, it underscores the growing sense of urgency felt by policy makers in a climate where lending has virtually dried up.
Got that everybody? The Fed is going to start lending directly to businesses.

And where are they going to get the money from?

They're going to print it.

On top of all the money they have printed to fund the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, the Bush tax cuts, and the previous bailouts.

Plus they're going to lower interest rates again, perhaps as much as 100 basis points, bringing us right back to the interest rate levels that created the housing bubble problem in the first place.

This means we're going to have a really bad inflation problem in the future.

I guess they're looking at the current credit crunch as the fire that needs to be put out first before dealing with the smoke and water damage of the coming hyperinflation.

But I have the feeling that Bush/Greenspan/Bernanke policies of print and spend are going to make the inflation of the late 70's look good.

My Hero

Living bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, from Big Spraddle Virginia, endorses Barack Obama on a radio ad.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Economic Crisis...

...finally, explained.

Visionaries on Broadway

The UFT has made one agreement after another that's done nothing to help working teachers, city kids, city parents, or anyone other than their patronage mill and Tweed's propaganda machine. They made a toothless agreement on class size that resulted in no class size reduction whatsoever. They agreed to a reorganization which forced principals to consider the salaries of incoming teachers. They were shocked (shocked!) that principals tended to prefer 40K teachers over 100K teachers.

Now they've made an agreement about using standardized test data. According to Edwize, the data will be used: empower teachers with information useful in our teaching. In this same vein, the letter expressly prohibits the use of that information for evaluating teachers, in both annual ratings and tenure decisions.

The article continues to explain various reasons why standardized testing is unreliable. When you use it as an exclusive measure of teacher quality, it can give preposterously uneven results. Certainly a teacher moved from one school to another could have wildly different scores. I teach ESL kids how to pass the English Regents. I do OK, but it's certainly a lower percentage of my kids pass than those who teach kids who actually know how to speak, write and comprehend English.

But the New York Times, unlike the UFT, seems to perceive the obvious:

The new reports are part of a broader bid by the city to improve the ways teachers are recruited, trained and measured.

Why else would Tweed consider these reports at all?

With the incredible pressure on principals to improve test scores, with their jobs (and merit pay) on the line, it hasn't occurred to the UFT aristocracy that principals might utilize these reports in ways other than those intended by the Klein/ Weingarten agreement. It hasn't occurred to them that Klein himself might not abide by the agreement.

Wasn't Joel Klein the guy who unilaterally declined all sabbaticals for teachers? Isn't he the guy who made the toothless class size agreement the UFT touted, and then failed to reduce class size? Doesn't he work for Mike Bloomberg, who promised to rid the city of trailers, then welched? Isn't he the guy who agreed to keep ATRs on salary, made sure they'd never get hired, then pulled a New Teacher Project report out of his pocket claiming they were an independent organization (despite the fact he pays them millions per year)?

Has the UFT forgotten how many broken and unsatisfactory agreements they've made with Tweed? Do they really believe that principals will not use this info to rate teachers or deny tenure, whether or not they specifically say so?

It's a hallmark of intelligence to learn from experience. But Randi Weingarten is one of the smartest people I've ever seen, and her failed plans seem only to inspire even worse plans. What on earth is she thinking about? Tweed doesn't do education very well, but it's got a highly efficient and effective PR machine. Does she actually enjoy being outmaneuvered and clobbered by it?

They handed her the very worst contract I'd seen in 20 years, took back every gain the UFT had made since I began teaching, gave her less than cost of living, and got her to say "thank you."

I don't know whether she understands that yet. Why she keeps going back for more of the same is a mystery I can't get my head around.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Reasons to be Cheerful

You can finally buy a Toyota Camry or Corolla with 0% financing, if you still have a job, or money or credit. And home prices have come down to a more reasonable $1.75.

More seriously, blogger Sapient Sutler (who also found the picture on the left) points to this great piece in Salon affirming faith in the judgment of the American people, despite the preposterous spin that Palin won the debate via winking and an ability to produce the occasional coherent sentence.

Extra credit: Check out Sapient Sutler's reality check on election 2008.

On Inflation

The cost of living has gone up another dollar a quart.

-W.C. Fields

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Down and Dirty

Two newspapers articles this morning detail the problems Republicans are facing with just 31 days until the election.

The Boston Globe reports that while GOP presidential nominee John McCain pulled his staff out of and yanked off his advertising in the important swing state of Michigan this week, virtually conceding the the state to Barack Obama, McCain is in even worse shape in other swing states:

Barring a dramatic change, he is on course to lose Iowa and New Mexico, both states barely won by President Bush four years ago in his narrow victory over Democrat John F. Kerry. And he and the Republican National Committee this week began pouring money into Indiana and North Carolina, reliably Republican states where the Obama campaign has made strong advances and polls indicate the candidates are roughly tied.
McCain is behind in swing states that President Bush won in 2004 that have a combined 101 electoral votes. Remember that Bush beat John Kerry in 2004 by 35 electoral votes, so McCain cannot afford to lose any of these states, particularly if he keeps pulling out of states Kerry won back in '04 like Michigan.

So what does this all mean?

"It means the road for McCain to 270 is narrowing, whereas for Obama there are still several paths," said Dante Scala, professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. "McCain can now win by holding the states George Bush won in 2004, but playing defense won't be that easy because Obama is doing well in a number of those states. The fact that states like Indiana and Missouri are still on the table spells trouble for McCain."
McCain took public financing while Obama opted out of the system, so Johnny Maverick has less cash to spend in a year when the Republican Party has been trounced in fund raising by the Democratic Party:

At the start of September -- the last time financial figures were available -- the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee held a $40 million cash-on-hand edge over its GOP counterpart and was advertising in 41 House districts, compared with just two districts in which the National Republican Campaign Committee was on the air.

The gap was less daunting on the Senate side, where the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee held a $7 million cash edge over the National Republican Senatorial Committee at the start of September. However, the DSCC spent $13.6 million in August -- largely on television ads -- while the NRSC dropped just $3.6 million.
On top of all of that, Republicans are being blamed for the financial crisis by a 2-1 margin. Neil Newhouse, GOP strategist and pollster had this to say about the problem facing Republicans:

"The bailout crisis has had a corrosive effect on the national political environment, and that impacts not just John McCain, but GOP candidates up and down the ticket," he said.

GOPers are worried that not only will they lose the White House to a Dem but they will hand the opposition a filibuster-proof 60 seat majority in the Senate and 20-30 seats in the House.

One of the reasons Johnny Maverick chose Sarah Palin in the first place for the VP slot was to energize the conservative base, lukewarm to McCain at best, to come out on November 4th and help Republican candidates down ticket. Just a few weeks ago, Republicans were hoping to lose just 3-4 Senate seats; now they fear they will lose at least 8.

It is possible that 2008 could look like a watershed election year for the Dems the way that 1980 was for the Republicans - a huge electoral college victory to sweep a Dem into the White House and a pretty big swing on the House and Senate sides.

But Johnny Maverick and the Republicans have one last weapon available to them - they can go really, really, really nasty. And the Washington Post says that's exactly where he and his party's strategists plan to go:

Sen. John McCain and his Republican allies are readying a newly aggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama's character, believing that to win in November they must shift the conversation back to questions about the Democrat's judgment, honesty and personal associations, several top Republicans said.


"We're going to get a little tougher," a senior Republican operative said, indicating that a fresh batch of television ads is coming. "We've got to question this guy's associations. Very soon. There's no question that we have to change the subject here," said the operative, who was not authorized to discuss strategy and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Great - so the character-smearing "Obama is an empty-headed celebrity like Paris Hilton/Britney Spears" ad, the "Obama has voted to raise taxes on people making $42,000 a year" ad, the "Obama wants to teach 5 year olds about sex education before he wants to teach them to read" ad and the rest of the distortions, mischaracterizations and out-and-out lies the McCain campaign has issued since August were just a light tune-up to the really underhanded dirty stuff coming down the pike.

Wow - I'm so glad that Johnny Maverick is running the issue-oriented campaign he promised early in the election season.

Frankly I hope he runs the "Obama is a terrorist-loving light rail-riding commie pinko radical oversexed Negro who wants to sleep with white women and teach your kids all about sex and Islam" campaign that Republicans are so good at running and voters turn against both him and his party for it.

I hope they send Johnny Maverick down with a Dukasis-sized defeat and send many in his party - like Liddy Dole (currently trailing in North carolina), like Mitch McConnell (Dems are targeting the GOP minority leader the ways Republicans targeted Dem minority leader Tom Daschle in 2004), like Gordon Smith (running campaign commercials comparing himself favorably to Obama), like Ted Stevens (dirtiest man in the Senate), like Susan Collins and John Sunnu (the supposed New England liberals), and Norm Coleman - down with him.

Still, to paraphrase Mencken, nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste or intelligence of the American public, so who knows how the McCain campaign GOP tactics will work out.

For awhile there after they announced the Palin pick and had managed to put Obama on the defensive back in late August/early September, the numbers in many polls showed the race turning toward both McCain and GOP candidates down ticket.

It's quite possible that could happen again in the waning days of the campaign. I would hope Americans would instead remember the current financial crisis, who helped create it (Bush/Delay/Greenspan) and look at the latest numbers:

1. 159,000 jobs were lost in September (largest losses in five years), the unemployment rate stands at 6.1% and the underemployment rate is much higher
2. The U.S. tax payer has spent a total of $1.3 trillion on bailouts of Bear Sterns, Fannie and Freddie, AIG and now the toxic debt of domestic and international banks and yet the crisis is nowhere near done.
3. California is going bankrupt and asking for a government bail out (okay, okay..."loan"...)
4. AIG has already run through $61 billion of the $85 billion set aside to help them through the criris and yet is still slipping.
5. We continue to fight two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that a) are nowhere near completed and b) have been put totally on the credit card.

The problems America faces both at home and aborad have been almost completely created by the incompetence, stupidity, greed, and arrogance of Republicans like George W. Bush, DeadEye Dick Cheney, Tom 'Under Indictment In Two Jurisdictions' Delay, Karl Rove, and the rest of their GOP compatriots in the Congress and the Senate - including Johnny 'Voted With Preznut Bush 90% Of The Time' Maverick McCain.

Given the seriousness of the stakes and the gravity of the economic situation the U.S. faces, reality ought to trump contrived political ads and character assassinations.

Let's hope it does.