Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Voice From The Darkness Speaks With Boxing Analogies

The dust has now settled on the first two Presidential debates (one Presidential and one Vice Presidential) and I have a few observations. Debates are like political pugilism and boxing analogies work well for the debates this year.  Both sides have to show the American public what they are made of head to head.  Boxers always look good training, just like candidates look good on the stump. Once boxers are in the ring and candidates on stage, their training and strategies play out.  Using boxing analogies I will cover first the Presidential debate and my thoughts on Romney's perceived victory, then switch to the Vice-Presidential debate and Vice President Biden's perceived defeat according to Sunday's panel on FACE THE NATION..which I will link as soon as it is available

In the coverage in the first debate (lets call it Round One)  I was dismayed with the praise Governor Romney got for his debate against President Obama. Romney got credit for looking tough against President Obama's mediocre showing and generally having a better debate performance.  President Obama was blasted for looking confused and weak. I think this is an incorrect assumption although he missed several chances to soften Romney up. The link above even goes so far to pound (I think unfairly) Jim Lehrer for letting the debate get out of hand. To me all of this is hogwash.  It was not Jim Lehrer's fault the debate was a debacle for President Obama and a victory for Romney. Neither could get a word in edgewise for the ramblings of Romney. What I took from the debate was the Mitt Romney is behind in every sense of the race, and that he was merely out there to save his campaign. In my mind he failed..but again this is in my mind.

The analogy I would use is a boxer who goes into the ring knowing he is already beat.  This boxer is going to swing with all his might on every punch whether it connects or not, merely to keep the other boxer on the defensive.  The defeated boxer knows that it is hard to punch when you are dodging errant punches.  Romney went on stage in Denver knowing that if President Obama was able to speak, he (Romney) was beat.  Romney rambled on with his lists not because he had better things in those lists, but because he had more to say in those lists. President Obama did the right thing by letting Romney swing away, and keep from being rooked into a testy exchange.  The approach the President took was more like (using another boxing analogy) the rope-a-dope strategy Muhammad Ali used. He (Ali) floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, and to most extents so did President Obama.  I will admit that President Obama missed some golden opportunities to soften Romney up with some body blows that would pay off in the later rounds.

Over all, I think seeing Romney's debate in Denver as a victory is contrived and even if you (incorrectly) want to blame Jim Lehrer for a bad performance by President Obama you have to look at just how rude Romney was. Count how many times the President asked for an opportunity for a rebuttle and was not allowed one because Romney kept talking.  Count too the times Romney interrupted Lehrer or Obama and you have a very bad performance and you might have to take off your shoes and socks. To use yet another pugilism comparison  scorers are not supposed to count punches landed on the referee.  But anyway, chalk round one up to Romney as the mass media has. It is still a long bout.

Round two took place in Danville, Kentucky at Centre College between Vice President Biden and Representative Paul Ryan. I personally did not watch the debate, primary because I figured it to be a bloodbath on the part of Ryan.  Joe Biden is not a very good debater  though he pummeled Sarah Palin in 2008..not that such a feat was all that challenging.  Facing Ryan, who I see as a real sharp political player, Biden was better off coming out with gloves up and elbows down.  What happened was the exact opposite. Biden came out swinging but in typical Biden fashion.

From  Sunday's FACE THE NATION, I gathered that the Vice-President was a bit smug and brash, but this is Joe Bidden we are talking about here. So how did the media score Round Two? Not so much Victory Ryan but Defeat Bidden. My assessment? Hogwash.  Why is it that Vice-President Bidden is scorn (at least by FACE THE NATION) for doing the very same thing in Round Two as Mitt Romney did in Round One?  Would people have booed Muhammad Ali for taking a few open swings even as he danced around the ring? Yes Bidden came off harsh, but that is Joe Bidden.  From what I see, he was not as rude as Romney was in the debate which is a plus.  He is a little gruff, but that is what most people understand him to be.  He swung, mainly to keep from getting hit and I don't blame him.

Paul Ryan is the better half of the Republican ticket and knows what he is talking about. If Bidden got into details, he might well have been skunked. Bidden did what he was has done all along for the President, and the primary job of any Vice-President, attack when the President cannot.  His blows to Ryan might have been softer to Ryan than Romney's blows to Obama, but they still should have evened the score.  What is baffling to me is that they did not in the eyes of the media.  Bidden's performance has not been given the credit due..again at least from what I saw on the panel of Sunday's FACE THE NATION.      

In my assessments of Rounds One and Two, I will admit that I am skewed towards the Obama/Bidden campaign but this is how I perceive is after all my blog.  If given due, Romney's performance was okay, and Obama's a little shaky, but neither to the extent shown in the media.  Too, Vice-President Bidden was credited with a victory on many media outlets and my focusing on one program that argued to the contrary is unfair. In my assessments of Rounds Three and Four I will attempt to be more fair, though I will  still call out if I see things as misrepresented  in either direction.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

He Should Be Glad.

As is my routine, I listened to the Jason Lewis Show on my way back from town today. Per my routine, I have a blog post to publish.  The topic today is the teacher's strike in Chicago.  Now by no means do I think striking is a good things when a kid's education is on the line.  It is not helpful to student routine, to development of a good course of study, or student moral.  What I do think is is wrong is Mr. Lewis's understanding of teachers and his broad strokes painting us.  Since he chose, for the most part, to paint in the broad stroke signature of conservative radio hosts, I too will swath my way through his understanding of the educational sytem and my rebuttle.  Had I gotten through..or shall I say waited long response to his understadning would have been a series of questions that go something like this:

If all teachers have it so made,why are you, Mr. Lewis, not a teacher?

If all teachers have it so made, why does the average new teacher leave within the first five years?

If the teacher retirement is so great, why do those same teacher leave five years into service before gathering any retirement?

If all teachers have it made, why am I eating peanut butter sandwiches, driving a broken car, and living in the crappy apartment that I do?  Mind you I am paying off my student loans on time.

What is the most stressful part of your day Mr. Lewis?  Mine is wondering if I am going to get hit by a student with anger issues.

You get paid by how much advertising you are able to sale.  The more listeners you get, the more the advertising works.  The more it works the more you get paid.Ok, what do I do as a teacher to produce more students?

Yes, I am to produce better students.  How then, if are an education expert Mr. Lewis, do you suggest I do so? I only have a Master's Degree in education. Please give me some pointers.

How did you, Mr. Lewis, come to your place in stature in the conservative talk radio host world?  Yes, you will want to argue that you did it on your own, but you had to have at least had a high school education to get your first job as a DJ. Oh, you have a Master's Degree in Political Science from what's that?!? A public university... I bet your professors  there were wealthy aristocrats, just like mine at my small, liberal arts, private school..shoot just like me and my high paying public school job.

My guess is Mr. Lewis's screeners did their jobs and were able to stall him long enough to wait me out.  That's ok.  I will send him my question via email, which he will not read.  It always baffles me when people, who know very little about education or the production of, want to speak as though teachers produce widgets.  We produce, but it is not easily defined what we produce.  Yes, skilled students, but what is a skilled student?

A statistic thrown around was 15% of students in Chicago read at or above grade level.  Yes,that is terribly poor, but what is grade level?  Grade level reading is an arbitrary limit put on a set of skills from antiquated times.  Yes my students struggle to read, but they can do things on the computer the average Jason Lewis listener can only dream of...and yes I know pretty well what the average Jason Lewis listener can and cannot do on the computer.  They can do things that educated people struggle with in things like math and science.  They have complex reasoning skills that the likes of Jason Lewis would love to have.

They study the Constitution in my class, and the political system.  They learn economics and gain viable knowledge about economic systems, all information that the average Jason Lewis listener would fall short on..with the exception of what Mr. Lewis tells them about such information.  Sure I will accept the yoke of a radical liberal government teacher who teaches a loose intrepretation of the Constitution and lean toward govermnet intervention in economic depressions, but I only do so to counter balance the mostly un-educated drival spewed forth by the likes of Rush Limball (I refuse to learn how to spell his name) and Sean Hannity.

Finally I close with this:  Why are those kids not reading at grade level?  Could it be they've not eaten breakfast?  Could it be that they are beat when they get home to the point they don't want to learn anything at school, they're just glad to be away from home?  Could it be, for older students, that they are working to support their family, and not being the dead beats conservative talk radio hosts are always wanting to paint them as?  These are factors we as teachers have to deal with on a daily basis, AND teach a subject that is complex and difficult to understand.  So I think Mr. Lewis would be glad he didn't answer my call.  He might not have liked having to answer my question.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Where Have All The Populist Gone?

I found this article last night as I was researching the Populist Party in America, and I was left asking: Where have all the Populist gone?  There are a few Populist minded people in government these days, but there are very few if any true Populist from what I can tell.  These folks like the VW Microbus and Tab have faded into memory or exist in such a small number to be recognized.  Everything I read concluded that the Populist Party in the United State ended with William Jennings Bryan, though it sputtered to life in some of the policies in the New Deal.  There was a very brief resurgence in the 1970's but that puttered out quickly.  So what is a Populist? Why has there not been a ground swell of the party today?  Do we even need a Populist Party today? Where have all the Populist gone?

Asking the initial question lead to more questions as usual.  I read up more on the Populist platform and deduced that the party was primarly for the betterment of the working class, but not necessarily at the expense of the wealthy.  They wanted government working for the working person and raise them up to a equal and level playing field.  So I asked myself: Do we even need Populist today?  My conclusion. Yes! America today matches closely the American in which Populism flurished.  Any student of political history understands that the famous "Cross of Silver" speech given by Populist idol William Jennings Bryan was a plead for backing the currency with silver rather than gold.  Such a shift would benifit the struggling agriculural and working industrial class of the country. It was their last ditched hope of staving off the tide of robber barons and the industrial elite that was threatening to take complete control of every aspect in American life.    Even the America of the early Populists like Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk bears a striking resemblance to today's America.  Landed elites were gaining control of the import/export market at the expense of the country, inflation reached epic proportions for that time, and the railroads were just starting to make millions of dollars tearing up the frontier.  Populism rears it's head most at times of corporate greed and a diminishing middle class...Hmmmm sounds vaugely familiar.

So yes, while there are some Populistish members of Congress, we need a strong, real Populist Party today.Why has there not been a ground swell of Populist towards that need? Yes we have groups like OWS and even the TEA PARTY (the more I think about it they are both pretty Populistic). I think some of lack has to do with the political climate created by the Neo-Conservative Movement and this notion that to help the poor is too much like socialism.  Last time I checked it does not but who is counting.  The middle class ought, at least in my opinion, to be flocking towards Populism.  One voice against a roar is nothing but many voices will shut up a lion.  As Americans watch the middle class disappear like their bank accounts there is very little we can do to stem the tide.  The wealthy continue to gain wealth, while I am left hoping my car stays together so I can get to my teaching job.  There is nothing..nothing socialistic about helping me, or anyone else in my place.  There is very little socialistic about help people who do less and have less than me. Welfare is not a drain on the rich and anyone who might tell you other wise might need to take a real look at their accountant.  Wealthy people don't pay for poor people.  Wealthy people don't even pay for the what is left of the middle class.  The middle class pays for the poor, all the while educating the wealthy's kids, managing their factories, and cooking their high end meals at fancy restaurants. 

Populism or any movement towards such is also choked out by the two party system where people with alternative ideas are forced into one of the two parties and delegated to a life of chipping away at the dam.  It should not be this way, but it is what it is.  We've backed ourselves into a very tight corner with little hope of getting out in these regards.  No third party has ever one the Presidency, though the Populist have put up some of the best runs at the White House.  They also put a not a few Congressman into office during the heyday.  A third party like the Populist would need to spend decades sewing the seeds of a return..perhaps it is now..before it can become a vital party against.  With the decline of the Republican Party it is possible but it is a long up-hill climb.  Grass roots organizing would be a very viable route for the Populist as well as fund raising under the current limits.  Lots of middle class and poor can give $10, where very few would or could give the limits.

Where have all the Populist gone?  I think they have gone by the way with the American middle class, and the cowboy.  This is unfortunate, because now is a time ripe for Populistic movement in the country.  There is the Great Recession, corporations on the loose..hell even considered people..and we have at least a faint threat of a robber baron being handed the keys to the White House.  Populism could really catch on.  It needs to catch on.  Where have all the Populist gone?  I don't know, but I can tell you were one lives.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Turn Out The Lights..The Party's Over

As I have said before, the 2012 election is really just a formality, but the more I think about it, the more I see it as a true identity crisis for the Republican Party and less a national contest. As I see it, the race is all but over.  What is the song like "Turn out the lights..the party's over." There is however an undercurrent to this year's race that is more interesting than the national election, and that is what is the Republican party going to do with themselves?

In one camp you have the TEA Party, Constitution Party types that are pushing the party to the far far far right.  My opinion is that they need to jettison these nutsos, and focus on being moderate and just plain realistic.  Republicans fear a candidate like Virginia's..shoot Franklin County's..own Virgil Goode.  They understand, as I pointed out a long time ago, that Goode will steal votes from Romney and hurt him in any state where Goode's name will appear.  Virginia is key, again as I have said before, to the Republicans.  It swung to President Obama in 2008, after having been Republican for several national elections.  This is completely ignoring the fact that the Republicans have a majority in the Virginia House of Burgesses (I know it is the House of Delegates but I'm a history major). Virginia is quickly becoming a RINO state, and in my opinion, Virgil Goode is speeding up the process. In many a Commonwealther's eyes Goode is a true Republican and Romney is some moderate that switches his opinions too often. Goode is going to come across more conservative than the Romney/Ryan ticket. Even with Ryan who is ultra-conservative, Romney just doesn't have the Conservative chops. Simply put, Goode's name on the ballot hurts Romney and helps President Obama. What's the song line? "Turn out the lights..the party's over."
Virgil "Fly In The Punch Bowl" Goode

In the other camp you have the moderate, Romneyish, types that understand the need to be moderate in a time when the other party is in power.  The Romney/Ryan ticket is a fair attempt to placate both sides of the coin, BUT they are still not catering enough to the far right..which is why they are so afraid of Goode... and it is hurting them.   Understandably this moderate camp has a very fine line to walk.  They cannot be too moderate as to be called liberal on the right, but they have to stick to their guns as moderates as well.  They must, simply must, be moderate and willing to compromise in order to get anything done with the Democrats in the White House, which thanks to their own party will be for another four years.  There are plenty of Virginians out there who are Republicans and not TEA Party fringers. They want to vote for Romney but those on the right are constantly bombarding them with the notions that Romney is not conservative enough, or too moderate.  These same people are wanting to see compromise, a word not in the TEA Party dictionary.   Goode is going to mop this vote 1) because he is from Virginia and 2) because he is more conservative.Simply put, Romney's name on the ballot hurts Goode and helps President Obama. What's the song line? "Turn out the lights..the party's over."
Mitt Romney Waves The White House Ado. Primary Because Of His Own Party

The Republicans had better take the next four years and reconstruct their party.  What is the Warren Zevon song? "Send lawyers guns and money, the shit has hit the fan."  They are moving in too many directions to be effective.  Republicans are forced to run a moderate (Romney) with a ultra-conservative (Ryan) on a very conservative platform (supposedly the most conservative in decades)  against a very  conservative (Goode) candidate, on a very very conservative platform (the Constitution Party is nearly liberal), and the results are not going to be pretty.  All President Obama needs to do is stay out of the way, and not screw up.  Simply put, a Republican's name on the ballot hurts Republicans and helps President Obama. What's the song line? "Turn out the lights..the party's over."
Paul Ryan Is Simply To Smart To Be Able To Flex His Conservative Muscles And Help The Ticket