Category Archives: Politics

Slandering Rafael Cruz

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a blogger for the Atlantic.  I disagree with him on nearly every political issue, but I do enjoy reading him.  And I like him.  He’s an autodidact like me, and he’s constantly trying to learn new things and read more books.  It’s just fun to read about what he’s up to.

I have also learned new perspectives on race from Coates.  He’s at his best when he’s talking about his own experience growing up black in Baltimore, but sometimes he lets his dislike for conservatives get the better of him.  When conservatives are involved, Coates is capable of jumping to the ugliest conclusion without pausing to give a man the benefit of the doubt.  He did that recently when he commented on an article by David Corn in the far-left magazine Mother Jones.

Corn found a video of Senator Ted Cruz’s elderly father, Rafael Cruz, giving a speech this past spring.  Unfortunately, the video is no longer online, so I have to describe it from memory.

Rafael Cruz was speaking about Obama’s presidency.  He was urging the crowd to oppose Obama, and he said he wanted to “send him back to Chicago.”  This is an ordinary political line, and it’s utterly unremarkable.  Then Cruz added, “or preferably back to Kenya or [inaudible].  I listened to the recording three times and could not make out the third location.  My guess is that it was either Hawaii or Indonesia.

The point is that Rafael Cruz was talking about defeating Obama politically and sending him back home.  Obama has had many homes.  Chicago was Obama’s home from the time he completed graduate school until he was elected president.  Kenya was the home of the father who abandoned him, and Obama famously traveled there to meet his family and wrote about it affectionately.  Hawaii and Indonesia were both places where Obama lived as a child.

There was nothing offensive or newsworthy about this comment.  It was valuable to the left, however, because it was Ted Cruz’s father.  That meant it was an opportunity to harm Senator Cruz by attacking his father, and David Corn grabbed it, writing about what a terrible person Rafael Cruz was for urging that Obama be sent back to Kenya.

Unfortunately, Coates read Corn’s article and wrote a post in which he went even further than Corn.  Coates changed Rafael Cruz’s words.  He completely ignored the fact that Cruz first mentioned Chicago, and he replaced the word Kenya with the much broader word “Africa.”  So now the story that Coates tells is that Rafael Cruz said Obama should be sent back to Africa because he’s black and black men don’t belong in America.

No honest observer of that video clip could conclude that Rafael Cruz was making such an exhortation.  The story that Coates tells is a slander on Rafael Cruz (himself an immigrant from Cuba who speaks with an accent and has likely experienced ethnic discrimination in America), and it’s a vicarious slander on Senator Ted Cruz.  Coates should remove the inaccurate language in his headline and correct the post.  There’s enough real racism in the world already.  We don’t need to invent more of it just to win political battles.

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Posted by on November 14, 2013 in Journalism, Politics


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Government Schools: Arguing the Same Stuff for 50 Years

There’s really no reason to follow the fights over government schooling.  Unless there’s been some outrageous new low that makes the newspapers, there’s nothing new when it comes to the government’s monopoly on education.  The power structure is the same as it’s been for decades.  And the same battles that have been fought in meetings and letters to the editor for more than 50 years are still being fought today with the same predictable results.

Here’s how it goes.  The superintendent (now called a CEO!) hosts a meeting with parents and makes a show of listening to them.  The parents talk about how the schools are failing their children, and the politicians (including the superintendent) make promises about how everything will be different in the future.  Then everybody goes home, and nothing happens.

The Gazette has another story about one of these familiar, useless meetings.  Kevin Maxwell, CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools, came to District 9 and… wait for it… “listened to concerns.”  Parents demanded “teacher accountability,” and the CEO assured them that “his administration would evaluate teachers.”

Before they left the meeting, the CEO threw in a comforting platitude.  “If you want to be successful, you can’t tolerate mediocrity,” he said.  Then they all went home.

And that will be the end of that.

The demand for teacher accountability is not new.  The problem is that having the government evaluate its own teachers is like having the students grade their own papers.  The government will rarely fail anyone on its enormous payroll, even when his work is terrible.

Teachers and principals need to be accountable to parents, not to the special interest groups that control the schools.  And the only way for teachers and principals to be accountable to parents is for parents to have the power to vote with their feet.  They must be free to choose the school and the type of education that is best for their child, or they will never have a say in their child’s education.  All they will have is another useless meeting with a CEO who pretends to listen to concerns.

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Posted by on November 14, 2013 in Education, Politics


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NJ Teacher Pens Error-Filled Letter to Governor Christie

Fordham University professor Mark Naison has posted on his blog an open letter to Governor Christie from a New Jersey teacher.  The teacher wants… wait for it… more taxpayer money for government schools and the elimination of choices for parents.  But in venting her anger at the governor, she reveals more about the problem of government-run schools than she intends.  Let’s see what this educator has to say:

Dear Governor Christie,

Yesterday I took the opportunity to come hear you speak on your campaign trail.  I have never really heard you speak before except for sound bytes that I get on my computer.  I don’t have cable, I don’t read newspapers.  I don’t have enough time.  I am a public school teacher that works an average of 60 hours a week in my building.  Yes, you can check with my principal.  I run the after-school program along with my my classroom position.  I do even more work when I am at home.  For verification of this, just ask my children. 

She wants us to know that, unlike the rest of America, she works really hard.

I asked you one simple question yesterday.  I wanted to know why you portray NJ Public Schools as failure factories.  Apparently that question struck a nerve.  When you swung around at me and raised your voice, asking me what I wanted, my first response “I want more money for my students.”  Notice, I did not ask for more money for me.  I did not ask for my health benefits, my pension, a raise, my tenure, or even my contract that I have not had for nearly three years.

We got into a small debate about how much money has been spent on education.  Too me, there is never enough money that is spent on education.  To invest in education is to invest in our future.  We cannot keep short-changing our children and taking away opportunities for them to explore and learn.  As more money is required for state-mandated curriculum changes and high-stakes standardized testing, it is our children that are losing.  Programs are being cut all over the state as budget changes are forcing districts to cut music, art, after-school transportation, and youth-centered clubs. 

Oh my, she’s a middle school teacher, and she doesn’t know the difference between “to” and “too.”

But let’s put money aside for a moment.  What do I want?  What do ‘we people’ want?  We want to be allowed to teach.  Do you know that the past two months has been spent of our time preparing and completing paperwork for the Student Growth Objectives?  Assessments were created and administered to our students on material that we have not even taught yet.  Can you imagine how that made us feel?  The students felt like they were worthless for not having any clue how to complete the assessments.  The teachers felt like horrible monsters for having to make the students endure this.  How is that helping the development of a child?  How will that help them see the value in their own self-worth.  This futile exercise took time away from planning and preparing meaningful lessons as well as the time spent in class actually completing the assessments.  The evaluations have no statistical worth and has even been recognized as such by the NJ Department of Education.  I am all for evaluation of a teacher.  I recognize that I should be held accountable for my job.  This does not worry me, as long as I am evaluated on my methods of teaching.  I can not be held wholly accountable for the learning growth of a student when I am not accountable for all of the factors that influence this growth.  Are you aware that poverty is the biggest determination of a child’s educational success.  If not, I suggest you read Diane Ravitch’s new book Reign of Error. Take a moment and become enlightened. 

Oops.  Did you see the two (yes, two!) sentences in which the subject and verb don’t agree?  Hint:  “two months has” and “evaluations has”.

Getting back to the issue  of money.  I am fully aware of our educational budget.  Where is all of this money?  To me it seems like it is being siphoned right off into the hands of private companies as they reap the benefits of the charter schools and voucher programs that you have put into place.  It certainly hasn’t gone to improve school conditions in urban areas such as Jersey City.  The conditions that these students and teachers are forced to be in are horrifying.  Yet you are not allowing the funds needed to improve these conditions.  Are you hoping that these schools get closed down and more students are forced to go to private charter schools while the districts are being forced to pay their tuition?  I know for a fact that this is what has happened in Camden and Newark.  Yet these charter schools are not held to the same accountability as our public schools.  Why is that?  Because deep down you know that you are not really dealing with the issues that influence a child’s education.  You are simply putting a temporary band-aid into place.  Unfortunately that temporary fix is already starting to be exposed as Charter Schools are showing that they actually are not able to do better than public schools.

You are setting up teachers to take the blame for all of this.  You have portrayed us as greedy, lazy money-draining public servants that do nothing.  I invite you to come do my job for one week Governor Christie.  I invite you to come see my students, see how little they really have during the school day as they are being forced to keep learning for a single snapshot of their educational worth.  For that one end-all, be-all test, the NJASK.  The one that the future of my job and my life is now based upon. 

Commas are an important part of writing, and a middle school teacher ought to know how to use them properly.  In the second sentence, she has items in a series that should be separated by commas.  In the third sentence, she uses direct address and fails to use the required comma.  And then there’s the sentence fragment (sentence fragment!) in the penultimate sentence.

Why do you portray schools as failure factories?  What benefit do you reap from this?  Have you acquired financial promises for your future campaigns as you eye the presidential nomination?  Has there been back-room meetings as you agree to divert public funds to private companies that are seeking to take over our public educational system?  This is my theory.  To accomplish all of this,  you are setting up the teachers to take the blame.  Unfortunately, you are not the only governor in our country that has this agenda. 

Darn!  That subject-and-verb-agreement thing is tricky!  Did you catch it?  It’s in the fourth question.

What do “we people’ want, Governor Christie?  We want our schools back.  We want to teach.  We want to be allowed to help these children to grow, educationally, socially, and emotionally.  We want to be respected as we do this, not bullied.

BadAss Teacher,

Melissa Tomlinson

This letter should be funny, but it’s not.  No parents, in any state, should ever be forced to send their child to a government-run school that employs teachers with substandard language skills.  That’s why school choice is a right that wealthy parents like the Obamas, the Clintons, the Gores, and the Kennedys have all exercised for their children.  It’s time to extend that right to everyone.

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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Education, Politics



WaPo Erases Obama’s Prior Words

When Barack Obama was trying to sell his massive government-run health care plan, he repeatedly made exaggerated, untrue claims.  He told us that if we liked our current plan, we could keep it.  He told us that if we liked our doctor, we could keep her.  People are slowly waking up to the fact that the President made wild promises that he couldn’t possible keep.

The Washington Post is learning this too, but they are very careful to forget about Obama’s earlier promises in the hope that their readers will too.  On Monday the Post ran an article about a free clinic in Arlington that uses a lottery system to award lucky patients thousands of dollars of free services.  It explains the public’s misperception about the extent of Obamacare’s coverage with the following words:

Some might think the lottery’s days are numbered, given that the insurance expansion under President Obama’s health-care law is taking effect in January.”

Silly people who think Obama’s healthcare plan provides universal coverage!  Where did they get that idea?

People think everybody will be covered by the law, because that’s what the President promised.  Here he is in his January 2010 SOTU:

But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down
premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for
seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know.”

He didn’t say “cover some of the uninsured;” he said “cover the uninsured.”  He said this over and over, along with all of the other false promises.  The insurance plans we liked have been changed.  Some of our doctors have quit.  The deficit has ballooned, and Medicare has been raided to pay for Obamacare.  Nothing he promised has come true.

It’s time to hold him accountable for his promises, Washington Post.

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Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Politics


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