Thursday, November 4

School Reform: Two Steps Back

This American Life: 10/15/04 Episode 275

Listen to Report in Real Audio

Ten years ago, when he was still a reporter for NPR's All Things Considered, host Ira Glass did a year-long series on a Chicago public school where things were getting better. Test scores were rising. Students were motivated. Last year, changes at the school dismantled some of the programs that had made for the school's success. And one of the best teachers in the school is thinking about quitting. We devote the whole hour to this story, about the rise and fall of school reform.Prologue. When Ira heard that Cathy La Luz, the best public school teacher he'd met during all his years of education reporting, was considering leaving her job, he went to see her in her classroom. (6 minutes)

Act One. 1994. Washington Irving Elementary School became a model of school reform in Chicago a decade ago. The school did it without adding a ton more money. It wasn't a magnet school or charter school. Their strategy: get the kids to enjoy reading and writing; get them glasses if they need them; give teachers control of their classrooms. Scores climbed. Teachers like Cathy were happy. Students actually liked coming to school. We hear excerpts from Ira's 1994 All Things Considered series about the school. Full transcripts and audio of the series also are online. (21 minutes)

Act Two. 2004. We continue with the story of Irving Elementary, and hear what's happened to make Cathy La Luz think about quitting. In just nine months, the reforms that had made the school a model began to unravel. Well-meaning directives from the central school board undermined what the school was trying to do. And the new principal didn't quite understand why the teachers were balking at seemingly small things, like writing up lesson plans. The climate in the school changes. The principal is oblivious. The head of the Chicago schools, Arne Duncan, says he'll look into the problems. Cathy's skeptical. (28 minutes)


Black Tuesday is over

So here I sit, two days after Black Tuesday and I try to gather all the thoughts running through my mind.

America has changed.

It's not the country I hoped it could be, it's not the country that I know that it should be.

Tuesday's election results prove this.

There are two primary conclusions that I have to this turn of events.

1) America is deeply afraid.

It's afraid of Al Qaeda and terrorism, certainly - but it seems that it's even more afraid of gays and the danger they represent to the special rights that straights have to be married. It's so afraid of criminals that in California they would - (no, already have) - condemn a man to life in prison for stealing a ham sandwich. It's afraid of trial lawyers who just might make irresponsible and negligent corporations and doctors accountable for the death and damage they inflict on the American people.

But most importantly, it's afraid of those godless intellectual heathens.

People who dare to rely on fact and truth, ignore blind faith and the so-called word of God (According to Billy Graham and Jerry Fallwell), failing to realize that every life, even life that has only just begun is precious and important and must be protected - unless of course, that life happens to be unwed mother of that potential child (partial-birth abortion ban), or the life or it happens to some scumsucking convicted criminal (doesn't matter if they actually commited the crime or not - a jury said they did, and they're never wrong, right?) or if that life happens to belong to a innocent person in a foreign land that just might - maybe - possibly - have some terrorists and weapons of mass destruction in it. It doesn't matter if that life includes innocent people whom we've bombed, tortured (at Abu Ghraib), held incommunicado and without contact or representation (Guantanemo Bay), and to be blunt - murdered - for the last two years. So far we've been very pro-life for nearly 100,000 Iraqis who no longer have a life - most of them non-combatants - and it's only going to continue.

If you want to make on omlette, you have to break some eggs, right?

Yes, we are afraid - but have no fear, GW Bush is on the job.

He'll protect us by ignoring critical intelligence briefings - like the August 6th, 2001 PDB that warned that "Bin Ladin determined to attack in the U.S.", or that joint FBI/CIA finding that Bin Ladin was reponsible for the bombing of the U.S. Cole in Feb of 2001.

He'll protect us by taking 7 minutes to read "My Pet Goat" after hearing that "America is under attack", so that he'll look Presidential instead of panicked and be sure to allow the "shoot down" order for our fighter planes that only the President can give.

Yes, he'll do a great job - because it's so obvious he's done a fantastic job so far and really done at rallying the entire world together with the righteousness and honor of his cause. Just as the ten countries - so far - who've quit the "coalition of the willing" and pulled their troops and support out of Iraq.

He'll remain firm and steadfast, except for when it relates to Gay Marrige which he used to say was "an issue for the states" but now says we need to change the Constitution to prevent, or the 9/11 Commission which he opposed until it became too politically unwieldy, or the Homeland Security Department which he refused to implement and then flip-flopped, turned around and created the largest federal agency in history.

He'll protect us, by letting 380 tons of explosives disappear.

He'll plan well for military action and follow the best advice, except for those Generals who ask too many question - obviously those guys are traitors.

In all seriousness, I have to congratulate Karl Rove and G.W. Bush for that total awesomeness of their campaign. They do indeed understand who and what America is - particularly in that wide red swath across the center of the country. Bush gets it. He knows who we are.

And that makes me, truly, deeply afraid.

2) America doesn't truly believe and buy-into all the above - and the election, well, was fixed!

This is not an possibility that I'm really desperate to put forward, like a sore loser who has to believe "we was robbed!".

I don't know if we were robbed.

But I also don't know if we weren't.

The kind of widespread election tampering that this would take is a serious charge and should be taken seriously and responsibly.

Air America's Randi Rhodes is fond of pointing out that the owner of Deibold, the company that provided voting machines for Ohio and Florida, was quoted at a Republican fund raiser as claiming that he would "Bring home the electoral votes of Ohio and Florida [for the President]".

Is that admitting to a crime in advance, or simply making a hopeful statement before a crowd of the Presidents faithful supporters?

I don't know.

Could hackers have gotten malicious and nearly undetectable code into the machines via their modem ports?

I don't know.

No one knows.

The main problem I have is that with the tone of this campaign - from the gross smears and lies about Kerry's Vietnam Service, the lies about his position on Iraq, the fake outrage at Kerry's very mild and frankly kind comments about Dick Cheney's daughter Mary ("He's not a good man"), the gross distortions of the record concerning Kerry's history in the Senate("Voted against over 80's weapons systems"), the distortions of Kerry own words ("He wants a Global Test before he uses troops"), all of which the Republicans basically got away with clean and without repurcussions - I don't find it that much of a stretch to consider the possibility that they could envision modifying the actual vote and expect to get away with it.

The Proof?

There is none - other than the exit polls during the election that showed the Kerry had a lead in both Ohio and Florida.

People used to trust exit polls, we used to use exit polls -- and exit polls only - to predict the outcome of elections.

Now, all of a sudden (after the 2000 election) people have begun to vigorously argue that polls are inaccurate. That we shouldn't get too excited about them or take them too literally because of the statistical margin of error.

I think that's demonstrably true. It's always been true. But polls are still valuable, especially for identifying when something bogus is going on.

Just imagine the perfect crime. A crime that adjusts the vote not too far, staying within the statistical margin of error but pushing it in the direction it needs to go, but far enough to be larger than what might trigger a recount (which is automatic in Ohio).

It would be the perfect crime, particular since so many of these machines have no audit trial what-so-ever, wouldn't it? Besides how stupid would it be to steal the election and get caught?

Maybe that's what happened, maybe it's not. I don't know. None of us know.

And that possibility scares me even more than first one.

It should scare you too.

So, now we have been through Black Tuesday. The vote is over. The reasons why it turned out the way it did may indeed be moot.

We must look forward now.

We must look into a future - with near complete Republican control of the Federal Government - that indicates a increasingly conservative Supreme Court which could seriously challenge not only Roe V Wade but many other civil liberty and rights issues, the Privatizing of Social Security which is likely to make the system vulnerable to the ups and down of the stock market not to mention drain much of the current funds from availability of the current seniors and cause massive, immediate cuts in services.

In this future Businesses are likely to do well, profits are likely to soar, teh stock market will rally - things will be good for them but not their employees (as they lose healthcare and benefits) - nor consumers and their customers (as federal regulations for environmental and consumers safety and employee compensation continue to be eroded or neglected).

I think we've made a grave mistake and the only way for us to change direction and realize what we've done and how damaging it's going to be to America and the world - is for it to happen! People can debate and argue all they want, but the truth won't be clear until it staring us in the face - we're like a junkie who can get off the neo-conservative hyper-evangelical neo-facist juice until we hit rock bottom. Only then will be finally begin to look up and turn around toward a truly brighter future.

Those of us who see the darkness approaching have to get our flashlights together, save all our batteries and keep illuminating the way out.

Black Tuesday may be over, and it may indeed be a long time before we see again the dawn, but for now we need to dust off our dispair, control our fear and marshall our anger and become shepards who remember which way leads back to the light - help others to find their way back -until that dawn comes and America finally begins to realize the promises of liberty, freedom and justice that it has made, and why it's needs to keep those promises.

People - get your everyready's out - it's going to be a long, long - long - night.


Wednesday, November 3

Getting mad...

Getting angry and turning in our selves is not going to help.

We need to realize that in many way the Repubs have a 30-year ground game running to take control of the country. 7 months of Air America, MoveOn, Media Matters and Michael Moore is not going to change that any where near this easily.

We lost because the opposition lied and got away with it.

We lost because the opposition has a fanatical and commited base of not just christians, but right-wing evangelical zealots.

We lost because the opposition exploited fear. Fear of terror(ism). Fear of the gays. Fear of embryonic experimentation. Fear of the future. Fear of the French. Fear of the government and fear of the poor taking away the hard earneed money of multimillionaires.

In some ways, what has occured here may turn out to be a good thing for the long term health of democratic and liberal ideals, and a very bad thing for the conservative right-wing of the Republican party as the repeatedly begin to see the conceptual and factual bankrupcy of their ideas.

This is just a battle, and yes, we lost it.But the war - the War over maintaining Roe V Wade, the War over maintaining corporate ethics and accountability, the War to make sure that we have the best doctors at the best price instead of the best profits for the medical insurance and pharmacutical companies, the War to protect our seniors, our students and infirm, the War to reestablish our ties to our allies in NATO, to Europe, Asia and the Middle East - is far, very far from over.Be sad. But don't despair. Be angry, but don't walk away from the battle.

The Republican won because they took the long view in the wake of the crushing defeat of Barry Goldwater in the 60's.

Don't give up the fight, because *now* is when the true battle of ideas and ideals begins.

And we need every soldier we can get.


Kerry Concedes

As I logged in this morning the announcement that Kerry has conceded came over the news. The President hasn't made his own speach yet, but I have to say I don't think I can possibly express my disappointment.

What I was going to post was a short unscientific mathmatic analysis of the possible effect of Ohio provisional votes. Last night I was a poll worker and my primary task all day was handling the processing of the provisional votes in our precinct. Here near the center of Los Angeles County, our pricenct took in over 500 regular votes with 51 provisional votes being cast - or 9.2% of the total vote. My precinct may or may not have been representative, but if Ohio has only half that many provisional ballets outstanding there would be over 239,000 votes with a margin of 140,000 between the two candidates.

The problem is this, after tons of legal wrangling, the Republican Party was able to install tons of legal "challengers" in the voting places in Ohio. When a challenge is presented to voter legitimacy or the process, the most likely result is that that voter will be shifted to voting provisionally. Therefore it's my opinion, taking a conservative view of things based on my own experience at the polls yesterday, that there are probably well over 200,000 provisional votes outstanding and may in fact be as many as 400,000 votes outstanding - and considering the fact that these challengers were predominantly Republican, most of those votes are probably Democratic, and probably support Kerry.

I could be wrong of course, the evening has been full of wrong estimatations, but I don't think so.
And after ten days we'll find out.

Kerry may have decided that mathematically he couldn't overcome the deficit in Ohio, and choose not to drag the country the ten days of uncertainty, but I think - this isn't over.

Not by a long shot.


Tuesday, November 2

Ok, People...

...In five minutes I'm going to out to help open and run the polls in my precinct - all you guys need to do is make a decision and show the hell up!

Thank you.


Final Gasp from the Right: Rudy Guiliani

Dear Friend,

On September 11, our nation faced the worst attack in our history.

On that day, we had to confront reality. Our people were brave in their response.

At the time, we believed we would be attacked many more times that day and in the days that followed. Spontaneously, I grabbed the arm of then Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and said to Bernie, "Thank God George Bush is our President." I've been saying that every day since.

We needed George Bush then; we need him now; and we need him for four more years!

President Bush is making certain that we are combating terrorism at the source, beyond our shores, so we can reduce the risk of having to confront it in our streets at home.

John Kerry's record of inconsistent positions on combating terrorism gives us no confidence he'll pursue such a determined course.

Terrorism did not start on September 11, 2001. It had been festering for many years.

President Bush will not submit America to a "global test" from other countries that seek to dissuade us from what is necessary for our defense.

Under President Bush, America will lead rather than follow.

President Bush is the leader we need for the next four years because he sees beyond today and tomorrow. He has a vision of a peaceful Middle East and, therefore, a safer world.

And together we have a responsibility to do all we can to give President Bush has four more years to continue winning the War on Terror and making the world safer.

Talk to your family, your friends, your coworkers and your neighbors. Make sure they understand the dramatic contrast between the President Bush and Senator Kerry.

And make sure your fellow Americans understand the power of their vote on November 2nd--and proudly tell them that, like me, you'll be voting for George W. Bush for four more years!

Sincerely, Rudy Giuliani

Last Shot from the Left: Michael Moore


This is it. ONE DAY LEFT.

There are many things I’d like to say. I’ve been on the road getting out the vote for 51 straight days so I haven’t had much time to write. So I’ve put together a bunch of notes to various groups all in this one letter. Please feel free to copy and send whatever portions are appropriate to your friends and family as you spend these last 24 hours trying to convince whomever you can to show up and vote for John Kerry.Here are my final words…

To Decent Conservatives and Recovering Republicans:

In your heart of hearts you know Bush is a miserable failure. From having no plan on what to do in Iraq once he conquered Baghdad to the 380 missing tons of explosives that could be used to kill our brave young men and women, this guy doesn’t have a clue how to fight and win a war. You should see the mail I’ve been getting lately from our troops over there. They know how much the Iraqi people hate them. They are sitting ducks anytime they go out on the road. Many believe we are not that far away from a Tet-style offensive inside the Green Zone with hundreds of Americans and Brits killed. Bush refused to go after and capture Osama bin Laden. He fought, every step of the way, the investigation into the 9/11 attacks. Who on earth would oppose such a thing? If 3,000 people died at your place of work and your boss said we don’t need to find out why or how it happened, he’d be thrown out on his ear. Bush’s behavior after this great tragedy alone is reason enough for his removal. You already know that George W. Bush is the farthest thing from a conservative. He’s a reckless spender who has run up record-breaking deficits and the biggest debt in our history. He believes in having the government pry into everything from your library records to your bedroom. He has hit you with hidden taxes with his tax cuts for the rich. I know many of you don’t like Bush, but are unsure of Kerry. Give the new guy a chance. He won’t raise your taxes (unless you are super-rich), he won’t take your hunting gun away, and he won’t make you visit France. He risked his life for you many years ago. He’s asking for the chance to do it again. Scott McConnell at The American Conservative magazine has endorsed him. What more do you need?

To My Friends on the Left:

Okay, Kerry isn’t everything you wished he would be. You’re right. He’s not you! Or me. But we’re not on the ballot – Kerry is. Yes, Kerry was wrong to vote for authorization for war in Iraq but he was in step with 70% of the American public who was being lied to by Bush & Co. And once everyone learned the truth, the majority turned against the war. Kerry has had only one position on the war – he believed his president. President Kerry had better bring the troops home right away. My prediction: Kerry’s roots are anti-war. He has seen the horrors of war and because of that he will avoid war unless it is absolutely necessary. Ask most vets. But don’t ask someone whose only horror was when he arrived too late for a kegger in Alabama. There’s a reason Bush calls Kerry the Number One Liberal in the Senate – THAT’S BECAUSE HE IS THE NUMBER ONE LIBERAL IN THE SENATE! What more do you want? My friends, this is about as good as it gets when voting for the Democrat. We don’t have the #29 Liberal running or the #14 Liberal or even the #2 Liberal – we got #1! When has that ever happened? Those of us who may be to the left of the #1 liberal Democrat should remember that this year conservative Democrats have had to make a far greater shift in their position to back Kerry than we have. We’re the ones always being asked to make the huge compromises and to always vote holding our noses. No nose holding this time. This #1 liberal is not the tweedledee to Bush’s tweedledum.

To Nader Voters:

See the above note. Ralph’s own party, the Green Party, would not endorse his run this year. That’s because those of us who want to build a third party in this country know that the only way to do this is to build bridges with those who believe in the issues Nader believes in. But not one of those people will sacrifice the chance to remove George W. Bush from the White House on Tuesday. The choice here is clear: do we join with our friends, or do we piss on them? After the debacle of 2000, the Democrats got smart and abandoned the conservative wing of their party. That’s why 8 of the 9 Democrats in the primaries this year were from the liberal wing. Ralph should take credit for that and declare victory. It’s so sad that he doesn’t realize the good he’s accomplished. But for reasons only known to him, he’s more angry at the Democrats than he is at Bush. He has lost his compass. I worry he has lost his mind. But he still gives a great speech! And Lila Lipscomb, the mother from Flint who lost her son in Iraq, she still grieves -- as do the mothers of 1,120 others (not to mention the mothers of the 100,000 Iraqis who have died because of Bush’s war). That’s what this election is about. Not Ralph proving some point. Almost none of us on his 2000 advisory group are supporting him this year. His total lack of respect for his best friends should tell all of you something about what he really thinks of you, too.

To the Non-Swing States:

Stop listening to how your vote doesn’t count in this election and that your state is already decided for Kerry or Bush. It is critical that you vote because we not only need to give Kerry the electoral win, but he needs to have a HUGE mandate with an ENORMOUS popular vote victory as well. It will be impossible for him to get anything done for four years if there is no clear mandate. We must not only defeat Bush, we must put a stake in the heart of the right-wing, neo-con movement. If you live in New York, California, Illinois, Texas, the Northeast or the Deep South, you need to vote and you need to bring ten people with you to the polls. If you live in a state where we have the chance to elect the Democrat to the Senate or the House, you need to vote. Turn off the TV. Quit listening to news media that has a vested interest in repeating to you over and over that your vote does not count. It does. If you have friends or relatives who live in the 30-plus non-swing states, call them and remind them how important it is that Kerry gets a massive popular vote victory.

To Non-Voters:

I understand why you stopped voting. Politicians suck. Nothing ever seems to change. You’re only one vote. Yes, politicians suck. But so do car salesmen – and that hasn’t stopped you from buying a car. Politicians only respond to the threat of the angry mob also known as the voting public. If most people don’t vote, that’s good news for them ‘cause then they don’t have to answer to the majority. Almost fifty percent of Americans don’t vote. That means you belong to the largest political party in America – the Non-Voting Party. That means you hold all the power to toss George W. Bush out of the Oval Office. How cool is that? I believe that we are going to have the largest election turnout in our lifetime tomorrow. You don’t want to miss out on that. The lines at the polls are going to be long and raucous and fun. It is an historic election. You won’t want to say that you were the only one who wasn’t there. Promise me you’ll vote, just this one time.

To All First-Time Voters:

Welcome to the longest running, uninterrupted democracy on earth! You own it. It’s yours. A few words about how messy it’s going to be tomorrow. The lines are going to be long. Bring your iPods. Better yet, bring a friend or two. The election officials have no clue just how many millions are going to show up at the polls. This will be the largest turnout in our lifetime. They don’t have enough machines. They are going to have to send for more ballots. And they are going to make it difficult for you to vote. The new law says if this is your first time voting you must bring ID with you that matches the address you are registered at. If for some reason they can’t find your name on the voting rolls, you have the right to ask for a provisional ballot, which you can fill out and then sort things out later. If you have any problems at the polling place, please call 1-866-OUR-VOTE. The people there can tell you how to find the precinct where you should be voting, get you legal help if you are denied the right to vote, or answer any other questions you may have. If you need any help figuring out the ballot, don’t be afraid to ask. If you screw up your ballot, you can ask for another one. In fact, the law allows you to screw up your ballot two times before you finally have to submit your final ballot! Be careful to vote on the line that says John F. Kerry/John Edwards. Don’t vote for more than one Presidential, Senate or House candidate or you ballot won’t be counted. If your polling place has a stub or a receipt from your ballot, make sure they give you one. Thanks for joining us. Democracy is not a spectator sport. It only works when we all come off the bench and participate.

To African Americans:

First of all, let’s just acknowledge what you already know: America is a country which still has a race problem, to put it nicely. Al Gore would be president today had thousands of African Americans not had their right to vote stolen from them in Florida in 2000. Here is my commitment: I will do everything I can to make sure that this will not happen again. And I’m not the only one making this pledge. Thousands of volunteer lawyers are flying to Florida to act as poll watchers and intervene should there be any attempts to deny anyone their right to vote. They will NOT be messing around. For my part, I have organized an army of 1,200 professional and amateur filmmakers who will be armed with video cameras throughout the states of Florida and Ohio. At the first sign of criminality, we will dispatch a camera crew to where the vote fraud is taking place and record what is going on. We will put a big public spotlight on any wrongdoing by Republican officials in those two states. They will not get away with this as they did in 2000. In Ohio, the Republicans are sending almost 2,000 paid “poll challengers” into the black precincts of Cleveland in an attempt to stop African Americans from voting. This action is beyond despicable. Do not let this stop you from voting. I, and thousand of others, will be there to fight for you and protect you.

To George W.:

I know it’s gotta be rough for you right now. Hey, we’ve all been there. “You’re fired” are two horrible words when put together in that order. Bin Laden surfacing this weekend to remind the American people of your total and complete failure to capture him was a cruel trick or treat. But there he was. 3,000 people were killed and he’s laughing in your face. Why did you stop our Special Forces from going after him? Why did you forget about bin Laden on the DAY AFTER 9/11 and tell your terrorism czar to concentrate on Iraq instead? There he was, OBL, all tan and rested and on videotape (hey, did you get the feeling that he had a bootleg of my movie? Are there DVD players in those caves in Afghanistan?) Speaking of my movie – can I ask you a personal question before we part ways for good on Tuesday? Why did you and your friends fund SIX “documentaries” trashing me -- but only ONE film against Kerry? C’mon, he was the candidate, not me. What a waste of your time and resources! Sure, I know what your pollsters told you, that the film had convinced some people to vote you out. I just want you to know that that was not my original intent. Funny things happen at the movies. Hope you get to see a few at the multiplex in Waco. It’s a great way to relax.

To John Kerry:

Thank you. And don’t worry – none of us are going away after you are inaugurated. We’ll be there to hold your hand and keep you honest. Don’t let us down. We’re betting you won’t. So is the rest of the world.

That’s it. See you at the polls – and at the victory party tomorrow night.

Michael Moore