Friday, July 29, 2016

Voting for the Greater Good

There's been much talk these days about voting for the "lesser evil" between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Even Noam Chomsky has come out in favor of so-called LEV (lesser evil voting) in choosing Hillary in November. If you are thinking of voting Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, you are likely thinking of rejecting LEV because you don't want to vote for the lesser evil.

But allow me to change the argument for a moment. Suppose we all decide, rather than voting for a lesser evil--which unfairly demonizes both candidates--why don't we think in terms of who will be a force for the greater good?

Before I go into that, let me say that I don't think either Trump or Hillary is evil. Trump is certainly narcissistic and lacking in empathy, but I don't think his purpose in running for the presidency is to do evil, but for self-aggrandizement. Nor do I think Hillary is evil; most of the charges thrown at her (such as deliberately jeopardizing national security and Benghazi) have proven to be false. That's not to say you have to invite either of them over for dinner, but that's not the same as claiming that either of them is Lucifer (a charge Ben Carson actually leveled at Secretary Clinton).

No matter whom you support--Clinton, Trump, Stein, Johnson, or even a write in for Bernie--it's fair to say they all have character flaws. Each of them can be viewed as "evil" from an opposing political perspective. So what I am proposing is that we throw all of that invective away, and look to see which of these candidates will do the greater good for America.

Stein, Johnson, and Bernie stand no chance in this election, so it's futile to examine how they might affect this country for the good at this point. The only reasonable argument I have seen is that voting for them can be seen as a protest vote of sorts, and may help usher in a third party in the future. But none of these people can do any good for the country as it stands right now. A third party can only succeed with the emergence of a viable third party candidate, and no such person is on the horizon at the moment.

The election will come down to Trump or Clinton. So, putting personalities to the side, which one is more likely to act for the greater good of this country?

Let's start with education, as that's what this blog is supposed to be about in the main. The Democratic Party has moved more to the left of education. It supports opting out of testing and decoupling students' scores from student and teacher evaluations. It opposes for profit charters and calls for complete transparency in the operations of public charters, including making sure their populations match neighborhood demographics in terms of ELL and special needs children. It calls for supporting teachers and public schools and universal pre-K. Clinton has also called for public higher education to be free for families making 125K or less, and for restructuring student debt.

The Republicans want to continue the same voucher/charter school agenda they always have supported. They have no plans to implement pre-K, reduce student debt, or make college more affordable.

Given that neither side will likely get all they want, whose platform will do greater good for families in this country? I have no doubt it is the Democrats.

Who would do the greater good when it comes to equality in America? Clinton looks to create a pathway for illegal immigrants, while Trump seeks to deport them and build a wall separating us from Mexico. Clinton supports marriage equality while Trump looks to outlaw it. Clinton embraces diversity while Trump seeks to ban people based on their religion. If you believe in the idea that America is a land of opportunity and that our diversity gives us strength, there is little doubt which candidate will do the greater good.

When it comes to jobs, we have Clinton who wants to raise the minimum wage, while Trump wants to eliminate it. Clinton wants to invest in clean energy jobs to build a new 21st century economy, while Trump wants to put people back to work in coal mines. Which is the greater good?

When it comes to the economy, Trump wants to basically deregulate everything, including the banking industry, while Clinton wants to go beyond Dodd-Frank. The Republicans intend to reduce or eliminate corporate taxes, and to provide tax cuts for the wealthy. The Democrats want to boost the middle class by making the wealthy pay their fair share. Which is the greater good?

When it comes to national security, Trump wants to pull out of NATO and encourage nuclear proliferation in countries like Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. Clinton is against proliferation and has worked to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iran. Which is the greater good?

When it comes to the Supreme Court, Trump wants to appoint justices in the mold of Scalia, who would outlaw same sex marriages and a woman's right to choose. as well as support union busting court cases like Friedrichs. Clinton proposes opposition to Citizens United as a litmus test for her appointees, and seeks to uphold Roe v. Wade and marriage equality. Which is the greater good?

When it comes to health care, Trump wants to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, and replace it with something which he has yet to define. Clinton wants to expand the ACA, supports the public option, and hopes to expand Medicare to those over 50. Which is the greater good?

If you look squarely at the issues instead of just the people proposing them, it is clear to me that a Clinton presidency would produce the greater good for the most Americans. Trump would look to move us back to the time when he felt America was great, which seems to be sometime before the civil rights movement.

There are more issues, of course, and I can't cover them all. Also, there is no guarantee that either candidate will be able to pass his or her agenda in Congress. But it seems clear to me that one candidate--Hillary Clinton--is looking to move us in the direction of the greater good, while the other is looking to push us backwards.

So let's get past the idea of which candidate is more "evil", and start looking towards which candidate will work for the greater good. If you are like me, the choice isn't even close.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ad Hominem, Ad Nauseum

I've been hearing a lot lately about ad hominem arguments. The election has been rife with them. Often, the people shouting "ad hominem" seem to have been recently introduced to the concept, as they use it incorrectly.

I have been mildly critical of Bernie Sanders, at best. At times, I have stated, for example, that he has no K-12 education plan. That is not an ad hominem attack. It is a fact. If someone perceives that as an ad hominem, they are simply wrong. Here's an example:

Bernie Sanders is an idiot. (This is an ad hominem. Before someone attacks me, I have never asserted this and do not believe this to be true).

Bernie Sanders has no K-12 education plan. (This is not an ad hominem. It does not attack the man himself, but his policies or lack thereof.)

See the difference?

I have also been accused of ad hominems by using the term "Bernie Bros". This does not refer to Bernie's supporters, but rather the tiny fraction of them who use racist, sexist, or otherwise demeaning terms in referring to our nominee, Hillary Clinton. These people actually exist. To prove it, here's a quote from Bernie Sanders himself denouncing them: "I have heard about it. It's disgusting," Mr. Sanders said. "Look, we don't want that crap. We will do everything we can, and I think we have tried."

If you still doubt they exist, they have formed a Facebook page called "Bernie Sanders Dank Memes". I don't recommend visiting it, because it is filled with the vile sexism and racism I mentioned earlier. Lest you think this is some fringe group, this page alone has almost 440,000 members as of this writing. Here's an example of what they find funny.


If you find calling the first woman nominated for president by a major party a "whore" funny, then you are a Bernie Bro. If you think it's outrageous, then you're not.

The above "dank meme" is an ad hominem attack. Unless you take the meaning of ad hominem, which in Latin means "to the man", literally, and you think it's OK insult women.

The same people who complain about ad hominems against Bernie also feel perfectly free to call Hillary a criminal, a murderer, and worse, all without any sense of awareness or irony.

For the record, I have been the subject of some ad hominems myself. Most Facebook people are fine with the pro-Clinton stuff I post on Facebook. Some aren't. All I can say is, if you're a FB friend of mine and you don't like it, you are free to unfriend me. You are also free not to read or subscribe to this blog. I'm a big boy. I can take it.

My worst experience was on Twitter. Someone actually threatened to harm my children because I had the audacity to retweet something from Hillary. That person was a Bernie Bro. If you think that kind of stuff is OK, you are a Bernie Bro. 

By the way, if you are one of those people who claim that Hillary "rigged" or "stole" the election, you are engaging in ad hominem attacks. It is a criminal act to tamper with votes, so you are accusing her of being a criminal. The reality is that Hillary earned millions of more votes than Bernie. She earned hundreds of more pledged delegates than Bernie. She won the vast majority of both open and closed primaries. If there had been no superdelegates at all, but a proportional allocation based on votes, she would have won by a huge margin anyway. The only place where Bernie did really well was in caucuses, which is the most undemocratic way to allocate delegates of them all.

Simply put, she won, no matter how you look at it.

In addition, if you are one of those people who call voting for Clinton "the lesser of two evils", you are engaging in an ad hominem attack. You are saying that she is evil, just less so than Trump. That is attacking the person, not the policies.

I first came out for Hillary back in February. I said at the time that if Bernie won, I would support him wholeheartedly, because I knew he'd be a better President than Trump. I am concerned with things like the Supreme Court, the rights of Muslims and Hispanics and women and LGBT folks, and a liberal agenda. I have no doubt that had Bernie won, he would have fought for the people. I wouldn't care about the Bernie supporters who insulted me or threatened my kids and hold it against the man himself. 

If you're concerned about these issues, too, you'll vote for Hillary. 

I don't want to say what you are if you vote for Trump or a third party because your feelings got hurt in the course of a contentious primary. That would be an ad hominem attack. 





Tuesday, July 19, 2016

BREAKING: Trump's Acceptance Speech Leaks!

In light of Melania Trump's plagiarism fiasco, it was certain that the remaining Republican speeches would be heavily scrutinized for similar transgressions. Donald Trump gave his written acceptance speech to his aides to be checked, and some passages have leaked to the media. While the elaborate style of the leaked passages might indicate that some of the words were written by a more eloquent speaker, other passages, as well as the spirit of the words themselves, show that the Donald played a major part in writing it. Here are some of the more significant passages that were leaked.

(Wait for applause to die down. Assume a 5 minute ovation.)

My fellow Republicans and to everyone watching at home. This is indeed a great moment for America. Really great. I'm here to say a few words. As you know, words build bridges into unexplored regions. And I have the best words. The best.

Some people doubt me because I am rich and have a beautiful wife. But people forget that I am also smart. I have a great brain that I am going to use to lead this country. So when you see me and Melania, remember that money glitters, beauty sparkles, and intelligence shines. And we are going to shine, believe me. We'll be the shiniest first couple ever, no contest.

And with my great brain, I am going to make great decisions, you can count on it. Some worry that I have no political experience, but I will get some help. But make no mistake--I will be calling the shots. There must be no majority decisions, but only responsible persons, and the word 'council' must be restored to its original meaning. Surely every man will have advisers by his side, but the decision will be made by one man. And that one man is me. I make the best decisions. For there is one thing we must never forget--the majority will never replace the man. And I am the man, folks.

I know some of you didn't want me to represent you, OK? I know that. But you know what? You are all losers. I said I was going to win from the beginning, and who's smiling now? People may not always believe what you say, but they will believe what you do. And I've done the impossible. I beat 17 other candidates to stand before you today. The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category. Right, Lyin' Ted? Low Energy Jeb?

Anyway, I'm not here to run people down. I am here to help lead this nation and prevent the disaster this country is becoming, because otherwise, we have no country. The doom of a nation can only be averted by a storm of flowing passion, but only those who are passionate themselves can arouse such passion in others. And I can arouse passion, believe me. Or ask Melania. These tiny hands mean nothing.

And speaking of passion, we must destroy our enemies. Obstacles do not exist to to be surrendered to, but only to be broken. And that's how we have to treat our enemies, folks. We'll defeat our enemies by any means necessary. Success is the only earthly judge of right and wrong. And we will have so much success. You'll be sick of succeeding against our enemies, I can tell you that. We can bring back waterboarding or kill the families of terrorists. Demoralize the enemy from within by surprise, terror, sabotage, assassination. This is the war of the future. The Future under the Donald.

We have to focus like a laser beam against our enemies, such as ISIS. You can only do that with leadership. You know I wrote "The Art of the Deal", right? Well, I'm going to write a new chapter in American history called "The Art of Leadership", because leadership is how we defeat enemies. The art of leadership consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention. That's how we'll win. Strength lies not in defense, but in attack. By fighting off the Islamists, I am doing the Lord's work. I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator. And I am pretty good with God, let me tell you. Otherwise, why did he give me all this money and a hot wife? Who says I am not under the special protection of God? And I will put in a good word for this country with my prayers, which believe me, you'll need.

In conclusion, I want to thank you for this great victory for me and for America. That's all that matters--victory. Sure I told some whoppers to get here, but that doesn't matter now. The victor will never be asked if he told the truth, am I right? And now that I have won the nomination, we must fight like hell for the White House. It is not truth that matters, but victory. We must win and defeat Hillary Clinton.

America needs a leader, and I am that man. For to be a leader means to be able to move the masses. And I am going to move this country to the right. Believe me, and thank you!

********************************************************************************

MORE BREAKING NEWS! The media ran this speech through Turnitin.com to check for plagiarism. It turns out that it is nearly half plagiarized. The underlined sentences above were all "borrowed".

From Adolph Hitler. Apparently, Trump did read the book of Hitler's speeches he kept by his bedside.







Friday, July 15, 2016

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

In Praise of Randi

I never thought I would write a blog post with such a title, except sarcastically. But this time, you have to hand it to Randi. She played a large role in modifying the Democratic platform on education, and in inserting language that makes it clear the Dems are now fully in opposition to closing schools based on test scores, and using test scores to evaluate teachers or unfairly label minority, ELL, and special ed students. It also supports the Opt-Out movement.

The platform now rejects for-profit charter schools, and forces transparency for current charters. It calls for charters to accept a population representative of their neighborhoods, as well as a proportionate number of ELL and special education students. The language also states that charters should be democratically governed--i.e., they will be accountable to the public for their finances and governance.

I've debated for a while if I wanted to discuss whether I think it's a net positive or negative to have Randi, a long time friend of Hillary Clinton, take a position of influence in her administration. Personally, I felt, and now feel strongly, that she will be an asset to the Democrats and education. This platform spits in the face of faux democrat groups like DFER, and Randi had much to do with implementing the language.

If you have any doubts about the strength of these platform ideas, you need look no further than the reaction of Shavar Jeffries of DFER, who said this language is an "unfortunate departure from President Obama's historic education legacy...", to which I can only say, thank heavens. And thank Randi.

This should put to bed the foolish notion that Hillary would close half the schools in the country, which was debunked long ago, but continues to be pushed by Hillary's foes.

Finally, it can only be a net positive to have a union leader of one of the largest and most progressive unions in the country to have the President's ear. Especially when she is using her voice to support teachers and help put an end to the testing mania, as she has done in influencing the Democratic platform.

Of course, Clinton's detractors may claim that this is only in the platform, and there's no guarantee that it will become policy. But that is true of every single item in the platform of both candidates. Platforms do, however, influence policy, and this platform represents an about-face from Obama's policies. It's an utter rejection of Duncan and King's reform ideas.

It's a new way forward. So kudos to Randi and the other education advocates who helped fashion this strong rebuke of ed reform.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Donald Trump Addresses the AFT

In response to Hillary Clinton's address to the NEA, Donald Trump decided that he would seize the opportunity to promote his ideas on education to the AFT and Randi Weingarten. Below is the text of his speech.

"I'd like to thank those of you who applauded me as I came in, all three of you. Some of your colleagues booed Crooked Hillary the other day, and all I can say is, good for you. Boo her. I am going to make education great again. I even thought of a slogan: "Make Education Great Again". I have the best slogans, believe me. I had baseball caps made for all of you with the slogan on it, but it was delayed when those folks in China refused to work 20 hours a day instead of the usual 18.

I wanted to tell you today that I will be great for education. I went to school myself, and that's how I got this great brain of mine. It's a top brain, let me tell you. My brain will come up with great ideas for education any day now. And no one knows education better than me. I mean, I started my own university, right? Look how well that went. People paid me lots of money just so they could say they had a Trump University degree. So, I stamp "TRUMP" on it, and make them promise not to say anything about how I scammed them or I'd sue. Genius, right?

So let's start with that. When I am president, we'll make the kids sign non-disclosure agreements in order to get "TRUMP APPROVED" stamped on their report cards. Who wouldn't want a Trump Report Card? No stamp, you get summer school. That'll teach the little bastards.

Now I've said I'm going to get rid of the Common Core, and I mean that. This is America! There's nothing common about us! So the Common Core is gone, believe me. We are gonna call it the Excellent Core. Same thing, but we brand it! Get it? So we can say our kids are excellent, not common! That's the kind of thinking I'm gonna give you.

Not only that, I am gonna add another R to the three R's. Three is better than four, right? So now we're gonna have reading, writing, 'rithmetic, and get this--Revolvers! Things like Sandy Hook--imagine how much better it would have been if thirty or forty teachers had opened fire in that school. Imagine bullets flying in both directions. It would have turned out much different, believe me. Every teacher is going to be packing heat in the classroom. Discipline problems--say goodbye to those. No kid will talk back to you when you have a Glock on your hip, am I right? Except maybe the Mexicans.

Speaking of them, let's get real for a minute folks, OK? We don't need the Mexicans or Muslims here with their sombreros and hibeejabbs. Pretty much anyone who comes here with funny hats we're gonna get rid of, OK? So what does that mean for you? Smaller class sizes! I hear you teacher types whining all the time about too many kids, no room to squeeze them in. So we deport them! These foreigners are either taking our jobs or shooting up our gays, and I have no problem with the gays--I love the gays as you know-well, not that way because I have Melania and who wouldn't want to hit that? Even my daughter, Ivanka, she'd turn a gay man straight. She had a rack to die for when she was thirteen. If she wasn't my daughter...but what am I telling you for? Many of you have had young students who developed early, and I mean, who wouldn't look? Unless you're gay, except the lesbians, but that's no reason they should be shot, which I am totally against.

And another good thing about deporting all these foreigners is--no more ELL classes! We're all gonna speak good American, like me! So you ELL teachers can go back to teaching something important. And foreign language? Forget it. We're going to make America great again, and we're going to start by speaking American, all the time.

I have a plan to give every teacher here an immediate raise of over a thousand dollars a year! You know how? It's smart--I only have smart ideas, the best ideas. I'm going to appoint Supreme Court justices who will make sure that you don't have to pay union dues! At all! That's a thousand clams you can count on keeping under a Trump presidency!

And speaking of unions, I want to thank Randi Weingarten for not stopping me from coming here to speak today. She blocked the door, but she's short and I stepped right over her. I have long legs and big hands as you know, not that Randi cares about that. Anyway, could someone revive Randi and bring her out here?

There she is! Look at my Jew over there! Look at her! Are you the greatest? Or is it Jewess--I don't know because I'm not politically correct. As you know, I love the Jews. As I've said before, the only people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes.  Whoa, why all the booing? How many Jews do we have here anyway? Raise your hand! Boy, that's a lot. I had no idea. But I think it's great that your people dedicate themselves to educating the youth of today.

In fact, that gives me an idea. You people have been oppressed for so long, I think you deserve special treatment. So when I am president--can someone pick Randi up again?--I am going to single you out for your great service. I am going to make you Sheriffs of your school. You'll be asked--in fact required--to call a registry every day so we can keep tabs on you. I mean on your school. And just so everyone knows your special status, I am going to issue you a special yellow Sherrifs badge! You're going to love it, believe me!

So don't forget--vote Trump in November! Made education great again! Or write in Bernie or Stein, it doesn't matter to me as long as we keep Crooked Hillary out! Thank you!"

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ask Hillary to Meet with Diane Ravitch

If you haven't seen it, there a Change.org petition asking Hillary Clinton to meet with Diane Ravitch to discuss education policy. It's a great idea, and it only takes a minute.

Personally, I would love for Ms. Ravitch to become Secretary of Education in the Clinton administration. This is a great way to get the discussion started.