Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"A government of laws and not of men"--not in Delaware under the Markell administration

Two items from today's WNJ prove John Adams' point.

First, we find that when Governor Markell wants something, the niceties of existing regulation or the traditional independence of regulators is not to be allowed to stand in his way.

Governor Markell wants an Alabama corporation to build a rehabilitation hospital in Middletown.  This may or may not be a good thing, a needed thing--I simply do not know.  But what I do know is that the administration's approach should be setting off alarms all over the place.

First, he replaced Delaware Health Resources Board members who did not share his views in the middle of the process of considering the certificate review for the hospital.  Much of the rest of the board resigned in protest.

Then, the Governor prevailed upon pet legislator Quinn Johnson of Middletown to introduce legislation specifically exempting ONLY "rehabilitation hospitals" from certification review.

There are two takeaways here:

1.  This behavior is consistent with the Markell administration approach to most issues, from Fisker to public education--if the law is inconvenient, side-step it, safe in the knowledge that Democratic majorities in both houses of the General Assembly will never hold you accountable.

2.  This incident also gives us an insight into what would happen with a statewide healthcare board, as proposed by Reps. Kowalko, Jaques, and Baumbach if stand-alone single-payer ever passed in Delaware.  The chicanery being exhibited puts insurance companies to shame.

Then, secondly, we have the Markell administration continuing to speak out of both sides of its mouth with regard to cuts in state education funding.  This time it is about pre-school funding:

While a new report says Delaware is cutting back on its public preschool programs, state officials say the findings don’t take notice of the millions of dollars invested to improve and expand access to privately-run programs. 
The evaluation, issued Monday by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, says the state spent $217 less on each child in the last school year versus the prior year.
Let's get this straight: the philosophy of the Markell administration has been to invest in private pre-school programs rather than public ones?

As a libertarian I'm all in favor of free enterprise, but not in favor of the State picking winners and losers among the businesses providing such services, such as with the $22 million "invested" in the Five Stars program to funnel business toward specific private care providers, or the $50 million in a "competitive" grant that nobody bothers to explain.

When we examine the similarities of this response to the ones generated by the Markell administration with respect to the cuts in public education funding that they insist are not there (except in documents not meant for the public), we discover the same pattern:  don't bother us because we know what we are doing.

The problem here is that a representative democracy is supposed to work on the concept of checks and balances.  The General Assembly is supposed to provide a balance to the Executive by using both the power of the purse and the power of legislation to curb administrative excess.

What we have now, however, are large Democratic majorities that simply rubber-stamp whatever the Governor wants, and obligingly changes any laws that might be pesky enough to get in his way.

A credible opposition party could at least bring attention to these practices, but a credible opposition party is exactly what the Delaware GOP is not.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Scott Gesty calls out Cathy Cloutier on HB 35 vote

In today's WNJ.

Who speaks for Delaware teachers?

I've been thinking about this for awhile now, but Donald Gephardt's well-intentioned op-ed piece in today's WNJ has crystallized my thinking.

There's this, which is right on point:
We give no control of what goes on in the schools to the teachers, yet we give millions of public dollars to groups of people – many of whom have no educational credentials – to begin new charter schools, most of which are not doing any better than thepublic schools we already have.
 Unfortunately (at least from my perspective), his solution is rather ... academic ... instead of robust:

The core of the problem is that K-12 teaching has never been a profession. Teachers have no say in choosing and evaluating their colleagues. There is no incentive to “share the good stuff” between them. Perhaps it would motivate good teachers to stay – and to continually improve – if they were given more professional responsibility in their workplace.
As anemic as I find his solution, I am forced to admit that Dr. Gephardt's is, in fact, the most pro-teacher editorial that the WNJ has run in ... well, nearly forever.

So I wonder:  who speaks for Delaware teachers?

Certainly it is not the education reform movement.  Rodel CEO Paul Herdman just last week summarized the Vision 2015 position that pretty much all the ills of Delaware public education could be solved with better teachers.  In other words, as I observed then, the current crop of inadequate teachers is only a placeholder until corporate ed reformers "scour the country" to find better ones.  Once they find those superstar teachers, all will be fine and aside from spending millions on data coaches we won't even have to worry about school funding any more.

Nor does Governor Markell or Education Secretary Murphy speak for our teachers.  As Transparent Christina has just pointed out, despite all rhetoric to the contrary, the current administration has been cutting education spending--primarily on the backs of teachers rather than administrative or infrastructure expenses--since day one, while simultaneously misleading the public about that fact.  At the same time, DE DOE has engaged in a constant game of musical student assessments designed to hide the fact that ed reform (Rodel and Vision 2015) is simply not working.  Their answer:  more high-stakes testing, more data coaches, the Common Core curriculum, and bonuses for the few cherry-picked teachers who perform like dogs jumping through hula-hoops of fire in a Key West street show.

The Delaware PTA doesn't speak for our teachers, either.  Committed, virtually without any teacher input, to both the poorly researched Common Core Standards and Vision 2015, the PTA has unfortunately become primarily the organizers of astro-turf "grassroots" parental "support"for corporate ed reform.

Unfortunately, not even the teachers' own statewide union, DSEA, seems to be speaking out for Delaware teachers any more.  Senior DSEA officials sit in senior positions on the Vision 2015 board.  This is often portrayed as the need to be at the table rather than to be on the table, but the fact of the matter is that sitting on these boards as DSEA reps effectively neuters the organization's ability to criticize bad decisions--like the decision to ever allow Paul Herdman to write an editorial about teachers.  DSEA signed off on Race to the Top, with the state organization making sweeping concessions sight unseen that the locals would never have accepted.  DSEA has endorsed the bizarre Markell plan for the state to invade teacher preparation programs with meaningless bureaucratized changes.  And--possibly worst of all--DSEA has spent millions of dollars of its members' dues in political contributions to Delaware politicians who know that they can safely ignore issues important teachers because the checks keep coming no matter how they vote.

Which also brings me to the point that Delaware legislators have also failed to speak for teachers.  The sheer number of idiotic, anti-teacher pieces of legislation that have come out of Dover over the past decade should be evidence enough that the General Assembly is nothing more than a rubber-stamp for whatever administration is in power.  Does Governor Markell want to change the rules for teacher preparation?  Senator Sokola will faithfully introduce the bill.  Does the education budget do away with reading and math specialists in favor of more data coaches?  The "big head" committee obligingly cuts here and prunes there to support the plan.  Does the Governor prefer to have DOE run by a corporate ed reformer with no meaningful education experience outside Vision 2015?  The Senate kowtows by asking him only 45 minutes worth of questions (almost all of which came from one Senator) and then approving him in a landslide vote.

Because nobody speaks for Delaware teachers any more, what's happened is that the narrative has been constructed that teachers are the root of the problem in public education.

Did a high-poverty school go into the Partnership Zone?  Well, must have been the teachers' fault, so any solution will involve removing a large percentage of them, no matter what the parents or students say.

Did test scores fail to go up enough to satisfy the reformers?  Let's mandate data coaches, new teacher assessment programs, and selective bonuses.

Does US DOE want everybody to use the (as yet unfinished and completely un-researched) Common Core Standards?  Let's just impose them, regardless of the needs of a particular student, classroom, or school.

Do we have difficult recruiting new teachers in Delaware because of low pay, no respect, and a flawed high-stakes testing system?  No problem.  We'll bring in Teach for America, full of bright people with no training in education and no long-term commitment to either the field or Delaware students, and treat these folks like superstars, while effectively spitting on the people in the trenches now.

Do we want to forget that several years ago both Vision 2015 (or was it Vision 2012 then?) and the LEAD report said that we would get nowhere in improving Delaware education without a complete restructuring of the funding system for our schools?  Yeah, that's inconvenient, so we will just blame the teachers.

Folks, Delaware teachers have been making bricks without straw for years now.  I will grant you that in this profession--as in any profession--there are some people just serving their time, some mediocrities.  But by and large our teachers are committed professionals who struggle against the encroaching bureaucratization of our schools to bring imagination and learning to our kids.  You can watch your child's face light up some afternoon when he or she tells you about what their teacher did or said today.

My children have been coached, educated, inspired, and--yes!--prodded to greater things by Delaware teachers, the same teachers who have become the punching bags of education reform.

I don't wonder that we have a teacher retention problem in Delaware.  What I wonder at is the fact that so many great teachers stay here anyway.

Who speaks for Delaware teachers, the people who perform every day for our children?

Pretty much, these days, that's a lonely task left to bloggers and school board members.

Who needs to speak for Delaware teachers?

Everyone who votes.

Next year education needs to be a real issue in Delaware elections.  Next year we need to look for candidates who actually get it, that teachers are not the cause of education's problems, they are potentially the solution.

How do we do that?

Stay tuned.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Paul Herdman and Vision 2015: It is all the teachers' fault ....

That's the conclusion you could reasonably draw from Paul Herdman's op-ed piece in today's WNJ.

In his latest new "Five Step" program for improving education, Herdman effectively says that Delaware education has failed to live up to Vision 2015's lofty goals because the teachers we have are not good enough.

Step One--according to Herdman--is "recruiting the best" teachers.  In Herdman's view this obviously means that the teachers we currently have are not good enough to do the job, and should be replaced with unlicensed temporary help from Teach for America, Vision 2015 devotees from the Delaware Leadership Project, and ... "scouring the country to find top teachers and leaders to serve in our highest-need schools."  In other words, if you are already teaching at Highlands, or Warner, or Richardson Park, or Bancroft, you are a loser that we plan to get rid of just as soon as we can find somebody better.  (Hear that, Mike Matthews?)

Step Two is "improving teacher training."  Ironically, as I have pointed out before, there is exactly ZERO research suggesting our problems stem from the teacher training programs in Delaware, but since Vision 2015 is not working, and since Paul has decided it is the fault of our teachers, then he also needs to go after our universities (specifically UD, DSU, and WU), wherein he comes up with the idea that these programs are flawed because our new teachers from these schools are not 100% drawn from the top-quartile of our graduates.  Has it ever occurred to Mr. Herdman--apparently not--that one of the reasons this is so in Delaware is because our teaching universities take their charge quite seriously, and there is very little grade inflation?  You earn an A, you get an A, but a B in a teacher education program is nothing to be ashamed of.  Still, I love that the answer here is pretty much NCLB for teachers--we will continue to legislate unfunded mandates until all teachers improve to 100%.

Step Three--Force all teacher collaboration to fit our model.  Oh, you can read the almost completely content-free paragraph, but that's what this means:
• Providing support and feedback: The state continues to work with hundreds of educators to develop a clear framework for what good teaching and learning looks like. Additionally, every teacher is getting time to work with their peers every week and develop plans to improve. And in the case of the 28 schools in the Vision Network, educators are crossing district and charter lines to talk about how to reach all kids.
By the way, how long should it take to do that?  You've been trying to figure it out, Paul, since 2007.

Step Four--We are going to implement our teacher bonus system no matter how many teachers and how many districts point out that it is divisive and unsupported by research, because that's how we do it in industry.

Step Five--Pay more consultation fees to collect data that, while it doesn't actually drive our decisions, does make good window dressing.

These steps, Herdman assures us, will be "transformational."

You want to know why this is particularly offensive--aside from blaming our existing cadre of teachers for everything that is wrong in the system?

When Vision 2015 started, years ago, the leaders (including Herdman) set out their agenda then.  They hope you do not remember it, because there were some elements in it that are quite at odds with what they are currently pursuing.

Remember these objectives from 2007?

"A statewide research-based curriculum so that all Delaware students are learning at the same high standards"
This has been replaced with the Common-core curriculum that has virtually no research base behind it, and which even its creators admit will not be transformational.

"Annual license renewals for all early child care and education providers to ensure consistent high quality"  
That was really important in 2007 (it was their second goal), but it has since disappeared.

"Increased coordination across service agencies for children from birth to age 3"  
That was important in 2007, that recognition that poverty and early childhood was significant.  But it was also too expensive, so we're better off pretending it is all the teachers' fault.

"Advancement [for teachers] based on skills and performance, not seniority, with student achievement as one measure of performance"  
The only consistently retained goal in the whole Vision 2015 plan.

"Bonuses for schools that meet or exceed agreed-upon goals for improvements in student achievement"  
This one reveals the height of current hypocrisy.  The original Vision 2015 plan called for bonuses paid to schools for achievement, in recognition that it actually takes an entire school to educate a child.  Ironically, six years later, education reformers are trying to withhold millions of dollars from the Christina School District for trying to do what Vision 2015 used to say it thought was important.

"New professional development centers to encourage the sharing of information and best practices."  
Really?  And where are these professional development centers that were deemed so important six years ago?  Where are the plans to create them?
"More supports to help new teachers succeed, such as realistic course loads, assignments and class sizes" 
Strangely enough, six years later, reducing class sizes, realistic course loads, and all that are no longer a priority for Herdman and Vision 2015, because--you know--it is all the teachers' fault and we can't afford those Minner Reading Teachers, anyway.

And, finally, the BIG LIE of Vision 2015, and the reason that you must NEVER look behind the curtain.  Here's what Vision 2015 told us in 2007 was absolutely ESSENTIAL for public education success in Delaware:
"State funding high enough so districts and schools do not need to rely on local referenda to meet Vision 2015 standards" 
Where's that one go, Paul?  Colonial is making plans to cut 78 teachers if it cannot pass a referendum, but in 2007 you promised schools that you would increase state funding dramatically.  Appo just lost a referendum which, according to you, would no longer be necessary because you were going to insure so much better state funding that referenda would never again be necessary.  Governor Markell has repeatedly cut the state share of education, and he is your political leader, so guess what?

Increased education funding by the state is no longer important because we've figured out that it is all the damn teachers' fault.

Vision 2015:  finding new ways to blame Delaware teachers for its own failures.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A modest proposal for ending the "Drug War" in Delaware

Four steps is all it would take to end Delaware's drug war:

1.  Fix the medical marijuana bill.  This is already being contemplated, I understand.  A medical marijuana bill without an actual delivery method is worse than useless because it is mere tantalizing to those in chronic paid.  This is a simple fix, except for the propensity of the Drug Enforcement Agency to get involved with ignoring state laws about drugs that DEA doesn't like.  So as a specific legislative flourish, this revision should include language that requires the Delaware Attorney General to defend any legitimate distributor of medical marijuana or any patient legally using it from all Federal charges.

2.  Decriminalize personal use of marijuana.  As an interim step toward legalization, decriminalization would replace the possibility of jail time and a permanent record with small civil fines.  This would, frankly, also discourage intense enforcement.  It would also render much of Delaware's drug court apparatus unnecessary.

3.  Get all non-violent drug offenders out of Delaware prisons.  If there is a true medical addiction problem, fix it.  That is almost always significantly cheaper than incarceration.  Moreover, doing so would be a major savings to the state and allow actual violent criminals to be handed sentences commensurate with their crimes rather than sentencing guidelines in effect because we haven't got enough prison beds.

4.  Regulate it like wine--ala Colorado.  Legalize and tax it.

You might ask, why doesn't he advocate immediate legalization and skip all the interim steps?

Simple:  Equality Delaware has convinced me that the multi-step, coalition-building, steady progression strategy actually works faster.


In which the News Journal discovers the truth--and then mis-interprets it

In a rare burst of candor about the Obama administration, the WNJ editorial page discovers that the administration's claim that Obamacare is driving down medical costs is false:

“The idea that we have licked the problem of health care cost increases is no more probable today than it was in the past,” Drew Altman and Larry Levitt, Kaiser’s president and vice president, said. “Our nation has made no fundamental change in how health care is paid for or delivered.” 
This means the claims that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was slowing the cost increases even before it went into effect just are not true. 
Likewise, according to the Kaiser report, when prices start going up over the next couple of years, Obamacare will not be the cause either.
So far so good.

But then the editorial writer takes a bit of a detour:
This expected return to increasing costs means the debate about Medicare and Medicaid will have to continue. One of the first things we must do is recognize that public policy has trade-offs. We cannot have all of the health care we want and low costs, too. There will have to be controls. We are already seeing some of them in the form of higher insurance premiums. For example, workers with employer-sponsored health insurance already pay higher premiums for smoking cigarettes. Increasingly, workers will be called on to pay more for insurance if they are overweight. Co-pays are rising. Advocacy groups, such as the Bipartisan Policy Center, are pushing for a revocation of employer-sponsored insurance’s tax-favored status. In other words, don’t be surprised in a couple of years if the value of health insurance is treated as income and taxed accordingly. 
You don't have to be either a libertarian or a progressive to recognize what a mishmash this paragraph is.

First, the writer says we have to have controls to keep prices down.  The usual reading of that sentence is a call for government controls.  But then the sentence is followed by the implication that higher rates charged by private companies represent part of the controls we need.  All of a sudden we have mixed more than metaphors, as a paragraph which seemed to start by advocating government control detours into free-market solutions.

Then there's the issue of insurance companies charging more for obese patients.  Let me count the ways that this is too simplistic an example to even make sense.  1.  Obesity, for many people, would be a pre-existing medical condition that the ACA would seem to forbid insurance companies from taking into account.  2.  There is rising evidence that obesity is in large measure genetic for many folks, which makes for an interesting set of discrimination arguments.  3.  If we are going to charge people more for obesity (especially if genetically predisposed) what happens to charging people for a genetic predisposition to certain kinds of cancer?

Then there is the gratuitous swipe at reclassifying health insurance benefits as income so that they can be taxed again.  Now the WNJ editorial writer is saying--effectively--that we're going to fail to contain health care costs no matter what we try, so just prepare for the inevitable new taxes to pay for the rising costs.

Don't get me wrong:  there are plenty of valid arguments on both sides of the health care argument.

But this editorial piece is nothing less than an incredibly mixed-up and self-contradictory over-simplification that bespeaks more of deadline pressure than anything meaningful to say.

Teacher education reform: solving another problem we don't have

I don't often blog about issues that directly affect Delaware State University, and before I begin I need to make the point that the opinions expressed here are mine alone, and not those of either DSU or the American Association of University Professors.

That said ...

Senate Bill 51 [to which I would link if it were up on bill tracking yet] is an absolutely ridiculous extension of state power at the behest of Governor Jack Markell to waste time and money solving a problem that simply does not exist.

Here's the lead-in from today's WNJ:

Aspiring public school teachers in Delaware will face new academic challenges if legislation proposed Thursday is successful. 
The bill is meant to improve the quality of educators in the state’s school system. It would set higher standards for being admitted to teacher-education programs within Delaware and introduce tests thatgraduates must pass to prove they are ready to teach. 
The changes would, for the first time, set a minimum grade point average requirement for those who wish to study education at a Delaware college, according to the governor’s office. It would also create a new test – similar to the bar exam for lawyers – that teachers must pass to become certified.
The first thing you need to know is that the Delaware Department of Education effectively punted its certification of teacher education programs to an outside group--NCATE--many years ago.  That's OK, frankly, because NCATE has higher standards and more stringent documentation standards than DEDOE ever thought about applying (I know this personally, having taken programs through to successful accreditation under both agencies).

NCATE sets and monitors curriculum standards within programs (to include requiring the universities to upload and maintain online student work in all required courses so that they can be monitored on an ongoing basis; sets standards for the qualifications of instructors; sets standards for entering programs; sets standards for the amount of time students must spend in classrooms observing and teaching before student teaching; requires passage of the very difficult Praxis II test before students enter the classroom to student teach; and much more).

Admission standards at UD and DSU are already high.  UD recently reported that less than half the students applying for entrance to its teacher education program make the grade.  At DSU the stats are similar.  Students must pass Praxis 1, receive positive recommendations from three professors, undergo an entrance interview, maintain/present a portfolio of work, and show that they have a 2.5 GPA.

It is that GPA that supposedly needs fixing, according to the Markell administration, because apparently good grades in your first three semesters of college (roughly when you apply for admission) are the primary determinant of whether or not you will make a good teacher.  What utter horsecrap.

In reality the state's universities, including Wilmington University [which technically has an "open" admissions policy for the teacher education program] have multiple gateways before students graduate.

First, they must gain entry to the teacher education program.

Second, they must pass both the Praxis I and (much, much tougher) Praxis II content area test (both are nationally recognized tests, and even "A" students often require several attempts to pass Praxis II).

Third, as sophomores and juniors, students must conduct hundreds of hours (usually 20+ hours per Education class) of observations in the schools.

Fourth, during the same period, students are required to teach as many as four lessons in the public schools per Education class.  (Thus most students have taught more than 20-30 lessons to real students in real classrooms before they ever enter student teaching.  This is a dramatically higher number of hours than even ten years ago.)

Fifth, students are rated against NCATE-approved detailed rubrics for every single Education class they take, and if they fail to meet the standards must repeat them until they do.

Sixth, students must develop and maintain a portfolio of work that is examined by university faculty and cooperating teachers in the public schools.

Seventh, students must pass licensure in the form of student teaching that requires BOTH a university supervisor and an experienced master teacher to sign off that they are competent in the classroom, something that happens only after hundreds of hours of teaching.  (And lest you doubt:  yes, there are regular occasions in which student teaching is NOT successfully completed, and the would-be teacher is diverted into other programs.)

Match these gateways against one other reality that the Markell administration and its Rodel allies would like to brush aside:  there is ABSOLUTELY NO RESEARCH to suggest that new teachers being graduated by our state universities are either (A) unqualified or (B) have worse results in the classrooms than their peers.

Part of this is because such new teachers usually come into the classroom with several major advantages:  (1) they are generally far more tech-savvy than their older peers, and (2) they grew up in a "high-stakes" testing environment and understand its demands far better than many of our "veteran" teachers.

You will, however, see not only the "usual suspects" lining up to support this bill, but also the universities themselves.

Ask yourself, what choice do they have?  Budgets are coming up for review, and at both UD and DSU, guess what?  State education budgets have been cut, consistently, for the past ten years.  There is no choice there but for the state universities to support this bill because Governor Markell has the whip hand over them.

Rodel supports this bill because it provides yet another distraction from the grim reality that Vision 2015 will soon become Vision 2020 because "top-down" education "reform" is not delivering in Delaware.

Frederika Jenner has also provided the DSEA endorsement for the idea.  Great--the organization that signed off on Race to the Top has just signed off on another deal to make it more difficult for young people to enter the profession.  There is little indication that the rank and file among DSEA's membership actually supports this bill.

Our state universities are already providing quality entry-level teachers, and they are doing under the rigorous supervision of a national accrediting agency.

SB 51 is bad law, concocted for pure political show, and determined to solve a problem that does not exist in order to distract everyone from examining the real flaws in the system.

Monday, April 22, 2013

What bothers me about FCC Chief Julius Genachowski is not that he supports Boston ...

... but that anybody thinks the FCC has ANY say at all in what someone says on a live mic in a baseball stadium ...

Gerrymandering is not all of the problem in Delaware: Libertarians, Greens, IPOD shut out by structural barriers

Jeff Raffel makes the point in today's WNJ that something is amiss with Delaware political re-districting:
In the 2012 election ... few seats in the Delaware General Assembly were competitively contested. All of the 21 seats in the Delaware Senate were up for election in 2012 but only two turned out to be very competitive, that is, with two candidates running where one received less than 55% of the vote. Indeed, 10 of 21 seats had only one major party candidate running (always the incumbent). In the Delaware House elections in 2012, 7 of 41 seats were competitive, with half the seats contested by only one major party candidate. Incumbents who ran for reelection were reelected.
Raffel rightly attributes partisan redistricting (read gerrymandering) as a major element in this Soviet-style outcome of constantly re-electing incumbents, although he does miss a couple of points.

Delaware is, in essence, a one-party state at this point.  In many districts it is now the primary that is heavily contested, not the general election (mostly resulting in a Democratic landslide in the general, except in a few selected--gerrymandered--districts).  There is little to be done about that until a competitive alternative to the Democrats emerges, because with supermajorities (or nearly so) in both houses, control of reform of such practices is safely in the hands of the party in power.

Meanwhile, as the DE GOP continues to crumble, and their candidates are lucky to hit 40% in statewide elections, we also note that Republicans are the leaders in trying to impose structural barriers on alternative party candidates.

Republicans backed anti-fusion legislation a few years back that prevented candidates from seeking multiple party nominations.

Republicans backed "sore loser" laws that prevent candidates from running in the general as a minor party candidate if defeated in a primary.

And this year Republicans are advancing the notion of a candidate poll tax in the form of mandatory background checks on all candidates; this will, of course, only serve to dissuade shoestring candidacies that would occur amongst IPOD, Green, or Libertarian candidates.

Democrats generally criticize but then ultimately support such increasing restrictions on minor parties because, quite frankly, they are happier with Republicans as their opponents than they would be with anybody else.

In the DE GOP they have a highly fractured opposition that runs perennially on a ticket of extreme social conservatism in a state that just ain't.

If the Green Party of Delaware was unshackled from some of the constraints of anti-competitive legislation, the Democrats might suddenly see themselves challenged on the left by candidates attacking their rampant corporatism or their failure to protect Delaware's environment.

If the Libertarian Party of Delaware could gain some traction, the Democrats might suddenly see themselves challenged by a fiscally conservative party that is strong on civil liberties and even stronger on social tolerance.

Both of these parties have their own internal issues that must be overcome as they attempt to put attractive candidates on the ballot, but it is important to note that thousands of Delaware voters are already selecting them--in 2012 all three minor parties [GPD, LPD, and IPOD] set records in terms of total votes received by their candidates.

The major onus, of course, is on these parties to recruit credible candidates, raise money, and earn voters attention, and that is a tough enough job without being continuously shackled by structural limitations to their ability to compete.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The invasion of Boston

It is important to realize, first, when you are trying to understand what just happened in Boston, that the Boston metropolitan area is a Tier 1 city for the Department of Homeland Security's Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) into which hundreds of millions (perhaps billions) have been funneled over the past several years.

Then, second, it is important to realize that the reason authorities were so ready to order the "lockdown" [which is, in itself, a euphemism for martial law] is that they have been training to do so several years.  Operation "Urban Shield" is a training plan for a multi-disciplinary response to a major terrorist incident, and if you take the time to view this video [produced with DHS grant money], you will realize that not only have Massachusetts authorities been preparing to invade their own city, they have been conditioning the citizens to expect it.

Third, you need to know that the whole apparatus has been coordinated through a mind-numbing series of interlocking bureaucratic offices like the Boston Regional Intelligence Center [BRIC] and the Metro Boston Homeland Security Region, which includes the participation of organizations like

Various agencies will be involved, including UASI Boston Communities including Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville, Winthrop, Revere, Quincy, Everett, and Chelsea and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units from:
  • the Boston Police Department;
  • the Brookline Police Department;
  • the Cambridge Police Department;
  • the Revere Police Department;
  • the Northeastern Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC);
  • the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Association (MBTA) Police Department;
  • the Massachusetts State Police;
  • the Middlesex County Police Department;
  • the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council;
  • the Manchester, NH Police Department

So it wasn't an improvisation, this invasion of Boston, it was a pre-planned, Federally coordinated effort that sent 9-10,000 police in BDUs with assault rifles and back by dozens if not hundreds of armored fighting vehicles and combat helicopters.  It was pre-planned to shut down mass transit, the schools, and to restrict all citizens to their homes.

Perhaps you find it comforting that Uncle Sam has so thoughtfully provided for this rapid response.

I don't.  I think something else should be learned from this--several something elses as a matter of fact:

What he said: Andrew O'Hehir gets it right on Boston

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Incredible idiotic comment of the--what?--month, year, decade? from Jon Moseley

This one you just have to read to believe:
No Christian can oppose the death penalty, unless they have never read the Bible and are ignorant of Christianity.
Jon apparently attends the Church of the Righteous Lethal Injection.

And people wonder why the Republican party in Delaware is now a bunch of dinosaurs waiting for the comet to hit.

Some people have little sense of history and even less of irony...

Case in point, an organization calling itself MassResistance, apparently a conservative group in the Bay State, which has a screed out there about how marriage equality is ruining their state.

Here's one of my favorites:
It has become commonplace in Massachusetts schools for teachers to display photos of their same-sex "spouses" and occasionally bring their "spouses" to school functions. At one point, both high schools in my own town had principals who were "married" to their same-sex partners who came to school and were introduced to the students.
So if anyone actually knows the history of "massive resistance," they will know it is totally appropriate to play around with the wording a bit here:
It has become commonplace in Massachusetts schools for teachers to display photos of their Negro "spouses" and occasionally bring their "spouses" to school functions. At one point, both high schools in my own town had principals who were "married" to their Negro partners who came to school and were introduced to the students.
But, let's face it, irony is a dead art form in America today.

I must have hit the big time ... UPDATED--AGAIN--AND YET AGAIN!!!

... because now I have my own fan club.

In the first deft move, the standard bearer for IPOD in northern Delaware condemns a Libertarian rather than actually taking on, say, anybody in office.

The UPDATE:  it turns out that good old IPOD Jimmy has been adding people to his group without their knowledge.  One of them contacted me and asked to be removed from the photo.  I was happy to oblige, and if you are also listed here and did know he was using you for his infantile vendetta, please let me know.

The second UPDATE:  it turns out that IPOD Jimmy added more than one person without his or her knowledge.  That person has also contacted me and asked to be removed because they didn't know that this had happened.

The third UPDATE:  yet another person was added to this group without his or her knowledge.  It pretty much seems that once people discover the company they are keeping, they cannot wait to get out.

My fan club is apparently getting smaller and smaller each passing day.  Soon there will only be a single troll left.

News Journal editorial page endorses an increasingly invasive police state

In the national glee that apparently ensued following the capture of the second Boston bombing suspect, one aspect of the conversation is strangely lacking in the MSM:  a discussion of the implications of the massive manhunt for the civil liberties of American citizens.

What is almost as disquieting as the fact of the bombing itself is the fact that law enforcement had an effective brigade of armored infantry ready on a moment's notice to move into and shut down one of America's largest metropolitan areas.

I remember working in 2002 with representatives of the Department of Homeland Security on potential responses to urban terrorism at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama.  The executive assistant for homeland security to the Governor of South Carolina assured me that homeland security spending would be "the new revenue sharing that militarizes police across America in ten years."

At the time I thought he was crazy.  [By the way, two years later he quit his job in government and has since made a mint as a consulting showing local police departments how to acquire military hardware through homeland security grants.  So it goes.]

I have been far less surprised to discover that--almost to a person--those who screamed the loudest about President Bush shredding the US Constitution and civil rights have been among the most acquiescent to President Obama doing exactly the same thing [although in a more intense, programmatic fashion].  Joe Biden says things that are scarier than what Dick Cheney used to say, and now it evokes no comment.

Which brings me back [in an exercise of increasing futility] to the editorial page of the News Journal, which today opines that in the wake of the Boston bombing we all all need to give up more civil rights [for kicks and grins I have put my own responses in between the lines in red]:

We have been under threat for more than a decade. 
 Extremists, terrorists, and enemy nations have been a threat for far more than a decade; don't you guys read your own newspaper?
Fanatics have been trying to kill us for that long.  
 No, uh, guys, the first World Trade Center bombing happened in the 1990s.  Among other events you appear to have forgotten.
Our security forces have protected us until now. They will continue to do so in the future. 
Notice the Orwellian change here:  not "law enforcement" has protected us, not "our military" has protected us; not "our intelligence community" has protected us.  "Our security forces."  This is a term that is as dangerous as it is ambiguous.
But now it is obvious that more of that burden will have to pass on to the rest of us. 
That "burden" is, as we shall see, the passive acceptance of more restrictions on our right to travel, our right to assemble, our right to free speech.
We will have to become more conscious of packages and strange movements. 
Report you neighbor.
We will have to become more patient when packages are searched. 
Quit criticizing the TSA for groping you at airports.
We will have to be more security minded. Is this a loss? In a way, it is. But Americans always have shared the burden of security. We simply will have to be more responsible for our own well being. 
"In a way" this is a loss?  At the point that free people decide that security is more important than freedom this is just a "sort of" loss.  Damn it, Steve, stop making a "fetish" of freedom.  All that matters in a society is the physical safety of the citizens, no matter what the cost in money or government restrictions.
That element of security will have to take form now. Today we are responsible and we must act accordingly. 
 John Sweeney has looked into the future, and it is full of a Federal Security Force, officially constituted and answerable to no one but the Executive Branch.  You don't need to know because IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
Our willingness to do so will, in time, become our best protection against those who seek to destroy us.
This is almost akin to the a-holes who used to tell women being raped just to relax and try to enjoy it.  If you are willing to surrender your rights, in exchange, we will keep you safe.  On our terms.

You can already see it happening, as the government reaches the "objective" decision to deny the arrested Boston bomber his Miranda rights, and instead of being circumspect about it, trumpets that decision to the world as being in our best interest.

A lot of people ask me why I am a Libertarian rather than a Republican or Democrat.  The answer is simple, at least for me:  neither of the two major political parties actually cares about civil liberties.  They only care about the revenue pie and winning votes by lulling people into believing that their only choice is to trade what's left of their freedom for the security of a police state.

I may not win--ever!--but at least I will be able to say honestly to my grandchildren that I never stopped protesting it, never stopped fighting it, never stopped trying to make other people see.

And if you need a homework assignment, go back to 1948 in the Wayback Machine and read Jack Williamson's prophetic short story "With Folded Hands."

Friday, April 19, 2013

Delaware GOP supports a poll tax for all future candidates

It is presented as a "transparency" bill, but Danny Short's HB 84 is actually an attempt to make it more difficult for people who are not lifelong politicians to run for office [read "normal citizens"].

HB 84 would require all candidates--
candidates nominated by a major political party that did not file to run in a primary election, unaffiliated candidates, candidates for minor political parties, and candidates in special elections for the General Assembly...
--to submit to a Criminal Background Check to get on the ballot.

Notice that no matter what shows up on the Criminal Background Check, you cannot be disqualified from appearing on the ballot.

So why have the requirement?

Three reasons:

1.  [Their stated reason]:
By requiring that certain candidates’ criminal history information be made available to the public in advance of an election, this Bill supports transparency in government and recognizes that elected officials work for the people. Many employers throughout this State require criminal background checks during the hiring process. This Bill recognizes the importance of allowing the public to know the criminal histories of candidates seeking their trust and vote.
2.  Their financial reason--Criminal Background Checks cost $69 and require people to make an often awkwardly timed trip to visit the Delaware State Police.  Both the cost and time are specifically calculated to deter independent and minor party candidates from running.  It is nothing less than a State-imposed filing fee!

3.  Their political reason--Let's make candidates pay to do the opposition research for their opponents! They've also proposed that all candidates have to prove they've paid all their taxes before they can run.

Plain and simple:  this is the two parties in power attempting to put one more nail into the door to hold it shut against everyone else.

h/t Jess McVay

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What Congress (both Dems and GOPers) and the President can agree on ...

There is too much financial transparency for senior officials.

So while you were watching the explosion in Boston, and President Obama was condemning Congress over gun control, guess what?

A wonderful piece of bipartisan legislation gutted the STOCK Act and let them all off the hook together.

Remember this:  when it comes down to the money, they ALL (from Nancy Pelosi to Marco Rubio) belong to the same club.