Thursday, October 18, 2012


I'll be in New Mexico for a few days, visiting my grandson in Santa Fe and my friends Alex and Bettye Sullivan and Dyck and Avis Vermilye in Taos.

So ShrinkRap will be silent for about the next five days.   See you later.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Abuse of power

Let's face it.   Republicans have the power in Georgia state government.   The governor and almost every statewide elected official (both senators, attorney general secretary of state, etc.), plus a majority of congressional seats, and many many local positions.

And with that kind of power comes abuse of power.   It's certainly playing out in Georgia right now, starting with the governor.   Nathan Deal came to the office already under a cloud of suspicion, facing an ethics investigation in Congress for undue influence and money exchanges.   He famously resigned from Congress before his term was up, in order to run for governor.    And since then, the committee decided not to pursue the matter.]

From the beginning, there have been many questions raised about his appointments to commissions, boards, and administrative positions -- often of unqualified people who are cronies.

There was recently a big flap (not big enough, because nothing happened) about his insisting on his choice to chair the state lottery commission (a very lucrative position, both in salary and possibility for peddling influence).    The board had a preferential short list of candidates for the position of chairman, and they were to choose the person to nominate for chairman.   Deal threw his weight behind the person who had scored the lowest on the list in term of qualifications for the job.   But that's who got the job.   And one board member resigned in protest at the pressure from the governor's people.

But that's just one position.   Now we have what should be a scandal, but the protestors have little power to make anything happen -- except to convince the people to vote against the constitutional amendment to allow a state charter school commission that will be on the ballot in November.

Thanks to my favorite AJC columnist, writing on local matters, Jay Bookman.   Here's what his columns have helped me understand.    There is already a mechanism for charter schools to be established -- in fact there are already quite a few already established in the state, some good, some not.

Any local school board can recommend the approval of a charter to a group that wants to start a school, and this should be based on need, plus the likelihood that the group can produce and run a good school.   An application turned down by the local board can be appealed to the state school board.

Some years ago, there was also established a state commission of appointed members to approve charter schools, without approval of the local school boards.   It was declared unconstitutional by the courts.  Now the amendment would re-establish the board.

What's wrong with that?   Aren't more schools better, and don't some groups really do a fine job?   Yes, some do.   But this is a boondoggle.    The state commission of appointed individuals would be accountable to no one but the politicians who appointed them, not to the voters.   And a great deal of money is involved.    Some of it will come from state and local public school budgets -- and they get more per student than regular public schools.

So, we have problem #1:  Charter schools may do a better job than public schools, but the gains have not been overall impressive -- especially given the makeup of who goes to these schools.   It often turns out to be the cream of the crop, in terms of student ability, class, and parental involvement, which the charter schools usually mandate.   But interesting statistics are now showing that in some instances, when a charter school was added to an area of underperforming schools -- i.e. where they might most be needed, it turns out that it is not the neediest students who wind up going there, but the least needy ones.   This is measured by the percentage of children who qualify for free school lunches.  And if this new commission has approved it, there is nothing the local school board or local politicians can do about it.

So there is the appearance, at least, that some of these schools are simply a backdoor way of establishing quasi private schools for the well-to-do in difficult school districts.   They are not solving the problem they were meant to solve -- the public schools, left with less money and resources will get worse, while the more motivated and more affluent kids with parental involvement will get better schools.

Problem #2:   Supporters are selling the bill quite dishonestly, starting with the confusing wording on what goes on the ballot to be voted on.  It reads:
"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?"
Sounds like voting for mother and apple pie, doesn't it?   Especially when this explanation accompanies the ballot:
"Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options."
Who would want to vote against something that provides more options, more parental involvement, more student achievement?

The problem here is that this very confusingly implies that you have to vote for this amendment in order to give local authorities the ability to start schools.    They already have that power, and they use it where appropriate -- for educational needs.    The amendment sets up a politically appointed commission that might very well set up competing schools, take away funds from the public schools, take the best students, and then crow about their superior achieving students.

Problems #3:    The State School Superintendent has come out in opposition to the amendment, saying that it would harm public schools by syphoning off the better students, the money, and preventing local groups from staring up their own.  But the politicians are not content to let the very flawed and dishonestly presented choice be left to the voters, they are now trying to control the campaign for the vote. 

The Atlanta attorney, a supporter, has filed suit against 180 school boards in the state, insisting on their silence on the issue.  They can't even tell their teachers and parents whether they support the amendment or not.   He cites a law that prohibits state officials from using state funds for political purposes.

The problem here is that, at the same time, Gov. Deal has been going around the state actively campaigning for the amendment, as have other top officials -- political officials, that is.   They can campaign for it with impunity.   But school officials cannot campaign against it, under threat of legal action.

Now -- can anyone tell me that this is not an abuse of power in elected officials?



I usually regard insults by Republicans as a badge of honor.

Today, I collected one of those insults -- right here in the Republican enclave I happen to live in.    Coming out of the Whole Foods store in my neighborhood, I found this note on my car -- which is, yes, guite proudly adorned with one Obama/Biden bumper sticker and another "2012" bumper sticker.

Someone had left me a note, which said:
"FYI.  Someone put an Obama sticker on your car 
to make you look like a fool."
Now wasn't that nice of one of these upstanding Sandy Spring citizens that I live among?


Morning after

Even Charles Krauthammer, Laura Ingraham, and Joe Scarborough conceded that Obama won the second debate on points.   I didn't see their full quotes, so I don't know if there were other qualifying comments.

In a Huffington Post column, Ryan Grimm and Sabrina Siddiqui wrote that:
"Romney's advantage in the first debate came from his willingness to untether his comments both from reality and from his previous positions. He did so with authority and a certainty that gave the assertions the air of validity. What he said was true because he said it was true."
And tonight, Obama called him on those lies -- pointed them out, saying simply "Very little of what Governor Romney just said is true."

Let's see what the polls show in a day or two.  I'm predicting Obama will have regained his advantage in the swing states.


Taken when Candy Crowley corrected his misstatement about Obama's calling the Benghazi killing 'an act of terror'

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Barack Is Back"

"Barack Is Back" is the headline, in big bold letters on Huffington Post right now.  And that is so true.

The other summary phrase floating about from tv commentators:
"A clear win for President Obama."

Whatever it was that shut him down last week, it was not a problem tonight.   He was forceful, concise, factual but not overly so to the annoying degree that Romney was, confrontive but not offensively so, and his non-verbal visuals were all good tonight.

In contrast, Romney looked pinched, tired, and in pain.

All in all, a very good debate for President Obama.   He is definitely back - and I predict a return to the poll advantage he had before the first debate.

And a win in 3 weeks.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Shame on Romney

The father of slain ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, has spoken out publicly, saying that his son's death and the attack on the consulate in Benghazi is being investigated by the authorities on security -- and that is should not be politicized.

He did not name Romney specifically, but it was Romney who rushed to the tv cameras -- as Joe Biden pointed out in the debate, even before we knew the details of what had happened -- to criticize President Obama's handling of the situation.

I suppose it's like dangling red meat in front of a hungry lion to ask a politician in a tight election to forego such an opportunity (even if he's wrong about the facts).   But it's not the first time that Romney has violated the unwritten agreement that politics stops at the water's edge.   We do not politicize foreign affairs.

But Republicans seem to see nothing wrong with doing it anyway.

For shame.


Best double-zinger of VP debate

There are zingers, and then there is the rare double-zinger, where one debater scores a zing, and the opponent sends one right back.
Ryan:  (re Romney's "47%" comment:"I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way."

Biden: (without missing a beat): "But I always say what I mean."