July 25, 2010
'Education Governors' they are not
By Bill Kraus
We now know what the three candidates for governor who are getting press coverage are proposing to do about education which is government’s principal responsibility.
Except for Tom Barrett’s proposal to treat poverty as a learning disability, an idea, incidentally, that Senator Mike Ellis has been pushing for years (which may or may not be where Tom got the idea), the status quo is pretty much untouched by the proposals in a recent Wisconsin State Journal article.
Nothing about leadership, which is odd inasmuch as leadership is both the problem and the opportunity in K-12 education. We do not lack leadership. Actually we have too many cooks spoiling this broth. The 500-pound chef in this kitchen is WEAC. WEAC is pro-education, but WEAC is first and foremost a union and its first duty is to its teacher members, their pay, their working conditions.
School boards, citizen groups like the PTA, and administrators’ organizations are penny ante players in WEAC’s blue chip game.
A couple of months ago a governor wannabe came to call and told me his plan was to run a single-issue campaign based on the way we run and fund K-12 schools, both of which he would change significantly.
He didn’t file nomination papers, and he didn’t tell me what changes he had in mind.
A couple of large education ideas do come to mind, however.
Tommy Thompson proposed a cabinet department which would have had one overweening virtue. It would focus education in one place under the direction of one leader who would deal with the whole enchilada. This would be a major improvement in governing over today’s multiple-cook stew where everyone in education can point a finger in multiple directions when something goes wrong.
It’s the governor’s fault, it’s the Legislature’s fault, it’s the school boards’ fault, it’s the teachers, the principles, the superintendents, it’s almost everyone’s fault. Only the Department of Public Instruction, which is not in the educational policy business, and the mayor of Milwaukee don’t take the rap for perceived shortcomings. The mayor dodged this bullet when the Legislature decided they liked the hopeless, hapless status quo in that beleaguered city.
Another idea that was surfaced 28 years ago and sank without a ripple is full state funding of K-12. At that time two points on the sales tax would have done the job. This sounds like a lot of sales tax until you realize that schools would go off the property tax completely with this funding plan.
Not progressive enough? Fight the battle of income versus consumption taxation another day. In this election jobs and fixing the schools (which are not mutually exclusive ideas) seem to me to be priorities at almost the crisis level. It is well established that the most effective ways for government to create jobs is by providing quality education and infrastructure.
Fragmented leadership and funding is unlikely to produce either.
July 18, 2010
By Bill Kraus
The print press has been in trouble for a long time. So long that it is possible to think that newspapers will survive the current doomsday scenarios. They have for more than 100 years.
It was widely believed that radio would replace newspapers. It didn’t. Television was the next bogey man. It didn’t wipe out newspapers either.
Many magazines are wondering what the future holds for them, if anything, as well.
The internet is only the latest and most menacing and most likely to do away with the need for journals (not journalism).
Newspapers first: I figured that eventually people would realize that the undisciplined deluge of mostly opinions that is what most of internet “news” is about was not journalism. Even journalism from biased sources follows the traditional rules of multiple sourcing and validating that distinguishes what newspapers disseminate from the blogospheres’ (an area where I reside, incidentally) fire hose deluge.
The fact that newspapers were available on the internet was economically devastating to the traditional form, but it was an anchor to windward for those of us who favored facts over fantasy.
The problem with this source, of course, was the inconvenient devices that combined the internet’s timeliness with journalism’s professionalism. Sitting in front of a computer isn’t relaxing with the paper in your favorite easy chair or at the breakfast table. And squinting at the teeny tiny screens of the amazing full-purpose wireless phones is equally daunting.
Then the iPad came along.
What the iPad does is make immediacy user friendly.
Suddenly there is a no-choice choice. Would you like to get your news delivered to your door--even if it was written several hours before it was delivered and the delivery system was inefficient and ecologically challenging--if you could tap your finger on a full color screen and get the same information in readable form on a convenient device, and, oh yes, it will be up to the minute rather than something that happened hours ago?
How about your full-color magazines? One vote has been cast. Hugh Hefner came out of the bedroom recently to announce that he wants to buy all the stock in Playboy, a magazine that has been, along with many, many magazines, in the doldrums recently. What Hefner undoubtedly is betting on is that the iPad will resurrect the magazine business. Particularly those magazines that are as picture intensive as his.
In short it is not going to be possible to save journals in their traditional package.
What must be preserved or resurrected is journalism and journalists. Somebody has to do the inefficient, tedious business of collecting and validating and writing the stories, delivering the facts.
This means the iPad journals and the competitive devices they are bound to spawn are not going to be free.
What Apple did for the music business, Apple or someone has to do for the journalism business.
Someone will, and when that happens the researchers, writers, and reporters will be back and facts will win out over fantasies.
July 10, 2010
Some house cleaning
By Ms. Forward
We here at FightingBob.com have heard from a few readers who have not gotten responses to messages sent recently about article submissions, Fighting Bob Fest feedback and other issues. Our systems are imperfect, but there is also the universal e-mail problem with spam filters and all of that. If we haven't responded it is almost certainly because we didn't see your message. And we certainly want to see it. If you have an important message to send it is probably a good idea to follow it up with a phone call to Fighting Bob headquarters (608-256-1003) and let us know there is a message awaiting attention. If the message isn't there we will know who you are and can have you re-send it.
Which reminds me: Fighting Bob Fest is just around the corner (September 11, 2010, Sauk County Fairgrounds, Baraboo). E-mail traffic heats up when the Fest is about to start. And that's a good thing. And the best way to keep track of what is happening in Bob Fest World is to check the Fighting Bob Fest website, fightingbobfest.org. Answers to most questions you might have about the Fest can be found there. You can also register for Bob Fest now, which you really should do.
And (hint, hint) it is never too early to donate. Some of you may have noticed that this has been a tough year financially for Fighting Bob. If we could get your generous donations sooner rather than later that would help us all breathe easier.
And finally, have you noticed all the Feedback we get here at FightingBob.com? A recent article by Steve Carlson elicited 10 responses. Other sites might get more letters, but they are not as consistently intelligent and thoughtful as the messages we get from readers, even the ones Ms. Forward disagrees with. You can read the messages attached to the articles and blog posts to which they are responding, or you can go to the Feedback page and read them all at once. And if you haven't yet joined our fray, Ms. Forward urges you to consider it.
Did I mention that now really would be a good time to donate to Fighting Bob Fest?
July 9, 2010
The GOP's Dickensian economics
By Bob Menamin
"Dollars! All their cares, hopes, joys, affections, virtues and associations seemed to be melted down into dollars. Whatever the chance contributions that fell into the slow cauldron of their talk, they made the gruel thick and slab with dollars. Men were weighed by their dollars, measures were gauged by their dollars; life was auctioned, appraised, put up and knocked down for its dollars. The next respectable thing to dollars was any venture having their attainment for its end. The more of that worthless ballast, honor and fair dealing, which any man cast overboard from the ship of his Good Nature and Good Intent, the more ample stowage-room he had for dollars. Make commerce one huge lie and mighty theft. Deface the banner of the nation for an idle rag; pollute it star by star; and cut out stripe by stripe as from the arm of a degraded soldier. Do anything for dollars! What is a flag to them!" --Charles Dickens
Paul Volcker felt it was imperative to ban banks from running private-equity hedge funds. This ban would curb the kind of risk taking that fueled the financial crisis that almost brought our financial system down. President Obama agreed and introduced the Volcker Rule in January of this year. As the financial reform bill made its way through the legislative process, the Volcker rule was watered down by deals made by Obama, House and Senate leaders. This watering down was necessitated to get Republican votes, thereby avoiding a filibuster.
Senators Feingold, Cantwell, Sanders and others attempted to introduce measures that were aimed at preventing the problems that contributed to our financial meltdown. Almost all of these attempts were rejected because of Republican obstruction. On June 28, Feingold said, "My test for the financial regulatory reform bill is whether it will prevent another crisis. The conference committee's proposal fails that test and for that reason I will not vote to advance it." Feingold felt that crucial reforms were rejected by the Wall Street lobbyists and their allies in Washington who apparently continue to dominate the process.
Which legislators were responsible for this failure? All of the Republican senators, some Democratic senators, and President Obama, who did not clearly draw a line in the sand declaring what was essential for reform.
Still, the main culprits were the 41 Republican senators who obstructed all amendments that were aimed at preventing another financial catastrophe. Their primary objective is to destroy Obama and to hell with the broad interests of the nation. Many on both sides of the aisle in Congress are owned by special interests. I am an independent and not a partisan, but what is more clear to me now than ever before is that present-day congressional Republicans exist solely to represent the interests of huge, multinational corporations.