Friday, November 07, 2008

Presidential Election 2008

I would like to first offer my congratulations to the winners in what was the longest political campaign in recent American history---20 months. It was also the most expensive, and I dare say, one the most divisive campaigns I can recall in my 30plus years in politics. But, with that being said, we can also say we witnessed and participated in perhaps the most historical election in our nation’s history. On the Republican side, we saw their first ever woman candidate for Vice President, and what a firebrand she turned out to be! On the Democrat side, we witnessed America’s first bi-racial candidate, Barack Obama, beat Hillary Clinton, and go on to win the Presidency of the United States. Regardless of whose side you were, it has to do an American proud to the record number of voters (especially new voters) comes out in droves.

Since I know some of the “movers and shakers” in both parties are regular readers of AO, I have a few words I’d like to say to them about the election. First, to the Democrats, I’d like to say great job folks. A few years ago, you were on the ropes. There was even talk as to whether the Democrats would survive as a political party, but you buried your differences and came together. You should be especially proud of yourselves by being the party to nominate and then elect our first bi-racial candidate to the Presidency. Forty years ago (and I remember this well), we witnessed the murders of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. We saw live on TV the police riots in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. Now you have a majority in the House and Senate; you control 29 of the governorships; you’ve regained a solid voter majority; and you have the big prize of all, the White House. Who would have thought we’d come so far in a single generation?

Now, you need to put past squabbles behind you. This nation needs a united front dedicated to solving some huge problems. We need to get Americans back to work fast, and that means fixing the economy without bailing out those who caused the problems. We need bring about world stability without being the world’s policeman. We need to protect our individual rights without putting Americans at risk. We need to find a balance between protecting the environment and development. We need a committed and serious effort to become both energy independent without harming natural habitats. We still need to secure our borders, remove illegal aliens, and make sure those who come to this great country legally speak English. We have a healthcare system close to being on lifesupport and Social Security is going belly up. Lastly, remember that the American People put you in power and we can remove just as quickly with or without your special interest buddies. So, are you up to the task?

Now a few comments to my Republicans friends. Frankly, you all blew it, so stop blaming Sarah Palin. If it wasn’t for her, you would have probably gotten your butts kicked even worse. You did one of the worse things a person in office could ever do in my book---you failed to question. You became arrogant. You stopped thinking about the American People and supported those who were most least represential of traditional American values. You supported a war that wasn’t necessary. You backed a bail out of the very crooks that, because of their greed, caused the economic meltdown in the first place. You failed to secure our borders. You failed to take aggressive action about illegal immigration. You failed to enact programs to improve our schools. You failed to deal with gas and oil gouging of the public by your oil lobbyist buddies (guess it just didn’t affect you that much huh?). You presided over the largest increase in government size since the New Deal. We saw more business failure during your tenure than since the Great Depression. Need I go on? In short, you failed because you forgot what it meant to be Republicans.

On the up side, you have four years to get your act together, and that is going to mean a lot of soul searching, housecleaning, and serious kissing up with the American Public. It’s also going to mean updating your message to issues that actually matter to voters across party lines (see my comments to the Democrats). It may mean saying goodbye to some old comrades like those on the extreme far Social Right. Americans just aren’t there anymore folks. Buy a clue, you've got the money. You need to expand your base. Look at the Democratic message; they talked about the future while you talked about the past. Get over it. Reagan is gone. It’s time to move on. If you don’t, you’ll stop making history and become history.

Election Predictions

I’ve never thought I was particularly good at predictions, but with an election like this, who could resist? So, how did I do? Well, let’s take a look at my predictions from the October 5th edition and the actual results.

I predicted Barack Obama would win with 55% of the vote. Obama actually received 51% of the vote. I said Senator Mitch McConnell would beat Bruce Lunsford with 51% of the vote. The Republican senator got 53% of the vote (there’s just something about Lunsford that voters don’t like). I simply couldn’t see where former Republican Congresswomen would beat John Yarmuth. I predicted John would win with at least 60% of vote. Well, he got 59%. Anne’s days in Kentucky politics looks to be over.

In local Kentucky races, I leaned toward Shaughnessy over Helerigner in the 19th State Senate, and Shaughnessy won. In the 35th State Senate, I predicted Denise Angel would beat John Albers. Denny easily won that one. Here’s where I blew it. In the 37th State Senate, I predicted a close race between incumbent Democrat Perry Clark and Republican Doug Hawkins. Perry won with a convincing 57%. In the State House races, I had Bob DeWeese, Kevin Bratcher, Ron Crimm, and Mary Lou Marzian winning. Well, I’m four for four with each easily winning.

In the Judicial races, which turned out to be unusually nasty, I predicted Kemper over Cunningham for the 30th Circuit Court, 4th Division. Here, Cunningham got the nod. I had Smith over Vandertoll in the 39th Circuit Court, 2nd Division, and I was right. In the 30th Circuit Court, 8th Division, I said Bowles would win over his three opponents, and indeed he did. Lastly, I predicted Holton over newbie King in the 30th Circuit Court, 16th Division. This should have been a “no brainer”, and it turned out to be just that. In what has to be a boneheaded move, voters elected the novice King over super lawyer Holton. I don’t think we’ve heard the last about the results of this race. Lastly, we come to the Louisville Metro Council races. Tandy, King, Blackwell, Downard, Blackwell won as predicted. However, I missed on two others. Democrat Brent Ackerson beat out Honaker, and what has to be the upset of the evening, Democrat Bob Henderson won with 36% over Bob Heuglin with 34%. Two independent candidates made up the difference. I guess Henderson owes those two a serious favor!

So, all in all, looks like I might have a knack for this prediction stuff after all!

As a part time college professor, I’ve been a big proponent of quality education for decades. Quality education leads to quality employees and that attracts well paying jobs. That, in turn, increases the local tax base which funds better roads, sewers, parks, along with more police officers, firefighters, EMS, and improves the overall quality of life in the community. Tony Wagner’s book, The Global Achievement Gap, is a tour de force for anyone interested in America’s school system. We are fast becoming a nation of underachievers in a society which rewards mediocrity. We are graduating students without a basic understanding math, English, science, or history. We’ve all but cut out art and music from their curriculum. But whatever you do, don’t interfere with their sports programs! Mr. Wagner delves into why our children are failing behind the rest of the world and what we can do about it before it’s too late. The dumbing down of our children has to stop now. I urge everyone interested in our school system to read Mr. Wagner’s book now!

Education Accountability Version 2.0: A Letter to the Next President
By Tony Wagner,
Author of The Global Achievement Gap

Dear Mr. President:

Your education platform was filled with noble generalities. I suppose you thought you couldn't get more specific because the No Child Left Behind Law is increasingly unpopular and unworkable, and there is no agreement about how to fix it. It is an issue that doesn't lend itself to sound bites. To fix NCLB, you must first understand the skills that matter most in the 21st century and the ways in which the NCLB law is actually getting in the way of more meaningful accountability. And then you must invest in accountability "version 2.0."

Problem: Too few students are graduating from high school. The ones who do lack the essential skills they need for college, careers, and citizenship.

Nearly one third of our students do not graduate from high school. This problem is not more widely known because states are not held accountable for improving their graduation rates. Additionally, states use different formulas for calculating their districts' high school graduation rates, and almost all of them significantly overstate the numbers of students who graduate. Florida, for example, claims a seventy percent graduation rate, but the reality is closer to fifty-five percent.

The majority of the students who do graduate from our nation's public high schools are unprepared for college and the workplace. In the 21st century, the skills needed for careers, college, and citizenship have converged: Critical thinking, creative problem-solving, collaboration, and effective communication have become far more important than mere memorization and factual recall. However, at the high school level, states continue to test low level content knowledge and factual recall through multiple choice tests, and a passing score in even the most "rigorous" of these tests, such as the Massachusetts MCAS test, does not mean students are career and college-ready. Forty percent of the students who pass MCAS need remediation in college. Nationally, one out of every two students who starts college never completes a degree, and the main reason for this poor completion rate is students' lack of college-level skills, not lack of subject content knowledge. Similarity, employers complain that most new employees lack proficiency in the "new basic" skills outlined above.

Solution: The Department of Education should hold schools and districts accountable for their graduation rates and assess the skills that matter most.

The Department of Education should require all school districts and states in the U.S. to report their high school graduation rates according to a common formula. To ensure that schools teach the skills that matter most, the Department of Education should "audit" school districts' performance by testing representative sample populations of students with assessments that measure the most important skills. For example, the College and Work Readiness Assessment measures high school students' analytic reasoning, critical thinking, problem-solving, and writing skills and compares them to the scores of freshmen in 250 colleges. ( Scores from tests like these will tell us whether our country is making progress in increasing the percentages of students who leave high school "college and work ready." Scores of subgroups of students would be reported, as they are under the current law, to ensure that districts teach all students new skills.

To create greater accountability, the Department of Education should issue and widely publicize an annual "report card" for every school district in the country. This short document would simply report the percent of students who graduate and the percent who graduate college-ready by subgroup. Transparency is a far more powerful way to create greater accountability than are the largely meaningless threats in the current law. States would then have the responsibility to develop strategies for helping their under-performing districts to improve.

Problem: The accountability measurements for Adequate Yearly Progress incents states and districts to create a boring, dumbed-down, test prep curriculum, and there is no common standard for "proficient."

One major problem with the NCLB law is the unrealistic expectation that every school will improve the number of students who score "proficient" by a certain percent every year until 100 percent of the students in the nation are proficient by 2014. This expectation leads to two widespread practices: 1) Many states, like Mississippi and Wisconsin, create easy tests where the standard of "proficiency" is such a low bar that most students can pass; 2) To ensure that more students pass state tests, districts require teachers to teach the test content and give frequent practice tests, leaving no time for more interesting or enriching learning opportunities. Increasingly in this country, what gets tested is all that gets taught.

The second major problem with the law is that it allows the standard of "proficiency" to be set by each state. So there are, in fact, fifty different standards of proficiency in this country. For example, students in Mississippi, who have traditionally been among the least literate in this country, are more "proficient" in reading than students in Minnesota, according to the two states' test scores. Because the states' standards vary so widely, their test scores tell us absolutely nothing about what students really know and can do.

Solution: Create a national high school writing test, benchmark districts' and states' yearly progress to a common international standard, and make the unit of accountability the district, rather than individual students.

Lack of writing skills is the number one complaint of both employers and college teachers. However, many states are no longer testing writing because they are not required to, and writing tests are expensive and time-consuming to score. To the extent that some states, like Massachusetts, test students' writing, it is by requiring high school students merely to write a five paragraph essay. The solution is for the federal government to administer a two hour writing exam to demographic sample populations of eleventh graders in all states, as is done in many European countries. The essay question for the writing exam would be based on a major event or document in American History. For example: "Discuss the causes of the civil war and the ways in which these causes continue to influence current events in this country;" Or, "Which of the first ten amendments (which would be reproduced on the test) do you think is most important for a strong democracy and why."

The second solution to the lack of common standards is to use the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test results as the benchmark for progress in states' education improvement efforts. American students are significantly outperformed by students in most other industrial nations, in part because the PISA tests require very little recall of information and much more application of knowledge to new problems. These are the skills that matter most in the real world, but they are not ones our students learn in their multiple choice world. The incentive for states to improve their education outcomes is economic. States and school communities that have very low PISA scores, which would be widely publicized by the Department of Education, will not attract or keep businesses that demand all employees have 21st century skills.

Finally, in order for states to be able to afford much higher quality tests, like the CWRA and PISA, they should no longer be required to test every student every year. State and district accountability can achieved by testing sample populations of students every year -- a kind of educational audit. To do well on such tests, districts and schools would need to create local assessments for every student that were aligned with the new state and national tests. Each teacher would be regularly assessing all of his or her students to ensure that students who might be among those randomly chosen for the state and national tests would be well-prepared.

Accountability 2.0 would focus schools and districts on preparing students for meaningful assessments which measure the skills that matter most in the 21st century. To prepare for these new tests, all students would be taught how to write, reason, analyze, pose thoughtful questions and solve problems. In short, they would learn the skills they need for college, careers, and citizenship, and they would be engaged in challenging and interesting work in their classes. Doing anything less that a version 2.0 of our accountability system puts our students' and our country's future at stake.

©2008 Tony Wagner

Author Bio
Tony Wagner is the co director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His most recent book, The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach The New Survival Skills Our Kids Need -- And What We Can Do About It, has just been published by Basic Books. Tony can be reached through his website:

Poll Results

Wow! We had an astonishing number of votes on our poll asking if you were going to vote. Thanks to each one of you for taking time to vote! The results were 48% saying they were voting Democrat, with 47% going Republican. The rest were either no voting or voting third party.

Our next poll is about you, the reader. In order to keep up with your interests, we here at AO would like to know how you lean politically and socially. Are you conservative? Perhaps you lean to the Right? Liberal or leaning to Left? Maybe you’re a moderate or centrist. We’d like to know so we can add article which would interest you, our most valuable asset. Thanks again everyone for reading Another Opinion!


Anonymous said...

Good Job! Keep up the bipartisian comments on our elected officials. When they do something good praise them, when they do something miserable chew them out. Our country has lots of problems. Many of them are very serious and almost country killers. Highlight them. Our citizens need to be educated on the root causes of these troubles. Bang the drum and illuminate us so that we can act on the solutions to our country's many problems. Keep up the good work!
Moderate Man

Donna said...

good job your prediction were mostly right on---you tell those nasty republicans what its all about

Anonymous said...

Just read that 31 of 47 people tagged for Obama's staff and cabinet are former Clinton people.

Talk about 'change'! But hey, it's not 100% Clinton, so I guess that qualifies as 'change'.

The NY Fed guy Geithner that Obama tagged for Treasury was an understudy of Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, the two CEOs of Goldman Sachs who both became Treasury Secretary under Clinton.

Rubin and Summers used the ESF to manipulate a strong dollar under Clinton and forced the Fed to keep lowering rates. That brought the 'almost free' money in the late 90's, created the 'wealth effect', blew hot air into a stock market bubble, generated the real estate bubble, and expanded the debt bubble by leaps and bounds. That's where we are today.

Yes, a big 'change' is coming with Obama! Let's toast the Democrats controlling the strings of our economy again! Just eat, drink, and be merry like it's the 90's all over again - for tomorrow we die when the new debt bubble pops and the dollar is worth less than toilet paper.

Only one question -- what's that new bubble Obama will be creating for our economy?

Something like Holland's 'tulip mania' in the 1600's? Maybe we'll have an acorn mania instead - $50,000 acorns anyone? How about a 'bread mania'? $1,000,000 for a loaf of bread?

LOL! - that is NOT a stretch.

Welcome to Weimar Republic II.

Sirico said...

Anon2 writes: Rubin and Summers used the ESF to manipulate a strong dollar under Clinton and forced the Fed to keep lowering rates. That brought the 'almost free' money in the late 90's, created the 'wealth effect', blew hot air into a stock market bubble, generated the real estate bubble, and expanded the debt bubble by leaps and bounds. That's where we are today.

Uh, in a word... Wrong!! Your conspiracy theories don't hold water.

The Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF) is an emergency reserve fund of the United States Treasury Department, used for purchase or selling of foreign currencies, to hold U.S. foreign exchange and Special Drawing Rights (SDR) assets, and to provide financing to foreign governments. THE ESF IS AUDITED ANNUALLY AND ITS FINANCIAL STATEMENTS ARE PROVIDED MONTHLY TO CONGRESS.

Greenspan and co. would have bitched to every media outlet if they thought that they were being manupulated. There would have been congressional inquires, etc.

Also, I remember that Greenspan and co. kept lowering interest rates well into Bush's first term.

From USA Today, Money: Sept. 11, 2001 — Hijacked airliners crash into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in rural Pennsylvania. The attack deals a blow to the U.S. economy. The Fed responds by cutting interest rates four times before the end of the year, building on a campaign of reductions that began in January. Over the course of the year, the Fed lowers the key federal funds rate 4.75 percentage points to a 40-year low 1.75% — one of its most aggressive campaigns ever against economic weakness and one credited with pulling the economy quickly out of the recession that began in March.

So I guess Bush is part of this vast conspiracy as well right???!!!

It also should be noted that the credit crunch is the most important single issue facing the country. Only the support of the US government has protected us from the complete vaporization of the financial world.

What were the causes?

-The Repub. deregulation of the 1935 Glass/Steagal Act!

How did it happen?

-Through reckless bundling of debt, especially mortgages, into security packets and derivatives of those packages. Mortgage brokers, securitizer, derivative makers, and credit raters were not paid for making good loans. They were paid just for making transactions happen. Since they expected to hold the loans for no more than 45 days before the securitization took place, they ended up lending money to many who couldn't pay it back- all in order to generate fees. They acted as if there were no risk in the over the top lending to those seeking to buy or speculate in houses, office buildings, companies, and other financial assets. If the orginators had been forced to keep these loans, they might have taken a wholly different viewpoint. But instead, they rushed to sell them to other eager investors and used the cash to make even more dubious loans!

I'll take the Clinton era over a Bush era anytime.

BTW: "Welcome to Weimar Republic II".

-A two front war.

-An over stretched military across the globe.

-No respect from our allies and enemies.

-Torturing prisoners.

-The state spying on their own citizens.

-Allowing the state to "hold" innocent people for no reason(s).

Sound familiar??? No, it is not 1939 Neo-Nazi Germany. It's Bush's America.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the laugh!

From the WSJ...

"The Exchange Stabilization Fund to the Rescue - Again?

"Back in 1995, Congress balked at the Clinton Administration’s $40-billion rescue plan for then-troubled Mexico so the administration turned to an obscure kitty known as the Exchange Stabilization Fund to offer Mexico up to $20 billion in loans and loan guarantees. Faced with a domestic financial crisis, the Bush Treasury is now turning to the fund to offer temporary insurance to investors in money-market mutual funds.

"The Fund, which now amounts to $50 billion, was created in 1934 to conduct interventions in foreign exchange markets. The enabling statute gives the president and Treasury secretary enormous latitude to act without prior consent of Congress. As amended in the late 1970s, according to the Treasury the law says, “Consistent with the obligations of the Government in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on orderly exchange arrangements and an orderly system of exchange rates, the Secretary, with the approval of the President, may deal in gold, foreign exchange, and other instruments of credit and securities.” The law limits terms of loans from the fund to six months unless the president notifies Congress that there are “unique or emergency circumstances.”

"In 1995, top Republican leaders of Congress, Sen. Bob Dole and Rep. Newt Gingrich, backed the Mexico maneuver, as did then-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. But other members of Congress protested loudly (though impotently). “It clearly violates the intent of the Constitution … that Congress appropriate the money,” said Sen. Hank Brown (R., Colo.), who said he anticipates hearings into the president’s use of the fund. “What the president did is simply bypass the need to have real security [for the loans] or real reform [in Mexico]. I think it’s a huge mistake.”

"The Fund was created by the Gold Reserve Act of 1934, and used over the years for a variety of credit deals with foreign governments and central banks. Historically, U.S. intervention in foreign exchange markets — which happens rarely these days — has been jointly financed by the ESF and the Federal Reserve. The late Rep. Henry Gonzalez once called it a “$25 billion slush fund that lacks accountability” and proposed stripping the Treasury its authority to intervene in foreign exchange markets.

"The ESF, as of the end of August, had $49.966 billion in assets –- including euro, yen, U.S. government securities and Special Drawing Rights, a quasi-currency issued by the International Monetary Fund. –David Wessel"

Why on earth would Greenspan have "bitched to every media outlet" about something in which HE himself was a participant? As the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, he was REQUIRED by law to assist in allocating the ESF funds! And both Rubin and Summers, each of whom was Treasury Secretary, were also required by law to help allocate ESF funds.

A little logic, if you please... but don't even imagine that the term "intervention" can NOT be translated as "manipulation" when it comes to financial markets.

You can't seriously believe that the stock markets and our currency have not been, and are NOT now being, "manipulated"?

If you do, then you know next to nothing about stock markets and apparently nothing at all about currency markets.

It is NOT a conspiracy. It IS an association, and the intervention and manipulation of markets by the ESF are NOT state secrets.

Sirico said...

You can't seriously believe that the stock markets and our currency have not been, and are NOT now being, "manipulated"?


Yeah, the decline in the geenback and our markets have nothing to do with a $10-15 billion a month Iraq War, Afghanistan War, health care crisis, loss of jobs to Asia, national debt (bills), tax cuts (income), housing crisis, bank crisis, a Repub. led Congress (94-06) that gave voice to the dreaded word "deregulation", and THEE worst leader/president this country has ever produced.

No. Its really all about ESF, Bill Clinton, and his Legion of Doom and their efforts to subvert the people into a "one world UN goverment" (or whatever) by starting to inflate the world currency 10-15 years ago!

Of course not to put words in your mouth, but I can only imagine that you and the other right-wing wackos are the only ones that know about this dasturdly deed because the left wing liberal press is secretly suppressing this story and conspiring against you guys.

And no, this isn't a conspiracy theory (spin). " It IS an association, and the intervention and manipulation of markets by the ESF...". How diabolical is that!!!

Holy Cow Batman!!!

Quick Robin, to the Batpoles!!!! (LOL)

Give me a break.

I liked it better when you wing nuts used to blame the ESF for the suppression of gold prices! It's hard to keep up with these crazy stories you guys come up with.

"It isn't pollution that's harming our enviroment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it". -George W. Bush

Anonymous said...

If you don't believe the purpose of the ESF is to intervene in the currency markets, then go back and read the ESF mission statement. It's in black and white.

You should read important details like that as meticulously as you absorb mainstream media "news" articles. Otherwise you develop learning gaps which can lead to an assumption that conspiracies can't exist at any level of government, or never have existed, or that government is transparent -- that mistake is often made by left wing whackos simply because Monica's "busy time" in the Oval Office came to public attention.

But if you believe only what you're expected to believe, and wear the societal blinders that you're expected to wear, and if you're content to stumble along in ignorance with the herd, then hey, "more power to you!" It's compliant citizens like you who keep our system's machinery well-greased and running through an entire lifetime of work!

So thanks for your dedication to political blindness, but please remember, never ever start asking questions... we like you just the way you are!

Sirico said...

First you say:

"It is NOT a conspiracy. It IS an association, and the intervention...".

Then you say:

"Otherwise you develop learning gaps which can lead to an assumption that CONSPIRACIES CAN'T EXIST at any level of government,...". (Emphasis added)

So which is it? Conspiracy or NOT a conspiracy.

Pick a personality...PLEASE!!!

Or better yet... do yourself a favor and quit watching Fox News!!!

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator". -George W. Bush

Another Opinion said...

I assume you two know each other?

Sirico said...


"If we don't succeede, we run the risk of failure". -George W. Bush