Don't Fund Schools, it will hurt the Children

Pioneer Institute : education :: propaganda : understanding - promoted by Bob_Neer

Oddly enough, that’s the rallying cry from our Education Secretary Jim Peyser

Education Secretary James Peyser’s firm rejection of a proposal that would generate $1.9 billion for Massachusetts transportation and education evoked a strong response from proponents and opponents of the measure, Gov. Charlie Baker appears comfortable taking a wait-and-see approach on the issue.

So what’s Peyser is so strongly against? An amendment that would raise revenue by establishing a surtax of 4% of income over a million dollars that would fund education and transportation expenses.

Peyser outlined his opposition to the notion that higher taxes are necessary to improve education, adding that the proposed constitutional amendment could “weaken our economy” and “damage our ability as a commonwealth to support the schools and the other services we desperately need.”

Peyser, who shockingly once headed the Pioneer Institute, hot take is based what? Experience of the last three decades when conservative policies crashed our economy? Think about it, parents who are now taking their children to schools have lived their entire lives experiencing failed economic policies of conservative presidents. Economic failure based on what Jim Peyser has been try to push has been clearly debunked.

So what’s Jim solution?

I don’t think the issues that we face as a Commonwealth here are really about the fact that we don’t have enough revenue. It’s about how we’re using our revenues wisely and well

Charter Schools? I also heard that it will stop hunger, global warming and will bring world peace. Just ask any unicorn, they will tell you. Or maybe all you have to do is ask a charter school lobbyist, which by chance happens to be our own ed secretary. (Maybe still a lobbyist? they won’t say.)

EduShyster posted filings to the commonwealth by Families for Excellent Schools which still lists Jim Peyser as a Director for the non-profit organization, but also more disturbing their lobbying arm Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy Inc. If that name sounds familiar, Families for Excellent Schools is funding Great Schools Massachusetts that is spearheading lifting the cap on charter schools. Jim’s charter school lobbying group is a 501(c)(4) dark money group that does not list it’s donors. Funny thing, while Family for Excellent Schools posted Jim’s resignation to the non-profit, they haven’t commented on Jim’s involvement in the lobbying group which filed it’s annual report in August 2015 with Jim Peyser’s name listed as a Director.

Trump just either blew his chance to be the GOP nominee, or destroyed his opponents' last best chance to overtake him...

and nobody knows which it is.

You sure can’t criticize this primary season for being boring.  After all the nuttiness that we’ve seen (especially on the GOP side, it must be said) up to now, this week’s goings-on still stand out as, perhaps, unprecedented.

We’re less than a week away from the Iowa caucuses.  Donald Trump holds a modest lead in the most recent Iowa polling, but Iowa is tough to poll because of the caucus system, so it’s certainly possible that Ted Cruz, or even someone else (most likely Rubio), could pull off a win based on those numbers.  Trump holds a much bigger lead in other upcoming contests, as well as nationally.  Standard campaign strategy in those circumstances would probably be not to rock the boat too dramatically.  Try to win or take a strong second place in Iowa, and hope that the polling numbers hold in NH and beyond.  Ride the wave.

Instead, Trump has gone far out of his way to antagonize the news network that holds the most sway over Republican primary voters: Fox News.  Fox News is sponsoring the final pre-Iowa debate.  Trump insisted that Megyn Kelly be removed as a moderator; Fox refused; so Trump walked.  Bill O’Reilly tried desperately to get Trump to reconsider, but Trump now appears committed to holding a fundraising rally for veterans at the same time as the Fox debate.

Adding to the bizarreness of this whole thing, super-rich Ted Cruz backers offered to donate $1.5 million to the charity of Trump’s choice if he would debate Cruz one-on-one before Monday.  Carly Fiorina then hopped on that alt-debate bandwagon, offering an additional $2 million to veterans’ charities if she could get in on the action.

The stakes are extraordinarily high in all this, it seems to me.  By refusing to debate, Trump has succeeded in keeping himself in the headlines in the run-up to Iowa, while also removing the risk of saying something dumb that hurts him, or having an opponent finally figure out a way to get at him, during the debate.  Both very big pluses for Trump.  On the downside, the entire Fox News apparatus is now mightily pissed off at Trump, and may well intensify its efforts to bring him down.  If the overlap between potential Trump voters and Fox News watchers is as substantial as you’d probably imagine, that seems to hold the possibility of really hurting Trump.

Cruz and Fiorina seem to me to have only helped Trump by making their alt-debate offers.  It just makes them look desperate to appear on the same stage with him.  And the weirdness of offering to give a lot of money to charity if he’ll agree is distasteful and pathetic.  Once again, as has happened repeatedly this cycle, Trump lays a trap, and the others just walk right into it.

So.  Will Fox News be so furious with Trump that they actually manage to bring him down?  Or will Trump’s effort to shield himself from harm in the last week before voting begins by ducking the debate mean that the polls basically stay where they are?  What do you think?

One thing seems certain.  If Trump wins Iowa and New Hampshire, his withdrawing from the debate will probably be seen as one of the most brilliant political gambits in recent memory.

O'Malley the Kingmaker

Game theory enthusiasts, have at it! - promoted by david

Surprised not to see much discussion of this five days out from Iowa.  For anyone fortunate enough not to see the perversion of democracy that is Iowa, there is a significant rule that bears mentioning. And it means the forgotten Democratic candidate might be making some huge headlines the next day…

Nothing like Dems Supporting our Teachers, eh?

The endless controversy rages on... - promoted by david

From Politico Mass Playbook:

DELEO TO THROW SUPPORT BEHIND CHARTER SCHOOLS ON WEDNESDAY — “Prepping for charter school fight,” by Hillary Chabot, Boston Herald: “Beacon Hill bosses Robert A. DeLeo and Stanley C. Rosenberg will sound off on Boston Herald Radio this week as the battle to expand charter schools takes center stage — and DeLeo prepares to renew his charter school support in a high-profile speech Wednesday.”

Warren and Markey Call on Obama to Halt Deportation Raids

  - promoted by david

Last Friday, 22 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus led by Senators Dick Durbin (IL) and Pat Leahy (VT) called on Obama to halt the ongoing deportation raids targeting Central American refugees and to consider granting them temporary protected status. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey were both among the signers.

Here are some key passages.

We are deeply concerned that in its eagerness to deter additional arrivals from this region, the Department is returning vulnerable individuals with valid protection claims to life-threatening violence. This is not hyperbole. There have been multiple reports of individuals, including children, being killed within days or weeks of their deportation.  Moreover, we do not accept the argument that removing these individuals will deter additional children and families from fleeing the Northern Triangle. That argument relies on the false premise that most of these people are not fleeing extraordinary danger….The global refugee crisis has provided countless examples of people taking enormous risks against all odds in order to escape persecution and there is no reason to believe that is any less true for those in Central America.

It is important to evaluate this as a humanitarian and refugee crisis involving a vulnerable population and not strictly as a border security and immigration enforcement matter.  Targeting families contradicts the administration’s repeated commitment to focus its enforcement resources on removing felons not families.

Given the particular risks faced by these mothers and children, the tactic of using widely publicized, aggressive removal operations – often in the wee hours of the morning – is shocking and misguided.  These raids have created widespread fear in immigrant communities around the country, and damaged trust in local law enforcement. Raids of this nature are not appropriate when the federal government is interacting with vulnerable children and will only exacerbate the trauma experienced by these children. We ask that you stop these aggressive raids against children and their families and rely on more appropriate approaches to fulfilling court orders.

There have also been multiple reports that individuals targeted by these raids were not provided meaningful due process or access to competent counsel. This is deeply concerning as it undermines the legitimacy of our immigration court system. We ask that you slow down the fast-track immigration process forced on many of these families and unaccompanied children, to ensure that this particularly vulnerable population is able to receive meaningful due process, access to counsel, and a full and fair hearing of their legal claims.

The letter is long, but you can read it in full here.

Massachusetts was one of six states whose two senators were both signers. The others were Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, and Vermont.

House Democrats had sent their own letter the previous week.

(adapted from a post on the Daily Kos)

Long game demands Inspiration over Incrementalism

Interesting perspective. - promoted by david

Much has been spoken and written about the philosophical differences between the top Democratic candidates: Bernie is idealistic and inspirational, while Hillary is realistic and pragmatic. While the Sanders campaign continues to raise important, progressive issues that many Democrats support, the recent Clinton response – echoed in much of the media – is that Bernie would be wholly unable to enact his agenda, presumably due to the expected Republican control of Congress.

The underlying message is that a Clinton presidency would result in incremental change that either (i) Clinton manages to cajole the Republicans to support, or (ii) the Republicans force Clinton to accept. Any other option puts her in the same place as Sanders. Given the long-time animosity within the Republican party for all things Clinton, I have a hard time believing option (i) is likely, and I believe option (ii) is not particularly desirable. So perhaps all a good progressive can hope for, in the short term, is that no harmful legislation is passed (and signed into law) and good thoughtful jurists are nominated to the Supreme Court, both of which Bernie and Hillary are capable of.

So, in a time where Washington gridlock is unlikely to end until Democrats have a fair chance to regain control of the House of Representatives, we should be looking to the elections that could have more impact on a progressive political agenda: the 2017, 2018 and 2019 gubernatorial elections in over 40 states. The Republicans adeptly sought state houses in and around 2010 so that they could control the redistricting process after the 2010 census. If the Democrats (and other progressives) want to reverse the harm done then, they need to develop the message that the 2016 election is only the first step in the process, and that the energy usually found in Presidential election years needs to carry over to the years leading up to the 2020 census.

In this light, I believe the inspirational, “revolutionary” candidate is more likely than the pragmatic incrementalist to build the movement necessary to carry this energy forward. Simply preventing a Republican from gaining the White House in 2016 – however important that is – is not enough if the Democratic party fails to have influence over the redistricting process in 2021. Short of having more nonpartisan redistricting commissions in place, or the greater adoption of ranked choice voting or proportional representation, that influence will come from getting more progressive voters to the polls in coming years, not just in 2016. I believe Bernie is more capable, and better positioned, to provide the inspiration and generate the interest and energy needed to accomplish this. Unlike the Clinton candidacy, which is focused on the incremental change that might be possible in the short term – essentially an Obama third term – the Sanders campaign is built specifically to build the requisite progressive movement. In fact, continued gridlock could serve as the rallying cry from the right bully pulpit. The Democrats need to begin their “long game” now, and Bernie, more so than Hillary, represents that long game.

We may have to accept congressional gridlock no matter the Democratic choice for President, but we shouldn’t have to accept it forever. But that will require us to elect a President who can inspire and energize the electorate beyond 2016. Bernie Sanders can do, and is doing, just that.

Outstanding Achievement by a State Agency in Evading the Public Records Law: The Award Goes to...

Oof. - promoted by david

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, in a unanimous decision by the judges.

State and municipal agencies are prone to resisting public records requests (sometimes for reasons that may be understandable — like a lack of resources — but are nonetheless insufficient). We’ve seen their trailblazing efforts at evasion in such areas as dilatory response tactics, exaggeration of the costs of compliance, and the fearless use of redaction.

Meanwhile, the Gaming Commission truly has been thinking outside the box. Rather than evading the law by withholding records that are in its possession (shutting off the outflow pipe), the Commission has pioneered a new approach: evading the law by declining to accept records in the first place (shutting off the inflow pipe).

Here’s what won the award for the Gaming Commission:

By statute, casinos have to file reports with the Commission about the complimentary services — “comps” in the trade lingo — that they provide. Comps are things like a free drink, a free meal, a free room — whatever will keep the gambler on the premises. In one famous case, a very wealthy casino patron was treated to comps in the form of private jet flights to Las Vegas, which contributed to her betting more than a billion dollars at casinos and racking up 13 million dollars in losses.

Information about comps is certainly not something the casinos favor disclosing, and they sought relief from this filing requirement. The Gaming Commission, agreeing with the casinos, recommended to the Legislature that it eliminate the requirement, but the Legislature failed to act. So the Gaming Commission stepped in to take care of the problem. They used their regulatory power to excuse the casinos from having to file the reports, while continuing to require that the casinos maintain them and provide them to the Commission upon request. Since the Commission has already stated that it “cannot envision a compelling use for this data,” don’t expect a request for the records anytime soon.

So the Gaming Commission has no records, for example, of the comps from the Plainville casino, which opened last year. If they did have them, those records would be subject to the public records law and we could have them too. But no. Not so far anyway.

It’s certainly possible to argue that the statute requiring that casinos “shall submit” reports to the Commission doesn’t give the Commission leeway to decline them. That the statute would result in the records being available under the public records law while the Commission’s regulation results in their being unavailable seems relevant to this whole analysis. The right plaintiff could make things interesting.

(Cross-posted here.)

The NYT says you're important

Today’s lead story:

The race between Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, which voters will begin deciding a week from Monday, is not just about the White House anymore. It has intensified into an epochal battle over their vastly different visions for the Democratic Party.

Mr. Sanders, a New Deal-style liberal from Vermont, last week became the party’s first top-tier candidate since the 1980s to propose broad-based tax increases. He argues that only muscular government action — Wall Street regulations, public works jobs, Medicare for all — will topple America’s “rigged” economy.

“Something is grotesquely wrong in America,” he said Thursday in New Hampshire, urging voters to deliver a landslide in November that would cow Congress into enacting his agenda.

Mrs. Clinton, a mainstream Democrat, has started contrasting herself with Mr. Sanders by championing a “sensible, achievable agenda” and promising to build on President Obama’s legacy in health care, the economy and national security. She is the classic continuity candidate: seeking support from blacks, Hispanics, women, union members and suburban voters, and proposing policies that are friendly to families and businesses — strategies that have defined the party since President Bill Clinton’s election in 1992.

Sanders reminds me very much of Ralph Nader: right on many things, but with virtually no chance at the nomination, and unelectable nationally. Even Barack Obama, arguably the most talented politician of our time, only barely beat Clinton and won a distressingly narrow victory over Mitt Romney. Sanders has less appeal. The Times piece draws parallels with McGovern and Mondale. Fortunately, there’s no real need to speculate: primary voters will render their verdict beginning pretty soon.

What do you think?

What the State of the Commonwealth didn't mention

I can’t really blame any governor for not mentioning everything in one speech. And I’m not going to say that the things Gov. Baker talked about don’t matter: Opioid abuse is massive and devastating; DCF matters; the Health Connector matter. Stuff has to work.

That being said, one has to point out a few things, some on the technical/execution side, and some on the structure/vision side:

  • Six months after a $90 million plan for weather preparedness, the commuter rail is still an absolute joke — even without snow. “Mechanical problems”, “switch problems”. Nope, it’s the same old crap. Not fixed. Not better. That’s a technical nuts-and-bolts issue that ought to be showing improvement.
  • No mention of the Green Line briar patch — damned if you do fund it, damned if you don’t.
  • Relatedly, no mention of Greater Boston traffic. Like a boot stomping on a human face — forever. No hope. Give up. (This gives me an opportunity to link to a fun post from last year: “I think anyone who commutes into Boston in a car is certifiably insane.“)
  • Hardly a word about housing. Yes, he mentioned cutting back the film tax credit (good) to pay for affordable housing (also good). But there was no mention of the general housing crunch that is suffocating the middle class — and by the way, depriving local businesses of the spending money that has to go towards rent/mortgage. File this under Income Inequality, and the be-careful-what-you-ask-for effect of growing businesses in industries that can just print money.No mention from Baker regarding large scale zoning reform that would result in an increase in housing supply, stabilizing prices and allowing people of normal incomes to breathe easier — or to merely stick around. (cf Smart growth — Senate Bill 122.)
  • No mention of health care costs, another gigantic squeeze on wages and profits — unless you work for a glass-box downtown hospital. Baker’s a health care guy — and actually, having been on the insurance side, he knows that it’s our ultra-high-cost providers that are the problem. Are heavier-handed measures necessary? Should we break up Partners? Got any ideas, Governor? You’re the man of the moment.
  • An evasion of the absolutely gutting moral choice of charter schools. If you take the kids with engaged, active parents out of a “normal”, under-performing public school and put them all together, they will thrive, doubtless doing better than if they had stayed. And the kids left behind in an under-performing school will be deprived of the influence of the kids with active, engaged parents, dimming their future prospects. So you’re either stunting the growth of the left-behind kids — or holding back the ones who would be doing great without the friction of a bad learning environment. I don’t see any feel-good, win-win way out of this, contra the arguments of both supporters and critics. Prove me wrong.

The Influence of the Enviromental Change on Ball Size... and the Public's thinking.

We go to the ends of the earth for only the best, really classy data. (Today I think the Pats' offensive line must have been in a deep-sea dive, 'cause they sure shrank. Haw haw) - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Greetings from the Central Pacific Ocean. We’re out here studying the influence of low oxygen on key microbial biogeochemistry processes adapting new biomedical methods (proteomics) to diagnose long-term changes in the ocean’s core metabolisms. We have a professional journalist aboard doing an outreach blog, check it out if you’re interested.

But, given that its the one year anniversary of deflategate, I thought I’d spend just a moment of downtime (a welcome bit of science frivolity after a long couple days of sampling). Readers might recall this post last summer that presented actual empirical data on the influence of low temperatures on football pressure. The take-home conclusions were were: 1) in 5 out of 5 time course experiments, when a football was moved to near freezing conditions its internal pressure dropped by more than 2 PSI. This is double the allowed range of football pressure, hence all footballs would be in violation in cold games, if measured as they were a year ago (indoors before the game and at halftime). And 2): the larger variability in pressures in Patriots footballs versus Colts footballs can be entirely explained and reproduced by the timing of the warming up of the footballs (see data plots!).

This BMG post received a bit of notority, I sent the data and post to Judge Berman prior to the appeal hearing. It was one of a dozen or so of the letters released as part of the public record for the trial, and an AP story was widely distributed with a funny unintentional quote from me.

So here’s another data point for you to show the influence of environmental effects on balls (another BMG scientific release). This styrofoam ball was sent 4.4 kilometers down into the oceans yesterday. The intense pressure decreased the diameter from 12cm to 9cm. That is equal to a 58% reduction in ball volume. I suspect that would affect its game performance. Sending anything into the deep ocean is extremely challenging to say the least. (We’re going to raffle away some of these decorated items soon apparently on the blog).

I’ve reflected on this experience since last summer’s post, considering how the public engages with science. There’s a nice summary in the NYT this week describing how the NFL is ignoring science at its own peril. What surprises me is the challenge in getting the public to engage in the science, whether it is something that is relatively trivial like a sports issue, or something of considerable societal significance. I’m surprised, perhaps naively, how non-scientists form opinions regardless of the data presented, whereas for scientists its all about the data. For example one colleague, a diehard Buffalo Bills fan looked at these data plots and said to me something like “I hate the patriots, but this data is convincing.” This case is a satisfying one because the data figure immediately shows the NFL rules are nonsense. As scientists we strive for our studies to have enough preparation in the experimental design and measurement precision so their conclusions can be so straightforward based on logic. Yet one of our great challenges, as a members of a global community making decisions about environmental changes based on scientific data, is convincing and educating the voting public of the integrity of scientific analysis and interpretation. This ball inflation issue is a great simple example of the challenges we face.

In Defense of the "Establishment"

An interesting argument for a snowy day. Related: the 2004 "date Dean, marry Kerry" argument, or this, yesterday from Paul Krugman: "Mr. Sanders is the heir to candidate Obama, but Mrs. Clinton is the heir to President Obama." - promoted by david

On both sides of the presidential primary the term “establishment”, while ill-defined is something everyone seems to agree is a negative.  Almost every candidate seems to want to yell “Not It!” at the very mention of the word.  Even Clinton is testing the line that Sanders is more establishment because he has been in DC longer than she has.  While that’s technically true I doubt it will work and it misses the point.  On the GOP side at least for a while there was almost an inverse relationship between DC experience and rankings in the polls.  The “Establishment” is supposedly responsible for all of Washington’s problems, including especially the seeming inability to get anything done.  Both primaries have seen candidates deemed anti-establishment do very well in polls.

However, the more I think about it the more I realize the opposite is true.  It is not the establishment, but rather the storm-the-barricades anti-establishment, especially on the GOP side, that has caused our current governing crisis.  THEY are the ones who refuse to do anything that might look like a compromise.  THEY are the ones who publicly and spectacularly seem to repeatedly fail “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” – Civics Edition.  The Dem anti-establishment isn’t nearly as embarrassing, but I am reminded that our current President was arguably the anti-establishment candidate compared to HRC and frankly his lack of experience of the ways of Washington has showed from time to time.  The knock on him from some quarters is that he doesn’t schmooze enough with members and leaders of Congress.

IMO, the presidency is the bulwark of the establishment, and should be held by someone who has been part of the establishment.  There are places in Congress for anti-establishment voices and they are needed to keep everyone honest.  On paper the GOP presidential field is a strong one with several current and former senators and governors, people who would likely have a good grasp on what is required of the presidency.  Strong disagreements we would have with them not withstanding, many of those who have already dropped out or are in single-digits are objectively more qualified to be President than Trump, Carson, or Fiorina.

I would not go as far as the Ancient Romans and require a specific “cursus honorum” to qualify for each successive office in the hierarchy, but it does seem that senators, governors, and cabinet secretaries have the most appropriate resumes for the top job.  I highly value preparedness which is why I support Clinton, part of the establishment without question, as she is the “total package”.  Sanders is certainly more qualified than some of the leading Republicans, but someone with his narrower focus is better suited to the Senate IMO.  For me, when it comes to the presidency, being a member of the “Establishment” is a net positive.  They are more likely to know what needs to be done AND be able to do it.

There *is* an Alternative Party

Competition. It's the American way. - promoted by david

Disclosure: I work for the United Independent Party as its field director

I’m proposing that progressives who care about getting a progressive statehouse join my party and give up on the local Democrats for awhile. After March 1st you won’t have another primary to worry about until September of 2018. By all means vote for president March 1st, but sign up with us after that. If you like your rep you can keep him or her, but if you’re tired of them consider us as an alternative and maybe run with us and be the alternative!

In my view primaries will continue to fail since they are low notice, low publicity, low turnout affairs by design that tend to attract older voters who likely have more contact with their incumbent who wins them over with constituent services rather than a progressive voting record.

The UIP has an assured spot on the much higher turnout November presidential ballot for 2016 and will for the gubernatorial 2018 with your help. We are getting 2,000 sign ups a month and have grown from 1,500 to 21,001* voters in under a year. If we can get into the six figures we will be in spitting distance of overtaking the Republicans as a second party in Massachusetts.

If we can win state rep seats and oust a few incumbents than we will be making the two parties stronger by forcing them to compete for seats. As big as they are, the Democrats have left a lot of unchallenged Republicans on the table, though not nearly as many as the GOP has. No rep should go without a challenger in a democracy.

Interestingly, many of these DINO occupied districts have had double digit turnout for no name protest candidates who didn’t run real campaigns. So I wouldn’t be so sure they are popular simply because they haven’t lost yet, it might just be because the system benefits incumbency, as do the current primaries, and they haven’t met a serious challenger yet. UIP provides the mechanism for a concerted progressive counter attack on the bad governance in both parties at the state level.

Now, I have no idea what’s going on in your hometown, what are the issues animating the conversations in the coffee shops and town meetings, nor do I know who that man or woman is who always shows up and has great ideas but hasn’t felt the urge to run before. I would love to find out! If you like your rep, you can keep him or her; but if you don’t, then let’s work together on an alternative. My email is

*thanks central mass dad!