Archive for August 2007

Blah Blah Blah, I Love Digby, You Know the Drill

August 31, 2007

Though she always makes me miss Billmon and the Whiskey Bar.

It’s only 18 months until a new administration comes in and they figure they’ll deal with all these issues when a Democrat gets in the white house. Or not. There’s always the possibility that at least some of them believe these extra-constitutional powers really are a good thing and should be preserved to protect us from the boogeyman. (It should go without saying, however, that Republicans would never let Democrats get away with using these powers. They’d fight it just for the pleasure of it.)

By allowing these precedents to stand, these executive powers to go unchallenged, they will be waiting for the next would-be tyrant to pick them up and run with them. The constitutional system depends upon the truism that if all else fails and crooks and miscreants are the only ones holding office, that they will at least have enough ego to preserve their own power. If they fail to do even that, the system could be irretrievably broken.


Um, yeah. I rarely feel like I have one up on Digby, but I could have told you years ago that breaking the system was the whole point of the exercise, and of course Dems won’t fight it, since a) they are ultimately beholden to similar (if not the same) forces as Republicans are, and b) Dems of course want the power for themselves. I suppose that c), The Dems are idiots, is also possible. In fact, I think C is very compatible with A or B.

Digby’s point about the Republicans actually fighting the Dems on these powers if the Dems gain office is also at once hilarious and scary, mostly because it’s totally accurate.

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"Seriously. What the [insert your choice of swear word here]!?"

August 31, 2007

The title is borrowed from someone else. It was too good not to use, so my thanks.

Lebanon scares me:

LEBANON — Lebanon High School coach Rob Allen is among the latest residents to publicly ask the Lebanon School Board to bring back Bo Yates as high school athletic director.

Allen, who coaches varsity football and track and field, spoke at last week’s school board meeting, urging board members to reverse superintendent Jim Robinson’s nonrenewal.

He encouraged board members to renew the contract “to make sure our vision for this community can continue.”


This is bizarre. I would not expect the football coach to make such a public statement in this kind of situation, especially since Yates has the complaint lodged against him with the TSPC.

In fact, I am kind of curious why Allen made the statement. Occam’s Razor suggests that Allen was just being honest, that he really does want Yates back as AD because he thought he did a good job. That’s certainly possible, but I have a hard time believing that Allen didn’t consider the fallout of his statements given the context in which they were made.

Perhaps Allen is so confident that Yates will be reinstated in the long run – whether or not Robinson eventually gets sacked – that he doesn’t think any negative fallout will overcome the positive reaction he surely got from parents.

Or Perhaps Allen really wasn’t thinking at all, and he just put himself in a tough spot. If Robinson is really as vindicative as his opponents claim, then surely Allen would be afraid for his job after making comments like that, right? Unless, of course, Robinson isn’t actually that vindicative.

Maybe Allen sees the fallout but doesn’t really care about it, since he’s still high from coaching such a successful team last year. I can see wanting Yates back very badly if Allen is convinced that Yates was successful to the team’s success.

In any case, there is one aspect of this that I find interesting. My understanding is that Robinson is well within his rights not to renew Yates’ AD contract, especially given the very real need to have him full-time at Seven Oaks as an assistant principal. I had wondered previously why Robinson didn’t offer Yates the AD job and find a new person for Seven Oaks, but maybe the complaint lodged with the TSPC by Robinson is the missing reason. Put in that light, his decision sounds entirely reasonable. In fact, given the potential outcome and severity of the complaint, it’s possible that Robinson is being generous in not getting Yates out of the district entirely.

The tough part is that it’s kind of hard to claim that Yates had nothing to do with Warrior Football’s success last year. Even so, Robinson is well within his rights in letting go someone who allegedly broke quite a few rules. This is sounding more and more like a case of folks confusing their hatred of Robinson’s style with his actual policies.

Or (and I think this would be worse) this sounds like people are so focused on the success of football in Lebanon they are willing to behave very poorly to get it.

This is Oregon, not Texas. Lighten the hell up, people. Football should not be exalted over all other sports here. And Yahweh help us all if this is really all about football. I think I’ll start telling people I’m from the Lebanon in the Middle East. It’ll be easier.

UPDATE: I just had a scary thought. If this really is about football, then Alexander is actually a pawn, and not a leader. He’d be a figurehead. Small-town roots do run deep…

Iowa!?!?!?!

August 31, 2007

Being the pessimist I am, I can only wonder about the backlash. Nevertheless, I say get it while it’s good:

DES MOINES, Iowa – A Polk County judge on Thursday struck down Iowa’s law banning gay marriage and ordered the county recorder to permit gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Less than two hours after word of the ruling was publicized, two Des Moines men applied at the Polk County recorder’s office for a marriage license, and for the first time the application was accepted.

h/t Sisyphean Task

Pretentious Intellectual Honesty

August 30, 2007

I hate this, but I think I hate it because I agree with the sentiment and see myself falling short:

Perhaps people will think I’m too optimistic. But this is for certain: these things can’t be true if no one takes the chance of believing they’re true. Because if we don’t believe they are true, we won’t act as though they’re true. And if we don’t act as though they’re true, they can’t come true. That’s why realism does little but protect the status quo.

Being optimistic, on the other hand, is the most radical political act there is.

The Simpsons Movie

August 30, 2007

Ezra Klein says almost exactly what I was thinking about the Simpsons movie:

It was a film during which the lead female character realized her husband was a senseless brute who would always put his happiness before her own, and where her son realized the father was an abusive drunk who was continually denying him the emotional support and family environment he needed. And unlike in most Simpson’s episodes, both characters recognized these truths fully, and abandoned Homer to begin new lives elsewhere. And shortly thereafter, both took him back, tossing away their opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment despite there being no evidence of an enduring change in their tormentor’s psyche. It was a tremendous demonstration of the self-destructive mentality of the abused, and in that, quite unsettling.


The only thing I take exception with is that I think The Simpsons is pretty much par for the course when it comes to the portrayal of heterosexual relationships on television, i.e. pretty pathetic. Certainly it was no worse than, say, Family Guy.

UPDATE: I should add that I was really, really happy when the family ditched Homer, but I just knew that it being The Simpsons, they would get back together again before the movie was over. It always works that way in our patriarchal culture.

Nevertheless, a tiny bit of me held out hope that they would ditch the bum. One good deed – saving Springfield – in no way makes up for so much bad behavior.

Reactions to the Larry Tilford Piece

August 30, 2007

Someone clued me in to the fact that the Tilford piece, which ran as an op-ed in the Lebanon paper, ran as a letter to the editor in the Albany paper. The same person also reminded me that the D-H has a comments section.

There was also an interesting letter to the editor by one Paul Bullock. I’m going to try and reorganize things into some coherent narratives, but since that’s not my strong suit, I make no claims about how well this will work.

First, the letter from Paul Bullock:

With such a clear declaration from the electorate, why does the board now falter? It seems clear that some school board members either still support Mr. Robinson, or are afraid of him. Whichever their motivation, this division between the board members will continue to fester as long as Mr. Robinson is present….A buy-out would spare Mr. Robinson the risk of a negative evaluation and it would spare the board and the community weeks of infighting and political melodrama. It would be money well spent, if it allows us to get back to focusing on the education of our children.


Hm. I can’t say I agree with his claim that board members are afraid of Robinson. I see no evidence for that aside from the continual claims about his abrasive personality. And while he may be abrasive to his subordinates, the school board members are his bosses, so that makes little sense. For that matter, I’m not even sure we can claim that recent events actually indicate support for him. Instead, it seems like there are two main camps: Those folks who think Robinson should go, and those folks who think the first camp are insane, not due to their goal of getting rid of Robinson, but due to the way this little power struggle is being handled. (Presumably there is a large group of folks who either don’t feel so strongly or just want sanity back, but since they’ve not really spoken up, I’m not sure what’s going there.)

That said, a buy-out is an eminently sensible suggestion, cost notwithstanding (I say that because recent events suggest that cost is not on the mind of the anti-Robinson folks).

But then there is this in the comments:

I noticed in the Leb Express archives that Paul Bullock ran for a school board position in SWEET HOME during the last elections. I called around down there and heard he was anti schools, teachers, and principals. Now he’s coming to our meetings and telling us to spend our money to buy out our superintendent. What’s his problem?


Hm. If I were any kind of cynical…wait! I am! Good. So: This sure reads like Bullock is an ally of Alexander and Wineteer (as in, they think alike even if they are not in cahoots), and that he’s smelling blood. Once Robinson goes, the LCSD board will hire a flunky, and the academy system is gone. Then, one presumes, Alexander, fresh from his victories, will go after the teachers’ union, his current alliance of convenience aside. I’d call that a worst-case scenario, and while I think it’s unlikely that it will ever happen, um, I am not so optimistic as to think it’s an impossibility. More likely is that even if the aforementioned scenario is the goal, Alexander is nowhere near skilled enough to pull it off. Part of me thinks the teacher’s union will destroy him if they ever get in a real fight, since a large portion of the public anti-Robinson folks are former teachers, and I doubt they’d turn on their own union.

Just for kicks, a best-case scenario: Some smart Lebanon folks get it together and beat Alexander, Wineteer, and Shimmin the next time they are up for election. Robinson’s contract isn’t renewed, and he eventually goes away. His replacements offers qualified support for the academies and is a helluva peacemaker. People get back down to the business at hand: Making sure that students in Lebanon get a good education.

Hey, I can dream, right?

Moving on, some contention about Mr. Bullock:

Bullock is probably another one of Rick’s “boys” that will run against Sherrie or Chris next time. Rick doesn’t want partial control. He’s taking out the ethical board members one by one. Trying to take out superintendent. He’s also a staunch republican and very anti-union. They’re next.


And:

To Control: Mr Robinson was recently the chair of the county Republican party. The unionized teachers gave him a 90% vote of NO confidence. Robinson recently filed suit against the teachers union president. So who’s really the anti-union, staunch Republican?


Wow. I tend to agree with the comments about the nature of Alexander’s interest in the school board. I also think that the comments about Robinson can certainly be true. Both men can be staunch Republicans and even anti-union and still disagree on a ton of other stuff, like process and the academy system and who is really in charge. (Does anyone else get the sense this is at least part pissing contest on the part of some of the major players?)

So that’s one major thread in the comments. What else is present?

Mr. Bullock, I appreciate the tone of your comments. The fact that you are able to convey your position in a tempered tone without insulting people merely because they do not share your views is refreshing and much needed…Lebanon school board meetings, despite the efforts of the chair, are ones that lack the sense of civility that are a necessity for people to feel safe in expressing views.


Wow. Good call. Even just based on the comments people have made about the school board meetings and the antics that occur, I wouldn’t dare go and speak against the crowd mob for fear of being shouted down and/or ostracized. Look at what happens to Chris Fisher every time he tries to apply some financial common sense.

There’s one more comment I want to address before this post gets too out of hand. It’s a long one, and it comes from someone going by “Truth Seeker.” I’ll take it piece by piece:

let’s take a look at some of the facts surrounding all of the recent blogging efforts in surrounding the paid administrative leave of Jim Robinson(Superintendent of Lebanon schools)…. 2. The increase in grades and attendance at LHS are due to the inplementation of a new attendance policy involving Saturday School and detentions that the current LHS administration was opposed to but the TEACHERS wanted. The academies did not show any marked increasesin those areas in and of themselves prior to that.


OK. I’ll take contention with the claim that grades and attendance weren’t moving before the Saturday School. I suspect grades were, if not both. And even if they weren’t, realistically, one has to allow for some lag time to see genuine results.

Furthermore, I’m not sure of the significance of having the LHS admins oppose the changes in attendance policy. So what? They are not Jim Robinson. Everything I’ve heard suggests the new policy is effective, so good for the teachers for knowing what works. But that doesn’t really have much to do with the debate over Robinson (barring, potentially, his management style, but since we don’t know if he opposed the policy change, it’s a moot point), and barely anything to do with the academy, since one presumes those changes would have had the same effect regardless of whether or not the academy system was in place.

There’s more:

3. Let’s look at who has been writing letters in support of Mr. Robinson… his assistant’s wife, a principal’s wife, and his facilities director among others. Mostly people who have vested interests in Mr. Robinson maintaining control over the district because they know full well that once Robinson is gone the glut of excess administrators and NON-CLASS RELATED employees will be in danger of being decreased down from the statistical significant increase it has enjoyed in Mr. Robinson’s tenure.


Hm. Could it be that people are actually afraid to speak out against the very vocal anti-Robinson folks? I think that’s entirely plausible, and even likely. It’s also possible that no one likes Robinson, but that is separate issue, and, I think, significantly less likely.

And as for the standard load regarding the bloated non-teaching employees, well, it’s certainly possible. However, since my experience has almost universally been that this sort of claim is baseless and pushed by anti-union, anti-public spending folks (like Alexander and Bullock are rumored to be), I feel pretty safe ignoring this one until I see some evidence.

Then, finally, there is this:

5. Let’s just remember a few of the highlights of Mr. Robinson’s leadership: asbestos exposure of the students and staff at LHS due to known violations of OSHA law while he was acting as facilities director, illegal bargaining practices that caused thousands of dollars in cost to the district to repay illegally laid-off custodians, alleged violations in the civil rights of Special Education students in terms of the use of state testing for placement and graduation requirements, and those are just the most blatantly questionable in terms of legality of his actions. (Let’s not ignore the punitive, top-down, apparently nepotistic nature of his leadership.)


These are all new to me, and I’m at least inclined to be open to the content of the charges, if not the delivery and vitriol. Some truth on these would certainly explain the intense dislike of Robinson. I will say, though, that the truth is rarely so clear-cut as this comment makes it sound. There are almost certainly complicating factors.

All in all, I am glad for the DH comment pages. They provide people a chance to speak up anonymously about what is going on, and anonymity helps people who are otherwise afraid to speak find their voice. I do wish the Lebanon Express had comments, though.

Sometimes I fear that this blog is turning into a one-trick pony. Then I read the paper and realize there’s a good reason for it: This is a disaster, and I’m sort of upset by how it’s playing out.

Hometown Sanity!

August 29, 2007

As I finished reading the Lebanon paper, I found this oped regarding the recent events in the Lebanon Community School District.

It makes me happy. Someone finally stood up and said something sane:

We all have a tendency to get tunnel vision when our personal interests are involved, and teachers and principals are not immune. Similarly, it seems that board members and some members of the community become so “tunnel-visioned” that they become obsessed with single issues. It may be a dislike of the Superintendent of Schools. It may be an unwillingness to change and accept growth. It may be personal political maneuvering. It may be the philosophy that a winning football team somehow makes for a successful school district and we can ignore behind the scenes issues no matter what they are. Or it may be that a charter school is the “flagship” of the district and warrants all of a person’s passions and dedication. While each of these are important to consider and keep in balance, the Lebanon Community School District is much more than any of these single-focus issues standing alone.


Go read. While the author points to a lot of district successes, I should note that he does not rule out the possibility that Jim Robinson is an authoritarian administrator. There’s plenty of room for the guy to be both good and bad. If there is such a thing as human nature, that’s it.

And I am SO GLAD someone fired back in public, with their name attached, and in the newspaper. I’m also not surprised it’s someone with age and experience.

On the other hand, the fact that Tilford, the author, hasn’t been an employee that long might be latched onto as a reason to ignore him. You tell me.