Archive for September 17, 2008

[LCSD] Recall Statements for Wineteer and Alexander

September 17, 2008

These things are pissing me off not as truthful as they could be. I’m going to fisk annotate them (I’m nowhere near Robert Fisk’s level of ability). Italicized comments in brackets are mine.

I will say that I have retyped these, and while I hope any mistakes are in the original, there is a possibility they are mine.

Josh Wineteer’s statement noting his opposition to being recalled:

Voters concerned about poor school performance, demoralized teachers and an unaccountable administration elected me [and I have failed to buoy teachers and achievement has increased under my nose despite my best efforts]. The recall petition is full of distortions, half-truths and innuendo. [Oh, good line. Too bad he’s both wrong and fails to offer any evidence of his claim. From what I’ve seen, the recall petition was pretty accurate.]

I voted last year with colleagues Alexander and Shimmin to nonrenew Superintendent Robinson. I asked hard questions about abysmal school performance that administrators can’t or won’t answer – including the high school math “emergency” just declared. [Speaking of half-truths – Wineteer is only aware of the math situation because of a parent. He was not asking hard questions before this – he wasn’t asking any questions about school performance at all! Even now, I haven’t seen him ask the most obvious question of all: What is happening in other districts, and what are other districts doing about it? Wineteer doesn’t seem to know or care.]

True to form, administrators refused at a recent public meeting to allow parents – almost 50% of whose children are failing algebra 1 and may not graduate – to speak. [Again with the half-truths. Parents were not given a chance to speak to the whole group, but were given a chance to speak in small groups. And Wineteer had a hand in hiring Finch! And a 47% failure rate in one trimester is not 50% of parents, which is what Wineteer’s written word implies, whether he intended it or not. Furthermore, the ‘may not graduate’ line is pure fear-mongering.]

Time is running out on our children who deserve a quality education that will prepare them for college and beyond.

By standardized tests and many other measures school performance is inexcusably low. [Really? WHAT OTHER MEASURES, JOSH. NAME THEM. I’m not disagreeing that performance can and should be better, but I would love to see what other metrics he’s referring to here. I think he’s stretching the truth, because the only other things I can think of are in-district assessments, which are arguably standardized tests, and grades.] Central office and high school administrative staffs are bloated, diverting needed dollars from the classroom. [The high school? Bloated staff? Yeah? NAME THEM. Go ahead. That’s right – he can’t, unless he actually thinks they need fewer administrators, which would be incredibly dangerous.] The status quo fails kids and thwarts change. [What, like several years of two school board members trying to get rid of a Superintendent, to the detriment of students? That status quo?]

Eliminating independent school board members who press for change will not turn this district around. Thank you for your support. [Josh, are you implying McUne, Shimmin or even Fisher aren’t independent? It seems to me all five of you are independent. Independence – from what, anyway? – isn’t issue here. Your failure to do your duty as an elected school board member is the issue.]

Rick Alexander’s statement opposing his recall:

I was elected on the premise of open and accountable government. The peoples [sic] business should be conducted in public view. [Interestingly, I am not to dispute that Alexander thinks he’s seeking this. He is just abysmal at it. As well, the statement is belied by his years spent adding things to the agenda at the last second and then wanting to vote without any public discussion. That’s neither open nor accountable, nor is it in public view, unless you think the Korner Kitchen Kounts. It doesn’t.] As a board member I asked some tough questions and alarmed powerful special interests. [Does he think he’s in the US Senate, for fuck’s sake? “Powerful special interests?” “Tough questions?” Alexander’s questions are tough to answer because they rarely make sense – and I am at most board meetings to try and hear them. Again, I’m not going to dispute his intent, at least not on this, but if his intent was really to ask hard question, he is terrible at it.] I am an elected official [yes, Rick, this is why you are being recalled. That doesn’t happen to appointed officials. Congratulations.], but I can’t get answers to many of my inquiries. [I would like to know what inquiries he’s referring to. It’s certainly possible this is true, but again, I’m skeptical of his ability to ask the right questions – or his willingness to read the documents he gets in response to his questions. ‘Bull in a china shop’ is not a compliment here.] Twice I had to ask the District Attorney to intervene and obtain supposedly public documents. [I am going to assume he’s talking about Freedom of Information Act requests, and that he’s being honest. However, that’s not a reason to not recall him. Whoops.]

The recall petition was a mixture of half-truths and innuendo. [Where I have heard that before?] School performance is down; drop outs and transfers remain high. [I was told today that all three of these statements are at best exaggerations, and at worst actually provably false – especially the drop-out rate, which I was told has dropped from roughly 11% to under 5% in the last decade or so.] Morale is low [take some responsibility, dude!]; teacher turn-over is high. [Higher than average? Higher than comparable districts? If true, why? Can we get a reason, at least an attempt to link it to something, anything? No? OK, but without something, there’s no reason to believe you when you inevitably point the finger at Robinson.] We have lost millions to mismanagement. [And when were you going to clue the rest of the world in to this amazing discovery? Is it perhaps because it has all the provability of a Sarah Palin campaign claim – that is to say, none?] These problems demand that we reconsider the Superintendent’s leadership. [I actually like this line, rhetorically speaking.]

The opposition actually paid people to collect recall signatures, which is a first in Linn County history. I serve with no salary and have no economic ties to the district, yet people in the shadows are willing to pay to banish me. [Oh, good writing! Too bad the major donors were named in the DH, and too bad the two things aren’t really related, and too bad Alexander fails to acknowledge that many people do not want to be named as opposing Alexander for fear of harassment – I know, I know, people say the same thing about Robinson, but since Alexander is going to talk about his opposition, I’ll stick to that for now.] As a voter, you have a choice. [Good. Yes. Frame it truthfully.] The status quo, which is failing our kids, or support a fellow citizen whose sole objective is open, accountable [Oh! Off the rails! No! Bad Rick!] government and educational excellence. I will stand up for our students and against the special interests. Just send me back into the fight.


Look, the most charitable thing I can say about these two statements is that it’s entirely possible that Mr. Alexander and Mr. Wineteer believe every word of what they are saying.

That doesn’t change the massive gap I see between their statements and their actions, but it does offer an explanation.

A slightly less charitable way of explaining things would be to note that both are making a cynical ploy to the public, relying on the fact that their supporters simply won’t believe any evidence offered in opposition, regardless of the source. Or that they both believe they can lie to the public and there isn’t enough time between now and the election to get hit with the backlash.

Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like what’s happening with the McCain/Palin campaign – they can lie with impunity, because many of their supporters choose to ignore the word of experts or the press when that word contradicts what the campaign says. Alexander has convinced many of his supporters (not without help from Robinson) that the District Office can’t even be trusted to provide basic facts.

Heck, Alexander even stole some stale political rhetoric: “Tough questions” and “powerful special interests.”

As an aside, let me note that the phrase “special interests” is a simplistic form of what’s called a political dog whistle – it is a reference that provokes a near-Pavlovian response in some people and means different things to different crowds. The fact that the phrase ‘special interests’ is, in and of itself, devoid of meaning doesn’t matter (in fact it is essential) – it is the response in the person who hears it that indicates that the goal has been achieved. Think about it: Special interests are never really defined as anything but a group the listener doesn’t like. Certainly Alexander never defines them; he lets the reader decide for themself what they are, which is really convenient; the reader can just plug in whatever group is disliked and convince themselves that Alexander is working against that group. No facts ever need enter into the process. And it can mean something different to everyone who hears it.

At any rate, what remains is that I don’t see how those statements bear much resemblance to reality – and, more importantly, neither of them do anything to convince me that Alexander or Wineteer (especially Alexander) are qualified to sit on the school board. Alexander can spin himself as a noble public servant all he wants, but the fact remains that he’s been near-piss-poor in his elected position for years. Wineteer is hardly better.

As a rule, I try to offer multiple side of an argument and not refrain from pointing out mistakes where I see them based on the person making them. Certainly I think Robinson has made his share (and Finch is apparently trying to top Robinson in the ‘perceived poor communication’ department). But, as I’ve said before, Alexander and Wineteer are not good school board members. They do not even have the credibility to get rid of Robinson. There is no reason to keep them on the school board – remember, they can be replaced with people who really do ask hard questions of the District, but who also bother to read the documents provided by them and learn how to use Robert’s Rules of Order, and can understand that legal advice is not given at random, or – gasp! – for whom ‘accountability’ is not synonymous with ‘gotcha’. [Actually, Wineteer has been a lot better since he became Chair and the recall effort was announced. Maybe he’s learning.] It’s not some strange either/or where Alexander is on one end of the see-saw and a literal tool is on the other. Promise.

Commence flaming.

If I have time tomorrow, I will try and post the recall statements in full, without my comments.

I will also try and find time to address the math question a bit more – someone, I believe from CARES, was passing out data at the school board meeting, and I got my hands on it. No promises, though.


"The Worst Financial Crisis Since the Great Depression"

September 17, 2008

Nouriel Roubini:

# This is by far the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, not as severe as the Great Depression but second only to it.
# At the end of the day this financial crisis will imply credit losses of at least $1 trillion and more likely $2 trillion. The financial and banking crisis will be severe and last several years leading to a severe and persistent liquidity and credit crunch.

There are dozens more statements just like that, most with documentation backing them up. Roubini spins a very depressing scenario, but not a surprising one. What do you think happens when greed is held up as a value, regulations are shredded, and a Bush is in the White House?