Things We Read Today (11), Friday

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For the Record, I Was Right

My commentary about the day 1 messaging in the RI Congressional District 1 race stirred up some little bit of controversy, leading me to confess (in private email) that I don’t generally advise that politicians take my campaign advice.  That said, I take the Providence Journal‘s front page, above the fold, headline, yesterday, as evidence that I was correct.  Above John Mulligan’s story on the general race’s first day:

Ready for the main event

Cicilline, Doherty take aim at each other, comparing issues of honesty, conservatism

The problem with campaign messaging declarations is that it’s exceedingly difficult to know what had what effect.  One cannot prove that the above headline would have been any different (or perhaps not more favorable to a particular candidate) had the candidate’s first message been different in an alternate reality.  I don’t think it unreasonable, though, given past experience, to think that the headline and lede, had Republican Brendan Doherty substituted his “Cicilline’s pattern of deception” theme with the “I won’t attack your entitlements” tack that Dan Yorke suggested, would have been something like:

Dispute over Doherty’s Republican Rubber Stamp

Doherty denies Cicilline accusations that he’ll side with radical Republicans

As I said, though, this is all opinion and subjective analysis.

PolitiFact Rhode Island Enters General Election

And while I’m on subjective analysis and judgement thereof as fact, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out PolitiFact Rhode Island’s rapid response to Doherty’s press conference:

Brendan Doherty said David Cicilline, when he was mayor of Providence, was “required to provide key information about city finances to an independent outside auditor. The deadlines were clear — yet [he intentionally] missed them by months” until after the November 2010 election. …

… in this instance, involving the outside audit, we’ve seen no real evidence — and Doherty provided none — that the delays were part of an attempt by Cicilline to hide bad news from voters.

The facts argue otherwise.

Those three words are critical: “The facts argue.”  I think anybody with an objective assessment would find that the mission of PolitiFact should be to assess statements of fact — the who, where, when, what, how.  Intentionality is inherently a question of “why,” and therefore a matter for argument and impressions.

But to put things more succinctly: Doherty offered a “top 10″ list of examples of, he claims, Cicilline’s dishonesty.  PolitiFact picked one, proceeded to find all of the statements of fact absolutely accurate, and then “argued” against the Doherty campaign’s interpretation.

There’s nothing wrong with a private newspaper’s catering to its audience and offering political columnist space to make arguments.  I just wish they’d call it CounterSpin, or something, rather than asserting authority to judge facts when actual facts appear to be a secondary consideration.

What’s the Purpose of a Charter School?

Before I throw my accumulated Projos in the recycle bin, I really have to ask: What is the defining characteristic of charter schools?  I ask because it isn’t at all clear in the Providence School Department’s presentation to reporter Linda Borg:

Providence has already begun to tinker with tradition. This year, most of the city’s high schools have a longer day. They have also adopted a class schedule with longer blocks of time. Some schools are toying with the idea of offering a Saturday academy or afterschool enrichment programs.

[Superintendent Susan] Lusi says charter schools do three important things that the district needs: create a school culture that is warm and welcoming, bring in partners with innovative ways of looking at teaching and learning, and attract additional resources. About $5 million in federal money is available for new charters.

It sounds to me like charters allow some outside group to give additional money, in exchange for some say in the pedagogy, and trigger a big donation from the federal government, and that’s it.  As far as I know, there’s nothing in Rhode Island law and policy that prevents a school committee from deciding that each school can make certain determinations on its own (within union-negotiated guidelines, of course) or determining that children throughout the district can pick such and such a school, rather than go to the nearest one.

As I’ve noted, in-district (i.e., unionized) charter schools don’t do especially well, comparatively.  So, while I sympathize with Anchor Rising contributor Marc Comtois’s sense of encouragement at the mere mention of charters — resounding, as it does, with the impression of flexibility — I’m not exactly sure what “charter” means in this context.

A Prediction About Quantitative Easing

Estimations of the likely effects of the Federal Reserve’s third round of quantitative easing have been not much more varied and stated with not much less confidence than predictions of the presidential candidates’ likelihood of success.  But at least one rating agency has put its reputation behind my assessment:

Ratings firm Egan-Jones cut its credit rating on the U.S. government to “AA-” from “AA,” citing its opinion that quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve would hurt the U.S. economy and the country’s credit quality.

For Americans’ sake, it’d be nice if Egan-Jones and I were wrong, but the dynamics look pretty clear, from where I stand.

The Tide and the First Amendment

After Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s appearance at Roger Williams University Law School — which left me, I’ll be honest, with the impression that he’d be partial to removing Constitutional protections for the video that was the Middle-East-outrage-on-the-street-of-the-week — I wondered about the currents that might bring the issue in front of his court. Here’s the first step:

Obama administration officials said Thursday that they have asked YouTube to review the video [that reportedly set off the embassy attacks] and determine whether it violates the site’s terms of service, according to people close to the situation but not authorized to comment.

It’s one thing to suspend habeus corpus in the midst of a civil war.  It’s another to begin restricting liberties because the ruling class is incompetent to conduct foreign policy.  (That’s a bipartisan statement, by the way.)

Dylan: Iconoclast and Honest Man

To end the week on a positive note, I’ll link to Brian Doherty’s summary of an odd Rolling Stone interview with rock legend Bob Dylan:

This gives [Mikal] Gilmore his hook: didn’t Obama change all that? And isn’t it so that people who don’t like him don’t like him because of race? Gilmore takes five different swings at getting Dylan to agree. Some of Dylan’s responses: “They did the same thing to Bush, didn’t they? They did the same thing to Clinton, too, and Jimmy Carter before that….Eisenhower was accused of being un-American. And wasn’t Nixon a socialist? Look what he did in China. They’ll say bad things about the next guy too.” On Gilmore’s fourth attempt, Dylan just resorts to: “Do you want me to repeat what I just said, word for word? What are you talking about? People loved the guy when he was elected. So what are we talking about? People changing their minds?”

Doherty goes on to suggest that “it all feels peculiarly quasi-totaitarian–you must praise the Great Leader!–as well as sad and childish, like Gilmore can’t get through a meeting with one of the major cultural forces of his time without getting that force to ratify Gilmore’s political beliefs.”

When I was a rock-star wannabe teenager, I subscribed to Rolling Stone, and I still can’t bring myself to toss all those back issues.  Still, I think “quasi-totalitarian” is an apt adjective for the magazine, particularly with the cultural and political commentary that it weaves in with its star worship.

A rolling stone gathers no moss, as the saying goes, but neither does the poor slave to conformity who is chained to it.



  • RE:Whats the Purpose of a Charter School?(Repeating my similar comment from Anchor Rising). I understand the skepticism. I hardly think just by calling something a charter–even if it means bringing in outside help–automatically means that the new plan will be successful. What I take encouragement from is that it indicates a change in mindset, even if a little bit, from the same ol'/same ol'. Did they do all of this b/c of the money? Probably, but that's what an incentive is. We'll just have to see if it ends up being worthwhile.

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