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Morning reads: Bulger, Spitzer, Bishops on VRA

Somewhat overshadowed by events was the release of a statement from the USCCB on the Supreme Court decision overturning Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity, said:

The recent Supreme Court decision necessitates that Congress act swiftly to assure that the right to vote be protected and afforded to all eligible citizens. We urge policymakers to quickly come together to reaffirm the bipartisan consensus that has long supported the Voting Rights Act and to move forward new legislation that assures modern and effective protections for all voters so that they may exercise their right and moral obligation to participate in political life.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Health Association says today that the current combination of exemptions and accommodations within the HHS’s contraception mandate are sufficient.

Campaign-ish notes: Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor of Texas (I didn’t know either), won’t run for that office again, but is reflecting and, yes, praying, about his plans for the future. 

Newark mayor Cory Booker is dominating the Democratic polls in his New Jersey senate race. Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, is considering a senate run in Wyoming against the popular incumbent Mike Enzi, creating some interesting tensions within the state’s Republican establishment. And if you like New York City politics, you’ll love the entry of Elliott Spitzer (one of New York’s shortest-serving governors) into the race for city comptroller. He’s already facing serious opposition from Wall Street and organized labor.

In an open letter to Teach for America recruits, progressive education reform advocate Katie Osgood implores them rethink their choice, contending that five weeks of training is not simply insufficient preparation for the classroom, but that any model based on the assumption it is can only serve to harm the intended beneficiaries:

TFA claims to fight to end educational inequality and yet ends up exacerbating one of the greatest inequalities in education today: that low-income children of color are much more likely to be given inexperienced, uncertified teachers. TFA’s five weeks of Institute are simply not enough time to prepare anyone, no matter how dedicated or intelligent, to have the skills necessary to help our neediest children. This fall, on that first day of school, you will be alone with kids who need so much more. You will represent one more inequality in our education system denying kids from low-income backgrounds equitable educational opportunities.

She also looks at TFA’s approach in the context of the corporate-driven educational reform efforts underway across the country.

Two somewhat different trials continue: Those of George Zimmerman, accused in the so-called “stand-your-ground” killing of Trayvon Martin, in Florida, and Whitey Bulger, accused of lots of things, in Boston. (The live tweets of testimony from the trial are pretty good reading. Sample: “Bulger rejected ID when Weeks brought it to him in Chicago cuz Jack's fake mustache looked like caterpillar, Whitey's was thin.”)

Finally, Christian Lorentzen, in the London Review of Books, bucks the consensus trend on Alice Munro in his blunt critique of her work (h/t Matt Boudway), even as the otherwise widely esteemed writer proceeds with what’s beginning to seem like a somewhat choreographed retirement campaign, timed as it is with the paperback release of her final collection, Dear Life.

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Re: Spitzer

 

This interesting Libertarian candidate, Kristen Davis, in New York has a pertinent and very relevant policy question for him:

http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2013/07/what-libertarian-candidate-...

"I'll ask his position on prostitution," says Davis. "And if he thinks johns should be arrested and charged just like madams and prostitutes. If he thought it was fair that he was never charged as a john under his new felony law but that I spent four months in Rikers Island from which I returned penniless, homeless, and forced to take sex offender classes for five months with pedophiles and perverts while he returned to his wife in his 5th Ave. high rise without ever being fingerprinted, mug shot, remanded, or charged with a crime under the very law he signed."

 

Good question Ms. Davis.

Anyone who wants to understand Whitey Bulger and the culture out of which he comes should probably read the novels of Dennis Lehane (try We Live By Night, for instance, though it's set back in the 1920s and 30s. But though Lehane has plenty of corrupt police, and by no means only in Boston, I'm not sure he ever has a corrupted FBI. Nor, I think. do any of his crooks have brothers who become university presidents, like William Bulger, who headed the U. of Massachusetts for a while, retiring under pressure because of his seeming reluctance to talk about his brother..

I'm glad Robert Barrett's comment on the Laurentzen review was included in your digital reference. It made me laugh when I encountered it in the next number of LRB.

Will Spitzer's entrance cancel the Weiner surge? Maybe New Yorkers could vote for one of these guys, but both??? And now maybe none. Hold your bets.

I'm praying that Texas Governor Rick Perry will have the good sense (it may be the only good sense he's shown) to not run for any other public office.  After he leaves office, Perry should go back to school and get his GED.   As a  NY Times columnist observed, there's a significant difference between Weiner and Spitzer.  I'd vote for Spitzer, but not Weiner.   

Re: Spitzer and Weiner.  Now, they apologized. I find those who want to give each of these men second chances acting as if they had few choices but to put them into office, regardless of their past very bad behavior.  If their wives want to forgive and forget, all well and good.  They married these guys and have an intimate history with them, and perhaps a way to reconcile and even build a better marriage -- for them, this is an admirable effort to fix a family.

Voters, on the other hand, have overarching reasons to dismiss them as viable candidates. They have displayed poor character traits in the not so distant past, and voters have no good reason to just let it slide.  These men will not be damaged by not being elected to public office.  

Weiner was an ineffective congressman. Spitzer was a good attorney general and a crazed governor. Are we supposed to forgive their bad politics or bad sex?

There is another question: why must we be stuck with re-runs again (and not just in NY)?   Seriously, what does it signify for a repub,ican form of government that we have so much difficulty recruiting good, strong people to national service?   I imagine Spitzer is correct that one needs a hide like a rhino, and he may have one, but is that much of a qualification?

Why must we be stuck with re-runs? Because the people who pay for campaigns know what they can do. The tragedy of democratic elections (which didn't seem to turn out too hot in Egypt lately; and whatever happened to the Turkish demonstations against a popular elected president?) is that if you are thoroughly disgusted with the first candidate, you still have to ask what's wrong with the second candidate. You can't finally rule out the first until you have figured out how disgusting the second is likely to be.

why must we be stuck with re-runs?

A big part of the answer is campaign finance. Spitzer can try to pull off this last minute campaign because he has daddy's big real estate bucks and does not have to raise any money.  Weiner had like $4 million stashed away from when he was a congressman.

NYC has a decent public financing system -- but both these guys are bucking that system

One caveat -- I would not be surprised if Spitzer does not make the ballot.  As someone somewhat familar with arcane NYS ballot access laws, gathering enough good signatures on his petitions in 4 short days would be quite a feat.  I asked someone who is a NYC political operative and he said he does not think anything like this has ever been pulled off.  He gave Spitzer less than a 50% chance.  Spitzer will have enough signatures when he hands them in on Thursday, but that is only the beginning of the battle.  An army of lawyers will be able to disqualify a lot of the signatures.  There are ways to disqualify whole pages containing good signatures if the person who collected does not fill out his/her part of the petition correctly.  Money doesn't help as much in petitioning.  Sure, he can hire people to collect signatures, but they won't be the real pros who know how do it right.  Most of those folks are die-hard members of local political clubs who volunteer to do this.  The fact that this is being done on such a rushed basis also makes the likelihood of mistakes very high.

I wish Spitzer well.  He didn't say "I made a mistake", he said "I sinned".  At least he knows the difference. Nobody ever admits that anymore, but he did.  He might even have learned the value of honesty through his being caught.

 

As for the "incompetent" Teach for America volunteers, some of them are some of the brightest kids in the country, and they can't possibly be any worse teachers than some of the education majors i've taught.  After Katrina many, many TFA kids came to help the schools, and the schools continue to improve mightily.  We're not there yet but are very, very hopeful.

Katie Osgood probably has a point, but she is not a neutral bystander, she is very opposed to charter schools and school choice, it seems.

And my questions is: would someone getting a two year degree in education truly be better trained- or enough that it matters-than the folks with the six week training from Teach for America?  I imagine becoming a good teacher grows from experience on the job.

Irene --

In my experience it seems that certain principles of good teaching can be taught and learned by people who aren't the smartest.   That includes, for instance, principles of testing such as "Avoid doubly negative questions" and "Avoid using vocabulary in your questions that the students are not likely to know".  In my experience the best teachers were the smartest ones, and you can't teach intelligence.  Not that all intellegent teachers are good teachers -- sometimes they do not understand how less intelligent people think (I mean people like me in a math class).  For instance, they don't realize that dumb kids need to begin a thinking process with stuff that is obvious to the ordinary kids, and they don't realize how limited the vocabulary of dumb kids is.

 I'd say that on average the smartest kids *who are interested in teaching all kinds of kids* will generally be at least mediocre teachers, and they'll sometimes be great ones.  That seems to be the experience in the post-Katrina school system in New Orleans.  No, it isn't fair that some are smarter than others, but  kids themselves don't mind brainy teachers if the brainiacs are genuinely concerned about all the students.  Not to mention the fact that the smartest teachers can answer the hard questions of the smartest students, which isn't always the case with the less smart teachers.  So, Yes, above average intelligence is often a plus in a teacher.  

"Are we supposed to forgive their bad politics or bad sex?"

 

Bad sex = irrelevant (unless one is involved).

Bad politics = the only cogent factor.

 

But about the Weiner surge ....   } ; < }}

Spitzer is reported to have spent $80,000.00 on prostitutes. $80.000.00!!! Surely, at least one of those times had to be even mediocre?

But, all kidding aside, the issue is not really his sins of the flesh. It is that he imposed two standards through force of law and legislation. He, of all people should have known the dark underside of this world. And his personal familiarity should have given him more compassion not a Javert styled prosecutorial complex.

At any rate......for the people of New York to ultimately decide. He will no doubt face tough questions and scrutiny and if he addresses these to the satisfaction of the voters (his employers lets not forget!!), then that is that.