Wednesday, October 10, 2007

In Mississippi, Democrat Runs in G.O.P. Lane

The New York Times
October 10, 2007
In Mississippi, Democrat Runs in G.O.P. Lane
By ADAM NOSSITER

STARKVILLE, Miss., Oct. 5 — The candidate is running to serve his Creator. He is running to restore prayer in schools, bring Jesus into public discourse, force the “money changers” from the state capitol, and move his extensive gun collection into the governor’s mansion.

It is not extraordinary in the local context, except that John Arthur Eaves Jr., the man saying these things, is the Democratic candidate for governor of Mississippi. And the politician he is trying to unseat with these shots from the right is a Republican star, Gov. Haley Barbour.

And indeed Mr. Barbour looks ever more irritated by this upstart challenger’s talk of God-and-guns and banning abortion — a mirror-image strategy some call logical in this toughest of regions for Democrats.

The Mississippi governor, riding high on an image of competence after Hurricane Katrina, is unlikely to be toppled in the election, on Nov. 6, say analysts and even friends of Mr. Eaves, a born-again, largely self-financed trial lawyer wealthy from asbestos litigation and other cases who won the Democratic primary in August.

But the hybrid campaign — equal parts born-again Christian fervor and attacks on the “big tobacco companies, big oil companies, big insurance” that Mr. Eaves says are behind the campaign of Mr. Barbour, a former lobbyist — illustrates the steep challenges faced by Democrats in a region that has remained stubbornly loyal to Republicans, even as they lose ground everywhere else.

“Your only chance of winning is throwing a Hail Mary pass,” said Hob Bryan, a Democratic state senator. “Haley’s suddenly got to start talking to the Christians, and they were just supposed to vote for you anyway, because God says you can’t vote for a Democrat.”

The challenge for Democrats in Mississippi is to build on a base of perhaps 40 percent of the vote, made up of blacks and yellow-dog Democrat voters; it is a difficult though not insurmountable hurdle. With Mr. Barbour, the former Republican National Committee chairman, as an overwhelming favorite, Mr. Eaves has chosen to force a classic Republican gambit back on Republicans themselves.

Democrats in the South “always have to clear this cultural hurdle first,” said Thomas F. Schaller, associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and an expert on Southern politics. “This is, generally speaking, the way you have to do it in the South.”

Already, this most unorthodox of Democratic campaigns — a strange contortion of swings from the far right, aimed from the left — is attracting attention, some grass-roots support in a Deep South state with a history of hardshell populism, and enough last-minute scorn from Mr. Barbour that Eaves workers are gleeful merely at having forced the powerful incumbent on the attack.

On Main Street in the small towns, some nod appreciatively as Mr. Eaves evokes a “new day in Mississippi, where our children go to school with voluntary, student-led school prayers.”

As he intones in one television commercial, “We have a responsibility to provide a moral framework for our kids.”

Mr. Barbour, who will be 60 years old on Oct. 22, has clearly been annoyed to be the subject of such criticism from a Democrat. “My opponent loves to quote the Bible,” Mr. Barbour said sarcastically at a debate here last week — an unusual line of attack in a state with more churches per capita, by some counts, than any other. “I’ll spare you the sanctimony,” the governor said at another point, swatting down yet more inspiration from Scripture.

“This campaign should be on public policy,” the exasperated governor continued, at the debate at Mississippi State University here. “That’s what I want to focus on, making life better for Mississippians,” he insisted, after an evening of holy writ from Mr. Eaves.

The Eaves campaign, with its heavy emphasis on prayer and faith, says it is gaining with evangelicals and born-again Christians in Mississippi, a voting bloc making up perhaps half of the electorate here. And evangelicals are paying attention.

Observing from his headquarters in Tupelo, Miss., the Rev. Donald Wildmon, executive director of the American Family Association, a conservative Christian advocacy group, confesses to being flummoxed: “Here you have a Democrat, most of the time who are liberals, talking about issues you would expect coming from a conservative Republican. How’s that going to play out? I think it’s going to be interesting.”

Others — Mr. Barbour’s campaign staff members, along with some preachers — are skeptical, and national Democrats are nowhere to be seen around this race. Indeed, Mr. Eaves said some told him they were staying away because he is strongly anti-abortion. He even rebuked the Democratic National Committee for leaving Jesus out of an Easter statement.

Mr. Eaves, soft-spoken, smooth-faced and well-known in Mississippi even at 41 thanks to billboards, television advertisements and a few high-profile cases, does not see his venture as a hybrid.

“I’m a Democrat because Democrats invest in people; I’m a Democrat because I’m a Christian,” he said in a recent interview, after shaking hands at a diner in the courthouse town of Kosciusko. “Jesus came to help the people. He healed the sick, and he tried to help the poor. The Democrats’ core fiber is to help people. That was Jesus’ mission.”

The campaign has been replete with suggestions that Mr. Barbour has maintained a financial connection to his old lobbying firm in Washington. Mr. Barbour says his assets are held in a blind trust, the details of which he refuses to disclose, though one of his former partners has said the governor receives a fixed retirement “payment” from the firm.

“Governor, just come clean, tell us where your treasure is,” Mr. Eaves intoned in a preachery sing-song at last week’s debate.

On the stump, he makes far more headway with his message about prayer. Worship in school is clearly on the voters’ minds, at least as much as new jobs Mr. Barbour boasts of bringing with some splashy industrial catches.

As Mr. Eaves strode into the Choctaw County courthouse recently, in the tiny town of Ackerman, he was asked: “How do you put school prayer back in schools?” The question came unprompted from Dee Ann Williams in the county extension office. “Here’s how you do it,” Mr. Eaves answered readily. “Voluntary, student-led. We’re setting aside the time.”

Afterward, Ms. Williams said she was well satisfied with the answer.

At Pap’s Place, a diner on Main Street in Ackerman, the Bible was open under the Elvis albums and the Ten Commandments were on an engraved plaque in the window.

“John Arthur sounds pretty good. He’s going to cut the sales tax and put prayer back in schools,” said Charles Salley, behind the cash register, as Mr. Eaves’s bus pulled out of town.

“Put the Good Lord back in everything. That’s a priority,” Mr. Salley said.
clipped from www.nytimes.com

In Mississippi, Democrat Runs in G.O.P. Lane

Published: October 10, 2007

STARKVILLE, Miss., Oct. 5 — The candidate is running to serve his Creator. He is running to restore prayer in schools, bring Jesus into public discourse, force the “money changers” from the state capitol, and move his extensive gun collection into the governor’s mansion.

It is not extraordinary in the local context, except that John Arthur Eaves Jr., the man saying these things, is the Democratic candidate for governor of Mississippi. And the politician he is trying to unseat with these shots from the right is a Republican star, Gov. Haley Barbour.

And indeed Mr. Barbour looks ever more irritated by this upstart challenger’s talk of God-and-guns and banning abortion — a mirror-image strategy some call logical in this toughest of regions for Democrats.

just supposed to vote for you anyway, because God says you can’t vote for a Democrat.”
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Friday, October 05, 2007

Conservatives Are Such Jokers

Here's the full article:
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The New York Times
October 5, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Conservatives Are Such Jokers
By PAUL KRUGMAN

In 1960, John F. Kennedy, who had been shocked by the hunger he saw in West Virginia, made the fight against hunger a theme of his presidential campaign. After his election he created the modern food stamp program, which today helps millions of Americans get enough to eat.

But Ronald Reagan thought the issue of hunger in the world’s richest nation was nothing but a big joke. Here’s what Reagan said in his famous 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing,” which made him a national political figure: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”

Today’s leading conservatives are Reagan’s heirs. If you’re poor, if you don’t have health insurance, if you’re sick — well, they don’t think it’s a serious issue. In fact, they think it’s funny.

On Wednesday, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded S-chip, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing health insurance to an estimated 3.8 million children who would otherwise lack coverage.

In anticipation of the veto, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had this to say: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.” Heh-heh-heh.

Most conservatives are more careful than Mr. Kristol. They try to preserve the appearance that they really do care about those less fortunate than themselves. But the truth is that they aren’t bothered by the fact that almost nine million children in America lack health insurance. They don’t think it’s a problem.

“I mean, people have access to health care in America,” said Mr. Bush in July. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

And on the day of the veto, Mr. Bush dismissed the whole issue of uninsured children as a media myth. Referring to Medicaid spending — which fails to reach many children — he declared that “when they say, well, poor children aren’t being covered in America, if that’s what you’re hearing on your TV screens, I’m telling you there’s $35.5 billion worth of reasons not to believe that.”

It’s not just the poor who find their travails belittled and mocked. The sick receive the same treatment.

Before the last election, the actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s and has become an advocate for stem cell research that might lead to a cure, made an ad in support of Claire McCaskill, the Democratic candidate for Senator in Missouri. It was an effective ad, in part because Mr. Fox’s affliction was obvious.

And Rush Limbaugh — displaying the same style he exhibited in his recent claim that members of the military who oppose the Iraq war are “phony soldiers” and his later comparison of a wounded vet who criticized him for that remark to a suicide bomber — immediately accused Mr. Fox of faking it. “In this commercial, he is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He is moving all around and shaking. And it’s purely an act.” Heh-heh-heh.

Of course, minimizing and mocking the suffering of others is a natural strategy for political figures who advocate lower taxes on the rich and less help for the poor and unlucky. But I believe that the lack of empathy shown by Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Kristol, and, yes, Mr. Bush is genuine, not feigned.

Mark Crispin Miller, the author of “The Bush Dyslexicon,” once made a striking observation: all of the famous Bush malapropisms — “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family,” and so on — have involved occasions when Mr. Bush was trying to sound caring and compassionate.

By contrast, Mr. Bush is articulate and even grammatical when he talks about punishing people; that’s when he’s speaking from the heart. The only animation Mr. Bush showed during the flooding of New Orleans was when he declared “zero tolerance of people breaking the law,” even those breaking into abandoned stores in search of the food and water they weren’t getting from his administration.

What’s happening, presumably, is that modern movement conservatism attracts a certain personality type. If you identify with the downtrodden, even a little, you don’t belong. If you think ridicule is an appropriate response to other peoples’ woes, you fit right in.

And Republican disillusionment with Mr. Bush does not appear to signal any change in that regard. On the contrary, the leading candidates for the Republican nomination have gone out of their way to condemn “socialism,” which is G.O.P.-speak for any attempt to help the less fortunate.

So once again, if you’re poor or you’re sick or you don’t have health insurance, remember this: these people think your problems are funny.
clipped from www.nytimes.com

Conservatives Are Such Jokers
By PAUL KRUGMAN
In 1960, John F. Kennedy, who had been shocked by the hunger he saw in West Virginia, made the fight against hunger a theme of his presidential campaign. After his election he created the modern food stamp program, which today helps millions of Americans get enough to eat.
But Ronald Reagan thought the issue of hunger in the world’s richest nation was nothing but a big joke. Here’s what Reagan said in his famous 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing,” which made him a national political figure: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”
Today’s leading conservatives are Reagan’s heirs. If you’re poor, if you don’t have health insurance, if you’re sick — well, they don’t think it’s a serious issue. In fact, they think it’s funny.
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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Our Schools Must Do Better

The New York Times
October 2, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Our Schools Must Do Better
By BOB HERBERT

Boston

I asked a high school kid walking along Commonwealth Avenue if he knew who the vice president of the United States was.

He thought for a moment and then said, “No.”

I told him to take a guess.

He thought for another moment, looked at me skeptically, and finally gave up. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t know.”

The latest federal test results showed some improvement in public school math and reading scores, but there is no reason to celebrate these minuscule gains. We need so much more. A four-year college degree is now all but mandatory for building and sustaining a middle-class standard of living in the U.S.

Over the next 20 or 30 years, when today’s children are raising children of their own in an ever more technologically advanced and globalized society, the educational requirements will only grow more rigorous and unforgiving.

A one- or two-point gain in fourth grade test scores here or there is not meaningful in the face of that overarching 21st-century challenge.

What’s needed is a wholesale transformation of the public school system from the broken-down postwar model of the past 50 or 60 years. The U.S. has not yet faced up to the fact that it needs a school system capable of fulfilling the educational needs of children growing up in an era that will be at least as different from the 20th century as the 20th was from the 19th.

“We’re not good at thinking about magnitudes,” said Thomas Kane, a professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “We’ve got a bunch of little things that we think are moving in the right direction, but we haven’t stepped back and thought, ‘O.K., how big an improvement are we really talking about?’ ” Professor Kane and I were discussing what he believes are the two areas that have the greatest potential for radically improving the way children are taught in the U.S. Both are being neglected by the education establishment.

The first is teacher quality, a topic that gets talked about incessantly. It has been known for decades that some teachers have huge positive effects on student achievement, and that others do poorly. The positive effect of the highest performing teachers on underachieving students is startling.

What is counterintuitive, but well documented, is that paper qualifications, such as teacher certification, have very little to do with whatever it is that makes good teachers effective.

“Regrettably,” said Professor Kane, who has studied this issue extensively, “we’ve never taken that research fact seriously in our teacher policy. We’ve done just the opposite.”

Concerned about raising the quality of teachers, states and local school districts have consistently focused on the credentials, rather than the demonstrated effectiveness — or ineffectiveness — of teachers in the classroom.

New forms of identifying good teachers and weeding out poor ones — by carefully assessing their on-the-job performance — have to be established before any transformation of American schools can occur.

This can be done without turning the traditional system of teacher tenure on its head. Studies have clearly shown that the good teachers and the not-so-good ones can usually be identified, if they are carefully observed in their first two or three years on the job — in other words, before tenure is granted.

Developing such a system would be difficult. But it’s both doable and essential. Getting serious about teacher quality as opposed to harping on tiny variations in test scores would be like moving from a jalopy to a jet.

The second area to be mined for potentially transformative effects is the wide and varied field of alternative school models. We should be rigorously studying those schools that appear to be having the biggest positive effects on student achievement. Are the effects real? If so, what accounts for them?

The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), to cite one example, is a charter school network that has consistently gotten extraordinary academic results from low-income students. It has worked in cities big and small, and in rural areas. Like other successful models, it has adopted a longer school day and places great demands on its teachers and students.

Said Professor Kane: “These alternative models that involve the longer school day and a much more dramatic intervention for kids are promising. If that’s what it takes, then we need to know that, and sooner rather than later.”

If American kids — all American kids, not just the children of the elite — are to have a fair chance at a rewarding life over the next several decades, we’ve got to give them a school system adequate to the times. They need something better than a post-World War II system in a post-9/11 world.
clipped from www.nytimes.com

Our Schools Must Do Better

Published: October 2, 2007

Over the next 20 or 30 years, when today’s children are raising children of their own in an ever more technologically advanced and globalized society, the educational requirements will only grow more rigorous and unforgiving.

A one- or two-point gain in fourth grade test scores here or there is not meaningful in the face of that overarching 21st-century challenge.

What’s needed is a wholesale transformation of the public school system from the broken-down postwar model of the past 50 or 60 years. The U.S. has not yet faced up to the fact that it needs a school system capable of fulfilling the educational needs of children growing up in an era that will be at least as different from the 20th century as the 20th was from the 19th.

teacher certification, have very little to do with whatever it is that makes good teachers effective.
The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP),
It has worked in cities big and small, and in rural
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Native of the Philadelphia "Kensington and Alleganey" northeast area. I spent 4 years in the Air Force (Titan-II missles in Tuscon Arizona). I Am currently retired, and among other adventures I spent 28 years working for AT&T in Telecommunications. I've lived in Florida for 33 years....20 years in Hollywood Fla., and 13 years North Florida. I've been married 42 years, and am a proud father of three adult offspring. All of them contributing to society in a very useful and creative manner.