Another surge is working

It shouldn't be news, but in D.C. it is--nobody got killed last weekend.

The headline on the Washington Post article: "D.C. Has Weekend Free of Shootings: Violent Crime Falls As 3,500 Officers Deploy During Blitz"


Shutting Down Unneeded D.C. Public Schools

D.C. Mayor Fenty and Schools Chancellor Rhee have put forth a plan to shut down 23 public schools. As is the usual case, families and activists are fighting back.

It doesn't matter how few kids are in a particular school, there are some who never want to see a public school closed. The student population of DC public schools has fallen from about 150,000 in 1969 to less than 50,000 now. Yet, every attempt to shut down public schools has met resistance. If some parents had their way, there would be a similar number of schools open today.

Just a few years ago, former city council member Fenty was leading the charge to spend billions renovating schools. Now as mayor Fenty, he is leading the charge to shut down schools.

In a briefing paper I wrote for the Cato Institute a few years ago, I suggested that Mayor Williams should appoint an independent commission to recommend which public schools should be shut down. That's because I didn't think a D.C. mayor would ever have the political will to shut down surplus schools--but Mayor Fenty and Schools Chancellor Rhee have made it clear that they are willing, ready, and wanting to do so.

* * *

From a Briefing Paper I wrote for the Cato Institute in 2003: "School Choice in the District of Columbia: Saving Taxpayers Money, Increasing Opportunities for Children," Cato Briefing Paper No. 86, September 19, 2003.

According to C. Vanessa Spinner, acting director of the D.C. State Education Agency, the District’s public school system is barely operating at half capacity. The system can accommodate 120,000 students. There are about 66,000 students currently in the system.21

Numerous underutilized facilities are being kept open, even when they are not economically feasible. Superintendent Paul L. Vance said at a December 2002 news conference that the public school system had 14,000 open work orders and needed money to pay for repairs.22 The D.C. public school system needs to consider closing its most decrepit schools rather than continuing to spend money on repairs to schools operating under capacity.

With almost 150 public schools in a system that has been losing students, the D.C. public school system could merge several schools to save taxpayer money. In October 2002 Mayor Anthony A. Williams suggested establishing a commission to determine whether some schools and other city buildings should be closed because of underuse.23 Sixty school buildings have been declared surplus within the last few years, yet the District is building more schools.24 Instead of closing or merging schools operating at half capacity and cutting back on operating costs, city leaders have sought to renovate every school, at a total cost of $2 billion over the next 10 to 15 years.25 The city and the school system should close schools with the fewest students and most in need of renovation.

Charter schools in the District, which must currently acquire their own facilities, could use buildings currently underutilized by the public school system. Other facilities could be given to or auctioned off to private entrepreneurs who agreed to operate them as schools. Because of the political sensitivities that come with closing schools, army bases, or fire stations, an independent group should determine which schools should be closed.

21. Connie Spinner appeared as a guest on WOL 1450-AM, discussing the impact of vouchers in
the District of Columbia, June 11, 2003.
22. Yolanda Woodlee and Justin Blum, “NE School’s Woes Leave Staff, Pupils Cold; Balky Boiler, Broken Windows Make for Chilly Conditions at Taft Junior High,” Washington Post, December 3, 2002, p. B3.
23. “D.C. Schools Get a Lesson in Economics; Cost of Renovations Is Far above Projections,” Washington Post, October 2, 2002, B1.
24. “Mayor Illegally Blocks Schoolhouse Door,” Washington Times, September 18, 2002, p. A16.
25. Justin Blum, “Despite Sinking Enrollment, Proposal Calls for Rebuilding,” Washington Post, December 7, 2000, p. B2.



Iowa Heartland Presidential Forum....live blogging

This is now the third time I'm live blogging a presidential forum. This one has been the toughest. The previous two times I blogged at the invitation of the Media Bloggers Association. Bloggers were in one room watching the action. The focus was on the candidates. This time, it is at the invitation of TV One. The focus is as much on the questioners as it is on the candidates.

What makes this one more challenging is that the "real people" at the microphone tell their "real stories" to the candidates. Such stories apparently aren't meant to be questioned or challenged. One of the points Stephen Carter has made (in his book Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby) is that when he was a young radical, he and his fellow activists believed that their stories were not to be debated. That explains much of the mindset of community activists today. They will bring out people to tell their personal stories as victims--based on their race, income level, family status, etc. The stories are presented as "truth" that is not to be questioned. If you question it, then it means that you are against that person and the particular issue they are discussing.

When you aren't allowed to think about stories you are told, then why bother to think? Even as the mean guy I am, I have over the years even struggled with this. In most cases, I find myself tuning out when people give personal anecdotes that are not meant to be examined. If it isn't meant to be examined, then I won't do so. But I won't also take the anecdote as fact worth repeating.

Once the tears start, which presidential candidate is going to give a "real" response, giving the type of advice that got the candidate to where he or she is today, and the type of guidance they have given to their own loved ones? You could hear each candidate being very careful not to offend the speakers discussing their personal woes. When you are brought a lineup of victims--who are then asking you to do something about it in the future, and to make specific promises about it now--then it is tough for candidates to do anything other than to agree with the speakers. Admittedly, I didn't listen to every syllable uttered, but did any of the candidates disagree with anything they had heard? If so, it would have been to show just how much more radical they were in demanding that something be done to aid the victim.

The candidates answer in pandering platitudes, making you wish they would get specific. But when they get specific, they make you wish they would stick to the platitudes.

The good thing about this forum is that the candidates were able to speak for extended periods of time, without immediate rebuttals from other candidates. I'm not saying debates are useless, but it is good to give candidates adequate time to make their case or to hang themselves.

The even better thing about this forum is that the candidates demonstrated just how dangerous they would be as president. Instead of being a presidential forum it did seem more like a town hall meeting hosted by candidates running for mayor.

Surely, it was well done! I've never met Cathy Hughes, I don't really recall ever seeing her in action. She was dignified, humorous, engaging--and clearly in control! Unlike many moderators who seem to be concerned about interrupting speakers, I had the sense that the candidates for the presidency of the United States would have stopped speaking in mid-sentence if she raised her index finger.

* * *

John Edwards
is the first candidate speaking. His BIG point is that BIG corporations must be deputized as agents of the government, if not completely shut down. So many Americans speak out against corporations and the control they have over Americans, but there isn't a single corporation that can put anyone in jail. People fear corporations and businesses that offer goods and services, yet look for salvation from the government that can imprison them.

It is hilarious to hear Edwards denouncing big companies foreclosing on poor people.

I guess he would know. According to CNN earlier this year: "Democratic presidential contender John Edwards has investing ties to subprime lenders who are foreclosing on victims of Katrina, according to a report published Friday.

The Wall Street Journal said there are 34 homes in New Orleans that face foreclosure from the subprime unit of Fortress Investment Group. Edwards has about $16 million in Fortress (Charts), a hedge fund and private equity manager, the newspaper said."

Edwards complaining about big companies foreclosing on poor people is like a criminal returning to the scene of the crime and denouncing criminality.

There was plenty of other nonsense from Edwards. Raising the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, as Edwards suggested, would harm the very people he talks about so often. Unfortunately, even in a forum where the candidates can speak for extended periods of time, none of the Democrats are going to discuss the pros and cons.

One of the most popular phrases on talk radio is that people must speak "truth to power." For some reason, it is assumed that powerless people have the "truth." I won't quibble with that, but at what point can people in power answer? Edwards mentioned environmental racism in passing. Of course he implied that it is corporations targeting poor and black people. But companies are probably seeking the same thing poor people want: cheap land.

But few politicians, especially Democrats, are going to speak "truth to the powerless."

The only thing that can make Edwards look good? Dennis Kucinich is the next speaker.

* * *

Dennis Kucinich has made his way to the stage.

I am convinced that Kucinich didn't just see a UFO--he's an alien. While it is unlikely that John Edwards will be elected president of the United States in 2008, I'm willing to bet any and all takers that Kucinich will never be president of the United States. If so, you might as well as take my money while you can, because Kucinich would come and get most of it anyway.

I'm trying to follow Kucinich as he speaks. I agree with Kucinich on so many social issues, but I'm in deep disagreement with him when it comes to economic issues. I have disagreements with Republicans on social issues, but the reality is that while Republicans are trying to stop me from marrying a man or from an abortion, Democrats remind me of that Capital One commercial: What's in your wallet? Not only do they want to know, but they want half. For Democrats and liberals, it is great for me to engage in voluntary activity in my social life, but once I start making economic decisions on my own, they are ready to arrest me.

Kucinich is a funny guy in so many ways. On the one hand, he constantly denigrates just about anything having to do with business, but then discusses full employment. Democrats and liberals often attack "big corporations," but they must know that those "big corporations" are also Big Employers!

In one sentence Kucinich threatened to scrap just about every American trade agreement.

He renewed his call that VP Cheney should be impeached. Until the day Bush and Cheney are leaving office, there will be some Democrats calling for them to be impeached.

The best way to summarize Kucinich's comments is that he wants to pass laws against bad weather and unhappiness.

* * *

Next up: Hillary Clinton, via satellite.

Every candidate is being asked if he or she will make the hard decisions as president to help the country or community. What else could they answer? No, I'm going to be wishy-washy and hope to get re-elected by not upsetting anyone during my term.

Her first real person started to cry.

The focus of the questions for H Clinton is health care. Blah, blah, blah.

But now! Immigration! Finally a question that could have been posed by a Republican...

H Clinton was asked if she favored comprehensive immigration reform. The audience booed her response that the president can only do so much. Politicians who try to bring political reality to such discussions may as well as read from the Congressional Record.

This is one of the issues I wish the Democrats were stronger on. As I've previously mentioned, I'm in favor of making it easier for people to legally come to America.

Surely it is another blow to the H Clinton campaign to have community activists boo her at a forum--and that she was the only candidate to get booed. Not even the hostage taking at her campaign office was enough to shield her from the boos.

* * *

Christopher Dodd is now up. Of course the first story teller started to cry. It seems that one thing we have learned about real Americans in the heartland is that they cry when telling their personal stories. Audience members were told to hold their applause and cheering, but they haven't done so. It seems like an Oprah Winfrey show is being held at a pep rally.

Okay...another real person is about to start crying. I'm not one of those folks who says no one should ever cry, and I don't mean to demean anyone, but seriously, we've got a problem if we've got so many Americans who are so wrapped up into government policy and candidates.

I don't mean to ignore Dodd, but Barack Obama is next...

* * *

Barack Obama

The first real person talking to Obama discussed how her daughter benefited from SCHIP. She was about to start breaking down.

The forum lasted much longer than I expected so I only heard part of what Obama had to say. I will listen later and may add more comments.

* * *



Blacker Than Thou--or American Like You

Fellow TV One blogger La Shawn Barber cites a new book by Shelby Steele about Barack Obama. She mentions that she read in a book review that Obama, who grew up somewhat privileged, must exaggerate black America's oppression so he can appeal to black voters.

Obama definitely has been walking a fine line--appealing to Americans in general, but also trying to keep it real with black Americans. And keeping it real with black Americans has meant trying to keep the black talk show hosts, activists, academics, and preachers from attacking him. The best way to do this is to become "blacker-than-thou." That is, he'll become more radical than any other black person in the room so that there will be no question about his race loyalty and identity.

Politicians are infamous for appealing to the audience they are with at that particular moment. But in Iowa those two worlds are about to come together in one forum--in the heartland of Iowa, which is 95 percent white, at a forum hosted by TV One, a black-focused network.

I'm sure some will say that you can be both Blacker-Than-Thou and an American. Anyway, let's see if Obama will do both in Iowa.


Illegal Immigration at Heartland Presidential Forum

Faye Anderson, another TV One blogger for coverage of the network's coverage of the Democrat Presidential Debate, writes that illegal immigration is sure to be one of the issues to come up during tomorrow's talk-fest.

Admittedly, I don't pay much attention to debates or politicians unless I'm covering them for an event. Meaning, this is now the third time this year that I've paid attention to the debates.

As people often point out to me, I'm almost always in the minority when the issue is illegal immigration.

1) I oppose punishing private employers for hiring illegals.
2) I support taking laws against such hiring practices off the books.
3) I don't oppose laws preventing the various levels of governments from hiring illegals.
4) If the various levels of government are serious about punishing illegals, then they should prevent them from receiving government services or benefits.
5) It isn't the government's job to protect you against competition for jobs, products, spouses, etc.
6) There is no right to have a community of a certain demographic makeup. If you want your neighborhood or community to stay predominately black or predominately white, then buy up the property around you. Perhaps you need racial covenants on the houses near your home?
7) Of course, there need to be safety and health checks. To steal a line I heard from a friend: You're welcome, but don't forget to sign the guest book.

We can't count on closing the border as a way to keep competition out. There was a time that people said, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." But now, we must consider, "Rome has come to you." Wherever you are, people are trying to sell stuff to you, buy stuff from you if you have something worth selling, trying to hire you if you have skills they want, or competing with you.

If you're going to run a race, you can't train based on potential competitors being kept away from the starting or finishing line. We can't be sure what wave of people or technology is coming along, and should stop acting as if we have people in government smart enough to figure out which people should be let into the country.


TV One's Presidential Forum

I am now officially one of the bloggers covering TV One's Heartland Presidential Forum: Community Values in Action. The event will be moderated by TV One and Radio One Chairwoman Cathy Hughes. You can watch the live Webcast at TV One's Website starting Saturday, Dec 1., at 3 p.m. ET.
The other superstar bloggers are Faye Anderson, Michael Fauntroy, La Shawn Barber and Megan Cosby.

Cell phones don't kill people. People do.

The shocking story out of South Korea that an exploding cell phone had killed a man has turned out to be fake. Instead, it turns out that the man was killed by a co-worker.

Here's the Reuters report, less than 1 mb at Rapidshare.com.

The killer must have read a BBC report about a cell phone killing a Chinese welder.

What I love is the expert analysis provided by the Dr. Kim Hoon. According to various media outlets:

Kim Hoon, a doctor who examined the body, said the death was probably caused by an explosion of the battery.

"He sustained an injury that is similar to a burn in the left chest and his ribs and spine were broken," Yonhap news agency quoted Kim as saying.

I'd say that Dr. Kim should never again be allowed to provide expert testimony.

I suspect that Dr. Kim is one of the Korean doctors who says that "fan death" is real and that South Koreans die from playing video games.

Of course, those who enjoy urban legends may not be convinced by the co-workers confession and anyone looking to "connect the dots" might point out that I'm a former LG employee.