Long campaign? Yes, that’s a good thing

The last ten days or so have been really interesting in the presidential campaign. I think the news over that time may have changed my mind about the length of presidential campaigns. Like many of you I looked with envy at the short UK campaigns. And I’ve complained as our campaigns stretch into another year.

In so many ways, of course, this campaign is unlike any prior campaign. The difference is Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is the first woman candidate of a major party, but is in most respects a conventional candidate. Trump is anything but conventional. It has taken time, perhaps months or years, for investigative reporters to figure what to look for and where to look in exposing Trump’s past. He has no political history. Where reporters have been investigating the Clintons for decades, they are just getting started with Trump.

In only the last couple of weeks, the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold has written about illegal behavior of Trump’s foundation, including that the foundation appears to lack even the basic documentation from the state of New York to accept tax deductible contributions. He has also exposed self-dealing, illegal behavior for a foundation. Fahrenthold has been on the story since January, but it takes time to build a case and develop the story.

Similarly Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald has documented Trump’s violation of the embargo of Cuba. These stories don’t get investigated and reported in a couple of weeks.

Vox has a good summary of Trump’s corrupt past.

Maybe a longer campaign is a good thing, since it may take a while to figure out what a candidate has done, when that candidate has no political history and reporters have to start from scratch in building that history. They could not have done that work in three months or so.

 

Shining a light on privatization of Michigan schools

Michigan Public Radio has been running a really good series on the state of our schools. They’ve talked about declining funding and the increase in charter schools, but haven’t quite gotten to the point of asking how this all happened. That’s going to be up to activists.

Progress Michigan is taking that on. A lot of it goes to one family, DeVos, of Grand Rapids. They’ve contributed to Republicans and spread the myth of failing public schools and the supposed benefits of charters. This is going to be important.

Creating low information voters

The Michigan Legislature never ceases to amaze. Making it hard to vote is not enough. Now they want to reduce the information available to voters. It has long been illegal for municipalities to advocate for or against ballot initiatives. But cities and school districts have been able to publish objective information about initiatives. Under this legislation that would be illegal for 60 days prior to an election. What does that mean? Information will come from those with an interest in the outcome, such as, oh, let me see, maybe Americans for Prosperity? Sure, liberal and progressive groups would also be able to publish information, but we generally have less money than the Koch funded astroturf organizations.

This is an example of fixing a non-existent problem. Kind of like eliminating straight party voting.

Religious Freedom

This is from Juan Cole. The post is about the importance of religious freedom to the founders. Islam is particularly mentioned as included in religious freedom.

But for those of us who identify as Episcopalians, there is this:

So not only did the Founding Generation not harbor a grudge against the religion of the British Crown (which had tried to crush them), they were perfectly willing to give non-Tory Anglicans high official positions in the new Republic. It would be as though the the current chaplain of the Senate were a former al-Qaeda member who had broken with Bin Laden and declared allegiance to the United States.

That is, the Founding Generation made a key distinction between religious practice and political loyalty, and had granted freedom of religion to non-Tory Anglicans.

 

Read the whole post.

MSNBC and Trump

Last night was crazy. The network that used to be considered liberal (and still is labeled as such by conservatives) is slowly going mainstream. It will soon be carrying a Bloomberg network news show. Of the liberals, only Chris Hayes and Rachel are left. (Chris Matthews is pretty centrist, DLC style.)

But last night MSNBC played most of Trump’s speech live. This was the speech in which he announced his plan to bar Muslims from entering the country. Yes, that’s newsworthy. But the whole speech was not newsworthy. MSNBC was just giving him free air time. It would have been better to use the time to play his statement on Muslims, then discuss it and talk about its basic inhumanity, impracticality, and conflict with American values.

I’m not afraid of dangerous ideas. But I want serious journalists to take their time to analyze issues, bring in knowledgeable people, and help us think through the consequences of crazy ideas.

What is a Deacon?

During summer, 2014, I was away from my home parish. While away, I served at Christ church Cranbrook and Holy Cross Novi, introducing these two churches to the diaconate. My sermon at Christ Church Cranbrook was picked up by The Record, the magazine of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. It’s available online, so rather than copy it here, I’ll let you read it in The Record. You’ll need to flip to p. 14.

Good post on ISIS

Confused by the so-called Islamic State? Nathan Spannaus has a post on the Juan Cole blog that may help you understand the dynamics of the rise of ISIS.

Non-union Plant May Not Get New SUV: Update to VW Chattanooga Vote

Tennessee GOP politicians may have overstated their case. While Sen Corker claimed he had information that a non-union Chattanooga VW plant would increase its chance of getting a new SUV to build, it seems his information might be suspect. You see, decisions about new products come from a joint union-management board. The union members of the board do not want new products going into a non-union plant. The works council model is such an integral part of the VW culture, the Chattanooga plant is suddenly an outlier. Maybe they should take up Mayor Bernero’s offer to come to Lansing.

Tennessee is Pro-business, until the Business Supports the UAW

A remarkable story is unfolding in Chattanooga, TN, at the Volkswagen plant. VW is not opposing the UAW organizing drive. The company has a good working relationship with unions at its German plants, which includes Works Councils, joint union-management councils that resolve problems before they become problems. VW can’t promote the union because we have laws in this country against company unions, that is, unions that are dominated by management. But they can choose not to oppose the union drive.

So we would expect that the pro-business Republicans in Tennessee would stay out of the election. After all, pro-business should mean that corporations can run their business as they see fit. But no. Tennessee Republicans are not pro-business so much as they are anti-union. Even if the business sees an advantage in having a union, the state thinks it should be able to threaten VW with loss of incentives if they organize. Now I understand that VW doesn’t have a right to incentives and Tennessee may withhold incentives for any reason or no reason at all. But clearly giving business the freedom to operate as it wishes stops when they cross the GOP’s anti-union line.

Of course they point to Detroit, saying look what the unions did to Detroit. It’s now bankrupt. It’s a common GOP misunderstanding, to conflate the auto companies with city government. Mitt did it, too. The Free Press had an excellent story about the roots of the city’s financial problems. It has more to do with Wall Street than the UAW.

There’s another curious twist to the story — Tennessee Republicans fear some sort of domino effect. They fear that one union plant in Tennessee will mean other German plants in the South will fall to the union. I guess the union must have mysterious powers to jump from one plant to another.

Update: John Nichols at The Nation has an excellent explanation of the Works Council concept and UAW’s adaptability. 

Failing Schools, Or Not

Educators and others who follow education news are not surprised by the supposedly mediocre PISA scores, that purport to compare US students to those in other countries. As happens a lot, US students score in the middle of the pack, hardly where American exceptionalists think we should be. Others have commented that the PISA scores are a Rorschach test, in which what you see in the scores is largely a function of what you think about schools, so believing is seeing.

For example, the US reports all student scores, whereas China reports only scores from Shanghai, which is not a typical school district. When you break out Massachusetts scores, those students score near the top. School “reformers” like Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee take the opportunity to push their failed reforms, even though none of the high scoring countries have adopted anything like their prescriptions. But there is another really important factor. Educational Researchers have known for years that poverty is a really important determinant of school success. All other things being equal, students from low socio-economic status families do not do as well in school as students from high socio-economic status families. The American economy produces vast inequalities in income, meaning that we have vast inequalities in educational attainment. There’s a really good discussion of this point on the Crooks & Liars blog. I recommend reading it.