A life in the day

2/22/2006

Too much democracy?

Filed under: — site admin @ 5:25 pm

Does the United States government think that too much democracy is a bad thing?

It seems so. Two stories are bothering me. First, the Bush administration is reclassifying documents already made public. This is of course in keeping with the way this Administration has handled practially everything, but knowledge about our government is fundamental to true democracy. What harm is there in leaving up cold war era documents?

Secondly, and more interesting, we have the question about support for the new Palestinian government. Hamas won a majority of seats in the Parliament. Because Hamas is on some list of terrorist organizations, the Administration will withhold all aid that we’ve been giving to the Palestinian people. Bush has been touting the uptick in democracy in the Middle East; clearly he only means democracy that kowtows to his views. How in the world do we justify this? Is this punishment for the Palestinian people who had the gall to select leaders we don’t like? Hamas is not the government. Hamas members will form the core of the administration and the majority of the legislators, but this does not mean that the philosophy of Hamas will become the policy of Palestine. If it does, if Palestine renounces its peace accords, if it calls for the destruction of Israel, then we have reason to act. But not now.

What’s Bush’s idea of democracy?

10/11/2005

Judith Miller

Filed under: — site admin @ 6:28 am

I’ve been torn about the whole Judith Miller case. I believe strongly that, in most instances, reporters ought to be protected from requirements to reveal their sources. But this is mostly to ensure that whistleblowers are encouraged to report on wrongdoing in government and in business without fear of reprisal.

The current issue is very different.

It’s taken me a while to figure out why I find it so different, but I think I’ve got it: the wrongdoing in question is the act of telling the journalists about Valerie Plame’s secret. The reporter in this case is in fact a witness to the crime. This is not a matter of protecting someone who’s revealing government corruption; it’s hiding the identity of the actual corrupt official.

Now I don’t know what I feel about the law making it a crime to reveal the identity of a CIA agent. (We are paying people to do to other countries — spying — that which we prosecute as a crime when others do it to us? Something’s not right there.) But it’s so likely the case that this was done as a punishment against Plame’s husband that it is at least an act of immoral cowardice; that it’s also against the law means that the Administration should chase it down and at least fire the perpetrators. But we all know that Bush values personal loyalty far beyond integrity.

What a mess.

As far as I’m concerned Judith Miller had no right to protect her so-called sources if what they were doing was in fact carrying out a vendetta against Joseph Wilson through his wife. And I haven’t heard any other plausible explanation about the whole sad affair.

2/25/2005

US Kidnap and Torture Policy

Filed under: — site admin @ 9:49 am

Today’s New York Times Op-Ed column by Bob Herbert is a clear-cut sign of what kind of government we are developing in the United States:

In the fall of 2002 [Maher Arar], a Canadian citizen, suddenly found himself caught up in the cruel mockery of justice that the Bush administration has substituted for the rule of law in the post-Sept. 11 world. While attempting to change planes at Kennedy Airport on his way home to Canada from a family vacation in Tunisia, he was seized by American authorities, interrogated and thrown into jail. He was not charged with anything, and he never would be charged with anything, but his life would be ruined.

Mr. Arar was surreptitiously flown out of the United States to Jordan and then driven to Syria, where he was kept like a nocturnal animal in an unlit, underground, rat-infested cell that was the size of a grave. From time to time he was tortured.

Mostly, I’m just sickened, but there’s a part of me that can’t help but feeling that a country that would elect — and re-elect — George Bush deserves this sort of government. (Okay, make that a country that would re-elect GWB; it was the Supreme Court that elected him.)

Herbert ended his column with this:

A lawsuit on Mr. Arar’s behalf has been filed against the United States by the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. Barbara Olshansky, a lawyer with the center, noted yesterday that the government is arguing that none of Mr. Arar’s claims can even be adjudicated because they “would involve the revelation of state secrets.”

This is a government that feels it is answerable to no one.

I’m afraid that this is quite literally true. The Bush Administration sees itself above our law, and our country above international law. How is the country going to fare with four more years of this evil?

2/10/2005

North Korea

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:15 pm

I can’t wait for this one.

How is the Bush Administration going to react to the news that North Korea now has announced that it has nuclear weapons?

“But that’s against the non-proliferation treaty. You’re breaking an important nuclear treaty, and that’s just plain — what’s that Condi? ABM Treaty? — well, nevermind.”

“Nuclear weapons are a grave threat to the entire world and nobody should be allowed to have… um, err. Next question please!”

Nicholas Kristof must be reveling in his own timing. Yesterday’s column was Bush Bites His Tongue about how Bush doesn’t want to talk about or have Americans think about North Korea, because there don’t seem to be any good options. Let’s see, we invade Iraq because of the non-existent weapons of mass destruction they claimed not to have. Now North Korea is claiming to have them. They have an equally evil dictator, and no freedom or democracy. But it would probably be an even bigger quagmire to invade than Iraq. But hush, Bush is busy making noise about Iran.

Ten gross days left in the Bush administration.

And counting.

2/8/2005

Iraq Vote

Filed under: — Scott Sauyet @ 4:23 pm

Epic’s latest article says it exactly right:

Without question, the Bush administration should not confuse Iraq’s election (nor the U.S. election) as an endorsement of its pre-emptive invasion of Iraq nor its abysmal handling of the aftermath. Furthermore, without strong institutions and the rule of law, it is far too early to claim that the Iraqi people are free from tyranny and human rights abuses. The real test will be what happens next, after the elections.

Nevertheless, defying very real dangers, millions of Iraqis have taken an important step towards a fully sovereign, representative government and a step away from continued U.S. control over their affairs. And that, we must acknowledge, is progress.

I’ve heard too many opponents of the war denigrate the recent election. While the war was immoral and illegal, and Bush’s pre-emption doctrine is pure evil, the vote is still a significant milestone for Iraqis. Let’s not forget that, folks!

1/28/2005

“Insurgency?”

Filed under: — site admin @ 7:33 pm

Blackfive quotes an entire Baltimore Sun article by Thomas Sowell about the media reporting on American casualties in Iraq but not enemy ones, then talks of Ted Kennedy, saying:

Ask yourself: How can a US Senator denounce our actions in Iraq and call for troop withdrawls just days before a historic Iraqi free election when he knows that fueling doubt about our resolve will embolden the terrorists and possibly create more violence and murder?

Isn’t it the job of the Congress to decide when and where we should be at war? The President is the Commander in Chief, but Congress is supposed to make the decisions about war. We’ve gotten away from that, but it’s what the Constitution says.

As to a Senator emboldening the enemy, I really don’t think there are a lot of Iraqi fighters likely to decide to fight harder because of a loadmouth politician in Washington. Anyone who says that it’s unpatriotic to publicly condemn the actions of our administration doesn’t truly understand what this country is about.

And as to the article itself, I think the author is to some extent correct in that the reporting on Iraq is mediocre, and way too focused on the deaths of Americans. What’s missing is the more balanced picture of what the war has meant to Iraqi civilians. The number of enemy combatants we kill is almost impossible to get given that the Pentagon refuses to make such estimates, and by all accounts, reporters do not have safe access to other sources of information in Iraq. But the lives of ordinary Iraqis could certainly be analyzed. I think it would probably be clear that in the short term the war has made their lives worse. Do Iraqis think their long-term prospects are better and do they think the short-term damage is worth it? Those are questions I’d have our media address.

One other note: the notion that the media has substituted the bland “insurgents” for “terrorists” is preposterous. I’m equally annoyed that the media is using “insurgent” but that is because (I’m pretty sure) the term is coming from the Administration and the military. The neutral term would be the “resistance” but I’m guessing that our government does not want there to be any chance the term is conflated with the French Resistance, who are viewed as heroic. “Insurgency” presupposes that the fighters are opposing a legitimately established government, which the fighters there certainly would deny. (See the Wikipedia entry on Insurgency for more information.) As to calling these people terrorists, perhaps some are. Many, though, consider themselves freedom fighters who are opposing an occupying force, attacking only Coalition military and the security forces of the Coalition-imposed government. Those are not the actions of terrorists. If the United States were invaded by a superior military force and a new government were imposed upon the country, there would certainly be people attacking both the invaders and the imposed government. These people would not, for the most part, be terrorists.

1/12/2005

No WMDs — anyone still surprised?

Filed under: — site admin @ 5:21 pm

The New York Times is reporting that the Bush Administration has called the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq over. “A White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, […] rejected the suggestion that the administration’s credibility had been gravely wounded in ways that could weaken its future response to perceived threats.” Of course he did. How many more years did they say Bush still has in office?

11/24/2004

Is America a Post-democratic Society?

Filed under: — site admin @ 8:54 am

Paul Kurtz’s essay, Is America a Post-democratic Society? in the latest issue of Free Inquiry is an especially cogent and concise analysis of the current state of our society. It’s fairly long, perhaps 6,000 words, but says an amazing amount in that space. There is nothing surprising or new in it, but it brings together a number of facts in interesting ways.

11/19/2004

Post-election humor

Filed under: — site admin @ 9:43 am

These links all via James Gosling’s weblog:

I guess at least I don’t have to spend the next four years defending a philandering husband with “Hey, that has nothing to do with being President,” and can instead invoke heartfelt righteous indignation about an Administration dedicated to kissing the asses of megacorporation CEOs. Maybe there’s a little consolation there. Maybe.

11/18/2004

Not Convinced

Filed under: — site admin @ 2:15 pm

The Washington Post reports that Secretary of State Colin Powell claims that Iran is working to adapt missiles to deliver nuclear weapons.

Sorry, Mr. Secretary, I’m not convinced.

I’ve held great respect for you as a sane voice in the Bush Administration; I think you are well-reasoned and temperate, that you practice statesmanship like few in my generation. Although a liberal Democrat, I sincerely hope you decide to run for president. (I’m not promising my vote, but I would love to have the choice.) I can do no better than to quote John Brady Kiesling:

Mr. Secretary, I have enormous respect for your character and ability. You have preserved more international credibility for us than our policy deserves, and salvaged something positive from the excesses of an ideological and self-serving administration

But on this issue, you have no credibility left. That was burned up after your presentation on Iraq to the United Nations helped send our country to war under false pretenses. I do not know whether you can do anything to restore my trust.

During your tenure, the United States has discarded the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and started work on new nuclear weapons. We have insisted on exemptions to the rules of the International Criminal Court. We have emasculated the United Nations. I’m willing to believe that you did not agree with any of these decisions, and went along with them rather than resign because you could do more good inside the administration than outside it. But we are now in a situation where the United States has no credibility in the world. And the Administration has no credibility — not even domestically — on potential nuclear threats. Your stature, even enhanced by the fact that you’ve resigned and have little to gain by toeing President Bush’s line, is not enough to sell me on this.

The funny thing is that I wouldn’t be surprised to find that what you say is true. But your saying so adds no more weight to these claims.

I’m glad for your sake that you’ve decided to leave the administration, although it is sad for the nation.

11/11/2004

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: ‘Groundhog Day’ in Iraq

Filed under: — site admin @ 5:22 pm

Thomas Friedman’s article, ‘Groundhog Day’ in Iraq asks some important questions about Iraq:

  1. Have we really finished the war in Iraq? And by that I mean, is it safe for Iraqis and reconstruction workers to drive even from the Baghdad airport into town, and for Iraqi politicians to hold campaign rallies and have a national dialogue about their country’s future?
  2. Do we have enough soldiers in Iraq to really provide a minimum level of security? Up to now President Bush has applied what I call the Rumsfeld Doctrine in Iraq: just enough troops to protect ourselves, but not Iraqis, and just enough troops to be blamed for everything that goes wrong in Iraq, but not enough to make things go right.

    Ah, Friedman, what do you know about troop levels? Actually, not much. Never shot a gun. But I’m not a chef either, and I know a good meal when I eat one. I know chaos when I see it, and my guess is that we are still at least two divisions short in Iraq.

  3. Can Iraqis agree on constitutional power-sharing? Is there a political entity called Iraq? Or is there just a bunch of disparate tribes and ethnic and religious communities? Is Iraq the way Iraq is because Saddam was the way Saddam was, or was Saddam the way Saddam was because Iraqis are the way they are - congenitally divided? We still don’t know the answer to this fundamental question because there has not been enough security for Iraqis to have a real horizontal dialogue.
  4. If Iraqis are able to make the leap from the despotism of Saddam Hussein to free elections and representative government, can we live with whomever they elect - which will be mostly politicians from Islamist parties? I take a very expansive view of this since it took Europe several hundred years to work out the culture, habits and institutions of constitutional politics. What you are seeing in Iraq today are the necessary first steps. If Iraqis elect Islamist politicians, so be it. But is our president ready for that group shot?
  5. Can we make a serious effort to achieve a psychological breakthrough with Iraqis and the wider Arab world? U.S. diplomacy in this regard has been pathetic. “It is sad to say this, but after 18 months the U.S. still hasn’t convinced Iraqis that it means well,” said Yitzhak Nakash, the Brandeis University expert on Iraq. “We have never been able to persuade Iraqis that we aren’t there for the oil. There still isn’t a basis for mutual trust.”
  6. Can the Bush team mend fences with Iran, and forge an understanding with Saudi Arabia and Syria to control the flow of Sunni militants into Iraq, so the situation there can be stabilized and the jihadists killed in Falluja are not replaced by a new bunch?

This time, let no one claim victory, or defeat, in Iraq until we have the answers to these six questions.

11/3/2004

Immigration Links

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:52 pm

Just in case…

There are a great number of other countries where English is the official language or is widely spoken:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas,The
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bermuda
  • Botswana
  • Brunei
  • Cameroon
  • Cayman Islands
  • Dominica
  • Fiji
  • Gambia,The
  • Ghana
  • Gibraltar
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Malawi
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Philippines
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Or maybe we can just discuss a New England / New York secession (New Jersey, I suppose you’re welcome too, but California is on its own.)

Stefan was right

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:27 pm

Stefan was right.

The bastard.

10/30/2004

Massachusetts Miracle

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:40 pm

Is it just magical thinking? Ever since the Red Sox won the world series, I’m a lot more sanguine over John Kerry’s chances in Tuesday’s election. I’ve been biting my nails, amazed that there could be any hope for President* Bush, given the absolute disaster he’s made of his first term, but feeling that I have to believe all the pollsters talking about how close the contest remains.

Now if I were a true Red Sox fan, it might just be attributed to giddy high spirits. But, while I do root for the team, I don’t really care much. I don’t care about any professional sports. I like to tease my wife with it. She grew up in a family devoted to the Sox, and got tired of hearing all about “those dirty Sox.” So ever since I learned of her family’s sorry history (after game six of 1986’s disasterous World Series) I’ve been teasing her with “This is going to be the year. This is the year the Red Sox will finally win it all.” But it really is a tease; I follow the standings just enough to be able to tell Amy how well the dirty Sox are doing. I don’t know what I’ll tease her with now that they’ve won.

So it can’t be enthusiasm from their winning, and I don’t really believe that there is any tie between the Massachusetts candidate and the Massachusetts major league team, I am nonetheless much more hopeful than I have been since before the conventions.

Maybe it’s simply that some of the more liberal columnists, Krugman and Ivins, for instance, have been claiming that it’s clearly going their way, while the conservative columnists I read aren’t daring to make such predictions aloud. Maybe they all have some insight that I’m not privvy to. I know that people are talking about the huge number of newly registered voters being more likely to vote Democratic, and about the number of youth registered who are not being polled because they only have cell phones. I know that Krugman talks about the undecided traditionally breaking for the challenger. But I know also that I’ve held out hope for all sorts of silly reasons before. I remember during the 2000 recounts giving credence to the argument that a great number of the overseas absentee ballots would likely end up being for Gore/Lieberman becasue so many were from Israel, when I shouldn’t have bought any of it for a minute since the overseas military votes certainly outnumbered them and were sure to weigh heavily for Bush.

Maybe it’s my recent talk with Stefan. He is certain that Kerry doesn’t have what it takes, that the country will never choose Kerry. Stefan is the same one to assure me, back in the early 90’s that Colin Powell was to be the next president. It’s not that Stefan is never right, but when he’s so certain about what’s likely to happen, I’m going to bet the other way. Maybe it’s just the underlying unspoken now-in-the-open competitiveness of our long friendship, but I’m going to go the other way here. Of course what he hears hanging out around a military contractor in Atlanta differs quite about from what I hear in New England intellectual communities!

But whatever it is, I am feeling much more hopeful about the results of the elections.

Go Sox! Go Kerry!

*Chosen by the Supreme Court.

10/5/2004

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Advertisement

Filed under: — site admin @ 2:43 pm

I have given money to several political campaigns in recent years. So now I’m on a number of mailing list, and get begging letters I rarely read. I know who I’m going to support and how much I’m willing to give them, so I simply refuse to bother with these missives. Yesterday, though, I got a chuckle when my very close friends, former President William Clinton and Senator Edward Kennedy, each sent me a letter. The very first thought at seeing them next to each other in the pile of mail was to wonder how many others got mail regularly from Bill and Ted.

I still haven’t opened them. But there’s a lot you can tell from the envelope.

Clinton is looking for money to build a library; we knew that was coming, didn’t we? His is in a large envelope with a nice looking return address for The William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas. The 2003 USA Nonprofit Org. stamp is pretty, a stylized seascape in front of a coniferous forest on a cliff, all rendered in shades of blue with a red and orange sky. If the letter shifts up in the envelope you can read much of the next line below it: “…se make your check payable to the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundatio…”

Kennedy is looking for contributions to the Democratic Town Committee. His envelope has a plain D.C. return address with “Senator Edward M. Kennedy” in bold. Across the middle of the envelope is, “We are within days of the most imporant election of our lifetime.” The stamp is more boring, a stylized eagle in brown on gold. Above my address is “Official Democratic Contributor #: F011471213.” Look at this honey, I’m official. They must think a great deal of my fifty bucks!

I think I won’t open these. They would lose the strange artistic quality with which I’ve somehow imbued them. Maybe I’ll frame them.

7/18/2004

Republicans Still Hope to Score Points on Gay Marriage

Filed under: — site admin @ 3:22 pm

From the New York Times: Republicans Still Hope to Score Points on Gay Marriage

Even in defeat, the effort by Republicans to thrust [Jim DeMint (R-SC)] front and center illustrates how the party intends to capitalize on the fight over gay marriage.

Republican lawmakers, strategists and activists said in interviews that they would seize on the issue to motivate conservative voters - and draw a clear comparison with Democrats on an issue on which Republicans think they are in sync with most Americans.

I’m trying to decide how I feel about this. My first take is that it’s horrible. I have no objection to gay marriage. I think in a generation or two its opponents will be viewed as anti-miscegenationists are viewed today. And so my first take says that this pandering to the right-wing on a measure known in advance to be well shy of the votes necessary for passage is politics at its worst.

With quotations like this, it becomes very clear that the main motivation of many proponents is purely political:

“Conservative members of both political parties will be risking liberalizing the definition of traditional marriage and eroding thousands of years of Judeo-Christian values, unless they vote for the Republican nominee,” said Kirk Humphreys, a Republican Senate hopeful in Oklahoma.

But there are certain to be some people who truly and honestly are pushing this because they think it’s the right thing to do. I voted for Nader; I can’t object too much to pushing hopeless causes. There was some pragmatism involved in my decision. Notwithstanding my objection to polls, I took into account the near-certainty that Gore would win Connecticut. If it had been close here, I might have voted differently. But I don’t think it is wrong to vote for what is certain to be a losing proposition, or to bring one forward if there is some overriding moral imperative.

So where does that leave me? I want to defend these elected officials’ right to promote their moral agenda, even though I disagree with it. But in the end, I don’t think it is a moral issue for many of them. I think it is pure politics. Mostly the people voting for such an amendment are the same people who claim to want to reduce the scope and size of the federal government, who advocate states’ rights over the federal government. It is very hard to square that with a sudden need to overturn the Massachusetts ruling granting homosexuals the same rights to marriage as heterosexuals. It just smells wrong.

So I guess, in the end, I’m not only opposed to the actual amendment, but I am upset by the fact that it’s proceeded as far as it has. I think people need to stop playing these stupid political games.

7/17/2004

Tough choices on the BOE

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:13 pm

For those who don’t know, I’m on the local Board of Educations. It’s a somewhat unusual board in that it’s responsible for only a single school. Our elementary school houses nearly 400 students in pre-Kindergarten through 6th grade (about 12 years old, for my vast horde of international readers. :-) Also note that in the US, “public” schools are ones operated by local and/or state governments, generally open to all students of age in a geographical region.) In most of Connecticut, and indeed, most of the United States, Boards of Education are responsible for a number of schools, covering through 12th grade. But we share regional schools for grades 7 and 8 and for grades 9 through 12 with two neighboring towns. Those schools have their own independent Board of Education.

The number of members is also unusual. Most boards and commissions I know of have an odd number of members. We have six, although that should change when our new charter goes into effect. There is no provision for breaking a tie, so tie votes simply fail. This has rarely been an issue; the board has rarely ever come across as political, and the majority of votes taken are unanimous. The only time I’ve seen the 3 - 3 split of the board cause any real problems were this past spring, when we had a fairly rancorous budget debate and a board very split on one hiring decision.

The chairperson plays a funny little game though, and it is starting to get really annoying. Of course he runs the meetings, which means that he can really control the debate. After each significant motion, he polls the members to see if they have anything to add and to get a sense of how they will likely vote. But he rarely contributes to these discussions himself. Then, when the vote comes, he votes in a politically expedient manner. If he thinks a motion is necessary but likely to be unpopular with some group in the community, he waits to see if his polling has provided the votes necessary to pass it without including his. If it does, then he votes against it. Or the reverse, if he thinks a popular motion needs to be rejected, he tallies the votes and if there are enough votes to defeat it, he votes yea. Sometimes he tells the rest of the board that we really need to vote for something, that legal or other important considerations mean a motion really needs approval; but then, knowing that it will pass, he votes against it. This man was the biggest vote-getter across all contests in the last election, and I’m beginning to see why. He gets to play the good guy for the public, and avoid many of the hard decisions.

At this past week’s meeting this all came to a head for me. We were shy two members, the two who are, along with me, the more liberal side of the Board. And we had one contentious issue on the agenda. There is in our area a public Montessori school with an interesting funding method: there is a $2,000 tuition due not from the student’s family but from the local board of education in the child’s town. It’s an interesting approach; presumably the idea is that no child should be excluded for economic reasons. That surely cannot be the only source of funding for the school. I assume the state subsidizes the rest of it. I don’t know their costs, but in my town, it costs approximately $8,000 per pupil. So it sounds in one sense like a good deal. But that’s misleading. The marginal cost of adding a student is nowhere near $2,000, really just additional supplies and maybe an extremely minor increase in heating/cooling costs.

Nonetheless, I would love to support this. One of our members is very much in favor of the “school choice” program. I don’t support the usual version of it. I don’t think public monies shoulc go to fund religious schools or any schools which don’t take on the strict mandate of the public school system to educate all children in a district without regards to race, religion, gender, economic status, or disciplinary problems (within reason.) But this is a different situation. It is a public school, with a similar enough mandate. The only substantial difference I see in their mandate is that this Montessori school only accepts a student if the school — together with the parents — decides if their unorthodox pedagogical methods are likely to help the child. I think it’s a wonderful idea. When parents of a local child brought us a request for funding, we had no policy to allow us to support a student in this manner. I helped write such a policy and get it passed. But there was no funding provided for it. The policy very intentionally only said that the board could support a child in this manner if it so chose.

The trouble is money. This was a very tight year economically. As well as an arbitrated large increase in teachers’ pay, we had some legal expenses and an overdo restructuring of our administration, all of which increased our budget substantially. In order to submit a budget with a realistic chance of passage, we had to cut several staff positions. These were teachers’ aides, people fundamentally involved in the educational process, including one aide who’d been absolutely wonderful this year in my daughter’s class and another who is a personal friend. I don’t think there was any reasonable way to avoid the cuts, but it hurt to do so.

In this environment, I could not in good conscience vote to spend $2,000 to send a child out of our school. Even if times had been really hard, if we didn’t have to do layoffs, I would absolutely have tried to find a way to afford this. But not as it stood.

Unfortunately, the chairperson started playing his games again. We had discussed this before, and there was a clear consensus that although we would create a policy to allow us the option of sending a child to such a school, we wouldn’t be able to fund it this year. The mother of the child in question was in the audience, and I think the chairperson was playing to her when he did his polling. He knew that I was troubled by the thought of funding this while laying off aides, and he knew that another member agreed with me on this. He knew that the remaining member present was very much in favor of school choice. Although he had recently told other Board members unambiguously that he didn’t believe we should fund this, he knew that he could safely vote in favor of it. And he did so.

The vote was called. Two ayes. One nay. I hesitated as they stared at me. I know the school in question; I have two nephews attending. I like the school and the Montessori philosopy. I think this is exactly the right way to offer school choice. But I had recently voted to lay off several useful people at the school. And now the chairperson is playing politics with the issue. The total money was not insignificant; two thousand dollars is substantial in a budget the size of ours. But I’m sure we could have found a way to swing it.

I probably only hesitated ten seconds or so. But it felt forever. I was so very tempted to abstain, letting the chairperson’s vote help swing the vote in favor of the issue. He would likely have been furious, with no outlet to express his anger; that possibility amused me. It was obvious to anyone watching that I was torn by this issue; I could certainly have gotten away with abstaining. I would love to be able to tweak the chairperson about money thereafter.

In the end, though, that is not what I was elected to do. I was elected to make sure that our school does everything possible inside our budget constraints to ensure that our children learn what they should. In the end, I didn’t play the chairperson’s games. In the end, I voted no.

From now on, I will deal with the chairperson’s games in a different way. I will still ask questions and state some opinions when he does his polling. But he better not count any more on knowing which way I’m going to vote. And he damn well better not bemoan the passage of a motion that he himself approved.

Powered by WordPress