Why the truth is important even if it’s not always good

This is the second part of my last post/essay that ended with mission of revealing the truth, even if it is ugly.

When I first joined the Louisiana Department of Education it was during a Democratic Governor’s administration, Governor Kathleen Blanco.  However education reformers were filtering in like former LDOE Superintendent Paul Pastorek.  With them came new ideas, but also urgings to be less than forthcoming on some results and reports.  Many of our metrics were tinkered with behind the scenes – to help individual districts and regional Louisiana power brokers.  This bothered me, but I was told that’s “just the way it is.”

Regardless of who is in power, they all want to show themselves and their initiatives in the most positive light.

That’s the game.

Democrats and Republican’s both rationalize shading (also lying or concealing) as a means to an end.  They believe their ends justify their means.  I was told stories by my colleagues about previous administrations of both Republicans like Mike Foster and Democrats like Edwin Edwards, and whatever Buddy Roemer was (he was elected Governor as a Democrat and lost his reelection bid as a Republican), that backed this assertion up.

When Jindal came to power the game changed . . . a lot.  Beyond simple “shading” of results we entered a phase of full-blown falsification and manipulation of results to show specific outcomes for specific benefactors.  In the past this game was usually handled discreetly and with minor omissions or re-characterizations of data after it was gathered.  Anyone with enough time and understanding could have delved into the data and discovered their own versions of the truth.

Under Paul Pastorek’s and John White’s administrations this has taken the form of detailed plans developed with forethought and engineered for some very specific and targeted purposes.  Namely to show traditional schools in a negative light and charter schools and reform initiatives as positively as possible.   Some of these initiatives and the gerrymandering of results were known to Governor Jindal (like vouchers and charter schools), and approved by him.  Other initiatives were not but he was sold on and later (and regretted) like Common Core, inBloom, and Value Added Modeling (VAM) for measuring teachers.

(VAM measures teachers by linking them to student tests scores, but this method is statistically invalid and difficult to account for students at the upper and lower ends of the achievement spectrums.  VAM results have also been directly altered by the John White Administration to achieve specific results for specific teachers.)

When you permit your subordinates to shade or distort the truth for your own personal benefits and gains you walk a slippery slope that rarely ends well.

When our political leaders gave agencies like the CIA, FBI, IRS and NSA duties to perform  (protect the United States) and failed to properly oversee, monitor and constrain them we got these agencies reinterpreting their own missions to include warrantless wiretapping, torturing and assassinating Americans, allowing  these agencies to lie to Congress, and rationalizing handing over some major artillery to drug gangs.  It is imperative that our public institutions be open to the public and above reproach to prevent corruption, fraud, waste and avoidable tragic outcomes.  When we permit agencies and agency heads the discretion to lie to the public just to defend their policies from proper review and oversight we pervert the entire meaning of democratic rule.

The Jindal Administration has lost control of their agencies in Louisiana by encouraging department heads like John White of LDOE and the now indicted Bruce Greenstein of DHH to lie and distort facts to promote their agenda and goals.  When you have control of the data that reviews your own policies, and you alter that data (or allow your subordinates to alter or mischaracterize the data) you prevent the public from properly evaluating your performance and the efficacy of your policies.  When you refuse to allow others to look at your data, as John White and LDOE regularly does, you corrupt the democratic process.  People are forced to judge you based on the propaganda you have provided them and cannot make informed decisions.  Jindal won’t be in office forever, but his precedents for lying and concealing documents under “deliberative process” exceptions and from straight up refusals  requiring court orders will live on long after he becomes a failed presidential candidate.

Informed decision making is necessary for a healthy democracy.

When you allow your subordinates to lie, you may also be caught up in those lies.  Lies beget more lies to cover them up.  Eventually you don’t even know the truth because no one really does.  Without accurate evaluation of your policies you can’t determine if they are good or bad, how to make them better or which ones to terminate.   Your subordinates may also decide to lie and distort their performance for their own personal benefits and agendas as John White and Bruce Greenstein appear to have done.  The Jindal administration is only now coming to terms with how their subordinates lied and distorted more than they were unofficially authorized to do.  This is what the IRS, CIA, and NSA have done, which Congress and the Obama administration have been coming to terms with.  As a leader, once you normalize lying, distortion and corruption you lose the ability to control who is doing it or what they are lying about, and you transfer power from yourself to your subordinates.  At this point you are at their mercy and subject to whatever they choose to say . . . or not say.

I think some politicians rationalize lying to try and buy time for their policies to work.   They sincerely believe that given enough time, their policies will be effective, but that the news cycle won’t give them the necessary breathing room and time to work.

There actually may be some truth to this.

Evaluating all the impacts of a major policy change takes time and can often be very complicated with many ramifications to consider.  The messaging required to support complex changes does not lend itself well to a campaign bumper sticker or 5 second TV commercial.  Unfortunately too many of us that vote get our opinions about candidates and their polices from these sources,  or if we don’t know who to vote for we simply pick the letter we feel most comfortable with (D or R) and call it a day when we reach the ballot box.

Politicians and their campaign advisors understand this mentality.  They build their campaigns around assuming a certain number of voters will pick their candidates in a given area based on the letter next to their name.  They then focus on emotional advertising to inspire their often strategically chosen Lettered folks to the polls, and to sway any of the Unlettered folks (Independents and Undecideds) in the middle.

Sadly, I don’t think this comes as a surprise to any of my readers.

We accept this as “just the way it is.”

As long as we place a high value on simply voting, and no value on informed voting, we should expect our politicians to lie to us.  It would be easy to blame our pols and their polls as the root of the political corruption in our society.  We could go on about our business, free from any responsibility or guilt, smugly content with our moral purity, and promptly proceed to ignore how our laziness towards our civic duties has contributed to this environment in which the least honest and most attractively marketed politicians thrive.

I would like you to try an experiment the next time you go to the polls.  Rather than simply voting for someone with a letter you like, or against a letter you don’t like, don’t vote at all if you don’t know anything about any of the candidates.  Try to inform yourself on what folks actually stand for, what their histories have been, and how you feel they will represent you.  Get a little more involved in the process.  I often hear complaints about how low our voter turn-out is in this country.  Maybe when that occurs that’s actually a good thing?  Maybe those are the folks that have taken the time to get informed and feel motivated to participate in the process without hand-holding or special prompting?

Many campaigns believe all they have to do is “mobilize their base” and they will win without any substantive policy commitments, without having to answer any question about their records, and without having to demonstrate any knowledge of the office they intend to hold.  I see Democrats and Republicans both engaging in these types of campaigns, by throwing around “red meat” issues and taking uncompromising but also impossible stands on various issues to spur their core voters to show up at the polls.  What gets lost in all that noise is any substantive policy debate or campaign promises that can be kept or that are good for all the people.  What also seems to be lost is that politicians and elected officials are not supposed to just server the victors in our winner-takes-all contests that most elections have become, but all the people.

Just because people did not vote for you, that does not make them your enemies.

But it certainly feels that way though, doesn’t it?

Is it any wonder the public is so dissatisfied with Congress in general, or politicians as a whole?  Winners make promises they can’t hope to keep to get elected, and they if they somehow manage to make good on their promises they often further alienate half the population.  Rather than working for the country to make it better, Democrats and Republicans, Reds and Blues, Donkeys and Elephants, Conservatives and Liberals, have become rival teams in an unending power struggle and contest that no one ever really wins, a game with infinite overtimes.  To me it feels like these teams pass the trophy (us) back and forth.  We are just a means to an end to them and once they get what they need from us every 2, 4 or 6 years they return to their old habits and the old game where winning is more important than what is being won, or who is hurt in the process.

I recently realized this is a bigger problem than faux education reform, but directly related.  Politics in the United States has become a two person game that never ends.  All of us are players whether we want to be or not.  Multinational Corporations, Education Reformers and Bankers realized this a long time ago (which is why these are also often the same players.)  To ensure they are always winners they give to both sides so that no matter who wins an election, they are the only true winners.  I don’t believe this situation is healthy or can possibly end well.  More and more our “two” political parties have actually come to agree on more than they disagree when it comes to setting national policy.  This has resulted in enormous budget deficits and debts (both sides like to spend more than they take in revenue.)  Both sides enjoyed watching the economic expansion fueled by subprime mortgages, and blame each other for the collapse.  (Incidentally they were both right.)  Both sides have wastefully employed our US military as a police force for the world while allowing our healthcare systems for veterans the veterans of these conflicts to decay.  Both sides have given the banking sector a get out of jail and/or bankruptcy free cards.  Bankers have not been punished for defrauding the US and the world of trillions of dollars, but both sides have fueled a prison system and militarized police forces that would be the envy of totalitarian states like China and Iran and which incarcerates victimless offenders for life for minor drug offences.

For this reason I have decided I cannot run for elective office as a Democrat or Republican.  However, for the first time in my life I have registered for a political party – which generally goes against my principles of trying to remain impartial and my general distrust of political parties.

  • I made an exception because even though I told people I was running as an Independent or No Party candidate, many folks thought I was (or accused me of being) an Occupy Democrat or a Tea-Party Republican.
  • I made an exception because I wanted a chance to define myself, rather than let other people define me.
  • I made an exception because I think the Libertarian ideals of limited local government and government interference are important, less corruptible and more efficient and in line with what most people believe in but have not been able to find.
  • I made an exception because I don’t want to tell people what to do and I don’t want to appear biased to one side or the other.
  • I made and exception because I want to be seen as someone who really want to provide accurate information that people can use to form their own judgments.
  • But mostly, I made this decision because I believe someone has to.

Democrats and Republicans are not my enemy, any more than they should be the enemies of each other.  We are all countrymen, all Americans, and we all want the best for ourselves, our children and our country.  However without breathing room between elections, without honest oversight from mainstream media – which is often owned by corporations wishing to influence public opinion one way or the other – I feel we desperately lack impartial oversight.

At a time when most laws by our elected and appointed judges are now decided along partisan lines, and when the public expects this, I know that we have taken partisanship too far.  Justice is no longer blind, but it has been lamed and corrupted.  When we expect our judges to vote for things based on who appointed them (or what letter is next to their name) rather than what the law says, don’t you think we enable and encourage this mockery of Democracy and justice to continue?

I think I get along pretty well with both Tea-Party groups and Occupy Wall Street groups.  These movements are part of a growing dissatisfaction with the current dysfunctional and animus infused status quo.  If you identify with one of these groups, there may be a reason you feel like tolerated outsiders in the Republican and Democrat parties but get along with me.

Maybe your ideas are too complex for the two generally accepted checkboxes?

Maybe it’s time you took your political business elsewhere?

I’m not saying you need to become a Libertarian like I have, but it might be a good place to start looking. I think you owe yourself, your children, and your country at least that much.  It’s your choice if you want to continue choosing between 2 bad choices.

Thanks for listening,


Guest Essay: Why Common Core Should Bother All Republicans




“Our current system of top-heavy, bureaucratic, centrally planned education is failing to ensure the quality of education our children need and deserve. Therefore, we support measures that maintain the independence of Louisiana schools from the federal government. We support keeping all Louisiana education dollars in Louisiana without going to maintain unneeded bureaucrats at the national level.

Real education reform means local control of curriculum, budget, textbook selection, and personnel in the public schools. We believe parents must have complete access to all information concerning curriculum and activities used in educating their children, and we believe parents must have access to all materials used for teacher development in the public school system.”

Considering the push to promote the Common Core State Standards Initiative in the state of Louisiana by many of our Republican legislators, it is surprising to note that the above quotes are from the platform of the Republican Party of Louisiana.


Since the implementation of these standards has begun in our state, citizens are educating themselves about the full agenda associated with Common Core. There are several Republican legislators in Louisiana who are aware of this and are working hard to rid Common Core from our state. Fortunately, this number is growing.


Many Republicans, like me, are wondering how other legislators, particularly Republicans, can support something which is in complete opposition to the platform which they are supposed to uphold. Have some of our elected Republicans failed to realize that when they run as a Republican and are elected as a Republican, their constituents expect them to vote and make decisions as a Republican as well as remain true to their party?


Common Core does not align with what Republicans represent. It does not align with our country represents. Both the Republican National Committee and the National Federation of Republican Women have been able to see this and both organizations passed resolutions opposing the Common Core State Standards.


Recently, US Representative Jeff Duncan (R-SC) sponsored a bill to retain state authority over education and denounce Obama’s coercion of states to adopt Common Core. Forty-two Republican representatives co-sponsored this resolution, including Louisiana’s John Fleming. There was also a similar Senate Resolution 345 drafted by Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and co-sponsored by nine other Republicans.


The driving force behind creation of these resolutions is due to the amount of authority that these national standards and their associated assessments take from the local districts and states and gives to the federal government. This action is in violation of the United States Constitution which does not give a role to the federal government in dictating what is taught and how it is tested in our children’s classrooms. During a 2010 speech to UNESCO, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated,


“Traditionally, the federal government has had a limited role in education policy. The Obama administration has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role, so that the Department is doing much more.”


It seems that Mr. Duncan forgot that it is the Constitution that has limited the role of the federal government in education, not tradition.


The federal government’s role in this initiative is undeniable. After the Bill Gates-funded standards were developed, the federal government worked hard to coerce the states to adopt them through the Race to the Top competitive grant, NCLB waivers, and Title I funds. In Obama’s Blueprint for Reform, it states:


“Beginning in 2015, formula funds will be available only to states that are implementing assessments based on college- and career-ready standards that are common to a significant number of states.”


This report failed to mention that college-ready is defined by Common Core standards creator Dr. Jason Zimba as meaning ready for a non-selective community college, not a four-year college.


The federal government is also exerting its control through its agreement with participating states in the testing consortia (PARCC and SBAC), which are funded exclusively by the federal government. The purpose of these groups is to create the Common Core-aligned assessment tests and provide individual student data to the US Dept. of Education – which can share it with whomever they choose due to recent changes to the FERPA law. They will also provide curriculum frameworks to assist teachers. This is in direct violation of the General Education Provisions Act. In the cooperative agreements between the US Dept. of Education and the member states, it mandates that these participating states report fully and often to the US Dept. of Education, produce:


“all student-level data in a manner consistent with an industry-recognized open-licensed interoperability standard” that is approved by the Department and must “working with the Department to develop a strategy to make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis for research, including for prospective linking, validity, and program improvement studies; subject to applicable privacy laws.”


It is obvious that the largest overreach of the federal government occurs within its role in SBAC and PARCC. Since high-stakes assessment tests ultimately result in teachers feeling pressured to “teach to the test,” the curriculum will inevitably be developed based upon these federally-funded tests. By default, the control of curriculum will not remain in the hands of our local school districts. It will be our federal government who is in charge of what and how our children learn.


Critics of the Common Core initiative, including myself, are not misinformed but rather quite educated on what is behind this particular attempt at education reform.


  • We reject what our state officials are trying to force on us.


  • We are aware that this is an attempt to improve our workforce, not an attempt to improve education.


Common Core is a political movement that is being driven by money and an agenda.


Now, we are just waiting to see the next step of our Republican legislators.


  • Will they give in to the big businesses who are promoting Common Core because of their potential future profits or their belief that these unproven, untested standards will provide them with a better workforce?


  • Will they continue to arrogantly assume they know what is best and blame the criticism on “hysteria”?


  • Will they act as elitists, or will they listen to their constituents who are loudly rejecting the initiative of Common Core?


Big businesses might be able to provide funds and support campaigns, but the common citizens are the ones who can provide votes. We are watching to see if our Republican legislators will remain true to the platform of their party and true to the beliefs of their constituents. We will remember what they decide when we next cast our votes.






Let me just start by saying I am not a Republican do it would probably be inappropriate for me to write this piece. I’m also not a Democrat, Tea party member, Greenie, Reform Party member, or Libertarian. I share some of the same beliefs and goals as each of these parties, but I am not beholden to any of them. Throughout my life I’ve thought I belonged to one or another of these groups, but over time I realized I didn’t want to belong to anyone but myself and my own ideals. That’s not to say any of these groups are inherently “bad” or wrong or that belonging to a political party is bad or wrong, just that doing so does not work for me personally. Every day I see more and more dysfunction in Washington and in our own Capital, and every day I feel a little better about my own personal decision. There are advantages to belonging to a party such as money, organization, and in some cases matching animal symbols. (If Democrats had cooler symbols than elephants and donkeys, like Griffin’s and Dragons I might change my mind, but I am in no hurry to commit myself to such an uncool symbols. . . and besides, doing so would clash with my whole Crawfish angle.)

Political Parties have platforms. These are the ideals ideas and stances that drive their agenda, or at least they are supposed to. Many people are drawn to these ideals and principles and commit themselves to upholding supporting them through a collective effort, through their party. What I have seen too often is parties that fail uphold their own ideals, or allow outside money and influence to dictate how actively they pursue their goals. In some cases I’ve seen parties take the exact opposite of their proclaimed stance. I would understand that approach if it was done openly, but all too often it is not. I sometimes switch my longer held beliefs when presented with new information, circumstances or realizations. For instance; when I was in my teens and twenties I prized personal freedom above safety, now that I have kids to protect I am much more appreciative of sobriety checkpoints, metal detectors, and ID checks at cash registers and movie theatres. I think that is a natural progression and I will be the first to admit it and I see nothing dishonest about that type of personal evolution. What I have a problem with is what one of my readers, Anna Arthurs, describes. When a group forsakes and abandons its own ideals and values it betrays all of the members who had committed to that group and those beliefs it loses all credibility in the eyes of its members.

Obama’s education policies that widen the divide between the haves and have nots and promote a corporate takeover of Curriculum and schools, for the purpose of raising campaign funds and enriching wealthy donors will drive a lot of folks from the Democrat party. I wonder if the Republican embracement of nearly identical policies will drive a similar flight from their party as well? I see that happening if they continue to lie to their constituents about promoting local control over Big Government, corporate rights to educate and control children over parent’s rights to determine what is right for their own children. Frankly, I don’t see that as a winning stance for any Party, but I have no doubt it could be a very profitable one as there will be plenty of money available to those willing to sell out their constituents. Which way will Republicans take on this issue? According to their “Platform” they took the right way, but according to their actions . . . ?


Romney, the Secret Democrat.

Romney, the Secret Democrat.


Great editorial. There is very little I can add, except this picture representation.  Could Romney be a secret Democrat?

Originally posted on mykeystrokes.com:

As often as not, parties nominate candidates for president that pretty much all their own partisans acknowledge are less than inspiring. Democrats were so excited about Barack Obama in 2008 partly because their previous two nominees, John Kerry and Al Gore, rode to the nomination on a stirring sentiment of “Well, OK, I guess.” The same happened to Republicans, who adored the easygoing George W. Bush after the grim candidacies of Bob Dole and Bush’s father. And now that Mitt Romney has suffered through an awful few weeks—a mediocre convention, an embarrassing response to the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi, then the release of the “47 percent” video in which Romney accused almost half of America of refusing to “take responsibility for their own lives”—the knives have come out.

First it was a widely shared Politico story full of intramural Romney campaign sniping, most directed at chief strategist Stuart Stevens…

View original 990 more words

Bet You Didn’t Know it Will Be the Republicans That Come for Your Guns?

Bet You Didn’t Know it Will Be the Republicans That Come for Your Guns?

It won’t happen overnight of course, but in 10-15 years Republicans will be the ones pushing for gun controls, registrations, and confiscations of your guns – so enjoy them now while you can.

I expect them to be very successful in this drive.

You may think I’m crazy to think this way, but that’s my job here . . .  to observe social phenomenon and patterns and project out their natural evolutions.  Anyone can project the obvious ones, like the dissolution of the middle class, a rise in cyber-crime and cyber espionage, etc.    I don’t really expect you to believe me; this analysis is really just for my own amusement but if you are curious how I arrive at this conclusion, come along with me.

Let’s get to the first obvious point I mention in in the previous paragraph.  You may not believe me on this point, and that’s okay, but the data on this issue is pretty obvious and incontrovertible.  Our middle class is disappearing and it’s not coming back unless something radical happens.  The trend for the last 30-40 years has been greater and greater income inequality.  Our wealth is being siphoned off by multinational corporations with Cayman Island addresses, politically connected individuals that give themselves or their cronies’ sweetheart deals, and unpatriotic souls availing themselves of every available tax loophole or tax haven they can find (or pay to have created by Congress.)

This trend is about to rapidly accelerate.  The primary factor behind this is the oversized and unregulated influence of virtually unlimited money unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.  That decision opened the floodgates for Corporations and individuals to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections without disclosing their identities.  The Supreme Court made the argument that:

  •  Corporations are “people”
  • Money  equals speech
  • Congress does not have the right to limit speech of “people.”

I won’t bother to explain how this will impact elections and how elected officials will respond to this development.  Anyone with even half a brain (so that means most Republican’s too) can see the insane amounts of money being raised from relatively few individuals now.  Those individuals and corporations are buying access to our officials, and drafting legislation for them to introduce.  This legislation will favor the rights and finances of the few over the many.  These bills will favor policies that wring the wealth from our country for the coffers of any who covet it.  There will be no long term consideration paid to environmental factors, education issues, health issues, or sustainability.  Any freedoms you will be left with will be illusory; tokens to appease the majority while a small minority strips this country bare and enslaves its people for our corporatist overlords.  Many of these laws and freedoms will be designed to generate hate and drive wedges between various unincorporated and disenfranchised sections of our country.  Laws have and will continue to be sponsored and created that allow or ban gay marriage, limit or allow abortions and birth controls, restrict or encourage various religions over other ones.  These actions are how they keep everyone’s eye off the ball.  They stir up hate and antipathy with highly contentious bills, while more oblique ones get slipped in that deprive you of your rights, property, and future.

So how do I get to the guns part?

Eventually we will start to starve.  Our country will attain 3rd World status.  The pain, suffering and inequality will be too hard to hide.  The wealthy will build isolated enclaves to keep us out and keep the truth about their obscene amounts of wealth away from prying eyes, but their children, their princelings, will want to play with the world beneath their feet – the world where their sewage trickles down to – for us to try and live on.

Eventually even Fox News will lose its luster and as so many are left homeless, unemployed, and hopeless.  Wewill still have “guns and religion” though.  That is always a dangerous combination.  This is when the wealthy will come for the guns.  They will enact laws that limit the size and the quantity of your hardware.  They will limit your magazine sizes and lengthen your waiting periods and enact usage restrictions.  They will close your parks to hunting (those cost taxes to maintain so that will be easy) and they will eventually simply take your guns so you are powerless to oppose them.

I am personally in favor of much more gun controls than we have.  I would like to see them banned in many places they are now commonplace because I do think they cause many unnecessary deaths, increase crime, and overall encourage a darker, more barbaric and confrontational culture.  However, with what I see coming in the next few years, the guns and the gun owners may be our only hope to throw off the yokes of our corporatist oppressors.

However the Corporatists are already conditioning us.  They are sponsoring and creating unregulated “religious” schools through “voucher” and private “scholarship” programs from which they will turn our children into obedient fanatics in much the same way Yasser Arafat converted an entire generation of Palestinians into suicide bombs.  Their plan is to create a Christian based theocratic puppet government.  This government will encourage us to take on vows of austerity and poverty in the name of piety and pseudo-nationalism while our true masters rollick in their Olympianesque Edens.

So hold onto your guns while you can.  At least maybe that way you keep your illusion of being free a little longer.