Economy Education Elections '08 Media National Politics Presidential Race



As we gear up for this week’s Democratic convention,
here are a bunch of must-read stories, each variations on a theme:


First there is a cautionary lecture from Frank Rich in the NY Times, who tells Obama and Biden that they’d better retool their message ASAP to focus on the problems that are really of concern to Americans. Below are the most relevant ‘graphs:

… hour is here. As the presidential race finally gains the country’s full attention, the strategy that vanquished Hillary Clinton must be rebooted to take out John McCain.

Economic anxiety is the new terrorism. This is why the most relevant snapshot of voters’ concerns was not to be found at Saddleback Church but at the Olympics last Saturday. For all the political press’s hype, only some 5.5 million viewers tuned in to the Rev. Rick Warren’s show in Orange County, Calif. Roughly three-quarters of them were over 50 — in other words, the McCain base. By contrast, a diverse audience of 32 million Americans tuned in to Beijing that night to watch Michael Phelps win his eighth gold medal.

This was a rare feel-good moment for a depressed country. But the unsettling subtext of the Olympics has been as resonant for Americans as the Phelps triumph. You couldn’t watch NBC’s weeks of coverage without feeling bombarded by an ascendant China whose superior cache of gold medals and dazzling management of the Games became a proxy for its spectacular commercial and cultural prowess in the new century. Even before the Olympics began, a July CNN poll found that 70 percent of Americans fear China’s economic might — about as many as find America on the wrong track. Americans watching the Olympics could not escape the reality that China in particular and Asia in general will continue to outpace our country in growth while we remain mired in stagnancy and debt (much of it held by China).

How we dig out of this quagmire is the American story that Obama must tell. It is not a story of endless conflicts abroad but a potentially inspiring tale of serious economic, educational, energy and health-care mobilization at home. We don’t have the time or resources to go off on more quixotic military missions or to indulge in culture wars. (In China, they’re too busy exploiting scientific advances for competitive advantage to reopen settled debates about Darwin.) Americans must band together for change before the new century leaves us completely behind.


One example of where Obama/Biden need to be looking was exemplified in newspapers from the San Jose Mercury News to the New York Times, which had weekend articles about how the nuts and bolts of sending kids to school may cause economic hardships for many families this fall. The articles described how cafeteria lunch prices are jumping and how school districts in California and elsewhere, now faced with high gas prices, are being forced to charge for the school bus service that had always been provided for the district’s kids for free.

(cough—$10 billion monthly burn rate in Iraq—cough)


While K-12 parents struggle, there is also the matter of higher education. In an opinion piece in Sunday’s LA Times, a young woman named Zoe Mendelson, who will be a freshman at Barnard College this fall, talks about the difficulties of affording college in an era with dwindling financial aid available for middle class students, even those who are scholastically outstanding. She is lucky, Zoe says, because her parents are lower income and could save nothing to send her to college. But many of her friends with grades and test scores at the top of their class were ineligible for most scholarships.

Here is a clip from Mendelson’s piece:

My friend Maggie is far more disciplined and hardworking than me, and, like me, she graduated in the top 10 of our high school class. She emigrated from Russia when she was 5. Her dad is a limo driver and earns just enough to support their family of four. Maggie has been accepted at Bard College, which gave her a significant aid package, but she is still responsible for $8,000 a year. Bard assumed that she’d be able to get a loan for that. She applied for a dozen and was rejected for all of them.

Is this how we make American strong? Really?


Finally one more education story. But this one, sent to me by commenter Woody from the Birmingham News, contains solutions not just problems.

It deals with the Birmingham, Alabama, school system’s decision
to buy all its elementary school students those cheapie, you-can’t-kill ‘em XO laptops that were designed for kids in developing countries. This spring, Birmingham tried out the XO strategy in a pilot program that was a rousing success.

Now mind you Birmingham ranks 107 out of 127 school systems in Alabama, which ranks 48 among 50 state in America.

But Birmingham aims to change all that. And the XO idea represents one small victory that district and city officials hope will trigger more needed victories for Birmingham’s kids.

The Birmingham city school system is the first in the nation to distribute the XO laptops to students on such a large scale.

“We’ve been last in so many things, it just kind of dawned on me it would be kind of nice to be first in something that makes sense,” said Mayor Larry Langford…

Education is just one of the problem areas that the Democrats must address this week.

Obviously there are one or two (or ten) others. So stay tuned.



Meanwhile, if you haven’t already seen it, check out this LA Times story about how the FBI saw the mortgage crisis coming but was too focused on terrorism—and illegal immigration—to act on the looming catastrophe that it very clearly recognized.


  • We don’t have the time or resources to go off on more quixotic military missions or to indulge in culture wars. (In China, they’re too busy exploiting scientific advances for competitive advantage to reopen settled debates about Darwin.)


    China doesn’t have culture wars because it enforces immigration laws and doesn’t allow it’s strictly controlled citizens any public dissention. China also doesn’t waste time on liberals debating the right of it citizens to view porn or any other things which might deprave its population.

    China also made great strides in technology by stealing and copying the inventions of everybody and anybody.

    I wonder how many government workers in China have employee unions which can make outrageous demands of its employee or sue them when their not happy?

    Does Frank Rich know the U.S. and China are very different countries? Does Frank Rich know if he were Chinese, his stupid comparison and complaints of his country would get his dumb ass tossed in jail?

  • Want to fight higher gas prices for school buses? Copy what this district did.

    School Board’s no-left-turn request aimed at efficiency

    This year, following the lead of a national freight carrier, the SAD 27 board of directors has issued a voluntary call for all private and district bus drivers to modify their driving routes by making fewer left turns. The modification has already demonstrated its efficiency.

    “This year we are faced with dealing with the high cost of fuel, and as such we have taken steps to become more efficient,” SAD 27 Superintendent Patrick O’Neill said in a letter to district residents. “One such idea that has gotten UPS lots of attention is the ‘Don’t Turn Left’ concept.”

    In 2007, UPS used route-planning technology to map out delivery driving patterns to minimize left hand turns and decrease time spent idling in traffic waiting to turn.

    According to the company’s Web site, the changes shaved close to 30 million miles off delivery routes, saved 3 million gallons of gas and reduced emissions by 32,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide — the equivalent of removing 5,300 passenger cars from the road for a year.

    “In the course of one year [UPS] saved millions of dollars by following this routine in their daily truck deliveries,” O’Neill said. “Why not try it here in Fort Kent this year?”

    I can’t think of anything better than to stop our schools from taking the children to the left.

  • Enough of this feel good bullshit Woody. These bastard Republicans have been running this world into the ground since day one pitting man against his fellow man because he had a different religion or spoke a different language. Killing for profit and the spoils of war.Keeping the rest of us as slaves to till their gardens for them.

    One time when I was depressed I saw a young woman walking down the street. She was full of energy, smiling, radiantly healthy. I thought: you know, she lives in the same world I live in, but she isn’t depressed. It is not necessary to be depressed. I have an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, but she just gets on with her life. What is foreground for me is background for her.

  • Shocked! Shocked to hear that the middle class is overlooked in the zeal to find scholarships for the poor, especially if they’re “people of color,” better yet if they’re immigrants from developing countries. If they’re illegal, they deserve a special “Dream Act.” Kind of like what’s happening in the local LAUSD, when it comes to who the new schools are being built for with billions and billions of bond money — paid for by property owners, largely the struggling families of these college-bound kids who get screwed again.

  • Enough of this feel good bullshit Woody. These bastard Republicans have been running this world into the ground since day one pitting man against his fellow man because he had a different religion or spoke a different language. Killing for profit and the spoils of war.Keeping the rest of us as slaves to till their gardens for them.


    The republicans control the world, run, run, to your abuelita’s house she will protect you from the republicans !!!!!

  • “We” have won. The System is collapsing under its own economic weight. Houses and banks are foreclosing. “The beast is dead.”

    The collapse, dear boy, is the plan.
    Suggest reading Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror” because the reflection is now near indeed.

  • The Democrats are addressing education tonight by putting the leaders of the major teachers’ unions on the podium to speak. I’m sure that it’s “for the children.”

  • Good column by Rich and IMHO right on. I could be mistaken but I don’t think people are going to be BS’d into voting based on the old Guns, Gays, and Abortion crap this time around. And I don’t think people are going to be BS’s into believing it’s the poor who are the threat to the middle class anymore.
    If the Democrats are smart they will hammer away at the ever widening gap economically between the Wealthy and entitled minority and the middle and working class people who are under attack and diminishing in numbers rapidly.

    If McSame choses ROmney or another Rich Guy Robber Baron stand-in then the two Democrats from working class backgrounds ought point it out and work it for all it’s worth.

    Use the ecomomic working class card because the record of the Republicans the last eight years is dismal and a sitting duck for the Democrats

  • I can hardly wait until the great savior Democrats take power in the White House, then and only then will the country be run as efficiently as the City of Los Angeles which is run by the Democrats.

    Los Angeles has fantastic, honest humble, Democratic politicians who were born poor and not rich as was John McCain and are therefore honest and beyond reproach or corruption.

    Los Angeles has honest and outstanding Democratic politicians whose first concern are its citizens, (and Mexico’s) and would never do any favors for billionaire developers who contribute to their campaigns.

    Los Angeles has the best schools under the Democrats; and LAUSD has brightest students in the world.

    Los Angeles under the Democrats has no gangs and daily gang murders or thousands or yearly gang shootings as do cities run by the republicans.

    Democrats would never ever allow any wasteful spending in any government agency. Like those evil republicans.

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