The Vatican takes on its most daunting target

The Vatican has just put out its “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road“, which I have to believe is aimed directly at Massachusetts drivers, rated as the worst in the nation. A brief snippet: Sometimes the prohibitions imposed by road signs may be perceived as restrictions of freedom. Especially when unobserved and unmonitored, some people are tempted to infringe such limitations, which are in fact designed to protect them and other people. Some drivers thus consider the duty to respect certain prudent regulations that reduce traffic risks and dangers as humiliating. Others deem it intolerable – almost a curtailment of their “rights” – to be obliged to follow patiently another vehicle that is travelling slowly, because, for example, […]

More Pension Fun

Today’s Globe has two stories on pensions today. In the first, it reports that the Board of Higher Ed has changed its policy to include housing allowances in the calculation of pension benefits for its college presidents. Former UMASS president Bulger won his court case on this matter, so it appears that the board really had no choice. But the whole matter prompts some questions: How did we get into the practice of paying housing allowances in the first place? I’ve heard several times that this is ‘standard practice’, but the Globe reports: Last year, the American Council on Education surveyed 2,148 public and private college presidents nationwide and found that 20 percent received housing allowances and 28 percent lived […]

Naples v. Massachusetts on the Seat Belt Freedom Index

Wearing your seat belt is a good idea. Full stop. Please do not write in telling me that I am urging people to break the law. I am simply recounting a story from 1986, the first time I ever stepped foot in Naples, Italy. Lots of people hate the place — chaotic, sometimes 3 people and furniture driving down the road on a moped, sometimes those mopeds on the sidewalk (but only when cars aren’t parked there)… There is the Mergellina district with heroine and, uh, other things. There is also one of the most beautiful bays and overlooks around, the best, best, best pizza, and there are beautiful women who actually read books (unlike in Rome). So, on balance, […]

Putting mother in the back seat

I adore my mother.  She complains this year that I put in too many tomato, cucumber, eggplant, pepper and basil and parsley plants in her backyard; I tell her that she still has way too much grass.  While she says she doesn’t mind, in the end, she doesn’t water the plants in that quiet revenge that mothers are so good at.  She cooks good stuff for everyone and stuffs the kids with baklava, so no one takes the complaints too far.  It’s called love.  Well, now, mother, whether you water the plants or not, you are going to have to sit in the back seat!  Seems that there is consideration being given to bill H 2361 requiring children smaller than 4’9″ sit in a booster […]

Two-fer from the Globe

Yesterday’s editorial in the Globe on the Governor’s veering away from support for MCAS was spot on. It’s a must read. Today, again, the right stuff and the right tone on the Quincy teachers’ strike (click here). The money quotes (not in the order presented in today’s paper) are: The Quincy strike — which was still under way as of yesterday evening — is illegal under state law, and should be ended immediately. Like municipal leaders across the state, Quincy Mayor William Phelan can’t keep asking the city’s taxpayers to pay the same share of escalating healthcare costs, which in Quincy have almost doubled since 2002. A bill before the Legislature would allow cities and towns to purchase insurance for […]

Market approaches to blogging

Subsequent to a number of emails on the post mentioning Tom Waits, which ranged from deranged and delightful to slightly frightful, I have decided to push the celebrity mention scheme for drawing traffic to the blog. Here goes: Paris Hilton Lindsay Lohan Brad Pitt George Clooney Please note that, henceforth, in accordance with Pioneer General Laws, Chapter 39B, Section 3(a)4.t: All blog entries forthwith must begin with, or within the first 17 1/2 words utilize celebrity names according to the provisions set forth in the present statute. No more than two names shall appear in the blog title, which shall appear at the top of the blog entry. Up to three names can appear in the first 17 1/2 words […]

Great Moments in Powerpoint

No, not the Gettysburg Address. (Full site is here.) At a recent conference for government procurement officers, the chief procurement officer of the Director of National Intelligence’s office gave a powerpoint presentation. She hid the labels on Slide 11 that gave our national intelligence budget, but after it was posted online, you could double click on the chart to see the (understandably classified) actual numbers. Using the data on Slide 11, and dividing by the ratio on Slide 10, inquiring minds now know that our government spends $56.52 billion on intelligence. Ooops. Tip of the pen to Slate for the initial links.

Worcester’s Heroine of Education Reform

A heartfelt thank you to Dr. Roberta Schaefer of the Worcester Regional Research Bureau (WRRB) for all her hard work and efforts on the Board of Education (BOE) over the last 11 years. Roberta’s work on the BOE has been both tireless and exemplary. And, like Tom Birmingham , Roberta is worried about the future of education reform in Massachusetts. As she has told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the appointment of MCAS opponent Ruth Kaplan to the BOE highlights a disquieting trend: This appointment, coupled with the governor’s refusal to fund the Education Quality and Accountability Board and the recent legislative hearings directed at removing MCAS as a graduation requirement, unfortunately indicate that the governor and his legislative allies […]

Tom Waits and Jack Markell running for Governor of Delaware

From a website (DownWithAbsolutes) that is so cool it starts with a quote from Tom Waits (“I offer champagne to real friends, but real pain to sham friends.”), we get the news that Jack Markell (D), three-time State Treasurer (click here for his website), has thrown his hat in the ring in the race to become governor. Jack would be dumb not to run. I mean this guy won the 2002 Treasurer’s race with more than 66% of the vote. In the most recent race (2006) he received 70.5% of the vote. So why bring all this up? Ha-ha, you have a mind like a trap! Well, near the top of his list of accomplishments on the site is–you […]

Media hounds…

Who is?  We are!  Two op-eds in two days.  Ahem, you might want to dig Jamie Gass’ piece in the Metro West Daily News entitled “Teacher licensing rules just got more complex“. How about Alice White’s “City officials silent on looming health care liability” in the New Bedford Standard-Times? Then there is a wonderful piece by Howard Greis entitled “Lawmakers should reject Patrick proposal to drop EQA” in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Happy Bunker Hill Day

Caught the annual parade in Charlestown on Sunday. This parade usually gets a good turnout of political types and the crowd’s reaction (or lack thereof) can be a telling sign. My award for the parade are: Biggest Reaction – Michael Flaherty, hands-down, got the biggest reaction from the crowd. And he gets extra credit for the retro-cool innovation of handing out emery boards with his name on them (Editor’s Note: This is not a retro-cool innovation, he’s serious.) Who The Heck Is That – City Council-At-Large Candidate Marty Hogan apparently marched in the parade. No one had any idea who the poor fellow was. It’s still not clear which of the roughly 3 – 5 people marching behind his banner […]

Outside of Boston, there is grumbling

Outside of Boston the Governor’s plans are not playing well. The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune opined yesterday that Governor Patrick’s promises run afoul of fiscal reality. The following are the money quotes (unconnected excerpts): Gov. Deval Patrick has Republicans and members of his own party scratching their heads over his grand plans for spending money the state and its taxpayers simply don’t have. The rhetoric is soaring… But the reality is neither the state, nor the cities and towns on which the burden of paying for many of these mandates will inevitably fall, are in a position to afford such grand schemes. Such talk is certainly not appropriate at a time the Massachusetts Transportation Finance Commission says it will cost between $15 […]

3 chairs to craft the education plan

A change of the guard seems underway for the “Readiness Project,” as the Governor calls his recently announced education plan. Rumor has it that Dana Mohler-Faria is on his way back to Bridgewater State College at the start of July. Also, there is the Governor’s announcement of the core leaders of the new new Task Force he is calling on to deliver a fleshed out plan, a budget, and an implementation plan. Up to the front come Tom Payzant, EMC Chairman/President/CEO Joe Tucci, and Wheelock’s Jackie Jenkins-Scott. Congratulations to the Governor for three solid picks, listed below with the strength they will bring to the TF. Strong on urban education reform: Payzant has the know-how and a strong record of achievement […]

MCAS and dropout rates

In a previous posting on the appointment of Ruth Kaplan to the Board of Education, I noted a significant problem with promoting the view that there is a connection between MCAS and increasing dropout rates: More than half of all dropouts have already passed the MCAS. Then, passed on from one of our wonderful Center for School Reform Advisors, is the editor’s commentary from last summer’s American Educator, a publication of the American Federation of Teachers (an affiliated international union of the AFL-CIO). Using two very different studies, the commentary, entitled “Conventional Wisdom on Dropout Rate is Questioned–Impact of Higher Standards is Not,” points out that high standards and exit exams have NOT driven up drop-out rates. So let’s set […]

Good luck to the new commissioner of DCR!

Great column by Taylor Armerding in the Eagle Tribune today (We ‘interfere with natural processes’ in everything we do) on the attitude many within DCR have toward human management of the environment. The hands-off, let it lie naturally philosophy is, as Armerding underscores, a moral position–and one that makes it hard for the Department to do its job. Even when they make the right choices, they can run up against the local talent (ConComs). Armerding: I am living in fear that somebody from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, or perhaps from the Rockport Conservation Commission, will visit me and declare my very existence to be interfering with a natural process. And these people are pretty authoritative on the […]