Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reporter barred from Mike Pence event in Wisconsin sets dangerous precedent

Freedom of the press is being restricted against those who report the truth

A reporter with the Washington Post attended (or at least attempted to) a rally for Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence in Waukesha this week. Though he initially tried to enter as a member of the press, his credentials were denied on the basis of his employer.

Unfortunately this isn't an isolated incident. Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has forbidden reporters from the Washington Post and other news organizations from attending his campaign events on account of their fact-based reporting. Sick of seeing headlines that portrayed him in a negative light, Trump denied the organization, as well as a slew of others, access during the course of his campaign.

What happened to Jose A. DelReal, the reporter with the Post who was denied access to the Pence event, should disturb anyone who considers a free press an important aspect of our American democracy. From the Post:
Post reporter Jose A. DelReal sought to cover Pence’s rally at the Waukesha County Exposition Center outside Milwaukee, but he was turned down for a credential beforehand by volunteers at a press check-in table.

DelReal then tried to enter via the general-admission line, as Post reporters have done without incident since Trump last month banned the newspaper from his events. He was stopped there by a private security official who told him he couldn’t enter the building with his laptop and cellphone. When DelReal asked whether others attending the rally could enter with their cellphones, he said the unidentified official replied, “Not if they work for The Washington Post.”

After placing his computer and phone in his car, DelReal returned to the line and was detained again by security personnel, who summoned two county sheriff’s deputies. The officers patted down DelReal’s legs and torso, seeking his phone, the reporter said.

When the officers — whom DelReal identified as Deputy John Lappley and Capt. Michelle Larsuel — verified that he wasn’t carrying a phone, the reporter asked to be admitted. The security person declined. “He said, ‘I don’t want you here. You have to go,’ ” DelReal said.
After complying with everything that was demanded of the journalist, he still was denied access to a campaign event.

That is troubling, to say the least. Of course, in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin limited access to events like these are commonplace. Listening sessions frequently restrict the press from taking part, and the events are invite-only -- meaning that we cannot take part unless asked by the governor’s people to attend.

That doesn’t make it right. To be sure, presidents and other politicians often try to control their messaging to the press, but Trump is taking it to new and dangerous levels. In a free society we cannot accept these sort of conditions as normal, and we mustn’t allow this precedent to stand.

We must reject this unfair treatment of the press, and demand that the Republican candidate allow reporters access to his events if he wants to be taken seriously as a candidate. His actions up to now disqualify him for the office he seeks.

Achievement gap remains, but Madison schools are making huge gains

Student test scores across all demographics are on the rise

I’m optimistic about the direction the Madison Metropolitan School District is taking.

The achievement gap remains. There is still a vast difference between how well white students are doing versus students of color, with the latter falling well-behind the former. Much more work needs to be done.

Yet the latest report from MMSD signals that positive changes are happening, with academic achievement rates across all demographics going up from the previous year.

Black students reached a 64 percent reading proficiency, a vast improvement from the previous year’s numbers of 52 percent. In Hispanic students, the reading proficiency numbers were 73 percent, up ten percentage points from the previous academic year.

Things improved in part because the school district focused on family-centric engagement philosophies.

“This year, schools deepened their focus on instructional strategies to accelerate student performance, explored new ways to improve family engagement and built stronger professional learning plans for staff,” the report read.

And to follow it up, the school district plans to “expand intensive support at the district’s highest-need schools and provide additional opportunities for schools to collaborate with each other,” while also focusing on “improving parent partnership that is linked to learning” across the district.

These measures appear to be working. There is still more that can be done. But with more resources at their disposal, the Madison Metropolitan School District appears to be moving things in the right direction. And if successful, the strategies employed in Madison be utilized across the state.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Bernie-or-Bust" will not help America -- it's time to unify

We can't afford a Trump presidency -- and Hillary is the candidate closest to Bernie's ideals

The speeches given by party leaders at the first day of the Democratic National Convention were inspiring. Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders gave stellar performances, appealing to both logical and emotional arguments for why Clinton is our best choice for president.

Some reactions from the crowd, however, disturbed me.

Most of the audience, of course, acted cordially, cheering for these leaders and generally showing respect during their time at the podium. Yet a good handful of “Bernie-or-Bust” supporters, those who vowed never to vote for Clinton no matter what, were boorish and uncompromising in their need to be heard, making it difficult at times to hear on television what the speakers were trying to say.

Comedian Sarah Silverman took the Bernie-or-Bust portion of the crowd head-on in her comments onstage last night. “You’re being ridiculous,” she told them.

Those words should resonate coming from her: Silverman was an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter during the campaign. Recognizing, however, that her candidate didn’t win the delegates he needed to become the nominee, Silverman now supports Hillary Clinton for president.

She’s not alone in that regard. In Wisconsin, former Assembly Rep. Brett Hulsey also urged unity on the Mitch Henck show earlier today. “Bernie-or-Busters, come home,” he said.

(Hulsey, you’ll recall, ran for governor as a further-left alternative to Democratic candidate Mary Burke in 2014. If he’s talking about unity, the Bernie-or-Bust people ought to pay attention.)

And what about the candidate himself? Last night, even Bernie Sanders stressed unity in his speech to delegates. “This election is about -- and must be about -- the needs of the American people and the kind of future we create for our children and grandchildren,” he said.

He added:
I have known Hillary Clinton for 25 years. I remember her as a great first lady who broke precedent in terms of the role that a first lady was supposed to play as she helped lead the fight for universal health care. I served with her in the United States Senate and know her as a fierce advocate for the rights of children.

Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her here tonight.
Finally, in a letter he wrote to delegates this morning, Sanders urged supporters not to resort to booing or other distasteful actions while on the floor of the convention. “Our credibility as a movement will be damaged by booing, turning our backs, walking out or other displays,” he wrote.

Most people who voted for Bernie Sanders are reasonable, tempered individuals. I myself supported the candidate. But this “Bernie-or-Bust” stuff is getting out of hand, and it’s damaging the chances we have for unifying the party before the general election in November.

For some, that’s fine. They are perfectly content with seeing Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton because it means that they didn’t compromise their votes. They need a pure candidate, and only a pure candidate like Bernie is worth voting for.

That’s rubbish. And it conjures up this image in my mind:

There is no such thing as a pure candidate. We shouldn’t deify anyone as such. Even Sanders wasn’t “pure,” though he came closest to a lot of what I personally wanted in a candidate.

Yet, I also recognize that he’s not the nominee. It’d be dangerous to sit on my hands just because my preference didn’t win the nomination. Hillary Clinton is the most viable candidate to what I want in a president, and it’s she who will receive my vote in November.