Comic Relief

Comic Relief
David Burton 2008


     There is no doubt that these are troubling times. We are fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq; we are in the midst of financial tough times, probably in a recession; we are facing a national election with a Republican candidate who some portray as an old man with a bad temper who vows to keep fighting on in Iraq till we win, even if that takes 100 years; on the Democratic side we have a woman who can't remember facts, lies, or has no concept of reality when she reports landing in Kosovo under sniper fire when no such event took place; also on the Democratic side, we have a candidate who, in the course of some 20 years, couldn't recognize that his minister was a race-baiting bigot who hated America.

     What we need in these trying and depressing times is a little comic relief and where better to find such relief than here in the beautiful archaic Massachusetts.

     Let's peruse a few of the most recent follies here in the Bay State. In 1993, Massachusetts enacted an Education Reform Act calling for uniform testing to determine how well students in the public schools were doing and a requirement that in order to graduate from high school the student had to pass a set of proficiency exams, called MCAS, demonstrating a basic competency.

     ". . . since passing MCAS became a graduation requirement in 2001, ethnic minorities, low-income students and students with disabilities have all experienced gains.
     "In 2007, 73 percent of black students earned their 'competency determination' on the first try. That was up from 68 percent in 2006 and 58 percent in 2005.
     "Hispanic students have experienced similar overall gains; 67 percent earned the CD on the first try in 2007, up from 61 percent in 2006 and 53 percent in 2005.
     "Nearly three-quarters of low-income students (73 percent) had passing MCAS scores on the first try in 2007. That was up from 68 percent in 2006 and 61 percent in 2005. Students with disabilities have also seen gains." (Ref. 1)

     Great - A successful program that has benefited students and the state. So what do we do here in Massachusetts with this success? Why we set out to change it of course. "Rep. Carl Sciortino (D-Medford) . . . pitch[ed] his 'solution' - establishing a 31-member commission to develop an entirely new system for assessment of student achievement.
     "Ruth Kaplan, the [Democratic] governor's appointee to the state Board of Education who in the past has called for the test to be abolished, merely called for 'revisions' . . . But her presence at a gathering of anti-test advocates tells us what 'revisions' might mean.
     "A standards-based curriculum and tests to measure student achievement . . . has made a Massachusetts high school diploma finally worth the paper it's printed on." (Ref. 1)

     Of course, what was not said but what has been a fact ever since the 1993 Education Reform Act was passed is that the all-powerful teacher's union is violently opposed to the tests because it's members have to face the spotlight to which they are subjected when their students do not perform to standard. Heaven forbid that they be rated on the basis of performance rather than the age old union standard of seniority and "political pull". In Massachusetts, Democratic politicians march in lock-step with public employee unions, e.g., teachers, police, fire, etc.

     Massachusetts now faces severe financial difficulties, as do many other states in these times of high energy costs, a weak dollar and shaky financial markets. So what does our Democratic dominated legislature do to combat this problem? They defeat the proposal of their Democratic governor to allow the licensing of Gambling Casinos in the state which was projected to create some 20,000 temporary and 10,000 permanent jobs and bring in some $400 million dollars to the state treasury. Why? I don't know and I'm not sure anyone except a few high politicians in the state legislature do. Is it because gambling is immoral? Hardly - gambling at state licensed horse and dog racing tracks has been legal in Massachusetts for a millennium. Massachusetts operates one of the most successful lotteries in the nation. Is it because Massachusetts doesn't need the money? - You've got to be kidding! Is it because there is nowhere else that Massachusetts citizens can spend their gambling money? Just take a 1 hour drive into Connecticut's 2 gambling casinos and count the cars in their parking lots with Massachusetts license plates, or count the number of buses that make multiple runs from a variety of locations in Massachusetts to the Connecticut casinos. You give me a logical reason for not licensing casinos here - I don't have any rational explanations.

     Here's another example of what keeps everyone laughing at the liberal democratic state of affairs here. "Every year, hundreds of would-be classroom teachers fail the MTEL, the Massachusetts Test for Education Licensure. According to Charles Glenn at the Boston University School of Education, independent evaluations of teacher tests like the MTEL put the skills required at the 8th- to 10th-grade level.
     "Unfortunately, this is still too high for about 40 percent of the test takers each year. So last week, the Democrats of the Massachusetts Senate voted unanimously for a waiver program covering wannabe teachers who fail the test at least three times. Many of them would be allowed to teach ninth-grade English, for example, even after demonstrating that they couldn't actually pass it." (Ref. 2)

     Let's consider one more laughable item. In Massachusetts any work taking place on or near a public road has a paid police detail. Ordinary citizens or construction workers with reflective vests and hard hats are considered to be incapable of performing the duties of waving traffic by the work site, as is normally done in other states without any great disasters occurring.

     Ah, but this is liberal Massachusetts. "Barely a week has passed since our top three elected [Democratic] leaders stood before TV cameras and announced plans to take on the most sacred of sacred cows on Beacon Hill - the paid police detail
     "They weren't going to slam the brakes on the gravy train outright. They were going to draft regulations so the state and cities and towns could curb the use of costly details, in limited circumstances, mostly on secondary roads.
     "It was a rare and surprising moment of political chutzpah, one that would have saved taxpayers at least $100 million over the next two decades and sent a clear message that Massachusetts is no longer interested in the old way of doing things - not when we're $20 billion in the hole on transportation spending and talking about tax hikes to balance the books.
     "Ah, but today, after a week of fierce lobbying by police unions and organized labor generally, we are left with - well, not much.
         - - -
     ". . . at the eleventh hour, senators inserted a provision that would force cities and towns to go to war with police unions if they even think about replacing cops with civilians in Day-Glo vests.
     "While there is no state law requiring police details, the practice is embedded in municipal contracts. And the legislation would bar any change there whatsoever." (Ref. 3)

     So, for those of you who live outside of Massachusetts, stop worrying about the war in Iraq, the economy and the price of gasoline. Instead, think about the lunacy of Massachusetts politics and enjoy some comic relief from your everyday cares and worries. For the rest of us here in the Bay State, remember that we have what we voted for and there is no one to blame but ourselves if we don't like it.

  1. Critics test credulity, Editorial, Boston Herald, pg 18, February 19, 2008.
  2. Three strikes and you're in!, Michael Graham, Boston Herald, Page 19, April 7, 2008.
  3. The more things change, Editorial, Boston Herald, pg 18, April 7, 2008.

  8 March 2008 {Article 38; Undecided_09}    
Go back to the top of the page