Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:
● The 12-page booklet of fulsome praise for former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall distributed just before the final cheating scandal report was released is a reminder of why we should not name public buildings, roads, bridges, parks or other facilities for the living — especially living politicians.
● One strange twist of the scandal’s fallout is the assertion that consequential testing is to blame for the corruption that seeped through Atlanta Public Schools on Hall’s watch. That’s a cop-out and an effort to shift responsibility for the absence of ethics among the college-educated middle class, from molders of children’s minds and character, to “the system.” Testing made us do it. And what, in another institution’s scandal, made priests do it?
● If I read Beverly Hall’s “sincere apology” correctly, she’s a victim. If, unbeknownst to her, the system corrupted during her fine stewardship, she’s sorry. Every corporation and institution — including, as Britain’s News of the World newspaper scandal reveals, the media — has individuals who lack integrity. Competent leaders police and protect, lest the lack of integrity spreads and, ultimately, destroys public trust in the institution or brand.
● There are three possible explanations, none attractive, for Hall’s professed ignorance of cheating: 1) Every leader has the option of entering into a fool’s bargain with one or more subordinates to exchange “in my name” power and influence for no-questions-asked enforcement. “Don’t tell me things I shouldn’t know, just get it done.” 2) She was a glad-hander who allowed the system in key areas to run itself. 3) The final possibility is that she did know.
● This deficit-reduction, debt-ceiling stand-off in Washington is a crucial test for Republicans. President Barack Obama knows that George H.W. Bush lost the presidency because he violated the trust of fiscal conservatives by breaking the “read my lips” pledge. Obama’s best hope for re-election is to recreate that split among Republicans, the tea party and independents. Both Bush 41 and Ronald Reagan discovered that you can’t trade taxes now for promises of future cuts in spending increases. The taxes are real. The promises aren’t. In this administration, yesterday’s words are shooting stars.
● Bad news, bad news. The value of your home in DeKalb County falls. To ensure that government is not affected, four members of the County Commission raised property taxes 26 percent — a $50 million per year transfer of wealth. Warning to politicians: People are not nailed down.
● Georgia Republicans, it is said, might consider moving the transportation sales tax referendum from the July 31 primaries to the General Election, when more Democrats are likely to turn out. Any Republican who votes to stack that deck in any such manner should be among those that voters turn out. This notion of scheduling elections to produce desired outcomes is manipulative and offensive. It’s evidence that those in power don’t trust voters. Republicans should not travel that road.
● It’s no secret that physicians practice defensive medicine, fearing litigation and juries of the sort that make trial lawyers rich. But now this desire to find somebody with deep pockets responsible for every bad thing that happens to us or for every bad habit we have, especially that of overeating, prompts the National Restaurant Association to launch a national campaign with menu offerings to fight childhood obesity. It may simply be smart marketing, but you can’t help but think it’s defensive — an effort to prevent frivolous lawsuits filed by adults seeking money or the imposition of their values on an industry.