Tag Archive: Moran

How The Media Spreads “Truthiness”: Star-Ledger Edition

Perhaps my favorite media critic is Bob Somerby, who, for years, has run his Daily Howler blog completely independently.

Somerby’s primary thesis is that the media loves to write “scripts” about politicians. Once a script is established, facts are then distorted, twisted, and sometimes straight-out made up to support the preferred conventional wisdom that has been accepted and endorsed by those who occupy influential positions in the press.

These scripts have a standard form: a trivial, useless “fact” tells us something allegedly important about some prominent person. Perhaps the most famous example is Al Gore is a liar: he said he invented the internet! It doesn’t matter that Gore never actually said it; what matters is that it has been repeated so many times that it has become “truthy.” And it can be thrown into a column or a TV appearance casually, the declaimer knowing full well that, even if they are challenged, they can simply shrug off any criticism.

I’m reminded of Somerby today after reading what is an otherwise serviceable column from the Star-Ledger’s op-ed page editor, Tom Moran. Moran, writing on the fallout from Chris Christie’s Cowboy-gate scandal, says this:

Star-Ledger Feud Explodes: Moran v Braun

After decades of covering New Jersey for the Star-Ledger, Bob Braun retired last year and started his own blog. Now off the chain, Braun has written a few stinging pieces about the editorials found at his former home, including a beaut that excoriated the S-L for endorsing Chris Christie in the last election.

What’s been especially interesting to watch is the reaction of the S-L’s Editorial Page Editor, Tom Moran, who has left comments at Braun’s blog before, defending himself against perceived “personal insults.”

(Full disclosure: I think it’s fair to say that Braun’s world-view often matches our here at BJ. And I have had more than my fair share of run-ins with Moran, both here and at my blog.)

Well, yesterday Braun published another piece taking on one of Moran’s editorials; this time about education “reform” in Newark:

Once again, The Star-Ledger has the audacity to tell the people of Newark how they should lead their lives while remaining silent about how the rest of the state lives has helped create the problems in Newark.  Another typical example of “us” vs. “them” in what should be a unified discourse.

What the newspaper calls “sensible and bold reforms” amount to the elimination of neighborhood schools in much of the city, a transfer of assets to corporate-backed charters, and the destruction of much of the city’s history and culture-Weequahic High, one of New Jersey’s most historic high schools, should be on the National Registry, not on the auction block, nor on the table for a “redesign” that will close it.

Perhaps no one has looked outside the window there recently but, yes, there are neighborhoods in Newark and they are filled with people, struggling  men and women, parents and grandparents, who want the best for their children, including safe places to live. This was the same mistake-with disastrous consequences-that led the newspaper to campaign for the destruction of much of the Central Ward for the construction of the medical school. Much of that land remains a prairie today.

Those who criticize the plan are “shrill” and they “shriek”-how is that for subtly racist comments? Not unlike calling ambitious women “pushy.” The editorial called critics “demagogic,” but the people I saw speak out last week were elected officials-members of the elected school board, members of the city council, a member and the speaker of the New Jersey Assembly, a senator who chairs the Joint Committee on Public Schools.

After that rebuke, Moran decided enough was enough:

The SL Editorial Board Strikes Again

promoted by Rosi

It is hard to wrap my mind around the levels of hypocrisy demonstrated in the latest Star Ledge editorial.

In support of Assemblyman Burzichelli's bill to ban fee based extracurricular activities in public schools, the Star Ledger board starts with sympathy for the families paying these fees, “With shrinking average incomes and stubborn unemployment, how much can these families be expected to spend?” 

Well, gee, these are the same people the SL editorial board told to go vote for Christie, the Governor who gave many districts an increase of $1.00 in state aid last year while requiring expensive new teacher evaluation systems and preparing for high tech, high stakes standardized tests. It seems to me the SL should have thought about this before November 5th.


A Stunning Endorsement

I awoke this morning to read the Star Ledger's endorsement of Chris Christie for Governor. Not a surprise. I was tempted not to read it as it was so expected. But I did, and what I read was stunning.  In fact, I went back to the link to make sure I had not fallen for another piece of satire from The Onion.

My overall impression is that the Star Ledger Editorial Board has an unhealthy high school crush on the boy who is just out of reach – a sitting Governor who has refused to meet with them for 4 years.  

They acknowledge many of his failures and shortcomings – increasing property taxes, neglecting the working class, damaging environmental policy, raiding funds to balance the budget,  damaging ego (even if is sometimes entertaining), exageerrating efficacy of Sandy aid and recovery, and explicit willingness to destroy the independence of the judiciary, to name a few.  

In their own words, “Our own view is that Christie is overrated.  His spin is way ahead of his substance.”

But the Star Ledger Board endorses him anyway.  Why? Because Barbara Buono (and her Democratic party) is 'deeply flawed' in their words.  But in their own description, Chris Christie is not?  

The Star Ledger Board agrees with her on the issues, but cannot see their way to endorse her because when she did sit with them, she not 'wow' them.  And they are concerned, perhaps with justification, that she can govern effectively given the fissures within her own party.

I am not sure whether this endorsment is outrageous or pathetic.  What I do know is that for all the flaws pointed out in the two candidates, I prefer to cast my vote for the candidate who is right on the issues, who we can support to govern effectivley rather than one hell-bent on destroying the middle class and the best parts of New Jersey for his own ego and political aspirations.

I leave the high school crush of the popular and obnixious guy to the Star Ledger Board, and I choose to support the candidate of substance and character.  This is an election for Governor of a state, not an adolescent popularity contest.

The Star Ledger Editorial Board should be embarassed at best, but more likely ashamed of itself. 

NJ Would Be A Better Place Without George Norcross

I think Tom Moran and the Star Ledger have officially gone crazy.  I know Moran hates teachers and public employees in general, but the editorial in today’s Star Ledger was over the top.


The fact that NJ’s largest newspaper is giving a political thug kudos is beyond comprehension.  “The only real hope to stop the bloodshed” in Camden is to abolish the existing police force and their collective bargaining agreement?  Really??  

Certainly our gun laws need to be stricter, but the real problem is the culture of violence that exists.  It is a massive social failure.  That social failure combined with years of mismanagement is what ails Camden.

People like Norcross who gerrymander elections for all the wrong reasons is the real reason why Camden suffers today. Selling private insurance to government that should be using insurance on public contract in order to wield influence and grease the rails of politics is what is wrong with Camden.

Does this Look Like a Democrat To You?

Back in October, Tom Moran at the Star-Ledger couldn’t understand the crazy Democrats and their resistance to the corporate reform agenda in education:

It’s fascinating to see the nervous response of establishment Democrats to the arrival of David Tepper on the political scene in New Jersey.

Tepper is a hedge fund manager from Livingston worth about $5 billion, and he’s promising to throw a good chunk of that into a political fight over school reform with the New Jersey Education Association, the teachers union that has long been the colossus of Trenton.

Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex), the former governor, is hostile, saying he doesn’t believe rich guys should be able to buy influence, a line many Democrats echo.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) is suspicious, suggesting that Tepper and his partner in this effort, Alan Fournier, are seeking to impose “social engineering” on unsuspecting black and Latino students.

And several Democrats whisper the line pushed by the operatives of the New Jersey Education Association, who say this is a plot by Tepper and Fournier to enrich themselves by turning public schools over to private investors such as themselves.

For our part, we look forward to hearing the bombs explode when these two launch their offensive, and we hope they win. If they are able to break the grip of the NJEA, children in our poor cities will be much better off.


Tepper is a Democrat and Fournier is a Republican. The agenda they are pushing encompasses all the common ground between President Obama and Gov. Chris Christie: tenure reform, merit pay, charters schools, a relentless focus on student achievement and more power for parents. Tepper favors only a small pilot program to experiment with vouchers.

Got that? “Tepper is a Democrat.” Just wondering, Tom: is this how Democrats behave?

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney came to the Garden State today to raise money for one of his most loyal New Jersey supporters – and fill his own campaign coffers.

The former Massachusetts governor headlined a $5,000 per plate fundraiser at the Bernardsville home of Ed and Nancy Deutsch, raising about $400,000 for the fledgling campaign of U.S. Senate candidate Joseph Kyrillos, a state senator from Monmouth County and longtime friend of Gov. Chris Christie. About 80 people attended the fundraiser in the wealthy neighborhood.

After that, Romney left to attend another private fundraiser in Short Hills, hosted by hedge fund billionaire David Tepper and Clifford Sobel, a former ambassador to Brazil and The Netherlands. Both fundraisers were closed to the press.

Some Democrat. Even if Tepper hates Corzine, he doesn’t have to throw behind Romney.

Get it straight, Tom: the corporate reform movement is a Republican movement with centrist Democrats in tow. Real Dems oppose this anti-union, anti-teacher agenda.

Smart ALEC in New Jersey

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman:

Chris Christie must be absolutely thrilled to be in Jerusalem today, so he doesn’t have to answer to this superb report in the Star-Ledger from Salvador Rizzo:

A Star-Ledger analysis of hundreds of documents shows that ALEC bills are surfacing in New Jersey, where Republican Gov. Chris Christie is trying to remake the state, frequently against the wishes of a Democrat-controlled Legislature.

Drawing on bills crafted by the council, on New Jersey legislation and dozens of e-mails by Christie staffers and others, The Star-Ledger found a pattern of similarities between ALEC’s proposals and several measures championed by the Christie administration. At least three bills, one executive order and one agency rule accomplish the same goals set out by ALEC using the same specific policies. In eight passages contained in those documents, New Jersey initiatives and ALEC proposals line up almost word for word. Two other Republican bills not pushed by the governor’s office are nearly identical to ALEC models. [emphasis mine]

As is his pattern of behavior, Christie denied knowing anything about ALEC:

Christie’s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said there is no connection between the efforts spearheaded by Christie and ALEC.

“Our reforms have no basis in anyone’s model legislation,” Drewniak said. “The governor said to me, ‘Who’s ALEC?'”

Christie declined to comment for this story.

It reminds me of when Christie denied he knew charter school founder Amir Khan, even though Khan was sitting right behind him – for the second time that year!

Christie took to Twitter last night to continue his denials:

@mattkatz00 Never spoken 2 anyone from ALEC nor had any contact w/them. Today’s story much ado about nothing. No influence on me whatsoever

@lisafleisher Yes, really. Have had no contact with them. Sorry to kill another conspiracy theory on you.

Yeah, it’s just a happy coincidence the ratings Christie wants to give to teachers match ALEC’s categories exactly. Nothing to see here; move along…

What Rizzo documents so well is that an enormous amount of ALEC’s influence is being felt in education policy. Why is that? Well…

ALEC is funded by union busters like Wal-Mart and Verizon. Breaking public worker unions leads to downward pressure on wages for the entire labor market. These people have every economic incentive needed to want to break the NJEA, which is what almost all of these “reforms” are really about.

Further: as ACTING Commissioner Chris Cerf reminds us, education is a “$650 billion sector, second only to health care. ” Do you think these people might want to get a taste of that? Do you think they are willing to make a relatively small investment, based on the potential for huge returns?

Meanwhile, an examination of campaign finance records from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission showed New Jersey legislators who are in ALEC or have introduced bills resembling ALEC models have received $202,000 from the same corporations funding the council, $57,700 since 2010.

Kyrillos, who said he hasn’t been involved with ALEC for 20 years, has collected $72,000 from ALEC members since he first became a legislator in the late 1980s.

Christie collected more than $73,000 for his gubernatorial run, Webber more than $17,000 in races for the Assembly, and Oroho nearly $7,000 while running for the state Senate.

That’s chicken feed to these guys. Why wouldn’t they see how far they can push schools toward privatization if it costs them this little?

One last thing: The Ledger’s Editorial Page Editor, Tom Moran, has regularly mocked those who have been warning about Christie’s reformy agenda – including yours truly. I’ve often suspected that Moran doesn’t read his own newspaper, but he’s going to have a hard time ignoring Rizzo’s reporting here.

What do you say, Tom? Are we all still wearing tinfoil hats?

Tom Moran, I’m Begging: Answer These Questions About Tenure

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman.

First of all, I don’t ever want to hear the Star-Ledger Editorial Board complain about money the NJEA spends on advertising; not after today’s anti-tenure editorial. Granting a very occasional space to the union to run an op-ed in rebuttal is hardly equivalent to many, many pieces the Ledger has written in support of policies to abolish tenure as we know it. The NJEA has every right – in fact, they have a duty – to their members to present the other side of this debate.

(And thanks to Matt Katz of the Philadelphia Inquirer for demonstrating that there is wide-spread support among teachers for the NJEA to continue this information campaign.)

I’ll assume this piece was written by Tom Moran, who has made his feelings about tenure quite clear. I won’t relive the entire history of my attempts to engage him (if you have nothing better to do this afternoon, here it is); suffice to say I know for a fact that Moran is well-aware of my arguments. For whatever reason, however, he has never seen fit to address them.

But now we’re getting down to it: the Ruiz bill is getting closer and closer to an actual, final form. I believe Moran has an obligation – not to me, but to his readers – to answer these substantive criticisms of the bill:

1) Where is the evidence that there are large numbers of tenured “bad” teachers holding back students in New Jersey? The “17 out of 100,000” argument has been disproved here and other places many times, but even if it were true, it’s not proof that we have so many “bad” teachers that we must get rid of an anti-cronyism measure that’s been in place for decades. Where is the empirical evidence that this is such a huge problem? I’ve put forward the case that it is not; where is your rebuttal?

2) Tenure is a feature of both high-performing and low-performing schools; doesn’t that prove that tenure itself is not a factor in student achievement? This is transparently obvious, yet no one on the anti-tenure side ever seems to want to address the point.

3) The Ruiz bill allows districts to strip tenure without a hearing by an impartial third-party; isn’t that exactly the same as simply getting rid of tenure? If a district can take away tenure solely on an administrator’s says so – which is exactly what the Ruiz bill does – then that is the same as having no tenure at all.

4) Don’t we have plenty of evidence that school districts can easily become politicized, ripe for turning schools into patronage mills? Elizabeth alone is proof enough of that – and the primary reporting has come from Moran’s own newspaper.

5) Why should “bad” principals have the power to hire and fire their staffs at will? If a “good” teacher is working for a “bad” principal, and the principal has the power to fire the teacher without appeal to a third-party, how does that possibly help students? Doesn’t a principal need a check on his power over his staff – especially in a public service position?

6) For decades, senior teachers have earned more as an incentive to join and remain in the profession; why wouldn’t a district fire those more expensive teachers the minute they could to save money? It is completely logical to assume they would, isn’t it? How does that make teaching a more attractive profession?

7) Why would we ever consider changing tenure, based on a new evaluation system, when that evaluation system isn’t even in place? The bill gives far too much power to the Commissioner of Education, who has sole discretion to approve evaluation systems that haven’t even been tested. And the New York City debacle shows that teacher evaluations systems are not to be trusted automatically.

8) If the problem is the length, expense, and difficulty of conducting tenure hearings, why not just cap their time and cost, and make the procedures clear? This is exactly what the NJEA proposes, yet there is a bias in the commentariat against anything the union puts on the table. No wonder teachers are demoralized.

These are simple questions and they demand a response. It’s very difficult for any teacher to take the Ruiz bill – or any other anti-tenure policy – seriously until these concerns are addressed.

Tom Moran, you are the Editorial Page Editor for the largest newspaper in the state. You owe it to your readers to answer these questions before you continue to push for a radical restructuring of a taxpayer protection that has been in place for many, many years, and helped foster one of the best school systems in the nation.

I’m begging you, Tom: answer these questions.

Charter School Debate Round Up

You probably don’t know what to do with yourself until 4:30 today. If you’re inclined to blow off your honey-do list, perhaps you’d care to join the growing debate about charter schools that’s raging across the Garden State.

Start with Tom Moran’s piece in the Star-Ledger, which takes us to a “high performing” charter in Jersey City. Give Moran some credit for at least acknowledging the other side of the debate; unfortunately, even though he grants that charters have limited scalability, he’s still sides with Chris Christie’s plan for charter expansion.

I take on his example, however, at Jersey Jazzman, and show that, to a large extent, charter school “successes” can often be accounted for by the fact that charters serve a different student population than surrounding neighborhood schools:

May I make a suggestion, Tom? For your next piece, do what Michael Winerip of the NY Times did, and talk to some families who have not been served well by the charter school experience. Then take another cue from Winerip and look at the charter application process.

You’ve come a long way in acknowledging the other side of this debate, Tom. But take the next step: let’s get this all out on the table before we start cheering on more charters.

Professor Bruce Baker at Rutgers goes deep into the data to prove just that:

When one estimates what I would call a “descriptive regression” model characterizing the differences in proficiency rates across district and charter schools in the same cities, one finds that compared against schools of similar demography, and on the same grade level and subject area tests, the charter proficiency rates, on average are no different than their traditional public school counterparts. [emphasis mine]

And NJ Parents Against Gov. Christie’s School Budget Cuts takes Moran to task for ignoring the data and instead attempting to tug on his readers’ heartstrings:

More and more, NJ parents are seeing through the hype and demanding quality public schools for every child rather than the privatization of our public education system. That’s why Christie couldn’t get his education agenda passed in 2011, and he’s going to run up against some powerful opposition in 2012.

This debate cuts right to the heart of progressive interests: are we a society that ensures that every child gets a high-quality education? Leave your thoughts below.

The Queen Of Gutting Tenure

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman:

We have a new queen of gutting tenure: Dr. Janine Walker Caffrey, the Superintendent of Perth Amboy. The queen was crowned by none other than Star-Ledger Opinion Editor Tom Moran, who has, within the space of two weeks, given her highness space for an op-ed decrying tenure AND the patented Moran-style hagiography (a treatment highly recommended by reformy hedge fund manager David Tepper).

I already dealt with the substance of Moran’s piece. Let’s talk about the style:

To earn such a huge amount of the S-L’s space, Caffrey must have vast experience as an administrator in New Jersey’s schools, right?