Saturday, August 31, 2013

Does The Senate Conservatives Fund Really Want To Elect Conservatives?

South Dakota's self-proclaimed conservatives have been seeking some entity to back one of Mike Rounds's challengers in the 2014 Republican U.S. Senate primary. One such entity is the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF).

It seems, however, that the SCF has rather narrow definition of conservative. The group is targeting Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn who has impeccable conservative credentials:
Cornyn has been one of the most conservative members of the Senate since he was first elected to the chamber in 2002. National Journal ranks Cornyn the second most conservative member of the Senate. He has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, has won multiple awards from the anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform, has a 0 percent rating from the pro-choice NARAL and a 100 percent rating from the National Right To Life Committee.
SCF, however, believes that Cornyn is straying from the true path because he won't support a government shutdown to defund Obamacare.
“Senator Cornyn says he opposes Obamacare and he even says he support defunding Obamacare, but he won’t pledge to oppose funding for Obamacare when it comes up for a vote in September,” Matt Hoskins, executive director of Senate Conservatives Fund, told TPM in an email.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, which was founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), has hit a number of Republicans for what the group argues is insufficient or wavering opposition to Obamacare. The group does not endorse incumbents and, therefore, won’t endorse Cornyn, who is up for re-election in 2014.
“This is when conservatives need him. He voted for the FY2013 CR earlier this year, which also included funding for Obamacare. If people in Texas don’t make their voice heard, he will vote to fund it again,” Hoskins added.
Nelson, Rhoden, and Bosworth may all be more conservative than Rounds, but claiming they have better conservative credentials than Cornyn is a much tougher sell.  If the SCF will turn on someone with Cornyn's reputation over a disagreement about tactics, can South Dakota conservatives really trust SCF?

A Home Where The White Supremacists Roam

Larry Kurtz, the gadfly of the South Dakota blogosphere, frequently ends his posts or comments with "Rewild the West." Leith, North Dakota is discovering the downside to "rewilding." Paul Craig Cobb, a white supremacist has been buying up land in Leith in an effort to create a white supremacist enclave. The community has fewer that thirty residents including one African-American

According the New York Times, Cobb has given the abandoned creamery that he purchased to the National Socialist Movement. Cobb claims that four other white supremacists have purchased land in the town. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that April Gaede, who had promulgated a similar plan for Kalispell Montana, owns property in the community.

Talking Points Memo reports that Cobb has transferred property to Tom Metzger, former Grand Wizard of Klu Klux Klan and founder of the White Aryan Resistance. Metzger observes that plans like Cobb's don't work and indicates Cobb is taking the wrong approach:
That doesn’t mean he’s any closer to enacting his plan. Metzger said he likes Cobb but that declared plans for white enclaves never work and that he will not be joining Cobb in Leith.
“I think it’s better just to have people move in quietly, have a job, operate a regular daily life and get along with their neighbors,” he said. “I wouldn’t go into a town pushing my weight around.”
The New York Times reports Cobb may not expect his plan to succeed:
It is difficult to tell whether Mr. Cobb wants or expects his vision for Leith to succeed.
Although he said that four fellow white nationalists have bought or acquired some of his plots, he said he did not know if or when they would be moving to the town, nor would he push the issue on them.
The Times report also shows Cobb to be something of a raconteur:
In rapid-fire speech, Mr. Cobb cuts through a vast trove of facts and thoughts in his head, inevitably veering toward racial slurs. But he maintained a soft, calm tone, and was friendly when chatting with a black reporter who knocked on his door this week. He said he admired Louis Farrakhan because “he organizes people and they’re for themselves.”
But in that interview he also said that he hoped his plans in Leith would “excite” white people and “give them confidence because we’re being deracinated in our own country. We’ve been very, very tolerant about these major sociological changes.”
His beliefs began developing at an early age, he said — he read Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” when he was 11. To hear him tell it, he has had a colorful, nomadic life that has brought him face to face with James (Whitey) Bulger (the mob boss piloted the tugboat he rode to boarding school in Boston) and Barack Obama (he claims to have driven the future president in his taxi in Hawaii in the early 1980s). 
It's also entirely likely that Cobb has a perverse sense of humor and hopes to change the name of the town to Hitler so that people traveling from the west will see the road sign for Heil, North Dakota and a few miles later see one for Hitler.

When Kurtz refers to "rewilding," he is of course advocating a form of the buffalo commons. Even if such rewilding is the best option, there will be a return to the Wild West before the West is "rewilded." That period opens the door to people like Cobb. Even if Cobb doesn't succeed, others will certainly try. Both Dakotas have dozens of towns with cheap property that an enterprising white supremacist, drug dealer, or cultist can purchase. They may be successful because they will have patients and not love publicity as Cobb seems to.

Friday, August 30, 2013

How Far Does Responsibility Extend In A Virtual World?

Cory has an interesting post about New Jersey Court determining that people who send texts may be held liable if they know the persons they're texting are driving. According to the court, the texter is "electronically present." It's unclear how texters are to become omniscient so they know if they are initiating a text to person who is driving, but rulings like this one seem to spread. People may soon have to get used to dealing with the perils of being "electronically present" or "virtual world responsible."

A.G. Gancarski examines a the "virtual world responsibility" by asking whether those who play fantasy sports, especially fantasy football bear for those players who suffer concessions or other brain trauma:
There is something sinister about fantasy sports, the idea of “owning” athletes whose careers are necessarily ephemeral and fetishizing their abstracted statistical performance. This is especially true with football, that most brutal of all mainstream entertainments.. . .
Now it’s easy to run as many fantasy football teams as one can manage, as sites like Yahoo and ESPN offer platforms with mobile phone apps—no matter where you are, you’re never without the chance to make a waiver claim on a hot new star at a skill position. The ubiquity of access to fantasy football and other fantasy sports has made it a billion-dollar industry with roughly 27 million players covering almost 20 percent of American males. Even Louisiana Governor (and possible 2016 presidential contender) Bobby Jindal live-tweeted his own fantasy draft last week.
Theres a hard reality behind the fantasy, however. Despite the best efforts of Max Boot—or was it Daniel Flynn?—to debunk The War on Football, those who watch the sport even sporadically know the stakes for those on the field: severe injury is a possibility on any given play.
I realize professional football players play the game because they make millions not because fantasy football geeks play a game in which football players' statistics determines the winner of the fantasy game. That said, the fantasy player seems to bear a small moral responsibility for being a part, however small, of the revenue stream that creates the $9 billion National Football League.

If one may have a legal culpability for being "electronically present," one likely has a moral culpability for playing fantasy football. One certainly doesn't need to be omniscient to know to that professional football players will suffer concussions during every season

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How Much Did Bill Gates Pay For The Common Core?

When I was in high school and Watergate was in the news, the maxim was follow the money. That premise holds up well when it comes to education as well.

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, the company that is losing the tech wars to both Apple and Google, has invested a lot of money to shape and implement the Common Core. Mercedes Schneider has many of the details. The whole post is worth reading, especially since it is all about following money not the U.N. or black helicopters.

I'll cut and past one section that shows Gates's support of the Council of Chief State School Officers:
As for CCSSO: The Gates amounts are even higher than for NGA. Prior to June 2009, the Gates Foundation gave $47.1 million to CCSSO (from 2002 to 2007), with the largest amount focused on data “access” and “data driven decisions”:
March 2007 Purpose: to support Phase II of the National Education Data Partnership seeking to promote transparency and accessibility of education data and improve public education through data-driven decision making Amount: $21,642,317 [Emphasis added.]
Following CCSS completion in June 2009, Gates funded CCSSO an additional $31.9 million, with the largest grants earmarked for CSSS implementation and assessment, and data acquisition and control:
July 2013 Purpose: to CCSSO, on behalf of the PARCC and SBAC consortia to support the development of high quality assessments to measure the Common Core State Standards Amount: $4,000,000
November 2012 Purpose: to support the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in helping States’ to build their data inoperability capability and IT leadership capacity Amount: $1,277,648
October 2012 Purpose: to support strategic planning for the sustainability of the Common Core State Standards and the two multi-state assessment consortia tasked with designing assessments aligned with those standards Amount: $1,100,000
June 2011 Purpose: to support the Common Core State Standards work Amount: $9,388,911
November 2009 Purpose: to partner with federal, state, public, and private interests to develop common, open, longitudinal data standards Amount: $3,185,750
July 2009 Purpose: to increase the leadership capacity of chiefs by focusing on standards and assessmentsdata systems, educator development and determining a new system of supports for student learning 
Amount: $9,961,842  [Emphasis added.]
Gates money also flowed to Achieve, Inc.; prior to June 2009, Achieve received $23.5 million in Gates funding. Another $13.2 million followed after CCSS creation, with $9.3 million devoted to “building strategic alliances” for CCSS promotion:
 June 2012 Purpose: to strengthen and expand the ADP Network, providemore support to states for CCSS implementation, and build strategic nationaland statewide alliances by engaging directly with key stakeholders Amount: $9,297,699  [Emphasis added.]
CCSS is not “state led.” It is “Gates led.”
How foolish it is to believe that the man with the checkbook is not calling the CCSS shots.
I didn't pull out the calculator, but a quick look at the numbers suggests Gates has spent around $40 million since 2009 to help just one organization implement the Core.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Does John Boehner Attend Cosplay Conventions As Emperor Palpatine?

Yesterday, before South Dakota bloggers gained status as journalists, many viewed bloggers as people who behaved the way John Clayton does in this ESPN Sports Center advertisement:

Politicians, of course, are far more serious individuals. They serve on select committees, create laws, and determine the course the nation will take. Unless, of course, one happens to be a Republican House member who advises Speaker John Boehner how to proceed on the debt ceiling. Then one can be a member of the Jedi Council:
One example of where the fissure line is: A letter calling on leadership to use the CR to defund Obamacare authored by Representative Mark Meadows split the “Jedi Council,” a secretive group of top conservatives helping Boehner sketch a debt-ceiling strategy. Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise signed the letter, while Paul Ryan, Tom Price, and Jeb Hensarling did not.
The group is as secretive as any collection of pop culture enthusiasts who take their obsession one step too far:
The House’s Jedi Council is unusually secretive. No aides are permitted to attend their meetings. At their June 13 meeting, they decided not to give interviews about the group, amid concerns that doing so could interfere with delicate negotiations, after which they did not provide any assistance for this article. Ryan’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the topic at all. In its first two years, almost no one knew the group existed, and nobody could identify anything it had done. In the last Congress, both Hensarling and Price were part of the House leadership team, and Jordan was RSC chairman; their formal positions of power may have helped obscure any coordination among them. 
The lawmaker Jedi wannabes also seem to have a fondness for cosplay:
If the fact that the five lawmakers named their group after a piece of Star Wars trivia doesn’t convince you they are nerds, you may be interested to learn that they once posed for a photograph wielding toy lightsabers.
I seriously wish this were a joke, but the fact that people setting our nation's policy are taking their lead from movie characters who were ultimately defeated and had their beloved Republic turned into an evil empire is somehow disconcerting, especially since some Jedi Council members hastened the Republic's demise by ignoring the central issues facing the Republic. I won't go into the comparisons between corporate cronyism and the Commerce Guild.

Granted, Obi Wan and Yoda went into exile and were able to assist rebels who ultimately defeated Palpatine and Darth Vader. Unfortunately, I don't see any congressperson with Obi Wan's wisdom. Vader would likely observe, "The Force is weak in these ones." As for one of them approaching the level of Yoda, I believe the real Jedi master would say, "Like Yoda none of you are."

As a blogger who has a real job and doesn't live in his Mom's basement, I have only one thing to say the lawmakers who seem to have confused fiction with reality: Grow up, do your jobs, and leave the cosplay to those who know they're doing.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bloggers As Journalists: A Minor Musing

David Montgomery reports that Judge Vince Foley has ruled that bloggers are journalists:
"I am of the opinion that… bloggers in their vein are journalists in the modern sense of the word," Foley said.
Given that situation involves "a prominent blogger" and the fact that South Dakota doesn't have shield laws, I don't know what impact the designation will have. I hope Foley's decision will grant South Dakota bloggers a bit more First Amendment protection as part of the free press than they currently have.

On the other hand, maybe the best bloggers can hope for is their own TV show with a cool opening like this one from my distant youth.

A Post Wherein I Get Snarky About The Naming Of An Elementary School In Sioux Falls

A lot of people seem fired up about the name for the new elementary school in Sioux Falls. Pat Powers gives a take here. Cory Heidelberger discusses his view here. @jlauk1941 tweeted about it.

These posts and tweets seem to be a lot of folderol for a moot point. Don't they attach the name Sanford to every new public building in Sioux Falls?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Deuteronomy 15 Edition

Deuteronomy 15
7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.
8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.
9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin.
10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.
11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

Obamacare Is Not The Biggest Problem Facing The United States

Yesterday, I drove to St. Joseph, Missouri, picked up a young'un and returned to South Dakota, so I didn't have much time to blog or read blogs. This morning, I found this post and Larry Rhoden's claim: "The battle against Obamacare is the most pressing issue our nation is facing." Repealing a law passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court is "the most pressing issue" in the country. Seriously?

In no particular order, here are 10 issues that are more important than repealing the PPACA.

1. The expanded practice of governing through executive orders begun by George W. Bush and continued by Barack Obama. House Republicans seemed fine with the practice during the Bush administration and Senate Democrats are fine with Obama's use of the instrument even though the practice seems more reminiscent of a monarchy than it does a republic.

2. In that vein, Congress continues to abdicate its power to declare war. The Afghanistan war is the longest in our history, but Congress never bothered to declare war. Now, the President is apparently preparing to attack Syria without any Congressional debate.

3, The surveillance state has run amok and Congressional leaders seem unwilling or unable to do anything to stop it.

4. The "too big to fail banks" that brought the country to the bring of economic ruin are still too big to fail. Further, nothing has been done to prevent those institutions from engaging in the same practices that led to the recession.

5. Economic stagnation threatens the basic American Dream, the promise that one's children will have a better life than their parents. Please spare me the ridiculous chestnut that Obamacare is causing this stagnation. It's been a decades long trend.

6. Our roads, bridges, electronic grid and other infrastructure are crumbling. Our broadband efforts to create and maintain a broadband infrastructure trail many other nations.

7.The country doesn't seem to have a coherent plan to deal with China or any other rising economic power.

8. Terrorism, nuclear proliferation, chemical WMDs are still bigger threats than a legally enacted law.

9. The country and the world still relies on Arab states for oil. The nation has no coherent plan to deal with energy. On a related note, I'm not sure that country has a secure food supply.

10. The revolving door between government and corporate America that centers control in fewer hands.

Now that I think about it, the most pressing issue facing our country might be the people who believe Rhoden's rhetoric because their screams to eliminate Obamacare have prevented serious efforts to deal with any of the more pressing issues.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Giving "The Bluest Eye" A Black Eye Won't Stop Common Core Implementation

Bob Ellis, the angriest man in the South Dakota blogosphere, turns his ire on the Common Core. In particular, Mr. Ellis takes umbrage at the Core's suggested lesson over Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. Inherent in the tone of his post is an intimation that the Core will mandate the novel be taught and that including it in a school's curriculum is something new:
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard may think Common Core standards are just dandy, but in addition to a number of reasons we should be cautious about embracing these nationwide standards, the crud and moral rot included on the Common Core reading list for 11th graders should disturb parents who value the innocence of their children.
The Bluest Eye is hardly a newcomer to controversy. The American Library Association keeps a record of banned and challenged books; Morrison's novel was the 15th most challenged book from 2000-2009, right behind The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The novel has also been praised for its literary merit. It has been an option on the open response section of the Advanced Placement Test in 1995, 2008, and 2009. Even the Mike Opelka post that Ellis cites concedes Morrison is a talented writer:

Again, when you read the selected passage, a couple of things stand out — Morrison’s powerful command of the written word cannot be denied and the story appears to teach that over-the-top devotion to physical beauty is “one of the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought."
Condemning a novel widely respected for its literay merit and has been taught and challenged for decades is not going to be an effective challenge to the Core.

I'm extremely skeptical that Core will do anything to help students learn. To the best of my memory, the Core represents the third set of reading standards South Dakota has used since 2001. Most of the Core's standards are mundane, neither markedly better nor markedly worse than their predecessors. There is, of course, the notable exception that the Core mandates that fiction comprises only 30% of a high school student's reading. That requirement should offend nearly every educated person in the country. I, therefore, recommend Ellis read this George Ball editorial. Ball succinctly explains the Core's flaws:
Now adopted in 45 states, including California, and the District of Columbia, this federal effort sets uniform standards on how math and English are taught in American schools. A top-down program imposed on states in order to qualify for Race to the Top funds, the curriculum is the fruit of a process tainted with politics, vested interests and a lack of transparency.
The Common Core Curriculum is being implemented without empirical evidence of its value, and imposed hurriedly without consulting the very people most affected: students, teachers and parents.
In essence, Common Core is a vast educational experiment - making America's public school students into pedagogic guinea pigs. The program emphasizes the development of critical thinking over subject matter, yet its development and implementation manifest a conspicuous lack of reflection. Critical thinking calls for a balanced, impartial, methodical process of conceptualization and analysis built upon careful observation and experience. The way the Common Core standards are being implemented is more imperial than empirical. As education reformer Diane Ravitch notes, the standards have been adopted "without any field test ... imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools."
Ball concludes with a quick agriculture analogy that should resonate with South Dakotans:
Common Core sacrifices the magic of teaching and learning on the altar of metrics. Teachers, students and administrators are no longer engaged in an organic process geared to the individual. Largely designed by testing experts, not teachers, the monolithic curriculum[*] is like detailed gardening instructions from someone who has never set foot in a garden. "Grow faster!" is the experts' motto. Well, children are not cornstalks.
The Bluest Eye and the controversies that accompany it predate the Core. Teachers who taught the novel before the Core will continue to do so. I highly doubt anyone will decide to teach it because it's included in a sample lesson. The Core's proponents frequently claim the Core's standards don't mandate the teaching of a specific work.

 The fact that the process was producing the Core was not transparent and the fact that there's no evidence it will produce more learned students should be the focus of anyone challenging the new "imperial" standards. Little will be gained focusing on a novel that has had its strengths and weaknesses debated for decades.

*Those who maintain that the standards are not a curriculum can feel free to substitute the word standards here. They are monolithic and prepared by people who have not set foot in the classroom as a teacher.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Obama Blamed For Things That Happened Three Years Before He Took Office

I meant to get to this item yesterday, but forgot even though I find these poll results hysterical.

I didn't vote for President Obama in 2012. I thought his drone use and his civil liberties record was flawed even before the recent NSA revelations. I tend to hold Presidents responsible for their actions in office. Apparently, Republicans in Louisiana have high expectations for junior United State Senators from Illinois:
A significant chunk of Louisiana Republicans evidently believe that President Barack Obama is to blame for the poor response to the hurricane that ravaged their state more than three years before he took office.
The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, provided exclusively to TPM, showed an eye-popping divide among Republicans in the Bayou State when it comes to accountability for the government's post-Katrina blunders.
Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren't sure who to blame.
Seventy-four percent of Louisiana Republicans think Obama should be blamed for something that happened three years before he was sworn in. I wonder if failure to respond to Katrina before he took office will be one of the articles of impeachment.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Is It Time To Begin A* Senate Conservatives Fund Ad Buy Countdown?

The Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) is busy going after politicians in the Carolinas. They're going after Lindsey Graham of South Carolina:
A group founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint is targeting fellow South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, charging the two-term Republican with being insufficiently hostile to President Barack Obama's health care law.
The 61-second radio ad by the Senate Conservatives Fund popped up on Sunlight's Political Ad Hawk days after a tea party challenger announced she is entering the primary against Graham. The ad cites Graham's refusal to join Senate Republicans, such as Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, in an effort to cut off funding for the law. Graham, along with a number of other more mainstream Republicans, have urged a less confrontational approach that would not threaten a government shutdown.
They've also targeted North Carolina's Richard Burr:
The Senate Conservatives Fund is going up with a small radio ad buy against Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) — a sign that conservative groups may target Burr for denouncing their Defund Obamacare campaign.
The SCF ad buy is about $40,000 and attacks Burr for labeling Defund Obamacare the “dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”
“What’s dumb is for Richard Burr to vote to fund a government program like Obamacare that will do so much harm to North Carolina families,” the narrator says, adding toward the end: “This could be our last chance to stop Obamacare, and it’s time for Richard Burr to start listening to us, not his friends in Washington.” 
Let's do the math, Nancy Mace, Graham's opponent announced on August 3. The ads began running "days' later. Stace Nelson announced on August 18; "days" later would mean that SCF will have ads running against Republican front runner Mike Rounds before Labor Day. Unless, of course, they think that the South Carolina seat and Lindsey Graham's defeat is worth more than the South Dakota seat.

*Originally had usage error "an" Need to proof better.

If You Thought Gay Marriage Caused Controversy. . . .

I think there's more to come and the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth will become more pronounced.

Starting this November, German parents will be able to select male, female, or “indeterminate” when filling out their newborn’s birth certificate. This means that parents won’t have to label their baby’s gender, thereby allowing those born with intersex characteristics to make a decision later in life. Or not.
The new law, which goes into effect on November 1, was passed back in May, but has only now started getting widespread attention — a mere six weeks after Australia became the first country in the world to introduce legal guidelines on gender recognition. Back in July, the country added “intersex” and other gender designations to official documents, like passports.
An intersex person is someone who has a variation in sex characteristics, including chromosomes and genitals that don’t allow them to be identified neatly as either male or female.
Germany apparently trails Sweden when it comes to recognizing this third gender. The Swedes have introduced a gender neutral personal pronoun:
And in an effort to work towards yet even greater levels of gender equality, Sweden now wants to do it through the channel of linguistic gender-neutrality. A good number of forward-looking Swedes have determined that government and society should no longer recognize any legal distinctions between the sexes. To that end, they have officially introduced the new gender-neutral pronoun, "hen," to the vernacular. To make it all the more official, they added it to the country's National Encylopedia and defined it as a "proposed gender-neutral personal pronoun instead of he [han in Swedish] and she [hon]."
I think it may be time to move to a small cabin in the woods with a big pile of books. When these changes are proposed in the United States, and make no mistake, they will be, I'm afraid the debates about marriage that now seem heated will suddenly appear as banal as dinner party small talk.

The NRA Has Its Own Gun Owner Database: I Propose Another Conspiracy Theory

According to Buzzfeed:
The National Rifle Association has rallied gun-owners — and raised tens of millions of dollars — campaigning against the threat of a national database of firearms or their owners.
But in fact, the sort of vast, secret database the NRA often warns of already exists, despite having been assembled largely without the knowledge or consent of gun owners. It is housed in the Virginia offices of the NRA itself. The country’s largest privately held database of current, former, and prospective gun owners is one of the powerful lobby’s secret weapons, expanding its influence well beyond its estimated 3 million members and bolstering its political supremacy.
That database has been built through years of acquiring gun permit registration lists from state and county offices, gathering names of new owners from the thousands of gun-safety classes taught by NRA-certified instructors and by buying lists of attendees of gun shows, subscribers to gun magazines and more, . . .
My cynicism prompts a few little question. If Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter have provided information to the NSA, how can gun owners be certain that the NRA didn't provide their information to the NSA? How do they know the NRA didn't build a backdoor to allow the NSA as some these social networking companies did? Even if there was no backdoor, how can anyone know that the servers weren't hacked? Heck, how can gun owners be certain that Edward Snowden hasn't given their names and addresses to the Russians and the Chinese? If that happened, it will be because the NRA had a secret database.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Harrison Ford Would Have Made A Great Teacher

His finger pointing skills demonstrate both variety and depth.

A Cast Iron Statue, A Liberal Blogger, And Irony

I had thought that the biggest irony I would encounter during 2013 would be my visit to the Birmingham, Alabama 50 ton cast iron statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of smith and forge. A visit to the gift shop revealed the souvenir statues were composed of plastic or some other non-metallic material. None were cast iron. I doubt that I am the only visitor to expect that replicas of a giant cast iron statue should be made of metal.

This little news item, however, may be even more ironic. On the day that Cory Heidelberger, one of South Dakota's most outspoken atheists takes Horace Greeley's advice and heads west, KELO reports that secular humanist reinforcements are on the way:
A national effort to reach out to atheists and agnostics is showing up on some South Dakota billboards.
The South Dakota Coalition of Reason says it's a group of seven non-theistic groups that used funding from its national organization and an anonymous donor to put up the billboards.
They're located in Brookings, Vermillion, Sioux Falls, Rapid City and Spearfish and will be up until Sept. 15.
I would have expected that South Dakota's remaining secular humanists would have worn black armbands today. Instead, they erect billboards.

Monday, August 19, 2013

I Offer Stace Nelson Unsolicited Advice

Apparently, I missed the South Dakota Blogosphere memo that each and every South Dakota blog absolutely must say something about Stace Nelson's formal announcement that he is running for the United States Senate. Cory has two takes. Powers has a few takes. Howie and Ellis gush a manner that indicates a man crush. Mike offers a view about Nelson and ID cards.

I feel left out, so I'll offer some unsolicited advice.

First, I may be scarred because one of my debaters received a rather fierce critique because he chose to wear a red sports coat when he competed in a tournament' but I'm going to be that guy that trots out the cliche: dress for the job you want, not the job you have. The chambray shirt and khakis are fine for an announcement for the South Dakota legislature, but not the United States Senate. Nelson and his cadre of advisers clearly want to play up Nelson's outsider image. If they want to shun the tie, Nelson could wear black jeans and a sports jacket. If they want to play up the worker image, he could wear a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up a bit and a tie. Rebels, with or without a cause, want to project an ethos that shows that they're one of the people. I get that, but rebels running for the U.S Senate need to show voters they can beat the establishment pros at their own game. One must wear some parts of the political uniform to send the latter image.

Second, Nelson's base loves pledges and political contracts. In the 1990s, Gingrich's contract helped Republicans win the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years. Grover Norquist has created a no-new-taxes-pledge-signing cult. The pledge/contract gambit is old hat. More importantly, it indicates that the candidates who sign them don't trust themselves to keep their word. If one's word is one's bond, no signed document should be necessary. Finally, it seems counter-productive to run as an Republican outsider if one signs the same pledge that many Republican insiders sign.

Now that the criticisms have been offered, I'll follow with the best advice I can offer Nelson or any other outsider candidate, an edited version of Raymond Chandler's description of his ideal protagonist. The best outsider candidates can develop the ethos Chandler wants his fictional characters to have:
But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. . ..He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. . . .if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things. He is a relatively poor man, . . . . He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence . . . . He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with . . . wit, . . . a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The [campaign] is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in.
If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in.
Contracts and khakis don't project this image.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Scripture and Song Of The Week: The Gospel Of John Chapter 9 Edition

John 9
1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
8 The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.
10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
12 Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

There Are Almost As Many Baby Messiahs As There Are Baby Scotts

Steve Benen reports: "Indeed, according to the Social Security Administration database, there were 762 American baby boys named 'Messiah' last year -- making it roughly as popular as the name 'Scott.'"

I was skeptical, so I double checked. Benen is right. From the Social Security Administration:

The Best Rant Of The Summer: Elon Rusk Is Not The Inspiration For Iron Man

John Oliver has done a wonderful job subbing for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show this summer, but my favorite bit might be the 15 seconds of geek rage when Oliver calls out a reporter for mistakenly identifying entrepreneur Elon Rusk as the inspiration for Tony Stark, Iron Man's alter ego. The good stuff starts around 2:40.

Rhoden Shows He Has Mastered Cliches

. . . .and that Stace Nelson's impending candidacy makes his rather pointless.

The Yankton Press & Dakotan covers Larry Rhoden's visit to their office. Rhoden's rhetoric does little to distinguish him from other Republican candidates. He recites the de rigueur talking points.
We’ve got to get back to the basics and the founding principles that made our country great: limited government, individual rights, personal responsibilities and (recognizing) you cannot spend more than you earn,” he explained during a stop at the Press & Dakotan. “We have strayed away from those principles, and until we get back on track in that regard, we don’t have much of a chance of fixing what’s wrong with the country.”
Republicans have been using those lines in that order since 1980. It would be refreshing if Rhoden were original enough to change the order of the cliches.

He also supports defunding the PPACA (Obamacare) and suggests there are "a lot" of alternatives. The specifics are rather light and limited to the magic words: "free market."
Rhoden says there are other viable alternatives to the PPACA.
“There are a lot of ideas and a lot of concepts, but the overlying concept is let the free-market system do its job in allowing for competition,” he says. “That’s been criticized by other people in this race as being counter-productive. But I think that’s a flawed philosophy, and I think the competitive system always works better, especially in the field of insurance.”
Like every South Dakota politician, he supports the corporate welfare laden Farm Bill. He also believes that food stamp provisions should be dropped from the bill. Once again, he really offers nothing new.

Rhoden seems to be running on the fact that he is an experiences politician who is not named Mike Rounds and a conservative Republican legislator who is not named Stace Nelson. A cynic might suggest that his campaign slogan will be "I'm boring but not plastic."

Friday, August 16, 2013

"What's An 8,471% Profit Between Friends?

I missed this New York Times article earlier this month. Apparently some elements of the health care industry are doing their best to make loan sharks appear beneficent. Take for instance objects that are cheap to manufacture:
An artificial hip, however, costs only about $350 to manufacture in the United States, according to Dr. Blair Rhode, an orthopedist and entrepreneur whose company is developing generic implants. In Asia, it costs about $150, though some quality control issues could arise there, he said.
Let's eliminate the quality control problems, add a "cartel" and a sizable mark-up to turn $350 into at least $4,500.
Hospitals and orthopedic clinics typically pay $4,500 to $7,500 for an artificial hip, according to MD Buyline and Orthopedic Network News, which track device pricing. But those numbers balloon with the cost of installation equipment and all the intermediaries’ fees, including an often hefty hospital markup.
Of course, the hip isn't worth anything unless it's implanted, so one must charge approximately $30,000 for the hip in addition to other hospital costs.
That is why the hip implant for Joe Catugno, a patient at the Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York, accounted for nearly $37,000 of his approximately $100,000 hospital bill; Cigna, his insurer, paid close to $70,000 of the charges. At Mills-Peninsula Health Services in San Mateo, Calif., Susan Foley’s artificial knee, which costs about the same as a hip joint, was billed at $26,000 in a total hospital tally of $112,317. The components of Sonja Nelson’s hip at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Fla., accounted for $30,581 of her $50,935 hospital bill. Insurers negotiate discounts on those charges, and patients have limited responsibility for the differences.
Someone is going to have to help me with some definitions. I'm not sure if insurance companies being a check on greed constitutes irony or dystopia.


Is Annette Bosworth Channelling Willy Loman Or Sally Field?

Pat Powers points to an Annette Bosworth email appeal in which she boasts about her popularity. Bosworth points out that doctors have a 70% approval rating while claiming her patients give her a 95%. Willy Loman, protagonist of Death of a Salesman, told his sons that it's not enough to be liked; one must be well liked. Life didn't turn out so well for Willy.

If Bosworth is attempting to avoid being Loman's political equivalent, she may just be channeling her inner Sally Field. For those who are young or who have forgotten:

I disagree with Willy every time I read Arthur Miller's play. I've like Field's work as an actress but that doesn't mean I'd vote to elect her to the U.S. Senate. It'll take more than the fact that Bosworth's patients not only like her but they really like her to make me vote for her.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Seth Godin Explains What Education Classes Should Have Taught Me But Didn't

I don't remember ever cutting and pasting a whole post before, but Godin's pithy advice provides the reminders I need as I start the school year.
Your first mistake might be assuming that people are rational.
Your second mistake could be assuming that people are eager for change.
And the marketer's third mistake is assuming that once someone knows things the way you know them, they will choose what you chose.[emphasis in original]
The young'uns have many wonderful qualities, but they're teenagers. To the best of my knowledge, teenager and rational are not synonyms. Actually, I doubt human and rational are synonyms. Pardon the cliche, but if I had a nickel for every time I've heard "When I was in school, they did it right," I could retire to a Caribbean island. The last one should be be self explanatory to everyone. (Lovers of nation building especially should keep that one in mind too, but that's a different post.)

Now if I can just discover a way to skip faculty meetings.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The South Dakota Senate Campaign In 280 Characters Or Less*

It's promising to get ugly before Nelson even officially announces.
*Update: I suppose I should point out that correct grammar usage is fewer before someone calls me on it in comments. Less just seemed to fit better.

Rick Santorum Shows Why Ronald Reagan Couldn't Win In The Current Republican Party

I haven't searched all of Ronald Reagan's speeches, but near the end of his administration, he seemed proud of his efforts to protect the middle class. In fact, he sounded like a true class warrior:
The charges go on and on, but the truth remains the same. No matter how you look at it, the last time they were in office, the liberals clobbered the American middle class -- and we stopped them. Some are calling this last-ditch opposition campaign an attempt at ``class warfare.'' So, what's new? Our liberal friends have been at war with America's middle class for years. Now they want you to turn the other cheek -- but will they just take that as an opportunity to really let you have it? Main Street America is in better shape today than it's ever been. Why would we ever want to put it back in the hands of those who almost turned out its lights?
According to Rick Santorum, Reagan needs to be called out for his Marxist rhetoric

It's a dangerous step when the debate moves from how best to help middle income folk to denigrating those who use the term middle class to describe them. Of course, calling people out for using the term middle class shifts the debate away from declining social mobility and income stagnation. That may be the result Santorum desires.

Tweet Of The Day: Nelson Officially Running For Senate Edition

Interesting timing, 3 am?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Know Your French Leftists: A Little Monday Night Metablogging

Let's take a little pop quiz. Which South Dakota blog featured a post favorably quoting a left-wing, gay, French philosopher who engaged in some sado-masochistic behavior?
A. The Madville Times authored by a French teacher and self-proclaimed liberal
B. Natural Right and Biology authored by a professor and self-proclaimed conservative
C. The American Clarion authored by a self-proclaimed Christian conservative
D. South Dakota Liberty authored by a self-proclaimed Libertarian
The correct answer is C. (Yeah, I made it easy for you.)

Bob Ellis's RSS feed/blog featured a post by John W. Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute which claims to be "dedicated to the defense of civil liberties and human rights." Whitehead begins his post with the following Michel Foucault quotation:
“Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?”
Whitehead goes on to list examples of schools acting like authoritarian states rather than learning institutions. The examples, if reported accurately, are egregious. Other Whitehead posts decry the surveillance state, a action that cannot be done often enough.

I know I've done a similar post recently, but seeing that Foucault quotation on Ellis's blog left me gobsmacked. I look forward to the Derrida and Nietzsche posts

A Minor Musing Wherein I Ask Advice About Teaching

I'm getting ready for the upcoming school year. As always, I want students to learn to write more concisely. (Insert your own "Do as I say, not as I do joke here.).

This morning Alan Jacobs, a Baylor University professor, tweeted the following series that made me think about trying to use Twitter as a tool.

Trying to put complex ideas in a series of 140 character sentences requires careful word choices especially if one cannot use "2" for "to" or "b4" for "before." Jacobs illustrates that one can easily create a series of events that can become a paragraph. Certainly dealing with Pascal or reducing a key thinker's main idea to a tweet requires careful thought.

Further, Twitter seems to be growing as primary source of news. Major news sources tweet, post, and broadcast simultaneously. One can certainly gauge reactions to events by following trending hash tags.

On the other hand, most people seem to believe that Twitter is still reserved for status updates: "I'm watching Colin Cowherd on ESPNU, writing a blog post, and petting my cat." That perception will cause a few emails to be sent to the boss's office. Further, unless things have changed dramatically, web filters will block Twitter and getting anything unblocked takes God, Congress, and 47 scissors to cut the mountain of red tape. YouTube became available for teachers at my school last just last year.

So Jacobs makes a great point, but I'm left with questions. Are parents willing to accept their students using Twitter or do parents believe it's the ultimate time waster? Most importantly, is it worth the effort to get Twitter unblocked so that I can use it in the classroom?

South Dakota Republicans Are Just Like National Republicans: Part 2

Ed Kilgore points to this Economist column that makes an astute observation that could apply to South Dakota:
In the eternal Republican dispute between sunny Reaganite optimism and dark, pessimistic rage [Cruz] offered a hybrid: sunny, optimistic rage, suffused with a clever blend of self-promoting pandering to the grassroots. Yes, America is being betrayed by a cowardly elite that includes many Republicans as well as Democrats in Washington, Mr Cruz essentially told the crowd. But America can still be pulled back from the brink and returned to its status as a shining city on the hill, thanks to the extraordinary power of grassroots citizen demands for change… as long as those grassroots demands for change are being channelled by someone with the guts of Ted Cruz, a new boy in town.
Judging by my Twitter feed and  posts or comments in certain quarters of the South Dakota blogosphere, one could replace the the name Ted Cruz with Stace Nelson. Nelson is a relatively junior legislator whose candidacy seems premised on the idea that he alone has the "guts" to do right by the grassroots who are demanding change. Further, he personifies "sunny, optimistic rage,"  and he delights at directing that rage at the South Dakota Republican leadership.

It's unclear whether Nelson has Cruz's stage persona, but Nelson's social media efforts have demonstrated that he's expertly created the "aw shucks, I'm just a good old boy who happened to be have been a U.S. Marine, but I ain't really nothing special" persona the South Dakota Republican base seems to love.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Scripture And Song Of The Week: II Kings 19 Edition

II Kings 19
25 “‘Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it.In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone.
26 Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame.They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots,like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up.
27 “‘But I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against me.
28 Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.’

Friday, August 9, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Movie Directors Should Listen To Darth Vader Edition

Remember when Darth Vader said, "Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed.

Directors apparantly have't listened:
Like District 9Elysium takes on contemporary problems of economic and social injustice—this time not racial prejudice but the vast worldwide gulf between haves and have-nots. But after taking some pains to imagine and present a mid-22nd-century world that’s a plausibly grim extrapolation of the one we live in, Blomkamp proceeds to spend the last two-thirds of his film crashing spaceships into lawns, or staging high-tech fistfights between Elysium’s stolid hero and his even duller arch-nemesis. It’s a waste of a perfectly good dystopia.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hard Core Conservative Confusion Illustrated Once Again

Conor Friedersdorf states a truth that few have enunciated as clearly or succinctly:  "Secret policy and secret law corrode representative government, undermining Americans' ability to govern themselves."

How do conservatives respond to threats posed by the Patriot Act and the national security state? They want to shut down the government unless Obamacare is defunded. Defunding a law that everyone knows about is, of course, the best way to deal with secret policies and secret laws. Damn, it all seems so obvious, I'm shocked that every President since FDR hasn't made that policy central to their administration.

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that conservatives who spend most of their time bragging about the strength of their values seem to have a confused sense of priorities?

The Middle Class Ain't What It Used To Be

This William Galston Wall Street Journal editorial makes two key points about America's middle class. First, members of the middle class may be doing better than their parents did, but the middle class is shrinking:
Four decades later, the middle class share had declined by 10 percentage points to just 51%, while the upper class share increased by six points and the lower class by four. The U.S. income distribution is still a bell curve, but the left and right tails are fatter and the hump in the middle is lower.
This means that the middle class is less economically and socially dominant than it once was. Relatively speaking, more Americans are enjoying affluent lives at the same time that more are just barely making it (if at all). But that doesn't mean the middle class got poorer. During those 40 years, Pew calculates, the median income of middle-class households (adjusted for inflation) grew by 34%. The median grew for the others as well—by 43% for upper-income households and 29% for those with incomes below the middle class. This isn't surprising, because the median income for all U.S. households rose by 32% during that period, from $44,845 in 1970 to $59,127 in 2010. Indeed, 86% of middle-class Americans, and 84% of all Americans, enjoy higher incomes than their parents did.
Second, the current state of events may have some positive elements, but the recession devastated the middle class. Further, Galston points out that the efforts the middle class has undertaken to survive are unsustainable in the post-recession era:
We can argue about how squeezed the middle class was in the decades between the end of the postwar expansion and the onset of the Great Recession. But two things are clear: The coping mechanisms the middle class employed in those decades (fewer children, more hours worked, more borrowing against home equity) are played out, and it will take middle-class households years to recover from the recession-induced blow to their income and wealth. If we cannot restore a vigorously growing economy whose fruits are widely shared, the struggles of the middle class will persist, and our democratic distemper will deepen.
Left unsaid is an acknowledment that no one from the right, the left, or the center has new idea about how to "restore a vigorously growing economy whose fruits are widely shared," so the middle class will continue to struggle.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Digital Age Circa 1981

I wonder what the young'uns will have the most trouble recognizing, the dial telephone or downloads that take two hours. At any rate, old folks can remind the young'uns when we wanted to read the digital paper, we had to walk up the digital hill both ways to get it.

HT: Summer Ash

Kristi Noem And Johnny Manziel: A Minor Musing About Autographs And Money

I have spent too much time over the last six weeks listening to sports talk radio. Actually, most of it has been sports scandal talk radio. Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez has been arrested on a murder charge. Major League Baseball has suspended Alex Rodriguez and over a dozen other players without pay because they used steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. Philadelphia Eagles receiver Riley Cooper was caught on a cell phone video angrily using a racial slur. Finally, Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel has confirmed many stereotypes about both the rich and the jocks as he has partied through the summer. Manziel is currently being investigated by the NCAA for accepting $7,500 for autographing memorabilia.

I thought about Manziel this morning when I read Cory's post about Representative Krisi Noem auctioning off an autographed cowgirl hat. As a college kid, Manziel is getting room and board, an education, access to training staff, and health care on someone else's dime. As an elected official and recent college grad, Noem is getting a paycheck, health care, office space, and money to hire a staff on the taxpayer's dime. Like Manziel, she was  probably has a few years of eligibility. Unlike Manziel, she doesn't risk losing eligibility because she will personally gain from auctioning off the autographed hat.

I don't have much sympathy for Manziel. Everything I've read about him makes me believe he's a spoiled brat. Still, it seems ironic and somewhat moronic that Manziel whose goal is to help Texas A&M win football games and earn himself an National Football League contract can't profit from his signature or likeness. Noem, who is supposed to represent all South Dakotans, can sign anything she wants and auction it off. If she doesn't want to risk the vagaries of an auction, she can demand $500 from voters to sit in the same room she is and eat rubbery chicken and overcooked asparagus. She can demand another $500 or $1000 dollars from voters for the opportunity to shake her hand. She can round out the package by charging another $500 for an autographed bumper sticker. Manziel can do none of those things.

I doubt autograph  money will corrupt a rich college kid like Manziel any more than it will a politician like Noem. Although he may make a few Aggie fans cry, it's doubtful that anything Manziel can do will cause anyone serious harm. On the hand, Noem can cause a great deal of harm if she works to benefit her financial supporters at the expense of others in South Dakota. 

Geek Post Of The Day: Mars Explorer Birthday Edition

I am a space geek. I want NASA to get full funding for a manned mission to Mars. I will eat a birthday cupcake to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars. Heck I might even eat 2 or 3 or 8 cupcakes.

This, however, is just wrong: Mars Explorer Barbie. From this post at The Atlantic:
Mars Explorer Barbie is remarkable for several reasons. One of them is that Mars Explorer Barbie's spaceboots, which protect feet that are permanently elevated to accommodate heels, are approximately half the length of a human-ratioed boot. Another is that Mars Explorer Barbie's un-gloved hands seem to be blissfully impervious to both the chilly Martian weather (average temperature: -80 degrees Fahrenheit) and the high radiation levels of the thin Martian atmosphere.
The very plastic and far too stereotypically pink Mars Barbie

Monday, August 5, 2013

Michelle Malkin Provides South Dakota Conservatives 'With A Model Of How To Confront The Common Core

I generally find Michelle Malkin shrill. I find her arguments in favor Japanese Internment Camps wrong on moral and intellectual levels. With that predicate, it follows I must say something good about her: she expertly uses the Bennett debacle to take down Common Core.

First, she takes on everyone, including the Core's corporate backers:
These good ol’ boys bonded over their zeal for the top-down racket known as Common Core. As I’ve reported previously, this Fed Ed program is supported by both big-business interests (Microsoft founder Bill Gates and News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch’s education arm) and government educrats. Progressive activists in both parties have worked on nationalized standards, tests, and curricula for decades under previous names: outcome-based education, national school-to-work, Goals 2000, and No Child Left Behind, for example. Obama-administration bribery through “Race to the Top” greased the wheels for adoption of the Common Core program by cash-strapped states, many of which had more rigorous standards than the fed-imposed system.
She reserves some special venom for conservative astroturf organizations:
Bush’s foundation has now joined with the Common Core–peddling Fordham Institute under a new phony-baloney umbrella group: “Conservatives for Higher Standards.” While its list of supporters includes federal bureaucrats, politicians, and business interests, there are no grassroots groups of conservative parents or teachers. So beware of this “conservative” front. And remember: Astroturfing runs in the Bush family. Under George W. Bush, the federal Department of Education paid GOP mouthpiece/columnist Armstrong Williams to shill for No Child Left Behind.
Finally, she uses a personal touch to illustrate the big picture and show how Core and other corporate reforms violate conservative principles:
Cronyism and corruption come in all political stripes and colors. As a conservative parent of children educated at public charter schools, I am especially appalled by these pocket-lining GOP elites who are giving grassroots education reformers a bad name and cashing in on their betrayal of limited-government principles.
I'm not sure what I think of charters, but I agree that much of the Core and Race to the Top reform is about lining pockets. Too often, South Dakota conservatives attack Common Core by leading with an alleged U.N. conspiracy. Malkin shows that the there's no need to look for shadowy conspiracies when the corporate and political folk are engaged in obvious cronyism and cheating.

HT: Diane Ravitch

Quotation Of The Day: English Majors Praised And Contrasted Edition

The businessman prattles about excellence, leadership, partnerships, and productivity. The athlete drones on about the game plan, the coach, one play at a time, and the inestimable blessing of having teammates who make it all possible. The politician pontificates about unity, opportunity, national greatness, and what's in it for the middle class. When such people talk, they are not so much human beings as tape loops. . . .
The English major wants to use what he knows about language and what he's learning from books as a way to confront the hardest of questions. He uses these things to try to figure out how to live. His life is an open-ended work in progress, and it's never quite done, at least until he is. For to the English major, the questions of life are never closed. There's always another book to read; there's always another perspective to add. He might think that he knows what's what as to love and marriage and the raising of children. But he's never quite sure. He takes tips from the wise and the almost wise that he confronts in books and sometimes (if he's lucky) in life. He measures them and sifts them and brings them to the court of his own experience. (There is a creative reading as well as a creative writing, Emerson said.)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: The Headline That Depressed Nerds Everywhere Edition

Bad News, These Physicists Say That Teleportation is Unworkable

There's really nothing else to add. I'm going to take a nap in the basement and hope I wake up to discover this headline was just a cruel joke.

A Minor Musing About Bob Schwartz's Analysis Of South Dakota Politics

I've read Bob Schwartz's exit evaluation several times. It's a thoughtful jeremiad. The most interesting and accurate paragraphs point out that many of the problems Schwartz identifies will also be found in Ohio, his destination:
I could say that I am heading to some wonderful place where all the problems I experienced in South Dakota would not exist and how it is some wonderful political paradise. That wouldn't be true. Ohio, the place of my birth and the place where most of my beliefs were born, is just as messed up in many ways as is South Dakota. Ohioans for the most part have many of the same problems and concerns as folks do here but with one major exception. The 2 party system, while nothing to brag about anywhere, is actually alive and well in Columbus so all citizens at least have a voice. Heck, sitting Presidents and Presidential candidates actually visit the state from time to time and truly feel the need to pander to our needs in search of our mighty electoral votes!
Unfortunately in Pierre where Democrats are all but non-existent, it seems the biggest issue is not necessarily doing what is best for the residents but in determining who can come up with the most ridiculous legislation to determine who is more Conservative or who isn't Conservative enough. While in the national political arena, South Dakota isn't even an afterthought except to mock every once in awhile. [Emphasis mine]
The bolded parts indicated the significant difference between South Dakota and many other states, the lack of a functioning Democratic Party. Coincidentally, Dakota War College helps Schwartz make his point. Pat Powers celebrates South Dakota Democrats' dysfunction:
Almost ten years later, the Democratic Party is shattered and in pieces, their highest elected official is retiring in the face of certain defeat, and the next highest official is a mayor in a non-partisan office who doesn't like it when the media refer to him in that manner, and they’re an endangered species in the legislature.
The first comment under Powers's post comes from SD Jammer who contends South Dakota's Republicans are too moderate:
And many are making the warning today that the moderates in the Republican Party that legislate and govern like [D]emocrats no longer represent their values.
Politics like nearly every other human creation naturally seeks a dichotomy. One does not simultaneously root for both the David and the Goliath when the two are in conflict. For every Yin, there must be a Yang; I don't know a single Guinness drinker who voluntarily buys Miller Lite. Further, people define themselves both by what they are and what they are not. Protestants, for example, define themselves, in part, as not Roman Catholic.

Powers and Schwartz are correct; South Dakota Democrats are not currently a a political force to be taken seriously. Further, SD Jammer's protestations to the contrary, moderate Republicans have been extinct for at least a decade. Republicans define themselves as being conservative. They want to be anything but liberal. South Dakota Republicans have, therefore, created a new dichotomy between the far right and the right with both sides making concentrated effort to establish conservative bona fides.

I don't know how long a state can survive dominated by one party whose internal debates  offer distinctions between only conservative and reactionary positions. Schwartz's analysis rings true, so I suspect it will take only two or three election cycles before South Dakota politics takes on the air of a belly bucking contest between Glen Beck and Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh having been deemed too moderate.

Scripture And Song Of The Week: I Thessalonians 5 Edition

12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 26 Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.