Sunday, September 30, 2012

Job Creator Idolatry

Nick Hanauer, an American venture capitalist, puts the lie to many Romney/Ryan/Rand talking points. The best line of many great lines: "It's a small jump from job creator to the Creator"

HT: This David Frum post


Quotation Of The Day: Like Father, Like Son? Not Necessarily! Edition

From this Rick Perlstein Rolling Stone post:
That's another rebellion against his late dad. Not only was George Romney, that loser, ironclad in his ideological commitments; his vision of how capitalism should work was in every particular the exact opposite of the one pushed by the vulture capitalist he sired. (If George Romney's AMC was around now, Mitt Romney's Bain Capital would probably be busy turning it into a carcass.) A critic once said he was "so dedicated to good works his entrance into politics is like sending a Salvation Army lass into the chorus at a burlesque house." As a CEO he would give back part of his salary and bonus to the company when he thought they were too high. He offered a pioneering profit-sharing plan to his employees. Most strikingly, asked about the idea that "rugged individualism" was the key to America's success, he snapped back, "It's nothing but a political banner to cover up greed." He was the poster child for the antiquated notion that corporations have multiple stakeholders: the workers that breathe them life, the communities in which they are situated, and the nation to whom they owe a patriotic obligation – most definitely and emphatically not just stockholders, as Mitt and his defenders say.[emphasis in original]

Rambo Jesus? Seriously?

A South Dakota War College post has led to mixing pop culture, religion, and politics in the worst possible way; instead of of Frankenstein, this mix has has created a Rambo Jesus.

Not surprisingly, Bob Ellis is leading the charge to put Jesus in fatigues and army boots.
Some of you have made mocking references to a “Rambo Jesus” when I pointed out that Jesus Christ is no wimp who doesn’t mean what he says, not a weak-willed “moderate” who doesn’t expect us to follow his standard.
While you meant “Rambo Jesus” in mockery, you were actually closer to the way Jesus will someday behave than you realize.
Let's leave aside for the moment that Jesus famously said that those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword. He also advised turning of the other cheek instead of the returning of automatic weapons fire.

The only time that I can find Jesus acting in anything that could approach a Rambo fashion is when He chased the moneychangers from the temple. From the Gospel of John chapter 2:
13 And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.
I hope this support for Rambo Jesus means Ellis and his religious regiments will throw their support behind any effort Steve Hickey or others put into tightening South Dakota's lax to non-existent usury laws.

On a side note, it seems interesting that one of the most famous versions of Jesus as a "lover of brawny men" is Ezra Pound's "Ballad of the Goodly Fere."
Simon Zelotes speaking after the Crucifixion.
Ha' we lost the goodliest fere o' all
For the priests and the gallows tree?
Aye lover he was of brawny men,
O' ships and the open sea.

When they came wi' a host to take Our Man
His smile was good to see,
"First let these go!" quo' our Goodly Fere,
"Or I'll see ye damned," says he.

Aye he sent us out through the crossed high spears
And the scorn of his laugh rang free,
"Why took ye not me when I walked about
Alone in the town?" says he.

Oh we drank his "Hale" in the good red wine
When we last made company,
No capon priest was the Goodly Fere
But a man o' men was he.

I ha' seen him drive a hundred men
Wi' a bundle o' cords swung free,
That they took the high and holy house
For their pawn and treasury.

They'll no' get him a' in a book I think
Though they write it cunningly;
No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
But aye loved the open sea.

If they think they ha' snared our Goodly Fere
They are fools to the last degree.
"I'll go to the feast," quo' our Goodly Fere,
"Though I go to the gallows tree."

"Ye ha' seen me heal the lame and blind,
And wake the dead," says he,
"Ye shall see one thing to master all:
'Tis how a brave man dies on the tree."

A son of God was the Goodly Fere
That bade us his brothers be.
I ha' seen him cow a thousand men.
I have seen him upon the tree.

He cried no cry when they drave the nails
And the blood gushed hot and free,
The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue
But never a cry cried he.

I ha' seen him cow a thousand men
On the hills o' Galilee,
They whined as he walked out calm between,
Wi' his eyes like the grey o' the sea,

Like the sea that brooks no voyaging
With the winds unleashed and free,
Like the sea that he cowed at Genseret
Wi' twey words spoke' suddently.

A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea,
If they think they ha' slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.

I ha' seen him eat o' the honey-comb
Sin' they nailed him to the tree.
Pound, of course, wrote long before Rambo. Pound also infamously had fascist and anti-Semite leanings; one is left to wonder if the desire to create a Rambo Jesus stems from that politics. At any rate, it may be may be wise to avoid applying pop culture stereotypes to one's theology and begin admitting that we see through a glass darkly and know only in part.

Scripture And Song Of The Week: I Samuel Edition

I Samuel 16

14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.

15 Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.”

17 So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.”

18 One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”

19 Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” 20 So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.

21 David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. 22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.”

23 Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

How Important Is A Politician's Team?

Bob Mercer chronicles the recent political activity of the Mike Rounds team, "three amigos" or possibly "a gang of four" who are no longer young but still active.

Mercer's post reminded me of the Matt Varilek's falling out with Steve Hlldebrand over same-sex  marriage, a spat that got Politico's attention. One wonders if Hildebrand would have been able to help Varilek or if the "R" behind Representative Kristi Noem's name on the ballot would still have been enough. I suspect it's the latter, but I also have no doubt that an active Hildebrand would have made the race much closer.

In South Dakota, the "R" may be enough in a general election. In an intra-party election, however, the team will certainly matter. One other thing seems certain, Noem's team doesn't seem to match the talent that other Republican politicians like Senator John Thune, former Governor Mike Rounds, or Governor Dennis Daugaard have surrounded themselves with.

Saturday Morning Videos

My youth has slipped away the past view years with the deaths of Harmon Killebrew, Andy Griffith, and many others. I think I'll try to preserve one of the highlights of my 40s and 50s. One of those was watching videos on Saturday mornings with a cute little little girl who somehow grew from a middle schooler to college student in the blink of an eye. I'll spend the next few Saturdays posting a Saturday morning video or two. This week Pink and The Lumineers

Friday, September 28, 2012

Stupid Question Of The Day: Because D.B. Cooper Was The Only Other Option Edition

They're still looking for Jimmy Hoffa, and some cops need to get a sense of humor:
Berlin said the home may have been owned in the past by a gambler with organized crime ties. The current owner is Patricia Szpunar, 72, who said she has lived there since 1988.
She told the Associated Press that police detectives appeared two weeks ago and said they may need to search her yard for a dead body.
“I laughed at them,” Szpunar said Friday as the work began. “I looked at them and said, `What? Do you think Jimmy Hoffa is buried in my backyard?' … They just looked at me, and asked why I said Jimmy Hoffa.”
The young'uns who don't know about D.B Cooper can get the basics here.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Drones And Torture: None Of The Above Is Still My Only Choice

Conor Friedersdorf lays out the case against voting for Obama:
1.Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn't "precise" or "surgical" as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy. And Democrats who believe that it is the most moral of all responsible policy alternatives are as misinformed and blinded by partisanship as any conservative ideologue.
2. Obama established one of the most reckless precedents imaginable: that any president can secretly order and oversee the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. Obama's kill list transgresses against the Constitution as egregiously as anything George W. Bush ever did. It is as radical an invocation of executive power as anything Dick Cheney championed. The fact that the Democrats rebelled against those men before enthusiastically supporting Obama is hackery every bit as blatant and shameful as anything any talk radio host has done.
3. Contrary to his own previously stated understanding of what the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution demand, President Obama committed U.S. forces to war in Libya without Congressional approval, despite the lack of anything like an imminent threat to national security.
There's no reason to believe that Romney will be any better on drones; he'll probably be worse. He also may return to the Bush/Cheney policy that sanctions torture as official government policy. From today's New York Times:
Last September, Mitt Romney’s advisers were so determined to attack President Obama from every direction and to revive long-discredited neo-con theories about interrogation that they actually encouraged the candidate to come out strongly pro-torture in his presidential campaign.

In what The Times’ Charlie Savage describes as a “near-final draft” of a memo, Romney advisers denounced Mr. Obama’s executive order on interrogation (which instructed interrogators to hew to the Army Field Manual, i.e. to legal techniques). They also urged Mr. Romney to pledge that, upon taking office, he would rescind that order.

So far, Mr. Romney has had the good sense not to follow this recommendation–at least not to a T. But in December he said he supported “enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now.” And he has said more than once that he favors waterboarding, a so-called “enhanced interrogation technique” which the United States government considered torture until the Bush administration decided it was not.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Plains Pops: A Give Me Something To Belive In Trio

I always feel good when I can use a Poison song as part of post headline.

First, this trailer for The Life of Pi reminds one to believe the unbelievable:

Second, this post from GeekDad  begins with the following paragraph on the search for saviors:
Not to sound like a woe-is-me fatalist, but if the world has ever been in need of saving, it’s now. We’re continuously looking for heroes to step in and fix everything. Some turn to politics and the upcoming election – okay, we won’t be going there – while others are drawn to their religious community – and we’ll be skirting by that issue, while we’re at it. In entertainment, one certainly doesn’t have to look too far to see what has everyone abuzz. The Avengers brought in just shy of infinity million dollars while in theaters; and Christopher Nolan’s final Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises saw about half of that. Both of these blockbusters were derived, of course, from the rich and overflowing heroics of the Big Two comic book companies. While Marvel and DC Comics are certainly both rife with saviors, they are far from being the sole source material. In Kristopher White’s indie graphic novel The Thirty-Six, we see that our comic heroes don’t have to wear tights, or special armor with Tron-esque piping, for that matter, to be super and save the day.
Most importantly, this series of meditations on The Odyssey from political blogger Rod Dreher powerful illustrate why Homer's poem still resonates.

Andy Williams R.I.P

My youth continues to die away.

Another Quotation Of The Day: Making Plebs Of Us All Edition

From Phillip Blond, the British thinker popularizing Red Toryism, "Modern conservatives make plebs of us all" in yesterday's Financial Times:
The trouble is that “47-per-centers” and “plebs” do define the modern order and do capture current reality. Much of this results unbeknown to themselves from centre right economics in both the US and the UK. Conservatives in both countries now represent vested over public interest, big business over small, international over national capital. They typify and defend an economic system that serves the minority rather than the majority.
Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic are narrowing opportunity, concentrating wealth and protecting monopoly interests. The centre right has almost ceased to do majority politics. It defines national interest in terms of the already powerful and increasingly abandons the middle and lower classes to their fate. They are persuaded by past fictions that what is in the interest of the winners percolates to those below them. In short, conservatives are unknowingly creating an oligarchy, one which will make us all plebs. By following the interests of a vested minority, conservatives may not win a general election for years. Of course, this is not conservative intention or wish but the rhetoric should not conceal the reality.

South Dakota Poverty And ACT Scores

At the Madville Times, Cory gives a quick overview of South Dakota's ACT scores. The most interesting numbers for me come not at the top but at the bottom of the scale.

The bottom four schools are McLaughlin, Dupree, Eagle Butte, and Todd County.

Earlier this year, the Census Department reported that four of the nation's poorest counties were located in South Dakota
Western South Dakota is home to the three counties with the nation’s highest poverty rate, and four of the top 10, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
South Dakota has long had several counties toward the top as Native American reservations have a major presence in -- and in some cases occupy all –- the most destitute counties. The state has never had the top three dating back to at least 2003, when the bureau began distributing the figures in an easily readable electronic format.
The figures, based on 2010 income, show Ziebach County with the highest poverty rate, at 50.1 percent, which is down from 62 percent in 2009. Todd County at 49.1 percent and Shannon County at 47.3 percent are next, with Corson County ranking ninth with 40.9 percent. [emphasis mine
For those who need a quick refresher in South Dakota geography, McLaughlin is in Corson County, Dupree is in Ziebach County, Eagle Butte is technically in Dewey County, but it's so close to Ziebach County that the county line is a distinction without a difference. In fact, Wikipedia places the community in both counties.

I teach the young'uns to say "correlation does not equal causation." In the case of poverty, however, I would like to test the hypothesis by seeing what would happen to ACT scores if poverty in those counties were reduced.

Quotation Of The Day: Eternal Optimist Or Insane Prophet Edtion

From Richard Whalen, CEO of the Elite Football League of India, a group trying to introduce American football to India:
“One day the Mumbai Gladiators will be worth more than the New York Yankees.”
However insane Whalen sounds, I'm willing to bet his prediction will come true before South Dakota sees the end of single-party domination in the state legislature.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Mayan Calendar Isn't Scary; A Bacon Shortage Is Scary

Homer Simpson might need to seek counseling: there might be a bacon shortage.
Might want to get your fill of ham this year, because "a world shortage of pork and bacon next year is now unavoidable," according to an industry trade group.
Blame the drought conditions that blazed through the corn and soybean crop this year. Less feed led to herds declining across the European Union “at a significant rate,” according to the National Pig Assn. in Britain.
And the trend “is being mirrored around the world,” according to a release (hat tip to the Financial Times).

Monday, September 24, 2012

Of Pop Culture And Historical Figures: Something Totally Weird Edition

I like combining pop culture with politics more than most folks, but these pictures confuse me. I don't know if they're really cool or so far over the top that I should be very afraid.

More can be found here.

Sometimes Learning Is Hard

A fellow staff member came into my room just after the bell rang because to show me this cartoon. I expect a dozen students to show it to me before the day is over. Every student who has taken one of my classes in the past 10 years has probably had this image in their mind as I have threatened defenestration for some minor infraction.

I didn't ask for permission; the original can be found here.
 Alan Jacobs quotes Orwell while musing about the same principle when discussing learning how to write well:
And then, as is typical of Orwell at his best, comes the unexpected kicker:
It is a mistake to think such methods do not work. They work very well for their special purpose. Indeed, I doubt whether classical education ever has been or can be successfully carried on without corporal punishment. The boys themselves believed in its efficacy. There was a boy named Beacham, with no brains to speak of, but evidently in acute need of a scholarship. Sambo was flogging him towards the goal as one might do with a foundered horse. He went up for a scholarship at Uppingham, came back with a consciousness of having done badly, and a day or two later received a severe beating for idleness. ‘I wish I’d had that caning before I went up for the exam,’ he said sadly — a remark which I felt to be contemptible, but which I perfectly well understood.
I doubt whether classical education ever has been or can be successfully carried on without corporal punishment. What a terrible thing to say — but what if it’s true? What if there are certain valuable skills that children aren’t going to learn unless we let Sambo have his riding crop and the nuns their hand-smacking rulers? I wouldn’t make that choice — I wouldn’t let some sadist with a riding crop within a mile of young boys, and I wouldn’t let the nuns have their beloved rulers back — but the belief that certain unpleasant rote-oriented skills can be learned without strong negative reinforcement may be a wish-fulfillment fantasy.
I don't want to use a hand-smacking ruler. Jokingly threatening defenestration is far better than actually carrying out a real defenestration. I have to agree, however, sometimes learning can be a difficult process, and teachers harm their credibility if they deny the truth of that fact to themselves or their students.

This May Be The Best Education Video Of All Time

Father Guido Sarducchi solved America's education problems, but no one listened. Our loss!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: It's Not Dependency; It's Exploitation Edition

There’s a case that this president’s policies have made these problems worse, sluicing more borrowed dollars into programs that need structural reform, and privileging favored industries and constituencies over the common good.
But this story is one that Romney and his party seem incapable of telling. Instead, many conservatives prefer to refight the welfare battles of the 1990s, and insist that our spending problem is all about an excess of “dependency” among the non-income-tax-paying 47 percent.
In reality, our government isn’t running trillion-dollar deficits because we’re letting the working class get away with not paying its fair share. We’re running those deficits because too many powerful interest groups have a stake in making sure the party doesn’t stop.
When you look around the richest precincts of today’s Washington, you don’t see a city running on paternalism or dependency. You see a city running on exploitation.

A Sunday Afternoon Confession

I would pay a lot of money to see President Obama and Speaker Boehner do a cover of this classic.

South Dakota Right Wing Siding With Paranoia And Inaccurate Historian

Brad Ford publicizes a Stephanie Strong hosted "The Constitution is the Solution" presentation. Ford invokes Thoreau and Emerson to place this "public performance" in the 19th Century Chautauqua and Lyceum traditions. The event will feature video presentations from Robert Brown of the John Birch Society and self-alleged historian David Barton.

I've always preferred William F. Buckley conservatism to John Birch Society fringe paranoia. Barton's book The Jefferson Lies was voted the least credible history book in print in July. In August publisher Thomas Nelson pulled the book.
The publisher, Thomas Nelson, said in a statement that it had received complaints from numerous readers that there were factual errors in the book, which reached the New York Times bestseller list in May.
“We took all of those concerns seriously [and] learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported,” said the publisher, which focuses on releasing Christian-based titles.
Barton's book is so replete with errors that two respected historians Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter felt compelled to write an entire book to respond:
David Barton claims he is setting the record straight with this book, but that claim is far from reality. Barton misrepresents and distorts a host of Jefferson's ideas and actions, particularly his views and practices regarding religion, slavery and church-state relations. As Jefferson did with the Gospels, Barton chooses what he likes about Jefferson and leaves out the rest to create a result more in line with his ideology. In fact, there were so many problems with his book that we wrote an entire book in response.
Fittingly, Barton has turned to Glenn Beck for succor.

I sided with rebels against the Empire in Star Wars; I loathe the imperial New York Yankees and would have gladly helped David pick out some smooth stones as he went up against Goliath.

I really want to side with South Dakota's little guys when they go up against Daugaard Inc. The rebels and David, however, had truth on their side; by siding with Barton and the John Birch Society, Strong and Ford are using fear and propaganda to spread misinformation.

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Gospel Of Luke Edition

Luke 3
King James Version

3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;

4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;

6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

If Money Is Speech, Is Romney Pro-Choice?

TMZ has the details of a surrogacy agreement that Romney subsidized for his son Tagg and Tagg's wife Jen:
TMZ has learned Mitt Romney's son Tagg -- who had twins this year through a surrogate -- signed an agreement that gave the surrogate, as well as Tagg and his wife, the right to abort the fetuses in non-life threatening situations ... and Mitt Romney covered some of the expenses connected with the arrangement  ... and it may boil down to an incredibly stupid mistake.
The contract between Tagg, Jen, and the surrogate contained a paragraph 13 which TMZ reports had the following provisions:
"If in the opinion of the treating physician or her independent obstetrician there is potential physical harm to the surrogate, the decision to abort or not abort is to be made by the surrogate."

Translation:  Tagg and Jen gave the surrogate the right to abort the fetuses even if her life wasn't in danger.  All the surrogate has to show is "potential physical harm," which could be something like preeclampsia -- a type of high blood pressure that could damage the mother's liver, kidney or brain, but is not necessarily life-threatening.

Paragraph 13 goes on:

"In the event the child is determined to be physiologically, genetically or chromosomally abnormal, the decision to abort or not to abort is to be made by the intended parents.  In such a case the surrogate agrees to abort, or not to abort, in accordance with the intended parents' decision."

And there's another relevant provision in Paragraph 13:

"Any decision to abort because of potential harm to the child, or to reduce the number of fetuses, is to be made by the intended parents."

Translation:  Tagg and his wife, Jen, had the right to abort the fetuses if they felt they would not be healthy.
TMZ goes on to point out that the family claims that Paragraph 13 was left in the agreement inadvertently. Perhaps so, but someone who's supposed to be a manager and who claims he'll put the country on sound fiscal footing should be reading contracts for services he's paying for a little better, especially if it contains clauses that could mean that he'll be paying for things he claims he morally oppresses.

Why Everyone Should Watch Treme

HBO Sunday nights at 9 pm central.

Still Another Summation Of Why I Can't Be A Republican

Michael Gerson, "the head speech writer and a senior policy adviser to President George W. Bush" sums up succinctly why the contempoary Republican party is not conservative, why it should not call itself the party of Lincoln,  and why I can not be a Republican in the current climate:
Yet a Republican ideology pitting the “makers” against the “takers” offers nothing. No sympathy for our fellow citizens. No insight into our social challenge. No hope of change. This approach involves a relentless reductionism. Human worth is reduced to economic production. Social problems are reduced to personal vices. Politics is reduced to class warfare on behalf of the upper class.
A few libertarians have wanted this fight ever since they read “Atlas Shrugged” as pimply adolescents. . . . I do believe that Republicans often parrot it, because they lack familiarity with other forms of conservatism that include a conception of the common good.
But there really is no excuse. Republican politicians could turn to Burkean conservatism, with its emphasis on the “little platoons” of civil society. They could reflect on the Catholic tradition of subsidiarity, and solidarity with the poor. They could draw inspiration from Tory evangelical social reformers such as William Wilberforce or Lord Shaftesbury. Or they could just read Abraham Lincoln, who stood for “an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life.”
Instead they mouth libertarian nonsense, unable to even describe some of the largest challenges of our time.

The Health Irony Of Romney And The 47%

Mitt Romney released his medical records yesterday. They show what one would expect for a man who has all of the benefits wealth can provide:
Mitt Romney is a “vigorous man” who has “reserves of strength, energy and stamina that provide him with the ability to meet unexpected demands,” his personal physician wrote in a letter released by the campaign on Friday.
Yesterday's New York Times points out an interesting irony. The people that Romney despises, the 47% composed of people like my mother who at age 78 still cleans the local bank for a little extra money, are living shorter lives than the poor of previous generations:
Researchers have long documented that the most educated Americans were making the biggest gains in life expectancy, but now they say mortality data show that life spans for some of the least educated Americans are actually contracting. Four studies in recent years identified modest declines, but a new one that looks separately at Americans lacking a high school diploma found disturbingly sharp drops in life expectancy for whites in this group. . . .
The steepest declines were for white women without a high school diploma, who lost five years of life between 1990 and 2008, said S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the lead investigator on the study, published last month in Health Affairs. By 2008, life expectancy for black women without a high school diploma had surpassed that of white women of the same education level, the study found.s not involved in the new research said its findings were persuasive.
People claim Romney is not a cruel man. If not cruel, he is at least callous to consider people experiencing shortened life spans a plague on society and moochers. He is contemptuous of those who do the labor that makes his life of ease and health possible.

Quotation Of The Day: Popular Fiction As An Intellectual Understanding Of American Life

Henry Farrell may not be making a Platonic utterance such as "poetry is nearer to vital truth than history" but he does give a rather ringing endorsement for a popular novelist:
There’s a strong case to be made that [King's]books and stories, taken as a whole, tell you more about the Matter of America than the work of any other living novelist. And they are not only deeply intelligent but politically intelligent. If you want to know what the US was really like under George W. Bush, you’ll probably find out more from reading Under the Dome (which is not even one of King’s best novels) than Ill Fares the Land. The ease with which a slick rightwing populism can slide into something approaching fascism. The ways in which community loyalties can sour politics or redeem them. The intertwining of politics and petty personal jealousies. King gets it all. He has both an understanding of American life that Judt (for his many intellectual gifts) lacked, and the ability to express that understanding in clear, unornamented prose that can speak to millions of people.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: The Idolatry Of Numbers

Alfie Kohn points out that our love for numbers warps school reform. The introductory quotation and the first two paragraphs serve as important reminders:
“As we tend to value the results of education for their measurableness, so we tend to undervalue and at last ignore those results which are too intrinsically valuable to be measured.”
-- Edmond G. A. Holmes, chief inspector of elementary schools for Great Britain, 1911
The reason that standardized test results tend to be so uninformative and misleading is closely related to the reason that these tests are so popular in the first place. That, in turn, is connected to our attraction to  — and the trouble with — grades, rubrics, and various practices commended to us as “data-based.”
The common denominator? Our culture’s worshipful regard for numbers. Roger Jones, a physicist, called it “the heart of our modern idolatry ... the belief that the quantitative description of things is paramount and even complete in itself.” [italics and bold in original]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Scotch Or Popcorn?

The Republican Civil Wars are getting interesting. On the national stage, Conor Friedersdorf chronicles "Rush Limbaugh's attack on Bill Kristol, the latest skirmish in an ongoing six-way battle for the character of the conservative movement."

Friedersdorf gives Kristol the edge:
Kristol is the rare sort who sometimes uses scurrilous attacks to discredit people, rather than engaging in substantive argument; but who at other times makes comments that run afoul of movement orthodoxy. He shares Limbaugh's comfort with odious means, but while the radio host's ultimate end is the mindless advancement of Team Red (along with self-aggrandizement), Kristol has substantive goals and commitments (and knows that quality work can be packaged with shoddier fare so that the latter is taken more seriously than it deserves to be). He's also unafraid of debating Limbaugh, knowing he'd get the better of the exchange.
Friedersdorf also points out that Limbaugh is dangerous to friend and foe alike:
Limbaugh's "keep quiet, right or wrong" attitude is cancerous to any ideological movement. The orthodoxy he attempts to enforce isn't to a set of principles or even issue stances. For Limbaugh, criticizing Team Red's candidate during election season is verboten, regardless of who is right or wrong. And should that Republican candidate become the president? As we saw during the Bush years, Limbaugh's approach is to carry water for GOP presidents for years on end.
In South Dakota, the person enforcing the "keep quiet, right or wrong" attitude is being enforced by someone with a little more official power than Limbaugh; Governor Dennis Daugaard has thrown the weight of his office behind the effort to silence groups making robocalls calling into question the conservative bona fides of Republican legislative leaders. Establishmentarian legislator Dan Lederman has filed a law suit. Meanwhile, Stace Nelson, the Republican legislator that the establishmentarian love to hate,has asked South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley to investigate Daugaard. A former marine verses a flannel shirt wearing farmer is so reminiscent of the professional wrestling matches I used to watch.

A Democratic Civil War would remind me of my youth, so if I were watching a Democrats beat up on each other at the state or national level, I would kick back with a Diet Coke and a bag of salted peanuts, pour the peanuts into the bottle of soda, and sip and savor like I did when I was young'un watching the old guys at the grain elevator.

This Republican Civil War is much more interesting. I spend about $100 a year on alcohol, but there's something about a Limbaugh and Kristol battle that makes me think savoring a scotch on the rocks while Kristol eviscerates Limbaugh would be satisfying. On the other hand, the South Dakota Republican Civil War requires popcorn and only popcorn, lots and lots of buttered popcorn.

The one thing I'm certain of is that I won't pour scotch over popcorn.

Willard Romney Loman

After reading about Mitt Romney still being not just unliked but really unliked, I was reminded of the scene early in  Death of a Salesman when Willy Loman tells his wife, "You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don’t seem to take to me."

Several other comparisons suddenly seem quite obvious. Mitt and Willy change their minds about important matters frequently and quickly. In Willy's case the important matters are his family.  In Mitt's case, the important matters are every issue that matters to the American public. In his defense, one should point out that Mitt has never done a 360 in eight lines as Willy does as the play opens:

WILLY: The trouble is he’s lazy, goddammit!
LINDA: Willy, please!

WILLY: Biff is a lazy bum!

LINDA: They’re sleeping. Get something to eat. Go on down.

WILLY: Why did he come home? I would like to know what brought him home.

LINDA: I don’t know. I think he’s still lost, Willy. I think he’s very lost.

WILLY: Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country in the world a young man with such — personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hard worker. There’s one thing about Biff — he’s not lazy. [emphasis mine]
Both also share the belief that money makes the man. Mitt's comment on the 47% stands for itself; Willy asserts,

How can he find himself on a farm? Is that a life? A farmhand? In the beginning, when he was young, I thought, well, a young man, it’s good for him to tramp around, take a lot of different jobs. But it’s more than ten years now and he has yet to make thirty-five dollars a week!
Like Willy, Mitt never "put a bolt to a nut." Most importantly, both are salesmen who don't seem very good at selling themselves

Willy is the protagonist who illustrates the plight of common man. He provides the classic tragic reminder "there but for the grace of God go I."

On the other hand, Mitt Romney does not remind us that a "small man can be just as exhausted as a great man." He's not "way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a Shoeshine." If the world doesn't smile back, it's not an earthquake, and if he gets a couple of spots on his tie, he's got at least $400 million to buy a few new ones or send the stained ones to the cleaners. Willard Romney just provides the tragic reminder that a rich man can be just as lost and clueless as a the rest of us.

UPDATE: A commenter proves himself to be an excellent Charley.


Quotations Of The Day: Why Rand Continues To Matter Edition

Paul Krugman uses an Eric Cantor tweet to explain how Ranidan thought dominates certain circles:
“Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.”

This all makes sense in the Ayn Rand intellectual universe, where a handful of heroically greedy entrepreneurs are responsible for all that is good. And if you live in that universe, your dividing line between makers and takers isn’t drawn at the point where people make enough to pay income taxes; everyone who isn’t John Galt should be grateful for what the Galts do, and we’re all takers by asking those heroes to pay any taxes at all.
Ed Kilgore illustrates how this Randianism to its logical conclusion:
Think about it. A large percentage of GOP economic policy thinking is based on the assumption that minimizing business costs is the alpha and omega of growth and competitiveness. Not only taxes and regulations, but also wages and benefits, need to be kept as low as possible. The whole idea of “human capital” being a national asset worth cultivating—a universally accepted notion in the 1990s—has all but been lost on the right.
Accordingly, if you don’t fall into the charmed circle of “job creators;” if you don’t own your own business, or have enough wealth to make significant capital investments; then your job, it appears, is to bear down, shut up, and do what you can to make life easier for your bosses. Abandon that union; stop asking for pay increases; gracefully accept that shift from defined benefit to defined contribution pensions, or from any pension to none; pay your taxes and stop worrying about the tax rates paid by your superiors—you’re lucky they pay them at all, given the fact you already owe them your daily bread, everything you own, and your very life.
Kilgore and Krugman should have added that the current Randian Republicans have decided to treat their theory as a categorical imperative, blissfully forgetting that Kant's first formulation includes treating people as an end unto themselves and never the means an end.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Would Calvin Coolidge Vote For Mitt Romney Edition

Writing at The American Conservative, James Pinkerton looks at conservatives, including Disraeli, Lincoln, and Coolidge, who campaigned to get the votes of the 100% without disparaging the 47%.

When he was sworn in as president of Massachusetts State Senate, Silent Cal spoke like a collectivist:
The commonwealth is one. We are all members of one body. The welfare of the weakest and the welfare of the most powerful are inseparably bound together. Industry cannot flourish if labor languish. Transportation cannot prosper if manufactures decline. The general welfare cannot be provided for in any one act, but it is well to remember that the benefit of one is the benefit of all, and the neglect of one is the neglect of all. The suspension of one man’s dividends is the suspension of another man’s pay envelope.
Sounds like a combination of John Donne and an Occupy Wall Street speech to me.

What Do Le Cirque And A Sourth Daktoa Middle School Cafeteria Have In Common?

Bad food.

Pat Powers points to a KCCR report of Kristi Noem's visit to a middle school where she learned that middle schoolers don't like their lunches:
Some of the students, after talking to Noem, said they told the Congresswoman they didn’t like the lunches. One said the food was “too healthy” and others said they never got enough to eat and threw away most of their food.
Meanwhile, Rod Dreher points to New York Times review of Le Cirque, "one of New York’s fanciest and most expensive restaurants." The review makes it seem as if most middle schoolers would throw this food away too:
Nearly everything lacked seasoning. The kitchen gave the impression that it had stopped reaching for excellence and possibly no longer remembered what that might mean.
I don't know if middle schoolers would consider beef carpaccio"too healthy," but it sounds as if they would be unhappy if it replaced their salad bar "because some of the salads and puddings exceeded the calorie standards."
Beef carpaccio, the chilly maroon flesh stretched out below a scattershot application of radish and celery slices that had started to curl, tasted of refrigeration and surrender. In what was meant to be a salad, a white flap of flavorless squid was pulled over a length of octopus leg like a shroud; it sat next to frigid white beans that were crunchy at the center.
The most important comparison between the classy eatery and the middle school cafeteria seems to concern that staple of all cafeteria food, the fish stick or an allegedly more elegant substitute:
A long log of Dover sole under a sheet of bread crumbs had neither the texture nor the flavor that might justify charging $49 for a fish stick.
On a positive note, English teachers everywhere would rejoice if their students would turn in paragraphs like this one:
Soft green bell pepper and watery peeled tomatoes had lost all memories of their days under the hot sun by the time they were draped like old newspapers over and around a chunk of striped bass. Summer corn soup was the color of winter squash, which may be why it tasted almost nothing like corn. Anyone with a bottle of olive oil and access to a supermarket produce aisle might easily prepare an heirloom tomato salad that surpasses the one I was served at Le Cirque in August.
Apparently both the food critic and the middle schoolers are experiencing the discomfort of "smaller portions, not as good as food being offered, more food being thrown away and [leaving the table] hungrier."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Plains Pops: Stuff I Liked From Todays NYT Edition

This Joe Nocera editorial hits some important notes about the educational debate:
Teachers — many of them — will continue to resent efforts to use standardized tests to measure their ability to teach. Their leaders — some of them — will denounce the “billionaire hedge fund managers” who are financing many of the reform efforts. Reformers will continue to view teachers’ unions as the greatest roadblock to higher student achievement. How can such a poisonous atmosphere not affect what goes on in the classroom? Alienated labor is never a good thing. “It is not possible to make progress with your students if you are at war with your teachers,” says Marc Tucker.
Tucker, 72, a former senior education official in Washington, is the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, which he founded in 1988. Since then he has focused much of his research on comparing public education in the United States with that of places that have far better results than we do — places like Finland, Japan, Shanghai and Ontario, Canada. His essential conclusion is that the best education systems share common traits — almost none of which are embodied in either the current American system or in the reform ideas that have gained sway over the last decade or so. He can sound frustrated when he talks about it.
This David Brooks analysis of Mitt Romney's disdain for the the 47% is also worth reading:
Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers. Forty-seven percent of the country, he said, are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?
It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America. Yes, the entitlement state has expanded, but America remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth. Americans work longer hours than just about anyone else. Americans believe in work more than almost any other people. Ninety-two percent say that hard work is the key to success, according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey
It says that Romney doesn’t know much about the political culture. Americans haven’t become childlike worshipers of big government. On the contrary, trust in government has declined. The number of people who think government spending promotes social mobility has fallen.
The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor.
Finally, this Susan Cain analysis of Obama as an introvert contains an important conclusion:
Culturally, we tend to associate leadership with extroversion and attach less importance to judgment, vision and mettle. We prize leaders who are eager talkers over those who have something to say. In 2004, we praised George W. Bush because we wanted to drink a beer with him. Now we criticize President Obama because he won’t drink one with us. . . .
Would it be better if Mr. Obama palled around with more senators, attended more cocktail parties, cut a schmoozier figure? Sure. P.R. is part of a politician’s job. And as the personality psychologist Brian Little says, we all need to act out of character occasionally, for the sake of work or people we love.
But on the long list of attributes of a successful president — or of any leader — an outgoing persona is low on the list. The charisma of ideas matters more than a leader’s gregarious charms.

Tweet Of The Week: Mitt Romney's Americas Edition

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mitt Romney: Forty-Seven Percent Of Americans Irresponsible

I didn't need a reason not to vote for Mitt Romney, but he seems to want to provide one anyway. Declaring that 47% of Americans don't take responsibility for their lives confirms that he is indeed has contempt for anyone who isn't in his income bracket. More video and transcripts at Mother Jones.

Quotations Of The Day: The Hollowness Of The Common Core Edition

From this Marion Brady post on The Answer Sheet:

First, a bit of common sense that the Core ignores:
Knowledge grows as we connect bits of it — as we discover relationships between, say, street width and sense of community, between birth order and certain personality traits, between capital investment decisions and political stability.

Compartmentalizing knowledge gets directly in the way of the basic process that makes kids (and the rest of us) smarter.
Then, of course there are a few other secrets that reformers and Core advocates try to ignore:
The standards have been swallowed by just about everybody, and as soon as they’ve been digested, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Educational Testing Service, and other manufacturers of standardized tests will be ready with contracts in hand for computerized tests in numbers sufficient to crash web servers.

The tests, of course, will build in a failure rate set by some faceless decision-maker — an easily operated spigot for meeting stockholder expectations. Open it — boost the failure rate — and up go sales of tests, test prep tools, instructional materials. And, of course, profits.

Even if I’m wrong about the eight other problems with the Common Core Standards (and I’m not), I don’t see any wiggle room on this one. If I’m right, the current reform effort’s centralizing of control of education, its micromanaging of classrooms by non-educators, its blocking of all innovation not tied to the core, and its reliance on destructive, simplistic tests that fail to take account of the fundamental nature of knowledge, and of human complexity and variability, will, in Senge’s words, exact an “enormous price."

That price will be the inability of our children and our children’s children to cope with a future shaping up to be more challenging than anything humans have thus far faced.

A Brief Musical Interlude For Those Of Us Who Don't Like Mondays

Sunday, September 16, 2012

An Important Reminder About Voters And Politics

Tod Kelly attended the recently conlcuded Value Voters Summit and comes away asserting "the attendees I was fortunate enough to meet – . . . were, to a man and woman, incredibly salt-0f-the-Earth nice people."

He goes on to make eleven brief observations about the people who spoke to these attendees. My favorites:
So, in no particular order, here are the top ten things I learned from the Values Voter Summit Main Stage speakers:
1. By the tally I kept, the number of times I heard Main Floor Speakers not named Paul Ryan mention Barack Obama: 157. Number of times I heard Main Floor Speakers not named Paul Ryan mention Mitt Romney: 5. . . .
3. The Obama administration has begun secretly plotting with the Organization for Islamic Cooperation. They have begun to “brainwash” FBI and other security agents to be receptive to the messages of Islam, so that Sharia law speech laws can be enforced unchallenged after Obama’s reelection. (Michelle Bachmann, US Rep-MN). . .
7. The Obama administration is planning to make illegal all churches and synagogues, and put in jail any Americans that attend them. This will happen this January, “March at the latest.” (Kamal Saleem, Debunked Ex-Terrorist Impersonator). . . .
8. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was apparently told early on that politicians smile big all the time. So now when she talks about terrible tragedies like the brutal the murder of Robert Krentz or Chris Stevens, she does so with a beaming, 100 megawatt smile that looks like she’s about to break out in the giggles. It comes off looking very creepy. Seriously, her people need to sit her down and talk to her about this. . . .
9. When Rand Paul opened the conference, he talked about the sanctity of human life, in regard to human fetuses, to thunderous, leap-out-of-your-chair applause. He continued to underline this philosophy by pivoting to the subject of war, where he said, “Truly great leaders are reluctant to go to war.” The crowd got pretty quiet on him after that. . . .
And this ones not really about a speaker, so I’ll throw it in as a bonus fun fact:
11. Friday morning before Paul Ryan came out, they showed a video presentation honoring the Heritage Foundation. The video ended with stills of famous conservatives that had worked with the foundation, and each got a different level of applause by the audience, based on how popular the pictured conservative was. Not surprisingly, the picture of Paul Ryan got the loudest. The next biggest cheers went to a picture of Limbaugh, followed by one of Hannity, and right behind him was George W. Bush. One of the pictures that got the least, shockingly, was the picture of Reagan, who got what might be called a polite, golf-clap smattering. This may have been the most surprising moment of the conference for me.
The fact that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity can earn bigger applause than Ronald Reagan says a lot about the state of America's alleged conservatives. None of what is says should be considered good. The fact that a call to be "reluctant to go to war" quieted a crowd of "salt-of-the-Earth-nice people" should frighten us all.

A USB Typewriter? Yes, Please!

HT: Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg writing in the The Atlantic

Quotations Of The Day: Something's Rotten In The State Of South Dakota Edition

From Stan Adelstein, a South Dakota State Senator, in this comment on the Madville Times:
Somehow South Dakota is losing something - call it honesty and transparency - call [it people's] rights before someone's big dollar interest!
He also writes:
But, but what is going on? . . .  I never saw anything like this in the Rounds or Janklow administrations -- and I was kind of in the know. My only embarrassment is, that at my age and with my business experiences I should have known what some people were trying to do.
Everyone who goes through high school has probably heard the Lord Acton statement “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupt absolutely." It's become a cliche, but South Dakota voters should never doubt that Acton is correct. When one party has absolute power in a state, that power will continue to corrupt.

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Job Edition

Job 38
 4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?

8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
    and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
    here is where your proud waves halt’?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Saturday Night Song

I am finding this a perfect Saturday night song; I must be getting old.

Two Major Reasons That Politics Is Broken: Flattery And Lies

A frequent commenter at the Madville Times contends that politics is about knowing ones audience and telling them what they want to hear. That sort of pandering has created all sorts of problems and prevented the United States from solving many of its problems.

People naturally seem to want to hear that they're wonderful. Andrew Sullivan points to an Andrew Polasky post that illustrates the dangers of flattering voters:
Flattery and pain don’t mix well. After all, if we the people have been as dedicated and selfless as our leaders tell us we are, then we cannot possibly be responsible for the mess we’re in. And if we have been so virtuous, surely we should not be asked to pay (through reduced benefits, higher taxes, or both) to clean up the situation. ... Flattery works as a political tool, but a public that has been told only of its goodness will not understand why it should be penalized for its virtue. When the American people wake up the morning after the great political seduction, they will have a nasty hangover.
If one is worried about the effects of flattery, one can always just tell people whatever pops into one's mind even if those thoughts are lies. Conor Friedersdorf posts about a Karl Rove effort that takes one of Obama's sentences and twists it beyond recognition:
You'd think it would be uncontroversial to note that, for a lot of folks a bit farther down the income scale, certain moments in life aren't the best time to blow a lot of money on a Las Vegas binge. So when President Obama said in 2010, for example, "You don't blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you're trying to save for college," fair to say he's expressing a truism, rather than casting aspersions on wining, dining, gambling, Celine Deon, or performance artists covered in blue.   

Enter Karl Rove's political ad factory, a shop of hackery so shameless it sees common sense and reacts with attacks like this:

The promises of bread and circuses cannot be long in coming.

Quotation Of The Day: Bob Dylan Poet? Edition

From this Ian Bell post:
Writing about all of this, I reached a couple of rough conclusions. First, it seemed to me that the 'problem' of Dylan and poetry was poetry’s problem. It stands as a difficulty, in other words, for those who claim to define the form, even by a process of elimination, in an age that has witnessed the collapse of formalism.
Second, I thought I could see and hear something inherent to recent American verse in Dylan’s performances of the words. It struck me that there is a line of descent from the 'stepped triadic' of William Carlos Williams, to Ginsberg’s 'breath unit', to 'Like a Rolling Stone'. There is an identifiable tradition at work, in other words, one founded ultimately in American speech.
How do you arrive at a major literary artist, one who in no sense compares with the standard songwriter, one who employs the strategies, allusiveness and metaphorical density of poetry, yet who isn’t – cannot be? – a poet? As I say, the arbiters of verse have a problem, not least in the era of 'open form'. The name of the problem is Bob Dylan.
HT: Prairie Progressive

The Middle Class Loses Unless It Makes $200,000 Per Year

I know that the poor people have refrigerators and cell phones. Therefore, according to some, they should just chill and call someone who cares.

This chart from Andrew Sullivan's blog shows that it's not just the poor who are falling behind; it's everyone not in the upper 20 percent.

Sullivan also quotes Jared Bernstein who points out that the chart shows that for many growth has been a spectator sport.

Bernstein invokes one of my favorite debate phrases when he calls the chart "stark reminder that when it comes to the living standards of middle- and low-income families, overall economic growth is necessary but not sufficient."

I'll add another favorite phrase that has become repeated so often that it is being reduced to a cliche: "insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results." The policies that led to these results have been in place for decades, but no one seems willing to change them. At best, politicians from both sides of the aisle come up with new names for legislation that will continue this trend.

I'm sure Mitt Romney will want to bet me $10,000 dollars that I'm wrong. He'll also tell me that middle income is $250,000 when that figure really puts one in the top 5%, the cohort that actually has experience growth

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Minor Musing About Rounds And "Profit Is Not A Dirty Word"

Pat Powers previews former Governor Mike Rounds's talking points as Rounds explores a U.S. Senate candidacy. The former Governor will apparently be testing the tweetable clause: "Profit is not a dirty word." It's unclear if Rounds will try to appropriate the music that accompanies the Billy Joel lyric "honesty is such a lonely word" or just repeatedly utter the phrase while standing in front of church choir humming "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Rounds, like many politicians, is offering a solution in search of a problem. No one considers profit a dirty word; many, however, consider profit a get out of jail free card. One needs look no further than the investment bankers whose schemes ushered in the recession that bottom 80% hasn't recovered from. None has faced any consequences for scamming investors and regulators.

The new talking point is confusing for another reason:. Rounds could just use a tried and true line that would have the virtue of being more honest.

Roger Ailes Throws Christian Right Under Bus

Writing in USA Today, Steve Deace fills in the gaps:
On Tuesday, News Corp. chieftain Rupert Murdoch, who oversees the parent company of Fox News, tweeted the following:

"Election: To win Romney must open big tent to sympathetic families. Stop fearing far right which has nowhere else to go."

My translation: Romney should embrace homosexual "marriage" just as the Democrats have, and publicly betray the Christians who have done most of the heavy lifting for the Republican Party since 1980 (not to mention making up most of the audience for Fox News). Just sell out these sad saps as we're about to, and they'll put up with it because the Democrats don't want them either.
I've long warned my Christian friends who vote conservative that they were nothing more than political cannon fodder. It's still surprising, however, to see them so publicly dismissed.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: 1950s Nostalgia Edition

E.J. Dionne asserts that the Western World is seeking to return to the 1950s.
But understanding politics now requires an appreciation for the nostalgic roots of our current struggles. It’s not hard to understand the yearning of many of Romney’s supporters for past cultural certainties. Obama’s coalition is, in cultural terms, the coalition of the future — younger and both ethnically and racially diverse. Yet Obama’s core pledge is to a new social compact that provides many of the guarantees of the old one.
Thus the choice in 2012 may be, more than we realize, about which parts of the 1950s we yearn for most, and whether there is any way to bring back the best aspects of an old era while leaving the rest of it behind.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Why Don't Billionaires And Politicians Want Students To Think?

Jan Carr, a self described "scrappy public school mom" points out that real education is more than a bubble test; she rightfully asserts that a complete education is "inextricably entwined with books, literature, writing, and the life of the mind; it develops critical thinking." She also asks some questions I would like to hear answered:
For me, many years later, the task is this: determine the bias of those currently attempting to bury our public education system in data and testing requirements. One motivation is obvious: there’s profit to be made. If education can be wrested from the classroom – from teachers, principals, and other actual educators – and the focus shifted to cold data and analysis, then tech companies and faux educational corporations can gorge themselves at the public trough. Hey, if it looks like greed and smells like greed, it’s greed! But there’s another, underlying motivation. It seems no accident that prominent among those who would hijack our nation’s public education system are powerful billionaires such as Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, and Rupert Murdoch. . . . Why do they want students reduced to a string of data, our kids to fill in bubbles, not learn to think? Perhaps because kids who think critically will ask questions, key questions. For instance, why is there an increasing and radical disparity of wealth in our nation? And who exactly controls our nation’s political system now that corporations are free not only to pour money into lobbying, but also to anonymously contribute boatloads of bucks to political campaigns?

To have a real democracy one needs an educated populace. Why don’t these billionaires want our kids to think critically? And why are they trying to bust the union that serves and protects our nation’s schools? What exactly are they afraid of?

HT: Diane Ravitch