In A Nutshell

McJoan has a post showing

an ad produced for Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration, trying to make the new voter ID laws seem like the last step in the long march toward universal enfranchisement in the United States. It probably won’t suprise you to know who created the ad.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration has signed a $249,660 contract with a company run by Mitt Romney fundraiser, former state GOP party executive director, pharmaceutical lobbyist, and school voucher advocate Chris Bravacos to direct a media campaign promoting the state’s Voter ID law.

Yes, that very same law, requiring that voters present identification at the polls, which critics contend will suppress Democratic-leaning non-white, poor, elderly and youth voters and which House Majority Leader Mike Turzai recently boasted (video) is “gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

It’s also the law that, if it stands, will disenfranchise more than three quarters of a million Pennsylvania voters if it passes muster in the courts this month. That’s one out of eleven Pennsylvanians, and in the city of Philadelphia, that’s closer to one in five. But, that’s if the law stands.

And that in a nutshell is the republican media machine at work consolidating their power.

 

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Money Can’t Buy Wisdom

With the right wing billionaires, there is little question that what they are trying to do with their “public advocacy” is harmful both to me and society. Some lefties complain that liberal billionaires should join the fray, but that is short-sighted at best. The problem with extravagantly wealthy individuals advocating for specific political positions is not with the positions themselves.

The problem is the mere fact that the individual is extravagantly wealthy. Wealth nullifies the need to prove one’s case, and give and out-sized voice to just a few.

As a case in point, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is spending big bucks on education “reform” here in the U.S. Unfortunately, their solutions have little success in reality:

Few people have been as visible as Bill and Melinda Gates on the subject of education reform. Certainly, in our society, where having a large portfolio trumps any possible personal failings, Bill Gates is held up by the mainstream media as someone leading the charge for innovation in education reform.

But is he?

Gates has been advocating for the adoption of a ranking policy for teachers and schools that has been in use at Microsoft for years. Essentially, it assumes that in any team of ten, there would be two that would get great reviews, seven would get mediocre reviews and one would get a poor/terrible review.

Back in my day there was talk of a “curve” in school. As in asking th teacher, “Are you grading on a curve?” Once I understood my basic math, I knew what my classmates were hoping for: bonus points.

This is how it works: If the best student only gets 82 out of 100 points, and the average for the class is in the mid-50s, just give everyone 15 points. This way, the best student gets a 97, and someone with a 55 now gets a 70 and a “C.” Other students with a 40 or below still fail, but that’s life.

Skipping why we might do this, let’s look at the curve. Note it’s not a curve, but the curve, the one representing a normal distribution. If you measure a large enough population for a certain class of characteristics and appropriately graph them, you get a nice bell-shaped curve.

And so, if you measure the height of 25-year-olds, you will find a few are very short, a nearly equal number are very tall, and most are about the same height, give or take.

Grading on a curve means that a certain percentage are doomed to failure. If the range of scores on a test was from 80 to 100, the person with the 80 and a few nearby get an “F.”

Again skipping what pedagogical interests might be served here, let’s look back in on Bill’s Big Idea:

Are you sensing the inherent issue with these preconceived rankings? The employees at Microsoft can tell you:

Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

That’s right. The very policy being pushed to “fix” education is the exact same one that has damaged Microsoft’s ability to innovate and lead.

And it’s the same policy that Andrew Cuomo has adopted for New York schools. Diane Ravitch, who has been trying to stem this tide of using business principles to reform education, has some questions as well:

I am puzzled by what I read in the column cited here. I am also puzzled by the Gates Foundation’s persistent funding of groups that want to privatize public education. I am puzzled by their funding of “astroturf” groups of young teachers who insist that they don’t want any job protections, don’t want to be rewarded for their experience (of which they have little) or for any additional degrees, and certainly don’t want to be represented by a collective bargaining unit.

I am puzzled by their funding of groups that are promoting an anti-teacher, anti-public education agenda in state after state. And I am puzzled by the hundreds of millions they have poured into the quixotic search to guarantee that every single classroom has a teacher that knows how to raise test scores.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone at the Gates Foundation has any vision of what good education is, or whether they think that getting higher test scores is the same as getting a good education. I wonder if they ever think about their role in demoralizing and destabilizing the education profession.

I don’t think there is anyone who will deny that we do need education reform. We are matriculating young people who are functionally illiterate and unable to think critically. And that is the generation charged with caring for us as we age. But rather than work in a way that demoralizes and demonizes teachers, we ought to be focusing on ways to raise and inspire every student.

Yeah, well. I’m all for inspiring every student, but maybe not so much raising them as well. That aside, regardless of all the fine work the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation has done world wide on infectious diseases and whatnot, they have an ideological ax they are grinding as far as the American educational system.

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The Oligarchy At Work

Gotta love “closed door” negotiations between multinational business and the U.S. Government to create the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

I don’t even know what to say about something like this. I wrote about the leaked copy of this treaty a few weeks ago, and the response from our readers in the media seemed to be a big yawn. The more I read this, the worse it gets. We actually elected someone who thinks this is a good idea? The media doesn’t want to discuss this, and we’re just a bunch of whiners if we bring it up.

Just a couple paragraphs:

Indeed, signatory countries would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to TPP’s rules, effecting a quiet corporate coup d’état. And, regardless of election outcomes or changes in public opinion, these extreme rules could not be altered without the consent of all signatory countries. Failure to conform to these rules would subject countries to indefinite trade sanctions.

A recent leak of one of TPP’s most controversial chapters reveals that the pact would elevate individual corporations and investors to equal status with sovereign nations to privately enforce this treaty. U.S. negotiators are among the greatest champions of this “investor state” enforcement system. It would give any foreign firm incorporated in any TPP country new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges.

Where’s your Tea Party now, America?

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There’s No There There

So the Fast and Furious story as it has been:

Republicans said they were left with no choice but to find Holder in contempt for refusing to turn over documents generated after Feb. 4, 2011 about an earlier botched ATF operation known as Fast and Furious. The Associated Press earlier reported that Holder emailed his aides after CBS News aired a report about allegations that guns that ultimately ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels were allowed to “walk” by federal agents.

So we have a conclusion (“botched”) before this description:

  • AP reports –
  • Holder emailed aids –
  • after CBS aired –
  • “allegations” –
  • of bad things happening.

The quote above comes from a story about today’s news that this (“The House of Representatives is set, for the first time in its history, to find a sitting attorney general in contempt of Congress on Thursday”) just happened and Holder was found in contempt. The quote below is about a previously published article in Fortune about the Fast and Furious thingy.

Well, the truth is, there were bad things happening, but try as they might, los federales were hamstrung by local gun laws, or lack thereof.  This from Cenk Uygur on his cable show:

Cenk digs into Fortune Magazine’s report following a six-month investigation into claims that agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sold guns to straw purchasers for Mexican cartels during Operation Fast and Furious. Attorney General Eric Holder may be held in contempt, but Fortune concludes that ATF agents never purposely sold to cartels. Instead, their efforts to track purchasers were often blocked by weak gun control laws. “You want to know the irony of this? The NRA had those weak laws passed in the first place,” Cenk says. “Do you know that, in Arizona, all you need to do to buy a gun is to be 18 and pass a background check? In fact … you can buy 10 guns — 100 guns, if you want.”

And to reiterate:

Quite simply, there’s a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.

Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that Voth and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies. Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case. Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time.

So the Obama Administration has gone to the wall to keep information about a non-scandal close to their vest. Why not. It ate up a lot of the clock, and meanwhile he goes to work everyday doing many things never in the spotlight.

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Re: Wisconsin

Not following the news anymore. What’s the point?

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What’s Wrong With A Little Violent Rhetoric?

Once again no one bats an eye when right wing extremists promote terrorism aimed at their political opponents:

Jay Townsend, a campaign spokesman for Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth (NY-19), weighed in on a local Facebook discussion with a violent comment about Democratic women in Congress, and his suggestion is now earning the congresswoman condemnation from one of her Democratic challengers.

The Facebook page, called NY19 U.S. House of Representatives Discussion Center, encourages “civil multi-partisan discussion about issues impacting citizens of New York’s U.S. House District represented by Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth.” On it, a question about gas prices was also critical of Hayworth. Townsend responded to one commenter, Tom, by bringing up the “war on women” and suggested they “hurl some acid at those female democratic Senators.”

The comment:

Listen to Tom. What a little bee he has in his bonnet. Buzz Buzz. My question today … when is Tommy boy going to weigh in on all the Lilly Ledbetter hypocrites who claim to be fighting the War on Women? Let’s hurl some acid at those female democratic Senators who won’t abide the mandates they want to impose on the private sector.

Looks like he wants to take the War On Women up a notch. The consequences so far: nothing. IOKIYAR

If in a month or three some idiot takes him up on his suggestion all we will hear is,

“Nobody could have predicted . . “

and

“But Democrats . . .”

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What If She Says No?

If you are not familiar with the term “lip dub,” it’s really hard to explain but involves filming lots of people as they lip sync to a song. Some towns and such have done them as tourism promotions, and here is a wedding proposal done in the lip dub style. From the video’s opening titles:

On Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012, I told my girlfriend to meet me at my parent’s house for dinner. When she arrived I had stationed my brother to sit her in the back of an open Honda CRV and give her some headphones. He “wanted to play her a song”…

What she got instead was the world’s first Live Lip-Dub Proposal.

Spoiler Alert: She said yes. There was no way she was saying “no.” With so many people – friends, family -involved, if she were likely to decline, someone would have known.

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Corporatism On Display

We need a government which is stronger than the private sector otherwise we no longer have a democracy:

In Chicago and Washington Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency held the first of its hearings on a carbon pollution standard for new power plants. The coal industry, which objected to standards curtailing mercury and other toxic emissions imposed on power plants earlier this year by the EPA, decided to show “grassroots” support in opposition to the proposed standard. So it put the above ad on Craigslist seeking people to attend the hearing wearing a t-shirt “in support of an energy project.” No mention of coal.

And this is what ends up in the media:

The media often know when they’re being used to hoodwink the populace As long as they not only serve corporations but are corporations most of us are screwed.

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Today’s Chart: Federal Spending Growth

Once again, what we have known for years gets distilled into a nice graph:  the party which runs on smaller government chooses Presidential candidates who in turn consistently grow the federal budget by wide margins versus the party of so-called “tax and spenders.”

The brazen lying of the republicans has been abetted by a timid media unwilling to call out the liars – be they politicians or fellow journalists. How’s that corporate media working out for ya’?

Anyway, here’s the chart:

Annualized Federal Spending by Presidential Term

Which is the party of fiscal responsibility? And which is the party of no taxes on corporations or non-labor income.

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I’m Not A Birther, But I PLay One In Office

What can I say to this:

Republicans say they have an emergency battle plan in place to make sure Arizona doesn’t end up in President Obama’s win column in November. Could it be this?

The man in charge of running Arizona’s elections has gone to the birthers. Secretary of State Ken Bennett now says he’s not convinced Barack Obama was really born in the United States and so he is threatening to keep the president off the ballot in November. […]

Bennett said he was following the lead of the state’s eccentric Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a fellow Republican who ordered an investigation into the president’s birth certificate last year and concluded the document released by the White House is a forgery. Bennett said he is now trying to get verification from state officials in Hawaii that the certificate is authentic.

Bennett says it’s nothing personal against Obama, it’s just that he’s gotten all these emails from people asking him to investigate Obama’s birth and his eligibility to be on the ballot. He’s not one of those crazies, he’s just letting the crazies guide him.

Too much desert sun in AZ? Is there any question that birtherism, etc., is rooted in plain old racism?

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