Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How Weinergate differs from GOP Sex Scandals

Since Anthony Weiner's televised confession yesterday that he had in fact tweeted a picture of his "member of congress" and that his account was not hacked, as he had first alleged, many have called on the New York congressman to resign for the impropriety.  Cable news pundits have been referencing the likes of Larry Craig, John Ensign, and the previous represenative of New York's 26th district, Chris Lee as they denounce Anthony Weiner and demand his resignation, but he is none of those people.

Larry Craig's political career came to a screeching halt when he was caught, by an undercover police officer, soliciting sex in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport.  Prior to his arrest, Larry Craig was known as a socially conservative member of the Senate who supported legislation designed to oppress homosexuals.  Therefore it is not the fact that he was soliciting sex from men in a public bathroom that inspired people to call for his resignation, but the hypocrisy of making life harder for homosexuals while simultaneously engaging in the aforementioned activity.

Nevada's John Ensign was in similar hot water after it was revealed that he had carried on an affair with the wife of one of his closest staffers.  Beyond the simple "you're having an affair with the wife of a very close friend/colleague" Senator Ensign had been an outspoken critic of President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky fiasco.  In calling for the President Clinton to resign, he said the behavior was an embarrassment to the country.

The key difference here, besides the lack of extramarital sex on Congressman Weiner's part, is that Anthony Weiner has not built his career by attacking adulterers or as some self-righteous social conservative.  Unlike Eliot Spitzer who was cracking down on prostitution rings while sleeping with prostitutes, Anthony Weiner doesn't have any public history of targeting lewd tweeters.

That being said it is extraordinarily upsetting, as a progressive, to see yet another politician on the left, who was fighting the good fight, allow his selfishness and his hubris to distract him from the job he was sent to Washington to do.  I don't care what anyone tweets, emails, writes on facebook, or sends through ICQ (remember ICQ?) but politicians need to realize that this kind of crap will become public, and it will derail the important work they are doing.

Friday, April 29, 2011

More Proof that Democrats have no Political "Strategery"

After weeks of howling from not-yet-a-republican-presidential-candidate Donald "The Donald" Trump, President Obama made the incomprehensibly idiotic move of releasing his long form birth certificate.  I'm not sure how old Jim Messina (Obama's 2012 Campaign Manager) is, but someone should check his birth certificate to make sure he wasn't born yesterday.  At the very least, they should take a lesson from Leslie Knope and make a "pros" and "cons" list the next time they make a big campaign decision.  Here's what one might have looked like if they had.

Releasing President Obama's Birth Certificate

uhm...we'll come back to this one

Oh, I know, it will put the issue to rest once and for all (how did that go dummy?)

It's not going to change anyone's mind
-Birthers will be birthers.  A PDF of a birth certificate is only going to give them more things to talk about
-People who claim Obama is an illegitimate president aren't going to vote for him even if a video is released showing the live birth taking place on the steps of the Hawaii State Capitol

It gives new life to the story

It shows Obama gave in to Trump's public pressure which
a) Makes Obama look weak
b) Gives Trump's demands appear legitimate

It opens the Administration up to criticism for spending money to fly someone to and from Hawaii to get the document

The GOP look like a bunch of lunatics calling for his birth certificate...any of them that are serious rivals for the general election will suffer in the primaries if they denounce the birthers.

Had his advisors taken a few moments to look at the pros and cons, I don't understand how they could possibly have agreed to do this.  It simply shows, once again, that Democrats have the worst strategists.  It's a really good thing that the GOP field is so full of unelectable candidates or the White House would probably go back to them in 2012.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

From The Answer Sheet

By Kathie Marshall
In May 2005, I wrote an op-ed for one of our Los Angeles newspapers, in which I vented my frustrations about the state of education in my community. Here’s some of what I said:
“I’ve been an educator in the Los Angeles area for more than 30 years in grades two through eight, including general education, second-language learner, gifted, special-education and intervention students. I’ve taught some of the wealthiest families to some of the poorest, in both private and public schools. For the past four years I have been a literacy coach at a middle school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, working with teachers and students to improve instruction and learning. And I have to tell you, many things that have taken place in education over the last decade have me mad!”
Read the rest at The Answer Sheet.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why are Democrats so stupid?

Put another mark in the "no shit Sherlock" column as the Washington Post reveals the results of yet another poll that shows a majority of Americans would like to see taxes on the very richest Americans go up, while keeping benefits like Medicare in their current form.  (http://wapo.st/g4bGH5)

To progressive Americans, this comes as no surprise as we have been yelling as loud and as often as we could for the past 10 years.  Americans are sick and tired of seeing massive tax cuts benefiting the likes of Warren Buffet, Steve Forbes, and the Walton Family, while the middle class sees its wages frozen and its benefits being chipped away.

As much as it pains me to borrow from the GOP talking points, this really does highlight a massive failure of leadership from President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and the previous Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.  All three of them had the means to cut out the tax cuts for the richest 1% at any point in time between January 2009 and December 2010.  This could have been their big election issue going into last Fall.  They could have forced Republicans to vote NO on tax cuts for the middle class and held their feet to the fire...but instead they blinked as they always do.

The excuses that have come out of the Democratic party since the Fall elections have been that they had to act to save tax relief for the middle class.  But that's only because they failed to act on it sooner.  The first day back after the summer recess Democrats should have been hammering away at the GOP to pass tax relief for the middle class and the middle class only.  Leave out the estate tax breaks that will save the Walton family over $34 billion.  Forget about the keeping the marginal tax rates for the richest 1% lower than it's ever been since the creation of the income tax (it's not like any of them pay that rate anyway http://bit.ly/dL6mer).

But no, that's not what they did.  Instead, Obama, Reid and Pelosi tried to hang on by moving to the center.  And we saw how well that worked out for the Donkey.  One would think after the "shellacking" Obama and the Dems took in 2010 they would find some new vocabulary and really hammer home to people the importance of getting tax rates back to at least where they were under Clinton, if not pushing them back to where they were under the great Conservative himself, Ronald Reagan.  As Anthony Weiner said to Mike Huckabee "why should the guy working 70 hours a week on a construction job pay a bigger percentage in taxes than the do-nothing child of a millionaire who inherits a massive fortune?" (It's a really great clip: Anthony Weiner vs Mike Huckabee)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Look who's begging for a Federal handout now

Almost two years to the day since Governor Rick Perry of Texas pandered to an anti-tax Tea Party rally, by suggesting that Texas might need to seceded from the Union due to Federal spending, he is now begging the Obama administration for that same Federal spending to fight the wild fires raging across his state. Like Bobby Jindal before him, Governor Perry is against a strong Federal government and spending...until his state is facing an emergency and suddenly needs a bailout. Like Jindal in Louisiana, this makes Rick Perry a hypocrite.

April 2009 - Texas could secede

April 2011 - Mr. President help!
Can US handle historic Texas wildfires? - CSMonitor.com

Monday, April 4, 2011

There's Gold in them thar hills!

As the rhetoric in support of Charter Schools and Vouchers continues to grow louder, more and more MBA graduates are seeking out education. The business community is already sensing that a big faucet of public money is about to get turned on so these educational entrepreneurs are jockeying for position to rake in those tax dollars.

I can't wait for the business school crowd to join the fight against all those "selfish and greedy" teachers.

B-School Grads Snap Up Education Jobs - BusinessWeek

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The KIPP "miracle"

With the chorus for Charter Schools like KIPP growing louder and louder each day, I'm glad to see some researchers dig into what makes KIPP successful and how to replicate that across other schools. Unfortunately, the answer to KIPP's great success could stem from the fact that it's not actually as successful as has been claimed. On top of that, they have much more money per student than other Charters or traditional public schools.

KIPP Charter Network Enjoys Financial Advantages, Study Says - NYTimes.com

They also have rules that could certainly make many public much more successful but would result in millions of children without any school to go to. These include requirements from parents to check students' homework, make sure they get to school on time, and other "commitments." I'm sure that public school teachers and principals would love to have this apply to their students' parents as well but when those parents fail to comply, what then?

As it turns out, another secret to KIPP's success might be its high attrition rates. The Western Michigan study found that "on average about 15 percent of students drop from KIPP cohorts every year, compared to 3 percent in public schools."

If we want to see the types of results from our traditional public schools that KIPP has achieved we will need to invest more into our teachers and schools (as opposed to the budget slashing frenzy that is currently taking place) and someone will have to come up with a method to help parents be accountable for their children.

What continues to be absent from the national debate is the demonstrably negative effect poverty has on children and their ability to learn. While it's much easier for politicians to play "blame the greedy teachers" game all the time, it isn't going to fix education.

Finish your Broccoli before you start demanding Ice Cream Sundaes for Dessert

According to The Guardian, the Libyan revolutionary council in Benghazi is already making demands for Gaddafi's (going with the spelling from the article) former Foreign Minister to be sent back to Libya on charges of crimes against humanity once they have completely vanquished Gaddafi's forces.

Rebels, you need to take a moment and reflect. You aren't making nearly as much progress as you were supposed to by this point. Quite frankly, you're making NATO look worse and worse the longer you drag this out. So don't start making demands about what you want to do once you have 100% control of Libya. Work on achieving that first.

Libya foreign minister Moussa Koussa must face atrocities trial, rebels declare | World news | guardian.co.uk

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Give all Canadians the right to vote | views from away

A nice blog post about the unfair restrictions on voting for Canadians who live abroad.

Give all Canadians the right to vote | views from away

If it swims, quacks and walks like a duck...

USA Today just blew the lid off a systemic irregularity in DC public schools standardized test results.  Their article about the testing irregularities require us to ask, once again, why is everyone in love with Michelle Rhee?  Now that her so called "turnarounds" are becoming more and more questionable, why do policy makers continue to turn to her for ideas?  We don't see Fidelity or JP Morgan Chase asking Bernie Madoff for investing advice.

Thankfully, Diane Ravitch just posted a blog entry on The Daily Beast, that continues to question Rhee's "education celebrity" status.  Let's just hope that more people wise up and realize that evaluating teachers based on which bubbles their students fill in will encourage them to get the right bubbles dark, even if it means doing some erasing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What does $1.3 billion buy these days?

On Saturday, March 12th, the Arab League urged the United Nations to vote on imposing a “no-fly zone” over Libya, to protect the civilians and the rebel forces in the eastern half of the country.  Since then, a “no-fly zone” was authorized with notable abstentions coming from Brazil, Germany, Russia and China.  But as France took to the skies to patrol the airspace around Benghazi, and British and American cruise missiles began to pound anti-air installations, the absence of any Arab military taking part in the “no-fly zone” is precisely the mistake that Western countries should have known to avoid by now.

For the last 30 years, America has given Egypt billions of dollars so that they could strengthen their armed forces ($1.3 billion just last year).  With those billions of our tax payer dollars, Hosni Mubarak has purchased hundreds of F15 and F16 fighter jets, and still more are on their way from Lockheed Martin.  Yet despite all of this military hardware at their disposal, and despite joining the call for a “no-fly zone” to be imposed, the military leadership in Egypt did not contribute to the imposition of the operation.

Nor did the Saudis who are another large purchaser of American military hardware, and who would have a much shorter flight for their sorties than the American bombers taking off from Missouri.  What is the point of purchasing all of those weapons if they are unwilling to use them even when they are calling for military action?  Obama, Cameron, and Sarkozy should have told the Arab League to put its money where its mouth was and fly a few missions over Libyan skies. 

One could call it a missed opportunity by the Obama administration, or, as his supporters have come to realize, just business as usual at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

TV REVIEW: The Chicago Code

Ok, first off, I would just like to say, this post has virtually nothing to do with politics...well...almost nothing.    The Chicago Code, Shawn Ryan’s new police-oriented procedural-drama (weekly bad guys to stop mixed in with a longer story arc) is fast paced and entertaining, but it’s a far cry from Ryan’s previous police drama, The Shield, or Jason Clarke’s unfortunately cancelled Brotherhood.  To be fair, The Shield was on FX, Fox’s edgy and courageous basic cable network, and Brotherhood was on premium cable’s Shotime, both of which tend to display far more creativity and departure from the broadcast networks’ need to appeal to the lowest common denominator in the American viewing public.
Jennifer Beals, Jason Clarke, and Delroy Lindo are certainly not to blame for the tepid feeling once gets while watching this show.  Their performances are spectacular and from his demeanor and delivery Clarke has convinced me that Wysocki could fly off the handle at the drop of the hat if someone puts a fellow police officer in unnecessary danger.  Unfortunately the procedural element, that each episode they will have one problem to solve and one bad guy to apprehend, diminishes the long story arc that shows like Brotherhood or The Wire were able to maintain.  Catching Alderman Gibbons becomes a kind of side-story that will likely only happen upon cancellation of the show…or not at all. 
Which brings me to my second problem with the show and that is the focus on political corruption.  Of course Chicago is a great place to tell a story about machine politics and corruption in City Hall, but the kind of corruption appearing in the show, at least thus far, is a comical simulacrum of the real abuses that occur in City Halls across the country.  From the concerned constituent who reports a possible crime to Gibbons only to end up murdered by his order, or the Irish street thugs being brought into Alderman Gibbons’ office for a chat are overly visible actions that would not go unnoticed in our post 9-11 security framework.  What it does provide is a very simple narrative for the broad viewership base that Fox is hoping to attract.  And don’t even get me started on the police informant Liam who does everything wrong for an undercover officer and would be dead already if David Simon were writing this show. 
So there it is…what was a great hope for a new series that could follow in the footsteps of The Shield, is unfortunately pandering too broadly to the masses and will probably last two, perhaps three seasons before it is abruptly canceled to make way for another crappy reality show from Fox.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Republicans don't know what they want

So in February of 2011, House Republicans grandstanded during a floor session that was supposed to be about cutting the deficit. During this deficit debate, GOP House members pushed for cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, a "whopping" three hundred and something million dollars because of some alleged violations that were recently exposed in some undercover videos similar to those discredited videos targeting ACORN.

That's fine if the GOP want to stop federal funds from going to any company that engages is bad behavior, but looking back at September of 2010 those watching Congress got to see thirty GOP Senators vote no on Al Franken's amendment to deny defense contracts to companies that
"equires that an employee or independent contractor, as a condition of employment, sign a contract that mandates that the employee or independent contractor performing work under the contract or subcontract resolve through arbitration any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention."
That's right, thirty GOP Senators wanted to continue giving contracts to companies that force their employees to promise not to report sexual assault. And I can guarantee that defense contractors that did this were getting a lot more than three hundred and something million dollars.

Senate Roll Call #308: Republicans Voting 'Nay' - OpenCongress

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More problems with Teach for America

Ravitch: The Problem with Teach For America

By Valerie Strauss

This was written by education historian Diane Ravitch on her Bridging Differences blog, which she co-authors with Deborah Meier on the Education Week website. Ravitch and Meier exchange letters about what matters most in education. Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, is the author of the bestselling “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” an important critique of the flaws in the modern school reform movement.

The Answer Sheet - Ravitch: The Problem with Teach For America

Monday, February 14, 2011

University of Rochester's Campus Times pens another winner

The University of Rochester's Adam Ondo has written an article for the Campus Times calling for more, and faster death penalties in our justice system.  Here is my quick response.  Hopefully we'll get another flurry of activity like we did on James Russell's call for School Vouchers.


My response:
While it’s great that you’re able to prove in your article that Singapore’s streamlined death penalty system is the absolute factor in their low crime rate, perhaps taking your assertions as fact might not be the most intelligent thing your readers could do.
Take for example the fact that violent crime has been on the decline at the same time that America’s prison population has skyrocketed.
Take for example that maybe other factors, like childhood poverty play a role in crime statistics, and that America ranks near the bottom of OECD countries in child well-being might have more to do with crime than whether or not the death penalty is in effect.
While I’m thrilled that you are so enthusiastic to kill a bunch of people quickly so that we can all save some tax money, perhaps if we were willing to address some of the causes of crime instead of just pouring billions of dollars into building more prisons and speeding up executions we might end up in a much better society than the one you are dreaming of.

Monday, February 7, 2011

GOP wants to put Government between women and their doctors

Despite the rhetoric on the right about the Affordable Health Care act of 2010 allowing the government to come between patients and their doctors, new bills proposed by the GOP would do exactly that.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

My response to University of Rochester's Campus Times call for School Vouchers

The original article: http://www.campustimes.org/2011/02/03/school-vouchers-would-increase-freedom/comment-page-1/#comment-185

My response:
Mr. Russell would probably be thrilled to see America’s public schools fall into the dustbin of history. To that end his creative use of statistics is helpful in making his case against the institution that conservatives have been weakening since Reagan came into office.

To mention that federal spending on elementary and secondary education has gone up 260% since the 1970s ignores the following:

1) Prior to 1965 there was virtually no federal spending on education
2) A fair amount of the money spent since 1970 has gone to wealthy districts/schools while skipping over poor/struggling districts
3) Much of the progress that was being made in the 70s was wiped out by Reagan’s gutting of the department of Education

Of course words like “school choice” sound great because who doesn’t like options, but research has shown Charter schools are not a magic bullet. More than half of all Charter schools are worse/no better than public schools.

The problems that our public schools face is that the worst schools are filled with students whose parents lack the political power to ensure proper funding, teachers, facilities, and supplies. By allowing vouchers and the exodus of students that would follow, this problem would only be exacerbated, leaving those most vulnerable in our society with no education.

Instead of hollowing out our public schools with vouchers, funding them with appropriate student weighting (more money for special education, English Language Learners, impoverished/homeless children) would do far more to improve the quality of education in this country.
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