Saturday Cartoon Fun: Fuck The ACLU Edition


Building Trust, Not Testing To Death

Charles Payne, a University of Chicago professor and author of “So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools,” recently participated in a panel discussion at a national seminar sponsored by the Education Writers Association where he said some very important things.

One observer wrote:
“Payne said in schools with low academic achievement, building high levels of trust makes academic improvement three times as likely than in schools with low levels of trust among educators and students. He cited a ten percent improvement in graduation rate in schools where students say they know and trust their teachers.”
In a chapter of his book, Payne wisely observes:
… So we continue forcing underdeveloped reforms on already over-burdened teachers and then blaming those teachers when reforms fail to produce the promised miracles. Just as teachers are too quick to conclude that nothing’s going to work with these children, reformers come to think that the reforms they advocate are right, they will work, just not here, not in this school, not with this particular group of hard-headed teachers and untalented administrators. Just as teachers are always saying they could teach if someone gave them better students, reformers are always thinking they could implement their programs if someone would just give them better people to work with. The reform community, partly because of its sheer arrogance, its ideological rigidity, its inability to enter into genuine partnerships with school people has squandered much of the moral capital, much of the strategic positioning, that it held at the beginning of the 1990s.
h/t The Perimeter Primate


If They Tell You They Will Close The Achievement Gap....

The achievement gap cannot be closed by schools. So when your school district sends home a note with your kid telling you that is what they plan to do, ask them how, seeing as how NOBODY has figured it out yet (except most of the teachers who have not been asked!). It may be that schools are not the place to address the issue. Could the issue be poverty? Why, yes it could!

*How many of the linked "student centered reforms" have you heard touted at your school? I have heard them all! And they haven't worked. Yet...(don't hold your breath)

From Wikipedia:
Standards based education reform

Largely refuting the findings of differential performance between groups with different income and education characteristics are the beliefs of the standards based education reform movement adopted by most education agencies in the United States by the 21st century. By studying other nations with a national education policy, setting clear, attainable world class standards of performance, using standards based assessment with the incentive of a high school graduation examination, and *other student-centered reforms such as whole language, block scheduling, multiculturalism, desegregation, affirmative action, standards-based mathematics and inquiry-based science, it is believed that all students of all races and incomes will succeed. None of these aforementioned reforms have raised student achievement. The No Child Left Behind federal legislation indeed requires as a final goal that all students of all groups will perform at grade level in all tests, and show continual improvement from year to year, or face sanctions, though some have noted that schools with the highest number of poor and minorities generally face the greatest challenges to meet these goals. Advocates of a rigorous, traditional education point out that the institutions which produce outstanding minority achievement are not based on student-based, constructivist reforms, or curricula focused on racial equity as an explicit goal.

Thursday Cartoon Fun: Pelosi / Torture Edition

Obama = Bush (Except for the 2-term thing)

Obama Considering Continuing Bush Policy of Indefinite Detentions Without Trial
Published May 14, 2009

The Obama administration has already adopted extreme executive privilege arguments that dwarfed the arguments of George Bush. It has moved to kill dozens of citizens lawsuits to uncover criminal acts of the government. This week, it refused (despite a court ruling) to release embarrassing photos of detainee abuse. Now, in the continue morphing with the prior Administration, Barack Obama is considering a continuation of the Bush policy of indefinitely detaining suspects without trial.

Members of Congress are being consulted on the idea. Given the lack of principles motivating democratic leaders in past instances of unlawful surveillance and torture, it is not expected to received to hit much problem in Congress.

The result is that we close the Gitmo facility to recreate it on U.S. soil. The proposal reflects the concern that, if forced to comply with federal law, we could not justify the continued detention of these individuals. If Obama is worried that some added pictures of detainee abuses will be used to recruit new volunteers for Al Qaeda, what does he think his replication of Gitmo will do for recruiters?

As I mentioned last night on Rachel Maddow, the Obama Administration has become the greatest bait and switch in history. No torture prosecution. No abuse photos. No citizen lawsuit on privacy. Absolute executive privilege claims. It is not surprising that civil libertarians feel that we have succeeded in merely upgrading to Bush 1.2 (with the added ability to pronounce multisyllabic terms).

For the full story, click here.


"Shoot quail with your friends--and your friends"

This is a guest post exclusive to The Washington Note by Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, who is former chief of staff of the Department of State during the term of Secretary of State Colin Powell. Lawrence Wilkerson is also Pamela Harriman Visiting Professor at the College of William & Mary.

Last night I was on Rachel Maddow's show on MSNBC at the top of the hour. But before I came on, through the earpiece I listened to the five minutes that Rachel sketched as a lead-in. Most of it was videotape from the last few days of former Vice President Dick Cheney extolling the virtues of harsh interrogation, torture, and his leadership. I had heard some of it earlier of course but not all of it and not in such a tightly-packed package.

Let's just say that five minutes of the Sith Lord was stunningly inaccurate.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

So, when I got home last night, I thought long and hard about what I knew at this point in my investigations with respect to the former VP's office. Here it is.

First, more Americans were killed by terrorists on Cheney's watch than on any other leader's watch in US history. So his constant claim that no Americans were killed in the "seven and a half months" after 9/11 of his vice presidency takes on a new texture when one considers that fact. And it is a fact.

There was absolutely no policy priority attributed to al-Qa'ida by the Cheney-Bush administration in the months before 9/11. Counterterrorism czar Dick Clarke's position was downgraded, al-Qa'ida was put in the background so as to emphasize Iraq, and the policy priorities were lowering taxes, abrogating the ABM Treaty and building ballistic missile defenses.

Second, the fact no attack has occurred on U.S. soil since 9/11--much touted by Cheney--is due almost entirely to the nation's having deployed over 200,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and not to "the Cheney method of interrogation."

Those troops have kept al-Qa'ida at bay, killed many of them, and certainly "fixed" them, as we say in military jargon. Plus, sadly enough, those 200,000 troops present a far more lucrative and close proximity target for al-Qa'ida than the United States homeland. Testimony to that fact is clear: almost 5,000 American troops have died, more Americans than died on 9/11. Of course, they are the type of Americans for whom Cheney hasn't much use as he declared rather dramatically when he achieved no less than five draft deferments during the Vietnam War.

Third--and here comes the blistering fact--when Cheney claims that if President Obama stops "the Cheney method of interrogation and torture", the nation will be in danger, he is perverting the facts once again. But in a very ironic way.

My investigations have revealed to me--vividly and clearly--that once the Abu Ghraib photographs were made public in the Spring of 2004, the CIA, its contractors, and everyone else involved in administering "the Cheney methods of interrogation", simply shut down. Nada. Nothing. No torture or harsh techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator. Period. People were too frightened by what might happen to them if they continued.

What I am saying is that no torture or harsh interrogation techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator for the entire second term of Cheney-Bush, 2005-2009. So, if we are to believe the protestations of Dick Cheney, that Obama's having shut down the "Cheney interrogation methods" will endanger the nation, what are we to say to Dick Cheney for having endangered the nation for the last four years of his vice presidency?

Likewise, what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002--well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion--its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney's office that their detainee "was compliant" (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP's office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa'ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, "revealed" such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.

There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just "committed suicide" in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi....)

Less important but still busting my chops as a Republican, is the damage that the Sith Lord Cheney is doing to my political party.

He and Rush Limbaugh seem to be its leaders now. Lindsay Graham, John McCain, John Boehner, and all other Republicans of note seem to be either so enamored of Cheney-Limbaugh (or fearful of them?) or, on the other hand, so appalled by them, that the cat has their tongues. And meanwhile fewer Americans identify as Republicans than at any time since WWII. We're at 21% and falling--right in line with the number of cranks, reprobates, and loonies in the country.

When will we hear from those in my party who give a damn about their country and about the party of Lincoln?

When will someone of stature tell Dick Cheney that enough is enough? Go home. Spend your 70 million. Luxuriate in your Eastern Shore mansion. Shoot quail with your friends--and your friends.

Stay out of our way as we try to repair the extensive damage you've done--to the country and to its Republican Party.

-- Lawrence Wilkerson
h/t The Washington Note

"I'm Not Sure We Need Anymore..."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is tentatively standing by President Obama's decision to withhold photos of U.S. personnel reportedly torturing detainees.

"We've had quite a few pictures. I'm not sure we need anymore," he said in response to a question from the Huffington Post in the hallway off the Senate floor.

"I haven't seen the pictures," he added.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the senate intelligence committee, isn't sure if she's seen the photos. If they are the unreleased photos from Abu Ghraib, then she has seen them, she said, and doesn't think they need to be released.

"I don't know what the point of releasing them would be, other than to have an enormous cataclysmic reaction. We saw the Abu Ghraib photographs," she said.

Her committee is currently investigating Bush administration torture. As part of the inquiry, she said, the panel should have access to the photos. "I think the intelligence committee should obtain these photographs," she said.
Guess what, assholes? We the people, who hired you, would like to see the pictures, and we want you to prosecute the torturers.

We also would have liked it if you passed credit card reforms today, but I guess you think you will get elected even if you won't do the will of the people. I have lost hope.

An Apt Comparison

No Dentist Left Behind

My dentist is great! He sends me reminders so I don’t forget checkups He uses the latest techniques based on research. He never hurts me, and I’ve got all my teeth. When I ran into him the other day, I was eager to see if he’d heard about the new state program. I knew he’d think it was great.

“Did you hear about the new state program to measure effectiveness of dentists with their young patients?” I said. “No,” he said. He didn’t seem too thrilled. “How will they do that?”

“It’s quite simple,” I said. “They will just count the number of cavities each patient has at age 10, 14, and 18 and average that to determine a dentist’s rating. Dentists will be rated as excellent, good, average, below average, and unsatisfactory. That way parents will know who the best dentists are. The plan will also encourage the less effective dentists to get better,” I said. “Poor dentists who don’t improve could lose their licenses to practice.”

“That’s terrible,” he said.

“What? That’s not a good attitude,” I said. “Don’t you think we should try to improve children’s dental health in this state?”

“Sure I do,” he said, “but that’s not a fair way to determine who is practicing good dentistry.”

“Why not?” I said. “It makes perfect sense to me.”

“Well, it’s so obvious,” he said. “Don’t you see that dentists don’t all work with the same clientele, and that much depends on things we can’t control? For example, I work in a rural area with a high percentage of patients from deprived homes, while some of my colleagues work in upper middle-class neighborhoods. Many of the parents I work with don’t bring their children to see me until there is some kind of problem, and I don’t get to do much preventive work. Also, many of the parents I serve let their kids eat way too much candy from an early age, unlike more educated parents who understand the relationship between sugar and decay. To top it all off, so many of my clients have well water which is untreated and has no fluoride in it. Do you have any idea how much difference early use of fluoride can make?”

“It sounds like you’re making excuses,” I said. “I can’t believe that you, my dentist, would be so defensive. After all, you do a great job, and you needn’t fear a little accountability.”

“I am not being defensive!” he said. “My best patients are as good as anyone’s, my work is as good as anyone’s, but my average cavity count is going to be higher than a lot of other dentists because I chose to work where I am needed most.”

“Don’t’ get touchy,” I said.

“Touchy?” he said. His face had turned red, and from the way he was clenching and unclenching his jaws, I was afraid he was going to damage his teeth. “Try furious! In a system like this, I will end up being rated average, below average, or worse. The few educated patients I have who see these ratings may believe this so-called rating is an actual measure of my ability and proficiency as a dentist. They may leave me, and I’ll be left with only the neediest patients. And my cavity average score will get even worse. On top of that, how will I attract good dental hygienists and other excellent dentists to my practice if it is labeled below average?”

“I think you are overreacting,” I said. “’Complaining, excuse-making and stonewalling won’t improve dental health’... I am quoting from a leading member of the
DOC,” I noted.

“What’s the DOC?” he asked.

“It’s the Dental Oversight Committee,” I said, “a group made up of mostly lay persons to make sure dentistry in this state gets improved.”

“Spare me,” he said, “I can’t believe this. Reasonable people won’t buy it,” he said hopefully. The program sounded reasonable to me, so I asked, “How else would you measure good dentistry?”

“Come watch me work,” he said. “Observe my processes.”

“That’s too complicated, expensive and time- consuming,” I said. ”Cavities are the bottom line, and you can’t argue with the bottom line. It’s an absolute measure.”

“That’s what I’m afraid my parents and prospective patients will think. This can’t be happening,” he said despairingly.

“Now, now,” I said, “don’t despair. The state will help you some.”

“How?” he asked.

“If you receive a poor rating, they’ll send a dentist who is rated excellent to help straighten you out,” I said brightly.

“You mean,” he said, “they’ll send a dentist with a wealthy clientele to show me how to work on severe juvenile dental problems with which I have probably had much more experience? BIG HELP!”

“There you go again,” I said. “You aren’t acting professionally at all.”

“You don’t get it,” he said. “Doing this would be like grading schools and teachers on an average score made on a test of childrens' progress with no regard to influences outside the school, the home, the community served and stuff like that. Why would they do something so unfair to dentists? No one would ever think of doing that to schools.”

I just shook my head sadly, but he had brightened. “I’m going to write my representatives and senators,” he said. “I’ll use the school analogy. Surely they will see the point.”

He walked off with that look of hope mixed with fear and suppressed anger that I, a teacher, see in the mirror so often lately.

This analogy was forwarded by John S. Taylor, Superintendent of Schools for the Lancaster County, PA, School District.

Be a friend to a teacher and pass this on.

The Jesus Brigade: God, Not Democracy

The Jesus brigade in the U.S military is seriously frightening. Here is a taste from The Reason Project...
Grace, of course, means you’re favored by God, no questions asked, a blessing that you can neither earn nor deserve. To fundamentalists, it’s worth more than freedom, and they’re willing to sacrifice their freedom—and yours—for that glorious feeling. That’s a paradox, a box trap the fundamentalists have built for themselves. The first casualties of the military’s fundamentalist front are not the Iraqis and Afghans on the wrong side of an American F-16. They’re the spiritual warriors themselves, men and women persuaded that the only God worth believing in is one who demands that they break—in spirit and in fact—the oath to the Constitution they swear to uphold on their lives. “You’re laying down your life for others,” Hrabak says. “Well, there has to be some true truth to put yourself in harm’s way for.” True truth; truth that requires an amplifier. For the God soldiers, democracy is not enough.

Taibbi On Coming Clean About Torture

Matt Taibbi explains why we need to publicly and politically address the torturers. What will the world think if we don't?
It’s the same thing with this torture business. There are a lot of people in this country who genuinely believe that torture opponents are “not upset” about things like 9/11 or the beheading of American hostages. The idea that “no one complains when Americans are murdered” is crazy — of course we “complained,” and of course we’d all like to round up those machete-wielding monsters and shoot them into space — but these people really believe this, they really believe that torture opponents are secretly unimpressed/untroubled by Islamic terrorism, at least as compared to American “enhanced interrogation.” For them to believe that, they must really believe that such people are traitors, nursing a secret agenda (an agenda perhaps unknown even to themselves, their America-hatred being ingrained so deep) against their own country. Which is really an amazing thing for large numbers of Americans to believe about another large group of Americans, when you think about it.

The reason it’s possible is that it’s been drilled into their heads to instinctively perceive opposition to their point of view as support for their enemies. They’ve lost the ability to distinguish between real, honest-to-God enemies (al Qaeda, Kim Jong-Il) and people they simply disagree with or dislike (Boston liberals, the French, gays, the ACLU, etc).

Pelosi Knew Too II

Johnathan Turley makes a very important point about Pelosi: she was briefed on the possible use of torture, and said NOTHING!
As noted earlier, this argument completely abandons any semblance of oversight responsibility. It amounts to arguing “if you can’t believe the Bush White House on international law, who can you believe?” What is particularly striking is that Pelosi is using precisely the same argument that she rejected from Jane Harman on the unlawful surveillance program. Harman insisted that, while she was the critical oversight authority in Congress, she had no knowledge of the law in the area and specifically FISA. She just had to accept the Bush Administration’s insistence that it was legal and did not even have the ability to ask for general information on the law in the area. Now, Pelosi is saying that she just had to accept that a torture program was lawful because the White House said it was. The primary oversight responsibility of these members is to be sure that the Executive Branch is complying with the laws written by Congress. It makes a mockery of the system for Pelosi and Harman to simply take their word for it. The federal law gives Pelosi and Harman the obligation to serve as a check on executive authority, but they believe that this role compels them to accept whatever they are told on the legality of the program. They are simply informed and have not obligations or responsibilities — even when they are given a description of torture.


Frankly My Dear, I Could Have Been A Contender

The top 20 most famous movie quotes.


The Health Care Problem

We need a public health plan. I seriously doubt we are going to get the version we need.
Obama on Health Reform: The Dog That Didn't Bark

The only troubling thing about the President's statements today concerning health care reform was what he did not say: that he wanted a any health plan that emerges from Congress to include a public insurance option for Americans who do not want to buy private insurance. But without this option, there will be no pressure on private insurers to adopt all the other reforms to control costs or give all Americans access to affordable care.

Every other reform proposal announced to date -- electronic medical records, comparative effectiveness research, prevention of chronic disease, payments for services rather than for outcomes, and so on -- has been talked about for years. The reason none have been adopted is health providers and insurers can make more money without them. Only with a government plan that competes with private insurers, and offers Americans lower costs if the providers and insurers fail to reform themselves, will the system be genuinely reformed.

Hopefully, the President's failure to mention a public insurance option today was not intended to signal to Congress that the White House is no longer especially interested in it. The Administration should quickly inform policymakers how important this option is as a spur to real change.

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