Saturday Cartoon Fun: Birther Edition


Dave Chappelle On Police

Corporate Culture At School

Jim Horn exposes the corporate mindset of charters like KIPP, programs like TFA, and also every staff meeting I've ever attended:
. . . . The driving ideology of corporate culture is a blind faith in the power and virtue of the corporate collective. All quotas can be met. All things are possible. Profits can always be raised. It is only a question of the right attitude. The highest form of personal happiness, we are told, is when the corporation thrives. Corporate retreats are built around this idea of merging the self with the corporate collective. They often have the feel of a religious revival. They are designed to whip up emotions. Office managers and sales staffs are given inspirational talks by sports stars, retired military commanders, billionaires and self-help specialists like Tony Robbins who tell them, in essence, the impossible is always possible. And when this proves not to be true it is we who are the problem. We simply have to try harder.

The belief that by thinking about things, by visualizing them, by wanting them, we can make them happen is magical thinking. The purpose, structure and goals of the corporation can never be questioned. To question, to engage in criticism of the corporate collective, is to be obstructive and negative. We can always make more money, meet new quotas and advance our career if we have enough faith. This magical thinking is largely responsible for our economic collapse since any Cassandra who saw it coming was dismissed as "negative." This childish belief discredits legitimate concerns and anxieties. It exacerbates despair and passivity. It fosters a state of self-delusion. And it has perverted the way we think about the nation and ourselves...
Now go read the rest at Schools Matter.


Thursday Cartoon Fun: Health Care Reform Edition


Got Electricity? Thank A Progressive

DWT has a review of a book by Mick Lux, The Progressive Revolution which apparently illuminates the differences between progressives and conservatives. I haven't read it, but I am sure it's great.

The part that struck me is below.
It isn't as though conservatives, by nature the defenders of the status quo and of the wealthy and powerful, don't have adequate representation. It's called the Republican Party and soon after the demise of Abraham Lincoln it sold its progressive soul to the industrialist robber barons and southern racists and transformed itself into a bulwark against change. Among the changes conservatives have opposed-- usually hysterically, warning about the end of civilization and the family and religion, were:

• The American Revolution
• The Bill of Rights and the forging of a democracy
• Universal white male suffrage
• Public education
• The emancipation of the slaves
• The national park system
• Food safety
• The breakup of monopolies
• The Homestead Act
• Land grant universities
• Rural electrification
• Women’s suffrage
• The abolition of child labor
• The eight hour workday
• The minimum wage
• Social Security
• Civil rights for minorities and women
• Voting rights for minorities and the poor
• Cleaning up our air, our water, and toxic dump sites
• Consumer product safety
• Medicare and Medicaid

"Every single one of those reforms," explains Lux, "which are literally the reforms that made this country what it is today, was accomplished by the progressive movement standing up to the fierce opposition of conservative reactionaries who were trying to preserve their own power. American history is one long argument between progressivism and conservatism."
Thank a progressive!

Update: You can find proof of the preceding by reading this, which tries to understand what Pat Boone is saying.

Democrats Do Not Want To Kill Old People

So there all these crazy people saying that there is a provision in the health care bill (above) that mandates the killing of old people. I am not going to say if killing old people is a good idea or not, because I don't want to offend any Blue Dog Democrats or Republicans.

Oh, screw it!

Killing old people is bad, and thinking that the bill would have a provision for killing old people is a little, well, morbid.

The end of life/advance care provision is about living wills, not making plans to cut off the O2 to save ca$h.

Apartheid Schooling: Education Reform's Goal Reached!

Editorial: The Reagan Legacy and the Obama Agenda, or A Race at Risk
Jim Horn - July 28, 2009

Soon after Ronald Reagan came to Washington, he began wondering aloud in prepared speeches if the push for civil rights had damaged American institutions such as schools during the previous two decades. In 1983, the year of A Nation at Risk, came this: “The schools were charged by the federal courts in the correcting of long-standing injustices in our society—racial segregation, sex discrimination, lack of opportunity for the handicapped. Perhaps there was just too much to do in too little time.” As William Raspberry noted in 2004, it was not a coincidence that Reagan chose, in 1980, to announce his presidential campaign embracing “states rights” in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. The symbolism could not have been mistaken.

A year after Reagan’s 1983 speech and the accompanying doom and gloom projections of A Nation at Risk came the Supreme Court decision in Milliken v Bradley, which struck down the inter-district busing plan that was put in place to achieve desegregation of Detroit schools. By 1986 school integration had peaked in the
U. S. and resegregation of schools had begun, with school integration from that point forward on a steady march backwards—a march that remains unchecked today, as resegregation and apartheid schooling have become the silent, unquestioned norms across America. And so the push for equality in education that the Civil Rights Movement spawned became displaced by the reemergence of market-based cult of efficiency in education. Inspired by white racism and corporatism, the new get-tough reform agenda introduced a sea change that overnight made the prospect of “educationally excellent and economically poor” even more of a statistical oddity than it had ever been before.

And so it was that the accountability through high stakes testing that took hold in the Reagan Era helped solidify the return to apartheid schooling, since test scores then and now were and are as predictable, as Alfie Kohn has pointed out, as the sizes of the houses in the neighborhoods where the tested children live.

With no one wanting to buy a home in a neighborhood with low-scoring schools and the constant threat of school closure now under NCLB, the segregation of the poor has taken on new urgency as schools and communities seek to shed the poor who bring test failure with them to any school they attend.

Ostensibly to raise test scores in these resegregated schools for the urban poor, there has emerged a curriculum caste system based predictably, once more, on family income and wealth. In most of the poor, the brown, and the black schools of America, children are targeted victims of an anti-cultural, low-level regimen of test prep and regurgitation of facts—the bulimic curriculum, if you will.

In the middle class leafy suburbs, however, children are engaged as they always have been in minds-on and hands-on projects that stimulate creativity and problem solving. It is a higher-order thinking curriculum, as opposed to an anti-thinking one, with those who have always been at the top of the race now deciding once more the rules for the new “Race to the Top.”

We might have expected something to be done about these crimes against poor children when a young African-American President came to Washington. Though it is still early in the Obama Administration for sure, it is not too early to see clearly and tragically that the policies that Mr. Obama and Mr. Duncan are embracing will only accelerate the resegregation of American schools, while deepening of divisions within the curriculum caste system that high stakes testing enables and encourages. And while Mr. Duncan is to be credited for his tireless PR tour aimed at generating excitement about the $4.35 billion in lubrication for the various state vehicles in the new “Race to the Top,” those willing to say already know who is going to win that race.

The winners will not be urban poor children, who will be further segregated now in the corporate charter schools that will be seeded and nurtured from the $4.35 billion. Where poor parents heretofore at least could attend a public meeting and have their voices heard in a public forum, these new non-profit charters that often hire for-profit outfits to run them, operate under the unregulated thumbs of CEOs whose unquestioned authority is not to be, well, questioned.

And even though Mr. Obama assured the readers of the Washington Post last week that decisions for funding the Race to the Top “will be based on what works,” a study released by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University last month found that only 17 percent of charter schools nationwide produce better results than the public schools they would replace. Not only that, but minority children are suffering the most in the charter schools that are worse (37%) or no better than (42%) the public schools. Yet, in Mr. Duncan’s words, states that refuse to lift charter caps will be “at a competitive disadvantage.”

The winners of the Race to the Top will not be teachers, who will be further humiliated by having meager pay raises to their embarrassingly low salaries now dependent upon test score production work. Again, in Mr. Duncan’s words, “states that explicitly prohibit linking data on achievement or student growth to principal and teacher evaluations will be ineligible for reform dollars.” It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what effect this will have on which teachers will end up with the lowest test performing students.

Among the winners will not be the embattled teaching profession, since Mr. Duncan prefers the marginally-prepared and the alternatively-certified teachers to those with real credentials based on both content and pedagogy expertise. Mr. Duncan and his philanthro-capitalist patrons (Gates, Broad, Waltons, Dells, Fishers, etc.) prefer those semi-skilled, disposable, historically-blank, and pedagogically-ignorant recruits who must depend upon the teacher-proofed parrot learning models promoted as Direct Instruction in the urban schools.

The winners will not be poor parents who would like schools for their children just like the schools attended by children in the leafy suburbs, schools with school libraries, sports facilities, drama clubs, music and band, art rooms, high tech shops. Mr. Duncan and the Oligarchs in charge of crafting federal education policy believe in the expansion of that crusading entrepreneurial spirit that can turn a shutdown pizza joint in a strip mall into a thriving school grounded by the philosophy of “no excuses.” No library? No excuse. No supper when you get home from a ten hour school day? No excuse. No health care? Same.

The winners will not be those who believe that local education decisions should be made locally by elected school boards. Mr. Duncan has come out publicly in favor of one-man mayoral rule of urban “public” school systems. No nosy parents, please, and no school board members to provide oversight or to impose those burdensome regulations.

The winners will not be those who cherish the notion of state and local curriculums that can be adjusted to the needs of local communities: Mr. Duncan has $350 million to get the ball rolling on national testing, which is the centerpiece for an impending third generation of doing more of the same failed reforms and calling it something different.

The winners will not be those who express reservations about the development of a K-20 student and instructor data surveillance system that may or may not be used ethically by CEO wannabes in the administrative offices of the new corporate welfare schools.

On the US DOE website, the final sentence in the press release for the “Race to the Top” states that “it represents a historic opportunity to restore America's global leadership in education.” The truth is that America’s “leadership in education” has never been in jeopardy in the leafy suburbs. As Gerald Bracey has pointed out for the past twenty years, take out the high-poverty school children from the comparisons, and America ranks right up there with the top high flyers on international test scores in math and science, or any other testing criterion. So the new version of more of the same with the added benefit of corporate control of public schools is once again masked in the fear-mongering rhetoric that has driven the eugenicists and efficiency zealots for the past hundred years.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Republicans are lined up in support of the continuation of the Reagan legacy of dumping equity and equality agendas for more corporate-controlled back-to-basics anti-education policies for the poor, which are built upon behavioral interventions that seek to re-engineer the minds of urban school children. In fact, global warming and skyrocketing energy costs could set off a race to the top of a very altered global economy that may require our own homegrown versions of the Chinese and Indian workers whose schooling methods we are keen to emulate for the lower classes of our own disposable children whose race for the foreseeable future will be to support the “Race to the Top” by the race at the top.

Wednesday Cartoon Fun: Palin The Poet Edition


What A Trillion Dollars Looks Like

h/t Sully

Write To Congress To Reform Health Care

You can write to your representative and tell them we want health care reform. The page help you find your representative as well as write the letter! Do it!!

Have You Heard About The Boom On Mizar 5?

The first tv images of World War II are about to hit Aldebaran star system, 65 light years [ly] away. If there’s anybody out there alive and with eyes to see it, the barrage of actual and dramatised footage of WW2 will keep them shocked and/or entertained for decades to come. Which is just as well, for they’ll have to wait quite a few years to catch the first episodes of such seminal series as The Twilight Zone and Bonanza (both 1959), just about now hitting the (putative) extraterrestrial biological entities of the Mu Arae area (appr. 50 ly). The Cosby Show, Miami Vice and Night Court (all 1984) should be all the rage on Fomalhaut (25 ly). Meanwhile, the sentient, tv-watching creatures near Alpha Centauri (4.4 ly), our closest extrasolar star, are just recovering from the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” during Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s halftime show during the 2004 Superbowl.
h/t Strange Maps

The Heart Of America

The heartland portrayed here is a very literal one, composed by cleverly arranging all 50 US states to have their oblique sides help form the outline of a giant heart. Texas’ pointy southern extremity represents the bottom part of the iconic heart-shape, while the slightly wedge-shaped top of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is very aptly chosen as the place where the tops of both heart halves merge. All in all, this picture is a very nice fit – considering that all states are drawn to the same scale.
h/t Strange Maps


CEOs Got 2 Of The 6 Trillion Dollars In Total US Pay

What makes CEOs so Special

Commentary By Ron Beasley
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that "Executives and other highly compensated employees now receive more than one-third of all pay in the US... Highly paid employees received nearly $2.1 trillion of the $6.4 trillion in total US pay in 2007, the latest figures available."
Thom Hartmann asks the question: what makes the CEOs of large trans-national corporations so special that it's necessary to pay them hundreds of millions and billions of dollars?
But what part of being a CEO could be so difficult-so impossible for mere mortals-that it would mean that there are only a few hundred individuals in the United States capable of performing it?

In my humble opinion, it's the sociopath part.

CEOs of community-based businesses are typically responsive to their communities and decent people. But the CEOs of most of the world's largest corporations daily make decisions that destroy the lives of many other human beings.

Only about 1 to 3 percent of us are sociopaths-people who don't have normal human feelings and can easily go to sleep at night after having done horrific things. And of that 1 percent of sociopaths, there's probably only a fraction of a percent with a college education. And of that tiny fraction, there's an even tinier fraction that understands how business works, particularly within any specific industry.

Thus there is such a shortage of people who can run modern monopolistic, destructive corporations that stockholders have to pay millions to get them to work. And being sociopaths, they gladly take the money without any thought to its social consequences.

Today's modern transnational corporate CEOs-who live in a private-jet-and-limousine world entirely apart from the rest of us-are remnants from the times of kings, queens, and lords. They reflect the dysfunctional cultural (and Calvinist/Darwinian) belief that wealth is proof of goodness, and that that goodness then justifies taking more of the wealth.
Of course this is not the first time the Oligarchs have taken control of the United States.
Over time, balance and democratic oversight will always produce the best results. An "unregulated" marketplace is like an "unregulated" football game - chaos. And chaos is a state perfectly exploited by sociopaths, be they serial killers, warlords, or CEOs.

By changing the rules of the game of business so that sociopathic business behavior is no longer rewarded (and, indeed, is punished - as Teddy Roosevelt famously did as the "trustbuster" and FDR did when he threatened to send "war profiteers" to jail), we can create a less dysfunctional and more egalitarian society. And that's an important first step back from the thresholds to environmental and economic disaster we're now facing.

But we have seen very little of this from the Obama administration. Yes he has occasionally talked the talk but up until now there has been no evidence of walking the walk. The real problem may be the Supreme Court. The Roberts court is stacked with pro-oligarchy judges.
In his latest book, The New Golden Age, economist Ravi Batra is critical of the current oligarchy but sees signs that we may be on the verge of a new revolution.


The above is an excerpt from Thom Hartmann's New book, Threshold: The Crisis of Western Culture.

New Director Of NIH Is A Bible Thumper?

Science Is in the Details

PRESIDENT OBAMA has nominated Francis Collins to be the next director of the National Institutes of Health. It would seem a brilliant choice. Dr. Collins’s credentials are impeccable: he is a physical chemist, a medical geneticist and the former head of the Human Genome Project. He is also, by his own account, living proof that there is no conflict between science and religion. In 2006, he published “The Language of God,” in which he claimed to demonstrate “a consistent and profoundly satisfying harmony” between 21st-century science and evangelical Christianity.

Dr. Collins is regularly praised by secular scientists for what he is not: he is not a “young earth creationist,” nor is he a proponent of “intelligent design.” Given the state of the evidence for evolution, these are both very good things for a scientist not to be.

But as director of the institutes, Dr. Collins will have more responsibility for biomedical and health-related research than any person on earth, controlling an annual budget of more than $30 billion. He will also be one of the foremost representatives of science in the United States. For this reason, it is important that we understand Dr. Collins and his faith as they relate to scientific inquiry.

What follows are a series of slides, presented in order, from a lecture on science and belief that Dr. Collins gave at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2008:

Slide 1: “Almighty God, who is not limited in space or time, created a universe 13.7 billion years ago with its parameters precisely tuned to allow the development of complexity over long periods of time.”

Slide 2: “God’s plan included the mechanism of evolution to create the marvelous diversity of living things on our planet. Most especially, that creative plan included human beings.”

Slide 3: “After evolution had prepared a sufficiently advanced ‘house’ (the human brain), God gifted humanity with the knowledge of good and evil (the moral law), with free will, and with an immortal soul.”

Slide 4: “We humans used our free will to break the moral law, leading to our estrangement from God. For Christians, Jesus is the solution to that estrangement.”

Slide 5: “If the moral law is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as good or evil. It’s all an illusion. We’ve been hoodwinked. Are any of us, especially the strong atheists, really prepared to live our lives within that worldview?”

Why should Dr. Collins’s beliefs be of concern?

There is an epidemic of scientific ignorance in the United States. This isn’t surprising, as very few scientific truths are self-evident, and many are counterintuitive. It is by no means obvious that empty space has structure or that we share a common ancestor with both the housefly and the banana. It can be difficult to think like a scientist. But few things make thinking like a scientist more difficult than religion.

Dr. Collins has written that science makes belief in God “intensely plausible” — the Big Bang, the fine-tuning of nature’s constants, the emergence of complex life, the effectiveness of mathematics, all suggest the existence of a “loving, logical and consistent” God.

But when challenged with alternative accounts of these phenomena — or with evidence that suggests that God might be unloving, illogical, inconsistent or, indeed, absent — Dr. Collins will say that God stands outside of Nature, and thus science cannot address the question of his existence at all.

Similarly, Dr. Collins insists that our moral intuitions attest to God’s existence, to his perfectly moral character and to his desire to have fellowship with every member of our species. But when our moral intuitions recoil at the casual destruction of innocents by, say, a tidal wave or earthquake, Dr. Collins assures us that our time-bound notions of good and evil can’t be trusted and that God’s will is a mystery.

Most scientists who study the human mind are convinced that minds are the products of brains, and brains are the products of evolution. Dr. Collins takes a different approach: he insists that at some moment in the development of our species God inserted crucial components — including an immortal soul, free will, the moral law, spiritual hunger, genuine altruism, etc.

As someone who believes that our understanding of human nature can be derived from neuroscience, psychology, cognitive science and behavioral economics, among others, I am troubled by Dr. Collins’s line of thinking. I also believe it would seriously undercut fields like neuroscience and our growing understanding of the human mind. If we must look to religion to explain our moral sense, what should we make of the deficits of moral reasoning associated with conditions like frontal lobe syndrome and psychopathy? Are these disorders best addressed by theology?

Dr. Collins has written that “science offers no answers to the most pressing questions of human existence” and that “the claims of atheistic materialism must be steadfastly resisted.”

One can only hope that these convictions will not affect his judgment at the institutes of health. After all, understanding human well-being at the level of the brain might very well offer some “answers to the most pressing questions of human existence” — questions like, Why do we suffer? Or, indeed, is it possible to love one’s neighbor as oneself? And wouldn’t any effort to explain human nature without reference to a soul, and to explain morality without reference to God, necessarily constitute “atheistic materialism”?

Francis Collins is an accomplished scientist and a man who is sincere in his beliefs. And that is precisely what makes me so uncomfortable about his nomination. Must we really entrust the future of biomedical research in the United States to a man who sincerely believes that a scientific understanding of human nature is impossible?

The Unionization of Charters: Inevitable

There have been MSM news items, a blog post or two about the fact that some charter schools are beginning to unionize, and how some fear this. Let be be the first to say that unions have helped the American worker. What? I am not the first? You mean we all owe the 40 hour work week, overtime pay and safe working conditions to unions? Oops. Sorry.

What we are seeing, as the Broads and the Gates' attempt to privatize and control education, is the same thing that always happens when an oligarch presses too much...the plebs begin to revolt; in the case of charter schools and their horrible, anti-union tactics, the teachers who are mostly young and new are seeing the benefits of a union, and they are unionizing, just like in the mean old days.

The charter movement oligarchs, as they take over public education and make billions doing it (basically what we have with health care now) will transform education into what it already is--an inefficient, hostile, prison-like, shallow, fearful entity, where the end is more important than the means; education is a process, not a means to an end.


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