8/15/09

Saturday Cartoon Fun: Religion Edition



8/14/09

Write Your Senator! Now!

From DWT:
This morning that doctor, Howard Dean, spoke at the Netroots Nations convention in Pittsburgh and explained why he supports Obama's health care efforts and what the rest of us can do to try to salvage the health care reform bill. He seems a lot more optimistic about this than I am. He does mention, though, a list of Democratic senators not supporting health care reform. Although the list is incomplete-- Blanche Lincoln, a health care reform foe, isn't on it because she made some amorphous statement about supporting it under threat of exposure-- here are the names (with their donations from Big Insurance added in; Blanche has gotten $495,283):

Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)- $465,944

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)- $82,250

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)- $246,223

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)- $534,746

Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE)- $1,231,299

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA)- $404,731

Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND)- $828,787

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT)- $1,190,463

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)- $369,490

Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN)- $602,752

Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR)- $206,690

Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT)- $1,033,402

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)- $213,800

And here is my letter to Senator Feinstein

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I am writing to tell you that I expect you to vote for health care reform, INCLUDING a public option, just like our Democratic President promised during his campaign.

I came to your website to send you this note and was amazed that I did not see a giant section on your homepage about health care reform. Is that because you have taken nearly half a million dollars ($369,490 to be exact) from the industry?

Look, I am an Independent who left the Democratic party because of a lack of principle shown me by my Democratic representatives; you included. Your refusal to fight for a public option, with every fiber of your elected being, means you don't deserve to be my Senator anymore.

Get on board with the public option, fight hard to get it passed, neuter any filibuster, and maybe, just maybe, you can help insure a few million people. Oh, and get re-elected, because clearly that is your reason for being.

And lastly, why make folks opt-out of your newsletter by UN-checking the box directly under this form? Why not allow them to opt-in? Signing us up for your newsletter, surreptitiously, as the default is slippery, slimy, and rather illustrative of your desire to remain in power and not help your constituents, all the while trying to operate under our radar.

Public option. Support the party that elected you, and our President!

Obama Explains His Health Plan

Mike Rose On Education "Miracles": They Still Don't Exist

Mike Rose, a UCLA professor, author and blogger, writes about the reform movement's "miracles" and how they are dumbing down education:
We started off the new century with the Texas Miracle, the phenomenal closing of the achievement gap and reduction of dropout rates through a program of high-stakes standardized tests. (The Texas Miracle would then spawn the federal No Child Left Behind Act.) Politicians and media-savvy administrators have also found the miraculous; the governor of my state, Arnold Schwarzenegger, referred to an Oakland charter school as an “education miracle.” And the pundits have appropriated the lingo. A recent New York Times column by David Brooks on the charter school of the Harlem Children’s Zone was titled “The Harlem Miracle.” And so it goes.

Upon closer examination, some of these miracles turn out to be suspect, the result of questionable assessments and manipulated numbers. The Texas Miracle didn’t hold up under scrutiny. And some, like the Harlem Children’s Zone—which is a commendable place—gain their excellence through hard work along multiple dimensions, from teaching and mentoring to utilizing outside resources and fundraising. There’s nothing miraculous about their successes.

Along with talk of miracles, we have the belief in educational wonder drugs and magic bullets—single-shot solutions to complicated problems: high-stakes testing, standards, charter schools, small schools, alternative teacher recruitment, slash-and-burn CEO management and so on. Each of these solutions has potential merit. Standards can bring coherence to a curriculum; small schools can result in increased student contact; alternative recruitment and credentialing bring new blood into the teaching force; some districts need the serious administrative shake-up that managerial housecleaning can provide. All good. But for these efforts to work, to increase the quality of education, other factors have to be present as well...
Go read the whole 2 pages.

Don't Mess With The Big Dog



He'll just school ya...
Lane Hudson (screaming from the audience): Mr. President, will you call for a repeal of DOMA and Don't Ask Don't Tell right now? Please.

Bill Clinton: ... You want to talk about Don't Ask Don't Tell, I'll tell you exactly what happened. You couldn't deliver me any support in the Congress and they voted by a veto-proof majority in both houses against my attempt to let gays serve in the military, and the media supported them. They raised all kinds of devilment. And all most of you did was to attack me instead of getting me some support in the Congress. Now that's the truth.

Secondly -- it's true! You know, you may have noticed that presidents aren't dictators. They voted -- they were about to vote for the old policy by margins exceeding 80 percent in the House and exceeding 70 percent in the Senate. The gave test votes out there to send me a message that they were going to reverse any attempt I made by executive order to force them to accept gays in the military. And let me remind you that the public opinion now is more strongly in our favor than it was 16 years ago, and I have continued supporting it. That John Shalikashvili, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under me, was against Don't Ask -- was against letting gays serve -- is now in favor of it. This is a different world. That's the point I'm trying to make.

Let me also say something that never got sufficient publicity at the time: When General Colin Powell came up with this Don't Ask Don't Tell, it was defined while he was chairman much differently than it was implemented. He said: 'If you will accept this, here's what we'll do. We will not pursue anyone. Any military members out of uniform will be free to march in gay rights parades, go to gay bars, go to political meetings. Whatever mailings they get, whatever they do in their private lives, none of this will be a basis for dismissal.' It all turned out to be a fraud because of the enormous reaction against it among the middle-level officers and down after it was promulgated and Colin was gone. So nobody regrets how this was implemented any more than I do. But the Congress also put that into law by a veto-proof majority, and many of your friends voted for that, believing the explanation about how it would be eliminated. So, I hated what happened. I regret it. But I didn't have, I didn't think at the time, any choice if I wanted any progress to be made at all. Look, I think it's ridiculous. Can you believe they spent -- whatever they spent -- $150,000 to get rid of a valued Arabic speaker recently?

And, you know, the thing that changed me forever on Don't Ask Don't Tell was when I learned that 130 gay service people were allowed to serve and risk their lives in the first Gulf War, and all their commanders knew they were gay; they let them go out there and risk their lives because they needed them, and then as soon as the first Gulf War was over, they kicked them out. That's all I needed to know, that's all anybody needs to know, to know that this policy should be changed.

Now, while we're at it, let me just say one thing about DOMA, since you -- the reason I signed DOMA was -- and I said when I signed it -- that I thought the question of whether gays should marry should be left up to states and to religious organizations, and if any church or other religious body wanted to recognize gay marriage, they ought to. We were attempting at the time, in a very reactionary Congress, to head off an attempt to send a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to the states. And if you look at the 11 referenda much later -- in 2004, in the election -- which the Republicans put on the ballot to try to get the base vote for President Bush up, I think it's obvious that something had to be done to try to keep the Republican Congress from presenting that. The President doesn't even get to veto that. The Congress can refer constitutional amendments to the states. I didn't like signing DOMA and I certainly didn't like the constraints that were put on benefits, and I've done everything I could -- and I am proud to say that the State Department was the first federal department to restore benefits to gay partners in the Obama administration, and I think we are going forward in the right direction now for federal employees. ...

But, actually, all these things illustrate the point I'm trying to make. America has rapidly moved to a different place on a lot of these issues, and so what we have to decide is what we are going to do about it. Right now, the Republicans are sitting around rooting for the president to fail, as nearly as I can see.
Okay. I'll accept all that. He's back!

8/13/09

8/12/09

What Is Really In The Health Bill

TNR commenter icarusr says:
icarusr said:

You liberal-fascist-socialist-Maoist-sadist-somnambulists evidently are so far drunk with ObamaKoolAid that you simply fail to see the reality of the MediGulag that Obamalin is implementing. Get this choice provision: section 308 and 1889 of the House Bill (page 1024) provide for - I am not kidding - the reimbursement, to a patient, of the costs of doctors the patient visits in the course of diagnosing a malady. Even the densest liberal-fascist-anally-poisoned-Obamabot knows that "patient" really means "john", doctor is short hand for "gay prostitute" and "diagnosis" is street slang for meth-and-anal-sex. The Bill is all about - and nothing butt - taking hard-earned tax dollars from God-fearing and taxpaying Christians and subsidizing drug-crazed orgies on Fire Island or in fundamentalist church basements in Arkansas.

FOR SHAME.
I love the word "MediGulag".

Wednesday Cartoon Fun: Health Scare Edition







8/11/09

What Should Education In America Be Like?

Educating for Individuality

by Lynn Stoddard

What will happen if our schools give up trying to standardize students, but instead, decide to help students develop their unique sets of talents, gifts, interests and abilities? Why not have high standards for nurturing positive human individuality?

What will happen if we do it?

Some of the following things are already happening in a few private schools like the one the Obama girls attend, but should be available for all of America’s children:

Teaching is restored as an honored and highly sought profession. Student and teacher drop-outs decrease. School will be interesting, challenging and exciting again. Parents will become meaningfully involved as partners to help children develop as individuals. Crime rates will decrease. Self-chosen, home study will replace teacher-assigned home work. Individual achievement and knowledge will soar as students investigate their own interests and develop their own talents. Cooperation and collaboration replaces most competition. Portfolios and presentations will replace all but teacher and student-made assessments. Hands-on investigations replace busywork sheets. Teachers will nurture curiosity, creativity and problem-solving. Students will fall in love with reading and increase in their zest for truth and knowledge.

A huge mistake is about to be made under the banner, “National Standards.” The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) are unveiling a plan to develop common English-language Arts and Mathematics standards across the nation. They call it the “Common Core State Standards Initiative.”

The plan is for subject matter specialists to decide what all students should know and be able to do at each grade level. It is a call to develop student uniformity at a higher level. Achievement tests will be administered to track and compare progress across the states. Standards for uniformity? Is this an oxymoron?

Is it possible to have high standards for doing the wrong things? It makes sense for factories that produce products to have standards for uniformity, but what about schools? Should they be operated like factories, with quality controls (achievement tests) to make sure each “product” is the same?

Why do so many people believe it is the main business of schools to develop human uniformity? The current push for uniformity shows that large numbers of people have developed a false belief about what education is for. They are exhibiting what George Odiorne calls, “the activity trap.”

In 1974 he said, “Most people get caught in the (curriculum) trap. They get so enmeshed in (curriculum) they lose sight of why they are doing it and the (curriculum) becomes a false goal, and end in itself.”

This may be the reason our society holds uniform student achievement in curriculum as the main goal and purpose of schooling. Evidence for this is the courses students are required to take (such as algebra) for graduation from high school. Achievement in curriculum is what policymakers try to assess. By so doing it dictates to teachers, with false goals, the methods they use. Standardized tests force teachers to ignore the vast differences in students and try to make them all alike in the knowledge and skills that are assessed.

Victor Weisskopf said “People cannot learn by having information pressed into their brains. Knowledge has to be sucked into the brain, not pushed in.”

If “national standards for student uniformity” get installed in schools across the nation, it will force teachers to press information into the brains of students as fast as possible. They will not be able to wait for the “urge to know” to develop in each child. They will “teach” the prescribed curriculum in a direct manner and accept the illusion that significant learning has occurred. In reality the knowledge will only be shallow and temporary as it has always been in a standardized, test-based school system.

Now you have a choice. Do nothing and get national standards for student uniformity imposed on your schools. OR ….. Write or call newspapers, legislators, the president, school board members, neighbors, teachers, your governor and others to help stop national standards for uniformity from becoming a reality. Ask them to start a movement toward educating for student individuality. If we develop high standards that nurture human diversity, standards that nurture and address our talents and our infinite variety, we will dignify not only our children and our profession but indeed, all of us.

Lynn Stoddard is a founding member of the Educating for Human Greatness Alliance. He lives in Farmington, Utah and can be reached at lstrd@yahoo.com.
Lynn Stoddard, 793 S. 200 E., Farmington, UT 84025 (801) 451-2554
h/t PK

Eunice Shriver: R.I.P


Sargent Shriver and his wife Eunice share a laugh during a presentation in Washington in 1968. The two were married in 1953


Photograph: Charles Harrity /AP
The oldest remaining member of the Kennedy clan, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, has died aged 88, leaving only two survivors of the nine children born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy. Though Eunice never aspired to enter the world of political controversy that enveloped her brothers, she was prominent in US public life and won numerous awards for her work for people with learning difficulties.

8/10/09

The Ballad Of G.I. Joe

Guys I Used To Respect: Robert Wright


Robert Wright, once an intellectual force to be reckoned with within evolutionary psychology and elsewhere, has become a bible-thumping, atheist-bashing, god-fearing (is Bob getting old?) oxymoron. Take the following quote from his newest work, The Evolution of God:
The difference between the Bible’s pre-exilic view of Ishmael and its postexilic view as presented by P is so stark that the biblical narrative, read closely, borders on the incoherent.
Did you catch that? The bible, when read carefully, seems incoherent. Really?

What's Wrong With Public Schools? Principals!

This memo, from my principal a year ago, shows just how the process works for diagnosing and getting services (assessment; the other kind) for a student who may be in need. I have redacted (like the government) the principal's name and initials, as well as some other identifying material.

Note how the principal makes sure to include the instruction to teachers: "It is not appropriate to say, "I think...""

Well, I do think, so that's going to be a bit difficult, no?



My hand-written question was merely rhetorical.

No, she never established an online anything.

Monday Bonus Cartoon Fun: Health Insurance Edition

Monday Cartoon Fun: Protests. Remember Them? Edition

I Am Officially Disappointed



Chris Hedges writes:
Nader Was Right: Liberals Are Going Nowhere With Obama

The American empire has not altered under Barack Obama. It kills as brutally and indiscriminately in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as it did under George W. Bush. It steals from the U.S. treasury to enrich the corporate elite as rapaciously. It will not give us universal health care, abolish the Bush secrecy laws, end torture or “extraordinary rendition,” restore habeas corpus or halt the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of citizens. It will not push through significant environmental reform, regulate Wall Street or end our relationship with private contractors that provide mercenary armies to fight our imperial wars and produce useless and costly weapons systems.
You should read the rest.

You, Dear Lady, Are An Idiot

Sully doesn't need me to help bash Sarah Palin, nor, apparently, does Southern Beale. I post this not to disparage Sarah Palin (though her disparagement is fine with me), but to illustrate the health insurance nonsense she spouts.
Don’t Talk To Me About Death Panels

Don’t talk to me about death panels, Sarah Palin.

You, who so carelessly bolstered a lie about healthcare reform to score a cheap political point; you, the most craven of political opportunists, who fearmongers about some dystopian socialist/fascist fantasyland; you, who earlier this year were only too happy to accept free medical, dental and veterinary care from the U.S. military for Alaska’s remote villages; you, dear lady, are an idiot.

In your free market wonderland everyone somehow manages to get healthcare, even those who are poor or live in isolated areas, though the poor and isolated in your own state required assistance from the federal government.

And despite all of this, you appear blithely unaware that the free market healthcare system we have now does, indeed, have “death panels.” I’ve been part of a death panel conversation. I know about death panels.

You have no idea what it’s like to be called into a sterile conference room with a hospital administrator you’ve never met before and be told that your mother’s insurance policy will only pay for 30 days in ICU. You can't imagine what it's like to be advised that you need to “make some decisions,” like whether your mother should be released “HTD” which is hospital parlance for “home to die,” or if you want to pay out of pocket to keep her in the ICU another week. And when you ask how much that would cost you are given a number so impossibly large that you realize there really are no decisions to make. The decision has been made for you. "Living will" or no, it doesn't matter. The bank account and the insurance policy have trumped any legal document.

If this isn’t a “death panel” I don’t know what is.

So don’t talk to me about “death panels” you heartless, cruel, greedy sons of bitches, who are only too happy to keep the profits rolling in to the big insurance companies while you spout your mealy-mouthed bumper sticker slogans about the evils of socialism. You don't even know what socialism is. You don't know what government healthcare is. You have no fucking clue about anything except that you lost the last election and you're pissed off.

You are young. Your parents are still alive. You don’t know enough to take any of this seriously. It's all an exercise in political theater for you. But that will change. We all get older. The time will arrive, someday, when you are tasked with caring for someone you love who is seriously ill. You will be ushered in to that sterile hospital conference room with an administrator you do not know, where you are told to "make plans" for a day you never hoped to see. And then you will get your education.

If on that day you still think the healthcare system we have now is fabulous and worth lying, cheating and threatening people to maintain, I can only conclude that you lack even the tiniest grain of a soul.
h/t C&L

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